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NO STRINGS ATTACHED
by Kate Angell

Genre: General Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Romance

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The Sneaker Ball

Sophie Saunders had purchased the perfect dress. Shaye insisted the black satin strapless was made for her. The fan-pleated empire bodice and tulle skirt were both feminine and formal. She’d purchased the two-strand crystal necklace from Nicole Archer. Her chest sparkled.

Her dress boosted her confidence, even if she was falling apart.

Dune Cates would arrive in six minutes.

Her back zipper was stuck.

She stood before the full-length mirror in her bedroom and fought with the tab. She worked the zipper to the middle of her back, then twisted her body like a pretzel to pull it higher. It wouldn’t budge.

She crossed to the pale blue brocade fainting couch and sat down with a heavy sigh. She had so few friends. There was no one she could call. Her mother and father were on a cruise in the Caribbean. Marisole was at The Sandcastle overseeing the buffet. Shaye was on her houseboat clear across town. The rest of her volleyball teammates were getting ready for the Sneaker Ball.

She sighed. Life challenged her on a daily basis, but to have a zipper take her down was the lowest of low. She glanced for the fifteenth time at her bedside clock. She was running late. 

She’d wanted to wow Dune, but there was no wowing him now, not with her dress unzipped and one shoe lace on her black satin high-heeled sneakers tied in a knot. Her manicure suffered one broken nail. 

The door bell rang; a jarring sound. The night wasn’t starting out well. She’d wanted to make a grand entrance, yet that wasn’t to be. She knew Dune would help her, but she hated asking him. She wasn’t as incompetent as she appeared.

Walking in four-inch heels was a trial by fire for her when she was used to wearing flats. Balance was not her friend. She grabbed her black beaded evening bag and somehow made it down the hallway without mishap. The front of her fan-pleated dress gaped slightly. She placed a hand over her heart to hold it in place. She didn’t want to flash him.

She opened the door and he stole her breath. Dune was one hot body on the beach, but put him in a suit and the man was heart-stopping. He’d gotten a haircut and was clean shaven. He smiled and his eyes warmed. He appeared glad to see her.

“I was late in renting a tux and had to settle for a dark suit,” he said ruefully.

There’d been no settling, the man was amazing.

“You look nice,” she managed. Phenomenal fit him better. His black suit looked as tailored as any tux. His burgundy tie set off his starched white shirt. His Nikes were black and gray. He appeared sharp, handsome, and stood out. A tall, athletic man among men.

“New dress?” he asked.

She blushed. “New and unzipped.” She gave him her back. “Would you mind?”

The callused tip of his finger brushed her shoulder blade as he worked the zipper. Goose bumps rose on her arms. She shivered. And her stomach fluttered.