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The Shock Engagement

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«The Shock Engagement» - Элли Блейк

Emma's colleagues had been shocked and delighted she was marrying the oh-so-successful-and-gorgeous dot com millionaire Harry Buchanan. Only, the engagement was purely for convenience…It would help Harry get out of the excruciating «hunkiest male» competition–and in return he would help save her job. But Emma had dreamed of marrying Harry for years–and so acting engaged was practically torture. Kissing him. Dancing with him. Especially as the truth was, she was falling head over heels in love with him…
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The Shock Engagement Ally Blake

Keely, Emma and Tahlia work together at a small, trendy design company in Melbourne. They’ve become the best of friends, meeting for breakfast, chatting over a midmorning coffee and a donut—or going for a cocktail after work. They’ve loved being single in the city…but now three gorgeous new men are about to enter their work lives, transform their love lives—and give them loads more to gossip about!

From sexy bosses to surprise babies—these ladies have everyone talking!

Impossibly Pregnant by Nicola Marsh

A positive pregnancy test is a surprise for Keely!

The Shock Engagement by Ally Blake

Emma has always dreamed of marrying Harry. Now they’re engaged—but it’s all a sham. Will he ever be hers for real…?

Taking on the Boss by Darcy Maguire

Tahlia’s furious that the promotion she’s been working so hard for has been given to someone else! He’s now her new boss, and he’s gorgeous!

Having once been a professional cheerleader, Ally Blake says her motto is “Smile and the world smiles with you.” One way to make Ally smile is by sending her on holidays, especially to locations which inspire her writing. New York and Italy are by far her favorite destinations. Other things that make her smile are the gracious city of Melbourne, the gritty Collingwood football team and her gorgeous husband, Mark.

Reading romance novels was a smileworthy pursuit from long back, so with such valuable preparation already behind her, she wrote and sold her first book. Her career as a writer also gives her a perfectly reasonable excuse to indulge in her stationery addiction. That alone is enough to keep her grinning every day!

Ally would love you to visit her at her Web site,

Books by Ally Blake





The Shock Engagement

Ally Blake

To all the fabulous women I have ever worked alongside—especially the Sussie Chadrock superstars for their endless enthusiasm.















‘Ha! Try telling my Harry that men and women can’t be friends!’ Emma said, throwing popcorn at the TV.

THEIR eyes met across the crowded room.

Emma’s gaze drank in dark brown sun-kissed hair, an outback tan, a strong straight nose, a three-day stubble and clear hazel eyes dancing with mischief. When the man across the room smiled at her, her knees, ankles and elbows all turned to jelly.

Thunk! That was the sound of Emma’s elbow slipping off her office desk. When her chin nearly followed in its wake she was jolted from her daydream. Her fuzzy gaze cleared to find a field of stars swimming across her computer monitor. With a great sniff she sat up straight and shuffled her mouse to bring her work back upon the screen.

Prior to disappearing into her terribly nice daydream, Emma had been working on the animation portion of Flirt magazine’s Australia’s Hunkiest Bloke competition project. After creating a whiz-bang website for Flirt magazine, WWW Designs had been called upon to produce a dynamic presentation for the big awards night that Saturday. The problem was the page Emma was working on was half photograph and half bio of one of the nominees and, you guessed it—he had hazel eyes, an outback tan and a smile that turned her to jelly!

The bachelor in question was Harry Buchanan, the creator of Harold’s House—a hugely successful Internet browser created expressly for kids—and he was also her very best friend in the whole world. Adding to the distraction factor, she had been secretly in love with the guy her whole adult life and that afternoon he was due to arrive in Melbourne for his yearly visit. It was enough to have a girl indulging in daydreams all day.

Emma’s focus shifted and she caught her reflection in the monitor. With her newly chopped blonde bob with its blunt fringe and shimmering highlights, she seemed so pale compared with Harry’s healthy complexion, and where unrestrained sexual energy sizzled in Harry’s eyes she was so obviously a wide-eyed innocent.

She looked closer. Ick! That day she was more red-eyed than wide-eyed. Unable to sleep from excitement the night before, she had searched her astounding collection of DVDs for an antidote.

Staying up until one in the morning watching Love Story had probably not been the best choice as no amount of white eyeliner had been able to hide the evidence.

