Dear Cupid

Dear Cupid

3.8 63
by Julie Ortolon
     
 

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Once upon a time, there was a redhead named Kate Bradshaw who naively thought Happily Ever After was just a heartbeat away. One kid, one divorce, and a stack of bills later, Kate isn't necessarily a candidate for Man-Haters Anonymous, but she's not winning any points with the love-struck readers of her Dear Cupid advice column either. If she's going to keep her job

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Overview

Once upon a time, there was a redhead named Kate Bradshaw who naively thought Happily Ever After was just a heartbeat away. One kid, one divorce, and a stack of bills later, Kate isn't necessarily a candidate for Man-Haters Anonymous, but she's not winning any points with the love-struck readers of her Dear Cupid advice column either. If she's going to keep her job, she needs a man to remind her that romance can be fun. Someone attractive. Someone easygoing. Someone with whom she can polish her rusty flirting skills— and absolutely nothing more. Enter Michael Cameron...

One might think a drop-dead handsome movie animator would have no problem marrying himself off. As Kate soon discovers, one would be sorely mistaken. A little too attached to his shabby bachelor pad couch and rumpled Hawaiian shirts, Michael is counting on Kate to turn him into husband material and find him a wife. But little does Kate know that this is just Michael's plan to convince her to give love a second chance and to look for the future Mrs. Cameron in the most obvious place of all: the mirror...

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Julie Ortolon does it again. What a fun, flirty, fantastic book!"—Pamela Morsi, author of Here Comes the Bride

"Will make you melt!"—Virginia Henley, author of The Marriage Prize

"Colorful and appealing characters...Be prepared to laugh."—Christina Skye, author of 2000 Kisses

Magazine - Publisher's Weekly
Ortolon's lively style and brisk pacing are perfectly suited to her playful theme, and her characterizations of Mike and of Kate's maritally muddled neighbors have a genuinely appealing warmth.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Booklist - Maria Hatton
fun, lighthearted romp through the wilderness of conflicting emotions confronting Kate and Mike. An enjoyable journey with a satisfying ending, their story is sure to please.

Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312978716
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
07/28/2001
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
4.26(w) x 6.68(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


    Dear Cupid,

    Do you believe in love at first sight?

Seriously Smitten


Dear Seriously Smitten,

Absolutely! But then I always enjoy a good
fairy tale.

In the real world, things take a bit
longer. What appears to be love at first
sight is actually a subconscious recognition
of a potentially compatible mate, a
premonition, so to speak, of what could be.
Only time will tell if the premonition comes
true.

Cupid


Kate needed a man. Any man. Well, maybe not any man, she amended as she glanced about the gate area of the Los Angeles airport. The businessman pacing before the window looked too edgy; the grandfather with the armload of Disney souvenirs too old; and the two men in the corner appeared a little too interested in each other for her purpose.

    What she needed was a nice, reasonably attractive sort of man. Someone friendly. Approachable. Someone with whom she could flirt. That was all. Just flirt.

    The last thing in the world she wanted was the emotional turmoil of a serious relationship. Romance, on the other hand, was an entirely different matter. Her job required a certain amount of romance in her life, or so she'd been informed that very morning by Gwen, the owner of Gwendolyn's Garden, the on-line magazine that ran her advicecolumn.

    She still couldn't believe Gwen had threatened to cancel her. She was Cupid, for goodness' sake! They couldn't cancel Cupid. Her column generated thousands of hits a month for the e-zinc. Or at least it used to. As Gwen had pointed out, her popularity was dwindling—because her column simplify wasn't fun anymore.

    Now, however, was not the time for anger or self-pity. She needed to take control, to recapture the carefree spirit she'd somehow lost in recent years.

    Turning her head, she saw a new passenger stroll into the gate area. Her skin prickled with interest at the sight of him, an odd occurrence since he wasn't her usual type. In the past, she'd gone for dark-haired men in Armani suits who wore power as easily as other men wore denim. That description, however, matched her ex-husband a little too close for comfort.

    Which made this man perfect.

    He had the sun-streaked hair and rich tan of someone who spent a lot of time relaxing in sunny places. The Hawaiian shirt and khaki pants gave him a casual, lived in look that surprisingly appealed to her. As for his luggage, he carried a duffel bag: an old-fashioned, army-green duffel bag.

    When he reached the ticket counter, he lifted his blue-mirrored sunglasses and smiled at the ticket agent. Kate's heart did something it hadn't done in years; it gave one hard thump against her ribs. The man had a devastating smile with perfect white teeth. Generous laugh lines winged outward from his eyes, marking him as older than she'd first thought. Late thirties, perhaps. As for his body, she couldn't quite tell if muscle or flab moved beneath the baggy clothes, but the shape had definite appeal, with broad shoulders that tapered down to narrow hips.

    Just looking at him made some long dormant part of her stir to life. Her smile spread as he took a seat off to himself. She'd found her man. Now, all she had to do was catch his eye and prove she could still do what she once had done as naturally as breathing. Flirt his pants off—figuratively speaking.


