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By Debbie Mason
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There’s nothing Jenna Bell loves more than a happily-ever-after. That’s why being a wedding planner is her dream job – until the groom is Logan Gallagher. She’s had a crush on him since . . . well, forever. And now she has to make his day magical as he walks down the aisle without her.
As a secret service agent, Logan’s already married – to his career. A wife was never in his plan, until he finds out he needs to marry the woman he’s been protecting. He takes his latest assignment in stride, but when he sees Jenna again, he can’t deny the attraction sparking between them. Can he really say “I do” if it means saying goodbye to the woman of his dreams?
Jenna Bell made a living helping women find their Prince Charming. At twenty-nine, she still believed in the fairy tale—in one true loves and happily-ever-afters. And while her success rate as a matchmaker was well publicized, she hadn’t found her own true love until six months ago. Admittedly, the past several months hadn’t been all hearts and flowers. Through no fault of her fiancé, of course.
Lorenzo had proposed to Jenna three days after her stepfather died. Some people might think his timing was off. Her stepsisters, Arianna and Serena, certainly did. And yes, maybe even Jenna had too. But his heart had been in the right place. He’d wanted to give her something to look forward to, something to take her mind off the loss of the only father she had ever known—the man who’d made her believe in fairy tales and happily-ever-afters.
Richard Bell had lifted her and her mother from a life of poverty to a life of luxury in a matter of weeks. More important, he’d loved them heroically. He’d treated her mother like a queen and Jenna like a princess.
Thinking about her stepfather brought tears to her eyes, and she tried to blink them away. When that didn’t work, she frantically fanned her hands in front of her face. “Don’t cry. You’re not allowed to cry,” she murmured to herself while standing in the changing room at her stepsisters’ bridal shop in Harmony Harbor.
She was terrified a mascara-tinged tear might fall on her wedding gown. She’d just had her final fitting of the dress her stepsisters had slaved over for months. It was an Arianna Bell original, designed specifically with Jenna in mind. The dress was beyond gorgeous. She felt like a princess in the breathtaking, strapless tulle gown with intricate floral detailing from the bodice to just below the warm white satin bow at her waist.
Arianna had decided the color suited Jenna’s auburn hair and green eyes better than winter white. She’d been right of course, which wasn’t a surprise. When it came to fashion and style, no one could hold a candle to Arianna. Her ability to turn Jenna into a fairy-tale princess was a perfect example since Jenna wasn’t exactly fairy-tale princess material. Her stepsisters were though.
And sometimes, more so when they were younger, they treated her as abysmally as the stepsisters in a fairy tale. Which was why Jenna couldn’t afford to have anything go wrong. They’d had an amazing day together. It was everything she’d ever dreamed of as a little girl. The laughter, the good-natured teasing, the…
Her thoughts were interrupted by the steady chime of the door opening and closing and the sound of Lorenzo’s smooth voice, with its exaggerated, lyrical accent, greeting the customers and her sisters. Jenna reached back to unzip her wedding gown. She wasn’t comfortable leaving her fiancé alone without her to intercede if things went sideways like they so often did.
All she needed was for Arianna and Lorenzo to get into a knock-down, drag-out fight before the wedding. They were both volatile and stubborn and mixed as well as oil and water. But the only sound she heard was Pachelbel’s Canon in D coming through the speakers. She was just about to chide herself for worrying over nothing when she heard it…a feminine sob.
If Lorenzo had made Arianna cry, they would have words. She bowed her head. If Jenna had words with her fiancé, he’d probably cry too. He was a sensitive soul. She wouldn’t admit it to anyone else, but sometimes she found his proclivity to melodrama annoying. Then again, she’d much rather Lorenzo be a kind and sensitive—albeit dramatic—man than a brooding alpha.
In all her years in the matchmaking business, Jenna had met her fair share of alpha males. Like bad boys, they weren’t for her. She found them too masculine, domineering, and full of themselves. Admittedly, she was in the minority. Ninety percent of the women she matched wanted an alpha or a bad boy. At least she’d saved herself the heartache and found Lorenzo, who was somewhere between a beta and a metrosexual.
As Jenna steeled herself to pull back the changing room curtain and discover the identity of the crying person, there was the muffled ping of an incoming text. She found her iPhone buried beneath her clothes on the chair, releasing a relieved breath when she read the text from Serena. Her stepsister identified the crying woman as a bride who’d just been unceremoniously dumped ten days before her upcoming wedding. Her sisters were both busy, and Serena asked Jenna to provide a little TLC to the jilted bride until one of them could take over.
No problem, she texted back, happy for the opportunity to help out.
