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Felicity Farnsworth stopped her Toyota Highlander just outside the entrance to Rosedale Farms and took a deep breath to calm her jittery nerves. She dreaded her upcoming encounter with Reed Kelly. But she'd put the meeting off long enough. Now, even if she'd wanted to, she could no longer do so. Not since Madeline Newhouse had insisted her daughter Portia's wedding photos simply had to be taken at Rosedale.
Felicity was a wedding planner, the owner of Weddings By Felicity, the most successful event-planning business in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Her weddings were all spectacular, and the Newhouse wedding promised to be the most spectacular of all, for Portia was the adored only daughter of Alex Newhouse, the famous actor. And he had decreed that no expense should be spared when it came to his beautiful daughter's wedding.
So if Madeline wanted Portia's wedding photos taken at Rosedale, Felicity had to make that happen. Otherwise, she would be risking her hard-won success. And forfeiting the chance to be recommended by Madeline to her wide circle of free-spending friends.
Felicity took another deep, steadying breath, released the brake and drove slowly through the arched portal leading into Rosedale. Yet no matter how she cautioned herself to remain calm, her heartbeat picked up speed the closer she got to the main building, which housed Reed's office.
Felicity hadn't seen him since her best friend Emma Dearborn had broken her engagement to him, throwing him over for Garrett Keating. How was Reed taking the breakup? Was he devastated? Maybe he wouldn't want to see Felicity or anyone else associated with Emma. Maybe he hated all theDebs who were in Emma's close circle of friends. If he did, Felicity certainly wouldn't blame him.
Yet as uneasy as she was about seeing Reed, Felicity couldn't deny an underlying flicker of excitement. It was so ironic that the only man to interest her since her miserable ex of a husband had betrayed her and robbed her blind was Reed. That interest had sparked while Felicity was planning his wedding to Emma, and no matter how Felicity had fought it, telling herself Reed was off-limits, it had refused to go away.
But Reed was no longer her best friend's fiancé. In fact, Reed was now available.
No, I'm not going there. Not, not, not... After her divorce, Felicity had made a promise to herself. She'd vowed to spend her time and energy rebuilding her life and her fortune. Period. Because obviously she had rotten judgment when it came to men. What she'd thought was love on her ex's part had been opportunism, nothing more. He'd used her, and Felicity had no intention of ever being used again.
So no matter how attracted to him you are, put sexy, available Reed Kelly out of your mind and stay focused on your goals -- goals that do not include marriage or any other kind of permanent commitment to a man.
Arriving at the main building, Felicity pulled in and parked. Then she briskly climbed out of her truck, put on her game face and walked up the three shallow concrete steps into Reed's domain.
"Oh, hi, Ms. Farnsworth."
Felicity smiled at the pretty young girl who sat working at a computer in Reed's office. She recognized her as one of his nieces, but wasn't sure which one she was. "Hi. Is Reed around?"
The girl -- who looked to be about fifteen or sixteen -- nodded. "He's out back in the stables. Want me to go get him?"
"No, that's okay. I'll walk back there." Felicity preferred to see Reed alone. Especially if his reaction to her visit was anywhere close to what she feared.
Heading back to the stables, Felicity was grateful that the walkway was paved. The last thing she wanted was to ruin her Jimmy Choo mules, which had eaten up a big chunk of her disposable income last month. Shoes were Felicity's big weakness -- some might even say her obsession. Currently she owned more than eighty pairs, and she still kept buying new ones.
Sometimes she felt guilty over the amount of money she spent on shoes, but she didn't allow those feelings to last long. After all, she worked hard. The cash she spent was hers, earned by that hard work. It wasn't as if she was spending some man's money.
No, it was the other way around. Sam spent all my money, she thought bitterly. She wondered how long it would take to get over the fact she'd been stupid enough to let her husband dip his hands into her inheritance from her parents.
Felicity blinked. She'd been so lost in her thoughts she hadn't even seen the approach of Max Weldon, Reed's trainer and assistant manager. A former jockey, Max topped out at five foot one and a hundred pounds, but his deep voice belied his size.
She smiled. "Hi, Max." Max and her father had been very good friends, even though Max was closer to Felicity's age than to her father's.
Max's brown eyes gazed up at her with fondness. "Been a while since I've seen you. What're you doing out here? You in the market for a horse?"