Determined to snap back into the real world and forget about Harry until he actually arrived, she closed the offending page and opened up her Blondie file. Blondie was the skinny little cartoon girl with a cute blonde ponytail and big blue eyes she had created to host the competition on the Flirt website and who would make an appearance on the awards night. Blondie simpered and giggled and pointed and fainted like a master in the bottom corner of the screen every time a new hunky bachelor was revealed.

Happy that Blondie was as endearing as she would ever be, Emma ran off a print copy of the animated girl’s various stunts and expressions, stuffed it into a pink folder and hot-footed towards the stationery room to make copies for the demonstration they would give Flirt’s people the next day. Of course a quick stop in the kitchenette for a fortifying coffee and cookie could not be avoided.

Pouring herself an oversized double Espresso, she hummed the theme to Love Story under her breath as she waited. Damn it! Now she would be humming it all day!

Suddenly her boss, a prickly, sharp-minded woman known affectionately as Rabid Raquel, stormed into the room.

‘You can’t pull that crap with me!’ Raquel screeched at some hapless guy down the mobile phone clamped to her ear. She opened the fridge and stared into it as though looking for the answers to her problems within. Emma tucked herself back into the corner of the room, quietly sipping on her coffee, doing her dandiest not to get caught in the indiscriminate spray of her boss’s wrath.

‘Fix it. Now! Or it’ll be your head!’ Raquel snapped the phone shut, slammed the fridge door and only then seemed to notice Emma was there.

‘Ms Radfield. I assume your little cartoon is ready for the final Flirt magazine meeting tomorrow.’

Emma flapped the pink folder at her boss. ‘All ready. No worries.’

‘Because this has to be perfect,’ Raquel insisted. ‘Nothing can go wrong. Nothing.’

Emma noticed a light sheen of sweat had taken up residence on Raquel’s brow. Raquel did mean for a living, but this was different. She was worried.

‘Raquel, it’s perfect,’ Emma promised, her voice soft, calming, sure. ‘Everyone has done a great job on this campaign. Flirt will love it to bits.’

Raquel’s steely glare meant she didn’t believe a word of it, but Emma knew better than to push her luck. She would have the presentation ready in time as she promised and that would have to be enough.

‘Would you like to see a copy?’ Emma asked.

Raquel fluffed a hand in front of her face as though swatting away a persistent fly. ‘No! Too, too busy. Just consider it a priority. You never know, you might need Flirt magazine for a reference. Some day…’ Raquel disappeared out the door, marched down the hallway and was lost within the crowd before Emma could even blink.

What was that all about? A reference? Some day?

Before she had time to absorb Raquel’s odd threat, Emma’s mobile beeped and she flinched.

She clicked the right buttons to bring up the message. It was from Tahlia, her best mate and WWW’s sales guru.

em, is australia’s hunkiest bloke there yet?

Emma’s mouth kicked up at one corner. A right twenty-first century girl, she managed to type a message with one hand, sip her coffee with the other and walk the crowded office hallway towards the stationery room without making one typo or spilling a drop.

not yet T & don’t mention it to him or he’ll get an even bigger head

Within seconds her phone buzzed and beeped.

didn’t know you liked guys with big heads…

Emma shot back a final text message.

watch yourself or i’ll come down there and bop you on the head with that industrial sized stapler you are so in love with

Now, having given in and progressed to whistling the theme to Love Story loud and proud, Emma skipped into the stationery room to find Raquel’s assistant, Penelope, head down, hunched over a photocopier in the far corner.

‘Morning, Penny!’ Emma called out.

Penelope spun around, her hand to her heart, her eyes large and bright. She then grabbed her bunch of papers and ran from the room like a startled rabbit. Emma shook her head. Poor duffer. Working so closely with Raquel would be enough to turn any sane woman into one big raw nerve.

Emma headed for the photocopier Penelope had been using, figuring it would save her time trying to find one that was working and stocked with A4 paper.

She lifted the lid to find a sheet face down in place already. She turned back to the door, but Penelope was long gone.

Checking to see if it was anything important or whether she should just toss it away, Emma read the first few lines of the letter in her hand. That was all it took for her to realise just how important the document was.

