Friday, December 31, 2004

Expecting Royal Twins! Excerpt

Inside Bay #2 at Rowdy's One Stop Garage in Charlotte, North Carolina, a Brad Paisley song blared from a nearby boom box. Oil, gasoline and grease scented the air. Isabel Poussard bent over a Chevy 350 small block engine. The bolt she needed to remove wouldn't budge, but she wasn't giving up or asking for help. She wanted the guys to see her as an equal, not a woman who couldn't make it on her own.

She adjusted the wrench. "Come on now. Turn for Izzy."

A swatch of light brown hair fell across her eyes so she couldn't see.

Darn ponytail. It never stayed put. If she had any extra money, she would get a short hairstyle so she wouldn't be bothered any more. She didn't dare cut it herself. For years her Uncle Frank had chopped her hair with whatever was handy, scissors or razor blades. She'd grown up looking more like a boy than a girl. Not that any dresses hung in her closest today.

Izzy tucked the stray strands behind her ear. She struggled to turn the wrench. Her palm sweated. The wrench slipped.

Frustrated, she blew out a puff of air. "No one is going to let you work over the wall in the pits during a race if you can't loosen a little bolt."

She imagined the start of the Daytona 500. The roar of the crowd. The heat from the pavement. The smell of burning of rubber. The rev of engines.

Excitement surged through her.
Being on a professional pit crew had been Uncle Frank's dream for as long as Izzy remembered. An aneurysm had cut his life short. Now it was up to her to turn his dream into a reality. He'd spent his life caring for her and sharing his skill and love of cars. More than once he'd had the opportunity to be on a pit crew, but he hadn't wanted to leave her. This was the least she could do for him.

As soon as she saved enough money, she would enroll in pit crew school. She wanted to put her days at dirt tracks and stock car circuits behind her and take a shot at the big leagues. For Uncle Frank and herself. She had bigger goals than just being on the pit crew. She wanted to be the crew chief. Izzy would show those kids who laughed at her grease stained hands they were wrong. She would do something with her life. Something big.

She adjusted her grip on the wrench and tried again. The bolt turned. "Yes."

"Hey, Izzy," the garage owner's son and her closest friend Boyd shouted to her over the Lady Antebellum song now playing on the radio. "Some folks here to see you."

Word of mouth about her skills kept spreading. She could not only fix old engines, but the new hybrids, too. Her understanding of the computer and electronics side of things coupled with a gift for diagnostics drew in new clients daily. Her boss Rowdy was so happy he'd given Izzy a raise. If this kept up, she could enroll in school in a few months.

With a smile, she placed her wrench and the bolt on the top of her toolbox.

Izzy stepped outside. Fresh air filled her lungs. Sunshine warmed her face. She loved spring days better than the humid ones summer brought with it.

In front of her, a black limousine gleamed beneath the midday sun. The engine idled perfectly. Darkened windows hid the identity of the car's passengers, but uniformed police officers stood nearby.

Not simply "some folks" wanting to see her. Must be a VIP inside the limo if police escorts were needed.

Izzy couldn't imagine what they wanted with her since the car sounded like it was running fine.

She wiped her dirty hands on the thighs of her cotton coveralls. Not exactly clean, especially with grease caked under her fingernails, but cleaner.

One of the police officers gave her the once over, as if sizing up her danger potential. A good thing she'd left the wrench in the garage.

A chauffeur walked around the car and opened the back door. A blond man exited. He wore a designer suit and nicely polished black dress shoes. With a classically handsome face and short clipped hair, he was easy on the eyes. But his good looks seemed a little bland like a bowl of vanilla ice cream without any hot fudge, whipped cream and candy sprinkles. She preferred men who weren't quite so pretty, men with a little more…character.

"Isabel Poussard?" the man asked.

She stiffened. The last time anyone used her real name had been during her high school graduation ceremony when she received her diploma. She'd always been Izzy, ever since she was a little girl. Uncle Frank had taught her to be careful and cautious around strangers. He'd worried about her and been very protective. She knew he'd be that way now if he were here.

Izzy raised her chin and stared down her nose. The gesture had sent more than one guy running in the opposite direction. "Who wants to know?"

Warm, brown eyes met hers. The guy wasn't intimidated at all. He looked almost amused for some strange reason. "I am Jovan Novak, aide to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Nikola Tomislav Kresimir."

Jovan's accent sounded European. Interesting since this was NASCAR country, not Formula 1 territory. "Never heard of him."

"He's from Vernonia."

"Vernonia." The name sounded vaguely familiar. Izzy rolled the word over in her mind. Suddenly, she remembered. "That's one of those Balkan countries. Fairytale castles and snowcapped mountains. There was a civil war there."


"Hey, Izzy," Boyd shouted from behind her. "You need any help?"

She glanced back at the bear of a man who stood with a mallet in his hands and curiosity in his eyes. A grin tugged at her lips. She appreciated how Boyd treated her like a little sister, especially since she had no family. Of course that made things interesting the few times she had a date pick her up after work. "Not yet, Boyd, but I'll let you know if I do."

Jovan looked like he might be in shape, but she could probably take him without Boyd's help thanks to Uncle Frank. When she was younger, he used to barter his mechanic skills for her martial arts class tuition. Now she worked out every day to get in shape for the work necessary by a pit crew member during a race.

"Isabel. Izzy." Jovan's smile reached all the way to his eyes. He bowed. "It is such a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Your—"

"Is this about a car repair?" He acted so happy to meet her. That bothered Izzy. Most customers limited their interactions to questions about their cars. Some simply ignored her. The men who went out of their way to talk to her usually ended up propositioning her. "Or do you want something else? I'm in the middle of a job?"

Not exactly the most friendly customer service, but something felt off. No customer would know her real name. And the guy smiled too much to be having car trouble.

"One moment please." Jovan ducked into the limousine.

Time ticked by. Seconds or minutes Izzy couldn't tell since she wasn't wearing a watch. She used the clock hanging in the garage or her cellphone to keep track of time while she worked.

Izzy tapped her foot. She had to get the Chevy finished so she could work on the Dodge Grand Caravan. Somewhere a frazzled mom with four kids was waiting to get her minivan back. It was up to Izzy to get the job done.

Jovan stepped out of the limo finally.

About time, she thought.

Another man in a dark suit followed. Izzy took a closer look.


The thought shot from her brain to the tips of her steel-toed boots and ricocheted back to the top of her head.

The guy was at least six feet tall with thick, shoulder length brown hair and piercing blue-green eyes framed by dark lashes.

She straightened as if an extra inch could bring her closer to his height. Even then the top of her head would barely come to his chin.

But what a chin.

Izzy swallowed a sigh.

A strong nose, chiseled cheekbones, dark brows. Rugged features that made for an interesting—a handsome—combination in spite of a jagged scar on his right cheek.

Talk about character. He had it in spades.

Not that she was interested.

Spending her entire life surrounded by men, car mechanics, gave her an understanding of how the opposite sex thought and operated. The one standing in front of her wearing a nice suit and shiny shoes was trouble. Dangerous, too.

The limo, expensive clothing, personal aide and police escort meant he lived in a completely different world than her, a world where she was seen as nothing more than a servant or wallpaper or worse, a one night stand. Having to deal with mysterious rich people intimated her. She wanted nothing to do with him.

But she didn't mind looking. The man belonged on the cover of a glossy men's magazine. He moved with the grace and agility of an athlete. The fit of his suit made her wonder what was underneath the fancy fabric.

Everyone else around her seemed to fade into the background with him around. She couldn't remember the last time she'd had this kind of reaction to a guy. No doubt the result of working too much overtime. Time to take a night off and have some fun. That would keep her from mooning over the next gorgeous guy who crossed her path.

"You are Isabel Poussard." His accent, a mix of British and something else, could melt a frozen stick of butter.

She nodded, not trusting her voice.

His assessing gaze traveled the length of her. Nothing in his eyes or on his face hinted if he liked what he saw.

Not that she cared. Not much anyway.

A hottie like him would never be interested in a grease monkey like her. Still he was a yummy piece of eye candy. One she could appreciate.

Izzy raised her chin again, but didn't stare down her nose the way she'd done with Jovan. She wasn't ready to send this one on his way just yet. "You know my name, but I don't know yours."

"I am Prince Nikola of Vernonia."

"A prince?"


She supposed a prince would have a police escort as well as an aide, but this was just the kind of prank Boyd would pull and kid Izzy about for the rest of her life. She glanced around looking for a camera. "Am I being punk'd?"

