Eve Fortescue is back in Bellefleur, Lousisanna in hopes to convince Brent Bellefleur, groom-to-be, that she is the one he should marry ~ not Honey Moreau. As a guest of the upcoming nuptials, Eve also has the uncomfortable pleasure of attending the pre-wedding dinner being held at the Bellefleur... ...more
In Eve Met Her Match by the very talented Anna Cleary I was introduced to one of the guests at the luscious wedding Eve. Now Eve has a score to settle, the groom of the great event was not only her boss but the one man to kiss her and then simply walked away. She has to get his attention before h... ...more
This was another enjoyable novella. Seems everyone at this wedding at some point was hooked up with the groom. Honey the bride, cannot help but be a little nervous about the fact that all his exes will be at the wedding. She is still feeling a little insecure regarding how deep Brent's feelings r... ...more
Eve Fortescue is back in town for a wedding. She is a woman on a mission. She plans to tell the groom-to-be that she loves him, but then she meets his cousin, Rainer Delacroix. He is powerful, sexy and very determined. He desires Eve. What will happen when gets what he wants? Do Eve and Rainer ha... ...more
Short but endearing. Eve attends a pre-wedding celebration for her olfactory boss who she believers shes in love with. In order to sneak a few private moments with him the grooms cousin says he'll distract the bride but only if she gives him a kiss. This kiss turns into more and the heat factor c... ...more
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3.25 avg Goodreads.com rating
About the author
Anna Cleary is an affectionate Australian who discovered that writing is an even more powerful means of escape than reading.To this end she writes romance novels that are flirty and funny, sometimes weepy or dramatic, always emotional, and often piping hot.
Anna enjoys her family and friends, adores music and the arts, has an ongoing love affair with Italy, and is kept under constant surveillance by a thoughtful and deeply sensitive cat.
She loves to hear from readers.
Write to her at www.annacleary.com
It was the cruelest pre-wedding dinner a woman could ever have been expected to attend. As Eve Fortescue waded through the purple twilight to the Bellefleur Country Club with her Aunt Minna, every step she took was like walking on knives.
She was nearly able to breathe in her crimson sheath. Honey Moreau may have nailed Brent Delacroix, sofar, though Eve’s guardian angel was whispering that they weren’t married yet. Brent’s blue eyes would surely be glued to his bride, but the angel had decreed Eve should sashay into the party looking as sexy as sin.
Eve was trying her best. But looking pretty wasn’t bringing her any great joy. While crimson satin may well be kind to her dark eyes, and light up the rich chestnut in her hair and the roses in her cheeks, underneath all her New York finery, including the lacy black underwear caressing her skin as softly as a lover’s whisper, Eve’s heart was aching. The only comfort holding her together was the reflection that at least no one else knew her sad little secret.
Imagine if it got out. Eve Fortescue, belle of the Bellefleur Theater, notorious breaker of hearts and stealer of beaus, was hopelessly in love with the groom.
“Just remember you’re a Fortescue,” Minna said. “Our folks may have fallen on hard times as a result of a certain family’s greed, but that don’t mean we aren’t as good as those Delacroixes.”
“Auntie,” Eve murmured, catching sight of Brent’s mother and several of their neighbors only a bare few feet away up on the veranda. She placed a restraining hand on her aunt’s sleeve. “Shh. Someone’ll hear.”
At the same time a prickling sensation on the back of Eve’s neck warned her that someone was coming up behind them.
Turning, she met the cool gray eyes of Brent’s cousin, Rainer Delacroix, just as Minna added in a penetrating whisper, “And I hope you aren’t intending on drooping like a broken lily every time you lay eyes on the groom. A Delacroix is not your type and never could be your type.”
Rainer’s intelligent gray eyes sharpened. A gleam shot into them. Eve blushed all the way to her roots. Whatever Minna knew, or thought she knew, this was not the place.
Why did some men seem to soak up all the surrounding air? Homing in on her embarrassment, Rainer, a Delacroix cousin she’d barely even met, plastered a pitying expression on his lean, rather harshly handsome face. “Ah, Miss Fortescue, and…Eve, isn’t it?”
“Hi,” Eve mumbled, ignoring the humiliating sympathy in his tone when he said her name.
No eye contact was the only way to go here. Let him keep his speculations to himself.
