The Accidental Bride

The Accidental Bride

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by Christina Skye
     
 

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When her friends order her to take a vacation, successful chef Jilly O'Hara is less than enthused. She may be overworked, but a trip to the mountains is not her idea of fun. Especially when she's roped into an outrageous scheme to pose as a happy bride—all to fulfill the kindly resort owner's dreams of once again hosting a lavish wedding. But the

Overview

When her friends order her to take a vacation, successful chef Jilly O'Hara is less than enthused. She may be overworked, but a trip to the mountains is not her idea of fun. Especially when she's roped into an outrageous scheme to pose as a happy bride—all to fulfill the kindly resort owner's dreams of once again hosting a lavish wedding. But the ruggedly handsome make-believe groom may just make it tolerable….

Walker Hale has kept to himself since his return from active duty—but the next thing he knows, he's also playing along with the wedding charade. Even this jaded loner isn't immune to Jilly's quirky charm…or her beauty. But vacations have to end sometime, and they'll soon have to decide if the feelings between them were more than pretend.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Accidental Bride has something for every reader — warmth, humor . . . and chocolate. I love this book."

- #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber

"Rich with realistically complex characters and subtle wit...as warm and comforting as a well-knit afghan. Skye perfectly captures the feel and appeal of small-town life, and this sweetly satisfying romance is an excellent read-alikes suggestion for fans of Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove series or Robyn Carr's Virgin River books."—Booklist, starred review

"Complex and multifaceted...Skye has written one finely crafted, very romantic love story." -Publishers Weekly on Bride of the Mist

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780373776597
Publisher:
Harlequin
Publication date:
09/18/2012
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
533,134
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

The restaurant kitchen was a scene right out of World War III. Pots churned, grills smoked and a dozen harried workers danced to avoid each other. It was cramped, hot and noisy—one step away from chaos.

And Jilly O'Hara couldn't have been happier.

She presided over the hot, noisy room like a choreographer, watching for problems and juggling advice along with her orders. Running a restaurant had always been her dream and her passion, and after years of work, Jilly had her own baby.

Since the first week it had opened, Jilly's Place had been a stellar success. Sometimes Jilly hated how successful her restaurant had become. The social end of the job gave her a headache, and shmoozing with customers was a nightmare. As soon as she could, she ducked back into the crowded kitchen to create magic.

Only here did she feel fully alive. With her wavy black hair tucked behind a bandanna, the rail-slim chef juggled a smoked asparagus risotto and two orders of grilled potatoes with salsa verde. Beside her on the counter, smoky-rich tortilla soup steamed next to a wedge of wood-grilled salmon. The flavors teased and tantalized, every color snapping with southwestern energy.

Another meal done, Jilly flipped a fresh towel over her shoulder and then attacked the next order. One of the kitchen crew caught her eye. Smiling, he poured a thermal cup of coffee and slid it toward her over the counter.

"Caffeine break. After all, you've only had three tonight," he said, well aware of Jilly's particular vice.

"Lifesaver." Jilly took a long drink, savoring the caffeine.

They were crazy crowded tonight, but that was normal. At the kitchen door, her front desk manager signaled his pleasure at the crowd with a big thumbs-up, then vanished back outside to deal with the reservations desk.

The Saturday-night pace was sheer pandemonium, but Jilly was used to that. She thrived on the jagged edge of chaotic energy. Even on her days off, she made it a point to check out new restaurants or help in the kitchen of a friend, working the line with manic energy. And why not? She loved to cook.

She didn't do vacations, and time off was for wimps.

Jilly finished her coffee and scanned the next set of dinner orders. Tugging on Kevlar mitts, she leaned down to grab an eggplant pizza from the wood-burning oven. She had just removed the mitts when the pain hit her.

Jilly looked up blindly at the ceiling, struggling to breathe.

No one in the busy kitchen noticed her shaking or her short, strangled breaths. No one helped her when she leaned forward to grip the counter.

Blindly, she stared at her white hands. No ring. No husband. No kids. Just a pile of debts from her years in cooking school.

