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HAPPILY THIS CHRISTMAS

SEPTEMBER 29, 2020

July 21, 2020

A Fool's Gold Wedding

Fool's Gold, Book No. 22

Sparks fly when the sister of the bride meets the brother of the groom in this brand-new Fool’s Gold love story. . .

Abby Hendrix would do anything to help with her beloved sister’s wedding, even play tour guide to the offputtingly brilliant—and unexpectedly gorgeous—brother of the groom. She’s a small-town schoolteacher, he’s a gifted surgeon. Nothing intimidating about that. She’ll just ask him to help her plan a top-secret surprise for the wedding.

Joaquin Kincaid has always been book-smart and people-awkward. Abby’s sweet and social nature triggers an unexpected yearning inside him. His whole life, he’s been an outsider, while she’s so popular that she’s convinced an entire town to go along with her crazy idea. For the first time ever, he’s met a woman who accepts him as he is, quirks and all, and he feels himself falling in love. Could Abby love him, too? Or, when she discovers the real reason he came to Fool’s Gold, will he lose her forever?

A Fool’s Gold Wedding is available on its own in ebook format, or in print as a bonus novella with the 10th anniversary edition of Chasing Perfect.

“SO THERE’S THIS guy.”

Abby Hendrix didn’t bother looking up from the tiny flower-shaped bead she was carefully gluing onto the printed place card. Her sister’s wedding guest list had ballooned yet again. The increase in guests meant an increase in costs and Melissa was determined to do all she could to save money. Abby—the proud owner of a brand-new teaching certificate—was home for the summer and had offered to help with any DIY projects. She had applied tiny flower beads to forty-four place cards and was hoping to get through all three hundred and five by the end of the day. Or possibly by tomorrow.

“There’s no guy,” she said, before blowing on the bead to set the glue. “I know there’s no guy because I know you’d never cheat on your fiancé.” She looked up and smiled at her sister. “You love Davis. I have total confidence that you two will have a long, happy life together. So there.”

“I do love Davis. Very much. But there is a guy. Joaquin.”

The name was familiar. Abby set down her tweezers and leaned back in her chair. She’d definitely heard the name before. He was…

“Davis’s brother,” Melissa said with a sigh.

“Right. The mysterious, icky brother.”

“He’s not icky.”

Abby grinned. “Uh-huh. Sure he’s not. So why, exactly, were you whining about him being the best man? You said, and correct me if I’m wrong, but you said he had the personality of a window frame, which was an impressive analogy, if you ask me.”

“Thank you and icky is still the wrong word. He’s…”

“Difficult? Socially awkward? Very, very tall? Allergic to shellfish?” Abby tried to remember what she’d heard about him. “Oh, wait. He’s supersmart. Like scary smart and he thinks the rest of us are dumb.” She laughed triumphantly. “He loathes that we are lesser mortals. That’s it, right?”

Melissa, the beauty of the family, sighed again. “Not exactly how I’d phrase it—”

“That’s because you’re a fancy lawyer. You’d have to use the word allegedly like fifteen times.”

“Can I talk?”

Abby batted her eyes. “I don’t know. Can you?”

“When did you get annoying?”

Abby was unfazed by the question. “I’m the little sister. Just doing my job. I am, after all, a hard worker. Not as hard as you, but close.”

Abby knew her place in the universe and it was a really good one. She was Liz and Ethan’s adopted daughter, Melissa’s full sister, Tyler’s cousin and a soon-to-be third grade teacher at Ronan Elementary School. If Melissa was annoyingly beautiful and a little bit smarter, Abby was okay with that. Melissa had always looked out for her, even after they’d finally found a family. They were a team. If her sister needed a kidney or a lung, Abby was all in. If three hundred and five place cards would be happier with little flower beads on them, count on her to get that done.

Now she made an effort to control her naturally irreverent personality and address the topic seriously.

“You knew Joaquin was coming to the wedding. He’s the best man. So what’s the problem? He doesn’t like the tux? And I can’t help repeating myself by asking about the shellfish.”

“Would you stop with the shellfish?” Melissa asked, obviously trying not to laugh. “This is serious.”

Abby placed her hands on her jean-clad thighs, leaned forward and nodded. “I’m listening.”

In theory, Abby and her sister looked alike. They were both about five-five and they wore about the same size. They were redheads with green(ish) eyes. But what sounded the same on paper was very different in real life. Melissa had thick auburn hair with a slight wave. Her eyes were dark green, her skin pale and luminous. She had all the right curves in all the right proportions. She was elegant, smart and always perfectly dressed.

