Ruby Ross is lighting up the plus-sized fashion world, one fabulous design at a time. With a lucrative retail deal in her pocket and her sassy corgi, Diamond, by her side, life is one whirlwind of glitz, glamour, and must-have handbags.
Enter Brandon Price—poster boy for his family's fitness empire and every hot-blooded American girl's dream. But what really makes Brandon's heart race isn't protein shakes—it's Ruby's vivacious spirit and fearless style.
She stands for everything his father hates, which makes her all the more attractive to him. But Ruby has no time for idle flirtations. And though their attraction is undeniable, he isn't exactly her type either.
Will these two learn to put their differences aside and find love is much more than skin-deep? Find out in this light, heartwarming tale from a New York Times bestselling author!
Ruby Ross pulled a freshly popped bag of kettle corn from the microwave and let the steam warm her face as she sucked it in the fragrant, buttery air with a contented sigh.
“Ahh, better than any spa treatment,” she remarked to the fuzzy little dog squirming at her feet. She and her corgi, Diamond, had been together for almost three years now. Initially, she’d adopted the rambunctious little pup with the hopes that this new companion would help her get out into the city more—socialize, meet people.
But the tan and white corgi was far happier snuggled up on the couch than she ever was trekking through the sidewalk jungle of New York City.
Still, it didn’t mean that Diamond was an easy dog to look after. She was forever demanding snacks, pets, and a four a.m. wake up time, and despite Ruby’s increased exhaustion since adopting the discerning ball of fluff, she wouldn’t trade her special girl for the world.
“Ready to start our party?” she asked the dog as they both made their way to the main living area of her studio apartment. Like everything else in this city, it was cramped to the max, meaning that both Ruby and her doggie roommate needed to use space efficiently and limit the number of personal items they kept. A small price to pay for being able to reside in one of the biggest fashion capitals of the world.
Diamond barked twice, then hopped up beside Ruby and attempted to swipe the popcorn bag from her hands with a quick nose and a pathetic whine.
“Stop that. You have your own.” Ruby grabbed the dental bone from the drawer in the coffee table and tossed it over to Diamond.
The dog sighed and pushed the green chew onto the floor, then started on a fresh string of barks. As much as Ruby didn’t like being terrorized, she knew she’d need to offer Diamond something better if she had any hope of catching the pre-show red carpet coverage.
“You’re in-corgi-gable. You know that?” She chuckled at her own joke as she fished a bully stick from the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard and tossed it Diamond’s way.
Now she was satisfied. Good.
“Okay, but no more barking. You got it? This is basically the fashion Super Bowl, and this year I actually have a horse in the race.” Yeah, she knew she’d mixed her metaphors, but Ruby was far too excited about fashion and far too uninterested in sports to care either way.
This was it, the big show and her first real chance at getting noticed by the fashion bloggers, reporters, and Hollywood’s most respected stars.
Time had passed in a colorful whirl ever since acclaimed director Millie Sullivan had called on Ruby to design the perfect red carpet look for this year’s Academy Awards. Millie, like Ruby, wore a size sixteen and said she wouldn’t trust anyone else to dress her curves right. Doing so was especially important, considering that she was up for the best director award for the first time ever—and Ruby was so proud of her for the accomplishment.
Together they’d designed the perfect floor-length red gown with a high slit up the side and meticulous beadwork along the neckline. It seemed most in the industry expected bigger girls to merely “dress for their size,” concealing their figures in simple black frocks while all the skinny girls topped off the best-dressed lists.
Ruby, however, had a different philosophy.
Celebrate your body as it is, because no body’s perfect—that’s what she often said when discussing her work with potential new clients or business relations. And that’s what she’d told Millie, too.
Ruby’s breath caught the moment she spied her newest showstopper on the red carpet. Millie was perfection personified with a bold red lip to match the gown and a perfectly coifed 1940’s updo.
“Who are you wearing?” one of the reporters called, rushing over and waving his mic in Millie’s face.
Millie looked straight into the camera like the practiced pro she was. Normally, she stood behind the scenes, but tonight she stole the whole show as she smiled wide and exclaimed, “Ruby Ross!”
“Oh, I haven’t heard of her before,” the reporter gushed as he made a big show of examining her from top to bottom and back again. “But she does beautiful work.”
“Yes, she sure does,” Millie agreed, bobbing her head and showing off that bubbly personality Ruby had quickly come to love. “She’s an up-and-coming force in the fashion world for sure.”
“Honey, ain’t nothing ‘coming’ about it.” Turning to the camera, he added, “Ruby Ross, your star has arrived, and she looks fabulous.”
Ruby screamed and stomped her feet on the floor, drawing an aggravated groan from Diamond, who was still making slow work of her prized treat. Well, not even a moody corgi could spoil her mood tonight.