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Santa Brought a Son

This was Book #4 of a six book Silhouette Romance continuity called Marrying the Boss's Daughter.  I was so excited to write a book set a Christmastime! I actually wrote a scene while I was in the hospital being induced to give birth to my third child.  Much of the rest of the book was written in the two months after her birth. That time is a complete blur.  Three kids aged four and under and a book deadline.  What had I been thinking?

The other books in the Marrying the Boss's Daughter series are:
Book 1:  Love, Your Secret Admirer by Susan Meier
Book 2:  Her Pregnant Agenda by Linda Goodnight
Book 3:  Fill-in Fiancee by DeAnna Talcott
Book 5:  Rules of Engagement by Carla Cassidy
Book 6:  One Bachelor to Go by Nicole Burnham

Plain Jane's Prince Charming

This story grew from my watching a family at my son's preschool deal with their daughter's leukemia diagnosis. As her prognosis improved, they became active raising money for research and to help others with the disease.

Researching this was very hard for me as a mom. I'm sure I got a lot of stuff wrong, but I tried the best I could.

Here's something I wrote for the Pink Heart Society about the cover for this book and you can see who inspired my hero, Chase Ryder!


"Mr. Ryder." Standing in the foyer of Cyberworx's state-of-the-art meeting facility, Jane Dawson couldn't believe how steady her voice sounded when inside she felt like a coffee bean being ground into tiny bits. Still she managed to smile at the gray-haired businessman. "I would like to speak with you. For a minute. That is if you have time. Please."

Jane winced.

So much for being smooth and collected, but this was different from speaking with customers while she managed The Hearth, a trendy coffee house in downtown Portland, Oregon. That job required patience, a smile and making sure the staff at the counter got the orders right, not cultured eloquence and grace.

"You want to speak to me?" In spite of his tailored suit, he looked more like a doting grandfather than the successful CEO of a multinational hi-tech company. "Chase...Ryder?"

He sounded surprised.

Of course, he did. People like Jane, college drop-outs who brewed coffee all day, didn't usually approach people like him. And normally she wouldn't. Especially when picking up after a catering job. On her day off.

But this wasn't a normal situation.

She'd jumped at the chance to set-up and pick-up the breakfast meeting buffet for thirty guests at the corporate headquarters though catering jobs weren't her usual responsibility. Her boss, Zoe, had offered her the opportunity to meet Chase Ryder, and Jane wasn't going to blow it.

Act like you know what you're doing. Saying. And think before you open your mouth. Zoe's advice echoed in Jane's head. She raised her chin. "Yes, I would, Mr. Ryder."

His grin deepened the lines around his mouth and eyes. "I'm more than happy to speak with you, miss."

Jane hadn't felt this light, this hopeful in...well, years.

"Unfortunately," he continued. "I'm not Chase Ryder."

Her heart plummeted to her feet, as if two fifty pound bags of Sumatra Gayo Mountain coffee beans had been dumped on each of her shoulders.

Not Chase Ryder.

How could she have made such a big mistake? Her assistant manager, Ally, had told Jane she couldn't miss the Cyberworx's head honcho. Tall, handsome and surrounded by people. She'd assumed the distinguished looking man had to be him. She'd assumed wrong.

The man stared at her. "Are you okay?"

No, she wasn't okay. Jane needed Chase Ryder. She needed...a miracle. Or the fundraising benefit she wanted to throw was never going to happen.


Whatever you do, do not cause a scene. Remembering Zoe's final words made Jane force a smile. She wasn't about to risk her job or future catering jobs for The Hearth over this.

"I'm sorry," she said. "Thank you for your time."

"No, thank you." The man chuckled. "You made my day thinking I was Chase."

As the man sauntered away with a spring to his step, her shoulders slumped. She was in over her head and not qualified to do this, but she couldn't get discouraged. She couldn't give up. She still had to try.

For Emma. For sweet, four-year-old Emma who loved to play with baby dolls and still had months of chemotherapy left, Jane wouldn't give up.

She would write more letters and make additional phone calls. Somehow she would find sponsors for the fundraiser. Somehow she would help Emma's mother, Michelle, tackle the mounting medical bills. Somehow Jane would pull this off.

If only she knew how.

Jane shuffled her way to the buffet table to pack up the equipment. Less than a dozen of the muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls and Danish rolls remained on the trays, and she transferred them to a smaller plate to leave. All of the fruit cups were gone, except...

Oh, no.

One had spilled on the tile floor. Pieces of cantaloupe, grapes and pineapple had been squished, kicked and trampled on. The building's janitorial staff cleaned after events, but Jane couldn't leave a mess like this. She grabbed a towel near one of the coffee air pots, kneeled on the floor and wiped the sticky goo.

Nothing like a bit of fruit road kill to finish off a lousy morning. She reached for a smushed strawberry. At least her day couldn't get much worse.

"Excuse me," a male voice said.

Still kneeling, Jane took in the shoes first. The black running shoes needed new laces, but looked comfortable. Just like his faded blue jeans. Her gaze traveled up the length of this calves to his thighs to his, um...

Her cheeks burned.

"You wanted to speak with me?" he asked.

What was she doing? She'd come to provide service. To beg a favor. Not stare at his... Jane jumped up. "I'm Ja..."

As she looked into his intense blue eyes, everything stopped. She couldn't breathe let alone remember her name.

From the angular planes of his face to the slight cleft in his chin to his oh-so-kissable full lips, each feature fit perfectly together with his warm, bright eyes. His blond hair fell in loose curls and brushed the back of the collar of his grayish-blue dress shirt and navy sports coat. No man could be so naturally good looking. There had to be a flaw, something more than a mole or two...

And then she found it--a jagged scar running through his right eyebrow. But rather than distracting from his looks it gave him an edge, a sexy, dangerous edge. She stepped back and bumped into the table. Her heart rate increased.

"Jay?" he asked.

"Jane." Her voice sounded different, lower. She cleared her dry throat. "Jane Dawson."

"Chase Ryder."

Everything in her revolted. This was worse than before. He was too young, too handsome, too...male, like a cowboy who'd wandered into the wrong building. Wide shoulders and tall, six feet at least, as the top of her head came up only to his chin. Talk about being at a disadvantage.

"You wanted to speak with me?" he repeated.

His honey rich voice washed over her sending her temperature up at least another twenty degrees.

Don't freak out. She could do this. So what if he was the most attractive man she'd ever seen? So what if he was richer than Midas himself? A family's financial future depended on her. She couldn't be derailed by a pretty--make that gorgeous--face.

"Yes." Jane extended her arm only to realize she was holding the towel full of smashed fruit. She tossed the rag on the table and wiped her hand on her apron. "I did."

He glanced at the watch on his right wrist. "I've got three minutes."

His terse response irked her, but what was she going to do? She had less than three minutes to get his help.

Marriage For Baby

This story stemmed from a conversation I had with someone about the couples in romances novels and what happens after the "I Do." The wedding is only beginning of the journey even though as a romance author I often end the story there or sometimes with the marriage proposal or the birth of a baby.

I decided to a marriage on the brink of divorce would be an interesting subject to tackle. I talked to a few friends who have divorced their spouses. It was interesting to hear their take on the marriages looking back on what went right and what went wrong.

Up to this point in my writing career, I hadn't written any babies in my books aside from cameo appearances in epilogues. The reason was simple, I was having babies myself. Why would I want to write about them? But it was necessary in this story, so I used my experiences with my children to write the character Cassidy. I wanted her to be somewhat realistic and not simply a smiling cherub who occasionally drools and wets her diaper. One incident in the book where the hero puts Cassidy's clothes on backwards actually happened to my husband when our oldest was four months old. It was at the Romance Writers of America National Conference, too, in front of writers, editors and publishers!


Standing on the sidewalk outside the lawyer's office, Kate Malone stared at the double glass doors. She still had a few minutes until her appointment. No reason to rush inside.

She raised her face to the cloudless, blue sky. The spring sunshine heated her cheeks. Sun kisses. That's what Susan called them.


The unusually warm April temperature reminded Kate of their college graduation eight years ago. She had approached the proceedings as a necessary step, one more thing to mark off her To Do List on the way to the top, but not her best friend, Susan. Unlike Kate, Susan had relished every moment of the drawn-out ceremony in the sweltering ninety-degree heat. She'd bounced across the stage, tossed her University of Oregon diploma box in the air and twirled around.

A smiled tugged on Kate's lips. Susan always lived life to the fullest. Or rather...
Had lived.

Until a driver fell asleep at the wheel and collided head-on with Susan's car two days ago here in Boise, Idaho.

Tears stung Kate's eyes. Grief slashed through her. How could Susan be dead? Susan, so full of life, so full of love. Susan, with her adoring husband, Brady, and their cute baby, Cassidy...