Jenna returned her phone to the pile of clothes and then pushed back the curtain. She spotted the woman right away. Half-buried beneath a garment bag, she sat slumped on a velvet slipper chair on the other side in the fitting area. Her veil was askew on her gorgeous updo, congealed streaks of black mascara and blush on her cheeks. She must have been having a trial run of her hair and makeup for the big day. Despite her heart breaking for the poor woman, Jenna pasted a warm, professional smile on her face.
“Here, why don’t you let me hang this up for you?” Without waiting for a response, she gently removed the garment bag from the woman’s arms. “I’m Jenna Bell, Arianna and Serena’s sister. Would you like a coffee or tea…? How about a glass of prosecco?” Jenna asked as she returned from hanging up the gown in a fitting room.
“A bottle of prosecco would be good,” the woman said, her attempt at putting on a brave face failing when she burst into tears.
Jenna gathered up a champagne flute, the bottle of bubbly, and a box of tissues. She nudged a small table and chair closer to the woman and sat down. “Do you want to talk about it?” she asked as she poured a glass of prosecco.
The jilted bride hiccupped a sob while reaching for a tissue. “I don’t know what happened. I was just leaving the salon, and he called and said h-he couldn’t go through with the wedding. H-he blamed me. He said he never wanted to get married. He said I push…pushed him into it.”
Jenna put down the bottle to comfort her. “Is there anyone I can call for you?”
The woman lifted her head from Jenna’s shoulder to accept the tissues Jenna gently pressed into her hand. She blew her nose. “Sorry for crying all over your beautiful gown. My name’s Kimberly, and I’m not usually a crier, but…”
“Please, don’t apologize. I just wish there were something I could say that would make you feel better.” Jenna handed her more tissues. “I don’t know if this is helpful or not, but I own a matchmaking company in Charleston, and so many of my clients have been exactly where you are right now and they’ve gone on to find true love. I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, Kimberly, but trust me, this might be the best thing to happen to you.”
“I can’t see how. He’s the love of my life.” Sniffing, she pulled out her phone to show Jenna pictures of her with her fiancé.
Jenna studied the couple in the photo. Her matchmaking company had a 90.9 percent success rate for a reason. And it didn’t have anything to do with her stepmother’s super-secret computer program like Gwyneth liked to tell people.
Jenna had a gift.
She knew within moments of a couple sitting across from her if they were meant to be or not. A pretty pink light would dance between the couple, and Jenna would get a warm, fuzzy feeling deep down inside and be overcome by a sense of joy and well-being. Sometimes the feelings were so powerful she was sure the inner glow must show on her face. No one had ever said that it did though. And maybe because she didn’t have tangible proof, the few people who knew about her gift pooh-poohed it. Including her stepmother. At least when it suited her. Which was why Southern Belle didn’t have a hundred percent success rate. Because when it came to true love and happily-ever-afters, Jenna was always, always right.
In this case the couple weren’t sitting across from her so she couldn’t be one hundred percent positive, but she felt eighty percent confident. “Kimberly, I’ve been doing this a long time, and trust me, he’s not your one and only. Give yourself a couple months to get in a better place and then give me a call, and I’ll help you find a man who is.”
“Really? You don’t think we were meant to be?”
“No. If you were, he wouldn’t have called off the wedding. A couple months from now, you might want to thank him. I know it’s hard to see this now, but what he did took courage, Kimberly.”
“Oh, bella, what you say, it is the truth. I am so glad you understand. I knew you would.”
Jenna glanced over her shoulder. She should probably be alarmed that her fiancé had just seen her in her wedding dress, but she didn’t think her wedding could be cursed twice. Lorenzo had already seen her in the dress when he’d walked in on her during the fitting for his tux.
“I don’t know what you mean, Lorenzo. Understand what?”
The beatific expression on his too-handsome face dimmed, and his sensuous mouth turned down. “What you just told your friend. I must have the courage for the both of us.”
Jenna came slowly to her feet. “Are you…? Are you breaking up with me?”
“Sì. I have found my true love, and now I must set you free to find yours.”
This couldn’t be happening. She reached for the back of the chair in case her suddenly weak knees gave out. In the distance, she heard Arianna say something to Serena and then the click of high heels coming their way. Jenna knew she should continue the conversation someplace private, but there seemed to be a disconnect between her brain and her mouth. “Y-you told me I’m your true love.”
“I was mistaken. My heart, it belongs to Gwyneth.”
She practically fell off her heels and tightened her grip on the back of the chair. “Gwyneth? You’re in love with my stepmother?” Her heart was pounding so hard she could hear her pulse in her ears and wasn’t sure if she’d yelled or whispered the words. At the sound of high heels hitting the tiles at the rate of machine-gun fire, she went with the former.