A fresh wave of pain struck. Jilly whimpered, clutching at the long granite counter.

A pot was boiling over on the big 8-burner Wolf stove. The foam seemed to rise in slow motion. Bubbling and hissing, it exploded over the copper rim, down into the steel prongs of the burner.

Burn.

Burning.

Her throat and chest on fire, fear striking her like a mallet, Jilly slowly bent double and whimpered.

Her legs gave way. With a ragged cry she fell forward onto the cold tile floor.

The emergency room doctor was talking to her, but Jilly couldn't make out what he was saying. His lips moved but no sounds seemed to come out.

She squinted at him and tried to focus.

"More tests. But we think it was your heart."

Excuse me? Jilly's mind raced. Her heart? What about her heart?

Lights flashed on the machines that crowded the small white room. She had collapsed in the kitchen. She remembered that part.

Then something about an ambulance…

She closed her eyes, feeling dizzy. A little pain in her chest. Okay, nausea. Lots of nausea.

What was going on? She was only twenty-blipping-seven. She hadn't smoked more than three times in her life. Once when the town bad boy talked her into sharing a Marlboro behind the old post office. Once after her junior year prom, which she watched dateless and bored from the high school bleachers. And the last time, to celebrate her admission to cooking school in Arizona.

Six bleeping years ago.

So how was anything wrong with her heart?

"Symptoms are consistent.. still need detailed results of EKG, angiogram. More tests of your heart enzymes… Hospitalized until then."

Hospitalized?

Jilly stared at the white walls while the words rained down, sharp and cold.

Rest? More blood tests? No way. She didn't have time to be sick. She had a restaurant to run and debts to repay.

She looked down at her arm stretched out on the white bed. They were good arms. Good muscles. She could whip a chocolate mousse by hand almost as fast as a mixer could. She could swirl perfect frosted flowers over a white chocolate cake and mince a tomato as finely as any machine.

And Jilly loved that work. Every minute she spent cooking was a joy in her life.

But her hands showed another story, too. Jilly saw a sprinkling of fine silver scars from mishaps in crowded kitchens on busy nights. She had always felt proud of those marks as signs of her experience.

Her nails were short. Always clean and unpolished. She was strictly no frills and always had been. Her no-frills life kept her lean and fast, ready to catch that next wave and race on to meet her dream. Right now that dream was to create a natural-food empire by the time she was thirty-five.

Her scarred hands twisted with a tremor of pain and loss. What would happen to her dreams now? She listened to the machines hiss and whisper a warning.

A heart attack at twenty-seven. Why her? She closed her eyes. More words bounced past. "Possible malformation…MRI. Then exploratory catheterization." All bad things.

Jilly's mind stuttered and then shut down, paralyzed by the weight of her fear. Only once had she felt this overwhelmed and vulnerable. That had been years ago, on the day she found out her mother had left her in a cardboard box on the steps outside the local fire station at the grand, strapping age of two months.

But she had survived the news. After the crushing pain had passed, Jilly had wiped away her tears and boxed up her mother along with the rest of her sad childhood memories. With fierce determination she had dug a dark hole and shoved them deep inside, where she would never have to think about them.

Because Jilly O'Hara had no time for tears or weakness or what might have been. She was too busy racing forward, creating her dreams.

"Ms. O'Hara, can you hear me? We'll need your consent to proceed with the catheterization and other tests. I have the paperwork here."

Jilly blinked and struggled to focus. "I—I'm tired. Maybe we can talk later. Sorry." Her fingers clenched, and she thought of Caro and Grace and Olivi a. Growing up together in the small coastal town of Summer Island off the Oregon coast, the four girls had been inseparable. For years her best friends had shared her dreams and she had shared theirs.

They had argued and nudged and supported.

Their circle of strength had kept Jilly going during the worst of times.

She desperately needed them now.

Summer Island The Oregon Coast

"She still isn't answering her phone. Something's wrong."

