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Fiancé By Fate
An Anyone But You Novel
By Jennifer Shirk, Stacy Abrams, Alycia Tornetta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Jennifer Shirk
All rights reserved.
You're not doing anything wrong.
Sabrina Cassidy took a deep breath and waited for the psychic to shuffle the cards.
You're not doing anything wrong.
She repeated the thought again for good measure — and because she liked to hear herself think.
Eating an entire cake? Sure, she could feel guilty. Lying on a résumé? Oh yeah, she'd certainly feel terrible about that one. But asking a psychic for information on her fiancé? Not a chance. She was sure any woman in her position would do exactly the same thing.
Pretty sure, anyway ...
The psychic placed the third Fate tarot card down on the table with such careful attention to spacing that Sabrina was almost afraid to breathe on it. The woman seemed a stickler for details — except when it came down to her name: Madame Butterfly. The psychic was neither Japanese nor even really female for that matter, but so far she seemed to know what she was talking about, so Sabrina was willing to let those things slide.
Sabrina glanced at her friend, sitting next to her. Maddie's eyes were looking sleepy, and she was trying hard to stifle a yawn. Sabrina had to admit, watching Madame Butterfly was a little like watching a slug race. They had already been there for more than twenty minutes and were just starting to get to the good stuff.
It was Maddie's suggestion that they come to get their fortunes told tonight. She thought Sabrina needed some fun, a distraction to help her forget about her recent fiancé problems. But Sabrina took the readings much more seriously than that. From the moment she and David had met, she had known it wasn't merely by chance. It was something more — the date, the timing. David was her destiny. And although she and her fiancé were on a temporary break right now, Sabrina knew in her heart they would be together again.
Of course, if she could hear that same thing from the psychic, it'd make her feel much better.
"I see a man in your future ..." the psychic began in a raspy voice. His — her — Adam's apple bobbed up and down as she closed her eyes and laid her palms on the cards. Sabrina blinked and tried hard to focus on what she was saying and not on the hair of Madame's knuckles.
"A man. Wow, that narrows it down," Maddie muttered.
Sabrina shushed her.
Madame Butterfly opened one false-lashed eye and aimed a definitive glare at Maddie, then continued on. "He's very handsome."
Sabrina shot a knowing grin at Maddie. David was handsome. And smart. And successful. He was just finishing his orthopedic surgery residency at Mass General.
The psychic opened her eyes, tapping a long, painted-blue nail on top of one of the cards. "He's wearing a white coat."
Sabrina gasped. "David's a doctor. That could be his lab coat you're talking about."
Madame Butterfly nodded emphatically. "Yes, I see that."
"Now you see that," Maddie added, folding her arms over her chest.
It was Sabrina's turn to glare at her friend. "Maddie, please. Don't make me kick you out of here."
"You can't kick me out. I'm the one who paid."
The table suddenly buzzed. Madame leaned forward and blew out her candle. "I'm afraid our time is up," she said in a regretful tone. "Please exit to your left."
"What? But wait," Sabrina pleaded. "One last thing. I have to know ... do you see us ...?" She tried to calm her voice. "I mean, will David and I get back together in my future?"
Madame Butterfly studied the cards for several agonizing seconds, then looked straight into Sabrina's eyes. "Yes. Most definitely."
I knew it! Sabrina elbowed Maddie with a grin. "I told you we were meant to be."
"Ah," the psychic said, waving a finger in Sabrina's face, "you must be careful with this knowledge. You are still the creator of your own destiny." A dry smile slowly kicked at the corners of her mouth. "Don't overlook the journey, my dear."
Sabrina frowned. Journey? "But I don't understand. You said David and I would get back together."
Madame Butterfly stood and threw her heavily ringed hands in the air. "Sorry. You want more information, you need to pay. And also reschedule. I have an appointment waiting."
Maddie grabbed Sabrina's arm and yanked her up. "We're not paying more. But thanks for the entertainment. It was a real hoot."
Sabrina allowed herself to be pulled out the door, even though she was seriously tempted to shill out the extra money. A little "journey" clarification would be nice to have.
Once they were outside, Sabrina turned to her friend. "Hey, just so you know, that wasn't entertainment. That was for real. Everything Madame Butterfly said was spot-on."
Maddie snorted. "Easy for you to say. At least you got 'white coat.' All I got was 'lots of hair' in my relationship destiny. Now I'm going to have to make a guy remove his shirt before I date him."
Sabrina laughed. "Aha! I knew you believed."
"I don't." Her friend bit her lip, then grinned. "Well, maybe a little," she admitted. "Now I need a drink. Let's stop over there." She pointed across the street to a Tex-Mex bar and restaurant. "You owe me a margarita after that one."
The truth was, all that psychic-journey stuff gave Sabrina a headache and she needed a drink, too. Plus, it was unusually warm for an October night in Boston.