All three had died in the crash.

Kate swallowed, hard.

No. She couldn't lose control now.

She didn't have a tissue. Or the time.

She needed to hold herself together during the meeting with Susan and Brady's attorney. Once Kate checked into her hotel, she could fall apart, but not until then.

Squaring her shoulders, she pushed open one of the doors to the law office and stepped inside. A blast of cool air hit her. Goosebumps prickled on her arms. The sight of the empty receptionist desk deflated her resolve. Her composure slipped a notch. Now that she was inside, she wanted to get this over with.


The familiar male voice made her stiffen. Jared. She wasn't ready to face him. Not now. Possibly not ever. And yet she found herself turning in the direction of his voice.

As Jared rose from a leather club chair, her breath caught in her throat. He wore a tailored gray suit and the multi-colored silk tie she'd given him for his thirty-first birthday.

Five years ago when Brady and Susan had introduced them, Jared Reed had been a twenty-something single woman's fantasy. He'd gotten only more handsome. Kate's heart thudded. She wished she still didn't find him so attractive.

His square jaw and slightly crooked nose--from a snowboarding accident when he was a teenager--gave his face the right amount of rugged character to offset his long lashes and lush lips. She couldn't believe how much his hair had grown in the last three months. Normally he went for the short, corporate cut, but the wavy, carefree style suited him better.

Not that she cared.


Win, Lose or...Wed!

This story began as a what if... What if a bachelor on a reality TV show picked the wrong woman to marry much to the dismay of the viewers and his one true love? That led me to this book which was inspired by both The Bachelor and my fave reality TV show ever, The Amazing Race.

I had so much fun researching and putting together my own race. I kept wishing I could research all these places in person!


"Two more minutes, Millie."

Oh, boy. Millie Kincaid shivered. It was almost time.

She glanced at the gilded framed full-length mirror hanging on the wall of an opulent mansion in Pacific Palisades, California. She barely recognized her reflection. The curly up-do, the professionally applied make-up and the elegant gown made her look like a princess, not a schoolteacher from a small town in Central Oregon.

She felt a little like Cinderella. Not that Millie needed an invitation to the ball to find her Prince Charming. She'd already found him on a reality television show, no less. Her heart beat faster. She just had to get through the show's final episode tonight when "The Groom," Jace Westfall, a money manager from Philadelphia with his own company, would pick his bride.

An aviary worth of butterflies fluttered in Millie's stomach. She couldn't believe she'd made it to the finale. She'd only attended the show's audition so her friend wouldn't have to go alone. Her father, a successful motivational speaker, who didn't think she was living up to her potential, told her she wasn't ready for a show like this, and she'd wondered if he were right.

Until meeting the handsome "Groom" and falling for him.

Despite the certainty in her heart that she'd found the "one," she wasn't expecting an engagement ring after only knowing each other a few weeks. What she really wanted was time alone with him, away from the cameras, crew and other contestants. How would they get along when it was only the two of them? Her head told Millie counting on forever was nothing more than a teenage fantasy. Yet, in her heart, she couldn't help believe she'd glimpsed her future in his eyes.

"Millie?" Avery, a young production assistant, adjusted her headset. "Are you ready?"

"Yes." Millie stepped over cables running along the inlaid wood floor, teetering on the crystal-encrusted high heels they'd given her to wear, and ignored the bright lights and cameras focused on her. She straightened. "I'm ready."

Grinning, Avery clutched a clipboard to her chest. "You look so beautiful. Just wait until Jace sees you. He's going to love you."

Millie hoped so.

I never thought I'd find someone like you on this show.

Jace's words, murmured in her ear after a goodnight kiss, sent anticipation rippling through her.

"Well, I think he knows the real me." Jace saw beyond Mousy Millie, the nickname given by her father when she was an awkward, shy teenager, to the woman she really was inside. Jace asked questions about her job as a special education teacher and listened to her answers. He wanted to know her thoughts, her opinions, her dreams. He talked with her, not at her. As joy overflowed, Millie motioned to her fancy hair and beautiful dress. "The rest is window dressing."

"Which is why you were selected the viewers' bride choice on the show's website. You and Jace are the perfect couple. Right up there with the ultimate reality couples Trista and Ryan and Amber and Rob." Avery sighed. "And you are beautiful. So accept the compliment and say thank you."

Millie's cheeks warmed. "Thank you."

She appreciated Avery's kind words, but she couldn't help wondering how beautiful her competition, Desiree Delacroix, a mortgage broker from New York, would look. The other bride finalist exuded strength, confidence and raw sex appeal. Desiree had no problem wearing a string bikini or just a towel in front of Jace and the cameras. Millie would rather face an entire class of kids sick with the stomach flu than wear a swimsuit on television. She'd chosen Whistler, B.C. as her final date location instead of Cancun, Mexico to avoid wearing skimpy clothing. Two women couldn't have seemed more different, yet they shared a love of children, a belief in the institute of marriage...and an attraction to Jace Westfall. Thinking about their similarities and differences made Millie squirm.

The set went quiet, as if someone had hit the mute button. Avery touched her earpiece. "It's time."

Every one of Millie's nerve endings sprang to life. Excitement surged. She couldn't wait to see Jace.

She walked through the mansion, accustomed by now to ignore the equipment, the cameras and the crew. The show's host, who also worked on the network's nightly entertainment news show, gave her the thumbs up. He'd interviewed her when she first arrived. Now it would only be her and Jace. And the cameras.

Rounding the corner to the final set, she saw him, standing on a balcony with hundreds of flowers. Jace wore a black tuxedo with a red rose boutonnière pinned on his lapel. He seemed taller, almost larger than life, all dressed up and his light brown hair neatly styled. This was how he would look on his wedding day. She sucked in a breath.

His eyes widened when he saw her. Uh-oh. He looked almost...scared. Her heart went out to him. This was a big moment for both of them. Millie fought the urge to run and reassure him the way he had that first night on the show when the world of reality TV had threatened to overwhelm her.

But before she could reach him, he smiled. At her.

Suddenly all was right in the world. In Millie's world.

The backdrop of the Pacific Ocean stretching to the horizon brought out the blue in his eyes. She couldn't help but wonder if they had children whether their babies would have his eye color or green like her. Maybe hazel.

No, she was getting ahead of herself. But that was part of his appeal. He might be strong and solid, but he also made her loosen up and want to take chances. When Jace was around, her dreams became possible. She loved that about him.

SOS Marry Me!

This story was Book #3 of a six book continuity series called The Wedding Planners. Six of us, all former Silhouette Romance authors, put together the series ourselves and submitted it to Harlequin. We had so much fun writing it. Six friends writing about six friends!  All the work was done via a yahoo groups email. We also put together a blog that lists all the books and has lots of fun things about the continuity series and weddings. Check it out!

The hero from Rescued by the Magic of Christmas, Jake Porter, makes an appearance in this story.  Initially his name was Matt until I realized I had used that name for a secondary character who was a paramedic in Win, Lose...Wed!  There was an eleventh hour change of his name in SOS Marry Me! before the book went to print!  A good thing, too. Jake fits him much better!


Serena had a checklist for her Mr. Right: polite, attentive, articulate, smartly tailored. All qualities her parents had taught her to value. All qualities Rupert had possessed in spades.

All qualities Kane Wiley lacked.

She unfastened her seatbelt and moved back to where he'd secured the gowns.

What had Belle gotten her into?

Serena checked each of the dress bags. She repositioned three of them. Not much, but she felt better taking control. That is, taking care of her dresses. That was her job even if Kane didn't seem to realize that.

The man was arrogant and rude, the polar opposite of his kind and generous father, who epitomized a true gentleman. If not for the price of the flight--free, thanks to Charlie--and the ability to personally oversee the transport of the gowns, Serena would have found another way to Seattle. But any extra money the Wedding Belles had was going into a fund to pay for their cherished assistant's wedding next June. They couldn't afford to be too choosy after losing money on the Vandiver cancellation and the negative publicity that followed.

She thought about how much Julie and Matt were in love. Her other friends, too. Serena would find the same kind of love, the same kind of forever love, they had found. All she needed was her Mr. Right. One who just didn't look good on paper, but who she could love, too.

Looking out a window, she caught a glimpse of Kane as he performed his preflight walk-around. Light glinted off his sun-streaked light brown hair that fell past the collar of his dark leather jacket. A jacket that emphasized his broad shoulders.

Talk about Mr. Wrong.

Some women might find him good-looking. If they liked tall, classically handsome guys with chiseled jaw lines, square chins, sharpened noses and intense brown eyes.

