Sometimes exes come in handy.
Devon Mattson’s week couldn’t get much worse. Not only is he fake engaged to the sexy woman who broke his heart (then stomped on it for good measure) a decade ago, but his goal of saving his hometown of Blueberry Springs has become dependent on the two of them playing nicely.
Olivia Carrington isn’t happy to have her ex back in her life. She’s spent ten long years regretting how they ended things back in college and she’s worked hard to move on. She should be focusing on saving her family’s company, not on the handsome, helpful, fun-loving Devon who has just offered her a lifeline she can’t resist…
Tied together by mutual need, will they ruin each other’s chance of success or will a fake engagement help them overcome their painful past and lead them back to love once again?
The Surprise Wedding is the first book in the Veils and Vows series. It can be read out of series order and as a standalone. The couple, Olivia and Devon, also have a prequel novella, The Promise, for those who want more about Olivia and Devon’s past.
SNEAK PEEK: CHAPTER 1
Devon Mattson straightened his tie and stood in the doorway to the large banquet area. He’d lied to get into the private gathering for Carrington Cosmetics and Cohen’s Blissful Body Care. Lied to give himself the opportunity to ask a favor of the last woman on earth he ever wanted to see: Olivia Carrington—the woman who, ten years ago, had broken his heart when she’d punted him out of her life.
That’s how desperate he’d become.
But she hadn’t returned his calls. Nobody at Carrington had and he was running out of time. Olivia would be here, mere hours from his hometown, for only six more days as a part of her company’s business retreat—an annual brainstorming affair that the company shared with Cohen’s Blissful Body Care which was owned and operated by their close family friends, the Cohens. According to Carrington’s corporate website, in six days they’d all go back to South Carolina and at the rate things were changing in Blueberry Springs, he didn’t have much beyond that. He needed a miracle and he needed it sooner rather than later.
He spotted Olivia across the room almost immediately. She was sitting near the head of the enormous table, the chandelier above sparkling like the diamonds in her ears. She was smiling, one elbow on the linen cloth as she listened attentively to the person beside her. She was still as beautiful as ever, her smile just as alluring. A deafening flood of emotions roared through Devon.
Anger. Loss. Heartbreak.
He had believed she was different. Not just a rich princess type, but a woman who was kind, fun and creative. Someone he could give his heart to and she’d hold it safe.
He’d been wrong, and all he could see was their shattered past, the way she’d pushed him away, rejecting all he had to offer during a time when they should have held on tighter, become a family.
Was he really going to ask her for help?
He could still slip from the room, unnoticed, and leave the pain in the past.
But he needed her. She was the last stop on his personal train of desperation.
Olivia’s father stood at his chair at the end of the table, clinking his glass, commanding the attention of his guests.
The elite group fell silent in sync, all eyes turning to Jack Carrington. Olivia’s cascade of blond curls stood out among the heads of gray. She was even more gorgeous than she’d been in college, and back then she’d been able to take Devon’s breath away with just one tentative smile. She still drew his eye as if their souls were connected.
Which they weren’t.
She’d severed that link, made it clear she didn’t need him in her life.
“As you know,” Jack Carrington boomed in a smooth voice that held a hint of southern drawl, “we’ve gathered here this week to discuss new opportunities, proposed mergers of cooperation and quite possibly a union.”
He paused to smile, letting everyone in the room take in the last part of his statement. A tall, lean man Devon recognized from years ago stood up across from Olivia. He was smiling like he had claim to a million-dollar lottery ticket as he looked upon Olivia, possessiveness marking his gaze. He began fishing through his suit jacket’s inner breast pocket as though in the search of a ring. Devon’s heart began to thunder. Luke was every bit Olivia’s match, their worlds lining up in a way Devon’s and Olivia’s never had.
Instinct told Devon to intervene. Luke was going to propose, he could feel it. He needed Olivia before she said yes. He didn’t know why, exactly, only that Luke, as a fiancé, would interfere with Carrington helping Devon’s hometown of Blueberry Springs.
Olivia pushed back in her chair as she apparently realized what Luke was doing, her fingers gripping the edge of the table. She looked pale, uncertain, her eyes wide as though she were facing an oncoming train while tied to the tracks. Pastel-clad older ladies at the table began tittering, hands covering their mouths as they speculated about the possibility of a marriage proposal, eyes gleaming.
Without thinking, Devon strode into the room. “Sorry to interrupt, but I need to speak with Olivia Carrington.”