Tons of people were out walking along the streets in the Back Bay, and although the restaurant was packed, they managed to snag a high-top table in the corner of the bar. After the waitress took their drink orders, Maddie scanned the crowd and grinned. "I think we struck gold. Lots of hotties here tonight," she said, waggling her eyebrows up and down.
Sabrina shook her head but glanced around anyway. Yeah, there were some cute guys. But she only had eyes for one. And unfortunately, he wasn't there. "You can meet your hottie. I'm an engaged woman, remember?"
Maddie pursed her lips. "You were an engaged woman."
"David said this split was just temporary while he figured some things out. Besides, you heard what Madame Butterfly said. We will be getting back together. As far as I'm concerned, I'm still engaged."
Maddie blew her wavy blond hair out of her eyes. "Now I'm sorry I suggested going to that psychic. I was hoping it would get you to forget about David and his 'I think we need a little separation' theory."
Sabrina lifted her chin. "Hey, it happens to be a good theory."
"No, says me, too. It's actually very mature when you think about it. Maybe we did rush into our engagement a little. Better to take a small step back now and make sure this is what he really wants. It's a big commitment, and I appreciate that he's not taking it lightly." Although a little niggle of doubt — despite what Madame Butterfly had said — wormed its way into her thoughts. She pasted on a bright smile when the waitress brought their drinks and wiped the thought out of her mind.
After the waitress turned away, Maddie lifted up her glass in a toast. "Well, here's to a hottie for me and good karma for you and David."
Sabrina smiled. "I'll drink to that." She took a healthy sip and swallowed appreciatively. The margarita was the perfect combination of sweet and sour and as she licked the salt from her lips, she enjoyed the heady kick of the tequila. She was such a lightweight when it came to alcohol.
Maddie leaned in with a wicked grin. "Remember when you talked me out of that tattoo for my birthday? Well, I was thinking ..." A strange look crossed her face and she trailed off.
"You were thinking what?"
"Nothing." Maddie's eyes grew round, and then she ducked her head. With a shaky hand, she lifted her margarita to her lips and downed half of it. "I was thinking nothing. Let's finish our drinks and get out of here."
"But we just got here, and you said there were lots of hotties."
"Not that many," Maddie said, her voice escalating. "In fact, did I mention I needed glasses? Hey, I have a great idea! Let's go get my eyes examined. I think there's a Four Eyes around the corner."
"What's the matter with you?" She glanced behind her to see what had Maddie in such a tizzy, and when she did, she immediately understood.
Her fiancé, David, was standing on the other side of the bar, talking to a beautiful redhead. Sabrina's heart dropped further when he grinned at something the woman said, then handed her a glass of wine.
Sabrina bit her lip until it throbbed. David. With another woman. She had to look away, or she was going to be sick.
Maddie placed her hand over Sabrina's and squeezed. "Hey, I'm sorry you had to see that, but pull it together. Don't sit here and let him do this to you. You should go confront him."
Her chest hurt, and she wanted to scream, but she shook her head instead. "No. I couldn't do that," she said, trying to control the tremor in her voice. "David wouldn't want a scene."
Maddie scowled. "David wouldn't want a scene? Forget what that jackass wants."
"No, I — I can't."
"Well, don't you worry," her friend said, patting her hand. "I personally love a good scene, so I'll be more than happy to cause one for you."
Maddie sliding off her stool pulled Sabrina from her daze. She grabbed Maddie's arm. "No. Don't. It's nothing. I've seen her before. I think she's a doctor at the hospital."
Maddie looked back at David with her eyes narrowed. "A coworker? Maybe. He's not touching her or making any googly eyes, I'll give him that much. There are two other men with them, too."
Relief flooded her senses, and she was able to breathe again. "See?" She picked up her drink and took a healthy gulp. "It's business. Now sit down before he sees us. Please."
"Oh, fine," her friend huffed. "Looks like they're going into the restaurant now anyway." She sat back down but still looked petulant. "Honestly, Sabrina, you should go over there and say hello. If he's truly out on business, then neither of you have anything to feel guilty about."
That was true. But a nauseating sinking of despair held her immobile. What if it was a date? What would she do? She couldn't let him go so easily. She finally thought she could have a family and home of her very own. After everything she'd been through, was that too much to want for herself?
Maddie tilted her head. "Your silence is incriminating. You know what I would do if I were you?"
She was afraid to know, but still asked, "What?"
"Retaliate," she repeated. She cocked an eyebrow. "What are we, fifteen?"
Maddie shrugged a shoulder, then opened her purse and pulled out a copy of Boston magazine. "Okay, maybe 'retaliate' is the wrong word. But dating while he makes up his mind is a good strategy. Imagine if David saw you with one of these guys. That so-called temporary break of his would be on permanent hiatus."
Sabrina peered down at the article entitled "New England's Most Eligible Bachelors" and rolled her eyes. "Oh my gosh. Are you serious?"
"As a heart attack."