Caro McNeal frowned at her silver watch. Her husband, a marine currently deployed in Afghanistan, had given her the slim silver design for her last birthday. Caro wondered where Gage was and what he was doing at that moment.

Was he in danger?

She tried to push her usual worries aside and focus on Jilly. "I've tried calling her half a dozen times, Grace. Why doesn't she answer?"

Grace Lindstrom put down the sweater sleeve she had been knitting. "Jilly gets distracted. Produce. Ovens. Spatulas. Anything can take her into that alternate chef universe."

"Not for this long." Caro frowned at the phone. The women had been closest friends since they had met as girls. When one of them faced problems, all the others seemed to feel it. First Caro had come home to heal from an accident. Then Grace, a respected food writer, had returned to Summer Island after her grandfather had been hurt. "This is different."

"Did you try texting Jilly?"

"Four times." Caro looked out at the ocean. Seagulls cried as they circled a trawler anchored in Summer Island's small cove. "Something's wrong, Grace. I've been sending Jilly daily updates on the repairs here at Harbor House. Jilly was excited about coming back next week to work on a design for the new front porch. She sent me a gorgeous picture using local fieldstone and a rustic brushed grout. It was gorgeous, but."

"But what?"

Caro blew out a breath. "I told her to send me more examples so I could work on pricing. Then I didn't hear a thing. That was two days ago." Caro shook her head. "Jilly wouldn't drop out of sight like this. She wants to finish the work here just as much as we do."

In a moment of insanity the women had decided to buy Summer Island's oldest landmark and renovate it to its former glory. They had been nearly finished when an earthquake had damaged the roof, half the rooms and part of the foundation. After serious soul-searching, they had decided to start all over, crazy or not.

Grace rolled her knitting up slowly. "Where was she when you two last spoke?"

"Working at her restaurant. Where else?"

"Silly question. Okay, I'll book a flight. I can be in Arizona before bedtime." Grace stood up and stretched. "The idiot is probably off in a peach orchard taking soil samples, completely oblivious to the time. You'll see."

"But I thought you and Noah were going to spend this weekend together in San Francisco." Caro studied her friend's face. "You've been planning the trip for ages. Is something wrong?"

Caro watched her friend turn, looking south past the old dock, past the restless sea wall. Grace rolled her shoulders but didn't answer.

"Grace? Tell me what happened."

"He was called in to work," Grace said slowly. "Another day, another emergency."

"Can't he get time off?"

"Apparently not. When you're good, everyone wants a piece of you," Grace said flatly. Then she forced a smile. "Don't worry. We'll go on our trip. But it won't be this week."

Something was very wrong here, Caro thought. Grace was acting too cool and trying too hard to be convincing. This was more than a simple trip cancellation. "Are you okay about this, Grace? You were so excited when you told me you and Noah were going on this trip."

Grace shrugged and then slid her knitting bag over her shoulder. "I'm almost used to the last-minute cancellations," she muttered. "But I'd better go. I'll call you when I get to Arizona."

Clearly, she didn't want to discuss her problems with Noah.

"You have the address for Jilly's new restaurant, right? She just moved into that new building."

"Got it."

Neither woman questioned that Grace would go to Jilly's restaurant and not her apartment. Chances were slim to nil that their driven friend would be anywhere but working. They would have to do something to correct that, Caro decided. "As soon as you hear something, let me know. I'm just sorry I can't help more."

"Let me handle the Barefoot Contessa." Grace cleared her throat. "You've got plenty to do with this renovation. Not to mention the baby to care for."

Caro was certain she heard a wistful note in her friend's voice.

So Grace was thinking about a family. That was interesting, since she and Noah had only recently confided that they were engaged. No wedding date was set as far as Caro knew.

Caro hadn't seen Noah since the spring and he'd only been in town for two days. He was supposed to be moving to a less demanding job, Grace had explained then. Something without constant emergency calls.

Given the cancelled weekend, that didn't seem to be happening.

Caro still had no idea what Noah did, beyond it being difficult and very secret. But she knew that Grace worried terribly about him.

More problems to sort out.

