Here's an excerpt from the first chapter. A little bit of Dane's POV and Talia's first sight of him. If I was Talia, I'd be salivating over him, too.
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“Are you going somewhere, Dane?”
Annabelle walked out of the bedroom, buttoning a cream silk blouse tight enough to showcase her full breasts. She’d tucked the shirt into a slim plaid skirt that delineated every beautiful curve of her ass and hips.
Her auburn hair bounced and curled around her shoulders and her full mouth curved in a happy smile.
She’d used that mouth on his body many times and he’d enjoyed the hell out of it. Just like he enjoyed the hell out of Annabelle.
But she wasn’t his.
Yes, he loved her. But he wasn’t in love with her. Not like Jed. Jed adored her.
Dane did, too. It just wasn’t the same.
Annabelle moved to Jed and bent for a kiss, which Jed returned with a smile and a hand on her ass. Annabelle lingered, her hand lifting to caress Jed’s jaw.
In the next second, Jed caught her around the waist and tumbled her onto his lap, kissing her, long and deep.
When Jared finally let her up for air, Annabelle laughed.
Dane found himself grinning and, when Annabelle turned toward him again, she wrinkled her nose at him.
“So I have a favor to ask,” she said. “I know you’re a busy guy but are you going to be around today? Kate just called and said something came up so she won’t be here and I need some male input when I meet with Talia.
“Talia?” The name sounded familiar but he wasn’t coming up with a face and, for him, that was a total lapse in his skills.
“The wedding planner,” Belle prompted.
“Ah, the one who wants Jed to buy groomsmen gifts.” Dane mock shuddered. “Yeah, I think I’ll pass.”
“Hey!” Annabelle tried for outrage but she was too damn happy to make it work. “Don’t diss Talia. She’s been amazing. I couldn’t do this without her.”
“Then I’m glad she’s working out for you. But I’ve got—”
“She’s going to be here in a few minutes.” Annabelle batted big green eyes at him. “Please? Jared has a meeting he says he can’t miss and I’d really like a guy’s opinion.”
Her smile turned pleading. Dane’s gaze narrowed at Jed. “Wait, why doesn’t he have to go?”
“Because he has a meeting with the mayor about…something.” She waved a hand in front of her. “I have no idea what. But Jared said he absolutely couldn’t be there. I don’t want this wedding to be over-the-top girly and you know Jared better than anyone. You’ll be able to tell me if he won’t like something.”
When she stared at him like that, he knew exactly why Jed had bent over backward to find her and keep her. And when she smiled at Jed, Dane understood why Jed never worried about losing her to Dane, even though Dane occasionally shared Annabelle.
And when he said share, he meant have sex with. Sex he enjoyed very much.
Which was why spending time with her alone was dangerous.
“Uh…I’m not sure…”
Annabelle turned her smile on him now. Shit.
He bit back a sigh. “I’ve got a few hours this morning. What time’s the meeting?”
“In…” she glanced at the clock, “ten minutes.”
Well, at least he wouldn’t have long to sit and think about it.
“Fine. Let’s go see a woman about a wedding.”
* * *
Talia checked her hair one last time in the mirror in the restroom in Haven Hotel’s restaurant.
Not a blonde strand out of place in the chignon it’d taken nearly an hour to create. She smoothed a hand down the skirt of her winter-white suit, making sure she hadn’t spilled anything on herself and failed to notice.
Which was ridiculous. She hadn’t even taken a sip of water since getting dressed.
She made a face at her reflection and huffed. “You’re being ridiculous.”
Which she totally was.
Annabelle was a friend. A good friend. She shouldn’t be this nervous.
Then again, she’d never planned a wedding for someone of Jared’s social standing.
Which was also ridiculous. She gave every event she planned one-hundred percent of her attention. It didn’t matter if the groom was a multimillionaire entrepreneur or the bride worked at the local supermarket.
They all deserved her best. And she had every faith in herself to make it happen. It was just…
For one thing, if everything went as planned, she’d make one hell of a name for herself and her business. Expand and grow.