Serena didn’t object to any of those things, exactly. She just preferred them packaged in a suit and tie, and paired with a short, styled haircut and clean-shaven face. She didn’t want a man who looked as if he'd rolled out of bed, bypassed the razor and brushed his fingers through his hair as an afterthought.

He glanced up at the plane, at the window she stared out of to be exact. His gaze met her. His eyes, the same color of her favorite dark chocolate, made her heart bump.


She hurried back to her seat, sunk into the comfortable leather club chair and fastened her seatbelt. The temperature in the cabin seemed to rise even though the door was still opened. She removed her coat, picked up her sketchpad and fanned herself.

What was the matter with her? Of course, she hadn't been sleeping well lately. Or eating, either. One good meal, and she'd feel better.

She'd like to take a bite out of Kane.


Her sketchpad fell onto her lap. She looked up.

Kane stood at the entrance to the plane. The interior suddenly seemed smaller. He appeared larger. She gulped.

"Excuse me?" Serena asked.

"Are you hot?"

"I-I..." Something about him made her flustered and tongue-tied and heated. She didn't like the feelings, either. "I'm a little warm."

Blueprint for a Wedding

This story evolved from our remodeling our first home, an English cottage built in 1939. I knew I wanted to use that experience in a book one day and our contractor was willing to answer my many questions.

I also knew I wanted to write Faith Starr Addison's story when I first introduced her in His Band of Gold. I also wanted to see how things were in Berry Patch, Oregon with Henry Davenport my matchmaking billionaire who was matched himself in The Billionaire's Wedding Masquerade.


She was a grand lady built to last. The most beautiful in Berry Patch, Oregon, and she was supposed to be his.

Sitting in his pickup truck, Gabriel Logan stared at the 1908 Craftsman style mansion--the stone-covered pillars, the multi-paned windows, the exposed beams, the wraparound porch and the three dormers jutting from the long-sloping, gabled roof. She was beautiful, all right. As his heart filled with regret, he tightened his grip on the steering wheel.

For years, he'd been dreaming, planning and saving for the day he would buy this house. Eighty-one-year-old Miss Larabee had promised it to him until two months ago when she'd received another offer "too good to pass up." One she didn't even give him the opportunity to match.

He drummed his fingers against the leather-covered steering wheel. His dog, Frank, raised his head from the passenger's seat and groaned.

"Sorry, boy." Gabe scratched behind the giant mastiff's drooping ears. "It shouldn't matter. We're here, right? On time. Might as well get to work."

But Gabe made no move to get out of the truck.

Today he started work on his dream house. Not as the owner. As the contractor hired to turn it into a B&B. His grandfather must be rolling in his grave. This house was meant for a family­not tourists with a buzz after visiting one of Willamette Valley's award-winning wineries. Yet Gabe was about to do the dirty work for the mysterious F.S. Addison. He hadn't spoken with the new owner yet. A mutual friend, Henry Davenport, had made all the arrangements. He'd referred more business than Gabe and his crew could handle, and money continued pouring in.

Talk about ironic.

Bitterness coated his mouth. This was one job he didn't want. But Gabe didn't trust anyone else to remodel the house while preserving the character, the charm and a million other things that made it special. That made the house a home. That should have been his home.

The title company might not agree, but Gabe and his family had been calling it his house for years.

Frank tried to roll over and expose his belly for rubs, but there wasn't enough room in the king cab.

"Sorry, boy." Gabe patted the dog. "We both got screwed this time around. And not in a good way."

Frank moaned.

"I know the truck is cramped."

With sad eyes, the dog stared up at him. No doubt Frank missed his custom-built doghouse and the large, fenced yard where he had room to roam. Gabe missed it, too.

"But I can't leave you at Mom and Dad's during the day. As soon as I have time, I'll find us another house."

When Miss Larabee told him she was moving to an assisted living facility and to make an offer on the house, he'd had no doubt it would be his. So he'd put his home up for sale, sold it the next day and moved into the studio above his parents' garage to wait until he could move into Miss Larabee's house. A good plan. If it had worked out.

Too bad none of his plans had worked out so far. Gabe had once thought he had it all figured out. At eighteen, he'd married his high school sweetheart and planned to have a minivan full of kids and be living in the Larabee house by the time he was thirty. Instead he was thirty-two with no wife, no kids and no place to call home.

He stared at the house.

Sorry, Gramps.

His grandfather had wanted to restore the house, too. Death had robbed him of his dream. And now F.S. Addison had robbed Gabe of his.

Frank pawed at the passenger door.

Reaching over two hundred pounds of tan fur, Gabe opened it. The dog poured himself out, lumbered up the walkway and front steps and plopped down on the shady porch. Even Frank acted as if the house was theirs.

Gabe slapped the steering wheel. This wasn't going to be easy, but he couldn't sit in the truck all day.

Time to get moving. The sooner this job was over, the sooner he could get on with his life. He slid out of the truck and sorted through the bucket of blueprints stored in the back of the cab.

Frank barked. Once, twice. A cat? A bloodcurdling-slasher-movie scream cut through the stillness of the summer morning. No, the scream was female, not feline. Gabe sprinted around the front of the truck.


The dog wasn't on the porch.

Another bark.

His deep woofs signaled his location like a beacon. Gabe ran toward the sound, around the front of the house to the side yard. He waded through weeds and too-tall grass to find Frank, with his tail wagging, straddling the trunk of an old maple tree. This was where he pictured his own kids, climbing into a canopy of shade and picnicking beneath its dense branches.

"What kind of trouble did you get us into this time?" Gabe asked.

Frank looked up at the tree and panted.

Gabe peered up to see a Levis-clad bottom. A very feminine, round bottom. A white T-shirt was tucked into the waistband. A brown ponytail hung out the back of a navy baseball cap. Frank had chased lots of animals up trees, but this was a first.

"That's some hunting, boy."

Memo: The Billionaire's Proposal

This story came to me in two different ways. The plot evolved after I suggested it to Jennie Adams and Fiona Harper when we were brainstorming ideas for what would eventually be the trilogy. The hero came from a King Arthur fan video I stumbled across on You Tube. One look at Lancelot (played by Ioan Gruffudd) and I knew I had my hero. Of course, I had to have him in a suit of armor, which made me realize my discarded trilogy plot idea might work for him!


"Damsel in distress here." Struggling to carry a heavy box full of what felt like bricks, Chaney eyed the row of antique armor on display in the Great Hall of Abbotsford Castle. "Hey, knights in shining armor. Can I get some help please?"

The polished suits stood at attention, weapons in hand as if ready for battle, but not one moved.

The story of her life. Chaney laughed.

Okay, she might not have the happily ever after ending she once thought she'd have, but she couldn't complain too much. Not many people got to fly to London and stay at a luxurious castle with all expenses paid while working as the associate producer on a highly rated cable channel show for three days.

This was the kind of hands-on production experience her boss Justin said she needed if she wanted to have a shot at the promotion she'd been eyeing. Okay, dreaming about since the job notice appeared, and she'd started filling in the application. Knowing finance was one thing, but knowing how projects got made and being in the trenches on a set was another. That was why he let her use her vacation days to come to England this week.

And she had one person to thank for the opportunity.


Her friend and former roommate was counting on Chaney to make sure the taping of The Billionaire's Playground, a travel show profiling the vacation spots of the uber-wealthy, went off without a hitch. Gemma's job required her to look out for the cable channel's interest, to put out fires and most importantly make sure the show stayed on budget and on schedule. Chaney wouldn't let her friend down.

The container full of electrical gear slipped in Chaney's sweaty hands. Her arm muscles strained against the weight. Her eyeglasses slid down her nose.

Dropping the hefty box on the gleaming wood floor would be an expensive no-no, one that could have historical implications given the medieval age of the castle. She tightened her grip, but it didn't help.

"May I help you, my lady?" a male voice asked from behind her.

The Welsh accent reminded her of Drake Llewelyn, but Gemma had said another billionaire would probably host this episode because he had a previous engagement. Chaney had been relieved to know she wouldn't have to see him again.

"Thank you." She rested the container against her bended knee. "I should have borrowed a baggage cart or dolly."

"Allow me."

She glanced back at her rescuer. A man wearing chain mail, black leather and armor plates on his shoulders, chest and legs approached. And not just any man...

Drake Llewelyn.

Her breath caught in her throat. He looked like a knight from King Arthur's Round Table, not a billionaire businessman whose latest pet project had him hosting a travel show for his cable channel.

She had to admit the look suited him. Awareness fluttered through her.

