Does the perfect plan have a surprise ending?
Wedding consultant Theresa "Teddy" Granville helps her clients plan lavish black-tie ceremonies, though her own love life is strictly casual. Her matchmaking mother's latest candidate, Adam Sullivan, may be sexy but besides being successful, they have little in common. Agreeing to a fake relationship to fool her mother could make both their lives easier. But their unexpected slow-burning kisses and scorching nights are anything but make-believe.
Adam's "marriage pact" with Teddy was supposed to be a temporary arrangement. Suddenly he's realizing just how deeply he desires this intelligent, passionate woman. In business, he's known for taking big risks and reaping bigger rewards. Now he's playing for the highest stakes of all, hoping he can convince Teddy to trust himand her heartbefore she walks away forever .
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Blind date! Theresa Granville, Teddy to her friends, drummed her long red fingernails on the white tablecloth. She was waiting for Adam Sullivan, a man she'd never met, and she could just as easily spend the rest of her life happily oblivious of his existence. But that was not to be. She'd been set up. Teddy hated blind dates and she didn't need anyone to find her a man, especially not her mother. The truth was, she was capable of meeting men on her own and dated often. But she'd been goaded into agreeing to have dinner with Adam Sullivan. Since she didn't like to go back on her word, she was stuck.
The restaurant was crowded for a Thursday night in Princeton. It was fall and the majority of the university students returned a month ago. Most of the restaurant's patrons were around the bar cheering on some sports team's efforts to statistically capture a spot in the history books. Teddy had long since stopped hearing the triumphs and groans of their participation in the televised game. She'd relegated the sound to white noise. Her attention was on the restaurant's entrance. From her solitary perch on the second-floor dining area, where private parties were usually held, maybe she'd be able to spot her date when and if he arrived. Maybe he hated blind dates, too. And Teddy would feel no disappointment at being stood up. If she didn't have to gently explain to her mother yet again why she didn't want to be set up, she wouldn't be here, either.
Frowning, she watched a short guy with round-rimmed glasses enter. Her fingers went to the phone in her pocket. Diana, her friend and business partner, was only a call away. The two had worked out a signal if Teddy wanted or needed to be rescued.
Again, she glanced at the man below, taking in his height or lack of it. One of Teddy's requirements in a man was height. At five feet nine inches, she didn't want to stand with a man whose head only reached her breasts. Thankfully, Mr. Glasses lifted his hand, acknowledging his party, and joined a group at the end of the bar. She breathed a sigh of relief that he wasn't her blind date.
Three other singles and two couples came in before the seven o'clock appointed hour. Then he walked in right as the clock struck the hour. Teddy did a double take when she saw him. Shaking her head, she immediately rejected him as someone who'd never need a blind date. He couldn't be the one. Her mother didn't have taste that good. Except for her father, who was still a handsome man in his fifties, the men her mother usually chose looked like the round-rimmed-glasses guy.
For a moment Teddy wished her date was the man at the door. Leaning over the banister, she watched the stranger move toward the receptionist. The two had a short conversation and she checked her seating chart. Then she shook her head. As she gathered a couple of menus and led him toward a table, the room was momentarily quiet, allowing Teddy to overhear her own name.
"I'll bring Ms. Granville over as soon as she arrives, sir," the woman said.
Teddy gasped. Her stomach lurched and her heart jumped into her throat. This couldn't be Adam Sullivan. He was gorgeous. Where did her mother find him? He was tall, at least six foot two. His shoulders were broad enough to rest any available head and for a moment she thought of hers resting there. Why would this guy need to be set up on a date? It took her a moment to gather herself. This was still a blind date and, as far as she knew, the two of them had nothing in common. Meeting him could be a disaster despite his looks. In fact, she expected it was. A man this good-looking could stand on his own. Yes, she decided, there had to be something wrong with him.
Rising, Teddy tucked her handbag under her arm and left her solitary seat in the upper balcony. She took the back stairs that led to the main floor. Entering through the bar, she was assaulted by the noise. The crowd was wall-to-wall and a whoop of pleasure went up as she wove her way toward the crowd. She smiled here and there, gently warding off interested men. At the entrance to the restaurant section, she peered through the vertical columns separating the dining area from the den of sports enthusiasts.
