Sealed with a Kiss

A Sunshine Valley novella


By Melinda Curtis

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ebook (Digital original)


ebook (Digital original) $1.99 $2.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 16, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Three matchmaking ladies decide to play Cupid for the boy next door in this Sunshine Valley novella from USA Today bestselling author Melinda Curtis.

For Kimmy Easley, showing up at her ex’s wedding without a date is unacceptable. She’s got to find someone — and fast — because she can’t face going alone. Convincing her childhood friend Booker Belmonte to go with her is easy but that starts the spread of gossip through Sunshine Valley quicker than wildfire. Kimmy has never thought of Booker as anything more than a friend, so it’s funny how she never noticed how nicely he fills out a tux…

Booker could never say no to Kimmy — he’s had a secret crush on her for years. Accompanying her to the wedding is a no-brainer, not getting his hopes up that it might lead to more than friendship is going to be more difficult. But now that the matchmaking widows club has set their sights on Booker and Kimmy, will they be next to walk down the aisle?


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I’ll see your two cents. And raise you two cents.” Clarice Rogers tossed pennies into the pot in the middle of the card table. “Was I the only one who didn’t get an invitation to Haywood and Ariana’s wedding?”

It seemed like everyone in the town of Sunshine, Colorado, was going except Clarice. Rumor had it the reception had a Bohemian theme, and Clarice dearly loved anything Bohemian.

Clarice and her two closest friends were playing a high-stakes poker game at the cozy home of Mims Turner.

Bitsy Whitlock checked her cards and then tossed in additional pennies. “I’m not sure why I received an invitation.” She adjusted the black bow in her bobbed blond hair. Her hair bows had a tendency to slip. Nothing else about Bitsy ever slipped. “I only met Haywood last Christmas.”

“You helped Haywood pick out an engagement ring when you were having your jewelry cleaned.” Mims Turner tossed in two cents. “Besides, everyone knows you give good gifts. I got an invite because Ariana’s grandmother is my cousin. Call. Two pair.” She snapped down her cards and tugged at the ends of her beige fishing vest. “Winner!”

Not waiting for Clarice, Bitsy fanned her cards gracefully on the table. “Two pair, kings high. Looks like I win again.”

“Wrong! Full house!” Clarice tossed her cards down with such verve that her gray braids bounced. “The pot and game are mine.” And as the winner, she was allowed to choose whom they applied their matchmaking expertise to next.

“Who should I choose?” she wondered aloud but it wasn’t a rhetorical question. Clarice had been thinking about whom she’d select if she won ever since Haywood and Ariana first announced their engagement. Happiness swirled inside her chest like courting pigeons on a spring day. Weddings generated lots of events, many of which created pressure to bring a date. And the need for dates opened the door to matchmaking opportunities.

Clarice tapped her chin as if she was perplexed. She said again, “Who should I choose?”

Mims and Bitsy rolled their eyes.

The trio made up the board of the Sunshine Valley Widows Club, a group devoted to providing emotional support to those who had lost their spouses. Privately, they called themselves the Sunshine Valley Matchmakers Club, a group devoted to helping Cupid’s arrow find its mark. They were more successful than those swiping dating apps.

“Just say it, Clarice,” Mims grumped, gathering the cards. She was on a losing streak.

Clarice drew herself up, tossed a braid over her shoulder, and said, “I choose Booker Belmonte.”

Mims stopped sweeping up cards. “Booker’s not a widower.”

“He’s not even divorced.” Bitsy gave Clarice a gentle frown. “You should know that’s against the rules.” The people they matched were on their second time around.

Rules. How Clarice loved them. As club secretary, she had the pleasure of reminding members what the rules were. But in this situation…“I present a special case. Booker is nearly thirty-two and on the brink of success. And you know what can happen to a man when he’s trying to catch the success train.”

“That’s right.” Mims nodded, grumpiness fading. “He loses life balance.”

“And he waits too long to find love.” Bitsy’s tone implied that she found merit in Clarice’s selection.

“It’s like a public service.” Since her friends were warming to the idea, Clarice spoke with more confidence. “And the timing couldn’t be better. His best friend Haywood is getting married.” The wedding Clarice wasn’t invited to. “Booker will have marriage on his mind.”

“He’d be a good fit with Wendy Adams,” Mims suggested with a fluff of her round white curls. “She’s so easygoing.”

“Or Avery Blackstone.” Bitsy nodded, black velvet bow slipping again. “She has a certain flare.”

