Early Bird Special by New York Times–bestselling author Deirdre Martin
Fashion exec Dana Fine lives a fabulous life of international travel and glamour. But it only takes a few days visiting with her matchmaking grandparents for her to long for something more. Or maybe it’s sexy landscaper Josh Green who’s got her all hot and bothered. It’ll take some work—and perhaps posing as a blushing bride—to get what she really wants.
Weddings Ink by USA Today–bestselling author Christie Ridgway
Luke Harper was the last man wedding planner Charlotte Bond would ever date again. Then, her latest client demands Charlotte get up-close and personal with the whole bridal party—including best man Luke! But soon, business-only meetings turn to sultry nights, and suddenly Charlotte’s “never’ is coming dangerously close to “I do.”
All’s Fair In Love And Chocolate by international-bestelling author Laura Florand
Going undercover as a bride-to-be, food blogger Eloise Layne is determined to learn charismatic French chocolatier Simon Casset’s famously guarded secrets. But her investigation soon spins completely out of control—and somehow her man of mystery is succeeding in uncovering her every desire, one smoldering kiss at a time . . .
So save the date and get ready to fall in love with these three romantic tales that are all worth celebrating . . .
About the Author
California native and USA Today bestselling author, Christie Ridgway is the author of 50 romance novels. Christie dreamed of writing romance novels since childhood. She is a six-time finalist for the RITA, the most prominent romance fiction award. She is married to her college sweetheart whom she met at school in Santa Barbara. She has two sons.
Laura Florand was born in Georgia, but the travel bug bit her early. After a Fulbright year in Tahiti, a semester in Spain, and backpacking everywhere from New Zealand to Greece, she ended up living in Paris, where she met and married her own handsome Frenchman. She is now a lecturer at Duke University and very dedicated to her research on French chocolate.
Read an Excerpt
"How was your flight, hon?"
"Fine." Dana Fine squeezed her grandmother's tiny hand. They were in West Palm Beach Airport, waiting patiently for Dana's bags.
Dana had suggested her grandmother sit down while Dana waited by the luggage carousel, but Grandma Fine was having none of it. "I'm not an invalid, you know." Dana knew better than to push. If her eighty-year-old grandmother wanted to stand next to her while the carousel mindlessly looped 'round and 'round, Dana wasn't about to stop her.
Her grandmother was small but sturdy, her silver bob gleaming beneath the airport's fluorescent lights. Impatient, she pulled her glasses down to the end of her nose, squinting at her watch. "Your grandfather must be having a conniption, having to circle with the car."
"I told you, it would have been easier if I just took a cab to your place," Dana reminded her gently.
"Waste of time and money," her grandmother declared, patting her head to make sure every hair was in place. "Besides, this gives me a little more time with you."
Dana was immediately swamped in guilt. She hadn't been to Boca Raton to see her grandparents in two years, because she was always traveling. As the director of retail expansion for La Belle Femme, an upscale chain of boutiques for women, her job took her all over the world. This year alone, she'd been to London, Rome, and Geneva. She spent more time away than at home. She used to deny this, until she was at a barbecue at her friend Suzanne's house, and Suzanne's four-year-old daughter innocently asked, "Do you live on a plane?"
The question forced her to make a lifestyle evaluation, something she'd been avoiding. She wasn't going to lie: she had a great salary, a great wardrobe, and a great, some might even say "exotic," job. Unfortunately, she also had no husband and no children. She told herself she was okay with that, until she found herself starting to get teary holding her friends' babies. That's when she was forced to admit she wanted a family sooner rather than later. There was just one problem, and it was one she knew lots of women would kill to have: La Belle Femme was planning to open a store in Paris. If they did, it would be Dana's to run.
Dana felt a nudge in her ribs. "That one's gotta be yours." While she'd been daydreaming, everyone else who'd been on the flight had collected their luggage. There was just one large, lonely Coach suitcase riding the carousel.
"All right," she said to her grandmother, grabbing the bag the next time it came 'round. "Let's go find Grandpa."
"Probably having a conniption," her grandmother repeated.
Slowing her pace, Dana accompanied her grandmother outside. There, idling in front of the steel and glass airport, was her grandfather's taupe Lexus, the trunk already popped. Dana threw her bag in the trunk and climbed into the backseat.