Minna, on the other hand, had no such reservations. Show her a big, strong man with raven hair, a chiseled mouth and a sexy little cleft in his manly chin, and she forgot her feud with the Delacroix clan and cast off twenty well-lived years.
“Well, now…,” She patted her titian hair, green eyes asparkle. “Rainer, isn’t it? Last I heard you were solving the world’s problems in some godforsaken desert. Was that you I saw on CNN smoothing over some diplomatic brouhaha with pirates?”
“That would have been Clooney, ma’am, ” Rainer said gravely. “I only ever work behind the scenes. ” His amused gray eyes, all the more startling for their contrast with his black lashes and thick black brows, made a lazy switch to Eve, who suspected her cheeks were still the color of a Mississippi sunset. “You know, I don’t think I ever saw that shade of red look more appealing on a woman.”
Eve didn’t delude herself that he was referring to her dress, although the glance he flickered from her mouth to her throat to her cleavage left singe marks.
She smiled coolly, quite a feat for a person in spiritual agony. “You’re very kind, I’m sure.” Quickly she gripped Minna’s elbow and gave her a tug. “I think our hostess is waiting, Auntie.”
Somehow Eve hauled Minna away from the mocking beast and hustled her onto the veranda and the official receiving line at the entrance to the Magnolia Room.
“Now be careful who you kiss,” Minna warned grimly out of the side of her mouth. “A snake is still a snake, even in a tiara. And here comes one now.”
As if Eve didn’t have enough horror on her hands.
Sensing Rainer Delacroix’s intrusive gaze scorching through the back of her dress, she only just restrained herself from glancing at him again over her shoulder.
That he was even aware of her name was astounding. He was older than the set she’d gone to school with. Harder, more experienced than the boys she knew. What if he spread it about that she was suffering from unrequited love?
He might. There was something ruthless about him.
Eve’s insides churned. At least if she and Brent had had an affair, there’d be some credit in it for her. But the way things were… She’d be a laughing stock.
With those few minor flirtations in her past, not to mention her grossly exaggerated reputation for the careless breakage of hearts, the town gossips would love it. How her enemies would gloat.
People would say she’d tried to snatch Brent from Honey and failed. The rejected woman.
Worse still, would be what Brent would think. He’d be imagining she’d blabbed something about him. Some mean-spirited complaint, when he’d only ever been kind to her. In those two years she’d worked as his trusted research assistant at Delacroix Developments, she and Brent had clicked in so many ways. It had meant so much to her, those hours they’d spent talking about the things that really mattered. Like preserving the bayou ecology. Rescuing endangered species.
In a sad irony, it was the skills she’d acquired in Brent’s employ that had helped her to land her plum job with the geographic magazine. After she’d made the decision to tear herself away from him and flee to New York.
After all he’d done for her, she couldn’t bear for Brent to feel the tiniest prickle of guilt on her account.
Eve was pierced by a shard of pure panic. Rainer might be capable of anything. What did she know about him, really?
On his rare visits to his farm at Bellefleur he never bothered with socializing, as far as she knew. A guy who made his living as some kind of hotshot professional troubleshooter was hardly likely to take an interest in the Bellefleur Theatrical Society.
Not that the women of Bellefleur hadn’t noticed him. There’d been reports a while back, of one of the Dixon women pursuing him madly to no avail, jumping off a bridge, then, after she was rescued, shaving her head and retreating to a Buddhist nunnery.
Eve had seen him once in New York with a woman, some high-powered judge he was said to be involved with, but as far as she knew, the times he visited Bellefleur he arrived as a lone gun, cool, sexy, and maddeningly inaccessible to the kind of woman who lusted after icy mocking eyes and a ripped set of muscles.
Eve never lusted. Flirting was more her style. Though she might surrender her body once in a while to some lust-crazed dude for pity’s sake, out of sheer politeness, it had come as a complete shock to her to discover she could actually fall hard. And for a guy with mild blue eyes who cared about the environment.
Who was about to marry someone else.
She sneaked a glance about, and saw Rainer being lionized by a bunch of ladies from the church charity. She guessed the best thing would be to avoid him. Give him a chance to forget what he’d overheard. With so many folk swarming up the stairs in their pearls and satins for this “informal little get-together,” that wasn’t likely to be too hard. Seemed like most of Bellefleur had been invited.