"Well, put it away before you give me one. I'm not interested in dating any eligible bachelors to make David jealous."
"Why not? If David is playing the field, you should, too."
"He's not playing the field." Maddie just didn't get it. Sabrina didn't want to play games. At almost thirty years old, she didn't have the time or patience for them. She and David had been together for three years and it had been wonderful — a lovely taste of what it was like to be loved and accepted into a family. "Look, I appreciate what you're trying to do, but I don't want to date anyone else."
Maddie ignored her last comment by burying her nose in the article. "Check out this guy. He's even from Boston."
Sabrina grudgingly looked. And wish she hadn't. Jack Brenner's all-too-handsome face stared back at her. He was posed with his arms crossed, wearing a designer tuxedo, tieless with his shirt undone at least four buttons down from the collar. His thick, dark hair looked playfully mussed, as if some woman had just run her fingers through it.
Sabrina swallowed hard. Good Lord, for a man who worked in finance, he sure had Hollywood-chiseled looks. Unfortunately, he also had that same cocky grin he wore the last time she'd spoken to him — and that was enough to ground her back down to reality.
She shoved the magazine away. "Definitely not that one."
Maddie did a double take at his picture, then frowned. "Are you kidding me? Why? He's the best-looking one in the bunch."
"Well, I can speak from personal experience that he's all too aware of that, too."
Maddie's mouth hung open. "You've met Eligible Bachelor Number Three and you didn't introduce him to your bestest single girlfriend?"
"Trust me. If I had, we wouldn't be friends anymore. He's my boss's son and one of the mutual-fund wholesalers at my company. Thankfully, he covers the state of Connecticut, so he's rarely in the Boston office. Small favors, since he's a complete and total player."
Her friend winced. "A dog, huh?"
"I'm afraid so."
Maddie looked back at his picture longingly. "Yeah, I guess the article does mention he's gone through quite a string of women. But I don't know. Dogs can be fun. Sometimes all they need is the right trainer."
Sabrina just shook her head. Becoming another notch on someone like Jack Brenner's bedpost held no appeal to her. The last thing she wanted was to be bounced around in her love life like she'd been bounced around foster homes as a kid. That kind of hollowness was not something she' d easily forget, which was why she craved stability. And David gave her that. Besides being handsome and intelligent, he was grounded and levelheaded. David's parents loved her, too. Even if she took out Madame Butterfly, there were still so many signs ...
"Is he as handsome as his picture?" Maddie asked with a sigh.
Sabrina wrinkled her nose at her friend's fawning. It never failed. Whenever Jack Brenner entered a room, women felt compelled to fling their panties in his direction like he was some modern-day Elvis He had that kind of effect on women.
On all women except her, that is.
Sabrina shrugged. "I guess so."
A minor lie. Jack Brenner was a thousand times better-looking in person. Even though she was engaged, she could admit that much to herself. After all, any woman would have to be dead and buried in the grave a month not to notice. But that didn't change the fact that he was heartless and self-centered. He didn't even have the decency to come back to town when his father was in the hospital last month. The fact that he could so easily dismiss his family in a time of crisis was yet another reason why she couldn't stand the man.
Maddie stuffed the magazine back in her purse. "I have to hand it to you. You must be head over heels in love to ignore someone like that."
"I definitely am. David is worth the wait."
"Well, if I were you and anything happens with your engagement to David — or maybe I should say doesn't happen with him — I'd zero in on this guy in a heartbeat the next time I saw him."
Sabrina laughed. Yeah. Right. Get mixed up with a playboy like Jack who ate up women who threw themselves at him like they were chocolate bonbons? No. Thank. You. There was no chance of that happening, even if she and David never got back together. Which was highly unlikely in itself.
But she knocked on the wood table for luck anyway.
Maddie eyed her. "All I'm saying is keep an open mind. Don't get your hopes up that David will be ready to commit just because of a few superstitions and the premonition of a cross-dressing psychic."
"I am keeping an open mind. I may not be Madame Butterfly, but I can safely predict that Jack Brenner is one man who will never, ever be a part of my future."
* * *
Jack Brenner walked across his father's penthouse and stared out the window into the night. The Boston skyline was illuminated before him and he felt content being back in the city he'd grown up in. This was where he belonged. It took some time, but he'd paid his dues and was ready to make the next step in eventually taking over control of Brenner Capital Investments. He assumed that was why his father had transferred him back to Boston, to make the transition easier. Jack couldn't wait to get started. He loved his job, and he did it well. Aside from his family, this company was the one thing he could say he was truly passionate about.
It was a part of him.
The front door suddenly opened, and his father walked in. Leonard Brenner smiled and extended his arms wide as soon as his gaze landed on Jack. "I'm glad you finally made it, son. You look great."
Excerpted from Fiancé By Fate by Jennifer Shirk, Stacy Abrams, Alycia Tornetta. Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Shirk. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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