“All good options. But…” Clarice raised a hand and her voice, which made her realize she might have forgotten to put in her hearing aids again. “I was thinking more like Kimmy Easley. She and Booker hung out in the same crowd in high school. And I always thought there was a spark between them.”

Mims and Bitsy both sat back, their mouths making small Os. The three widows had been together so long their brains often shared the same track.

“Kimmy worked at the Burger Shack for years,” Bitsy said quietly. The restaurant was owned by Booker’s family.

“Along with the groom and Booker.” Mims raised her gaze to Clarice’s. “Didn’t she date Haywood once when he and Ariana took a break? That could be awkward.”

“Indeedy. It could be.” Clarice rubbed her hands together, so filled with glee that she would’ve gotten up to dance if she’d had a good pair of knees. “Oh, she’ll be looking for a wedding date, all right. The perfect wedding date.”

Chapter One

There was a line at the deli in Emory’s Grocery.

Kimmy Easley took pride in the deli’s popularity and hurried to move the lunch line along.

“What’s the special today, Kimmy?” Clarice Rogers leaned on her hickory walking stick. The free-spirited former hippie had been slowing down lately and claimed to be holding out as long as possible before having her knees replaced.

“Garlic-butter Italian-sausage sandwich.” Kimmy finished assembling a ham-and-cheese panini for Everett Bollinger and put it on the grill. “It’s served on a crusty baguette with melted cheese on top. Can I make you one?”

“Yes. It sounds delicious, like something my Fritz would’ve liked.” Clarice eyed the selection of salads, her long gray braids swinging against the orange paisley of her blouse. “And a side of the wedding salad.” She chuckled. “I have weddings on my mind. Specifically, Haywood’s.” Her expression turned wistful. “Are you going?”

“Yes.” Kimmy tried not to let talk of Haywood’s marriage diminish her shine. She was happy for Hay but she had a little over a week to find a wedding date. She sliced open a baguette for Clarice and stuffed it with garlic-butter-soaked sausage.

Welcome to my thirties. The reality decade. Unmarried. No prospects. And light-years behind her peers in getting a career in place.

“I’m sure you have a date already.” Kimmy could tell Clarice was trying not to seem like she was prying. But this was Sunshine. People pried. When Kimmy didn’t immediately respond—what with being busy prepping the sandwich—the old woman added, “Not that an independent woman like you needs a date.”

Oh, Kimmy needed a date, all right. She needed one like Batman needed his mask.

“I haven’t thought that far ahead,” Kimmy lied. She slid Clarice’s sandwich into the toaster oven, checked Everett’s panini, decided it needed more time, and dished out Clarice’s wedding salad.

“Did you know the Widows Club is hosting a bachelorette auction Saturday night?” The reason for Clarice’s visit became clear. “It’s a great way to meet someone new and perhaps find a wedding date.”

Kimmy hadn’t signed up. She never signed up. She expected being on the auction block at Shaw’s Bar & Grill on a Saturday night to be like showing up at her high school reunion in a sundress and forgetting to shave her legs. Mortifying.

But mortification was exactly what she was going to experience if she showed up at Haywood’s wedding dateless.

If only it were the fall, which was when the Widows Club hosted its bachelor auction. Kimmy would rather be empowered to choose her own date, not wait for someone to bid on her.

Kimmy rang up Clarice’s order and then sighed. “Do I have to give you an answer now?”

“No, dear.” Clarice paid in cash, dollar bills plus exact change, which she counted out in pennies. Thirty-seven of them. “You can sign up until the bidding begins.” She smiled kindly. “Hope to see you there.”

A few customers later and her boss, Emory, came behind the counter. He was old school and wore a white button-down with short sleeves and a red bow tie. “I’m worried.”

“I can handle the line,” she reassured him, working on a sandwich for Paul Gregory, one of her regulars and the owner of the local exterminator business. “It moves quickly.”

“I’m not concerned about you.” Emory shook his grizzled head. “I’m worried about the Burger Shack. I hear Booker is back for the wedding.”

She’d heard that too. The news had given her a warm, fuzzy feeling. She, Haywood, and Booker had been close in high school.

“You should be anxious, Kim.” If the worried emoji had been based on a real face, it would’ve taken inspiration from Emory’s. “Booker bought his parents out and plans to change the menu.”

Kimmy couldn’t worry about that. “It’s about time.” The Burger Shack menu hadn’t been updated in forever.

“You don’t understand.” Emory shook his head once more, this time causing a lock of stringy gray hair to fall onto his forehead. “They’re adding gourmet burgers.”

A tremor of unease worked its way through Kimmy. “Gourmet?” Gourmet sandwiches were her thing. Emory’s was the only place in town you could get gourmet anything.

