Feels Like Home
Book Three in the Diamond Dust Trilogy
Harlequin Superromance – August 2011
She’s planning a wedding…not a romance!
Keeping up appearances is Yvonne Delisle’s forte. But this job is going to test even her Southern belle mettle! It’s not challenging enough she only has six weeks to turn a ramshackle carriage house into the hottest society wedding venue in Virginia. It’s also located on her ex-husband Aidan’s family vineyard. The home–and the man–she yearned for.
But Yvonne’s up for the challenge. In the time things went south with Aidan, she’s become the most sought-after wedding planner in the state–popular enough to arrange her former mother-in-law’s second wedding. Except…it’s becoming suspiciously clear she wasn’t hired for her professional expertise. Someone is plotting a reconciliation…and Yvonne is more tempted by the day. Let’s see who actually walks down that aisle…
“Is it true?” he asked before he’d realized his intent. But once he’d opened that door, he couldn’t shut it again. Not without knowing. “Did you sleep with one of your clients on his wedding day?”
Something entered her eyes. Regret? Embarrassment? Or just anger? Before he could decide, she lowered her lashes. Hiding from him once again. Just like the old Yvonne.
“How did you find out?” she asked.
Lily, sensing an animal or maybe just too wired from the tension between the humans, turned her head then took off down the road. Aidan watched her disappear around the winery before facing Yvonne again. “It’s hardly a secret.”
“No, it wasn’t a secret when it happened—which was over two years ago. But neither has it been discussed much since then. Which makes me believe the only way you know about it is because you deliberately went looking for dirt you could sling at me.”
“Mud,” he said, ignoring how his neck warmed with embarrassment. “You sling mud. Dig up dirt.”
“Ah, but you did both,” she said, a breeze blowing a strand of hair in her face. He curled his fingers into his palms so he wouldn’t smooth it back. “And how convenient for you that you just happened to hear old gossip about me.”
“Actually,” he admitted, “I contacted World Class Weddings.”
“You spoke with Joelle?” she asked, her voice calm enough but her hand was anything but steady when she finally slid the errant hair in place.
“It was a reference check.” The words came out rougher than he’d intended. “I do them for all new employees.”
“A reference? Really, Aidan, is that the best you can do? And yet you seem so offended I dare to suggest you’re not being entirely truthful.”
He ground his back teeth together. “Unfortunately,” he said, as if she hadn’t spoken, “by the time I’d called, the owner of the firm was no longer available. However, the woman who answered the phone—a MaryAnn—was very helpful when I asked about you.”
Yvonne smiled thinly. “Oh, I can only imagine how helpful MaryAnn was.”
Now that he thought about it, the other woman had sounded all too gleeful about filling him in on the details of how Yvonne and the groom had been discovered in the dressing room of the church while the unsuspecting bride had been just two doors down.
I’m afraid you’ve been misinformed.
But what, exactly, had he been misinformed about? If it wasn’t true, why didn’t she just deny it? He just needed confirmation—at this point it didn’t matter if the truth confirmed her innocence or her guilt. Did it?
“What happened at that wedding, Yvonne?” he asked.
She crossed her arms. “What happened was that I found myself trapped in a very small space with a very drunk groom who thought the best way to handle his unhappiness about marrying his very pregnant fiancé would be to make a pass at me. Just as I was about to lift my knee and hopefully, cease any worry of him impregnating anyone ever again, the bride walked in.”
Narrowing his eyes, his blood heating, Aidan tossed the loppers onto the ground. “Did he hurt you?” When she didn’t answer quick enough to suit him, he snatched her wrist and tugged her toward him. “Did he hurt you?”
“He embarrassed me. He lied about me and what was going on but thankfully, one of the caterers stepped forward. Seemed he’d cornered her in the kitchen. But it wasn’t until the Maid-Of-Honor admitted he’d done the same to her at the rehearsal dinner that the bride realized her prince charming was anything but.” She tugged, but he didn’t loosen her hold. “No. He didn’t hurt me.”
Aidan pressed his lips together. Her meaning was clear. But, no matter what she said, he hadn’t set out to hurt her.
Self-disgust filled him, turned bitter in his mouth. She was right. He was a liar.
“I apologize,” he said with difficulty, his thumb lightly rubbing over her racing pulse at her wrist before he dropped her hand.
sBut he wouldn’t let loose the words rising in his throat. The ones asking her forgiveness. The ones wondering why she’d left. Why she’d come back. He wouldn’t show her any weakness. Wouldn’t risk his pride that way. After she’d walked away, it’d taken him so long to get over her, to move on with his life. He had a right to protect himself from her.
He’d just make sure that from now on, he didn’t lash out at her in order to keep himself safe.
Just being this close to her was messing with his mind. Making his body hard with want, his blood hot with desire. But that was only because she was so beautiful, her features perfect except for the pencil eraser sized chicken pox scar high up on her left cheek. Most people probably never even noticed that slight marring of her creamy skin.
It’d always been one of his favorite things about her.
And he couldn’t stop himself from tracing his fingertip over it, just to see if it was real. She stiffened. Her eyes widened. She shouldn’t be this…warm…he thought in irritation. Or soft.
Mesmerized by the softness of her skin, by the way her eyes darkened, he trailed his fingers down her cheek. Ran his knuckles across the underside of her jaw. The wind blew that loose hair across his hand.
He couldn’t look away from the sight of his hand on her, his skin dark against the creamy paleness of her complexion. His hand looking rough and dangerous against the delicate line of her throat.
As if reading his thoughts, or perhaps having the same thought, the same worry, her eyes widened. “Don’t,” she breathed.
He raised his gaze to her eyes. “Don’t what?”
“Don’t kiss me.”
He edged forward until the barest of inches separated their bodies when what he really wanted was to press against her, ease the achiness heaviness of his body by settling it against her softness. “I’d say I don’t want to kiss you,” he murmured, bringing his other hand up to slide around her neck and into her hair. “But I think you and I both know I’ve said my quota of lies today.”