“Did you hear that, girl?” she squealed. “Our whole life is about to change! Just you wait!”
Diamond picked up her bully stick and retreated to the bedroom, leaving Ruby to marvel at her good luck all by her lonesome. It didn’t matter, though. All that mattered was that her work had been seen at one of the very biggest venues in the entire world. It had been noticed and then admired.
This was the big break she’d worked so hard for but had begun to doubt might actually ever come.
This was it.
And she was more than ready for whatever came next.
* * *
Brandon Price’s cell phone buzzed with an alert quickly followed by a second. Apparently he’d made the “worst dressed” list, and his father wasn’t very happy about it.
Of course, he hadn’t even wanted to attend the stupid awards ceremony, anyway—let alone wear a monkey suit to the thing. But when the gushing up-and-coming actress had begged him to be her date for the evening, Brandon’s father had wasted no time accepting on his behalf.
That was the thing about dear old dad.
He saw his son as an extension of himself and his business rather than as his own person with his own dreams and ambitions. Price Sr.’s fitness empire had hit the big time when Brandon was still in elementary school. That meant moving to a larger, swankier house, switching to a private tutor and—worst of all—being groomed as his father’s successor from a very early age.
While Brandon could appreciate the big muscles and flirtatious women that came with being heir to the popular health and fitness brand, he’d never actually gotten the chance to figure out where his own interests might lie.
And it was starting to look like he might never get the chance, either.
He’d had zero interest in the flashy awards show last night. It was so long and so boring. And besides, he’d only seen one or two of the movies that were nominated. His father had said it would be good for Brandon’s image to accompany the sweet girl-next-door type to support her director who had just been nominated for the first time.
And so Brandon went, but he refused to go quietly. He’d grown a few days of messy stubble and paired his tuxedo with a mesh undershirt and neon yellow bowtie, thus achieving the worst-dressed accolade today. Not that it really mattered, anyway.
For as much as his father liked to complain about Brandon’s rebellious streak, any press was good for them—yes, even the worst dressed list. For years, his bad boy image brought the fitness fanatics in droves. Everyone seemed to think that Brandon was living the perfect life filled with women, money, and fame.
Well, everyone except for Brandon himself, anyway.
Money was great, provided you could spend it on the things you wanted. Brandon’s father kept close tabs on what he spent, where he went, and with whom. He wouldn’t even let his son eat a slice of pizza. for crying out loud! In addition to grueling daily workouts and a regular diet of protein shakes and detox teas, Brandon wasn’t allowed to eat anything that had been even slightly processed or that might otherwise mar his carefully maintained physique and glowing complexion.
It wasn’t just frowned upon. This rule had actually made it into his contract.
It was also a condition of his trust fund, inheritance, and salary all rolled into one. Misrepresenting Body by Price would dash his wages and could possibly get him fired if he managed to take things too far.
Sometimes he’d fantasize about grabbing a super-sized value meal from McDonald’s and scarfing the whole thing down right in his father’s face, if only to call his bluff. And if Brandon got fired, so be it. He’d never asked for this job, and he was pretty sure his dad needed him just as much—or even more than—Brandon needed him.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t actually qualified to do anything else. He’d only ever been paid to smile, look good, and parrot back all the words his father’s publicity team shoved in his mouth day after day. He’d gotten his high school diploma but never had the opportunity to attend college. Dad said Brandon didn’t need an education when his entire future was being handed to him on one giant organic, non-GMO platter. Yum.
He glanced down at his father’s text now and frowned.
What were you thinking wearing that? the message came, typed out in very unnecessary all-caps.
Can’t talk, Brandon texted back. Lifting.
That would avoid the upcoming confrontation at least for a little while longer. Give his dad some time to calm down. Despite the older man’s huge success, he was always angry these days. Ever since Brandon’s mom had asked for a divorce about five years ago, Dad had turned all his attention toward ensuring his son could never follow suit.
It was exhausting being the center of his dad’s universe, especially since they had so little in common. It was all so shallow, every last part of the life they both lived. And Brandon longed for a way out, though he doubted he’d ever find one.
It hurt when the gossip rags called him dumb, spoiled, or any number of other insults they so enjoyed hurling his way. In truth, they didn’t even know anything about him.
But then again, Brandon also knew very little about the real him that lay hidden beneath all the glitz and glamor. He supposed the media could be right about everything. Even his father could be right what was best for him, as much as he loathed the idea.
Maybe he was just a shallow pretty boy like everyone said…
Then again, maybe he was meant to be so much more.
Brandon groaned and grabbed a heavier pair of weights from the rack. If he strained his muscles hard enough, eventually his mind would quiet down and let him enjoy the day ahead.
It was better not to think.
Just live one day at a time.
Eventually he’d learn to be grateful for the life he had and would stop thinking about all the things he was missing… right?