Too bad Drake Llewelyn wasn't a noble knight. He didn't follow any code of chivalry. His armor should be tarnished, not polished. She really shouldn't care what he looked like.
He walked toward her with the grace and agility of an athlete. The armor didn't slow him down one bit.

Uh-oh. She stiffened with apprehension. The costume must mean he was hosting this episode after all. That meant she would be working with him for the next three days.

"Hello, Chaney."

The warm sound of his voice seeped through her. He took the box out of her arms as if it weighed no more than a container of laundry detergent.

She pushed her glasses back into the place. Her tired and dry eyes had made her take out her contact lenses three hours ago. "Thanks."

"Thank you for coming at such short notice and filling in for Gem," he said. "Are you up to speed on the show and this episode?"

Her heart thudded. "Yes."

Though the show was the last thing on her mind at the moment.

Two familiar brown eyes, with gold flecks flickering like flames, stared into hers and sent Chaney's temperature soaring. His mussed hair made him look as if he'd just returned to the castle after a crusade and was ready to bed the first female who caught his eye. And his beard...

She did a double-take. He'd always been clean-shaven before. "You grew a beard."

"For the taping." Drake ran his fingers over the hair on his chin. "Not as full as I'd hoped, but I thought a beard would look more knightly."

"It does." She normally didn't like men with facial hair, but the mustache and beard combined with the costume made Drake look dark, dangerous and sexy. A black knight who, no doubt, had his pick of maidens, courtesans and queens.

Chaney swallowed around the crown jewel size lump in her throat.

"Where would you like the box?" he asked.

The deep rumble of his voice coupled with his accent made her stomach cartwheel and do a series of back flips like a gymnast during a floor exercise routine. The unexpected reaction put every one of her nerve endings on alert.

"By the lights." Her voice sounded low, almost husky and totally unnatural. The same odd way it felt to be giving Drake Llewelyn orders or feeling the bolt of unwelcome attraction. She cleared her dry throat. "Please place the box next to the lights."

As he carefully set the box where one of tonight's scenes would be taped, chain mail clinked. The sound echoed through the cavernous hall until swallowed up by the tapestry-covered walls.

Drake stood, looking taller than she remembered. She hadn't remembered his eyelashes being so thick and long, either. He seemed more handsome if that were possible.

Maybe she was more tired than she realized. Exhaustion could easily explain her reaction to him.

His gaze raked over Chaney.

She crossed her arms over her chest. "If I'd known we were supposed to dress up, I would have brought my beer wench costume."

Drake laughed. "It's been too long, Chaney."

Five years, one month and, she did a quick calculation, about five days. Not long enough in her opinion.

Rescued by the Magic of Christmas

I had no idea when I wrote this book that I would fall in love with the fictional town Hood Hamlet and the people who live there, but I did. This story is the first in what I hope will be a series set on Mount Hood and involving mountain rescuers. The second in the series, Christmas Magic on the Mountain, will be out in November 2010.

This story came out of a tragedy. In December 2006, three climbers went missing on Mount Hood which is about an hour and half from where I live. At that time, I knew nothing about climbing, but followed the search both in the news and on the Internet.

On Wednesday, December 14th, I wrote the following on my diary:
And please pray for the three climbers-Kelly, Brian and Nikko-missing on Mt. Hood, their families who must be worried sick about them and the searchers, real-life heroes waiting for a break in the weather so they can get up the mountain and do their job. My heart goes out to all of them.
On December 20th, I wrote:
I don't know about you, but my heart aches for the families of the three climbers lost on Mt. Hood. Yes, they are strangers. Yes, people go missing every single day. Yet something about this story affected not only my family, but people across the nation.

The happenings on Mt. Hood riveted us. Watching the three families during the press conferences for the past week and seeing their dignity, their grace and most especially unwavering faith touched us. We wanted a happy ending for the climbers and their families, a different outcome from a few weeks before with James Kim. And, however unlikely that may seem now that the mission is in recovery mode, I still want it. I want that Christmas Miracle for the families, for the searchers, for all of us.

But then again, I'm a romance writer and happily ever afters are our specialty. I just wish I could have been the one writing this ending.
Though I couldn't rewrite that ending, I could write a different story, one that had come to me a few days earlier while watching news coverage of the rescue and learning about the volunteers involved with mountain rescue. Right before Christmas I sent off a one page synopsis of a romance novel featuring a mountain rescue hero and a heroine who lost her fiancé and brother in a climbing accident on Mount Hood. That synopsis became RESCUED BY THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS.

If you'd like to learn more about the December '06 tragedy, check out this article by Portland Mountain Rescue (PMR) member Iain Morris in the Northwest Mountaineering Journal.

I had lots of help writing this book. Given my extreme fear of heights climbing was not on my list of things to try. That meant I had to find people who could answer my questions.

A few members from Portland Mountain Rescue proved themselves true heroes by helping me. A Central Washington Mountain Rescue member provided research help as well as much needed eleventh hour assistance. I was fortunate enough to talk with the wife of one PMR member and the sister of another. Both provided great insight on being the family member of a mountain rescue volunteer. Several climbers also helped me. I owe every single one of them a huge thank you!

And a funny thing happened while writing this book. A couple people helped me get into climbing. It was something I never thought I would do, but I fell in love with the sport and to them I will be eternally grateful!


As snow flurries fell from the gray sky, Carly Bishop stared at the charming log house surrounded by towering fir trees and decorated with strands of white icicle lights. A lopsided four-foot tall snowman, complete with carrot nose, stood in the front yard. A single electric candle shone through a wood-paned window, the flickering flame a welcoming light.

Carly walked along the snow-dusted path, dragging her wheeled suitcase behind her. A few feet from the porch she noticed a green wreath tied with a red velvet bow hanging from a brass holder on the front door. The scent of pine was sharp in the air. The same way it had been...

Her breath caught in her throat.

The house, the wreath, the candle, the snowman. It was as if time had stopped, as if the last six years had simply been a bad dream. Any second, Carly expected Nick to fling open the front door wearing a Santa hat and greet her with a jolly ho-ho-ho. And Iain...


She closed her eyes, fighting an onslaught of unwelcome memories.

I can't believe you're going climbing two days before our wedding. Why don't you just admit it, Iain? You love climbing more than you love me.

She'd wanted to forget. The argument and tears before and as he'd left to climb. The thoughts about his selfish behavior while he'd been climbing and dying. The grief and guilt after his body and Nick's had been found.

Carly thought she had forgotten. Put the past behind her. Moved on. She forced herself to breathe.

Coming back had been a mistake.

She should have stayed in Pennsylvania where she'd made a new life for herself, far away from the shadow of Mount Hood and all the mountain had stole from her. If only staying away had been an option, but her brother's widow Hannah was expecting a new baby and needed help with her two children.

So here Carly was. Ready to be an aunt extraordinaire for her niece and nephew. For better or most likely, worse.

Two weeks. All she had to do was survive the next two weeks, including December twenty-fourth, the twenty-fifth and New Years Eve. How hard could that be? Given she hadn't celebrated the holidays in years, she didn't want to know the answer.

Carly tightened her grip on the suitcase handle and climbed the steps to the front porch. With a tentative hand, she reached for the doorknob then remembered this was no longer her brother's house. She pressed the doorbell and waited.

The doorknob jiggled.

Straightening, Carly forced a smile. Years of working with customers had taught her how to put on a happy face no matter how she felt inside.

The door cracked open.

"Welcome back, Carly," a male voice greeted her warmly.

She expected to see Hannah's husband of two years, Garrett Willingham, but the man standing in the doorway looked nothing like the clean-cut, non-risk-taking, business-suit-wearing certified public accountant. This guy was too rugged, too fit, too...familiar.

"Jacob Porter." Over six feet tall with brown hair that fell past his collar, he still had piercing blue eyes, a killer smile and hot hard-body that had made the girls, herself included, swoon back in high school. But those things had only been made better with age. Her pulse kicked up a notch. "What are you doing here?"

"Waiting for you." His grin widened, the same way it had whenever he and Nick teased her about something. "Merry Christmas."

"Merry..." Simply thinking the word left a bitter taste in her mouth. She couldn't bring herself to say it. "Season Greetings. Where's Hannah?"

"At a doctor's appointment," Jacob explained. "Garrett drove her. She didn't know if they'd be home before you arrived or the school bus dropped Kendall and Austin off so they asked me to come over."

Carly noticed Jacob's clothes--a light blue button-down oxford shirt, khaki pants and brown leather shoes. A bit more stylish than the T-shirts, jeans or shorts and sneakers she remembered him wearing. He must have been at work.