Mike pulled off his sunglasses and stowed them in his duffel bag as he collapsed on a hard plastic chair. Dropping the bag at his feet, he took a moment to make sure his computer disks rested safely on top. Then he sank down in the seat to wait for his flight.

    Exhaustion pulled his head back and closed his eyes. He was getting too old to put in these sixteen-hour workdays for weeks on end. What he wouldn't give to just pass out for the duration of the flight. Unfortunately, he had too much on his mind to give in to sleep—like the big gaping hole in his life where a wife and some children should be.

    Settling deeper in the chair, he let his mind drift back to the twenty-year high school reunion he'd attended while in L.A. What a reality check that had been! He still couldn't believe his former classmates had children in college, while he had yet to even get married. One of these days, he really needed to look into doing something about his lack of a personal life.

    The problem was, he enjoyed his job a little too much. Make that way too much. As a special effects movie animator, he loved everything about his work ... well, except the demanding schedule that left him little time for things like dating.

    As his mind searched for possible solutions to the problem, a jangling thud sounded right before him. He tuned it out easily. Working on movie sets for the past twenty-odd years had taught him to tune out all manner of chaos. The bump on his leg, however, wasn't so easy to ignore.

    "I'm so sorry," an anxious voice insisted. "Please excuse me."

    He opened his eyes and found a woman crouched before him as she reached beneath his seat.

    "How terribly clumsy of me," she said. With her head bent, her shoulder-length, coppery curls brushed his knee. Bending sideways, he saw her purse had fallen and spilled its contents at his feet. He leaned forward, intending to help her on her way as expediently as possible.

    "I swear, I'm such a klutz today," she rushed on, gathering up pens and breath mints, a paperback novel, a pair of reading glasses, some loose change, a set of keys, and several business cards.

    Shaking his head, he reached for a runaway tube of lipstick only to have his hand collide with hers. The lipstick tried to skitter away, but he grabbed it before it made good its escape.

    "Gotcha," he said, chuckling. He lifted his head to address the lipstick's owner and found himself face-to-face with the most enchanting woman he'd ever seen. She had a bold, heart-shaped face with an impish nose, stubborn chin, and pouty lips that begged to be tasted. Gazing into her shamrock-green eyes, he felt his insides swirl, as if he were failing forward into a field of clover—a field where a man could lie back and rest with a woman snuggled to his side as he lazily watched the clouds float by. A smile slowly turned up the corners of her lips, and he realized her eyes tipped up at the corners as well.

    "I really am terribly sorry," she said in a breathy voice that reached inside him and tied his stomach into knots of pure desire. "It's the flying, you see." She placed a hand over her chest. "Planes makes me very ... nervous."

    His gaze dropped to her hand, which rested right at the point of her V-collared red suit. He would never have guessed a woman with orange hair could look that good in red, but on her the combination staggered the senses. Or, perhaps his light-headedness came from staring at the breasts beneath her hand.

    From what he could see, she had great breasts. Perfect breasts. The kind of breasts that could incite a man's lust, pillow his head. Or nurture his child.

    His gaze snapped back to hers. She gave him a patient little smile—as if waiting for him to say something in return. Only, he couldn't remember her last comment, much less form a suitable response.

    She laughed lightly. "Not that I'm stingy or anything, but I really don't think it's your shade."

    "My shade?" he repeated, wondering what shade her breasts could possibly be that wouldn't suit him just fine.

    "No, actually that's my shade," she said. "As in my shade of lipstick?"

    She rose slowly to stand before him. The red suit hugged the kind of figure that had been in style back in the forties: full breasts, nipped-in waist, generous hips. Staring at that body, he wondered why fashion designers tried to convince women they should look like anorexic clothes hangers. This was what men wanted: Woman in her most powerful, elemental form.

    When he continued to stare at her, she pointed to his hand. "You're holding my lipstick."

    He glanced down. "So I am."

    She started to reach for it. "How gallant of you to rescue it for me."

    "Not so fast." He snatched the tube out of her reach. "How do I know it's yours?"

    She raised a brow at such an obvious ploy, but her eyes sparkled with mischief. "Now, that is a dilemma."

    "Let's see ..." He drew the words out, enjoying the game, anything to keep her near. "I suppose I could have you describe it for me."

    "All right." She tossed her head and his fingers twitched with the temptation to bury themselves deep within her fiery curls. Would her hair feel as hot as it looked? When she met his gaze head-on, her eyelids dropped to half-mast. "It's round," she said huskily. "And it's hard. And it's the color of passionate peaches."

    All the blood rushed from his head right to his groin. God, what he wouldn't give to pounce on her right there in the airport. Numbly, he opened his palm and read the label on the end of the tube. Passionate Peach. "So it is," he muttered.

    Her fingertips brushed his palm as she took the lipstick from him. Was that her hand trembling, or his? "I don't know how I'll ever thank you," she said.

    His mind conjured up a few dozen possibilities.

