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The Wedding Heiress by Pamela Ford released on Oct 14, 2008 is available now for purchase.
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Delaney McBride knew her fortunes had changed the moment the telephone rang. She tap-danced across the room to take the call she'd been waiting for all afternoon, the one that would put her back in control of her life. She paused to compose herself, then said in her most businesslike voice, "Delaney McBride."
"Pumpkin. How the hell are you?"
Her brain stopped. Her heart stilled. Suddenly she was the fat, orange-haired teenager who'd obsessed over Mike Connery all her life. The high-school junior who'd pressed a note into Mike's hand that said she would save herself for him. Her face began to burn. Thank God she and her mother had moved out of town a few months later.
She dropped into the soft leather cushion of her living-room sofa and pressed a hand to her cheek, the heat warming her palm. How could something she did fifteen years ago have such an effect on her today? This call was supposed to be a job offer, not a connection to a past she'd rather forget. She tried to pull her thoughts into order.
"This is Mike Connery from—"
"Holiday Bay. I know." The words came out more sharply than she intended. Surely he wasn't calling about the will.
"I'm sorry about your great-aunt. She was a wonderful lady."
A sympathy call from Mike Connery? "Thanks. She was really special."
"Uh, I'm calling about her will."
There it was. She exhaled. Well, why wouldn't he call? He stood to lose as much as anyone else. For a moment, she felt a certain camaraderie with him, swept like everyone else into the maelstrom of her aunt's eccentricity by the woman's last will.
She shoved her bangs off her forehead as if to shove the emotion away. "I can't believe this will is legal," she said. "I've never heard of anything so absurd. I even met with another lawyer..."
"I'm an attorney, Pumpy. It's ironclad."
Her stomach tightened. She wasn't Pumpy anymore. Pumpkin and her insecurities no longer existed, thanks to years of therapy. She wanted to tell Mike to call her Delaney, but couldn't bring herself to let on that the nickname bothered her. She made a fist, then let out a controlled laugh. "So my attorney confirmed," she said in a low voice. "Although, as a lawyer you should know nothing is ever ironclad if you have the right connections."
He gave an equally controlled chuckle. "Does that mean we shouldn't count on you? I'll tell the other heirs so they can quit planning..."
"Yeah... To pay off credit cards, take their first vacation in years, have an operation. Sully Sullivan was going back to Ireland to see his mother. Hasn't seen her in twenty-five years, and she's getting old."
"Is this why you're calling? To pressure me into complying with that ridiculous will? To guilt me into overseeing a bunch of weddings?" Delaney stood and crossed the living room of her Victorian row house to look out at the organic food store across the street. She'd chosen to live in Boston's South End because it was full of young professionals, people with drive and an eye on the future.
Her lifestyle was totally incongruous with wedding planning.
He ignored her questions. "Are you in or not?"
God knew she needed the hundred thousand dollars her great-aunt had left her. She'd been unemployed for more than three months, laid off when the ad agency where she worked lost her big account. Now she was in debt up to her eyeballs. Her savings were depleted, her rent was due, her car payment was overdue, the balance on her credit card kept going up, and all she had to live on was a small unemployment check. The mere thought of her finances made her heart begin to race and she sucked in a breath to calm herself.
Which made this inheritance a godsend. Except, in order to get the money, which she desperately needed, she had to go to back to her hometown in Wisconsin—Holiday Bay. Worse, she had to finish planning the weddings that remained on the books of her late aunt's shop.
"Are you in or out?" he pressed.
"It's not that simple."
"What's the problem? You have an aversion to money?" he said with thinly disguised impatience.
She huffed. She was supposed to be getting a job offer today. One with a salary that would nearly rival what she'd receive from her inheritance—and wouldn't require she plan weddings to get paid. If only she'd heard from them already. "Of course not. It's just, I'm not sure I have the time to take this on. I don't know a thing about wedding planning."
"You don't have to be incredible at it, just good enough to—"
"And frankly, I'm not into that happily-ever-after scene."
Mike laughed out loud. "Seems to me you were quite the little hopeless romantic in your day."
Every possible thought in her head vaporized. For a moment she couldn't speak. What kind of man would bring up her old infatuation with him to win an argument? She forced herself to say something, anything. "Yes, well, I've long since learned the error of my ways."
