Grace Bennett is determined to set a perfect example for her new wedding planning business. From now on it will take more than good looks and a charming smile to win her over. The next guy to get her attention will be sweet, dependable, and looking for something serious. But first she'll have to survive the next couple of weeks at The Aegean Palace with swoon-worthy Ari Katsalos.
Ari doesn't believe in happily-ever-after. Between his estranged parents and the cheating spouses he tracks down as a P.I., he hasn't seen many examples of a good marriages. Helping out at his parents' wedding hall seems like a nightmare... except for the time spent beside the irresistible Grace.
Ari and Grace want very different things, but it's getting tough to resist the powerful chemistry burning between them.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.41(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Ari Katsalos carefully lifted the motorcycle helmet he'd thrown onto wedding planner Grace Bennett's desk and let out another curse.
Some kind of pastel, head-band thing with flowers sticking up was now a mash of fabric and bits of wire. Stark white ribbon leaned at a drunken angle, and sparkly bits had broken off and fallen onto the floor. Considering how surprised — and probably pissed — Grace was going to be when she found him sitting behind her desk in his parents' wedding hall, this wasn't a great start.
As he looked around, the muscles across his shoulders tensed. This might be his family's comfort zone, and no doubt Grace's, but it gave him a bad case of wanna-get-the-hell-out.
Marriage and weddings? He hadn't seen many successful ones, and now he made a business out of catching cheating lovers. Having to spend the next few weeks here wasn't far short of a nightmare, but sometimes duty called, and here he was, drowning in fluff and fantasies.
Retrieving the mangled decoration, he carefully covered it with a bit of pink lacy fabric and decided to tell Grace about it when the time was better.
She would be making her way across the courtyard from the Palace's kitchens. He'd left a message saying she was needed urgently in her office, and she'd be walking through that door in about three ... two ... one ...
"Ari, what are you doing here?"
Grace stood at the open door, her delicate fingers gripping the edge, a blush tinting her pale cheeks. "I wasn't expecting you. I thought your sister would be taking over again. Or maybe even your parents ... ?"
He pushed the chair back and stood, his gaze trained on her arched neck, her milky skin and the tiny frown crumpling her forehead. It had been a while since he'd last seen Grace Bennett, but each time they'd met, a zap of electricity shot through the room.
Just like one did now.
He swallowed hard. The way she was desperately trying to focus on anything but him, said she felt it, too.
So, if they had such great chemistry, why hadn't she wanted to go beyond their one and only date?
With her sexy presence and confident smile, Grace was the type of girl guys dreamed of marrying. Yeah, maybe that was it — since he wasn't into long-term commitments it was probably for the best. Didn't account for why he hadn't been able to get her out of his head for the last few months, though. And now he was going to do more than think about her. Over the next few weeks, they'd spend a lot more time together than either of them had expected.
He slung a hand in his pocket and got straight to the point. "Yasmin and her fiancé are staying a bit longer in Greece — catching up with my parents for the next month. Have a seat." He gestured for her to sit at her desk.
She stayed motionless, the floor space a barrier between them as she slowly smiled. "I didn't think you'd be interested in looking after the Palace for your parents like your brother and sister did." She tilted her head, playfully. "I can't imagine you buried in wedding lace and garter belts."
Zap. The power jolt again.
He grinned. She didn't seem as put out as he'd expected. "Being the only Katsalos left in Westchester County and having this responsibility isn't my idea of fun, believe me," he said. He waved his arm toward her chair again. "Sounds like you've got everything pretty much under control, anyway."
She held his gaze as she moved past a mannequin dressed in a ton of white fabric. Her blond hair swung just beneath her jawbone, the soft fabric of her flowery dress whispering against her legs.
"So," she said, picking up his helmet and handing it to him. She lifted the lacy pink fabric and a brief cloud crossed her face when she noticed the twisted crown thing, but she carried on. "The first thing you'll need to know is that I'll be leaving next Monday. We've got two big weddings this weekend but then there's nothing major booked for the next two weeks, so you should be okay. I'm really sorry the timing's so bad. I know some great temp planners who could step in 'til your family gets back." She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. "I'll help your parents out any way I can."