"Thank you." Though she wasn't surprised. Jacob had always gone out of his way for them, a surrogate-everything to what remained of the Bishop family. He'd found her the job at a brewpub in Pennsylvania. He'd taught Nick's two kids to snow ski and fish. He'd even introduced Hannah to Garrett.

"Hurry inside before you get too cold." Jacob reached for Carly's suitcase. His hand--big, calloused and warm--brushed hers. The accidental contact startled her, and she jerked her hand away. "You city girls aren't used to the temperatures up here."

Forget the cold. She wasn't used to her response to his touch. Carly couldn't remember the last time a man had had that effect on her. "It gets cold in Philadelphia, too."

As she stepped into the house, heat surrounded her, cocooning her with the inviting comforts of home. She glanced around, noticing all the nice homey touches. Ones missing from her apartment.

"You look the same," he said.

He looked better. She glanced around. "So does this place."

And that somehow made everything...worse.

A fire blazed and crackled in the river rock fireplace. The way it had that horrible, dark Christmas morning when a teary-eyed Hannah told the kids to unwrap their gifts from Santa.

Carly wanted to close her eyes, to shut off the video of years gone by streaming through her mind, but the fresh evergreen scent, the twinkling multi-colored lights and the ornament-ladened branches wouldn't let her.

The popcorn and cranberry strung garland, keepsake decorations marking special occasions, silver bells and gold balls all reminded Carly of the rush to take the tree down before Nick's funeral. Hoping to protect the children, Hannah hadn't wanted the event to be associated with Christmas in any way. Her efforts seemed to have worked, but Carly couldn't think of one without the other.

The door closed. The sound made her glance back.

Jacob stared at her, an unrecognizable emotion in his eyes.

She remembered the time, during an argument with Iain, she'd turned to Jacob for advice. There'd been a moment when she thought he might kiss her. He'd been looking at her then the same way as now.

Her temperature rose--the combo of forced air heating and fireplace, no doubt--and she shrugged off her jacket.

"I'll take that." He hung her coat on the rack by the door. "It's good to see you again."

"You, too." And she meant that. Funny, but seeing him hadn't brought back any bad memories. That surprised her. "How are things at the Wy'East Brewing Company?"

Copyright © 2008 Melissa McClone Copyright © 2008 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books SA.

Dream Date with the Millionaire

This story is Book #3 of the trilogy. I'm a big fan of Jane Austen so you may see parts where I pay homage to one of my favorite writers!

The trilogy is set in the world of on-line dating, a that is totally foreign to me. Back when I was dating in the early to mid-90's, people used personal ads. Though I must admit, I never went that route myself. I was certain the one person I'd meet would be an axe murderer or something worse!

The more I talked to people, the more I learned how popular on-line dating is these days. A few people shared their experiences with me and I'm grateful to them for opening up about the good and not-so-good dates!

The best part of the Blind Dates Brides trilogy was getting to know the two other writers, Jennie Adams and Fiona Harper. Like our three heroines who met in a chat room on the dating site, we met and plotted the books using Yahoo Messenger. Not an easy task given we live on three different continents. The time differences made getting together difficult. But we did it, and our books are the end result!

Fiona put together a great Blind Date Brides website that has information on each of the three books, character dating profiles, setting info and other fun stuff.


At three o'clock, Dani sat at the rectangular table that functioned as the "conference room" as well as the "break room" with her five coworkers at the fledgling Internet dating site Pacing back and forth across the floor of the converted warehouse was their boss, James Richardson.

James wore ripped at the knee jeans and a black T-shirt. He had long, scraggly blond hair. He spoke fast and loud, as if fueled by caffeine and junk food. He reminded her of a stereotypical computer science graduate student in desperate need of a balanced meal, sunshine and a girlfriend, but his first two Internet ventures had made him tons of money. He'd sold them, and now wanted to replicate that success with a new on-line dating site.

Succeed at any cost, Dani had finally figured out.

During her interview, James had seemed more captivated with her double D bra cup sized breasts than the qualifications on her resume. Yet he'd surprised her by asking detailed questions about her schooling and work experience. He'd known exactly what he wanted for a marketing person.

She had the skills so she'd made the most of what nature had given her, just as her mother had taught her to do, and secured the job. Which meant she only had herself to blame for where she found herself today. She wanted to bang her head against the table for her stupidity.

"The good news is we had an increase in traffic thanks to Danica's marketing efforts." James winked at her. No one at the company except him knew she was undercover, so to speak, spying on the local competition, "Unfortunately the traffic exceeded our capacity so we've been having to add machines. But that's not a bad problem. Traffic will drive our advertising revenue. That means more money for us. Anyone have other ideas to generate more users?"

No one said anything.

"Rethinking our branding might help," she suggested. "Taglines, image, ads, name."

James clenched his jaw. "Our website name rocks."



Dani listened to the men in the room support their boss who they held with almost cult leader esteem. The only other woman at the table, Shelley, the office manager, shook her head and mouthed the word sorry to Dani.

The responses didn't deter her. She had to do something. Say something.

"Look at" The name of the fastest growing competitor brought groans from the three engineers at the table, but Dani kept going. "When people hear, they can't help but think about brides. That word connotes weddings which makes people think relationships, marriage, permanence. That's appealing to users."

"Only if you want to end up with a ball and chain," a Ruby on Rails developer named Andrew murmured.

Dani ignored him. "Granted, your, I mean, our site's name does have 'mate', but 'hook' makes people think of..."

"What?" James asked.

"One night stands," a PHP programmer, who probably hadn't showered let alone had a date in a month, said.

People--okay, guys--laughed.

"Yeah, sex," the interface hacker offered. "Sex appeals to a lot of people, too."

The two men gave each other high fives.

Dani sighed. "I worry the name brings about images of hook-ups, not serious relationships."

No one spoke.

"There's such thing as a niche market," Andrew said. "Hook ups can be our niche."

She stared at all the nodding heads. Male heads. No wonder women had a hard time finding good men to date these days. Not that she was interested in anything having to do with dating.

"I appreciate you bringing this up, Danica," James said finally. "I'll have to think about what you said."

Which meant he would never mention it again. That was how things worked around here. James' way or the highway. He'd given her a choice, join or quit. She needed the paycheck so did as he'd requested. Up until that point, she'd really liked the challenges of being in on the ground floor of a start-up again. Now she hated getting up in the morning.

"Anything else?" he asked.

No one said a word. No one ever did. Except her. She didn't know why she bothered.

"Get to work, people." James clapped his hands together. "We don't want anyone to be lonely tonight. They need to hook a mate!"

Dani trudged back to her cubicle, frustrated and tired. She'd stayed up late last night sending out another batch of resumes. Speaking of which, she'd better check her email in case someone replied. She clicked on her inbox. There, at the top, was a new message, but not from a potential employer. This was one was from with the subject header "I read your profile."

Oh, no. She squeezed her eyes shut. Another guy who wanted to get to know her.

Her stomach churned. She hated this. Sure, she could just hit delete-that was par for the course on many dating sites-but was different. The site touted itself as a community where politeness and manners mattered. Users were requested to reply even if the intent was to give someone a brush-off. Still the thought of telling another guy she wasn't interested in getting to know him better made her feel physically ill.

But what else could she do?

Leading a guy on when she was on the site under false pretenses ranked right up there with corporate spying in her book. She massaged her forehead to stop a full-on headache from erupting. Okay, one rejection wasn't going to send some guy scampering back to his mommy in tears, but...

Why did this keep happening?

Dani had taken steps to ensure it wouldn't. What sense of honor she had left made her fill out the profile questionnaire truthfully so she understood when the compatibility programmed deemed her a match with someone. But Dani had hedged against the computer algorithms by uploading the most unattractive photo of herself she could find. She looked downright ugly. While other women uploaded more than one picture to their profile page, she hadn't.

She also downplayed her interests to make herself sound, well, about as exciting as a slug inching across a driveway at dawn. She'd listed the library as her favorite place to spend a Saturday night and a collection of Jane Austen novels as her must have item if stranded on a deserted island.

No man should want to date her.

Maybe this one didn't. Maybe he was one of those guys, the players, who only wanted to have sex. If that were the case, she wouldn't mind telling him to get lost.
Dani opened her eyes and read the entire email.

From: "bigbrother",
To: "sanfrandani",
Subject: I read your profile

Who are you searching for? Mr. Darcy? Or Mr. Knightley?


Dani reread the message. Twice.

Okay, she was impressed some guy knew the names of two Jane Austen heroes, but who did he take her for? Intelligent, impulsive Lizzy or smug, interfering Emma?

