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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

It's a Fugly Life by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff ❤️ New Release Spotlight, FREE eBook offer & GIVEAWAY ❤️ (Romantic Comedy)



HE’S PERFECT FOR HER IN EVERY WAY, EXCEPT FOR ONE SMALL ISSUE.

HE’S TOO LATE.

My name is Lily Snow. And I was once the kind of ugly that turned heads and made people stare. The worst part was how I let it ruin my life and destroy my relationship with the love of my life: Maxwell Cole, one of the sexiest, wealthiest, enigmatic men on the planet. All because I felt ugly and certainly not good enough for a man’s love.

But not anymore.

One car wreck, three reconstructive surgeries, and some unexpected money have changed my life.

I’ve started my own company, I’ve finally learned to like myself—not love, but like (hey, it’s a journey)—and I’ve met a wonderful new man who’s helped me put Max in the past where he belongs.

There’s only one problem: after six long months, Maxwell Cole is back, asking for the one thing I can’t give him. And he’s not taking no for an answer.

NOTE: This is a continuation of the story FUGLY, but is a standalone.


Chapter One

No, no, no. What did he just fucking say? I stared at the ass-faced reporter blocking my way to the church. A sadistic smirk stretched across his lips while his crew filmed my reaction. They hoped I’d cry for the entire world on my wedding day, didn’t they?

Maybe I would.

“Tell us, Miss Snow, how does it feel?” He urged the cameraman closer and shoved the microphone an inch from my face. “How does it feel knowing your fiancé cheated on you last night?”

The bastard cheated on me? The night before our wedding? I tried to blink away my tears, but his words felt like a red-hot poker through my collapsing heart. After everything that had happened, every tear shed, every moment of struggle, and the promises made, I couldn’t believe it had all led to this: emotional annihilation.

What did you expect, Lily? Princes don’t fall for frogs. Not in real life. He wanted a beautiful life, a perfect life. He wanted a beautiful wife and beautiful babies. I couldn’t give him those things.

I dropped my bouquet, smoothed down the front of my white dress, and lifted my chin. “It feels like shit.” I turned away from the church, ignoring the roar of the press and the clicking of cameras, leaving behind my last shred of belief in happy-ever-afters.