“Ah, you knew, then. You should have told me, bella. It was not fair you kept me from my love for so long.”
“And I thought I was having a bad day.” Kimberly leaned over to hand Jenna the bottle of prosecco. “Either drink it or hit him with the bottle. Personally, I’d hit him. And no offense, but if you didn’t know he wasn’t your one, how am I supposed to trust you to know who’s mine?”
Emotion swelled in Jenna’s throat, making it impossible to respond. She’d never had the true-love feeling with any of her boyfriends, Lorenzo included. Psychics were the same. Their gift was for other people, not themselves.
But Jenna couldn’t find the energy to defend her abilities. Gwyneth had stolen everything from her now. The woman she’d spent the last decade trying to mollify and please had just sunk a sixteen-inch serrated knife into Jenna’s chest and torn out her heart. And here she stood with the blood draining from her body and her knees about to give out, and the man she thought loved her, her very own Prince Charming, was watching her with a perturbed expression on his face because she’d kept him from her forty-five-year-old stepmother.
She glanced at the bottle in her hand. The temptation to hit him over the head and replace his aggravation with shock and pain was hard to resist. Arianna wouldn’t hesitate, and neither would Serena. But Jenna couldn’t bring herself to do it and handed the bottle back to Kimberly. “I can’t drink and drive.” She forced the words past her quivering lips and rapidly blinked her eyes. She had to get out of there before she broke down. All she had left was her dignity.
“I’ll be right back. I need to put more money in the parking meter.” She lifted her skirts and ran past a confused-looking Lorenzo and her wide-eyed sisters. She ran to the front of the shop and out the door. It wasn’t until she was about to run across the street to her car that she realized she was still in her wedding gown and didn’t have her keys. A deep voice cut through the fog of her grief.
“Hey, Cinderella, you lost your shoe.”
She registered her lopsided gait and the warm pavement beneath her foot and stopped. She turned. And there, bathed in June’s golden light, stood a tall, dark-haired man with her glass shoe resting on the palm of his hand.
Logan Gallagher had seen some interesting things in his twelve-year career as a Secret Service agent, but this was a first for him. He glanced from the dainty glass shoe he balanced on the palm of his hand to the shop, Tie the Knot, behind him and wondered if he’d gotten it wrong. Maybe the woman wasn’t playing princess after all. Maybe she was a runaway bride.
She stopped, turning to stare at him through luminous, pale green eyes. She kept staring. He wondered if he knew her, but he had a good memory for faces and couldn’t recall hers. He smiled and held up her shoe. “I think this is yours.”
Her red-bowed lips parted, and then her big, long-lashed eyes darted past him. A tall, dark-haired man in a powder-blue tuxedo burst through the doors of Tie the Knot. Cinderella gave a panicked yelp before whirling around to run across Main Street. Logan caught a glimpse of a red Camaro heading directly for her and took off at a run.
He reached her seconds before the car did and scooped her into his arms. The driver of the Camaro braked hard, the smell of burning rubber filling the air. The car’s grille brushed the side of Logan’s leg, and he felt the heat through his jeans. Acknowledging the clearly shaken driver with a grateful chin lift, he jogged to the sidewalk across from Tie the Knot and Tuxedo Guy.
Logan glanced at the woman in his arms. “You okay under there?” he asked, doing his best to keep the amusement from his voice. Given the day she appeared to be having, Cinderella probably wouldn’t find it funny that her dress had blown up over her head. There were enough layers of fabric that she wasn’t flashing anything other than a shapely pair of legs.
She batted at the gauzy white material and her big eyes appeared over the mound of fabric. “Thank you. I can’t believe I did—” He picked up on a touch of the South in her voice before Tuxedo Guy interrupted her, shouting to make himself heard over the honking horns as he wove his way through the oncoming traffic to reach them.
He gesticulated wildly, pointing at his head. “Stupido, running away like that! Madonna mia, what were you thinking? My dress, you could’ve ruined it, sì?”
Logan shot the guy a look while carefully lowering his charge to the sidewalk. “Back off and give her a minute.” He didn’t say jerk, but he wanted to. The woman was obviously distraught, and the guy was calling her stupid. She was also as dainty as her shoe, and he could feel her tremble in his arms, which was probably the reason Logan felt like punching the guy.
Instead, he placed a hand on her shoulder to steady her. “You okay?” he asked.
Beneath his fingers her skin was warm and satiny smooth. She had pretty shoulders and a delicate collarbone. The flush deepened on her cheeks, and he lowered his hand, turning his attention to the two women headed their way.