Still his message intrigued Dani. She typed a reply and hit send. With a satisfied smile on her face, she leaned back in her chair. And almost fell over backwards.

Uh-oh. What had she done?

She shouldn't have replied. Dani grimaced. She wasn't supposed to engage bigbrother in more emails. She was supposed to tell him she wasn't interested. To. Go. Away. Politely, of course.

Only she hadn't wanted to do that.

Not when his email had been unlike any of the others she'd received. He'd obviously read her profile and asked his question based on what she'd written. Not on her photo or bra size. Maybe he was genuinely interested.

Or maybe he was ugly.

Her eyes locked on the link to his profile that would transport her to a page all about him, a page with his picture.

Curiosity trickled down the length of her arm to her fingertip hovering above the laptop's trackpad. She wanted to know more about bigbrother. Read what he'd written about himself. See what he looked like.

Temptation flared. She moved the cursor to the link. All she had to do was click, but she couldn't.

The less Dani knew about bigbrother, the better.

She wasn't looking to meet a guy. She didn't want to meet a guy. Especially one from

Not under these circumstances.

Ignoring the twinge of regret, she closed his email.

Goodbye bigbrother.

Copyright © 2009 Melissa McClone Copyright © 2009 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books SA.

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Billionaire's Wedding Masquerade

This story features my matchmaking billionaire, Henry Davenport, who gets a taste of his own medicine thanks to Cynthia Sterling from the book The Wedding Adventure.


"What are you smiling about, Henry?" Cade Waters, attorney turned child advocate, sat across from him in the red-vinyl booth. "Hole-in-the-wall cafes are more my style than yours."

Henry Davenport stared at the nubile blond waitress. "Not with her working here."

"Not your usual type," Cade said.

True, but Henry wanted her. Take away the pink knee-length skirt, the white shirt, the stained apron, the ugly white shoes, and the nude-colored support hose not even his housekeeper would be caught dead in, and she'd be perfect. Almost naked, too, which would make her all the more perfect.

He grinned at the thought. Perhaps it was too much to imagine she wore a lacy underwire bra and matching thong, but hey, this was his daydream and the waitress had to spend her tips on something. What better than sexy lingerie?

"Thank you, Cynthia, for suggesting we stop here," Henry said. "I'm certain the food will be delicious. The view is tres magnifique."

"I only wanted to eat before we went wine-tasting." Cade's bride-to-be, Cynthia Sterling, pursed her glossed lips. "Would you actually consider asking a waitress out?"

"Why not?" Henry asked. "I've dated actresses, models, dancers and socialites. Even you, darling."

"Only once. Thank goodness."

Cade placed a protective arm around his fiance. "Lucky for me the two of you were more like brother and sister than boyfriend and girlfriend."

She leaned against him. "Lucky for me I met you."

The tenderness of Cynthia's smile touched Henry's heart. Once again his matchmaking skills had been perfect. No fine-tuning or adjustment needed. There were few things Henry truly enjoyed, but seeing his friends find true love topped the list. And no one could argue with his success.

"What do you think your relationship would be with the waitress, Henry?" Cynthia asked.

"Maybe he wants to hire her." Cade raised a brow. "Have her wear one of those little black French maid outfits and give her a feather duster."

"A feather duster." Henry grinned at the image forming in his mind. "I like that."

Cynthia rolled her eyes. "I doubt it's your furniture you want dusted."

Cade laughed and patted Cynthia's hand. As her diamond engagement ring sparkled, Henry noticed her French manicure. "Your fingernails have grown back."

"Finally," Cynthia said, flexing her fingers. "After your deserted-island adventure, I never thought my hands would look the same. Though I still have a few calluses."

Cade kissed the top of her hand. "Just a reminder of what we had to go through to find each other."

Every year on April Fool's Day, Henry threw himself a birthday party and sent two of his friends on an adventure of a lifetime where he set them up to fall in love. It was the best way he knew to insure his friends' happiness. "A small price to pay for happily ever after."

"A small price?" Cynthia frowned. "I ended up with a bamboo pole stuck in my foot and had surgery."

"I'm sorry about your foot." Henry still sent her a bouquet of flowers each week to make up for her injury. "But that was a freak accident. No one else has ever gotten hurt."

"Accidents do happen." Cynthia narrowed her eyes. "Who knows what will happen during your next adventure?"

"Two people will fall in love." Henry rubbed his palms together. "Just like you did. And Brett and Laurel Matthews, too. Admit it, darling. I've become an accomplished matchmaker."

"Two happy couples and you've let success go to your head." Cynthia sighed. "I suppose you want us to call you Cupid."

"Cupid has a nice ring," he admitted. "But I prefer Henry."

Cynthia leaned forward. "You know, Henry, it isn't right to play around with people's lives this way."

"It is right, darling." Henry flashed her his most dazzling smile. Of course, she was immune to the effect, but perhaps the waitress caught a glimpse. He loved flirting and the nuances that went with it. "In fact, it's my duty to those I care most about. If not for me, you wouldn't be engaged."

Cade nodded. "He's got a point, Sterling."

"I'm grateful for you introducing me to Cade, but there has to be an easier way than having you play puppet master with your adventures." She spoke with tenderness and Henry knew she wasn't trying to offend him. "Someone could get hurt. Not just an injured foot, but a broken heart. Or worse."

"Don't tell me you want me to stop my adventures?"

"I won't tell you," Cynthia said. "But I do."

"My friends would be too disappointed if I stopped."

"Not all your friends," Cade admitted. "You do enough for your friends planning trips and parties and all sorts of other fun things. The adventures aren't necessary."

"They are necessary." At first Henry planned his adventures to keep he and his friends entertained. But once he saw how good he was at executing them and how much his friends enjoyed them and how successful he was at matchmaking and how wonderful it was to have a godchild... "I'm not stopping."

"It's time you entered the real world, Henry," Cynthia said. "If you knew what being sent on an adventure was like you would change your tune."

"I would love to be sent on an adventure."

The Wedding Adventure

This story sprung from The Wedding Lullaby where I introduced the character, Henry Davenport. I loved the idea of a bored billionaire fixing up people he knew.  I was also a fan of the reality TV show, Survivor, and thought a deserted island would be a great setting!

For my hero, I used the brother of my heroine, Kelsey Armstrong Waters, in His Band of Gold and cousin of my heroine, Christina Armstrong, in If The Ring Fits...


Happy Birthday to me.

Henry Davenport hummed the tune. The party was an overwhelming success and was only going to get better. Time for two guests to partake in his "adventure". He climbed on stage and the band stopped playing. "Line up for your chance at the adventure of a lifetime," he announced to the crowd.

Tropically and scantily clad, hard-bodied waiters and waitresses passed out drinks to guests who stood in line. No one knew what was in store for the lucky participants. No one cared. People's willingness to participate in his adventures was the only birthday present Henry wanted. Besides everyone knew they'd get a nice reward from him when they finished. The more difficult the adventure, the bigger the reward. This year's would be a doozy.

Henry cupped a pair of dice in his hands. This adventure would be his finest triumph. Until next year.

Guests waited for their chance to walk on stage and roll the dice. Cynthia Sterling's turn arrived. She made her way up with a sensual sway of her hips. She was attractive, stunning really, with beautiful hair she had colored every three weeks to give it a natural blond look, and a figure any Sports Illustrated model would die for. A brilliant smile lit up her face. Things must be going well with Cade.

Good for her.

Cynthia would never be called sweet or innocent or nice. Truth be told, she was a pain in the butt. But he loved her like a sister and underneath all her makeup, designer clothes and pouty facade lay a good heart.

She was the quintessential poor, little rich girl. Her parents were so in love, they barley noticed they'd had a child and she'd grown into a woman. Cynthia deserved to be happy, deserved to be loved. Henry still couldn't believe her parents hadn't remembered her birthday last year. She had shrugged it off The same way she shrugged off holidays spent alone.

He almost believed she only cared about marrying well, but he'd seen a longing in her eyes the first time she held Noelle. He heard the envy in her voice when commenting how perfect Laurel and Brett were together and how lucky they were to have found each other. Cynthia claimed she had no luck finding her Mr. Right. Henry knew she was trying too hard. She was only twenty-six and in a rush to get to the altar. He didn't want her to settle for less than she deserved.

But Cynthia's luck with men was about to change...

She stepped up to the platform and kissed his cheek. "Happy Birthday, Henry."

"Thank you, darling." With a sleight of hand learned from a Reno magician last year, Henry gave her a special pair of dice, different ones than the others had used. "Good luck."

She rubbed the dice between her hands and rolled. Double sixes. High rollers participated in the adventure. One man and one woman. A momentary deer-in-the-headlights expression flashed across her features.

