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The Mona Lucy
By Peggy Webb
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMatt Coltrane hadn't wanted to come to the wedding. Thank God it was almost over. The reception was winding down - mainly because everybody was getting drunk - and Matt could soon go home. He didn't believe in love or matrimony. Marriage only led to divorce, as far as he was concerned. He ought to know; he'd handled enough of them in the past fourteen years to make a man think twice and then some before he took that suicidal walk down the aisle. Or in this case, around the corner of his mother's swimming pool, which was the only reason he was here. Lucy O'Banyon Coltrane had offered her house and grounds for the wedding of her prim and proper college roommate and sorority sister, Ellie Jones, and she'd asked Matt to be there "in case somebody falls into the pool." "That's a ridiculous reason for me to drive three hundred miles," he'd told his mother when she called. "Nobody's going to fall into the pool." "Yes, but in case they do, you'll know how to handle it. And besides, I haven't seen you in weeks." He'd driven up from Jackson, Mississippi, to Shady Grove out of guilt and had stayed out of curiosity. Members of the Foxes, the sorority his mother helped charter, had flown in from all over the country to celebrate the wedding of one of their own. One of them was the U.S. attorney general. Matt had hoped to talk with her, but she'd called at the last minute to cancel. The entire event was over the top, if anybody had asked Matt's opinion, on the hottest day of June, all these candles adding to the heat. They knew better, of course. He was not the type of man to withhold his opinions. He was trying hard not to put a damper on the celebration. God knows, he'd done nothing but scowl since he got there. You couldn't move without stepping over a bridesmaid. There was a flock of fifteen, wearing those ridiculous hats, no two alike, all dressed in pink. It was a pure relief to spot a woman dressed in green. She was on the other side of the pool, her shoes kicked off, snapping pictures and attracting a crowd. Men, of course. So many swooning swains gathered around her that Matt had to stand up to see. His mother slid into a chair at his table. "Lovely, isn't she?" He nonchalantly eased into his chair. "Who?" "The photographer. Don't think I didn't see you watching her. I think she's quite charming." "Don't start," he said, and Lucy gave him a crestfallen look. "All right. I concede. She's easily the most striking woman here." "See, I told you you'd be glad you came." "Now, Mother, get that look out of your eye. I came for you. That's all." "I'm glad you did, Matt. Since you're here, why don't you go around the pool and introduce yourself to that delightful-looking woman." Matt would rather eat arsenic. Women in general were dangerous, but women of her kind were lethal. They reeled you in with their innocent act then knifed you in the back. That angel's face didn't fool him. Inside that sweet little package beat the heart of a barracuda. "She's not my type," he said. "You shouldn't let one bad experience color your opinions." One bad experience wouldn't begin to describe the events that had colored his opinions. But he would never tell anyone, least of all his mother. "Can I get you some more food, Mother?" Lucy got that same look she always got when she was all set to deliver a rare motherly lecture, but this time Matt stared her down. She sighed. "No, thank you, dear. I'm on a diet." "Why? You look fine to me." "I don't want to look fine. I want to look great. Like Dolly." "Where is Aunt Dolly?" She wasn't really his aunt, but he'd called her that for so long she might as well have been. Of all the Foxes, she was his favorite. "Quaffing booze and flirting, no doubt." "I'd better see if I can find her." "She'll be mad as a hornet if you try to drag her away from one of her little peccadilloes, as she calls them." "We'll see about that." As Matt set out to rescue the indomitable actress Dolly Wilder from her baser impulses, a green hat lifted on the breeze, sailed across the pool and landed at water's edge practically at his feet. He scooped the hat out of the water and strode around the pool to give it back to its owner. The wind that had stolen her hat whipped her dress and her long blond hair. She was a beautiful woman, fresh-scrubbed and wholesome. Just like his exfiancée. A heartless floozy in disguise. "My hat! You found it." She turned her flutelike voice and innocent-looking green eyes on him, and Matt came within a hairbreadth of succumbing to her siren song. After all, he was human, in spite of rumors to the contrary. The sooner he got out of there, the better. He rammed the hat into her hand, then watched in mortification as it dripped on the shoes she'd kicked off, leaving huge water spots. Obviously her shoes were dyed-to-match silk, a fact he wouldn't have known if he hadn't grown up in a household with two sisters. Matt didn't know whether to kneel down and try to wipe her shoes dry or to let well enough alone. "Sorry about the shoes," he said. His cohorts would die laughing if they could hear him. The man known in the courtroom as Bulldog Coltrane was acting like a nervous Chihuahua. His only saving grace was that he hadn't tried to put the soggy hat back on her head. "Oh, it's no problem. I'm going to throw them away anyhow. They pinch my toes." Matt didn't want to make small talk with this woman, but Lucy had tried to teach him to be a gentleman and he guessed some of her lessons stuck. As he cast about for an escape tactic, he spotted the perfect one: Aunt Dolly sashaying to his mother's table looking none too steady on her spike-heeled shoes. Before he could excuse himself, the woman said, "You're the strong silent type, aren't you?" Good God. She was worse than Matt had thought. "No," he said. "Mainly I'm the surly type." Then he scowled at her just to prove it. The woman was not the least bit discouraged. "Look at that terrific hat," she said. Who could miss it? It stood out like an oversize hippo in the Swan Lake ballet. He watched as his aunt Kitty O'Banyon made a beeline for his mother's table, her hat bobbing with every step. "I wish I had one like that. I wonder where she got it?" (Continues...)
Excerpted from The Mona Lucy by Peggy Webb Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.