"What the hell took you so long?"
Dana's mood deflated, not because of her grandfather's gruffness, but because of the heat. She'd hoped he'd be blasting the air-conditioning, since walking out of the airport was like entering a blindingly bright, palm tree–lined sauna. Instead, the temperature in the car seemed warmer than the air outside.
"It didn't take us long at all," her grandmother countered, settling beside him in the front seat. "If you'd just found a parking space and waited with me like I told you, you wouldn't have had to circle."
Dana's grandfather muttered something unintelligible under his breath before smiling at Dana in the rearview mirror. "How's my girl?"
Looking at her grandparents, Dana noticed the differences two years had made: her grandfather, once a big, silver-haired bear of a man, looked a little more stooped than last time. Both of their spines were a little more crooked, and their age spots were bigger. The veins showing through tan hands were more ropey and prominent. The wrinkles on their faces etched deeper. But none of that mattered. They were who they'd always been: Grandma and Grandpa.
"How long have we got you for?" her grandfather asked, driving slowly down Jog Road, the ruler-straight avenue that would take them to Huerto de Naranja, the gated retirement community in Boca Raton where her grandparents lived. Cars driven by young, rich professionals flew by theirs, the drivers flipping her grandfather off. "Yeah, you go fuck yourselves, too!" her grandfather yelled.
"Idiots," her grandmother said. "Better safe than sorry, I always say."
"You're goddamn right." Her grandfather glanced at Dana again in the mirror. "We were saying —?"
"I'm not here long," said Dana, rummaging through her shoulder bag for some water. She chugged it down like a woman who'd been staggering through the desert for days. Thirst quenched, she sat back with a satisfied sigh. "Actually, I'm not completely sure. Three weeks, tops."
Her grandfather shook his head, prompting Dana's guilt to return. "Is it worth it? All this hopping around you do for your job? You look tired."
"Leave her alone, Sam," her grandmother said sharply.
"Who's bothering her?"
"C'mon, you guys." Dana leaned forward between the front seats, squeezing both of their shoulders. "No time for bickering. I'm just glad I'm here."
Her grandmother grinned. "So are we, doll." She turned to her husband. "Staying with us rather than at the Four Seasons in Palm Beach," she marveled. "Can you beat that?"
Her grandfather smiled happily. "Of course she is."
Dana leaned back again, feeling mildly groggy. She decided to be grateful for the small things: her grandfather would never acknowledge a request to turn up the AC, but at least he wasn't a horrible driver.
She closed her eyes, since there was really nothing to see apart from identical shopping centers, most of them boasting the same set of stores: a Publix supermarket, a Subway, a Rite Aid, and a bank. Sometimes you'd spot the occasional deli. That was it.
She was surprised by how short the ride was. No sooner was she on the cusp of sleep than they were driving through the condo community's gates and parking the car in its reserved spot.
Dana stepped out of the car, thankful she was wearing her sunglasses as the bright sun beat down. Good old Huerto de Naranja, she thought, where every condo unit and semidetached house looked exactly the same. Same stucco walls, same adobe-tiled roof, same immaculately manicured flowers and plants lining the front walk. Nothing had changed since the last time she was here. But somehow, there was comfort in that.CHAPTER 2
The next morning, Dana awakened at the crack of dawn to go running. She used the term "awakened" loosely; to be honest, she hadn't slept much. Her grandparents kept their condo warm enough to hatch chicks. Somewhere around three A.M., Dana had crept out of her bedroom and turned the thermostat down just a tiny bit. But an hour later, her room began sweltering again, and she knew one of them had inched it back up. It would be an unspoken battle for the length of her stay.
Once again, Florida's summer humidity smacked her in the face as she set off, making a point of remembering both her grandparents' address and the color of the car next to theirs. That way, she'd be able to find her way back if she got lost among the identical buildings on the identical streets. "I don't know why they chose to live there," Dana's mother had sniffed disdainfully when her parents left Manhattan for Boca. "It's like being dead when you're still alive."
Jogging down the silent streets, Dana wasn't so sure she agreed. What was wrong with wanting to be somewhere safe where there was beautiful weather all year-round? Or living within walking distance of your friends, whom you could hang out with all day long? Her grandparents seemed happy. Who was her mother to judge?
