Cupid Jones Gets Married by DeAnna Talcott released on Jan 24, 2003 is available now for purchase.
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Cupid Jones Gets Married
By DeAnna Talcott
Harlequin Enterprises LtdCopyright © 2003 DeAnna Talcott
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe blonde who idled near the front door of the post office self-consciously patted her hair, then glanced at the clock for the umpteenth time. Cupid, the postmistress of the Valentine, Kansas, branch, peered a little more closely at the patron.
Fine lines bracketed the corners of the woman's blue eyes - mid-thirties smile lines, she noted - and the waves in her hair were soft, angelic. Cupid knew - she just knew - that the whimsical earrings the woman wore were the most revealing thing about her: 14 carat teddy bears.
The blonde slid Cupid an apprehensive look then walked up to the counter. "I hope I'm not making you uncomfortable, loitering here in the lobby. But I'm meeting my pen pal here, and we both agreed that the post office seemed appropriate."
"Oh, that's okay, it's a public place. People come and go all day."
The blonde nervously worried the single button on her linen blazer and feigned interest in the snapshot tacked on the bulletin board, while Cupid weighed packages.
"That's Mariah," Cupid explained conversationally.
"I took down the FBI's 'most wanted' posters and gave Pop Tomlinson's newest grandchild top billing. Pop loves to brag about his grandchildren, so I thought he'd get a kick out of having her picture up for everyone to admire."
The woman pensively examined the snapshot. "I always wanted to be a mother," she said wistfully. "But well, I can't. Have children, I mean."
"Oh. I'm sorry. I -"
"Oh, please. No. Don't apologize. Look," she said, extending her hand, "my name's Moira." Cupid noted that a mother-of-pearl ring graced Moira's right ring finger; she took that as a sign. "I feel like I should introduce myself, since I seem to be taking up all your time and telling you all my secrets. Of course, I'm sure, in your job, you do get a glimpse into a lot of lives."
A mischievous smile tilted Cupid's mouth. "Yes. You could say that." But not the way you think.
They paused for a moment, and when Cupid saw Jake Crowell striding up the front walk to get his mail, inspiration struck. She tried to beat back the inclination, but it was all so logical. Really.
Here was a woman who wanted to be a mother.
Here was Jake, widowed two years and struggling to raise three adorable little girls.
It simply made sense. It did. Besides, she'd gotten a very good feeling about this woman. A very good feeling, indeed.
"What did you say your name was again?" Cupid asked.
"Moira. Moira McPherson."
"And you're from?"
"Chicago. But I'm sort of looking to move here, if -"
"Hi!" Jake's deep voice filled the room. "Got any mail for me?"
Cupid watched the vibration go down Moira's spine.
Done deal, she thought.
Moira half turned to Jake, tipping her head shyly as she backed out of the way to give him access to the counter. Jake's eyes merely slid in her direction, and he nodded.
Drat it all, they didn't make eye contact.
Cupid frowned and feigned a cursory interest in his mail. "Nothing good. Store stuff." She didn't give it to him immediately, but riffled through the envelopes before putting a rubber band around them. "Jake," she said softly, letting her voice run as thick and smooth as honey, "I don't believe you've met Moira McPherson, have you?"
"She's new to town. From Chicago."
He turned, automatically offering his hand.
"Jake Crowell, this is Moira," Cupid intoned carefully. "Moira, meet Jake. He owns the hardware store, but his real job is being a full-time daddy to three of the cutest little girls on these Kansas plains."
"She means I'm widowed," Jake explained, taking Moira's delicate hand in his palm.
"I see. Hello...." Moira looked up. Her crystalline-blue eyes locked with his mocha-dark ones.
The expression on Jake's face turned from smiling to smitten.
Ping! Just like that.
Smug satisfaction washed through Cupid. Hah! She was better than Samantha in Bewitched. She didn't even have to snap her fingers or wrinkle her nose. One teensytiny glance, and love bloomed. You just had to nurture the timing, that's all. Very simple, really.
Cupid sighed, knowing she had faded to dull shades of gray in Jake and Moira's peripheral vision. Ah, well, that's what happened. This love-at-first-sight business did have its drawbacks - it was a thankless job. But, hey, somebody had to do it. Besides, she consoled herself, years from now they'd thank her.
When, after five minutes, the couple was still engrossed in animated conversation, Cupid offered them a benevolent smile and moved on to hand-canceling the stamps.
Yes. Sometimes things happened for a reason. Every time she made a match she told herself that. It had become her mantra. Sometimes things happen for a reason.
Then the door opened, and a long shadow fell across the floor and the oblivious couple. Cupid looked up - and caught her breath.
A tall, rangy cowboy wearing dusty boots sauntered into the room, a slight swagger in his gait. Cupid couldn't help herself; she imprinted the sound of his footfalls on her memory - and then his image. Boot-cut jeans, faded at the knees, soft and clean. The dull shine of copper rivets following the mesmerizing motion of his hips. The silver-and-turquoise belt buckle on his flat belly, as defining as the man's own distinctive signature. Above it, a blue plaid cowboy shirt, with pearl snap pockets, hugged his torso.
Cupid's gaze continued to slowly inch up his thick chest, over his muscled shoulders and corded neck, before she looked up - into the most incredibly handsome face she'd ever seen.
Her breath sputtered and died in her lungs. The sweetest ache burrowed behind her breastbone, and her eyelids actually drifted partway closed.
This cowboy's face was made of no-nonsense angles and planes. Square jaw, blunt chin. Broad forehead. Full nose. His cheekbones were sculpted like high plateaus against the valley of his temples. His tobacco-dark hair feathered back, softening the hard edges of his face.
When his smooth, sensuous mouth parted, his eyes glittered, then nearly disappeared behind twin crescents of dark lashes.
Diamond like, Cupid thought insanely.
She longed to know the color. Cobalt-blue or gunmetal-gray?
He said something to her, and she stared at him dumbly, conscious only of the timbre of his voice, the cadence of his words, and the way they melodically fit together, like a balm to her soul. He waited, then his eyes flicked to the couple beside him.
Finally, it dawned on Cupid that he expected an answer. She flinched, immediately feeling as if she was two cents short of a first class delivery. "Excuse me?" she quavered. "I had my mind on ..." her gaze slipped to his wide shoulders and down his lean, hard belly "... other things," she finished lamely.
His belt buckle seemed to wink at her. Cupid's knees quivered. She didn't like it when inanimate objects appeared to take on a life of their own. It wasn't fair, not where she was concerned.
"I'm here to meet a friend," he repeated. "A woman?"
Realization struck like a crushing blow to the heart. "You? You're the pen pal?" Cupid asked, disbelief in her voice.
Excerpted from Cupid Jones Gets Married by DeAnna Talcott Copyright © 2003 by DeAnna Talcott
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.