Marrying the Wedding Crasher by Melinda Curtis
This bachelor’s pretend girlfriend just made a shocking discovery
Although they dated for only a month, Harley O’Hannigan just agreed to be Vince Messina’s plus-one at a Harmony Valley wedding. Big mistake, given her deepening feelings for the tall, dark, unavailable bachelor. And what about Vince’s long-buried family history? Then there’s the growing secret that could transform this pretend relationship into the real thing…
Praise for Melinda Curtis:
“Wonderfully entertaining!” Jayne Ann Krentz, NYT Bestseller (referring to Playing for Love)
“Reading Slade and Christine’s story reminded me of why I enjoy romance. SEASON OF CHANGE has found a place on my keeper shelf!” Brenda Novak, NYT Bestseller
Harley opened the creaky door to her hot truck cab and climbed in. She missed her Lexus. She missed auto-start and powerful air-conditioning.
She turned the key in the ignition. Nothing. Not so much as a tick of the starter.
She missed reliability.
“Not today,” she muttered.
The truck was finicky. It didn’t like to run when the Houston temperature dropped to the thirties or in thunderstorms, but the day had been hot, the skies clear.
“Come on, baby,” she chided the old vehicle. Don’t leave me stranded with Mr. Carrots and that grin.
Vince, aka Mr. Carrots, locked up his tools and leaned on his truck, staring at hers.
Still nothing. Her backside was growing damp with sweat.
Vince walked toward her with the swagger of a man who knew what his purpose was in life. And, right now, that purpose was to rescue a damsel in distress. “Pop the hood.”
She did, hopping out and joining him at the grille. Not that she knew anything about engines. Her mechanical ability stopped at turning power tools off and on.
Vince tsked and gave Harley a look that disapproved and teased at the same time.
“Hey, don’t judge,” she said. “It runs.”
“It’s not running now.” He drew a blue rag from his back pocket. It was the kind of scrap mechanics used to wipe their hands and touch hot engines. “You might want to spray your engine off every once in a while.” He used the rag to check battery connections, hose connections and to prod the engine compartment as if he knew what he was doing.
“I barely clean my apartment. Why would I clean my engine?”
“So a mechanic can see if you’ve got leaks anywhere, for one thing,” Vince said straight-faced. “Why don’t you try it again?”
She hurried back behind the wheel. The truck started right up. “Traitor,” she accused under her breath.
Vince shut the hood and came around to her window, wiping his hands.
“Thanks.” Harley gave him her polite smile, the one she reserved for helpful salesclerks and the receptionist who squeezed her in at the doctor’s office. “I owe you.”
“Yeeeaah.” He wound out the word and ran his fingers through that thatch of midnight hair.
“About that. I need a favor.” Those kind black eyes lifted to her face.
Don’t believe in fairy tales… Don’t believe in fairy tales…
Despite their history, despite knowing better, silly fantasies about princely rescues and Mr. Right fluttered about her chest like happy butterflies on a warm spring day.
She should go. Instead she lingered and asked, “So what’s the favor?”
The devilish grin returned, making the butterflies ecstatic. “I need a date to my brother’s wedding.”
Author Melinda Curtis
Melinda Curtis is an award-winning, USA Today Bestseller of over 40 romances. She writes sweet romance for Harlequin Heartwarming, sweet romantic comedies and sexy sports contemporary romances. When not working on DIY projects around their home, Melinda and her college sweetheart enjoy watching Duke mens basketball and visiting their three kids and one grandchild. Sign up for her mailing list to receive two free reads.
Always the Hero by Anna J. Stewart
He never relied on anyone but himself…but he needs her now!
Butterfly Harbor deputy Matt Knight wants two things: to date Lori Bradley and the chance to adopt Kyle, a troubled teen. Wounded in Afghanistan, Matt knows he can’t move forward anchored to the past. But once he regains the guarded hotel manager’s trust, will his need to protect those he loves cost him a future with this extraordinary woman?
Praise for Anna J Stewart
“The talented Anna J Stewart delivers every time.” ~NYTimes Bestselling Author Brenda Novak
“Anna J. Stewart will tug at your heartstrings more than once while leaving you utterly besotted with her characters.” ~The Romance Reviews
“What’s wrong?” Matt rested his arms on the table and leaned in. She could feel the warmth of his breath, feel the heat of his concerned gaze.