At any rate, Dana was glad to have a few days to herself before she had to start interviewing for the Palm Beach store. She remembered when she used to find her job interesting. Now she found it tedious, except when she thought about Paris.
After an hour of doing laps, dawn had become more insistent, and Dana, coated in a thick sheen of sweat, started back to the condo. She was the only person out except for some tan, well-built guy in a muscle shirt, work boots, and battered blue jeans, staring intently at a line of azalea bushes as if they were a work of art. Dana made a U-turn the minute she saw him. She had no ID on her, no cell, no rape whistle. He was probably one of the maintenance crew, but still, she felt safer steering clear of him. You never knew.
By four that afternoon, Dana was no longer certain that choosing to spend the entire day with her grandmother had been such a good idea. So far, they'd spent the morning hours sitting by the clubhouse pool, where she'd been the only one who actually swam. They'd shopped at the mall, where her grandmother urged her to buy anything she wanted. But every time Dana picked something out, her grandma would give her a look that could wither a fresh flower. Finally, in capitulation, Dana let her grandmother buy her a shirt. On first glance, it wasn't that bad: a plain, beige women's button-down blouse. The problem was the epaulets. The blouse had gold epaulets. Dana had never worn anything with epaulets in her life, and she never would. The minute she got home, she was giving it to charity.
Luckily, the trials of the morning vanished when her grandmother took her over to her best friend Molly's for lunch late in the day. Dana had known Molly her whole life, and had always adored her. She was blunt and funny, and she had always treated Dana like she was in on a big secret. Molly made her feel special.
"Look at you!" Molly exclaimed as Dana and her grandmother came through her front door. "I can't believe it's been two years!"
"Neither can I," Dana's grandmother commented under her breath.
Molly, too, had aged since the last time Dana had seen her, but there was something timeless about her. Perhaps it was the mischievous glint in her eye, or the edgy pixie cut she'd always sported. Whatever it was, Dana had always found her inspiring. "I made your favorite," said Molly, cupping Dana's cheek the same way she had when she was small. "Tuna on rye bread, with chocolate milk."
"Oh, Molly." Dana hugged her. It meant so much to her that Molly remembered. Dana had stopped eating that meal years ago, but it didn't matter: Molly made it with love, and every time Molly made it for her, Dana ate it.
Molly motioned Dana and her grandmother into her small, white kitchen. Her condo wasn't broiling like her grandparents', but it was a close second.
"Sit, sit," Molly urged as she regarded Dana's grandmother with a frown. "I swear to Christ, Adele, I'd sit in the Florida room, but it's too hot."
"Turn up the AC," Dana suggested.
"It's got nothing to do with the AC," said Molly. "It's that the room is all glass. The sun beats down, you fry. End of story." She looked at Dana hopefully. "How long are you here for?"
"Three weeks, tops. Why?"
Molly threw Dana's grandmother a significant look. It took Dana only a split second to figure out what was up. "No. No, no, no, no."
"Hear me out," said Molly.
Dana made a face as she poured out some chocolate milk for herself.
"It's my nephew, Josh."
"You never told me you had a nephew named Josh. I certainly never met a nephew of yours named Josh."
"He's my brother Greg's son. He grew up in Chicago. That's why you never met him: that branch of the family rarely came to New York."
Dana's grandmother shook her head, looking mystified. "I'll never understand that."
"Anyway," Molly continued, "Josh lives down here now. He's a big-time landscape architect, with a degree from Cornell."
Dana was unmoved. "So?"
"Why don't you meet him for a drink?" her grandmother suggested.
"What is the point of us meeting for a drink when I'm leaving in under a month?" Dana asked, cutting her sandwich in half.
Molly looked at Dana's grandmother with incredulity. "Would you listen to this one?"
"It's a drink, Dana, not picking out a china pattern," said her grandmother.
"What's the harm?" her grandmother continued good-naturedly. "What, you want to spend every night with me and your grandfather, when you could be out exploring the nightlife, meeting people your own age?"
"Josh is nice," Molly continued. "He's good-looking, easygoing ..."
"Then why is he single?"
"Why are you single?" her grandmother retorted.
