Read Candy Apple Online

Authors: Tielle St. Clare

Candy Apple

Candy Apple

Tielle St. Clare

 

Book 3 in the Red Panty Diaries
series.

 

Tasha has heard the tale of the
cursed wedding dress since she was young. Now it’s her turn. Unlike her
friends, who somehow each ended up with two men, Tasha knows she’s destined for
just one—someone a little bland and boring, but she’s okay with that. She dons
the dress to prove her fiancé
is
that man…but the dress doesn’t respond
to him.

However, it sure reacts to the sexy
stranger in the elevator, leaving her standing there wearing nothing but
candy-apple-red panties. One night of incredible sex leads Tasha to believe the
dress has done its job. Imagine her surprise when it responds to
another
man, a bad-boy firefighter and cousin to the man from the elevator.

Now Tasha’s got two lovers—and they
aren’t inclined to share!

Candy Apple

Tielle St. Clare

 

Chapter One

 

Dear Diary,

I pulled out the dress today. Cait’s found her true love,
or loves if you believe her. So has Heather. Guess that means it’s my turn.

 

Tasha stared at the two-carat diamond engagement ring
weighing down her finger. The ring was gorgeous—elegant, classic, a little
ostentatious, but Jason liked people to know he could afford the finer things
in life.

She took another sip of her wine. Though considering she was
on her third glass, it was more of a gulp. Raising her eyes, she looked at
herself in the mirror. The white wedding gown hung loose on her hips. She had
one final step. All she had to do was zip it up.

This would prove that Jason was the right man for her.
Though why she was having doubts, she didn’t know. He was smart and sometimes
funny. And they had so much in common. They talked about business and books
and, uh, business books.

No, they didn’t have the wild, incredible sex that Cait and
Heather reported having with their men, but Tasha didn’t expect it. For one
thing, she wasn’t the type to have wild sex. She tended toward a more subdued
version of the whole process.

Besides,
she
wasn’t falling into bed with two guys
like her friends had. She had one man and that was plenty.

But once she zipped the dress, there was no going back. She
was stuck in it until Mr. Right came along and if Jason wasn’t Mr. Right…

She shook her head—and the room began to spin.

Do it, she commanded herself.
He’s the one. He asked you
to marry him. You said yes. You have to believe he’s Mr. Right.

I do. I do believe it.

Taking a deep breath, she reached behind her and tugged the
zipper up her back. The strapless bodice curved to her chest. It amazed her how
the dress conformed to different body types—Cait was statuesque with a large
chest. Heather was more willowy. And Tasha was…well, plump.

But what else could she expect? She owned two bakeshops and
made the best chocolate chip cookies in the city. Carrying around an extra
fifteen, sometimes twenty, pounds seemed like a reasonable compromise.

She took a deep breath and a little shiver ran across her
skin as her nipples pressed against the soft material on the inside of the
bodice. Heather had warned her about that. She laughed. Heather had warned her
about a lot.

Heather was out tonight with “her men”. They’d come to town
for a visit but based on the amount of luggage they brought, they were planning
to stay. Once Heather had announced that she was taking Cain and Paxson out for
dinner, Tasha knew tonight was her night.

She didn’t know how Heather would react to Tasha’s plan.
Probably support it. Hell, she’d probably offer to drive Tasha over to Jason’s
apartment, but Tasha wanted to do this on her own.

Of course, if Jason isn’t Mr. Right, Heather’s going to
find out anyway when I come home wearing the dress.

No one knew how the dress was cursed, just that it was. Once
you put it on, you were stuck in it until you found your true love. Tasha’s
mother had been the first to experience it shortly after her divorce from
Tasha’s father. Her mom had ended up with a fantastic guy, Nick.

Tasha had kept the dress for all these years. Now it was her
turn.

She picked up her glass, toasted herself in the mirror and
tossed back the remaining wine.

A honk outside made her spine straighten. Forcing breath
into tight lungs, she grabbed her purse, pushed her glasses farther up her nose
and headed for the front door. The taxi sat in the driveway. With three glasses
of wine in her, no way was she going to drive.

Besides, she expected to be spending the night at Jason’s
and he had no on-street parking.

The ride to Jason’s apartment building went quickly. So fast
her head was still spinning by the time she got out of the car.

She leaned back and looked up at the high-rise. She’d
figured out which unit was Jason’s one night and wanted to make sure he was
home. He’d said he was going to spend the night just kicking back, relaxing,
that it had been a hectic week and he needed to spend some time alone.