‘Oh, my.’ Emma’s hand covered her mouth as she devoured the gist of the letter. It was from Raquel’s lawyers. WWW Designs was being sued. For a lot of money. Gossip about trouble had been whispered up and down the corridors for weeks, and now Emma knew why.

Raquel was dedicated and driven but excessively so. She had a thing for ‘special assignments’. She encouraged her worker bees to go out of their way to know all there was to know about prospective clients in order to land said clients. She called it PR, her worker bees called it slave-driving. But it worked. For the most part, it worked. Keely, the other musketeer in Emma’s trio of workmates and the web design genius of the crew, had in fact met her darling fiancé Lachlan, on such a ‘special assignment’.

But since then there had been one infamous time it hadn’t worked. Raquel had lobbied hard for the privilege to design and manage the personal website of a media magnate. She had sent one of her lapdogs to follow the guy around and in the process the lapdog had delved deep enough to discover that the magnate had a mistress. His wife had found out, had filed for divorce and now the magnate was suing, for big bucks, and Raquel was caught in the thick of it.

‘Oh, my, oh, my, oh, my,’ Emma whispered aloud.

The rumours, Raquel’s throwaway line about needing a reference, the niggling bad feeling Tahlia’d had for some time, were all true. No wonder poor Penelope had looked fit to explode on the spot. She knew how bad it all was.

Needing to sit and think, Emma gave up on the idea of photocopying anything. She slipped the offending letter into her pink folder and rushed back towards her office. She threw her half-empty coffee cup into a nearby rubbish bin, tucked her phone back on to her belt, popped a mint into her mouth and rounded the corner towards her office.

‘Emma, wait!’ Chrystal, WWW Designs’ busty receptionist, skipped alongside Emma, her red curls bouncing and red lips shining. ‘You have a visitor. I showed him into your office. Hope you don’t mind. Though you could have done a girl a favour and taken your time in coming back.’ Chrystal kissed her fingers. ‘Magnifico!’

Emma stared back at Chrystal, searching the minefield of scattered thoughts of lawsuits and threats and panic for a way to decipher Chrystal’s words. And then a voice from the past, a voice rich with experience and humour, the voice that had been echoing in her head and keeping her from real work all day, said from deep within her office, ‘That can’t possibly be little Emma Radfield, can it?’

Emma looked up to find six feet of heaven in a battered leather jacket and low-slung jeans leaning against her desk. ‘Harry!’

‘Come here, you luscious length of woman, you.’

She didn’t need to be told twice. She threw her pink folder on to a nearby chair and leapt into Harry’s waiting arms, grabbing fists full of the back of his ancient caramel-coloured jacket, her cheek rubbing against the supple collar, giddily breathing in the familiar scent—fresh air and sunshine mixed with something decidedly male, decidedly Harry.

‘You’re early!’ she noted, but she was so happy to see him she could barely stop grinning.

He held her at arm’s length, his hands keeping a gentle grip on her shoulders. ‘And you’re different,’ he said.

Understatement of the year, Emma thought, but she bit her lip and let him play his game.

He twirled her back and forth, held her wrist to his ear to check her pulse and shook her a little as though trying to place the change. ‘What could it be?’ he asked. ‘I just can’t put my finger on it.’

Hair that has been waist-length for ever now chopped into a slick bob? The last remains of my puppy-fat gone by way of power Pilates? Usual tomboy uniform of jeans and T-shirt replaced with a black suit that looks as though it has been sewn on? All somewhat proving that I am anybody but little Emma Radfield.

‘Nope,’ he finally said. ‘Must have been a trick of the light.’

Oh, he’d noticed, all right. Emma could see it in the barely there furrow of his brow. Though she could tell he didn’t quite know what to make of it yet, he had noticed.

‘So how are you?’ she asked with a bright smile. ‘Mr big time CEO. I didn’t know if you would come this year now that you are such a busy big shot.’

‘Aw, shucks,’ he said. ‘You know me. Gracious. Benevolent. Giving of my precious time.’

‘Not so giving of your precious time that you could make it to my surprise birthday party.’

Harry winced. Bullseye!

‘I tried, babes. Really I did. But…circumstances kept me away. Yet here I am now, as always, choosing to spend all the free time I can wangle with you.’

‘As opposed to…?’

‘Basking on the beaches of Acapulco, getting to know the local girls—’

‘Oh, diddums. Life’s tough.’