He took the helmet and put it on a chair. "Leaving?" He let out a breath, sharper than he'd intended. "Because it's me who's in charge? Why don't I know about this?" Tension rolled up his spine one vertebrae at a time. How in hell could he run this place on his own?
The last time they'd seen each other, his brother Nick was looking after the Palace. But it was only for a minute. The time before that had been much more memorable. They'd been on her doorstep after that first ... and last ... date when he'd leaned in for a kiss. She'd gotten all flustered and stepped inside so fast he was left standing like a cartoon cat with its head spinning. He'd called the next day, but she'd said she was busy, and ... he could take the hint. Maybe Grace Bennett thought she was a cut above a tattooed PI from the city.
She smiled, and it blew away some of the tension in the room. "No, it's not you. It's something I've been planning for a long time, but as you know, things have been extra busy here in the last few months, and with all your mom and dad's problems, I didn't want to throw that into the mix. I'd thought Yasmin and Lane would come back after their trip to Italy, so now seemed a good time to step aside. I'm really sorry but I've made plans."
He rested hands low on his hips. "You figure the best time to leave a sinking ship is when my parents are on the other side of the world trying to save their marriage? You'd walk out and leave everything to a guy who knows nothing about weddings and who doesn't have anything close to your skill set? Yasmin said you did great together when she was redecorating the place, and Nick said the same when he was making the structural changes. Did you plan on leaving when they were in charge?"
This could not be happening. His parents' marriage was on the brink of divorce, and the last thing he wanted to do was to destroy their business. He had to fix this.
She took a step back, her lips pressed together.
Of course. She didn't want to work with him. He'd bet his bike that up until thirty seconds ago, Grace Bennett was happy enough to support his family in this business, and now she wanted out. And that was going to cause a mega-storm of problems, not the least of which would be that he'd be here on his own, actually in charge of brides and weddings. He shuddered and scrubbed a hand across the back of his neck. "When did you decide to go? Dad never mentioned you leaving."
She lifted her gaze to his. "Ari, no one's more sorry than I am that your mom and dad are going through a rough time. In the last three years, Mano and Pia have become like family to me, but it's time I moved on. I've found a great site for my own store, and I'll open within a couple of months. From what your mom said the last time we spoke, she wasn't even sure she was coming back here."
He scrubbed a hand across his chin. She already had a plan for what to do when she left? "Leaving's not an option." He shook his head, his stomach clenching. "You're the only person who can help me here. I need you, Grace."
A flush swept up her neck as she rearranged the pile of fabric on her desk.
"And if that's not enough, my entire family needs you, too."
She nibbled at her bottom lip and shook her head. "I'd love to help you out, but the timing's just all wrong. I'm really sorry."
He pulled up a chair, turned it backward and straddled it. "I might've grown up in this business, but I've been a PI for the past six years." He held her gaze to let her know how serious he was. "Want to know how much I know about wedding dresses and bridezillas these days?" He dragged a finger through the air across his throat. "Nada." He dropped his voice. "Want to know how much I intend learning about wedding dresses and bridezillas? Double nada. But no decent person would stand by and watch all his parents' hard work over the last thirty years go down the john. If you leave now, the Aegean Palace is finished. And I'd bet my bike that you don't want to see that happen."
She hesitated and emotion blossomed on her face. "I'm sure I could find a temp for you by the time I leave." She pulled her cell toward her. "Let me give a couple of them a call."
"I don't want anyone else."
He drew in a slow, calming breath and waited until she'd swung her gaze to his again and the air sparked. "I want you." He crossed his arms on the back of the chair. "Grace, you understand this place. You're the only reason it's survived all the craziness, and only you can keep things running smoothly. I can't call a temp PI. I've gotta keep my own business going, so if you're not here, we'll be screwed." He tried a grin. "I'll beg if it helps."
She pushed a golden strand of hair back from her face and tucked it behind her ear. "I'm sorry, Ari. I'd really like to help, but I can't. You'll find a replacement for me in no time."
He rolled the tension from his shoulders. If they lost her, then the whole business would crumble, and there'd be nothing for his father to bring his mother back to. And above everything, he wanted his parents home and back together.
"I understand you're feeling unsettled without my mom and dad here, but couldn't you wait until they get back to open your store? Everyone knows you've been the best thing to happen to this business in years."