Felicity shook her head. "I don't have the time to ride anymore. No, I've got to see Reed about a business proposition." From the curious expression on Max's face, she knew he was dying to know what kind of business proposition she could possibly have that would interest Reed, but he was too polite to ask.
"Well, he's in the stables," Max said.
"Thanks. Tell Paulette I said hi." Paulette was Max's wife.
They said goodbye, then headed in opposite directions.
Nearing the stables, Felicity heard a soft whinny, then the unmistakable low voice of a man.
Pulse quickening, she left the brightly sunlit walkway and entered the shaded interior of the main stables. Assorted smells -- molasses and oats, cured hay and wood shavings, and that particular scent of the saddle soap Reed and his workers used to wash the horses -- assaulted Felicity's senses as she walked inside. Although she had once been an avid horsewoman, she hadn't ridden in many years. Her ex had considered riding and everything connected to the sport to be a waste of time and money, and for a long time, what Sam had wanted Sam had gotten. But today, once again among the familiar sounds and smells, she remembered with an ache of nostalgia all the reasons she'd loved horses and riding so much.
Reed stood a few dozen yards away, talking softly to a beautiful black gelding with a classically chiseled head. Felicity's breath caught at the picture. She wasn't sure which was more gorgeous...the horse...or Reed.
Feasting her eyes on Reed's six-foot-two frame, his thick brown hair and his tanned, muscled, athletic body clothed in a white knit shirt and coffee-colored riding breeches, she couldn't help thinking Emma was crazy. She'd told Felicity that once she'd seen Garrett again she'd finally realized she didn't love Reed the way she should. But how any woman could not love -- or at least lust after -- Reed Kelly was a mystery to Felicity.
In her opinion, Reed was the perfect man, if such a thing actually existed. For not only was he gorgeous, he was sexy, lots of fun and nice. Warm, generous and kindhearted, he was the type of man both men and women liked. Added to all that, he loved horses.
If he'd been mine...
But he hadn't been hers. And he never would be. Because she was no longer in the market....
Felicity didn't finish the thought, because just then Reed turned. The stable was dim, and her eyes hadn't fully adjusted from the July sun outside, so Felicity couldn't quite make out his expression.
"Hello, Felicity," he said quietly.
He didn't sound mad. That was promising. "H-hello, Reed." Damn. She hated that slight wobble in her voice. She prided herself on always being calm, cool and collected. Some people even called her the Ice Princess, a name she had actively cultivated, for it helped her when she was dealing with the megarich, as she often did. Never let 'em see you sweat. Always give the impression you're in perfect control. That had become her mantra.
"What brings you here? Did you come to gloat?" Oops. Maybe he was mad.
"Gloat?" she said innocently. "About what?" Instead of answering, he stroked the gelding one more time, then strode toward her.
Felicity had to force herself not to back up, even though that nervousness she'd managed to quell earlier was back in spades.
"Is everyone talking about me? Feeling sorry for me?" he said sharply.
Now she could see his eyes. She had never known that blue eyes could actually blaze. Her heart beat faster. "No, of course not." But they were. After all, Emma and Reed's breakup was one of the juiciest pieces of gossip to hit Eastwick in months. And Eastwick thrived on gossip. Especially that witch Delia Forrester, who seemed to think she might become the new Bunny Talbot now that the "Eastwick Social Diary" gossip maven was dead.
Reed's jaw hardened. "Don't lie to me, Felicity. I know everybody in the entire damned county is gossiping about me. Hell, I can hear them now. "There must be something wrong with Reed Kelly if Emma Dearborn has thrown him over."
"Oh, Reed." Felicity's heart melted at the realization that he wasn't mad. He was hurt. Unable to help herself, she reached over and laid her hand on his arm. He flinched, but he didn't pull away. Wanting to comfort him, she moved closer, sliding her arms around his waist and hugging him. "I'm so sorry," she said softly. "About everything that's happened."
For a moment he stood stiffly, and Felicity was afraid she'd crossed an uncrossable line. Then his arms encircled her, and he rested his chin on the top of her head. Felicity closed her eyes. Being held like this, even if it was only a hug between casual friends, felt so good. It had been a long time since she'd been embraced by a man she respected. Especially a man as attractive as Reed.