‘You have no idea,’ he said, smiling, but Emma knew there was a kernel of truth to the words. He wasn’t yet thirty and yet with Harold’s House he had created a modern day marvel, a masterpiece, a powerhouse. Now the question on everyone’s lips in the Internet biz was: what was Wonder Boy Buchanan going to do next? It was a hard act to follow, especially for the man himself.

‘And you also have no idea how much I missed you, kiddo,’ he said, smiling into her eyes.

‘Me too, Harry,’ Emma said, her throat closing up.

With a thick growl, Harry once again took her in a great bear hug, lifting her off the ground as if she was a doll, not five-foot-six of digital animator who enjoyed a daily white chocolate macadamia cookie as much as the next girl.

Emma revelled in the feeling of swinging through the air as he twirled her about. That was until her flailing legs caught a hold of the edge of her office chair, sending it crashing to the ground in a mess of screeching metal and spinning wheels.

Her office door crashed open and a familiar face peered in. ‘What on earth is going on in here?’ Keely asked, her eyes twinkling.

Emma fought back a laugh. Keely was six months pregnant, which was a happy little miracle, but it was also making her more forgetful as the months progressed. Always one to tuck a pen behind her ear, her hairdo now had several pens tucked into and about it. She was a walking stationery case. Keely folded her slim arms atop her slightly rounded tummy.

Emma scrambled out of Harry’s arms and straightened her twisted black trouser suit. Harry hid behind her as much as a guy double her size could. Emma shot daggers at Keely with her eyes, waiting until the sound of the spinning wheels of the office chair slowed and stopped.

‘Um, Harry, this is Keely Rhodes. Keely, this is Harry Buchanan.’

Keely’s face said duh as her lips said, ‘Nice to meet you, Harry.’

Emma only hoped that Harry was not so understanding as to what Keely’s expression gave away—that Emma had been a basket case all day—well, all week really, awaiting his arrival. Emma pulled away from Harry and moved to push her nosey friend back out the door.

‘You promised to let us know as soon as he arrived,’ Keely whispered through clenched teeth as she jabbed a finger at her silent mobile phone. ‘A quick text message would have been fine. You didn’t need to break any furniture in a fit of passion.’

Emma glanced over to Harry but he was blithely oblivious to their conversation as he picked up the heavy chair with one hand and tucked it under her desk.

‘Though I have to say; now I totally get your years of pining. He’s swoon-worthy, Em.’

‘And you’re engaged,’ Emma reminded her.

‘Engaged, yes. But blind to the allure of a hot guy? Never!’

‘Get out now,’ Emma quietly demanded.

Good deed done, Harry followed them to the door and reached around Emma to shake Keely’s hand. ‘It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Keely.’

Emma groaned inwardly as Keely gave Harry a detailed once-over, taking in his too-long hair, weather-beaten jacket, jeans with the knees almost worn away and scuffed boots, all which did little to cover the fact that this was one superb specimen of Australian manhood.

‘I assure you, Harry,’ Keely purred, ‘the pleasure is all mine.’

Having borne the brunt of such obvious female attention ever since Emma had known him, Harry just grinned, generating his lady-killer smile, guaranteed to melt a pair of female knees at fifty paces. He then tucked himself in behind Emma once more, resting a casual hand across her hip, and Emma had to stop herself from leaping away from his feather-light touch. She had long since learned to control her instincts when it came to Harry’s effortless, yet entirely innocent, caresses.

He rested his chin on her shoulder. She could feel his warm breath tickling at her ear. ‘So are you two partners in crime?’ he asked. ‘Sharing secrets and lipstick? Shopping together for sexy underwear—’

Emma gave Harry an abrupt elbow in the ribs and was rewarded with a hearty ‘Oomph’ from his direction.

‘You’ll find it’s best to ignore him, Keely.’

‘It’s called charm,’ Harry murmured against her ear.

‘It’s called pathological. I know it’s not yet five, Keely, but can you cover for me if I take off a tad early?’

Keely grinned and winked. ‘I’ll tell the Rabid Rottweiler you are out buying a new paintbrush or something. So go, take this man of yours home.’

‘You heard the lady, Em,’ Harry said. ‘Let’s blow this joint.’

‘See ya,’ Keely said and Emma looked up in time to see Harry throwing her a wink as she slipped out the door.