And I want to see that for myself.
"I've put a deposit on a store lease, and I can't afford to pay rent without it earning for me." Her hand still rested on the phone, and she tapped her fingers on her chin. Was that hesitation in her voice? "My best friends Lettie and Meg are coming to work for me, and I can't let them down. I was hoping to start work as soon as possible."
He held her gaze. "What sort of store?"
"Wedding accessories with a planning service." She rolled her fingers across a line of sharpened colored pencils on the desk. "I need to spread my wings, and now's the best time to do it." For the first time since she'd come into the room, her face was lit, her movements animated.
He rested his chin on his fist and surveyed her. "Maybe, but there's no time to get someone used to the way things are done around here. You said yourself there are weddings this weekend. What if I thought of a way to help you kick off your new business while you're still working here?"
She levelled him with her stunning blue-eyed stare. "Like what?"
Now was not the time to get completely and utterly lost in those eyes, but another time, another place ...
He stood and held his hands out, palms up, his mind tripping over itself in the rush to come up with a solution. "What if you set up your business but make a commitment to work on contract with us for the rest of this season, just until things are back to normal? It'd mean you keep an income while you have all your set-up costs, and we get a transition back to my family running things. We can put your name and all your new business information on any of our advertising from now on."
She paused, her head tilted on the slightest of angles. "So, I'd only need to be here for the next month or so, and during that time you'd let me set up my own business and promote myself as an independent service?"
It sounded even better when she said it.
"Yeah, just until one of my family steps back in. But I'd want you to manage the bookings the same way you normally would. You'd be here when you were needed, which could be quite a bit since I've got a whole lot of work for my own business." He pulled a wallet from his jeans pocket, opened it, then handed her a card. "You can call me anytime. I keep some pretty strange hours, but if you ever need me, I'll be here." He nodded at the broken crown on her desk and grinned. "And I'll try not to make a mess of things."
She put the card on the corner of her desk, sat back in the chair, and her shoulders relaxed. "And you wouldn't mind if I was working with my own clients while I'm running things here?"
"Why should I? We'd keep you on as a contractor, so you could recommend the Palace as a venue sometimes, and we could all benefit. And maybe your friends could be getting things set up for you in the meantime."
She slowly nodded, and her face brightened. "Just a month or so? And then you'd take things over?"
Ari laughed. She clearly wasn't a very good judge of character. If he took over the Palace alone there'd be a helluva lot more broken than a few wedding crowns. If that happened, there wouldn't be any sort of business here by the time his parents got back. "Hell, no. I'm never going to take things over, and no one in my family would let me. I'm just keeping an eye on things, then I'm out of here. I've rented an office in town. But as I said, call me anytime."
She tapped her fingers on the desk. "It would be good to still base myself here for a couple of weeks until my place is ready. And we are busy this weekend ... You know I've been living in the apartment out back. Could I stay there for now?"
He'd make a note to respect her privacy, but it was a good feeling — thinking of her being here full-time.
She rolled her lips together. "I've been so focused on the store I haven't gotten around to organizing a new apartment."
"That's settled, then," Ari said, trying to hide a sigh of relief. "I'll call Dad tonight and let him know what you've decided. From now on, you're Grace Bennett, independent wedding planner, and you're going to make sure I don't screw this place up."
Early the next afternoon, Grace signed her name to the bottom of a flower order and sat back in her chair. Normally at this time of day, she'd be in Pia Katsalos's kitchen eating Greek honey cookies and talking about fantasy weddings. She missed her real boss, and now she had her third one in the last few months — Pia's son, Ari, who wore raw masculinity like a well-cut suit. And if only he did wear a suit instead of the black T-shirt that so perfectly defined his chest, and the faded jeans that hugged his strong thighs, maybe then she could concentrate on her work.
She remembered when Pia Katsalos had spoken of her youngest son, there had often been sadness in her voice — as if she didn't really know him anymore. According to Pia, Ari hadn't been the star athlete that Nick had been, or the brilliant academic type, like his sister Yazmin. No, when Pia had spoken about Ari it was of a boy who took risks and ran with a different sort of crowd. Someone who was a mystery, especially to those closest to him.