Used to be the only place in town.

“Yes.” Emory rubbed a hand behind his neck. “Fancy burgers.”

The unease turned into apprehension.

A tall man with thick black hair got into the end of the line. He stood next to Clarice’s friend Mims Turner, chatting amicably.

Booker Belmonte. He’d been her rock throughout middle and high school. Maybe he still was. Just looking at him settled her nerves and turned the inclination to frown into a smile.

“Speak of the devil.” Kimmy nodded in Booker’s direction.

“He’s here to check you out.” Emory, being in his seventies and a bit naive, didn’t catch the double meaning of his words.

“My sandwiches, you mean,” Kimmy said under her breath, because Booker was like family to her. She handed Paul his order. “Did you get new uniforms?” His shirt was lime green and printed with brown cockroaches, vaguely reminiscent of a Hawaiian shirt.

“Yes.” Paul turned to show her the back, which was more of the same. “Do you like it? I got tired of boring blue.”

“It’s a bold choice.” Kimmy gave him a thumbs-up.

“The American species is a bold creature.” Paul tapped a cockroach on his shirt. “He takes what he wants. I’ve decided I should be more like him. And since I’ve been wearing these shirts, business is up.”

“Please don’t say the c-word.” Scowling, Emory scrubbed the top of the deli case near Paul.

“Congratulations, Paul. See you next time.” Kimmy gave Paul her patented customer-service smile and turned to the next customer before he could go in depth on the bugs he loved to terminate. They’d taken some classes together at the community college in Greeley so she knew Paul loved to talk about his work.

“Will there be a next time?” Emory muttered, wiping down the counter because he was a stress-cleaner. “Everyone’s going to want to check out the sandwiches at the Burger Shack.”

“Maybe a time or two.” Kimmy gestured to Lola Williams that she was ready to take her order.

Kimmy looked upon the Burger Shack with nostalgia, having worked there for three years during high school. At the Shack, she’d been one of the guys, along with Booker Belmonte and Haywood Lawson, boys higher on the popularity ladder than Kimmy. They’d taught her how to grill, and she’d taught them the importance of loyalty and keeping their word. Her father always said a kept promise was a true sign of character.

When it came to making promises, Booker and Haywood had balked at girlish pinkie swears. Instead, they’d given their word while holding a hand over a hot basket of French fries. Silly kids’ stuff. But it had meant something to her, even if Booker’s promises had often come with conditions.

“If our customers head to the Burger Shack for lunch more than a time or two,” Emory said mournfully, “I’ll have to cut staff hours, maybe even resort to layoffs.” The old man spoke as if gourmet burgers at the Burger Shack were already trendier than gourmet sandwiches at Emory’s Grocery.

Truthfully, at the words cut and layoffs, the bottom dropped out of Kimmy’s little world. Six more paychecks and she could afford a new transmission for the food truck she and her dad were restoring. If she lost this job before the truck was ready…

She glanced at Booker. At broad shoulders and the face of reliability.

It wouldn’t come to that. It couldn’t come to that.

Still, it took her a moment to work up enough saliva to reply to her boss in an upbeat voice. “It’ll be okay, Emory. Can you work the register for me?” Kimmy tried to take Lola’s order, not to mention smile and not look like Emory had put her off her game. But she reached for jalapeños instead of green peppers for Lola’s wrap, something her customer pointed out.

Somehow, Kimmy made it through four more specials, two wraps, and a chef’s salad before Emory was called to the front of the store and Booker appeared before her.

With his jet-black hair, deep-brown eyes, and infectious smile, Booker had always been handsome. But the years had given him an air of hard-won confidence.


  • "A small town brought to life with wit and charm."—SheilaRoberts, New York Times bestselling author
  • "You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll want to visit again soon!"—BrendaNovak, New York Times bestselling author

On Sale
Jun 16, 2020
Page Count
60 pages
Forever Yours

Melinda Curtis

About the Author

Melinda Curtis is the USA Today bestselling author of light-hearted contemporary romance. In addition to her Sunshine Valley series from Forever, she's published independently and with Harlequin Heartwarming, including her book Dandelion Wishes, which is currently being made into a TV movie. She lives in California's hot central valley with her hot husband—her basketball-playing college sweetheart. While raising three kids, the couple did the soccer thing, the karate thing, the dance thing, the Little League thing and, of course, the basketball thing. Between books, Melinda spends time with her husband remodeling their home by swinging a hammer, grouting tile, and wielding a paintbrush with other family members.

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