Those don’t exist. They never did.

~~~

Six Weeks Earlier



Today was huge. Huger than huge. Okay, it wasn’t really, but I needed to remind myself that the little milestones in life were as important as the champagne-worthy events. For example, just three months ago, I’d opened my very own boutique in downtown Santa Barbara. Think eclectic, handmade clothing and accessories, sort of like that one aisle at Whole Foods with the mishmash of tie-dyed scarves and hemp bracelets. Not my lifelong dream, but my products were made by women, for women, and I loved the idea of making money while helping people. After three months, I’d gotten the helping part down, but not the making-money part. Sales were the pits, and I’d already received notice of a rent increase at the end of the year.

You’ll figure it out, Lily. You always do. I drew a happy face on the puppies and kittens calendar stuck to the wall behind the register. It was important to stay positive and focused.

My smile faded as it dawned on me that today also marked another event. Six months. Six months since I’d seen Maxwell Cole—cocky, SOB billionaire and quite possibly the most hypnotically sexy and complex man in the world—and asked him to forgive me for some pretty awful things I had done.

He hadn’t.

And it had been the roughest time of my life. Rougher than working for the man. Rougher than falling in love with him—my boss—a man so far out of my league that I hadn’t been able to believe he wanted me back. And certainly rougher than the day I effectively tanked his multibillion-dollar company. An edgy, cosmetics juggernaut he’d built with his own two hands.

And I fucked it up.

Yep.

With my own two lips, aka my big fat mouth. All because I believed—erroneously—that he didn’t have feelings for me.

Crap, Lily. I blew out a breath and ran a hand over the top of my hair, smoothing back the loose strands of my ponytail. “Stop it. Just stop it.” I’d already decided months ago to be done with the self-flagellation. I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t undo the past. And either way, I’d moved on.

“Every journey starts with one step,” I muttered to myself and put another smiley face on my calendar. And as of today, I’d made it six months. I’d put my life back together and was even dati—

The cluster of silver bells above the front door to my tiny shop jingled to welcome the first customer of the day.

“Welcome to Lily’s Pad. Let me know if I can help y…” I glanced up from behind the register and lost my grip on the pen in my hand. “Max?”

“Hello, Lily.” His deep, exquisitely masculine voice washed over me like a tsunami of emotional shock.

“Max, what are you doing here?” My eyes stuck on his face, drinking in every virile detail. Maxwell Cole wasn’t what people would call a handsome man. Handsome implied someone who might be nice looking or pleasing to look at. This infamous, thirty-four-year-old billionaire was so much more. Women saw him and couldn’t look away from his six-three frame, underwear model physique, hazel eyes and chiseled jawline that gave him a godlike appearance. It was the same stunning good looks he’d used to build his multibillion-dollar cosmetics company. He used to model in his ads. Semi-nude. Yes, total eye candy for women of every age.

“I heard you’re hiring a part-time assistant.” He pointed to the sign in the window with one of those muscular arms I used to enjoy wrapped around my midriff when he took me from behind with his substantial co—

Don’t torture yourself. He dumped you hard. Obviously, the man was here for a reason, although I couldn’t fathom what that reason might be.

He continued, “I also heard you might be looking for a husband. But I don’t have any experience. Think you might consider me anyway?” He shoved a hand in his jeans pocket and looked at me with a wickedly sexy grin.

Huh? My mind couldn’t quite absorb his words or their meaning. I was far too busy realizing how much I’d missed him and how fucking delicious he looked. He wore these expensive sexy jeans that hung just right on his hips and a dark gray button-down shirt that said, “Yeah, I’ve got money. Yeah, my body is a temple of male perfection. No, you can’t have me—I’m for looking only, ladies.” In other words, everything about the man screamed unattainable. His dark messy hair, his overgrown stubble—not quite a beard—his full kissable lips and jaw and chin and everything about him was…perfect.

I swear, that man could wear a neon yellow jockstrap and orange traffic cone on his head and still look like he’d strolled off a runway.

Wait. He just asked me to marry him?

Nope. Nope. I’m dreaming. I have fallen and hit my head, and any moment I’m going to wake up with a splitting headache.

I suddenly realized that Max’s mouth kept moving, but I hadn’t heard a word.

“Sorry? Could you repeat that?” I blinked some more.

He stepped forward, putting himself on the other side of the counter, opposite me. “I know I should’ve called. I wanted to a million times. But I needed time to sort out a few things.” His smile faded, and the look in his hazel eyes hardened.

Did he mean he needed time to forgive me? I didn’t know, but clearly he had, and I felt a huge weight lift from my soul. I hadn’t even realized I’d been carrying it around.

I nodded my head. “I understand. I did ruin your company.”

“Fuck the company. I was going to let it all go anyway. You and I both know my mother needed to be gone from my life.” His mother, the cruelest piece of sadistic human-shit on the planet, had owned fifty-one percent of his company, making it difficult for him to keep a distance. Still, I had to believe that if not for me, things would’ve gone down differently. Maybe he could’ve found an investor to buy her out or something. But because of me, he’d been forced to sell Cole Cosmetics to a Canadian competitor for half its original value. I hated thinking about all that. It made my stomach knot with guilt.

