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A Perfect Picture of Us by Rachelle Paige Campbell

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  • Chicago lifestyle blogger, Jess Edwards, built a successful brand based on the pursuit of perfection. From throwing a party to decorating a home, every post is magazine spread worthy. Leo Martinelli, the law school study partner she never mustered the nerve to kiss, shows up in the middle of a photo shoot, and she's thrilled for the reunion—until he serves her with a lawsuit.

    Attorney Leo never thought he'd see Jess again, not after she disappeared halfway through the first semester. For the past ten years, he's measured every woman who's crossed his path against her. This meeting is his chance to say good-bye and finally move on from his unrequited crush—before relocating overseas.

    To salvage her reputation, Jess has no intention of settling.  To obtain the future he's worked hard for, Leo can't lose.

    Rating: Sweet
    Page Count: 280
    Word Count: 69250
    978-1-5092-2383-1 Paperback
    978-1-5092-2384-8 Digital

    Excerpt

    Chapter One

     

    Holding a smile in place for hours should have been the number one line item on Jessica’s resume. No matter what happened around her or how she felt, she could keep her lips tilted in the perfect, quirky half-smile. No one likes ugly. The flash of the bulb snapped her from her reverie of recalling the long-ago words.

    “Beautiful, perfect. You’re gorgeous. Tilt your head to the side? A little more,” the photographer directed.

    She cocked her head and swiveled on the bar stool she’d been provided. The smell of industrial cleaner hung in the air. She fought off a chill at the bare, unexceptional loft space. Aluminum, concrete, and wood were not warmed by the streaks of cool, early May sunlight against the stark white backdrop. In the strange room, she almost had an out-of-body experience. Like she observed herself acting out the role everyone expected. She’d spent so much of her life pretending, and she was tired.

    Camera flashes continued, and she followed the man’s directions. Not so long ago, posing for a photo shoot and a feature in the lifestyle magazine for Chicago’s jet set would have thrilled her. Fast forward to the present, she couldn’t wait to get the whole thing over with and done.

    The photographer guided her through various poses. Top forty radio hits belted out up-tempo beats. Her gaze nearly glazed over so she forced herself to laugh. The sound was foreign. Giving her head a shake, she tossed her hair then stood. She crossed her arms over her chest, flashing him a smile she hoped reached her eyes. Wearing a white-collared shirt and dress pants, she’d layered on the jewelry to keep from resembling a caterer. In this pose, she projected a woman in charge of her future and destiny—the very image she needed to present to the world at large. She clung to the false image, as her whole empire threatened to unravel.

    “You look sensational.” Brittany stood next to the photographer.

    Jessica raised an eyebrow and smirked. At some point during their collaboration, her Public Relations maven had become one of her best friends. For the most part, Brittany James kept from offering Jess the fawning platitudes she administered to the rest of her clients. The glint of humor in Brittany’s gaze told Jess she was teasing.

    “And we’re done.” The photographer stopped shooting, about-faced, and ambled away.

    Jess took in a deep breath. Over. Finally.

    “I think the article will be good. Really good stuff.” Brittany approached and handed her a water bottle.

    “Thanks.” Jess opened the plastic bottle and took a sip. She sank onto the stool steady on its mark on the white backdrop. One of the many photo shoots she’d been a part of, this morning’s work shouldn’t be any different. Show up, smile, listen to direction, and go home. The morning, however, had been draining. After avoiding cameras and shying away from the aggressive paparazzi hounding her for the past eighteen months, she drew in a breath. Smiling for the lens felt unnatural. She had to present the image she needed Now: Chicago magazine to help her maintain. Jessica Edwards—lifestyle guru, immaculate, and always together.

    Not the thirty-two-year-old woman struggling to make sense of where to take her life. “Thank you for arranging the interview and photo shoot. I needed some positive press, Brittany.” She kept her voice low, not eager to draw any curious ears from the table of snacks set out near the windows overlooking Millennium Park.

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A Perfect Picture of Us

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