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Henry Davenport stared at the nubile blond waitress. "Not with her working here."
"Not your usual type," Cade said.
True, but Henry wanted her. Take away the pink knee-length skirt, the white shirt, the stained apron, the ugly white shoes and the nude-colored support hose not even his housekeeper would be caught dead in, and she'd be perfect. Almost naked, too, which would make her all the more perfect.
He grinned at the thought. Perhaps it was too much to imagine she wore a lacy underwire bra and matching thong, but hey, this was his daydream and the waitress had to spend her tips on something. What better than sexy lingerie?
"Thank you, Cynthia, for suggesting we stop here," Henry said. "I'm certain the food will be delicious. The view is tres magnifique."
"I only wanted to eat before we went wine tasting." Cade's bride-to-be, Cynthia Sterling, pursed her glossed lips. "Would you actually consider asking a waitress out?"
"Why not?" Henry asked. "I've dated actresses, models, dancers and socialites. Even you, darling."
"Only once. Thank goodness."
Cade placed a protective arm around his fiancee.
"Lucky for me the two of you were more like brother and sister than boyfriend and girlfriend."
She leaned against him. "Lucky for me I met you."
The tenderness of Cynthia's smile touched Henry's heart. Once again his matchmaking skills had been perfect. No fine-tuning or adjustment needed. There were few things Henry truly enjoyed, but seeing his friends find true love topped the list. And no one could argue with his success.
"What do you think your relationship would be with the waitress, Henry?" Cynthia asked.
"Maybe he wants to hire her." Cade raised a brow.
"Have her wear one of those little black French maid outfits and give her a feather duster."
"A feather duster." Henry grinned at the image forming in his mind. "I like that."
Cynthia rolled her eyes. "I doubt it's your furniture you want dusted."
Cade laughed and patted Cynthia's hand. As her diamond engagement ring sparkled, Henry noticed her French manicure. "Your fingernails have grown back."
"Finally," Cynthia said, flexing her fingers. "After your deserted-island adventure, I never thought my hands would look the same. Though I still have a few calluses."
Cade kissed the top of her hand. "Just a reminder of what we had to go through to find each other."
Every year on April Fools' Day, Henry threw himself a birthday party and sent two of his friends on an adventure of a lifetime where he set them up to fall in love. It was the best way he knew to insure his friends' happiness. "A small price to pay for happily-ever-after."
"A small price?" Cynthia frowned. "I ended up with a bamboo pole stuck in my foot and had surgery."
"I'm sorry about your foot." Henry still sent her a bouquet of flowers each week to make up for her injury.
"But that was a freak accident. No one else has ever gotten hurt."
"Accidents do happen." Cynthia narrowed her eyes.
"Who knows what will happen during your next adventure?"
"Two people will fall in love." Henry rubbed his palms together. "Just like you did. And Brett and Laurel Matthews, too. Admit it, darling. I've become an accomplished matchmaker."
"Two happy couples and you've let success go to your head." Cynthia sighed. "I suppose you want us to call you Cupid."
"Cupid has a nice ring," he admitted. "But I prefer Henry."
Cynthia leaned forward. "You know, Henry, it isn't right to play around with people's lives this way."
"It is right, darling." Henry flashed her his most dazzling smile. Of course, she was immune to the effect, but perhaps the waitress caught a glimpse. He loved flirting and the nuances that went with it. "In fact, it's my duty to those I care most about. If not for me, you wouldn't be engaged."
Cade nodded. "He's got a point, Sterling."
"I'm grateful for you introducing me to Cade, but there has to be an easier way to find love than having you play puppet master with your adventures." She spoke with tenderness and Henry knew she wasn't trying to offend him. "Someone could get hurt. Not just an injured foot, but a broken heart. Or worse."
"Don't tell me you want me to stop my adventures?"
"I won't tell you," Cynthia said. "But I do."
"My friends would be too disappointed if I stopped."
"Not all your friends," Cade admitted. "You do enough for your friends by planning trips and parties and all sorts of other fun things. The adventures aren't necessary."
"They are necessary." At first Henry had planned his adventures to keep himself and his friends entertained. But once he saw how good he was at executing them and how much his friends enjoyed them and how successful he was at matchmaking and how wonderful it was to have a godchild ... "I'm not stopping."
"It's time you entered the real world, Henry," Cynthia said. "If you knew what being sent on an adventure was like you would change your tune."
"I would love to be sent on an adventure."
"You would?" Cynthia asked.
"Be careful how you answer," Cade cautioned.
"Of course, it would be fun," Henry said without any hesitation. No one would ever go to the effort to create an adventure for him. It was too much work. No one had that kind of free time. Not the way he did.
Cynthia straightened. "I'm so happy to hear you say that."
The beautiful young waitress stepped from the kitchen and walked his way. The seductive sway of her hips hypnotized him. He focused on her heart-shaped face. A pair of blue eyes met his. Clear and bright, her gaze made Henry straighten.
"Welcome to the Berry Bistro." She greeted him with a wide smile and he sucked in a breath. "I'm Elisabeth, may I take your order?"
Her voice was soft, perfect for whispering sweet and not-so-sweet words into his ear. "Do you have any specials that could possibly compare to your dazzling smile, Lizzie?"
He expected her to flirt back. Women always did. Instead she pressed her lips together. "No specials this morning, and it's Elisabeth with an S."
Not just a pretty face. Charm alone was not going to win her over. He liked that. Most women simply fell at his feet. And wallet. "My mistake, Elisabeth with an S."
She readied her pencil. "Your order?"
Excerpted from The Billionaire's Wedding Masquerade by Melissa McClone Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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