“You’re only saying that to make me feel less crappy,” I said softly. “That company was everything to you.”

“No. You were everything to me and you still are. I realized it when I watched them pry your bloody body from your car with a crowbar. Do you have any idea what that did to me?”

Oh. That. It wasn’t that I’d forgotten, but I rarely thought of that day anymore. Mostly because losing Max overshadowed all of the surrounding drama. But seven months ago, right as everything blew up with his company, a news van chased me on the highway near Chicago, hoping to get a story about my relationship with my infamous boss. I plowed my convertible Mini into the center divider and made mincemeat out of my face.

Now, before you start thinking that it must’ve left me with a horrible disfigurement, I’ll have you know two things. One, I was born with an extremely ugly face. I mean nose from hell, an unusually large chin, and—well, let’s just say that small children often cried when they looked at me. “Mommy! It’s a monster.” Think Chaka from Land of the Lost but with a very petite body, nice teeth, and long wavy blonde hair. That was me.

Now are you seeing why I couldn’t quite believe my international sex symbol of a boss loved me?

Moving on to point number two: The accident did leave me scarred—forehead, chin, and one side of my nose—the place where the side mirror of my car broke off and impacted. But by then I had already made up my mind to fix my ugly face against Max’s wishes. Long story short, when the accident happened, Max—despite being furious with me for what I did to his company—still made sure I was put back together by the best. Now people stared but they didn’t retch, and with a little makeup, I could cover most of the scars.

“I’m so sorry, Max. I can’t say it enough times.” Yes, I had apologized to him already—after my accident, after he’d made sure I was put back together, after he had to sell his company, and after I’d made a mess of our relationship. But my plea for forgiveness fell on cold ears. He could hardly look me in the eyes that day.

“I’m the one who is sorry.” Max planted his arms on the counter and leaned in, his eyes filled with a sternness that meant he wasn’t messing around. “None of those events would’ve happened if I’d simply told you how much I love you and asked you to marry me. I should’ve been stronger, but I wasn’t.”

He was taking the blame? Him? “But…but…I…you…you were so angry and…” I shook my head. I was the one who messed it all up.

He grabbed my hand from across the counter and squeezed it. “I was hurt because you didn’t trust me, Lily. You didn’t believe in us—fuck.” He drew a breath. “I didn’t come here to rehash this crap.”

“Remind me again; why are you here?”

“Marry me, Lily. Because I love you. And I never want to let you go.”

Every part of my body and soul swelled with emotion and disbelief. “You really want to marry me?” I said, trying to get it all straight in my head.

He slid a small black box from his pocket and opened it to reveal a gorgeous diamond ring.

I was too excited and overwhelmed to actually look at it or make my lips move or get my feet to walk around the counter. I wanted to kiss him and cry and tell him how damned sorry I was for fucking up our relationship.

“Well?” Those hazel eyes drilled into me.

I held up my index finger. “I think I’m going to be sick.” I turned and ran for the back of my little store. I flipped on the bathroom lights and leaned my body over the toilet, feeling the wave of nerves hit me hard.

“Lily?”

I panted, but nothing came out. Breathe, breathe, breathe. The wave passed, and I stood upright. Slowly, I turned my gaze toward the tall, muscularly framed, beautiful man standing in the doorway, with one eyebrow cocked and his thick arms crossed over his broad chest.

“This is not going how I imagined.” He flashed a cocky little smile.

Oh shit. Reply. Reply, stupid! “Yes! Yes. Wait. No!”

“No?” His head jerked back.

Fuck! “I can’t accept your proposal.”

He blinked at me. “This is definitely not how I expected it to go.”

I stepped back an inch, needing to put distance between us in any way possible. He had no idea what I’d been through these last six months. He had no idea how hard it had been to get up every day and not cry or hate myself for what I’d done to him, to us. But I’d finally pulled my life together a few crumbs at a time. I’d…moved on. At least, I was trying.

I tugged down on the hem of my pink sweater and lifted my chin. “I’m sorry,” I said with a firm tone, “but I can’t marry you.”

He stared with a scowl I knew so, so well, reminding me of when he was Mr. Cole, my boss. My hot dickhead of a boss with a very strange secret.

I inhaled deeply. What I had to say next would not please him. Not in the least. But he and I had always been honest with each other. It was the foundation of our relationship and what I loved most about us. Okay, that and the sex.

I swallowed and looked down at my pink flats—yes, they went with my sweater and my pink jeans. Why hadn’t I worn something more serious today? Because saying what I had to say next, dressed like a piece of Pepto, made me feel ridiculous. I needed a black leather jacket or a flame-retardant suit for this.

“I, uh…” I cleared my throat. “I’m engaged already. Well…mostly.” I hadn’t officially said yes to my boyfriend, but I’d intended to.

“What! Who? Who, Lily!” Max yelled.

