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A Match Made In Bliss
By Diann Walker
Steeple HillCopyright © 2006 Diann Walker
All right reserved.
"I can't believe you did this without even consulting me!" Garrett Cantrell stomped across the den of the Woods Inn Bed and Breakfast. His footsteps were muffled once he stepped on the oriental rug, then thumped again when he turned and walked across the hardwood floor.
He stopped and frowned at his daughters, who sat quietly on the sofa. "What were you thinking?" He turned to his firstborn. "Macy, you're a high school graduate — and older than most at that," Garrett said, referring to the childhood illness that had caused Macy to start school later than others, giving her almost a two-year edge over her peers. "You're old enough to know better. Would you appreciate it if I manipulated your life?"
Macy lifted her chin in a rebellious attitude.
He shot her a quelling look, and she lowered it once again.
"And you." He looked at Molly. "You'll be a senior next year. How about I set you up with Reggie Snodgrass?" The look on her face would have been comical had Garrett not been in such a foul mood.
Reggie didn't exactly turn the girls' heads. Well, he did, but usually in the opposite direction. Everyone in the area knew Reggie had been sweet on Molly since first grade. He was tall, skinny, wore black-rimmed glasses, talked with a nasal twang and snorted every time he laughed.The typical high school geek.
Molly lifted her face to her dad, her eyes wide with fear. She wisely kept her mouth shut.
Garrett paced some more. "I knew I should have gotten rid of that computer." Stopping in front of them again, he said, "Let me get this straight. Because of your fascination with that reality TV stuff, you came up with the brilliant idea to advertise in a chat room, a contest called 'Win Daddy's Heart'? Then you left details on a message board."
The girls sat rooted like potted plants. "You picked five applicants from pictures and bios e-mailed to you and offered the women a free two-week stay at our B and B."
Completely mute. Macy's right eye twitched. "You figured we could live off our investments, so the two weeks without paying guests would be no big deal." Still pacing, he said this more to himself than to them. "Then you took it upon yourselves to write these contestants' names on the scheduling book so I wouldn't double book our rooms. When they come, their afternoons will be free, and I am to take them out individually on the nights of my choosing." He stopped and turned to them.
At this, Molly nodded ever so slightly. "We all are to mill around and just get to know one another over the two weeks, and by the end of their stay, you're hoping someone will win my heart, is that it?"
Molly's face brightened for just a moment. She nodded enthusiastically as if her dad was finally catching on. Macy was much more cautious — and sensible. She didn't move. Not one inch. He couldn't even tell if she was breathing. Her eye continued to twitch.
He blew out a long sigh. "Let me see that." He pointed to the file in Molly's hands.
She handed it to him. "It's all right there, Dad. We checked out every applicant, making sure they were compatible with you." She smiled tentatively, as if proud of herself for being organized with the whole thing.
He glanced through the file. "There are only four applicants here."
Molly shifted uncomfortably on her seat and looked at Macy. "Well, uh, we seem to have misplaced the information on the fifth applicant," Molly admitted.
"She did call, though, and said she probably wouldn't be able to make it. Something came up. So I don't think we have anything to worry about," Macy added.
Garrett rolled his eyes. "Perfect." He slapped the file against the palm of his hand and pulled up a chair. Sitting down with a thump, he faced them. A slight pause followed. "Look," he said in a gentle voice, "I know you're trying to help me. I miss your mom, that's true, but that's not why I haven't dated. I just haven't met anyone I want to date."
"But Dad, Mom died three years ago. It's time." Molly laid each word before him as if tiptoeing across a room.
"That's not for you to decide," Garrett snapped. His youngest daughter looked every inch the image of her mother. Her dark-brown hair lay softly across her shoulders like a silken scarf, and her brown eyes glistened in the morning light. He felt his insides go soft. A headache throbbed over his eyes, causing him to rub his forehead. "Okay, here's what you have to do. You write to each of these ladies and tell them there's been a big mistake. The search for someone for your dad is off. No free vacations for the applicants. The game's over." He started to stand.
"We can't," Molly offered in a weak voice. He stopped in midair, turned to her and sat back down. A sick feeling washed over him. A feeling that said this wasn't going to go away.
"Why not, Molly?"
She cleared her throat and stared at the toes of her sneakers. "Um, because a couple of ladies will be coming tonight. The others will be in tomorrow."
He gaped at them in disbelief. The grandfather clock ticked from the opposite wall, punctuating the scant moments of freedom remaining. "You've heard the story of Jacob and Esau? You know, the selling of the birthright and all?"
His daughters watched him, saying nothing. "Well, just know your positions in this family are hanging by a thread." He paced again. "If we send them home, it could be bad publicity for the place." He mumbled the words to himself. He continued to think it through. The women would have paid for their airfare — he couldn't exactly make them turn around and go home. He stopped in front of his daughters. "I can't believe this." He looked at them incredulously. "I actually have to go through with this."
Right then the front door creaked open. "Yoohoo, anybody home? Hello?" A singsong voice echoed through the entryway. "Anyone here? Yoohoo?"
Garrett cringed. His eyes narrowed and he pinned his daughters with a stern glare.
They gulped in unison.
Between clenched teeth he hissed, "If you weren't so old, I'd put you both up for adoption." With that he turned and stomped out of the room.
"Oh, come on, Lauren, you have to go," Candace and Gwen chimed in over their conference call.
"You need to get away from this place. Get over Jeff, think about where you want to work next and just plain rest," Candace encouraged.
"But tomorrow? I don't have anything packed."
"You always pack light anyway, Lauren," Candace encouraged.
Lauren Romey released a slight smile in spite of the anxiety welling up inside. Candace Windsor and Gwen Sandler had been two of Lauren's best friends since college days. If anyone could talk her into anything, they could. Though Candace lived in Nevada, Gwen lived in Arizona and Lauren lived in Indiana, the three managed to meet every year in Candace's childhood hometown of Bliss Village, California, just a little way from beautiful Lake Tahoe. Lauren had fallen in love with the scenic town the first time she'd gone there, so the idea of going back ahead of their yearly meeting — even for a suspicious surprise getaway like the one her friends were now offering — held a certain amount of charm.
"Now, I can hear your mind clicking from here," Candace was saying. "Don't worry about the money. It is our gift to you, and it would be rude of you to refuse us."
Oh, sure, they always played on her weakness of wanting to please others.
"And since you haven't found another job yet —"
Lauren winced. "Don't remind me."
"You're free as a bird," Gwen added. "I'm sorry, I'm not trying to make you feel bad, but it's a perfect time for you to get away, before you're tied up with new employment."
Unfortunately, the new employment thing didn't seem to be a problem. Despite the number of resumes the unemployed corporate attorney had sent out, she didn't exactly have employers beating down her door to get to her. The fact that she was "let go" from her prior job, she was sure didn't help matters. "Besides that, we have a surprise," Gwen said in her usual perky voice. A voice that sometimes irritated Lauren.
"Gwen, don't give everything away," Candace warned.
Uh-oh, these two were up to something. "Do you need to tell me something?"
"Uh, no, you'll find out soon enough. Let's just say we've taken care of everything and all you have to do is show up."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Lauren pointed out.
"What's that?" Candace asked.
Excerpted from A Match Made In Bliss by Diann Walker Copyright © 2006 by Diann Walker. Excerpted by permission.
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