“This is not what I had in mind, and you know it!” I said hotly to Cooper, smoothing back my hair nervously. I hated arguing with Cooper.
We were standing in my kitchen having what I would call a lively discussion and what he would call an argument. This wasn’t the only thing we had differences of opinion on, but sometimes I thought that was what made us work. You know, the whole opposites attract thing. We balanced each other well and it never got boring, that’s for sure. The last few months since I had come back from San Diego had been great. Although I had decided moving to San Diego wasn’t possible for me now, we had been getting along so well and making the long-distance relationship work. Until now.
I was already cranky because we hadn’t had dinner yet and I was starving. I was never in a good mood when I was hungry. Cooper had been working late and had promised to bring home sushi as a penance. However, the sushi was still sitting on the counter in its to-go bag because of the bombshell he had just dropped on me. He was in for a lot more penance than what sushi would make up for. He was smiling at me like my anger was amusing to him, as he often did. He was so laid back that it took a lot to bother him. Of course, that just made me that much more furious, and no doubt that was why he was doing it. He could be such a frustrating man sometimes. He was lucky I found him so darn irresistible.
“Listen, Pres. A bet is a bet,” he said, smiling and loosening his tie.
I crossed my arms over my chest in an act of defiance. He was right. A bet was a bet, but babysitting a bunch of what were sure to be stuck-up models was not what I had in mind when I’d made the bet with him. I realized it was narrow-minded to assume the girls who participated in a beauty pageant were all stuck-up, but I was annoyed. I had been hoping for more excitement than hanging with a bunch of beauty queens on my first official assignment with Sands Security, Cooper’s company.
My name is Presley Thurman, and I used to have a boring job in human resources, which I thought was my calling. After being fired for telling off my sexually harassing jerk of a boss, I went back to my hometown to help my mother out with her flower shop. This short-lived stint also put me back in touch with someone from my high school—Cooper Sands, my current boyfriend and potentially new business associate, at least for this short time. Cooper was a security specialist and problem-solver for delicate situations such as stolen million-dollar diamonds, rich people being blackmailed, or people who just needed protection. I somehow kept getting myself involved in Cooper’s investigations, much to his dismay. Personally, I thought I was quite helpful in most cases. Cooper usually had a different opinion but in my defense, it wasn't like I purposefully went looking to get involved. It just happened.
One night a few weeks ago, we made a bet that if I won the game of Trivial Pursuit we were playing, he would willingly include me as part of his team working for his next client. I was shocked when Cooper agreed to it but in his defense, he had four categories filled to my one, and except for the entertainment category, his trivia knowledge was much better than mine (though I would never tell him that). I forgot all I ever knew about art and history as soon as I graduated from college, and sports were never on my radar. Much to my surprise—and Cooper’s—I got on a lucky streak and won.
I had been hounding him ever since to make good on his bet, and today was the day he finally did it. It just wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. While I loved fashion, makeup, and glamour, babysitting beauty queens was not my idea of being an investigator.
“I guess you need to explain it to me then. What is it exactly that they want your company to do for them?” I asked.
“The pageant promoters are worried about the girls’ safety. Apparently, at the last pageant someone gained access to the dressing rooms and was taking unauthorized and very scandalous pictures of the contestants. Then leaked them online. Many of the girls are not yet eighteen, and you can imagine the problems that can cause. There have been other issues as well, more annoying pranks than harmful, but the management is concerned. They’ve hired us to investigate the issues, find out who is behind them, and put a stop to it. I’m sending a team down, and then you and I will follow.”
“I don’t see how I would be much help. Isn’t there another job you have that I could work on?” I grumbled, wanting something more exciting.
“I think this is perfect,” he said, grinning. “Who better to interact with the women in the pageant than another beautiful woman? Jasmine is my only female employee, and she’s on her honeymoon. I need someone who can get access to the dressing rooms and other areas where a man’s presence wouldn’t be acceptable. You, on the other hand, will blend in. The guys and I just simply can’t do that. I need you, Pres,” he said, coming over and putting his arm around my shoulders and giving me a squeeze. “This will be fun.”
I leaned into him and gave him a kiss. “If you say so. You just better make it worth my while.”
At that moment Bella, my mastiff, strolled into the kitchen and sat down in front of us, her head going back and forth between us.
“Uh, Cooper? What am I going to do with Bella? I can’t have Jared or Willie watch her again.” I had asked both of them to look after her on previous trips and I didn’t want to take advantage. I also missed her like crazy when I was away. I smiled at Cooper.
“No, Presley. Don’t even say it. We are not taking your horse of a dog on a road trip to Texas.”