“Nothing.” She shifted in her seat. “It’s…nothing.”
“Now who’s lying?”
Her chin shot up at his accusation but it was then she saw he was teasing her.
“Come on, Lori. Tell me what’s bothering you. You’ve been acting weird since before we came in here. Are you embarrassed to be seen with me?”
“Why on earth would I—” She took a deep breath. “You’re making fun of me.”
“How else am I going to disarm you enough to tell me what’s going on in here.” He reached up and tapped a finger against the side of her head.
“It’s not important.” Darn it, why did she always let this get to her? Why hadn’t she just been honest and told him she didn’t want to go to breakfast?
“Given we’ve spent the last couple of minutes debating that fact, I’ll say you’re wrong. What is it?”
“I just…” Could her face feel any hotter? “I don’t like eating out, okay? There. You got me to confess, copper. Take me to jail.” She held out her wrists, palms up.
“Why don’t you like to eat out?”
“Oh, for…” She tucked her hair behind her ears and sighed. “It’s silly.
“Clearly, it’s not. Tell me.”
Tell him? Tell him one of her most embarrassing secrets? Tell him about how even her own parents were disgusted by her? Yeah, that should kill off any residual feelings he might have for her. “When I was a little girl and we went out to eat, my mother would constantly criticize me. I shouldn’t have that or what will people think, a chubby girl like you eating that. I embarrassed her. And she made sure everyone knew it.” All these years later and it still messed with her head. “I told you it was stupid.”
“It’s not stupid. I’m sorry you had to deal with that.” He reached over and held out a hand. She stared at his open palm, heart pounding as she realized how much she wanted to take it. Instead, she pulled her hands into her lap and locked her fingers together. “No child should ever be made to feel less than. For any reason.”
“I totally agree. Which is why I haven’t talked to her in about a gazillion years.” That neither of her parents seemed interested in reaching out to her—or Fletcher—didn’t help the situation. It was one thing to be a child and suspect your parents didn’t like you; it was another to be an adult and know it to be true. “So, there you go. I don’t like to eat out because my mother used to make fun of me for being fat. Bring on the chocolate pudding.”
“Have I mentioned how much I loathe self-deprecating humor?” He sat back and pinned her with a stare that made her shiver. “We’re being honest with each other now, yeah? Stop making fun of yourself. I don’t find the jokes funny and I don’t agree with them. What on earth does your dress size have to do with the type of person you are? I like who you are, Lori. I have from the first time I saw you, so suck it up and deal with it. And while you’re at it, stop making light of things that cause you pain. It’s irritating.”
“Yes, it is.” She didn’t want to take what he said to heart. She didn’t want to believe he meant what she’d always wanted someone to say to her; someone who might actually care for her, love her. “It’s also the one defense mechanism that’s worked for me, so forgive me if I don’t bow to your lack of expertise in this matter.” She meant for the comment to tick him off, drive him away. Offend him to the point he’d settle her firmly in the friends column. Instead, she watched the anger lines around his eyes ease and the
corners of his mouth flicker.
corners of his mouth flicker.
“You’d be surprised what I know about parental disapproval, but that’s a conversation for another time. Look at us, getting to know each other. Being honest with one another. It’s almost like we’re starting a new relationship or something.”
Lori shook her head, wanting nothing more than to walk away and forget that whenever she was with him she didn’t want to be without him. He had a way of making her forget everything that shouldn’t be important. “What’s wrong with you? Everything that should make you angry makes you laugh.”
“And sometimes vice versa,” he confirmed with a shrug. “You have your coping mechanisms, I have mine. And for the record, I’ll give you time to work on that bad habit of yours. Not a lot, but some.”
USA Today and national bestselling author Anna J. Stewart writes sweet to sexy romance for Harlequin’s Heartwarming and Romantic Suspense lines. Early obsessions with Star Wars, Star Trek, and Wonder Woman set her on the path to creating fun, funny, and family-centric romances with happily ever afters for her independent heroines. Anna lives in Northern California where she deals with a serious Supernatural & Sherlock addiction, surrounds herself with friends and family and tolerates an overly affectionate cat named Snickers (or perhaps it’s Snickers who tolerates her). When she’s not writing books or her monthly blog for USA Today’s Happy Ever After, you can find her at fan conventions or at her local movie theater, or building her client list for her content editing services.
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