Read an Excerpt
Accidentally Married on Purpose
A Love and Games Novel
By Rachel Harris, Stacy Abrams
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Rachel Harris
All rights reserved.
Sad eyes tracked Sherry's movements as she said good-bye to the man in her life.
Their relationship was new, only a few months old, but their bond had been immediate and profound. It hurt leaving him now, knowing that he didn't understand. But Sherry needed a break. Not from him. From life. From her sister's luminous honeymoon glow and her brother's new sappy love. From the constant internal question of when it would be her turn to be just as luminously sappy.
When an out-of-town catering gig for their restaurant's biggest client yet suddenly presented itself, she'd practically tackled Colby for the opportunity. Sherry loved adventure—she craved it—and the star-studded getaway provided the perfect out from her sucky role as the Robicheaux family fifth wheel. Even if it did involve country music.
The hard part, of course, was explaining her desertion to Elvis.
"It's just for the weekend, buddy," she promised, smiling first at Elvis, then at the cute boy behind the counter of Tootsie's Pampered Poodle Day Spa and Boarding. A stinging mix of bleach and eau de wet dog permeated the air—certainly unlike any day spa Sherry had ever been in—but it was homey. Cheerful. The perfect place to leave her baby. Pressing her face against her Shih Tzu's cool, damp nose, she vowed, "You won't even know I'm gone. I've heard there's a hot Maltese here, too. Right up your alley." Scratching behind her puppy's fluffy ears, she leaned back with a sigh. "At least one of us should get our freak on."
She glanced up when the cutie waiting to take Elvis's leopard-print leash made a choking sound under his breath. Shrugging, she pushed to her feet and turned to the woman standing beside him. "My return flight arrives late," she told the doggie spa's namesake. "So Angelle's gonna pick him up once she gets back from Bon Terre."
Yet another reason Sherry was glad to leave town for the holiday. Cane and Angie were headed to Cajun country, and Colby and Jason were doing the family thing with Emma. If Sherry had stayed in town, she'd likely be ringing in the New Year with Ryan Seacrest on the TV and a pint of Ben and Jerry's in her belly.
That truth was more depressing than an eight-pound canine being the man in her life.
Tootsie fluffed her gray hair and pressed her ample bosom against the counter with a grin. "Vegas for New Year's Eve. Goodness, to be young again. Flirting my ass off, getting into mischief." She gave her a knowing wink. "I expect a full report when you come home."
Sherry snorted. "The only mischief I'll see is if I accidentally put the wrong label on a heating tray." The spa owner raised an eyebrow, and Sherry explained. "We're catering the green room for a concert tomorrow night. A big new casino client we want to impress, so I'm going in to supervise."
"Concert, huh?" She bumped the file cabinet closed with her hip. "Anyone I might know?"
Sherry scrunched her nose. "Some country group called Blue?"
The name rang a slight bell, but she wasn't that up-to-date on the country music scene. Her style was more pop and dance, music she could shake her booty to at a club. Part of her felt guilty for not doing more research on her client, but really, she had a handle on the important things, like the number of people she was serving and if anyone had food allergies. As for the rest, she'd wing it. People and events like this were her specialty.
Too bad that doesn't transfer over to my love life.
Apparently, the name of the group more than rang a bell for Tootsie, as her big brown eyes grew even wider. "Blue? As in the ACM's Entertainer of the Year?" Sherry shrugged, her guess being yes, and the woman surged forward. "As in one of People's Sexiest Men Alive? Seriously, how can you not know who he is?"
"His name sounds sorta familiar," she mumbled, a prick of unease tensing her stomach. Sexiest man alive? Awesome. Blue sounded just like the kind of guy she normally fell for. Hot, brooding, confident ... and more than likely a man whore.
"You've gotta hit on him," Tootsie ordered, her enthusiasm raising her voice to wince-worthy decibels. The cutie on dog patrol shook his head and took Elvis's leash, smirking as he strolled toward the kennel door. Sherry blew her baby a good-bye kiss.
"If anyone has a shot with him, it's you," Tootsie continued. "You're gorgeous and confident. Fun and spontaneous. Shoot, you'll have him eating out of your hand! Just think ..." Her eyes got a faraway look in them. "You'll smile. He'll come over. You'll kiss at midnight, and then fall blissfully in love. The two of you will live happily ever after." The woman giggled as a pinkish glow bloomed on her cheeks. "I read about that very thing in one of my romance novels."
Sherry sighed. She had too, and it was shortly after the end that she'd concluded happily ever afters belonged exactly there—in her beloved smut. They didn't exist in real life. At least not for her. Sure, her siblings were rocking it in the love department, but her luck flat-out sucked. That was where her New Year's resolution came into play.