"Don't worry," Henry assured her. "You'll do fine."

"I'd better or you'll be the one worrying." Her voice was low, but filled with a threat. He expected no less from her.

Cynthia wasn't meek and mild. She went after what she wanted. The next two weeks weren't going to be easy for her, but they would be good for her. Henry wanted her to be happy. His job was to show Cynthia what she wanted—no, needed. And he'd finally figured out the right man for her.

Cade Waters stepped on-stage and took the dice. He wasn't thrilled to be here, but he would get over it and come to appreciate what Henry had planned not only for Cade's foundation, but his heart, too.

Cade rolled. Double sixes. He grimaced. Cynthia's full lips broke into a wide smile.

Other guests needed to roll, but Henry couldn't wait for the adventure to begin. This was going to be so much fun. He rubbed his palms together.

The way the adventure would take advantage of Cade's strengths had been a stroke of luck. Henry knew fate had been helping him out. By the time the pair returned from the island adventure, Cynthia would see Cade Waters as her knight in shining khaki, the Indiana Jones of the new millennium, the man of her dreams. Henry tried not to grin too widely. But he had to smile. Life was too good not to have a smile on his face.

Before giving the next guest the dice, Henry discretely switched them back to the original pair. Once everyone had rolled, he stood at a microphone. "We have our winners. Cynthia Sterling and Cade Armstrong Waters."

The other guests cheered.

"This year, I'm paying homage to the pop-culture phenomena television show Survivor. Cade and Cynthia will spend two weeks on a deserted island together."

"Two weeks?" Cade's jaw hardened. "I have responsibilities."

"You'll time to make arrangements for your absence," Henry said. "You also have the option of paying a penalty fee and not going on the adventure if you choose."

The penalty fee consisted of a ten thousand dollar donation to one of Henry's favorite charities. So far, no one had opted out of an adventure. Along with paying the penalty, one could never attend another one of his birthday parties. He knew Cade was a lawyer and the penalty fee would never stand up in a court of law. But Cade was also counting on a donation to his foundation. Offending the host wouldn't be in his best interest.


Perhaps, but Henry was only doing what needed to be done. He would play hardball with Cade. The Smiling Moon Foundation would get a hefty chunk of change no matter how the adventure turned out for Cynthia and Cade. Henry's soft spot for kids had intensified with Noelle's birth.

"I'm in," Cade said with the bravado Henry expected.

"Me, too," Cynthia added.

Of course, she was. Two weeks alone with Cade was a dream come true for her. Knowing Cynthia, she was already planning their wedding. The Plaza? The Rainbow Room? And her honeymoon. St. Barts? Turks and Caicos?

Henry handed them each a backpack. "Pack your toiletries and clothes in these. The rest of the items will be provided when we reach our location."

Holding onto the backpack, Cynthia peered inside. "You want me to pack for two weeks with only this?"

"You don't need much except a swimsuit." At her frown, Henry winked. "Smile, darling. Frowning will give you wrinkles."

She narrowed her eyes. He'd better not push it.

"What about time to make arrangements?" Cade asked. "Two weeks is a long—"

"It's a long trip to our destination," Henry explained. "You'll have time to make calls and get to know each other."

Cade tensed. "Great."

Cynthia's eyes sparkled. "I can't wait."

Neither could Henry.

In Deep Waters

This story was Book #2 of the Silhouette Romance A Tale of the Sea continuity released in 2002. eBook versions of all four books were released in spring of 2010.

In Deep Waters received 4 1/2 gold rating, a Top Pick designation and the 2002 Best Silhouette Romance Award from Romantic Times. Reviewer Judith Rippelmeyer had this to say about the book:
Maritime historian Kayla Waterton's childhood was filled with stories about mermaids and Atlantis. But Kayla promised her father she would stay away from the sea. After his death, Kayla decides to fulfill his dreams of finding the lost pirate ship Isabella. She finds an unlikely partner in salvage captain Ben Mendoza, who hopes to recover the ship's vast treasure. But what Kayla discovers about herself is so shocking, it may end her budding romance with Ben. IN DEEP WATERS (4.5 G) is what romance is all about! Melissa McClone offers adventure, romance, emphatic characters and a dynamite storyline. Reader's will also delight in Ben's little girl, Madison.
The other books in A Tale of the Sea series are:

Book 1: More than Meets the Eye by Carla Cassidy
Book 3: Caught by Surprise by Sandra Paul
Book 4: For the Taking by Lillian Darcy


Foamy green swells tossed the supply ship back and forth like a child's plaything. Kayla Waterton grasped the railing and peered over the edge. She'd done her research and knew what to expect while at sea. Still, she couldn't hide her awe at the water's power or the secrets buried in the murky depths.

"This will keep you safe while you transfer to the other ship, Miss Waterton." Pappy, who looked more like Santa Claus than the ship's captain, connected a lifeline to her life jacket in case she fell into the water. "Just wish I knew what turned the water so rough all of a sudden."

As soon as the Xmarks Explorer, a survey-and-salvage ship, had appeared on the horizon, the calm waters turned choppy. None of the supply ship's crew could explain why, but Kayla thought she knew the answer.

The sea was angry.

She wasn't supposed to be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. She'd promised her father she would stay out of the sea. If only he was here with her. But he was gone and she'd taken up where he'd left off-locating lost shipwrecks. Piecing together and solving the secrets of the past gave her such satisfaction. She found comfort reading old journals and maps, comparing cargo ledgers and insurance claims, putting the bits and pieces of research into reports for search expeditions.

And for the first time, she was going on an expedition herself. She couldn't deny her excitement, even though she'd had no choice in coming. Her father's dream had been to find the Isabella-a treasure ship of untold value lost nearly three centuries ago, but the bozo running the search expedition was looking in the wrong place, wasting valuable time and money.

"Are you ready, Miss Waterton?" Pappy asked.

Kayla nodded, but she felt less than confident. Spray from the swells hitting the ships flew through the air. She would have to walk right through the mist, but she was more worried about the waves washing over the narrow plank bridging the gap between the two ships. A shiver ran down her spine. Kayla liked reading about adventure on the high seas, not experiencing one herself.

Think about finding the Isabella, locating the lost treasure, making Daddy's dream come true, finding the answers I need... It was only water. So what if she got wet? She could do this; she had to do this.

"We'll bring your gear over with the supplies."

The sooner she got to the other ship, the sooner her search for the Isabella began. Kayla smiled. "Thank you, Pappy."

"Hold on and keep moving." He assisted her onto the gangway. "Whatever you do, don't look down."

She gripped the handrails and took a step. The plank moved up and down, following the motion of the waves. Water seeped through her shoes wetting her socks and feet.

Don't look down.

That hadn't been in any of her books, but she knew good advice when she heard it.

Kayla stared at the crew standing on deck. She focused her gaze on one man with hair the color of coal. He stood out from the others. Though he was simply standing, he exuded a confidence and an arrogance Kayla found both appealing and unnerving.

With a gold hoop in his left ear, he was more pirate than white knight. It was much too easy to imagine him at the helm of the Isabella, barking orders to his crew, stealing treasures from ships sailing the Pacific and kidnapping their female passengers. No doubt he whispered seductive phrases in Spanish, if Kayla guessed his ancestry correctly, before ravishing the maidens locked in his cabin.

As if reading her mind, his dark as midnight eyes met hers with such intensity she almost took a step back.

She swallowed hard. Twice. It didn't help.

Dangerous was the only way to describe him. She wouldn't call him handsome. Not unless you liked tall-dark-ruggedly-sexy-one-hundred-percent-male-types. She didn't, but her body forgot that fact. For some strange reason, her pulse picked up speed. Adrenaline? Attraction? Standing midway across the plank, she wasn't sure of the difference right now.

The only thing she knew to do was keep moving.

Instinct told her to turn around, but she didn't. Instead, Kayla forced herself to walk toward him. Not him, the ship. She took another step and another. Moving closer, Kayla found herself entranced, almost mesmerized, by his eyes.

Look away, look anywhere but at him.

She looked down. Right at the churning water. Oh, my...

"Watch out."

The warning registered, but it was too late. The wave smashed into her and tossed Kayla against the rail. She hit hard against her left hip. Cold water drenched her, soaked through her clothes. Saltwater stung her eyes and filled her mouth. Despite the slippery rail, she hung on. Lifeline or not, she wasn't taking any chances. She had researched what getting lost and rescued at sea entailed.
Strong arms lifted her and carried her onto the ship. She blinked to clear her eyes and came face to face with the pirate. His eyes were even darker up close.