Tasha had willingly agreed. She understood that. Any Friday
night she didn’t spend with Jason, she usually spent in her jammies, eating
fried food and watching re-runs of
Two and A Half Men.
So she understood
the need to hibernate.

Still, if they were going to be married, they needed to
learn to hibernate together.

Pushing her shoulders back, she raised her chin and
approached the front door. Carlton, the doorman, nodded politely—not even
flinching at the sight of the ugly wedding dress—and said, “Good evening, Miss
Bennett. You can go right up.”

“Thank you.” She clutched the skirts and maneuvered into the
open elevator. Strange, Carlton usually called up to make sure Jason was home
and was expecting her. She’d never been allowed to “go on up”.

She hit the button for the fifteenth floor and leaned
against the back wall as the doors closed. Her heart thumped in her chest and
her fingers clutched her purse until her knuckles turned white. Every breath
came out as a gasp as she fought the restriction of the elastic bodice.

The lights across the top of the elevator lit up one by one
as the elevator inched its way up. She couldn’t decide if she wanted it to take
a long time or to zoom up there so she could get this over with. The decision
was made for her. This elevator didn’t zoom.

Still, once the door opened, she realized she needed more
time. She wasn’t ready. This was probably a bad idea except now she was stuck
in the dress and she hoped to heaven that Jason was Mr. Right. How was she
going to explain this to her employees?

The bodice seemed to tighten around her waist. Panting, she
propped her hand against the wall trying to ward off the minor panic attack.
She could do this. If Jason wasn’t her true love, she was sure they’d have a
good laugh then she could go home and drown in a tub of cookies and cream ice
cream.

Closing her eyes and her lips, she forced herself to take a
long slow inhale through her nose, hold it and then slowly exhale. Hearing the
voice of her Pilates instructor chime through her head, she took another few
deep breaths and began to feel calmer.

A stray curl flopped onto her nose and she swatted it out of
the way.

When Heather and Cait had met their true loves, they’d been
wearing the dress, red panties and red high,
high
heels. Tasha had
wanted to repeat their experiences as directly as possible, but there was no
way she could wear four- or five-inch heels. It would totally ruin the effect
of the dress falling off if she broke her ankle and had to be taken to the
emergency room wearing nothing but red panties.

So she’d opted for modest two-inch heels. It made the dress
a little long on her but she wasn’t planning to wear the thing for long.

Hiking the fluffy skirts up in her hands, she stalked down
the hall to Jason’s apartment. Angry butterflies took residence in her stomach
but she refused to let the nerves get the best of her and pressed the doorbell.

She smoothed her hands down the front of the dress. Not that
she had to worry. The thing couldn’t be wrinkled, or burned, or cut. It was
indestructible. Still, it gave her a boost of confidence to feel her waist dip
in nicely. Those Pilates classes and the elastic in the dress seemed to be
working.

The door swung open. Tasha looked up and smiled, wanting to
see Jason’s reaction when he saw the dress. He was going to lau—

Only it wasn’t Jason standing at the door. It was Jenny, his
secretary.

That bastard. He’s having an affair? With his secretary?
How very
Mad Men
.

Jenny smiled and looked down at Tasha’s outfit. The look of
horror and confusion that crossed her face might have been funny if Tasha
wasn’t so pissed.

Jenny quickly recovered.

“Miss Bennett,” she greeted her. “Won’t you please come in?”
She stepped to the side and waved Tasha into Jason’s apartment.

Okay, she’d never been cheated on before but she was pretty
sure the mistress didn’t invite the fiancée to join them.

It was then she heard noises—sounds of human voices,
talking, laughing.

No, it wasn’t an affair. He was having a party.

One that he hadn’t invited her to. Okay, she could handle
that. She had girls’ nights that he wasn’t allowed to attend but why had he
lied about having it? Maybe a bachelor party? No, why invite your secretary to
that? An orgy?

She glanced past Jenny’s shoulder to the sunken living room
just down the hall. Everybody she could see was dressed in black or gray
business suits, only the shades varied.

Definitely not an orgy.

Jenny once again glanced at Tasha’s dress.

“Would you like me to find Jason for you?”

“Sure. That’d be great,” Tasha answered sweetly.

“Can I get you a drink?”

“What the hell. How about a shot of tequila?”

Jenny’s lips pulled into a tight smile. “Of course. I’ll
send it right over.”

