In the business world, Brodie Fortune Hayes is known as a man of no mercy. The all-work, no-play PR consultant is sure he'll have no trouble correcting the image problems plaguing the Cowboy Country theme park. There's just one complication: the green-eyed beauty sitting behind the boss's desk who makes his pulse race like a roller coaster!
Caitlyn Moore never imagined working side by side with Brodie after sharing a most out-of-character night of passion with him a few months before! And now, thanks to her dad's absence-by-illness, she's his boss? Brodie's bottom-line mentality is as infuriating as his blue bedroom eyes are intoxicatingbut Cait is convinced that there's a heart lurking beneath his designer armor. Perhaps she can prove to him that love is the greatest Fortune of all
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Brides or grooms?" the tall, handsome guy asked. He had a British accent.
Caitlyn Moore had locked eyes with the tall hunk of gorgeousness only a moment before he'd moved across the room to stand next to her. The accent was the icing on top of an already delicious-looking bit of eye candy.
Too bad eye candy wasn't on her diet.
"I beg your pardon?" she said.
"Are you here in support of a friend or relative of one of the brides or one of the grooms? Or, perhaps, you're acquainted with all of them?"
When he'd said all of them, he wasn't kidding. There were four of eachthis was the soon-to-be-famous Grand Fortune weddingand Caitlyn didn't know a single one of them personally. From what she'd heard, the Fortunes always did everything in a big way.
"None of the above," she said.
"So you're a wedding crasher, then?" Twin dimples winked at her when he smiled.
"No, of course not."
Dressed in an expensive-looking dark suit and crisp white shirt, the Brit had a cocksure James Bond air about him. He probably didn't have to work very hard at getting women to engage. Still, Caitlyn didn't feel like explaining that she hated weddings and wouldn't be here unless it was absolutely necessary. She'd come in place of her parents, who had received the invitation to Horseback Hollow's social event of the decade in a town this small, it might even be the wedding of the century.
Tonight not one, but four Fortunes had gotten married on their parents' sprawling ranch. They'd exchanged vows on a huge outdoor stage that had been constructed for the ceremony. She'd overheard someone talking about how the large red barn on the property had been renovated especially for tonight's reception. The place looked like a magical wonderland lit by thousands of candles and twinkle lights. There were so many flowers she shuddered to think of the bottom line on the florist's bill. It might even surpass the catering bill for the sumptuous-looking buffet dinner, which she was going to miss because her objective was to sign the guest book and leave. No one would miss her if she left a little early, especially since she was there on a mission that might best be described as keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.
In this case, the Fortunesall fifty jillion of themwere the enemy.
It still baffled her that the Fortunes, who had gone to such lengths to get the locals all riled up, making everyone believe that her family's venture, Cowboy Country USA, a Western-themed amusement park, was the root of all evil and would be the demise of Horseback Hollow, would invite her family to the wedding.
Her parents had regretted missing out, but her father had fallen ill this morning, and her mother had stayed home to care for him. Caitlyn had come to the wedding on their behalf, to represent the Moore family and Cowboy Country. She wasn't here to glad-hand and win people over, of course. She'd simply signed the guest book Alden Moore and family, a subtle reminder that Moore Entertainment was not the enemy. On the contrary. They wanted to be the good neighbor, getting along with the residents of Horseback Hollow, every one of whom, it seemed, had been invited to the wedding.
She looked at the Brit, who wasn't acting shy about eyeing her.
And that part of the saying that talked about keeping your friends close? Yeah. It definitely applied to this new friend.
A moment ago, she was sure her work here was done, and all she needed to do was wait for the brides and grooms to finish their first dance before she made a discreet exit; except now the hot guy with the cool accent was smiling at her like he found her utterly fascinating.
"All right, then, love," he purred. "What is your story?"
He pinned her with the most spectacular pair of blue eyes she'd ever seen before arching his right brow a fraction of an inch in a manner that suggested he was waiting for her to elaborate. And then there was that accent. Why had she always been a sucker for an accent? It was her libido's Achilles' heel.
"What?" she said. "Are you the bouncer here to throw me out?"