I cringed, knowing full well he would not understand. With one eye closed and the other squinting, I turned my head to the side, preparing for a giant explosion. Boom! Male ego everywhere.

“Patricio Ferrari?” I eked out.

Max’s face seemed to inflate like a giant angry red balloon. “The fucking actor?” he roared.

It wasn’t a question. Not really. Maxwell Cole knew exactly who Patricio Ferrari was. Nope. They weren’t friends.

“Yes,” I whispered with my eyes closed, “the actor. Who else?”

Max opened his mouth to speak, pointed his finger in my face, and then snapped his mouth shut and looked away. I watched while he repeated the action—open mouth, point, close mouth, look away, open mouth, point, close mouth…

“Max.” I stepped forward and gently grabbed his arm. “Please try to understand. You didn’t want me. You said goodbye.” Or at least that was how it seemed at the time when I’d said something like, “I am so sorry. Please give me another chance.” And he’d said something like, “Thanks for coming by, but I have to meet with my lawyers.”

“But you…” he snarled. “You…Patricio. Really?” He shook his head in disgust.

“Max, I’m sorry, but yes, really. He loves me, and he makes me happy.” Patricio and I cooked dinners together and watched silly movies. We wore stupid hats and rollerbladed at Venice beach. We took off to the mountains and went skiing. I couldn’t remember having so much fun and that was because I never knew how. Not before Patricio. He’d introduced me to a part of myself I needed. And he taught me how to breathe again. His looks weren’t so bad either.

Max ran his hands through his messy dark hair. “Do you fucking love him, Lily?”

I didn’t even need to think about the answer. Yes! Maybe? No, definitely yes. But did I love him like I loved Max, with pure chaotic passion? No. Patricio and I were more like friends, and after having my heart decimated by Max, that made me feel safe. Yes, Patricio was definitely the type of guy I should marry and could grow to love more over time.

“Yes. I love him,” I replied without specifying the type of love. It wasn’t any of Max’s business.

Max’s rapid pulse ticked away on his neck. “How…but…me…but…”

To see such an articulate, opinionated, stubborn-as-hell man like Max fail to find his words tore out my heart.

“Six months,” he growled like a horrible accusation. “Six fucking months!”

“Stop yelling at me,” I snapped. “Not when I could say the same to you, Max. Six months. Where were you?” I hadn’t heard a word since that day I asked him to forgive me, about a month after the accident.

“I was taking care of some very important things.”

“Can you be any vaguer?” I asked.

“What does it matter what I was doing? Because clearly you were keeping yourself occupied.”

Jerkface. Why did he expect me to sit around for half a year like a helpless, lovesick woman? That was not me. I was the type of person who picked herself up after she fell down.

As for Patricio, he was a very intense man who pursued his desires with passion. No different than Max. Ironically, Patricio and I had met at a party in Milan right before Max and I started our relationship. Anyway, Patricio and I had danced at that party and had fun. He didn’t care about my presurgery looks or my fameless status. And a month after my Maxwell-meltdown slash very public breakup, Patricio somehow tracked down my number and asked me out for a drink. I said no at first. And the second and third and fourth times, too. Finally, a few months ago, I felt ready to take a step forward and move on. I accepted. Patricio made it clear on the very first date that he knew Max had broken my heart. “I don’t care if you still love that asshole. I am here, claiming my stake. I want you, Lily. And I know what you’ve been through. I know what you must feel. But I also know what I feel. You,” he’d kissed the top of my hand, “light up my life like no odder.” He’d meant “other” but his Italian accent became exaggerated when he was excited or emotional. “Jess” instead of “yes.” “Chew” instead of “you.” “Hot” instead of “heart.” Jess, Leely. My hot belongs to chew.

I loved it. He had a wild, crazy side, and when he had his breaks from filming, usually in L.A. where he now lived, I enjoyed spending time with him. No, Patricio and I didn’t know each other extremely well, which was why his proposal seemed sudden, but like I said, we were good friends, we had fun, and what woman wouldn’t want a famous, hot, Italian actor as a husband? We were a good match. Max, in comparison, made me feel lost to emotion, vulnerable, and…well, extremely aroused. Stop that.

I lifted my chin. “I’m sorry, Max. But you’re six months too late. I’m marrying him.”

“So you said yes.” I could practically see the steam rising off the top of Max’s head of messy brown hair. Perfectly messy, of course, because Max demanded perfection in everything he did.

“No.” I had needed time to think. “But I will. Tonight.”

A long moment passed while Max stared into my eyes. “Then you have to wait.”

“Why would I do that?” Patricio loved me. I loved Patricio. No, as I explained, it wasn’t the same type of love I once had with Max, but for as long as I breathed, I would never love anyone like that. But that was because the evolution of our relationship had been unlike anything else. Like many women, I first thought of Max as the indescribably sexy and driven man who appeared in all of those steamy ads for his company. Naked. Hand covering the goods. Ripped from head to toe. Words could not describe how much I worshipped him. Then we’d met when I interviewed for a sales position at his company, and I caught a glimpse of his ugly side. I hated the man. I hated how he looked at me, I hated looking at him, and I hated how he made me feel like the ugliest creature on the planet. Then he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and talked me into working for him. After that, we started to really see each other and ourselves for who we were.