He made a choking sound. "So you'd give up one hundred thousand dollars because you don't want to plan a few weddings? Hell, for one hundred thousand dollars, I'd clean out horse stalls bare-handed. And I'd smile the whole time."
"Therein lies the difference between us, now, doesn't it," she said with a sniff.
"We're talking about a few months, not a lifetime. So what is it really? You don't need the money? You can't get a leave from your job?"
"I can take off whenever I want." With no job at all, taking time off wasn't an issue, but she just didn't feel like baring her entire life to him. She'd already spent enough years being a loser in Mike Connery's eyes. She opened the front door and stepped outside, pausing at the top of the steep concrete steps. A cool spring breeze slid over her bare arms.
"What's the big deal, then? You afraid to fail? Or afraid to try?"
"I just told you."
He laughed out loud, a long laugh that took her straight back to high school. It irritated her to no end. They were talking to each other with the same friendly antagonism they'd had in childhood, as though fifteen years hadn't even passed.
"I get it. You've got a boyfriend."
"No, I don't."
"You're so in love you don't want to leave Boston."
"You're full of crap." Her voice went up a notch and she grasped the stair rail. God, he was the same old Mike. A year older than she and always had to win the arguments. Didn't matter if the sky was blue; he'd argue that it was pink until he won. No wonder he'd become a lawyer.
She heard a call-waiting beep and pulled the phone away from her ear to check the caller ID screen. It was the ad agency she'd been waiting to hear from. With her job offer. She grinned. No wedding planning in her future.
"I have to call you back. I've got a business call on the other line." She clicked him off without waiting for a reply.
Mike was so wrong. No boyfriend would ever prevent her from doing something she wanted to do. That described her mother— and she would never be like her mother. Always needing a man to rely on, always thinking a man would make everything better. Then never getting the man.
Ten minutes later she felt more like her mother than she ever had in her life. All dressed up and nowhere to go. Reaching for the brass ring and missing once again. She stared out her front windows without seeing a thing. They'd offered the job to someone else. Someone with more experience. When all was said and done, she hadn't been good enough.
She glanced at her watch without knowing why. She had no place she needed to be, no meetings, no conference calls, no deadlines. She wanted to bang her head against a wall. How could she have lost complete control of her life? She had no job. She had no money. She had no prospects. She had no choices. None except go to Holiday Bay and get up to her elbows in white satin, butter-cream frosting and rosebud bouquets. She loved her aunt dearly, but what had ever made the woman think this was a good plan?
"I can't do it, I can't go back there," she said to no one, knowing full well that was exactly what she had to do—at least until a high-paying job offer came her way.
She knew she should call Mike back, but decided to put it off for a while. She thought about him and wondered whether his teenage good looks had matured into handsome. Whether he was still as lean and fit as when he was playing high-school baseball. Whether his black hair was prematurely peppered with white like his father's had been. And whether his blue eyes could still make her heart pound.
Afraid? Darn right she was afraid. But it wasn't wedding planning she was afraid of.
Mike rounded the door of his law office to find his friend, Dan Hobart, kicked back in the black leather desk chair, work boots up on the cherrywood desk and fingers laced behind his head. Though his blue mechanic's jumpsuit looked completely out of place in the richly appointed office, Dan's demeanor was that of a full partner. Mike leaned against the doorway and grinned. "Anything I can get to make you more comfortable, Hobes?" he asked.
"How about a massage therapist?" Dan grinned, then pulled his feet off the desk and sat up. "I had to drop Bill Brighton's car off for him and figured I'd stop in before I head back to the shop. Did you talk to Pumpkin?"
Mike nodded. "You know how she used to be the tagalong, the gnat we were always trying to get rid of? Well, now she's morphed into a giant pain-in-the-ass."
"Still a no-go, huh?"
"Yeah. She's going to call me back, but I'm not holding out a lot of hope," he said.
"We should have left her tied to that maple tree when she was eight."
Despite his irritation, Mike laughed. He could still see chubby Pumpkin McBride with her mop of unruly orange hair as they ditched her in the woods with the false assurance that this was how you played King Arthur and they'd be back for her in five minutes. Three hours later, it had taken a Hershey bar and the seventy-two cents they'd pooled between them to keep her from tattling. "Could be she wants revenge because I hit her with an arrow that time we were playing William Tell," ...
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Book Description Harlequin Superromance, 2008. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373715218
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