"Not interested," she declared, shoving a thick section of purple hair behind her ear. "Celebrities are notorious players, and I've had enough of that nonsense for two lifetimes." She thought about it and then added, "But a little hot roadie action could be in the cards."
She wiggled her eyebrows with a grin, and Tootsie chortled. "Now there's the wild child of Magnolia Springs I know and love!"
Sherry fought to maintain her smile. Wild child, addicted to love, crazy chica—all names that fit her pretty damn perfectly ... and traits that led to her current loveless state. Always the fling, never the forever, but she had a new game plan to change that status going forward.
Of course, not before one last weekend to sow her wild oats.
Waving good-bye, Sherry donned her dark sunglasses and took a deep breath of fresh, crisp, pine-scented air. She had yet to share her New Year's resolution with her sister or best friend, and she doubted she ever would. Knowing them, they'd just try to talk her out of it. Or worse, give her pointers. She didn't need them to say her love life was a train wreck. She'd already diagnosed that particular problem and found herself a cure.
Fall for someone boring.
It was the solution to her heartache. Her desire to feel wooed and loved meant she always went for the exciting, mysterious types—only to find out later that those guys were mysterious for a reason. They were hiding another woman. Nope, it was high time she settled down with someone stable. A man who wouldn't cheat or charm her with a quick smile and swoony line only to turn around and charm someone else. She was through with being swept off her feet. Forevermore (or at least after this weekend was over), Sherry's feet would remain firmly on the ground.
Come Monday morning, her sights would be set on a guy like her brother-in-law. Jason Landry was the captain of the fire department and owned his own business. He was solid, dependable, hardworking, and loved her sister to distraction. Even Sherry's brother was an example. Sure, Cane liked to think he was big and bad with his tats and motorcycle, but inside he was just one big teddy bear. And that's what she needed. A good guy.
Someone like the nice, safe, dry-as-day-old-toast accountant who'd recently set up shop across from Robicheaux's.
Sure, Will Trahan wasn't her usual type—both conversations they'd had thus far somehow led to them discussing Roth IRAs—but then that was the point. Any man more interested in the health of her investment portfolio than the size of her rack had to be good people.
Sherry threw her car into gear and turned the radio dial, blasting Rihanna as she reversed out of the parking lot. Gravel crunched under her wheels as she nodded with conviction at the reflection in her rearview mirror. Yep, next year she'd be a changed woman. No longer would she be the sister always getting in scrapes or making a mess of her life. The pathetic, relationship-disaster of the Robicheaux clan would be a thing of the past. A brand-spanking-new Sherry was emerging—one with her head on straight and her heart safe and secure.
But first, one last adventure.
One fun weekend in Sin City to live in the moment, embrace her unfortunate fling status, and store up exciting memories for the dull years to come.
Then, bring on Mr. Boring.
* * *
Tyler's calloused fingertips brushed against the thin piece of paper in his jeans pocket. He grinned as his publicist fought to stay in stride beside him, her click-clacking heels half drowning out her rant about the latest development, and began soundlessly mouthing the words he'd written only a half hour ago. He'd finally nailed it.
Catching sight of his bass player in the crowded hallway, Tyler cut short Arianne's monologue. "Hey, man." Charlie raised his head, and Tyler withdrew the sticky note, wielding it as if it were a winning lottery ticket. "Got that last lyric."
His best friend immediately snatched the paper, and Arianne shot him an irritated smile. Oh, he'd pay for cutting her off. There'd be no escaping whatever had her bug-eyed and high strung—well, more high strung than normal. But for now, he'd gotten a reprieve. That damn line had been driving Tyler mad for a week, and Blue had an album to finish. Even the great Arianne Cruz, bulldog publicist to the stars, couldn't fault him that.
Charlie read the line and handed it back with a smile. "Hell yeah. That's it."
"Never doubt the power of a Post-it note, my friend." Tyler carefully placed the three-by-three square in the center of his wallet—that thing was pure gold—and blew out a relieved breath. "Back in the studio on Monday."
Charlie smacked his shoulder. "I'm there." His gaze shifted right, and the smile on his face altered. Tyler turned to find a smoking blonde in painted-on jeans standing along the wall, twirling her hair and eying his bassist. There went talk of their new album.
"Show starts in twenty," he called out as Charlie took off for the groupie. Really, he wasn't worried. A band didn't skyrocket up the charts, produce two back-to-back albums in as many years, and play to sold-out crowds in worldwide tours if the members weren't 100 percent committed. Especially as young as the two of them were.
But a reminder damn sure couldn't hurt.
Charlie shot him a wink in acknowledgment, and Tyler glanced back at Arianne. It was time to face the music. "All right. I'll listen to whatever it is that has you twitching, but can I at least stuff my face while I do it?" Usually he ate after the concert with the rest of the band, but today's rehearsals and interviews had run long, and he was starving.
