It Started with a Wedding...: Sleepless Night with a Stranger\The Morning After the Wedding Before

Overview

Two fun, sexy stories in one!

Always the bridesmaid…never the bride? Not in these two fun and sexy romances!

Sleepless Night with a Stranger

Bridesmaid Bella couldn't feel more invisible at her sister's wedding if she tried! Until she meets a mysterious stranger whose gaze is 100 percent locked on hers! Owen makes her feel gorgeous and sexy,...

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Overview

Two fun, sexy stories in one!

Always the bridesmaid…never the bride? Not in these two fun and sexy romances!

Sleepless Night with a Stranger

Bridesmaid Bella couldn't feel more invisible at her sister's wedding if she tried! Until she meets a mysterious stranger whose gaze is 100 percent locked on hers! Owen makes her feel gorgeous and sexy, but then she discovers who he really is. Surely he's way out of her league?

The Morning After the Wedding Before

As maid of honor for her sister, Emma Byrne is taking her duties very seriously. So best man Jake Carmody can't resist the challenge of unbuttoning the uptight Emma and freeing her of her inhibitions…in the honeymoon suite! Against his wicked charm, does prim and proper Emma even stand a chance?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373606450
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 6/17/2014
  • Series: Harlequin Themes Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Natalie Anderson adores happy endings, so you can be sure you've got happy endings to enjoy when you buy her books, she promises nothing less. She loves peppermint filled dark chocolate, pineapple juice & extremely long showers, plus teasing her imaginary friends with dating dilemmas!
She lives in New Zealand with her gorgeous husband & four fabulous children.
If you love happy endings too, come find her on facebook.com/authornataliea, twitter @authornataliea, or www.natalie-anderson.com

Anne Oliver lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She is an avid romance reader, and after eight years of writing her own stories, Harlequin Mills and Boon offered her publication in their Modern Heat series in 2005. Her first two published novels won the Romance Writers of Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year Award in 2007 and 2008. She was a finalist again in 2012 and 2013. Visit her website www.anne-oliver.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Did she want a 'sex machine' or a 'slow comfortable screw'? Choices, choices…and tonight Bella was struggling with decisions. The names were all such appalling puns, she didn't know if she'd be able to ask for one without blushing. Especially as she was sitting all alone in this bar—on a Friday night. The bartender would probably panic and think she was coming on to him. But as she looked at the gleaming glasses lined up behind the counter and the rows of bottles holding varying amounts of brightly coloured liquid, her taste buds were tickled. It had been a while since she'd had anything more indulgent than whatever was the cheapest red wine at the supermarket. Surely she was justified in having something fabulous to celebrate her day? And as this weekend had already burned one huge hole in her savings, she might as well make it a crater.

She looked back at the cocktail list, but barely read on. She'd waited all day for someone to say it. Someone. Anyone. It wasn't as if she expected a party—a cake, candles or even a card. It was a frantic time getting everything organised for Vita's wedding, Bella understood that. But surely even one of them could have remembered? Her father perhaps?

But no. She was just there, as usual, in the background, like the family cat. Present, accounted for, but blending in as if part of the furniture. It was only if she had some sort of catastrophe that they remembered her. And she was determined to avoid any catastrophes this weekend. This was Vita's special time. As uncomfortable as Bella felt, she was determined to help make the weekend as wonderful as it could be for her sister.

Volunteering to oversee the decorating had been her best idea. It had meant she'd been able to avoid most of the others. And honestly, she'd felt more at home with the waitresses and staff of the exclusive resort than with her own family and their friends.

When she'd paused at lunchtime she'd looked up and seen them out walking along the beach. The island of Waiheke looked as if it had been taken over by an accountancy convention. In truth it basically had. They were like clones. All wearing corporate casual. The men in fawn trousers and open-collared pale blue shirts. Tomorrow they'd be in fawn again only with white shirts for the wedding. Afterwards, they'd saunter on the sand in three-quarter 'casual' trousers, overly colourful Hawaiian shirts, with their pale feet sliding in leather 'mandals'. They all had crisp cut hair, and expensive sunglasses plastered across their faces. The women were using their even more expensive sunglasses to pin back their long, sleek hair. Her tall, glamorous cousins, her sister. They were all the same. All so incredibly successful—if you equated money, high-flying jobs and incredibly suitable partners with success.

She'd tried it once—to play it their way. She'd dated a guy who was more approved of by her own family than she was herself. What a disaster that had been. They still didn't believe that she'd been the one to end it. Of course, there were reasons for that. But none Bella felt like dwelling on now. Tomorrow was going to be bad enough.