Of course, if that happened… Well, she’d deal with that if and when the time came.
Right now, she didn’t have time to spend mulling over problems that hadn’t happened. She had last-minute details to go over with Annabelle and Jared, important pieces of the overall puzzle that would create the perfect event.
Annabelle trusted Talia to deliver the wedding of her dreams. And that’s exactly what she was going to do.
Straightening her back, Talia took a deep breath and headed for the lobby, where she was supposed to meet Annabelle in a few minutes.
Talia always showed up at least five minutes early for any meeting, whether she sat in her car or headed for a bathroom to make sure she looked the part.
Successful, perfectly put together and totally confident.
A woman who had the ability to give the bride the wedding of her dreams.
No matter what.
With her Coach tote hanging from one arm, Talia smiled at the woman behind the desk when she looked up from her computer screen. “Hey, Sabrina. How are you?”
With a huge grin, Sabrina Rodriguez scurried around the counter to wrap her arms around Talia for a bear hug. Talia returned the embrace just as tightly.
“Damn, girl, you look amazing.” Sabrina gave Talia a thumbs up before heading back behind the reception desk. “Are you here to meet Annabelle?”
“Yes, we’ve got some last minute details to figure out. How are you? I haven’t seen you for ages.”
Sabrina’s sunny smile got even brighter. “Busy, busy, busy. Seems like there’s never a dull moment.”
Sabrina’s mouth curved in an adorable smile. “He has more battery power than the Energizer Bunny. He survives on three hours of sleep a night, I swear. If he’s not editing his movie, he’s taking meetings with contractors and politicians and government people and I swear, I have no idea what the hell he’s up to most of the time.”
Talia caught a hint of nervous apprehension in Sabrina’s voice and took a closer look at her friend.
Sabrina was twenty-three and one of the sweetest people Talia knew. Which made Talia suspicious of Sabrina’s forced-looking smile.
She wondered if her friend had finally realized that having a relationship with Greg Hicks, one of the most powerful producer-directors in Hollywood, was more work than she’d realized it would be.
And she hoped like hell that Greg, who’d forsaken the rat race of the left coast film industry to start a new production company based in Philadelphia, treated Sabrina the way she deserved.
Talia had met Greg a few times and been nearly blown away by his personality. He was like a steamroller, with a smile that could make women’s panties drop at a hundred paces.
Sure, he seemed completely in love with Sabrina but the man was used to getting what he wanted and, right now, he wanted Sabrina.
“This meeting with Annabelle shouldn’t be more than an hour. Can you take a break around ten or so? Maybe we can grab coffee before I have to drive back to Wyomissing?”
Talia had recently moved her office to a shiny new space in a beautifully renovated building in a small suburb of Reading and out of her former apartment in her hometown of Adamstown, which is where she’d met Annabelle and Sabrina and Kate Song, Annabelle’s best friend and maid of honor. Kate was supposed to be here for this meeting as well but had called off at the last minute due to an unexpected situation with her dad.
“Ooh, that sounds great.” Sabrina’s true smile was back and Talia was determined to make sure Sabrina was okay before she left. “Stop back when you’re done. It’ll be nice to talk girl stuff, even if it’s only for a few minutes.”
Yes, there was definitely something up with Sabrina. Guilt tweaked at Talia’s conscience and made her more determined than before to spend a little time with Sabrina before she left.
It’d been a while since the four of them had gotten together for dinner and drinks because they’d all been so busy. Annabelle with her antiques business and the wedding. Kate with her new lingerie business and the boutique here in Haven. Talia with her burgeoning wedding planning business.
Sabrina seemed to have gotten a little lost in the shuffle.
“Hey, you’re early. I knew you would be. You’re too damn efficient for your own good.”
Talia turned at the sound of Annabelle’s voice and felt her friend’s smile infect her. Annabelle had that glow a woman got when she was happy with the world.
And who wouldn’t be in her position? She was marrying one of Philadelphia’s most eligible bachelors who treated her like a queen and gave her anything she wanted, usually before she wanted it.