He crossed his arms and appraised her in a less than subtle way that had her insides going all warm and melty. She needed to stop that right now. Mirroring his stance, she crossed her arms and tilted her chin up, hoping for some self-preservation, but her warm and melty insides offered no structure. Her resolve started to slowly crumble under the heat.
"If you must know," she said. "I'm here by proxy."
"I didn't realize wedding invitations were transferable," he said. "Don't worry, I won't land you in it, because" he leaned in and whispered in her ear "really, I don't belong here, either."
I won't land you in it. He was so maddeningly, adorably British it was almost too much, and he was standing so close that she could smell his colognesomething that was probably expensive. Something vaguely green and woodsymaybe sandalwood and some cedarand oh, so manly and delicious.
"So you're the one who doesn't belong here?" she countered. "How do you know I'm not the wedding police, ready to bounce you?"
His eyes glistened as his gaze made an even bolder perusal of her body, meandering down the length of her and back up again. Her heart beat with the pulse of the music, and she reveled in this irresistible, magnetic physical awareness.
"Not in that dress, love."
His breath held a faint hint of peppermint.
"What's wrong with my dress?"
"Not a bloody thing."
He flashed a smile that showcased perfect white teeth, and there were those dimples again.
Oh, God, just take me now.
A thrill the likes of which Caitlyn had never experienced skittered down her spine, waking up places that had been sleeping for far too long. This was fun. A lot more fun than she'd dreamed she'd have tonight.
As a waiter passed by with a tray of champagne, he grabbed two flutes and handed one to her.
"Thank you." She raised her glass to him, and he followed suit, clinking his to hers before they sipped.
She'd purchased the red dress and strappy heels on the fly this morning. Since she'd only planned on visiting her parents for a few days, she'd packed light and casual. She hadn't brought along anything that was appropriate for an elaborate Valentine's Day wedding. She'd been pleasantly surprised to find the flirty little dress in a boutique in Lubbock. With his eyes on her, it felt a whole lot sexier than it had when she'd tried it on and decided it would do. She hadn't really been excited about the dress or the thought of attending the wedding of four couples she didn't know. It had barely been a year since she'd called off her own engagement.
The only reason she'd agreed to come tonight was because it had seemed so important to her father. He'd asked her to represent the family because he thought it would be a sign of solidarity for the good folks of Horseback Hollow, or possibly considered a slight if no one from the Moore family bothered to attend. As if anyone would even notice in such a crowd.
Who knew she'd meet someone so fun to play with. Maybe she wasn't in quite as big a hurry to leave after all. Then again, if she knew what was good for her, she'd leave right now before she gave this Brit a chance to charm her new red dress right off her.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Cait" She always went by Caitlyn, but tonight it felt more fun to simply be Cait.
"Ah, as in Kiss Me, Kate?"
"Oh, are you a fan of musical theater?"
"Not particularly. I simply wanted to say that." Their gazes locked. "Kiss me Cait."
For the life of her, she didn't know what came over her, because the next thing she knew, she was leaning in and claiming his lips.
She didn't even know his name, but she adored the taste of himchampagne and mint and something else she couldn't name, something that made her lose herself a little bit and lean in a little closer. His kiss sang through her veins, sent spirals of longing coursing through her, causing the fire deep in her most personal places to rage.
It had been a long time since she'd kissed a man. Since Eric No, she wouldn't think about him. Eric would not ruin this moment or this night, which was becoming better and better with each passing second.
The sound of the bandleader inviting the wedding guests to join the happy couples on the dance floor edged out the interloping thoughts of her ex. When she pulled back, the reality of what she'd just done washed away any lingering residue of Eric.
She'd kissed a man she'd known for less than ten minutes.
And she wanted to kiss him again.
Those were the only words echoing in Brodie Fortune Hayes's mind as he locked lips with Cait. And he meant those words in the best, most reverent way possible. Just when he thought he'd seen everything, life threw him a curvy surprise wrapped in a sexy red dress. He was obviously finding it difficult to express exactly how much he liked this shapely little package. All he knew was what had started out as a night of familial obligation was turning out to be rather mind-blowing.
