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Well, this wasn't supposed to happen. She was not supposed
to be affected. Not like this anyway. Not by a man like
Brows pinched in concern, Rachael Matthews fought to
ignore the arc of pure and instant attraction that zipped
through her blood like a bullet the moment she looked into
Nate McGrory's eyes. Wielding her maid-of-honor bouquet
like a makeshift shield, she clung to cool reserve and
forced herself to hold the best man's gaze as he met her
at the center aisle of the church wearing a crooked and
way too confident grin.
He was, after all, just a man. Just a man in a Pierce
Brosnan/Antonio Bandares sort of way.
All right. She'd give herself a little latitude. What
woman wouldn't have a strong reaction? Just look at him.
His flashing brown eyes matched the color of the perfectly
styled hair he wore rakishly long and combed straight back
from a stunning, masculine face. Contoured, suntanned
cheeks dimpled with saint or sinner charm. His straight
blade of a nose, wide brow and strong jaw were classically
and unapologetically male. A crescent-shaped scar cut into
his left eyebrow, just beyond the arc toward his temple -
his one concession to imperfection. It should have messed
up his incredible face. Instead, it lent a suggestion of
vulnerability that was completely at odds with an overall
air of confidence that practically purred, Since you
asked, yeah, I am master of my domain - but not to worry -
I rule with a kind and gentle hand. And oh, by the way - I
like my women hot.
Okay. That snapped things back into perspective.
Arrogance. The man oozed it, a fact that finally nudged
Rachael back to her senses with a barely suppressed snort.
Oh, yeah. She knew his type. Too well. High-gloss, high-
maintenance and way more trouble than they were worth.
When she offered little more than a clipped nod, he
widened his killer smile with a look relaying increased
interest, along with a clear message. We meet at last.
Let's get these two married and then we definitely need to
get to know each other.
For Karen's sake and for the sake of the two-hundred-odd
guests filling the pews and waiting with anticipatory
smiles for the main feature - the bride and groom -
Rachael made sure her return smile was polite, but about
98.6 degrees cooler than his. A careful lift of her brow
did a little speaking, too, though, spelling it out for
him, she hoped, Yeah, sure, whatever.
He laughed at her.
Oh, not out loud, but with those speaking eyes again - the
ones that leveled an unmistakable challenge. Lady, if I
make my mind up to have you, you don't stand a chance on
God's green earth of resisting.
To arrogance, she added egomania.
Well, he might be arrogant, but she, evidently, was an
airhead to let herself be affected by him this way. Forget
it. This - whatever this was, flashing between her and
this man she had never officially met - was not going to
happen. Not only didn't she have the time, she didn't have
the patience. Or really, let's face it, she didn't have
the inclination. Life was good just the way it was.
Maybe the pressure of planning her best friend's wedding
had finally gotten to her. She'd mapped out this day step
by meticulous step for Karen. It's what she did. Planning
weddings was her career - and for the past several years
it had also been her life. But this was Karen - her best
friend - so Rachael was that much more invested in the
outcome. She wanted everything to be perfect, had done
everything in her power to make sure it was. The flowers,
the music, the reception later at the Royal Palms Hotel
where she operated Brides Unlimited - she'd personally
seen to every last detail.
So far, it was perfect. And Karen looked beautiful.
Thoughts about the glow on her face broke through
Rachael's tension and tapped hard on what was left of her
romantic streak. The one that, despite several attempts to
drown it in a sea of turbulent, shipwrecked relationships,
had decided to bob stubbornly to the surface for one final
gasp before sinking to be lost forever to the deep just
because she'd finally met Nate McGrory.
She started a little when he offered his arm, but
recovered and, squaring her shoulders, took it. She could
do this. No big deal. It was just the shock of finally
seeing him in the flesh after all of Karen's hype that had
gotten her going.
"Rachael, I'm telling you," Karen had insisted on one of
the rare days, given their busy schedules, when they'd had
a chance to get together for a little shopping and
catching up last month, "just wait until you meet him."
They'd been lunching at a table on the brick sidewalk at
Pescatore, a little pocket of West Palm Beach charm
nestled on the corner of Clematis and Narcissus. Fountains
flowed in the background, birds sang, exotic Florida
flowers bloomed in a riot of intoxicating fragrance and
Karen had been blooming, too. They'd just bought her
bridal veil - finally - and Karen was extolling the
princely virtues of Sam's college fraternity brother, Nate
McGrory, a hotshot millionaire lawyer from Miami who would
fly in for the wedding at the eleventh hour on his private
"I mean it," Karen had continued emphatically.
"If I wasn't so in love with Sam, I'd be boogying on that
dance floor myself. Got to be that blend of Irish-Latino
blood running through his veins. Rach - I am not
exaggerating when I tell you that this guy is not only
charming and loaded, he's heart-stopping, to-die-for
"So are hibiscus blooms and they last for ... what? A
day?" Rachael had lifted her glass of merlot, waggling it
in warning. "I'm really not interested."
"But he's so perfect," Karen insisted.
"Sweetie, I don't care if he's Ben Affleck, Donald Trump
and red-hot Latin lover all rolled into one tidy little
testosterone-wrapped package. Karen, please. Get married.
Have a great life, but stop trying to couple me up with
someone. I've got everything I need to make me happy. Good
friends and a great job."
Why couldn't her friends accept that her life really was
fine exactly the way it was? She was productive,
successful and self-contained - even if she sometimes
fought a niggling notion that there was something more,
something out there that eluded her. Something she should
be entitled to and didn't have.
Shaking off her thoughts, she tuned back into the minister
then cut an uneasy glance toward Nate McGrory.
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