According to Annabelle, Jared was perfect.
Too damn perfect, if you asked Talia. But no one had and she’d been told more than once that she had a skewed outlook on men.
Considering her history, who could blame her? Then again, not many people knew her history, so most men wrote her off as a cold bitch. Usually she was okay with that.
Annabelle gave her a huge hug, threw a smile and a wave at Sabrina then started pulling Talia toward the atrium.
“I had Tyler set up a table for us in the atrium. It’s beautiful out there right now and since we’re having the wedding in there, you won’t have to visualize what we’re talking about.”
“I just have a few details we need to finalize and—”
“Hold that thought,” Annabelle said as she waved toward the elevator. “Dane, come meet Talia.”
Talia turned in the direction Annabelle was looking and saw a man walking toward them. She blinked as her brain tried to process how utterly, distractingly handsome he was.
She noticed his hair first. A black so dark, hints of blue flashed under the bright lights of the lobby. He wore it longer than convention dictated, so perfectly straight, she wondered if he actually used a flat iron and long enough that he had it tucked behind one ear to keep it out of his face.
And damn, what a face. Sharp, dark eyes above cheekbones so straight she wanted to run her finger along them. Then there was his mouth… Full lips that could probably kiss a woman into a coma.
Damn, the man is too freaking pretty for his own good.
Of course, pretty probably wasn’t a word he’d appreciate. Then again, he was probably used to woman wanting to pet him.
“Talia, this is Dane Connelly, Jared’s best man. I can’t believe you two haven’t met yet.”
Dane met her eyes, gave her a brief once-over, then nodded. “Nice to meet you.”
He held out his hand, and Talia took it out of habit. She told herself the shiver that ran through her had nothing to do with his touch and everything to do with a breeze blowing through the lobby from the opening of the front door.
Total bullshit, but still.
Of course, while she’d been knocked off balance, he seemed to be completely immune to her.
Which was a little disconcerting. She was tall and blonde and men typically took a second look. She’d gotten good at deflecting attention and had had loads of practice from the time she was a teenager.
“Nice to meet you, Talia.”
And wow, the voice fit that face. Low and a little husky. And totally disinterested in her.
Well, that’ll teach you. She laughed silently to herself and released his hand. “Nice to meet you, too.”
Turning her attention back to Annabelle, Talia caught a glimpse of something in Annabelle’s expression. As if she’d expecting a response she hadn’t gotten.
Then it passed and Annabelle was leading her and Dane toward the atrium.
For the next hour, she and Annabelle went over the checklist Talia had compiled. There were quite a few items on the list but not because Talia had forgotten anything in the weeks leading up to the big event.
No, she’d simply learned that there were things that only needed to be discussed at certain times and, through a great deal of trial and error, Talia had learned how and when to approach them.
However she usually dealt with the bride and groom for this meeting so Dane’s presence was throwing her off her game a little.
One of the things she typically discussed with the groom’s at this meeting was the groomsman’s gifts. But since this was the groomsman…
“Uh oh, you have that look on your face, Tal.” Annabelle frowned at her. “What’s up?”
They’d gone over every other item on her list and she really hated not to cross off everything.
“It’s just…,” she glanced at Dane, who’d been silent throughout much of the meeting.
Oh, he’d spoken when Annabelle had asked for his opinion, which she’d done several times. And he’d given remarkably thoughtful answers, including one about whether or not they should include the formerly estranged mother of Annabelle’s deceased second father in the family pictures.
Talia could honestly say she’d never come up against this problem in all the years she’d been planning weddings but Dane had had the perfect response.
“Does she seem like family to you, Belle?” he’d asked.
Annabelle had turned to Dane with a wryly amused laugh then reached out to poke him in the side with her finger. As if she knew exactly where he was ticklish.
“How do you always know the right question to ask?”
He shrugged and raised his eyebrows at her, his expression slightly haughty but even Talia could see the affection beneath.
“Because I’m just that good. You should know that by now.”