After she'd finally hung all the ribbons on the white-shrouded chairs, she'd headed straight for the bar inside the main building of the hotel. She'd celebrate herself. Toast in another year. Raise a glass to the success of the last. Even if no one else was going to. Even if there wasn't that much success to toast.

There had been talk of a family dinner, but the preparations had run too late—drinks maybe. She was glad. She didn't want to face the all too inevitable questions about her career and her love-life, the looks of unwanted sympathy from her aunts. There'd be time enough for that the next day, when there was no way she could avoid them as much as she had today. For today was her day and she could spend the last of it however she wanted to.

Now, as she sat and waited to be served, she avoided looking around, pretending she was happy to be there alone. She pushed back the inadequacy with some mind games—she'd play a role and fake the confidence. She would do cosmopolitan woman—the woman who took on the world and played it her way. Who took no prisoners, had what she wanted and lived it to the max. It would be good practice for tomorrow when she'd be confronted by Rex and Celia. One of the fun things about being an actress—even a minor-league, bit-part player—was the pretending.

She read through the list again, muttering as she narrowed her choices. 'Do I want "sex on the beach" or a "screaming orgasm"?'

'Why do you have to choose?'

She turned her head sharply. There was a guy standing right beside her. One incredibly hot guy whom she knew she'd never seen before because she'd damn well remember if she had. Tall and dark and with the bluest of eyes capturing hers. While she was staring, he was talking some more.

'I would have thought a woman like you would always have both.'

Sex on the beach and a screaming orgasm? Looking up at him, she took a firmer grip on both the menu card and the sensation suddenly beating through her—the tantalising tempo of temptation.

He must be just about the only person here who wasn't involved in the wedding. Or maybe he was. He was probably one of her cousins' dates. For a split second disappointment washed through her. But then she looked him over again—he wasn't wearing an Armani suit and if he was one of their dates he'd definitely be in Armani. And he'd be hanging on his date's arm, not alone and possibly on the prowl in a bar. This guy was in jeans—the roughest fabric she'd seen in the place to date. They were wet around the ankles as if he'd been splashing in the water, and on his feet were a pair of ancient-looking boat shoes. A light grey long-sleeved tee shirt covered his top half. It had a slight vee at the neck, exposing the base of the tanned column that was his neck. It was such a relief to see someone doing truly casual—someone not flaunting evidence of their superb bank balance.

Those bright blue eyes smiled at her. Very brightly. And then they looked her up and down.

Suddenly she felt totally uncomfortable as she thought about her own appearance. Not for the first time she wished for the cool, glamorous gene that the rest of her family had inherited. Instead she was hot, mosquito bitten, with a stripe of cooked-lobster-red sunburn across one half of her chest where she'd missed with her 110 SPF sunscreen. Her white cotton blouse was more off-white than bright and the fireengine-red ribbon of her floral skirt was starting to come loose—but that was what you got for wearing second-hand.

It was one of her more sedate outfits, an attempt to dress up a little, in deference to the 'family' and their expectations. She'd even used the hotel iron—a real concession given she usually got at least one burn when she went anywhere near the things. Today had been no different. There was a small, very red, very sore patch just below her elbow. And now, thanks to a day spent on her knees dressing chairs in white robes and yellow ribbons, she knew she looked a sight.

As she took in his beautifully chiselled jaw, she really wished she'd bothered to go to her room and check her face or something on the way. There'd been some mascara on her eyelashes this morning, a rub of lip balm. Both were undoubtedly long gone. She was hardly in a state to be drawing single guys to her across a bar. She darted a glance around. She was the only female in the room. And there were only a couple of other customers. Then she looked at her watch. It was early. He was just making small talk with the only woman about. He was probably a travelling salesman. Only he definitely didn't look the salesman type. And despite the suggestion in his talk he didn't come across as sleazy. There was a bit of a glint in those blue eyes—she'd like to think it was appreciation, but it was more of a dare. And there was more humour than anything. She could do with some humour.

The bartender came back down to where they were standing. And Bella took up the challenge. Cosmopolitan woman she would be. Summoning all her courage and telling her cheeks to remain free of excess colour, she ordered. 'A "sex on the beach" and a "screaming orgasm" please.'

She refused to look at him but she could sense his smile of approval—could hear it in his voice as he ordered too.

'I'll have two "screaming orgasms" and "sex on the beach".'