All eyes turned to him, and Olivia stood so suddenly her heavy chair teetered. Her face registered a flash of relief mixed with shock before she did a double take. She dropped back into the chair, mouth open, her hand missing her wineglass as she reached to clutch it. Her lips frowned ever so slightly as she took in the room with a sweeping glance, reading expressions, reactions, and undoubtedly realizing how it all reflected back on her.
Yeah, yeah. He was a painful memory from her past, the last person she expected to see crashing her public soon-to-be engagement, someone she had probably hoped to never see again.
“Olivia?” he prompted gently.
She stood again, opening her mouth to speak, their eyes meeting. A flash of pain, bright and strong, surged between them, spearing him.
He shouldn’t have come.
“This is a private gathering,” her father said in a loud, stern voice.
“We won’t be but a moment,” Devon said kindly, trying to act unaffected, calm. “If you don’t mind, Olivia?”
Her cheeks were flushed and her tablemates gaped at the two of them, trying to decipher what the interruption meant. He knew that, as always, Olivia wanted to get every detail right, make the right impression. She glanced uncertainly, apologetically, at Luke, while lightly touching her neck just under her ear, revealing her nervousness.
She stepped away from the table and her father put out an arm to stop her, saying, “This isn’t a good time.”
“Who is this man?” Luke asked. He smoothed his suit jacket, standing taller as he came around the table as though Olivia was in need of protection.
Little did the man know Devon had absolutely no designs on his fiancée-to-be. That ship had not only sailed, but been plundered and sunk offshore. This was about business, his town, and absolutely nothing more.
Olivia said in a soft, placating tone, “Why don’t we set up a meeting, Mr. Mattson?”
Mister. Wow. She was playing the proper heir to a T. Not that he was surprised. That was the real Olivia, not the one he’d fallen for.
But a prearranged meeting? He knew if he agreed, she’d never show up for it. Her father would personally guarantee it.
“I can pull up a chair until you have a moment.” He tipped his chin toward a waiter who was standing by, a white linen cloth draped over his left arm. “A chair, please.” The man jolted into action, but froze when Olivia’s father put up a hand to stop him. The waiter gazed from one to the other, conflicted about how to proceed.
“You are not welcome here,” Mr. Carrington stated. His face had turned red.
Yup, he remembered Devon. Any father in his place would have, and Devon didn’t blame him for the wall of anger, his primal need to protect his daughter. But Devon had never meant to hurt her, never meant to put them in a position where everything could fall apart so easily.
He carefully shifted his weight, knowing the Carringtons didn’t want a scene and were waiting for a valid excuse to toss him out.
“I only need a moment to discuss something with Ms. Carrington. Or anyone who knows about her organic line, really.” He gave a bland, disarming smile. He casually leaned against the wall, glancing up at the ornate ceiling. Talk about getting a crick in the neck, painting those little cherubs on the plaster like that, the wispy clouds and fancy gold whatever-you-called-it. And he thought trying to keep the current mayor of Blueberry Springs in line was a tricky job.
Devon checked the room again, knowing appearing aloof would aggravate the Carringtons, forcing them to act. Olivia had her head tipped to the side, studying him. He raised his eyebrows and she flinched, looking away.
The women near Devon were chatting loudly now, clearly speculating about who “the stunner in the cheap suit” might be. This was his most expensive suit and it was most definitely not cheap. At least not by Blueberry Springs’s standards. But here in the posh mountain resort where the wealthy held their retreats, maybe it was. Nobody had had to mess around with his inseam to get the fit right.
He shot the women a disarming smile, which they returned, their already pink cheeks brightening. Oh, they loved a little drama, didn’t they?
“I thought you promised to never speak to him again,” Devon overheard Mr. Carrington say quietly to his daughter.
Olivia placed a hand on her father’s arm and began discussing something with him in hushed tones.
Devon caught him saying, with a hint of exasperation, “This pet project of yours…” before Olivia addressed the room at large.
“I’m sorry for the interruption,” she said smoothly. “Please, enjoy your desserts. I’ll return momentarily.”
She gracefully swept away from the table, her cocktail gown clinging to the curves Devon remembered like a blind man recalls the steps leading up to his own home. He had a fleeting thought that she might still have the ability to break his heart and that coming to see her had indeed been a very, very bad idea.
End of sneak peek!
Keep reading The Surprise Wedding!
Copyright © 2017 Jean Oram. All Rights Reserved. Not to be copied or distributed in any form without explicit permission from the author Jean Oram. Contact her to inquire further.