Most likely, Rainer had forgotten her already.
She was starting to breathe more easily when all at once, Rainer looked over, caught her eye, and winked.
Eve blanched. Why? What did he mean by it?
“Eve, honey…” She felt a gentle prod at her elbow.
Remembering her manners, Eve took her turn shaking the Delacroix hands and kissing the Delacroix cheeks. Then there was Honey’s family, the Moreaus, and their spiteful cousins the Dixons, though Minna had declared she never would kiss that snake Opaline Dixon or her poisonous daughters to save her life.
When the moment came, Eve held her breath, but Minna did at least bring herself to kiss the air beside Opaline’s richly injected cheek.
One thing about the Fortescues, even under pressure, they behaved with grace.
Mouthwatering aromas were wafting from inside the club. Eve could hear the strains of a band with that distinctly New Orleans timbre. How she loved a party. Any other kind of party, that was. She was straining her ears to hear what Rainer was saying to a doddery old guy in his nineties who was clinging to his hand, when Minna was seized by a gang of her old cronies and carried into the fray.
Eve was preparing to follow in her wake when Brent’s mother drew her aside.
“Bellefleur sure misses you, Eve.” Marie Delacroix’s blue eyes were an older version of Brent’s. Warm and sincere, although Marie’s had the added shrewdness of womanly experience. “Our little theater will never be the same. I know Brent was disappointed you left the firm, but I guess he understood you needed to spread your wings.”
“I hope so.” Eve smiled to conceal her pang. If only Marie knew the truth. This spreading of wings was a miserable thing. Her pride would never let her admit it, though. No way would she allow anyone here to guess how much she missed Bellefleur, every day of her life, with every atom of her being.
Just how much did Brent understand of her decision to quit her job? She’d never told him how she truly felt. Not in so many words.
The nightmare that haunted her dreams resurfaced. Would she hold it together when she saw him and Honey? Brent gazing adoringly at his bride; Honey, beautiful as ever, riding high on her triumph?
Or would Eve Fortescue, exiled and unloved, lonely to the core of her miserable soul, disgrace herself in public by dissolving in tears?
Never. She must not.
She made an effort to steady her nerves. She was a twenty-seven year old woman of the world, a bona fide New Yorker now, working in the exciting field of publishing with a whole bunch of truly glamorous people. She had an apartment of her own, admittedly not enormous, and with a nook, rather than some overblown, grandiose kitchen. She was wearing a dress she’d bought just around the corner from Fifth Avenue, stunning new five-inch heels and genuine silk stockings, and she had played Sister Maria in the Bellefleur production of TheSound of Music to critical acclaim.
She had a reputation for success to uphold.
In Bellefleur, anyway.
Besides. Brent wasn’t married yet.
Smoothing down her dress and bearing in mind the soothing knowledge of the quality of her underwear, Eve took a deep breath, straightened her shoulders, and sashayed through the grand doorway of the Magnolia Room.
Just inside the entrance she paused, both to check the lay of the land, and on the off- chance she might be charmingly framed by the architraves.
Just in case anyone—all right, Brent—might be watching.
She blinked at the blaze of light. Someone must have given the chandeliers a good scrub. The restaurant section sparkled, the tables set with crystal and snowy white linen and arranged in long, inviting rows.
Folks were standing about gossiping, glasses in hand, enjoying caviar on their canapés, voices raised a notch above the music. The classy five-piece outfit was into a mellow “Sophisticated Lady,” not intrusive, just noticeable enough to tug at Eve’s already overburdened heartstrings.
It was easy to pick out the wedding party. They were all hanging together over by the bar, seeming a little wired with excitement.
Eve searched breathlessly among her old friends for the one face she longed for. There was Brent’s older brother, Griff, lounging his elegant frame against the bar with the lazy grace of a big wicked jungle cat on the prowl. He was the one all the girls had been crazy for. Tall, rich, and smokin’ hot. Why couldn’t Honey have gone for him and left Brent for the woman who could truly appreciate his more subtle qualities?
That was when she saw him. Brent.
Her pulse revved up.
Almost simultaneously, as though they were linked by some cosmic force, Brent glanced up and saw her. As his gaze held hers across the room, her heart did that crazy little spin. She was barely aware of Honey at his side, looking spectacular in an elegant lemon-yellow dress, shooting a quick anxious glance between them. For this moment in time and space, Eve’s entire being was centered on Brent.