Caro gave her friend a hug. "Say hello to Noah. Tell him I'm still waiting for the Ukrainian Welcome Bread recipe from his mother."

"I'll get it for you." Grace slid her yarn and her knitting needles into her bag and forced a smile. "And stop worrying. I'll call you as soon as I have any news."

Meet the Author

Christina Skye loves a good adventure. Living in Arizona gives her plenty of room to practice target shooting and to trek off-road on her motorcycle, researching the details for stories rich with “snappy dialogue” and an unerring ability to keep “the narrative energy high and the pacing swift” (Publishers Weekly). With over two million books in print, her novels appear regularly on national bestseller lists. Visit her online at www.christinaskye.com.

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The Accidental Bride 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
The Accidental Bride by Christina Skye 4 STARS I really enjoyed the Accidental Bride. It has good friends,loveable dogs and caring comunity. Lots of laughter and sweet emotion too. Jilly has a heart attack and told she needs to leave her stressfull job. She owns her own restraunt, a line of sauces. She was in the middle of dinner rush when she had her attack. After all the tests come back telling her she can't have the stress of cooking and running her restraunt. Her friends rush her to the airport for a flight to whyoming. They tell Jilly its a cooking classes at a resort. So she can relax and brush up on some cooking. They are really sending her to the resort but it is a knitting classes thats thier right now. In the airport waiting for taxi she spills contents of her luggage that her friends packed for her and snacks and underwear spill out in front of a tall handsome guy. She makes friends with his dog even as he warns her he not to good with strangers. Winslow likes Jilly and he really likes the jerky in her pocket. His owner Walker has some good looks too. The next day Jilly finds out that thier are no cooking class but she meets the chef and he has her sauces and uses them. She goes into town on a bike to the coffee shop thier and orders a special coffee. As she thinks of the commitment of cutting out the cafine. She is only one in the store and the clerk asks her to watch the shop while he runs to the bank. A customer comes in and asks were Jonathon is. When she is told he is at the bank the girl is disapointted because she is in a hurry and really wants a fancy coffee. Jilly tells her she can get it for her. Makes her a perfect cup and all fancy. Walker and Winslow comes in and wants just plain coffee. She talks him into trying something and when she is done he really likes it. They flirt a little before he leaves. Jonathon gets told about how good the coffee is. Jilly explains what and how she did it. She had worked in a coffee shop for a couple of years and sat down and explained to Jonathon about his equipment ect. Next day Jonathon asks her to borrow car from resort and come help him for awhile. Thier is a big line out the coffee shop. The girl talked her coffee up and everyone wanted to try it. Walker only came to town once in awhile but meeting Jilly he started showing up more. Walker was a hero who wrisked his life to save others in the community that served with him in the war. He and Winslow were both released for medical injuries so everyone was willing to help him to find love. Walker and Jilly were talked into being married for a good cause. Thier were a few love scenes in the book. I was given this ebook to read in exchange of honest review from Netgalley. 09/25/2012 PUB HarlequinHQN
SmittenWithReading More than 1 year ago
My Review: Hmm, while the story overview above is accurate, it really isn't a very good descriptor of this book. Jilly is an overworked, highly motivated chef who has her own restaurant, her own food product line, and plans for several other business propositions in the works all at the same time. She's only 27 years old. The book starts with her having a heart attack. She has a defect to her heart which means EVERYTHING about her life has to change. This is NOT a girl who sits around...EVER. She's constantly going and doing something and just can't see how that can change. It's just not who she is. Her friends convince her (through some lying manipulation) to take a vacation so that she can gain a fresh perspective on how she can change her life and that's how she ends up in this little Wyoming town and guest resort. Walker is a war hero. He and his working dog Winslow both served (active duty....and now they do freelance work) in Afghanistan where they both almost died saving a whole platoon (?) of soldiers. He moved to this little Wyoming town two years ago and is known as a loner. He likes his privacy and being alone, but he meets Jilly as they are both arriving at the airport and he feels an immediate draw to her. Even more, Winslow immediately falls in love with her...and he's not a dog who gets attached to strangers like that. This is NOT a book about a fake