Adam Sullivan had no smile. He looked comfortably about, taking in the other diners as if he'd need to recall their exact positions at some later date. He wore an open-neck shirt and dark jacket. Masculinity exuded from him. Even sitting alone, he appeared in command. He was clean-shaven with dark tanned skin, hair cut close and neat, no mustache. Other than the I'm-in-command aura he wore, there was something else about him. Something that said "Sex!"
That's what it was. Sex appeal. Tons of it. More than any one person should be allotted. From across the room, he had her breathing hard and all she'd done was look at him. She wondered again what was wrong with him that he'd even consider meeting a stranger for dinner. He didn't look as if he needed help in finding companionship. From the stares of the other women in the room, they'd gladly leave their own parties to join his.
The receptionist was away. Teddy passed the receptionist's station and walked with measured steps toward his table. He looked up as she approached. His face remained serious, no smile, no outward sign of approval. She was slightly disappointed and a little bit insulted.
"Theresa Granville?" he asked as he stood.
She nodded, looking him straight in the eye. He passed the height test. Teddy wore five-inch spiked heels and if she took them off, she'd only reach his chin.
"Adam Sullivan," he identified himself.
Teddy extended her hand. He took it in his larger one. It was warm and strong. She'd never been one to use clichés to describe people, but there was no other way to think of him.
Adam Sullivan was sexy as hell.
Conversations clashed with plates and silverware, bringing the sound in the room to a wealth of indistinct noise. Occasionally there was a burst of laughter from the bar area that drew everyone's attention for a few seconds.
Adam pulled out a chair next to his and Teddy took a seat. She waited for him to say something, but the moment stretched into awkwardness. She thumbed the edge of the menu but did not pick it up.
"Why did you agree to this?" she finally asked.
"To what?" His eyebrows rose as if he hadn't understood her question.
"Going on a blind date."
"Are you blind?"
She rolled her eyes. So that was his problem. His humor sucked. What else was wrong with him?
Then she saw a slight smile lift the corners of his mouth. Not a full smile, but it made her wonder what one would look like.
"Sorry, I had to say that. I hoped it would break the ice."
"So blind dates aren't your thing, either?" Teddy said.
"I'd rather be boiled in oil."
"Well," Teddy said, "I guess that sums it up." She felt slightly put out, even though she felt the same. She'd never been turned down for a date and frankly she didn't really like this guy. And even though she didn't want a blind date, she wanted to be the one to make the decision to end the night. "I suppose we should just shake hands and return to our lives."
She waited again for him to do something, but he seemed to be waiting for her. She stood up and extended her hand. He stood and took it.
"It was nice meeting you," he said.
His voice was perfunctory. There was nothing nice about the meeting, but Teddy was relieved she wasn't going to have to sit through an awkward getting-to-know-you discussion.
"Sorry it didn't work out." She wasn't really sorry, but the words seemed appropriate. And she wouldn't have to call Diana for rescue. As she picked up her purse, her stomach growled.
"It wouldn't have worked anyway," he said. "You're not my usual type."
"What type is that?" For some reason Teddy's back went up. She'd never been dismissed before she even got a chance to prove herself.
"You're too tall, too intelligent."
Teddy blinked. Was he real? "You can tell my intelligence level from a couple of sentences?"
"My mother gave me a little information," he explained.
Teddy's mother had told her nothing. "I see. You're looking for arm candy. Petite, long wavy hair maybe, big brown eyes. The kind you could get lost in." She paused, giving him a moment.
"Someone who isn't very smart, but good in bed," he admitted.
Not to be waylaid by the good-in-bed comment, Teddy asked, "So I'm being dumped because of my height?"
"Not exactly dumped," he said.
Teddy took a breath and calmed down. She smiled sarcastically. "You're right. I am not the one. I'm not arm candy and I don't want a man who is. No matter how good-looking you are, I prefer a man I can talk to both before and after sex." She hooked her purse farther up on her shoulder. "And I am not just good in bed, I'm great in bed."