“Now aren’t they the perfect couple?”
Hearing that smooth deep voice in her ear, Eve nearly jumped out of her skin. A thrill shocked through her, whether of pure fear or excitement she couldn’t quite tell.
Rainer had materialized beside her, his large, powerful body swamping her in an almost overwhelming force field of stirring masculinity.
It was so disconcerting. This was her moment, her beautiful entrance, probably one of the most significant in her life, and this big lunk had to spoil it.
And there was no warning the likes of him away. While she was doing her best to pretend he wasn’t there, Honey broke into a dazzling smile and surged toward them both, hands outstretched.
“Why, Rainer. And—Eve. So glad y’all could come.”
Rainer bent his dark head to kiss Honey—quite tenderly, it seemed to Eve—then strode to Brent and clapped him on the shoulder.
Honey turned to Eve, the smile in her warm brown eyes the teensiest bit strained. Hesitating the barest instant, she leaned forward and grazed Eve’s cheek with hers.
That small hesitation pained Eve and made her heart thump uncomfortably. She liked Honey, she truly did. She didn’t deserve this bad feeling she sensed clouding the air. What did Honey have to complain about, anyway? Eve had allowed her to walk off with the man she believed could be her true and rightful soulmate, without even putting up a fight.
Maybe she shouldn’t have. Maybe she should have stood her ground. This could have been her wedding rehearsal dinner. It wasn’t fair that Honey should make her feel like some dangerous femme fatale when Eve was the one who’d made the noble sacrifice and walked away.
She became aware of an edgy little pause in the conversation, and realized the other three were all looking expectantly at her. Rainer’s gray eyes were veiled, yet somehow alert.
Fine, then. Her cue.
Breathlessly, assuming her most winsome smile, she gazed into Brent’s eyes and placed her hand in his. Let their palms commingle to generate a little harmless electricity.
“Hello.” Her racing heart made her sound quite throaty.
“Come now,” Brent said gruffly, pulling her toward him. “You can do better than that. My favorite assistant.” He bent to brush her cheek with his lips, rested his hand lightly in the small of her back.
Ohhh. Emotion seethed in Eve’s heart. She closed her eyes to savor the precious contact, but tragically, it was over far too soon. With Honey standing there, Brent hadn’t even been truly able to hold her in his arms. He probably hadn’t even had time to catch a whiff of the Sin she’d doused herself in. His favorite.
As they separated, leaving her grieving heart bereft, something dragged her glance sideways. With a jolt she collided with Rainer’s cool, level gaze.
That glint in his eyes. WTF? Who did he think he was? Her conscience?
She turned her back on him.
Brent and Honey started chatting to her then, for all the world like a single item, showering her with their entwined happiness. A bona fide couple, asking her about her exciting new career, Manhattan, her fantastic new life.
So kind. So heartbreaking.
No one would have guessed that little more than a year ago Brent had kissed her late at night in the piano bar of the InterContinental hotel in Dallas and ignited her girlish heart with a helpless adoration. And that he’d slid his hand up her dress and stroked the silky secret terrain of her inner thigh.
No one, except for maybe Rainer Delacroix. Oh, and Aunt Minna evidently, who had some sort of supernatural second sight when it came to sex.
Not that Eve and Brent ever had come to sex. Unfortunately. That was one of Eve’s worst regrets. Often fantasized, never realized.
If only they had, this unfortunate situation right here and now would be happening in reverse.
“Eve.” Smiling like a rattlesnake, Rainer turned his gleaming gaze upon her. “Why don’t we leave this happy couple to welcome their other guests. Let me find you a drink.”
In all the excitement she hadn’t noticed the queue waiting to snag the bridal couple’s attention. With no polite way of resisting, she was forced to surrender the ground to Honey.
Rainer steered her through the crowd, pausing here and there along the way. Friends stopped to shake hands and inquire about his travels. “Weren’t you in Somalia just recently, feller?” she heard one old guy say.
“Interesting place,” Rainer said. “Though I was mainly in Djibouti.”
“Interesting, you say?” his interrogator exclaimed. “It’s a wonder you lived to tell the tale, boy. Those goddamned pirates show no mercy.”