wedding. In fact I was 2/3 of the way through the book before I even got an inkling of what the title was referring to. This is about two people whose lives have not exactly gone as planned finding one another. It's about a sweet little small town and resort and finding a home where you least expect it. Jilly was an orphan raised in a series of foster homes. She has three friends who have been her family, but in this small town, she actually finds someplace that feels like a home to her. Everyone from the town barista to the resort chef to the knitting divas welcome and embrace her. This is one of those books that's just a sweet read...and not even necessarily for the romance. I loved Jilly's character and you can't help but feel for her as she's watching everything she's dreamed about and all her hard work being taken down by a bad heart. She's not a quitter, but she doesn't know how to move forward. I loved Winslow, the dog, and the way he attached to her. I loved Walker and his quiet alpha take-charge attitude. I would have liked to have delved into his character a bit more because there's a LOT to his back story. It was an entertaining book and I'm glad that I read it. I received a complementary copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
,oved it
kpeterson More than 1 year ago
Great book!
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jbarr5 More than 1 year ago
The Accidental Bride by Christina Skye ISBN: 9780373776597 Jilly O'Hara runs her own restaurant and is very happy with the progress it's made since she opened its doors. Caro MacNeal and Grace Lindstrom were worried as they'd not heard from Jilly in some time. They were in the knitting shop on Summer Island, Oregon. They were restoring an old house to bring it back to its glory as an old landmark on the island. After Jilly has a heart emergency and is told to take things easy, no more cooking, her 3 best friends set up a cooking retreat for her in Wyoming. Problem is things are not what they seem... At the small airport she met a man, Walker Hale and his service dog, Winslow but he was difficult to get much out of their conversation. She is quite taken with him and his dog and learns how the town has never forgotten the hero he is although he was never given a parade or any other recognition for saving many lives. She is starting to knit now and accepts dinner from Walker and as things get heated he gets many phone calls about the trip he's taking in the morning but she hears things that make it sound dire, so desperate he has to leave that night. She has agreed to watch the dog til he gets back... It's suggested to raise the morale of the owner of the retreat that they get married... He's kept a lot of secrets from her and she's kept many from him and they all come out eventually and it's interesting to see how they handle the truth... Love the knitting and the references to their relationship with one another. A series where the other woman have their own story, super! Many references to everything taught in this book are noted at the back. Can't wait to get the rest of the series.
beckymmoe More than 1 year ago
While this book was enjoyable, it wasn't outstandingly memorable. For a light read, though, it did manage kept my interest for a few days, even if I did find parts of it to be a bit much. I liked both the leads, Jilly and Walker; however, I have to say that Walker's dog, Winston, was by far my favorite character. Maybe because he is just so amazingly well-behaved when compared to my dog? Not sure--still, he was fabulous. Walker is the perfect blend of hunky, ex-military loner-ness. I found him to be a likable hero, and my biggest complaint where he is concerned is just that the town's hero-worshipfulness of him seems to be a tad bit over the top. Even when he explains it--sort of--it feels out of proportion. Jilly is a fairly standard workaholic heroine, married to her job and missing what she doesn't have but too busy to do much about it--until she collapses in her restaurant's kitchen. Like Walker's hero status, though, Jilly's illness also felt forced. It appeared to jump up and be noticed when needed for a plot point, but tucked itself neatly away when the crisis was over. As someone who lived a good chunk of my life with a person with a heart condition, it just didn't feel genuine to me. I guess my main problem with this book is that even though it's a fairly lengthy book for the genre (close to 400 pages), just about every problem seems to get solved far too easily. Witness Jilly's near-phobia of knitting: her close friends have tried to get her to learn the craft for years, to no avail. A few lessons from new friends at the retreat, though, have her making a full-size afghan in no time. Most of the conflicts in this novel had a similar feel, and were either not terribly convincing as a real problem, were resolved far too quickly, or both. It all left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied. This was my first book by this author; so far she's on my "I'll give her another try" list.