Bella studiously watched the bartender line up the five shot glasses. She didn't want to turn and look in his eyes again, not entirely sure she wouldn't be mesmerised completely. But peripheral vision was very handy. She was motionless, seemingly fixated on the bartender as he carefully poured in each ingredient, but in reality she was wholly focused on the guy next to her as he pulled out the bar stool next to hers and sat on it. His leg brushed against hers as he did. It was a very long leg, and it looked fine clad in the faded denim. She could feel the strength just from that one accidental touch.

Silently, shaking inside, she went to lift the first glass in the line-up. But then his hand covered hers, lightly pressing it down to the wood. Did he feel her fingers jerk beneath his? She snatched a moment to recover her self-possession before attempting to look at him with what she hoped was sophisticated query.

His bright blues were twinkling. 'Have the orgasm first.'

She could feel the heat as her blood beat its way to her cheeks.

The twinkles in his eyes burned brighter. 'After all, you can always have another one later.'

She stared at him as he released her. He'd turned on the widest, laziest, most sensual smile she'd ever seen. Spellbound wasn't the word. Almost without thinking, she moved her fingers, encircling the second shot.

'What about you?' Why had her voice suddenly gone whispery?

'A gentleman always lets the lady go first.'

So she picked up the orgasm, kind of amazed her hand wasn't visibly trembling. In a swift motion she knocked the contents back into her mouth and swallowed the lot. She took a moment before breathing—then it was a short, sharp breath as she absorbed the burning hit. Slowly she put the glass back down on the bar.

His smile was wicked now. He'd picked up the sex shot, pausing pointedly with it slightly raised, until she did the same. She met his eyes and lifted the glass to her lips. Simultaneously they tipped back and swallowed.

Slamming his on the bench, he picked up the next shot. Then he paused again, inclined his head towards the remaining orgasm.

'You know it's for you.' That smile twisted his mouth as he spoke and its teasing warmth reached out to her.

There was no way she could refuse. She couldn't actually speak for the fire in her throat. So she picked up the shot and again, eyes trained on him, drank. And he mirrored her, barely half a beat behind.

It was a long, deep breath she drew that time. And her recovery was much slower. She stared for a while at the five empty glasses in front of them. And then she looked back at him.

He wasn't smiling any more. At least, his mouth wasn't turned up. But his eyes searched hers while sending a message at the same time. And the warmth was all pervasive. The burning sensation rippled through her body, showing no sign of cooling. Instead her temperature was still rising. And she wasn't at all sure if it was from the alcohol or the fire in his gaze.

Wow. She tried to take another deep breath. But the cool of the air made her tingling lips sizzle more. His gaze dropped to her mouth as if he knew of her sensitivity. The sizzle didn't cease.

She blinked, pressed her lips together to try to stop the whisper of temptation they were screaming to her, resumed visual contemplation of the empty shot glasses. She should never have looked at him.

'Thank you,' she managed, studying him peripherally again.

He shrugged, mouth twitching, lightening the atmosphere and making her wonder if she'd overemphasised that supercharged moment. Of course there was no way he would be hitting on her. Now his eyes said it was all just a joke. As if he knew that if she thought he was really after her, she'd be running a mile. City slicker vixen-in-a-bar was so not her style. But she'd decided anything could be possible tonight. Anything she wanted could be hers. She was pretending, remember?

'So are we celebrating, or drowning sorrows?' He flashed that easy smile again. And it gave her the confidence that up until now she'd been faking.

'Celebrating.' She turned to face him.

His brows raised. She could understand his surprise. People didn't usually celebrate in a bar drinking all by themselves. So she elaborated.

'It's my birthday.'

'Oh? Which one?'

Did the man not know it was rude to ask? She nearly giggled. But he was so gorgeous she decided to forgive him immediately. Besides, she had the feeling his boldness was innate. It was simply him. It gave her another charge. 'My flirtieth.'

'I'm sorry?' She could see the corners of his mouth twitching again.

'My flirtieth.' So she was making an idiot of herself. What did she care? This night was hers and she could do as she wanted with it—and that might just include flirting with strangers.

'You're either lying or lisping. I think maybe both.' His lips quirked again. And the thing was, she didn't find it offensive. So he was laughing at her. It was worth it just to see the way that smile reached right into his eyes.

'How many have you had?' he asked. 'You seem to be slurring.'

Not only that, she was still staring fixedly at him. She forced herself to blink again. It was so hard not to look at him. His was a face that captured attention and held it for ever. 'These were my first.'

'And last.' He called the bartender over and ordered. 'Sedate white wine spritzer, please.'

'Who wants sedate?' she argued, ignoring his further instructions to the waiter. 'The last thing I want is wine.' The urge for something stronger gripped her—something even more powerful, something to really take her breath away. She wanted the taste of fire to take away the lonely bitterness of disappointment.

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