Her thin lips pressed together, but with a curt nod, she led him down the hall.
As they made their way to yet another green room, the familiar buzz of adrenaline washed over him. The energy in the air was electric. Music, traveling the world, a new venue every night, this was Tyler Blue's life, and he loved every bit of it. It was a dream he'd held since his parents gave him his first guitar when he was thirteen, and he wouldn't trade it for anything. But as his stomach rumbled, he couldn't help thinking it came with a few drawbacks.
Living on the road—in particular, eating the crap food they tried to pass as gourmet at venues like this—was beginning to wear thin. What he wouldn't do for a bowl of his dad's homemade gumbo or a steaming hot plate of boiled Gulf seafood. But his career didn't leave much time for trips back home to Louisiana—a side effect of the industry that was both a blessing and a curse.
Brushing off the sudden sting of nostalgia and guilt, Tyler tried to psych himself up for another meal of pasta ... only when he walked through the back room of the new Moonshine Casino, he discovered a Cajun feast laid out in the middle of the desert.
"What the hell?"
The question, obviously, was rhetorical. But after years of surviving on every variety of chicken known to man, he was certain the spread before him was a mirage. His mouth watered as he inhaled deeply, and the scent of cayenne hit his nose. It had been years since he'd sat down at his grandmother's table, and from the look of the heaping tub of jambalaya, this stuff was legit.
"Is there a problem?" Arianne surveyed the trays. "If you prefer something else, I can request it. But I'd think you'd be pleased. Isn't this the food of your homeland?" She widened her eyes as she said it and smiled.
"Cute." Tyler grabbed a Styrofoam tray, prepared to load that sucker down. "And hell yes, I'm happy. This is perfect. Just shocked to find it here of all places."
Moonshine was a country-themed casino owned by several of his music buddies. It was no secret they wanted Tyler involved, too, but tonight was his first visit to the Vegas resort. If food like this was a common occurrence, though, he might just be signing some papers after all.
"Well, they want you to invest, so of course they're pulling out all the stops." She shrugged, and the playfulness instantly fell from her eyes. "Now, fill your plate so we can talk strategy."
He almost laughed. Instead, he did as the lady requested and filled his plate to overflowing before the crew wolfed it all. Then, satisfied he'd added as much as it could possibly hold, he nodded at a passing sound technician, plopped his ass in a chair, and said, "Go for it."
"Tammy Paxton of Country Music Weekly has called your credibility into question." Tyler choked on his bite of Andouille, and Arianne handed him a napkin. "I can't say that I'm all that surprised. You flat-out refuse to be linked with anyone in the press, Ty, and I warned you it could bite you in the ass. As it turns out, Paxton's the snake for the job." She furnished a folded, torn-out piece of paper from her purse and handed it to him. "This article has already gone viral, and fans are starting to talk."
He set the paper down without reading it. He learned long ago not to read reviews or listen to critics. That was what he paid her to do. "Give me the highlights. What, exactly, does she claim I'm doing wrong?"
"Oh, the article starts off fine. She compares you to the greats. Johnny Cash, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Blake Shelton ..."
That didn't sound bad. If Tyler had half the career they did, he'd be good to go.
But then Arianne continued. "Any guess what the rest of those men have in common?"
"CMA Male Vocalist of the Year Awards?" he replied helpfully.
"Wives." He shot her a look and shoveled in a forkful of jambalaya to keep from responding. It always came back to this. Arianne sighed. "More and more country artists are settling down and getting married, Tyler, and the fans are eating it up."
Spearing a plump Gulf shrimp, he asked, "Whatever happened to women loving the single celebrity thing? The mystery and 'no comment' about personal relationships spiel. The fantasy they love to spin that we're just sitting around, twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the right fan to rock our worlds?"
"Wrong genre." She grabbed a nearby empty chair and dragged it in front of him. "Country music is a totally different beast than pop or rock. With those clients, I actually advise them to do just what you do. Attend events solo. Remain an eternal bachelor in the press. Spin that dumb fantasy. But those artists sell a different kind of fantasy. You write and sing about forever love, and committed relationships lend credibility."
Relationships. Tyler set down his fork, the once flavorful rice now bitter.
Arianne rolled her eyes. "For the love of money, will you relax? I see you getting all riled up and twitchy. I'm not suggesting you get hitched to the next woman you see, but I am asking if it would kill you to go to an event with a date? Or let me at least leak a possible secret romance?"
He shook his head in irritation. It was the same song, different day. His management had been riding his ass about this for the last year—and they could keep riding it, because it wasn't happening. Music and long-term relationships didn't mix. You could ask his dad.
Excerpted from Accidentally Married on Purpose by Rachel Harris, Stacy Abrams. Copyright © 2014 Rachel Harris. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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