‘She’s engaged, lover boy.’

‘Meaning she’s not married,’ he said, his eyes bright and laughing.

‘Yet quite obviously with child.’ Emma reached around to pinch him on the arm, using the brief respite to slip out of his embrace. She backed Harry towards her desk so she could tidy up her gear for the day.

Pens were in their holders. Papers were neat. Emails had all been answered. She still had to photocopy the Blondie files for the Flirt presentation but that could wait.

‘Em, I can come back later if you have to finish up here,’ Harry offered.

She shook her head. For once she could put others on the back burner for a day. Especially since seeing Harry in the flesh was almost enough to fry her brain of all other information. Almost. Her seriously disturbing discoveries of that morning were still playing at the back of her mind. Her finger rolled over her mouse as she considered sending off a quick heads-up to Tahlia and Keely.

But it was no use worrying her friends. Not until she had more information and not until she had done what she could to fix the situation first. She had long since proven to herself she could shoulder worry enough for everyone.

‘Earth to Emma!’

She blinked and shook her head. ‘Sorry, Harry. I’m coming.’ She tucked her hair behind her ear and looked up to find Harry leaning in the doorway, his arms folded across his chest, watching her with a funny little smile.

With his scruffy sun-kissed brown hair and his crinkly hazel eyes that made a person smile just by looking at them, he was just so categorically gorgeous she had to fight back a sigh.

She shut down her computer, grabbed her briefcase, slipping the pink folder inside, and wandered back to Harry’s side like a homing pigeon returning to its master. He wrapped an arm about her neck, all but strangling her as he dragged her from the office and through the hallway towards the lift.

‘Come on,’ he said. ‘All these walls are making me antsy.’

‘You’ve been inside ten minutes at most.’

His grip loosened enough so that he could look down into her face. ‘Mmm,’ he said, his voice a distant rumble. ‘Too long.’

Something in his tone made her wonder if he was talking about his drought of sunshine or his year away from her side. Either way, it was good to see him too.

Emma hustled Harry to the lift. She knew by the disturbance of sighs following in her wake that Harry was bestowing grins all around.

Gracious? Benevolent? Giving of his precious time? Yeah, right! She knew that he would be lapping up the fact that he was likely receiving those smiles back in kind from her many young female co-workers.

Once at the lift, she pressed the down button and was surprised when the double doors gave way instantly. But when she saw Tahlia inside the lift hastily fixing her hair and smoothing out her clothes, she knew that her other best buddy had been summoned by Keely.

Emma crossed her arms. ‘What a surprise to see you down here.’

Tahlia looked up, her cheeks glowing pink. ‘Oh. Well, I borrowed Keely’s industrial sized stapler,’ she said, waving it in Emma’s face as proof, ‘and she emailed to say she needed it. Urgently.’

Tahlia’s gaze skittered back and forth between Emma and the man behind her. Emma wondered whether she should punish Tahlia and simply not introduce Harry, but it would only cause more questions than it was worth.

‘Tahlia Moran, I would like you to meet my old friend, Harry Buchanan.’

Tahlia practically curtsied. ‘Harry. Of course. Congratulations on the enormous success of Harold’s House. It is a supreme example that innovation can still be achieved with the medium. An Internet search engine aimed entirely at under-eighteens. Brilliant!’

Emma couldn’t help but grin. Tahlia was such a sweetheart. Such a hard worker. So entrenched in the fabric of WWW Designs. In her capacity as Director of Sales, she was the public face of the company. Emma worried about what would happen if WWW Designs really did come under serious threat. Though she had been one person never to become embroiled in Raquel’s ‘special assignments’, her friend’s fall would be so public.

Harry gave Tahlia a brief nod but said no more. Funny. For a guy who usually lapped up female attention as if it was drinking water, the bestowal of praise for his outstanding success seemed to be something he could not simply charm his way through. It was actually kind of adorable.

‘Later, T,’ Emma said, waving her friend away and stepping into the lift.

‘Have fun, Emma,’ Chrystal called out, leaning so far over the reception desk Emma could make out the colour of her bra. ‘Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!’

Emma took Harry by the hand and dragged him into the lift with her. She did all she could to hide her blush. If she followed Chrystal’s advice she and her Harry would be in for a wild time.


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