I fell hard for him.

But Max and I had ended in self-destruction. Me with my ugly problems and him with his. Oh yes, that man had issues. Big, scary issues with fangs and wiry hair and an ice pick. We were so tainted by our fucking hang-ups that we were bound to end in a blazing fire of hurt. That had been the one sane thought I’d clung to these past six months: we were bad for each other, and it never would’ve worked. It didn’t matter how much I loved him or he loved me.

“You owe me, Lily.” Max’s nostrils flared a bit.

I frowned. “I owe you what?”

“You took everything from me—my company, my sanity, and my peace of mind.”

Whoa. “According to you—two seconds ago—you didn’t want your company anymore, and before I came along, you were a slave to your…secret,” I whispered that last word. I don’t know why exactly, since it wasn’t a secret anymore. Max’s perfection-obsessed mother had psychologically abused him and his older sister, causing him to believe that anything unaesthetically pleasing was a cancer. His secret disorder was called cacophobia. He would experience extreme anxiety at the sight of ugliness. It sounded kind of funny until you were at the receiving end of that disgust or understood how hard it had made his life. His own sister had disowned them all, likely to save herself. Last I’d heard, Max was trying to find her.

As for his disorder? I had been Max’s antidote. His desensitization therapy. Which was why he’d hired me. Okay—it was part of the reason. He believed in me and wanted to help me find my confidence. And while my outsides made him break out in a cold sweat, he found my insides irresistible. He eventually overcame his aversion, and we shared a few days of magic. Bliss. Heaven. Yes, for a few short moments we both believed we’d had a future together, without our uglies.

We’d been wrong.

“Lily.” He gripped my shoulders. “We both know where this will go. Why make us suffer any more than we already have?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“I love you. More than anything, and I know you feel the same. So why put yourself or Patricio through any unnecessary turmoil?”

I felt enraged by his presumptive nature. He didn’t own me. He knew nothing about what I’d been through. There was no way in hell I’d risk getting hurt like that again by him. Nope. Nuh-uh. I’d rather have a do-over of my face getting mangled—it would hurt less.

“I think you’re going to have to accept the truth, Max. We. Are. Over. I am marrying Patricio.”

“No. You won’t.”

“Says who?” I asked.

“Me.”

I laughed.

He squeezed my shoulders firmly. “I know you, Lily. I know the smell of your darkest fears and the sound of your happiest laugh. I know how your heart beats faster when I kiss that little spot at the base of your neck.” He leaned down to whisper in my ear, “And I know how your pussy feels when you can’t get enough of my hard cock.”

I jerked back and stared into his hazel eyes, unable to deny a single shocking word. “Your point?”

He slid his hand behind the back of my head and kissed me hard. His lips were punishing. His tongue was hot. His body told me he was ready for war and taking no prisoners.

Goddammit! I missed his soft lips. They felt like perfection against my mouth.

He pulled back, leaving me breathless. “My point, Lily, is that I own you. Not because I’m a possessive asshole, but because you already gave yourself to me.”

He was overlooking how he’d turned me away when I groveled at his perfect feet and begged for forgiveness. I have suffered and suffered and suffered some more. I’m done suffering. I was not about to invite that horrific breed of vulnerability into my life. Never again.

I walked out of the back room and weaved my way between my display tables to the front door.

Max followed closely behind. “Where do you think you’re going?”

I pushed the door open and stepped to the side. “This is the only thing I’ve got to offer, Max. The exit. And don’t come back.”

He smiled, walked straight for me, and stopped with less than a foot between us. “You’re mine, Lily, and you can pretend otherwise, but it won’t change the fact: Patricio doesn’t love you like I do and he never will.”

I held up my left hand to show my engagement ring. “He says otherwise. And so do I.”

Max shook his head. “Marketing, Lily. It’s all about marketing.” He turned and left, leaving my mind to wonder what he’d meant.

   
  


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Mimi Jean Pamfiloff is a New York Times & USA Today best-selling author of Paranormal and Contemporary Romance. Her books have been #1 genre sellers around the world. Both traditionally and independently published, Mimi has sold over 600,000 books since publishing her first title in 2012, and she plans to spontaneously combust once she hits the one million mark. Although she obtained her international MBA and worked for over 15 years in the corporate world, she believes that it’s never too late to come out of the romance closet and follow your dream.

When not screaming at her computer or hosting her very inappropriate radio show (Man Candy Show on Radioslot.com), Mimi spends time with her two pirates in training, her loco-for-the-chili-pepper hubby, and her two rat terriers, DJ Princess Snowflake and Mini Me, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

She continues to hope that her books will inspire a leather pants comeback (for men) and that she might make you laugh when you need it most.

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