He recognized the blue-eyed, blond sisters, Arianna and Serena Bell. Arianna had dated his brother Connor. If Logan remembered correctly, it had ended badly for the pair. But it would’ve been more of a surprise if it had ended well. His brother didn’t exactly have the best track record with women, even back then.
“What were you thinking, Jenna? You nearly got yourself killed over…over that idiot.” Arianna flung out her hand in Tuxedo Guy’s direction.
“You see, her sister, she agrees with me. What Jenna did was stupido.”
Logan looked down at the woman beside him, surprised. He couldn’t recall hearing that Arianna and Serena had a sister. There wasn’t much of a family resemblance.
He looked up and caught Tuxedo Guy’s eyes on him, realizing then that the man had been addressing his remark to him. Obviously, he’d read Logan’s earlier what a jerk expression. He wondered if he should point out to Tuxedo Guy that Arianna had just called him an idiot, but it looked like she was about to handle that herself.
Arianna got in the guy’s face, stabbing him in the chest with a white-tipped fingernail. “Believing one word out of your mouth was stupid. Saying yes when you asked her to marry you was stupid. And we were stupid for letting her do it. But even more stupid was her taking off and nearly getting herself killed because you dumped her for our stepmother. She should’ve—”
A small, embarrassed groan pulled Logan’s attention back to the woman beside him. She looked like she wished the sidewalk would open up and swallow her whole. “You might want to take this somewhere else,” Logan suggested to Arianna, lifting a hand to indicate the growing crowd.
“Thanks for trying,” Jenna murmured when her sister ignored him and continued to tell Tuxedo Guy what should’ve been done to him. She was creative and kind of scary, and Logan thought his brother had gotten off lucky.
Serena stepped around Arianna to poke the guy’s shoulder. “We knew you were just a sleazy Casanova, Lorenzo. The only reason you were with Jenna was because of her company and a green card, and it’s on us that we didn’t step in before you broke her heart and stole Southern Belle out from under her. Because don’t think we haven’t figured out that you’re in this up to your big ears with Gwyneth.”
“You wanna get out of here?” Logan asked Jenna.
“You no-good, lying, cheating scum bucket! Taking advantage of a nice girl like her, and cheating on her with her stepmother!” a woman wearing a veil shrieked, brandishing a bottle of prosecco at Lorenzo.
“Do it! Hit him with it!” a bloodthirsty woman in the crowd shouted.
Jenna gave Logan a desperate nod. “Please, let’s leave.”
He took in the escalating situation, torn between wanting to get her out of there and keeping the peace. In the distance, he heard a siren and went down on one knee. “Okay. Just let me take care of this first.”
He lifted the now-dirty hem of her wedding dress and gently wrapped his fingers around her ankle, raising her foot to his knee. Her foot was as pretty and as soft and smooth as her shoulders. Her toenails were painted sky blue with a stripe of gold on each center.
“Look, it’s right out of a fairy tale. Cinderella and Prince Charming!” a woman yelled. Oohs and aahs were followed by the sound of pictures being taken on cell phones.
“If it doesn’t fit her, you can try it on me, gorgeous,” a woman yelled.
“No way. I saw him first. I should get to go before you,” her redheaded friend said.
“You have feet the size of flippers. Don’t waste his time—”
At the sound of a fight breaking out between the women, Logan bent his head and groaned. To think he’d come downtown to grab a beer with his brother in hopes of figuring out what was up with their mother.
He heard a strangled sound and looked up, worried that Jenna had reached the breaking point—he wouldn’t blame her if she had. Instead, she appeared to be holding back laughter and not tears. Her eyes were shiny, her full, red lips pressed tightly together.
He grinned at her. Any woman who could laugh moments after being thrown over for her stepmother was the woman for him. The thought took him aback. So much so that he felt the need to remind himself he didn’t do relationships. Not anymore. Or at least for a good long while. He liked his life simple and entanglement free. It allowed him to stay focused on his career.
The laughter in her eyes faded. His discomfort must’ve shown on his face. He slid the shoe onto her foot and smiled as he came to his feet, offering his hand. “All set?”
She hesitated and then gave him a small smile and shook her head. “It’s all right. I’ve taken up enough of your time. Thanks again for saving me from becoming roadkill.” She took his hand to shake it. “I think that makes me your slave for life, doesn’t it? So if there’s ever anything I can do to repay you, please let me know. I’m Jenna Bell, by the way.”
Whatever was making the citizens of Harmony Harbor crazy today must be contagious, because Logan suddenly had all kinds of dirty and creative thoughts about Jenna being his slave. He gave her hand a light squeeze as the sexy images burned into his brain. “Logan Gallagher. I keep people safe for a living, so don’t give it another thought.”