Pivoting on her high heels, she moved away from the table. She'd only taken a step when he called her name. "Theresa?"
She turned back.
"I probably shouldn't have said that. It's been a long day and I've forgotten my manners."
"Is that an apology?" He nodded.
She had the feeling that he rarely apologized. He was a man in command. She could tell he was confident and obviously chose his own road. This date orchestrated by his mother and her mother was outside his developed character.
"Teddy," she said. "Everyone calls me Teddy."
"Teddy," he repeated. "Since you're obviously hungry, and we're already here" he spread his hands encompassing the room "we might as well eat. That way I can answer truthfully when asked how my night went."
"It hasn't begun on a high note. You sure you don't want to stop here? If we go on, things could get worse."
He laughed. The sound was deep and infectious, but Teddy refused to join in. She kept her features straight and unsmiling.
Teddy shrugged and returned to her seat. Undoubtedly, she'd be questioned, too. They ordered, and as she cut into a prime rib so tender she could have used a butter knife, Adam opened the conversation.
"While I was arguing with my " He stopped. "I hear you're in the wedding business."
Teddy didn't like his tone. She nodded. "I design wedding gowns and I'm a partner in a wedding consulting firm."
"So you believe in orange blossoms and till death do us part?"
She refused to rise to the obvious bait. "Orange blossoms would be very expensive on this coast. But there are some brides who insist on them."
He raised a single eyebrow and sipped his drink.
"I take it you are a nonbeliever?" Teddy asked.
"I'm a realist. I've seen too many of my friends walk down that aisle only to end up hating the person they vowed to love."
Teddy was in trouble. She should have taken the opportunity to walk out the door when she had it. Now she was as stuck here for as long as the meal lasted.
"You've been married," she stated. He had all the earmarks of a man who'd been hurt in a relationship, but his tone regarding orange blossoms told her he'd been down that aisle himself. His nod was barely perceptible.
"And you hate her now?"
He shook his head. "Quite the opposite. We're very good friends."
She frowned. This was an exception to the rule of divorce. "What happened?" she asked, realizing it was probably the wrong question, but it was already out.
He spread his hands and hunched his shoulders. "We were too young. We got married for all the wrong reasons. Mainly, we didn't know each other, didn't understand that our dreams weren't the same."
"What was her dream?"
He smiled. Teddy liked it. It was the good-memory smile, the one that appears when a person looks back and only he understands the happy place he's entered. She was glad he had good memories of his marriage. She'd seen her share of people who only remembered the wedge that separated their relationship and not what created it.
"Her dream was to be an actress." He took a moment to eat some of his steak before continuing. "After our divorce, she moved to L.A. and got a part on a soap opera."
A light dawned in Teddy's brain. Chelsea Sullivan? She rolled the name around in her mind. "You were married to Chelsea Sullivan?"
He nodded. "She kept the name."
Chelsea Sullivan was the lead actress on the top daytime television program. From what Teddy read in the entertainment magazines, she was about to move her career to feature films.
He sat back in his chair. "And you? What did you dream of being?"
"I have my dream. I wanted my own design business."
He smiled fully. "Then you're ahead of most of the world. You have everything."
Not everything, she thought. Her partner, Diana, married last year, and while the two of them had been friends for years, Teddy wondered at the happy changes she saw in her friend. There was a newness, a happiness that hadn't been there before. While they both loved the work, for Diana there was something more to look forward to at the end of the day. Teddy had begun to wonder what she was missing.
But as she sat across from Adam, Teddy wondered how anyone could talk him into meeting someone whose business was weddings when he didn't believe in them. And so far she was sure he wasn't the one for her.
"What about marriage?" he asked.
The word hit her like a spray of ice water. "Me? Married? Never made the trip."
"I see," he said. "You give the story to everyone else but stand clear of it yourself?"
"You say that as if it was by design."
"Is it?" Adam asked. He stared straight at her.
"No, I suppose I'm the cliché," Teddy said.
"Always a bridesmaid, never a bride?"