Tasha winked. “You do that.”

She watched Jason’s secretary walk away. The woman moved
with the kind of grace that had to be inborn. She wasn’t dressed for a
party—Tasha had attended Jason’s office Christmas party and knew that when
Jenny dressed for an event, she went full-out designer elegance. Tonight, she
wore her office clothes. Simple, sleek and posh enough to make Tasha feel
frumpy in her finest outfit.

The jealousy over Jenny’s fashion sense just added to her
ire and by the time Jason walked up the living room stairs, a questioning smile
on his face, she was ready to snap someone’s neck. Preferably Jason’s.

“Honey, how lovely to see you.” The tone of his voice was
welcoming, almost cheerful. He reached out his hands. Habit had her placing her
fingers into his palms as he pulled her close for a kiss on her cheek. “What
are you wearing?” His voice dropped and grew a little cooler. He glanced behind
him as if checking to see if anyone was watching.

“Just a little something I picked up at the secondhand
store. What?” She shook her head innocently. “It’s not a costume party?” She
tapped her finger against her lower lip. “That’s what my invitation said—oh
wait.” She snapped her fingers. “I wasn’t invited.”

“I can explain that,” Jason murmured, keeping his voice low
and calm. “Maybe we could talk about this later.”

“I’m busy later. Let’s talk now.”

Jason, like Tasha, didn’t like confrontation, but she’d had
three glasses of wine so she didn’t feel like backing down. He sighed.

“It’s just a cocktail party for some of the people at the
office and a few clients.”

“Why did you feel the need to lie to me about it? If you
didn’t want me at the party, I can handle that.” She wasn’t really sure that
was true, but it sounded mature and sophisticated.

“It’s not that I don’t want you here.” His voice had shifted
into soothing mode. He used it when he thought she would get upset or when she
just wouldn’t understand. “I thought you would feel uncomfortable. These aren’t
my friends. They are my business associates. All we do here is discuss
business. You’d be bored and wouldn’t really understand most of the
conversation.”

The hairs on the back of her neck stood up and she crossed
her arms over her chest.

“Why wouldn’t I understand? I’m a businesswoman. I own two
businesses. I’ve probably got more practical experience in a business than any
person in that living room.”

Sympathy clouded Jason’s eyes. “Honey, owning two little
cookie stores just doesn’t compare to the kinds of money and finance that we’re
talking about here.”

“Two
little
cookie stores? That’s what you think of
my business?”

He winced. “That wasn’t what I meant. I’m very proud of you.
You’ve succeeded where most mom-and-pop businesses fail. But this is a
different world.”

The engagement ring hung heavy on her finger. “What were you
going to do when we got married? Ask me to hide in the closet when you wanted
to have your business associates over?” Her voice came up just a touch and she
knew they had to be attracting some attention from the people in the living
room. Didn’t care.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Jason’s upper lip flattened out into
a line so thin she could barely see it. “As my wife, you’d be my hostess and
expectations would be different.”

“So, I wouldn’t be expected to understand.”

“That’s not what I meant.” The soothing tone turned
patronizing.

Breath locked in her throat as if someone had punched her in
the stomach. She blinked and stared at the lapel of Jason’s suit jacket. This
was how he thought of her? No respect for her business. No respect for her
intellect.

And all the times he’d talked down to her, explaining things
in simple terms, she’d tried to take it that he wanted to be a good teacher.
But now she realized, he thought she was too stupid to understand.

“Why do you even want to marry me? It’s certainly not to be
a trophy wife. I’m more Buddha than willowy blonde.”

“Darling.” Once again he took her hands and looked into her
eyes. He seemed to be trying to convey some emotion through his stare but all
she saw was patronizing crap. “We want the same things. A home, children and
neither of us is getting any younger.”

“Well, that’s certainly a reason to marry a woman you think
is stupid.”

“I don’t—”

She grabbed the ostentatious ring on her left hand.
Unfortunately, her fingers had swollen a bit and she had to struggle to get it
off. Finally, it slid free and she slapped it into his hand.

“But, darling—”

“Excuse me.”

The new voice intruded and both Tasha and Jason snapped to
attention. They hadn’t exactly drawn a crowd, but there was a man Tasha
remembered from Jason’s office holding his coat, as if he was trying to leave
but they were blocking the exit. On the other side stood a waiter, Tasha’s
glass of tequila sitting on his tray.

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