Avoiding him today by finishing work in her office hadn't been hard, but now she needed to confirm some things with Pavlo, the new chef, and she'd seen Ari walking into the restaurant. She was becoming increasingly unsure about working for him. He didn't understand a thing about running a wedding hall and seemed to be the type who had pretty strong opinions on things.
And then there were those muscles and that sexy way his mouth moved when he grinned ...
Her phone rang — Lettie, her best friend.
"Chick," Lettie said before Grace had even said hello. "Please tell me you've spent all day staring at that Greek god."
Grace groaned and pressed the heel of her palm to her forehead. "Argh. What am I gonna do, Let? He said he was going to be working from his office in town, but he seems to come and go whenever he feels like it. Maybe I should just tell him that I'll be fine on my own for now and that he should go back to New York. That way I won't have to be around him."
Or stare at that mouth and wonder what it would feel like having those lips pressed against my skin.
"Hot looks, great bod ... why not have those in your face twenty-four-seven?" Lettie asked, a laugh in her voice. "It'll do you good."
"I dunno," she said. "It's like those cop shows."
"The ones you watched back to back when you were going through your divorce?" Her friend's voice was softer.
She'd wanted to convince herself then that there were still some good men in the world. Men who wanted to protect their women, men who believed in love and honor, not suspicion and control. The second she'd said, "I do," her husband Mark had changed from sexy and playful to unpredictable and intense. Slowly, she'd begun to second-guess herself — never able to please him — and by the end of their marriage she'd wondered how she could've fallen in love with someone like him.
"You know something?" she said to Lettie. "Ari looks exactly like the cops on those shows."
Dark eyes verging on black, framed by even darker brows, with pecs that could crack walnuts and biceps that made women drool. No, she would not drag the back of her hand across to check for tell-tale signs she was doing that now.
"Then why not get to know him better?" Lettie asked. "You know his family, his background. That's the perfect guy to have some fun with."
"Guys like that are just fantasies, Let. Guys who in olden times would've been knights, scooping damsels in distress onto white steeds and galloping off into the sunset — whether the damsel liked it or not."
Excerpted from "Four Weddings and a Fling"
Copyright © 2017 Barbara DeLeo.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love the Katsalos family and it feels bittersweet to say goodbye to this series. Grace has been working for the Katsalos family for a long time and has been holding down the fort since the parents took off for Greece. Once Ari arrives to take his turn running The Aegean Palace, Grace informs him that she's leaving to start her own business. Ari is no wedding planner. He's a tattooed, motorcycle-driving PI who tracks down cheating spouses for a living. Once these two start working together and exploring their explosive chemistry, the connection they share grows. But from the beginning, Ari and Grace have known that they want different things and that will never change. Or will it? I have loved every book in this series and am sad to see it end. Ari's story has been a long time coming but he was the perfect ending for the Katsalos family and he had a perfect partner in Grace who is already an honorary family member. I was so in love with this story that I finished it in one sitting. *This is my voluntary review of an advanced reader copy*
This is a nice story but I just didn't connect with the writer's work or the characters That doesn't mean someone else might. Thanks to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me to read this story.
The Katsalos are back! I have been waiting for Ari's story, well worth the wait. Ari has returned home to Aegean Palace to help save his estranged parent's wedding business when he meets Grace the wedding planner. Ari does not believe in happily ever after but Grace on the other end believes and wants the next man in her life to be the everything. Grace his leaving the business and now Ari has to convince her to stay. As the chemistry heats up between the two can Grace fight it off. A fun story that I really enjoyed. Great characters with a chemistry that flowed well. This is part of a series but can be read as a stand alone.
LOVED it!! Feels like I've been waiting forever for the final Katsalos story and it was well worth the wait. Bad boy of the family Ari is now back in town doing what he can to help save the family wedding business and The Aegean Palace even though he doesn't personally believe in happily ever after. He doesn't have a clue what he can do but he needs to be here. As long as Grace Bennett is around everything should be just fine! When Grace announces she's leaving Ari is in a panic. He's a motorcycle riding, tattooed. private investigator not a wedding planner. He has to do whatever he can to get Grace to stay. Once he does and business starts to pick up Ari finds himself more involved than he ever expected to be! A fun read that I truly enjoyed. I recommend this one.