Hot Piece of Ash (Paranormal Dating Agency #28) - Milly Taiden Page 0,1

so nice to experience that kind of love.”

“No significant other?” Always PC and all that shit, that was Gerri.

Valentina shook her head. “Most men don’t take the time, or even want to get past the first glance. I’m not exactly a size two. Plus, what you see isn’t always what you get.”

Gerri frowned. This was not the same woman with the microphone who’d humored a crowd and was so sure of herself. What had changed?

“You’re good in the spotlight,” Gerri said. “You looked great, and your smile’s beautiful.”

Valentina dipped her head, embarrassment floating from her. “Uh, thank you.” She poked at a piece of grass with her sandal. Gerri wondered if she was dealing with a split personality. Night and day with this woman. “But it’s all an act,” she continued quietly.

“An act?”

Valentina shrugged, keeping eyes lowered. “When I have to do things like this, which is often, I pretend to be somebody else. Somebody outgoing and fun. Somebody who looks confident and comfortable.”

Gerri was shocked. She scooped up Valentina’s hands and leaned in close. “You listen to me,” Gerri said in a whisper, “you are not pretending on that stage. That confident woman is you. You just have to convince yourself of that.”

Valentina nodded, her eyes turning shiny. “Well, you know…” She let out a big breath.

Gerri had to help this woman see who she was. But what could she do?

“What was your college degree in?” Gerri asked. Maybe there would be an opportunity there.

Valentina laughed. “Believe it or not, public relations and advertising.”

“Well,” Gerri replied, “you certainly chose a profession that requires lots of exposure and networking.”

“Don’t I know it,” Valentina mumbled.

“Do you not want to do PR or advertising?”

“No, I do. I love the creativeness and using my brain to be more inventive and fun. It’s just the people part of it I can do without. If I could work behind a desk with just a computer, I’d be happy.”

“How do you expect to find the love of your life from behind a desk?” Gerri asked.

Valentina shrugged. “I really don’t expect to find Mr. Right. It would be ideal to find a man that tells me he loves me. I don’t know that I’ll ever hear those words. I’ve had poor luck with getting a man to say them. People stay telling me that beggars can’t be choosers. But if you can find me a good man or two, I would be more than willing to go on a blind date.” She gave a short nervous laugh while wringing her hands together. “I’m kidding.”

Gerri was flabbergasted at the woman’s poor outlook on her life. How beaten down did someone have to be, to believe such negativity?, That just wouldn’t do. Gerri now had her own adoption case to take charge of.

Gerri glanced at her watch. She had a meeting with a new client in half an hour. “Well, darling, I need to hurry along.” She pulled an envelope from her purse. “Since I’m not able to adopt, I’m donating to the society to use however they want.”

Valentina took the packet and stared at it. “Thank you so much, Ms. Wilder. People like you remind me that there is still good in the world.”

Gerri squeezed her arm with a smile. “I’ll be in touch. Good luck with placing all the animals.”

When Gerri stepped away, she saw a ragged young man with his shirt halfway out of his pants, hair a wild mess, grass stain on his knees, and scrapes on both elbows. But he wore a massive smile as he carried a white bunny in his arms.

Chapter Two

From the resort’s white sugar beach, Ash picked up a dead frond from the tropical palm tree. It was limp in his hand, draping down like a broken wing. Several more leaves were showing signs of a slow death. Never in the years that he had lived on the island—as a whelp, then again as a mature dragon—had he seen one of their palm trees die that way. They had gone through hurricanes and severe storms which had destroyed plant life, but this was different.

Nothing died on Costa Bonita. The forest had always been lush with plant life. Now the trees had dropped their leaves as if winter had arrived. Even the white beaches had begun to look dingy.

A slight vibration rattled through his shoes and up through his legs. A rumble that he instinctively knew was deep underground shook him. He craned his neck around to check on the inactive