    With a final, knowing smile, she turned and walked away, her hips swaying to a seductive beat. He stared after her, determined to give her a salute of approval the moment she glanced back over her shoulder. But she never looked back. Even as she took her seat between two other waiting passengers, she kept her gaze averted.

    He frowned, thinking it odd that such an accomplished' flirt would leave it at that. Then he remembered the flutter of her hand, the heightened color of her skin. Either she'd been equally affected by their game, or she wasn't as bold as she pretended to be.

    Before he could decide, the ticket agent gave first-class passengers permission to board. He started to reach for his duffel bag, but stopped when a white rectangle on the floor caught his eye. One of the business cards that had spilled from her purse still lay at his feet.

    He picked up the card, hoping to learn her name, but the mug shot printed on the front proved a disappointment. The attractive blond woman who smiled back at him was not the woman he'd just met. Although returning the card would give him the perfect excuse to speak to her again. Better yet, the phone number was for the Lake Travis area, just west of Austin, where he now lived. So, the mystery woman either lived near him, or knew someone who did.

     His mind searched for the best way to return the card as he swung the duffel bag over his shoulder and headed for the ramp.


Kate pressed a palm to her stomach to still the jitters. She couldn't believe she'd dumped her purse on the man's feet like that. Not that she'd had much choice since merely dropping the purse hadn't fazed him. Oh, but once she'd gained his attention ... Heavens, he had gorgeous eyes, and a slow sexy smile that made her insides flutter just thinking about it.

    She averted her gaze to give her nerves time to settle, but from the corner of her eye, she saw the man disappear down the ramp. What was he doing boarding with first class? One of the main reasons she'd picked him was because he seemed so unassuming. She certainly hadn't pegged him as a man with money. Not that she had anything against money. She adored all the wonderful things it could buy. Unfortunately, wealthy, status-conscious men tended to put themselves and their work before family, which put them on her bad list—along with a lot of other men.

    She frowned at that last thought, realizing that maybe Gwen was right. Maybe she had become too cynical to serve as the Dear Abby for the lovelorn on the Internet.

    Memories from the meeting that morning rushed back over her. Oh, God. She slumped forward and buried her face in her hands. How could she possibly save her job as the expert on romance when she'd completely lost her faith in love? And what would she do if she couldn't save it? She had no other job experience. All she had were a stack of bills to pay and a seven-year-old son to feed.

     "Are you quite all right, dear?" the elderly woman seated beside her asked.

    "Hmm?" She lifted her head. "Yes, I'm fine. Thank you."

    "Are you sure?" the woman persisted in motherly concern. "You look a bit flushed."

    Kate felt her color go a shade brighter. "Really, I'm fine." More than fine, actually. Her body positively tingled with aftershocks of attraction for the man in the Hawaiian shirt.

    Well, if nothing else, at least she'd remembered how it felt to flirt. And that's all the exchange had been. A passing flirtation. No need for embarrassment—even if she had let the exchange become, entirely too blatant. She cringed upon remembering the phallic way she'd described her lipstick.

    She was a mother, for goodness' sake. She had no business flirting with a stranger in an airport. She shuddered to think of the impression she must have given him. Her only comfort came from knowing she'd never have to see him again. At least not after she landed in Austin. In the meantime, she had to get on the plane—and with him seated in first class, that meant she'd have to walk right by him. She moaned again, and buried her face in her hands.


Mike studied the business card in his hand as he waited for the woman in red to board. On the back, he'd discovered a handwritten note.


    Kate,

Good luck in L.A. See you when you get back.

Linda.


The name on the front of the card was Linda Davis, so Kate had to be the woman carrying the card. Kate. A smile tugged at his lips. The name suited her. Kate with the saucy red hair and sweet green eyes.

    Just then she appeared through the hatch and his stomach clenched. Never in his life had he felt such an instant kick of attraction to a woman. No, it was more than attraction. It was ... a connection.

    He quickly slipped the card into the breast pocket of his shirt, deciding to wait until the plane was in flight to return it. That way he could go back into the coach area and talk to her rather than simply hand it to her as she passed. Still, he wanted to catch her attention so he could once again feel the jolt that came from her smile. Only, she kept her gaze fixed firmly ahead as she walked by him.

    Frowning, he turned in his seat and watched her move down the aisle, all the while willing her to look back. Instead, she took a seat halfway back, never once glancing his way, The longer he watched her, the more confused he became by her inconsistencies. Her stylish suit said Professional Businesswoman, but her tousled curls defied convention. As if sensing his gaze, she shifted nervously, not at all the confident woman who had flirted with him in the gate area. Could his instincts have been wrong about her? Maybe fate hadn't dropped a potential wife in his lap,

    Just as his doubts began to rise, she turned to the young mother who sat across from her and her whole face softened with a smile at the sight of the child in the woman's arms.

    There it was, the jolt from her smile that told him she was the answer to why he'd never married. Procrastination had nothing to do with it. He'd simply been waiting for her.


Excerpted from Dear Cupid by Julie Ortolon. Copyright © 2001 by Julie Ortolon. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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