"Adele!" Molly looked horrified. "That's not fair." She smiled at Dana, though her disappointment was obvious. "Look, it's no big deal. We just thought: two workaholics, it might be nice if, while you're here, you relaxed a little. God knows Josh could use some relaxation, too. He drives himself into the ground."
Dana considered the proposition before her. What was one drink? If they had nothing to say to each other, or if it was a case of loathing on first sight, the whole thing could be over and done with in half an hour. She hated to admit it, but her grandmother was right: it might be nice to have a drink with someone her own age. She had a few business connections in Palm Beach, but the thing about going for cocktails with business acquaintances was that you inevitably talked business. Hmm. One drink with a landscape architect with a degree from Cornell versus watching American Pickers with her grandparents. She supposed she could make the sacrifice.
"I'll do it," she said, "on one condition."
Molly's and her grandma's eyes lit up simultaneously. It was disconcerting. "What's that?" her grandmother asked.
"I want to see him first."
"Fair enough," said Molly, who had just chugged down her chocolate milk like it was bourbon. "Here's what we'll do. Adele, you call Josh."
Dana turned to her grandmother. "You know him?"
"Of course I know him. Everyone around here knows him. Like Molly said, he's a big-shot architect. I've met him many times."
Molly continued issuing instructions to Dana's grandmother. "Ask him if he can swing by your place tomorrow after work. Tell him that the white frangipani you have in the clay pot in the kitchen is wilting for no good reason, and you want him to take a look at it. Pluck a few blossoms, crumple them, and throw them to the ground. Make it look real."
Dana's grandmother stared at her. "I'm not an idiot, you know."
"When he comes by, introduce him to Dana," Molly continued. "A few days later, I'll see him and say something like, 'Oh, Adele told me you stopped by to look at her frangipani. Blah, blah, blah, blah, did you meet her niece, blah, blah, blah, she's new in town, it might be nice to go for drinks, blah, done."
"Wow," Dana deadpanned. "That summation is really encouraging."
Molly frowned. "You know what I mean."
"And what if he says, 'Not interested'?" Dana asked. The thought rankled. And she hadn't even met the guy yet. For all she knew, he could be the world's biggest jackass. Yet here she was, already imagining herself being rejected.
"Doubtful," said Molly. "He's many things, but stupid isn't one of them." She glanced around the table. "Are we agreed on this? Josh stopping by?"
"You mean tricking Josh into stopping by," Dana pointed out.
"Who cares how we get him there?" her grandmother countered. "As long as he comes over."
"He will," said Molly.
Dana's grandmother touched her wrist. "Wear your new shirt."
Dana gave her a dirty look. "This is just introducing us to see if we want to meet for drinks at some point, right? It's not a setup for a date."
"You still want to look nice," said her grandmother. "That shirt is nice."
Dana thought fast; she'd rather meet this guy in her hole-filled sweats than wear the shirt. "I'd like to save the shirt for a real date, if that happens," she said, putting just the right amount of pathos in her voice.
Her grandmother looked thrilled by her use of the word date. "Completely understandable."
"So we're a go," Molly said triumphantly. "That wasn't too hard, was it?"CHAPTER 3
Does tying your own grandmother to a chair qualify as elder abuse? Maybe not, if it's for her own good, Dana thought, watching her grandmother anxiously pace the living room. As planned, a phone call had been placed to Josh Green, and he was stopping by her grandparents' condo around six. That in itself was not unnerving; it was the way her grandmother sounded talking to him on the phone, all helpless and coquette-ish on a level that would make Scarlett O'Hara proud. Oh, Rhett. Rhett, please. Why, this white frangipani in my kitchen — I do believe it's dyin' a most piteous death, Rhett. Oh, please, do come.
And now here she was, wearing a groove in the carpet as if awaiting royalty. "Where is he? It's six."
"'Around six' means anywhere from quarter to six till quarter after six," said Dana's grandfather, eyeing his wife warily from the couch, where he sat thumbing through The Palm Beach Post.
"No, it means six," her grandmother insisted.
"If he'd meant six on the dot, that's what he'd have said."
Her grandmother looked exasperated. "Sam? Go over to your friend, Ernie's, please, and leave me in peace. You're frazzling my nerves."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Kiss the Bride"
Copyright © 2012 Kensington Publishing Corp..
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Table of Contents
Early Bird Special,
All's Fair in Love and Chocolate,