Barefoot Bride (Harlequin Romance #3939) [NOOK Book]


High heels and high earnings—or barefoot and beloved?

Alice Gunning thinks she has a perfect life. She loves her job and her swanky city apartment, and she's about to get engaged. Until one day her boyfriend leaves her, she's fired—and her lottery numbers come up!

Alice heads for a tropical paradise to work out her future. On a sun-drenched beach she encounters Will Paxman— her gorgeous old flame!

When Alice ...

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Barefoot Bride (Harlequin Romance #3939)

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High heels and high earnings—or barefoot and beloved?

Alice Gunning thinks she has a perfect life. She loves her job and her swanky city apartment, and she's about to get engaged. Until one day her boyfriend leaves her, she's fired—and her lottery numbers come up!

Alice heads for a tropical paradise to work out her future. On a sun-drenched beach she encounters Will Paxman— her gorgeous old flame!

When Alice is offered the job of a lifetime back in the city, it's time to choose between her old life—or a future with Will!

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781552549643
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 3/1/2007
  • Series: Harlequin Romance Series, #3939
  • Sold by: HARLEQUIN
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 250,405
  • File size: 144 KB

Meet the Author

Jessica Hart had a haphazard early career that took her around the world in a variety of interesting but very lowly jobs, all of which have provided inspiration on which to draw when it comes to the settings and plots of her stories. She eventually stumbled into writing as a way of funding a PhD in medieval history, but was quickly hooked on romance and is now a full-time author based in York. If you’d like to know more about Jessica, visit her website:

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Read an Excerpt

"GUESS who I bumped into in town?"

Beth bounced down the steps into the garden and plonked herself onto the lounger next to Alice.

Alice had spent a blissful morning by the pool, feeling the tension slowly unwinding as the tropical heat seeped into her bones, and guiltily enjoying some time on her own. There was a puppyish enthusiasm about Roger's wife that could be quite exhausting at times, and, ever since she had arrived two days ago, Alice had been conscious of how hard Beth was trying to distract her from the fact that Tony was getting married tomorrow.

No one could be kinder or sunnier-natured than Beth, though, and Alice would have been very fond of her even if she wasn't married to Roger. And this was, after all, Beth's pool that she had been lying beside all morning. A good guest would be opening her eyes and sitting up to take an interest in her hostess's morning.

On the other hand, Beth had told her to relax before she'd gone out. Alice had done as she was told, and was now so relaxed she honestly couldn't summon the energy to open her eyes, let alone care which of Beth's many acquaintances she had met in town. "Umm, Elvis?" she suggested lazily, enjoying the faint stir of warm breeze that ruffled the parasol above her.

"No!" Beth tsk-tsked at Alice's failure to take her exciting news more seriously, but she was much too nice to take offence. "Someone we know, At least, I think you know him," she added, suddenly dubious. "I'm pretty sure that you do, anyway."

sociable, and gathered lame ducks under her wing wherever she went. When Roger and Beth had lived in London, Alice had often been summoned to parties where Beth fondly imagined her disparate friendswould all bond and find each other as interesting as she did.

Sadly, Alice was by nature as critical and prickly as Beth was sweet and kind. She settled herself more comfortably on her lounger, resting an arm over her eyes and resigning herself to one of her friend's breathless accounts of someone Alice had met for five minutes several years ago, and who she had most likely hoped never to see again.

"I give up," she said.

At least she wouldn't have to pay much attention for the next few minutes. Beth's stories tended to be long, and were often so muddled that she would get lost in the middle of them. All Alice would be required to do was to interject an occasional "Really?" or the odd "Oh?" between encouraging murmurs. "Who did you meet?" she asked dutifully.

It was the cue Beth had been waiting for. "Will Paxman," she said.

Alice's eyes snapped open. "What?'she demanded, jerking upright. "Who?"

"Will Paxman," Beth repeated obligingly. "He was a friend of Roger's from university, Well, you must have known him, too, Alice," she went on with an enquiring look. "Yes," said Alice in a hollow voice. "Yes, I did."

How strange. She had convinced herself that she'd forgot-ten Will, or at least succeeded in consigning him firmly to the past, but all it had taken was the sound of his name to conjure up his image in heart-twisting detail.

Will. Will with the quiet, serious face and the stern mouth, and the disconcertingly humorous grey eyes. Will, who had made her heart jump every time he'd smiled his unexpected smile. He had asked her to marry him three times, and three times she had said no.

Alice had spent years telling herself that she had done the right thing.

She felt very odd. The last four years had been consumed by Tony, and she'd been braced for memories of him, not Will. Ever since Tony had left, she had done her best to armour herself against the pain of if onlys and what might have beens, to convince herself that she had moved on, only to be ambushed now by the past from quite a different direction.

Alice was totally unprepared to think about Will. She had thought that relationship was long over, and that she was safe from those memories at least, but now all Beth had to do was say his name and Alice was swamped by the old turbulence, uncertainty and bitter-sweetness of that time.

Beth was chatting on, oblivious to Alice's discomposure. "I didn't recognize him straight away, but there was something really familiar about him. I've only met him a couple of times, and the last time was at our wedding, so that's, how long?"

"Eight years," said Alice, carefully expressionless.

Eight years since Will had kissed her one last, fierce time. Eight years since he had asked her to marry him. Eight years since he had turned and walked away out of her life.

"It's hard to believe Roger has put up with me for that long!' Beth smiled, butAlice had seen the faint shadow cross her eyes and knew that her friend was thinking of the years she had spent trying to conceive. She and Roger had been open about their plans to start a family as soon as they were married, but it hadn't worked out that way. And, although they were unfailingly cheerful in company, Alice knew the sadness they both felt at their inability to have the children they wanted so much.