“Just making a buck,” Rainer said. “Like everybody else.”
Approval was showered on him from all directions, folks applauding him for having saved the lives of some sailors who’d been held for ransom, apparently.
Eve turned her head to study him. “Congratulations. I had no idea you were a hero.”
His hard eyes glinted. “I’m no hero, Eve. I just got lucky in a little negotiation.” He directed her gaze to where some of Eve’s old friends were gathering around an ornately mounted placard. “What are those folk peeking at?”
Eve looked and her heart sank like a stone. Fantastic. They were all clustering around the bridal photo collage—though this one was bigger, glossier and more professionally finished than most wedding couples’ humble little productions. People were crowding to peer closely, searching for themselves.
Not caring to appear rude and ungracious, Eve steeled herself to take a glance. Naturally there were pictures of Honey and Brent, dating back to their births. From nursery school onward a surprising number showed them together in the same shot. Bellefleur Elementary. Bellefleur High. And there was that old one of Honey’s college graduation, Brent’s arm around her.
Hadn’t the guy had any other place to be?
Sure, everyone knew they’d been sweethearts on and off forever. But these pictures didn’t show all the off-times. The times they broke up and Brent wanted to kiss someone else. And had.
As far as Eve was concerned, there was just a tad too much Honey in this collection.
Rainer peered over her shoulder, then moved around her to take a closer look. “Is this you? This kid with the braces on her teeth?”
“I guess. A long time ago. ” It was a poignant shot, considering the degree of hope and joy radiating from her eyes back then.
She avoided looking at Rainer in case he noticed the difference.
“Hey, look here. Is this really you dressed as a nun?” His amused little chuckle twisted her insides with the careless cruelty of a corkscrew.
She said coldly, “It was a theatrical production.”
He glanced quickly at her. “Sure. Sure it was. And you look great. Real convincing. I’m willing to bet you were— incandescent. So…do you do much theater in New York?”
For mercy’s sake. Was the guy trying to torture her with her failures?
She crushed him with a glance. “Are you kidding? They have real actors in New York.”
Not to mention that the guy at the Village Players had told her she wasn’t capable of projecting enough emotional complexity to play a character like Blanche DuBois. Even though he’d acknowledged that she’d “nearly achieved” the accent.
Rainer’s speculative grey gaze turned on her like a searchlight. He said softly, “You and Honey have been friends a long time.”
“Sure we were. We were in the same year.”
She barely kept her teeth unclenched. Of course she appeared in some of Honey’s pictures. What would he expect? She and Honey had been friendly, though they’d hardly moved in the same circles. The Fortescues had had an unfortunate number of girl babies in recent generations. They hadn’t been able to manage the resources to keep up with the Moreaus.
Or marry the Delacroix boys.
But sure, she and Honey had been on the softball team together. And here they were again. Her, Honey and Honey’s friend Pippa—who’d only just been dating Brent at that time…not that anyone was mentioning that little circumstance tonight.
Eve wondered how Pippa felt about the wedding. Was she even invited? Here the three of them were again, standing on the stage of the Bellefleur High assembly hall singing with all their hearts.
Eve’s heart panged and she turned away. It was all too painful. She’d have slunk away into a corner to weep and lick her wounds, except one of her old theater pals noticed her then and shrieked, “Eve Fortescue,is that you?”
That started a landslide of cheery folks exclaiming over her, gathering to hug her and ask when she was coming back to Bellefleur for good. They were so sweet she could have cried. But she kept her head high. Laughed and joked, flirted with the boys as expected and tried not to let them see the tears pricking her eyes.
“Oh, sure. New York is just spectacular,” she lied through her perfectly straight teeth. “Y’all should shake off the dust of this old town and come too. Life there’s so sophisticated. It’s just a wild, wild ride.”
If only they knew the truth. If only she could come home.
Sensing Rainer’s glance, she caught him watching her, a wry half-smile on his sexy mouth. Just for a second there was something in his eyes then that made her insides flinch and curl up. Something shrewd and serious, as if she were suddenly made of crystal and he could see straight through her.
As usual, the Dixon sisters were staring from the sidelines at everything she did, muttering spiteful things to each other out of the corners of their mouths. Just like they did at church. Eve waved and blew them both a kiss.
Poor souls. With their attitude, they weren’t likely to score any of the other kind.