She glanced at her sisters, the woman in the veil, and the two wannabe Cinderellas who’d all backed Lorenzo against a storefront window. “You’re obviously very good at your job. I find people their one true love for a living.” She sighed, acknowledging the irony by raising a shoulder.
His eyes followed the movement. He didn’t know what was wrong with him. He was a leg man, not a shoulder man. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all make mistakes. None of us can be on our game a hundred percent of the time.”
“I can be with everyone else, just not myself. I probably should save him from my sisters.”
He glanced at Lorenzo, who covered his face and shrieked like a girl. “Why would you want to do that?”
Her eyebrows drew together. “It feels like the right thing to do.”
His attraction began to make sense. He didn’t only protect people for a living; it’s who he was. Jenna brought out his protective instincts. She was obviously sweet and tenderhearted. She needed a keeper. He had to remind himself he wasn’t up for the job and nor did he want it. But just this once, he could save her from herself.
He put his hands on her shoulders and ducked to look into her green eyes. This close, he saw flecks of gold in her irises. Tiger eyes, only she was a kitten. “I’m calling my debt. Let your sisters take care of Lorenzo. And if you have joint property with the guy, hire a lawyer. My brother’s one. I’ll call him. He can advise you on your next steps.”
A patrol car pulled up to the sidewalk and an officer got out. “Ladies, let the man go.” He came around the hood of the car and walked to where the women had Lorenzo cornered. They didn’t move until the officer reached past them to grab the other man’s arm.
Lorenzo straightened his tux. “Grazie, Officer. I am in your debt.” His eyes narrowed on Logan and Jenna, and he headed their way.
Letting his hands fall from Jenna’s shoulders, Logan straightened. “Keep moving, buddy. The lady has no interest in talking to you.”
“Talk, it is not necessary. All I want is my dress and ring.”
Logan frowned, thinking he must’ve misunderstood. “You want her dress?”
“Sì, and my ring. It is a family heirloom to be worn only by my countess. I’m a count, you see.” He made an odd rolling motion with his right hand.
“Right, Count Dracula out to suck our family dry,” Serena quipped, pushing her hair from her face, looking a little worse for wear.
Logan felt guilty he hadn’t intervened earlier, even though Jenna had needed him more than her sisters. He’d seen Arianna and Serena in action at a beach party years before. They could take care of themselves. Which Arianna appeared ready to prove.
“You want your precious ring, you tell Stepmommy Dearest to give Jenna back her company. And as far as that dress goes, you’ll get it over my dead body. I made that dress for my sister, and I’ll be damned if Gwyneth wears an Arianna Bell original.”
Anger came alive in the man’s dark eyes, and Logan moved to stand in front of Jenna, which only seemed to further infuriate the guy. Then, with the skill of a consummate performer, Lorenzo replaced his anger with a conciliatory expression. Leaning to the side so he could see Jenna, he said, “I am sorry that, like Richard, I have hurt you, bella. But it is not Gwyneth’s fault that she makes men weak with desire. Your father’s last wish was that she live the life she has become accustomed to. Don’t let your sisters blacken your heart with their petty jealousy. Now be a good girl and give me my family’s ring.”
Logan wondered if Jenna was taken in by the guy and glanced over his shoulder. With her head bent, her shoulder-length hair hid her face as she tugged at the ring on her finger. His gut twisted in response to seeing a tear splash onto her thumb.
As though realizing what her sister meant to do, Arianna elbowed Lorenzo and then Logan out of the way. If he hadn’t wanted to move, she wouldn’t have been able to budge him. But there was part of Logan that didn’t want Jenna to give in to the guy and hoped Arianna could reason with her. He just wished she weren’t planning to do it on Main Street. Then again, what more damage could they do? They’d already aired their dirty laundry for all the town to hear. Poor Jenna; they’d be feasting on this for the next month at least.
- "Heartfelt and delightful!"—RaeAnne Thayne, New York Times bestselling author
- "Quirky, funny, sweet, and overflowing with a colorful cast."—Library Journal
- "Top Pick! 4 1/2 Stars! Mason has a knockout with the first book in her Harmony Harbor series."—RT Book Reviews on Mistletoe Cottage
- "I've fallen in love with Debbie Mason's Harmony Harbor. She's created a group of interesting, realistic characters and woven them into a perfectly imperfect fabric of life in her small east-coast town."—The Romance Dish
- "Hurray for SANDPIPER SHORE, a Cinderella story loaded with intrigue."—FreshFiction.com
- On Sale
- Jun 26, 2018
- Page Count
- 384 pages