Cait pulled back just enough to gaze up at him through thick, dark lashes. She had the loveliest green eyes he'd ever seen. "By the way, what's your name?"
"Brodie," he heard himself murmur.
"Brodie the Brit," she said. "Nice to meet you. I'm Cait from Chicago. I'd shake your hand, but " She leaned in and dusted his lips with a featherlight kiss.
Then she smiled up at him, looking rather pleased with herself.
"Charming to meet you, Cait from Chicago."
The band shifted from an up-tempo tune into a slow, sultry number just as he decided to lean in for another taste of those lips, but Cait pulled away.
"Listen," she said. "This has been fun, but I really should go now."
"What? But we just got here. Well, we just got here."
He reached out and ran the pad of his thumb over her bottom lip. "I'm quite eager to see where we'll go next."
She opened her mouth as if she were about to say something, hesitated then pressed her lips together, drawing her bottom lip between her teeth in a way that nearly drove him mad.
"Dance with me?" he said.
Of course, he wouldn't force her to do anything she didn't want to do, but he'd try his best to convince her.
"Just one dance," he said. "If you want to go after that, I won't argue."
He took her hand, fully prepared to let go if she protested. But she didn't.
As he led her onto the dance floor, he noticed his brother Oliver dancing with Shannon Singleton, the pretty brunette they'd sat with during the ceremony. Oliver seemed to be lost in the moment as he gazed into Shannon's eyes. But when Cait sank into Brodie's arms and he pulled her closer, his body responded, and then it was as if they were the only two people in the entire world.
They swayed to the strains of "Unforgettable" and kept dancing close through a couple of fast songs, until the band decided to mix things up with a country-rock medley, and an overzealous guest, who was dancing with a beer in his hand, tried to demonstrate his John Travolta moves and upended it on the dance floor.
"Okay, what do you say we take a break?" Brodie suggested. "How about if I get us something to drink?"
"Actually, I could use some fresh air," Cait said. "It's a little stuffy in here."
With the number of people dancing and drinking in the confines of the renovated barn, it was a bit close. It was unseasonably warm for February. In fact, he'd heard his mum and aunt Jeanne Marie say it was as if spring had graced them with an early visit, which was undoubtedly fortuitous for the four couples who had said their vows.
"That sounds like a great idea," he said. "Wait right here. I'll get us some refreshments to go."
He tipped the bartender fifty dollars and was rewarded with a chilled, unopened bottle of champagne and two flutes. On his way back to Cait, he plucked a long-stemmed red rose out of one of the many freestanding floral arrangements.
He took the bounty back to where he'd left her, but she wasn't there. As he made a three-hundred-sixty-degree turn, it dawned on him that it probably hadn't been a brilliant move to leave her alone. He hadn't been gone that long, but if she really had wanted to leave, this would've presented the perfect opportunity for her to make her getaway. His gut tightened at the thought, but then he sobered. Really, if she had decided to go, it was for the best. He was set to return to London in two days. True. Cait of the magical lips had an unnerving ability to knock him void of all common sense, but really, what would they do two days from now when he boarded the plane to go home? The likelihood of him traveling to Chicago anytime soon was slim. Business was booming at his company, Hayes Consulting, the management consulting firm for which he'd sacrificed everything. It had been a struggle even to find time to come for the wedding. If truth be told, he wasn't happy about taking time off for four cousins he barely knew. It had only been a couple of years since his mother had discovered that she was adopted and had three siblings who had so many grown children that it seemed to be necessary to marry them off in bulk. Still, it had been important to his mother that he attend this affair. She was the one woman in the world for whom he'd drop everything. Plus, it was a chance to catch up with his brother Oliver.
All the negativity drained away when he turned and saw Cait with her wrap and handbag, making her way toward him in the crowd. She was still here, and suddenly nothing else mattered.
He handed her the rose.
"This is beautiful," she said, bringing the flower to her nose. "How romantic, sir."
Her eyes glinted and at that moment, Brodie was sure she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever had the privilege to set eyes on.
"And what else do you have there?"
"A spot of champagne. What do you say we get out of here? There's something I'd like to show you."