"Where did you meet Will?" she asked, wanting to distract Beth.

"In the supermarket, of all places!'Alice was pleased to see Beth's expression lighten as she swung her legs up onto the lounger and settled herself into a more comfortable position to recount her story. "Isn't that an amazing coincidence? I mean, bumping into someone in a supermarket isn't that unusual, I know, but a supermarket in St Bonaventure? What are the odds of us all ending up on a tiny island in the Indian Ocean at the same time?"

"Will is a marine ecologist,'Alice felt obliged to point out. "I guess the Indian Ocean isn't that odd a place to find him. It's more of a coincidence that Roger's been posted here. Not many bankers get to work on tropical islands."

"No, we're so lucky," Beth agreed happily. "It's like being sent to Paradise for two years! And, now you're here, and Will's here, it's not even as if we've had to leave all our friends behind."

She beamed at Alice, who immediately wondered if Beth was hatching a plan for a cosy foursome. It was the kind of thing Beth would do. It was Beth who had suggested thatAlice come out for an extended visit while Tony was getting married.

"There are lots of single men out here," she had told Alice. "They won't be able to believe their luck when you turn up! A few weeks of uncritical adoration, and you won't care about Tony any more!"

Alice had no fault to find with this programme in princi-ple, but not with Will. He knew her too well to adore her, and the last thing she wanted was Beth taking him aside and telling him how "poor Alice's' world had fallen apart. He might be persuaded to take pity on her, and pretend he didn't remember how she had boasted of the great life she was going to have without him.

She would have to squash any matchmaking ideas Beth might have right now.

"I'm only here for six weeks," she reminded Beth. "And Will's probably just on holiday too. I don't suppose either of us will want to waste our precious holiday on politely catching-up on old times," she added rather crushingly.

"Oh, Will's not on holiday," said Beth. "He's working here on some long-term environmental project. Something to do with the reef, I think."

"But you'd have met him already if he'd been working here,'Alice objected. "St Bonaventure is such a tiny place, you

"We do, but Will's only been here a week, he said. I got the impression that he knows the island quite well, and that he's been here on various short trips, probably before Roger and I came out. But this is the first time he's brought his family with him, so I imagine they're going to settle here for a while."

Alice's stomach performed an elaborate somersault and landed with a resounding splat, leaving her with a sick feeling that horrified her. "Will's got a family?" she asked in involun-tary dismay. She sat up and swung her feet to the warm tiles so that she could stare at Beth. "Are you sure?"

Beth nodded, obviously surprised at Alice's reaction. "He had his little girl with him. She was very cute."

Will had a daughter. Alice struggled to assimilate the idea of him as a father, as a husband.

Why was she so surprised? Surely—surely, Alice—you didn't expect him to stay loyal to your memory, did you? she asked herself.

Why on earth would he? She had refused him. End of story. Of course he would have moved on and made a life of his own, just as she had done. It wasn't as if she had been missing him all these years. She hadn't given him a thought when she'd been with Tony. Well, not very often, anyway. Only now and then, when she was feeling a bit low. If things had worked out, she would have been married by now herself.

Would that have made the news less of a shock? Alice wondered with characteristic honesty.

She could see that Beth was watching her curiously, and she struggled to assume an expression of unconcern. So much for her fears about Beth's matchmaking plans!

"I didn't know that he had married,'Alice said, hoping that she sounded mildly surprised rather than devastated, which was what she inexplicably felt. "What was his wife like?"

"I didn't meet her,'Beth admitted. "But I asked them to your welcome party tomorrow, and he said they'd like to come, so I guess we'll see her then."

"Oh." The sick feeling got abruptly worse. Somehow it seemed hard enough to adjust to the mere idea of Will being married, without having to actually face him and smile at the sight of him playing happy families, Alice thought bitterly, and then chided herself for being so mean-spirited.

She ought to be glad that Will had found happiness. She was, Alice told herself.

She was just a bit sorry for herself, too. None of the great plans she had made for herself had worked out. How confidently she had told Will that her life would be a success, that she wanted more than he could offer her. Alice cringed now at the memory. She wouldn't have much success to show off tomorrow. No marriage, no child, not even a job, let alone a good one.

Will, on the other hand, apparently had it all. He probably hadn't even been thinking about her all those years when the thought of how much he had loved her had been somehow comforting. It was all very, dispiriting.

"It's not a problem, is it?" asked Beth, who had been watching Alice's face rather more closely than Alice would have liked. Beth might be sweet and kind, but that didn't mean that she was stupid.

"No, no, of course not," said Alice quickly. "Of course not,'she added, although she wasn't entirely sure whether she was trying to convince herself or Beth.

How could it be a problem, after all? She and Will had split up by mutual agreement ten years ago, and she hadn't seen him for eight. There was no bitterness, no betrayal to mar their memories of the time they had spent together. There was absolutely no reason why they shouldn't meet now as friends.

Except—be honest, Alice—that he was married and she wasn't.

"Honestly," she told Beth. "I'm fine about it. In fact, it will be good to catch up with him again. It was just funny hearing about him suddenly after so long."

She even managed a little laugh, but Beth was still looking sceptical, and Alice decided that she had better come clean. Roger was bound to tell his wife the truth anyway, and, if she didn't mention how close she and Will had been, Beth would wonder why she hadn't told her herself, and that would give the impression that she did have a problem with seeing Will again.

Which she didn't. Not really.

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