Abby lived on a different appearance plane. Her hair was more carrot colored than auburn and, no matter how she curled, sprayed and sacrificed small animals to the hair gods, stick straight. She had freckles on literally every inch of her body. Her eyes were kind of a muddy green-hazel-brown, and despite wearing the same size as her sister, she had tiny boobs and what she feared would one day be a fairly good-size behind.

And yet she was okay with it. All of it. Sure, she would like bigger boobs, but barring surgery, she hadn’t figured out a way to make that happen. In the name of self-confidence, she had a lovely collection of push-up bras that really did make a difference. For special occasions, she even had a pair of little gel cutlet thingies that did the trick, illusion wise. On the bright side, she could totally go without a bra if she wanted and no one even—

“Abby!” Melissa sounded exasperated.

“What?”

“You said you were listening. I’ve been talking for five minutes and you haven’t heard a word.”

“Oh. You’re right. Sorry. Now I’m really listening.”

Melissa didn’t look convinced.

“I swear.” Abby held up her left hand, then quickly switched to her right. “This is me, swearing.”

“Joaquin is coming to Fool’s Gold.”

“Yes, for the wedding.” Was the stress of the event starting to get to her sister? They’d already discussed this.

“Tomorrow.”

“What? No. Tomorrow? The wedding’s not for three weeks. Too-smart-for-his-own-good Joaquin is going to be in town for three weeks? That’s a nightmare. What are you going to do?”

Melissa’s gaze sharpened. “Yes, that is the question,” she said. “He’s going to need to be entertained.”

“But how—” Abby fought the sudden urge to run from the room. “No. No way. Not me. I can’t entertain him. I’m not smart enough. I was a solid B+ student. I’m great with kids. If he were eight or even eleven, I would be your girl, but what am I supposed to say to some sanctimonious doctor guy? Didn’t he go to college when he was like five? No way. What about Mom?”

“Abby, please. There’s no way he’d hang out with Mom, and even if he would, she’s doing so much with the wedding and she’s on deadline. I have to go back to work. In San Francisco,” she added, as if Abby didn’t know where she worked and lived. “Davis does, too.”

“He could visit you there.”

“Joaquin specifically told Davis he wants to stay in Fool’s Gold. He has a room at Ronan’s Lodge. I’m sure he’ll keep himself busy. I just need you to, you know, help out.”

“Monitor him.” Abby’s tone was glum. “You want me to keep track of him and invite him out to dinner and be cheerful.”

“Cheerful is a natural state for you.”

“Yes, but not with a guy like him. Plus, I haven’t even met him.” Davis’s parents had been to Fool’s Gold bunches of times. Last Christmas the whole Kincaid-Hendrix clan had comingled for a gloriously massive and raucous Christmas. Everyone had been there. Everyone except the mysterious and grumpy Joaquin. He’d been working. Or dealing with his possible shellfish allergy.

Abby told herself not to judge. From all she’d heard, Joaquin was a gifted surgeon, so when he worked, he literally saved lives and stuff. But her uncle Simon was a gifted surgeon, too, and he wasn’t grumpy. He was sweet and funny and he loved his family, and when she’d accidently sliced three of her fingers on a very sharp knife last summer, he’d fixed her up and now she barely had a scar.

“I know this is unexpected, but, Abby, I need you.”

“Don’t say that.” Anything but that. If her sister needed her, she didn’t have a choice. Still, she could try to get out of it. “You know I’m busy with the wedding. I have to finish these cards.”

“I’ll help you. We’ll get them done today.”

“Sure, but I have to paint all the votives and that’s going to take a while.”

“Joaquin can help.”

“I doubt that, but there’s other stuff.” Surprises for her sister she didn’t want to talk about. “Melissa, I really don’t have time to babysit Joaquin. Please?”

Instead of relenting, Melissa only looked at her. Pointedly.

Ack! “But I don’t want to.”

Melissa sighed.

“Fine.” Abby grumbled. “I’ll do it. I won’t like it, but I’ll do it. You are not my favorite sister anymore.”

“I’m your only sister and you love me almost as much as I love you.”

“Apparently I love you more. Look what I’m doing for you. You are so going to owe me. I get to pick the name of your firstborn.”

Melissa pulled her close and hugged her. “I’m not sure how Davis would feel about me promising that. He might want a vote.”

“Then he should let his brother sleep on the couch.”

“Fair enough. I’ll let him know the price of your cooperation.”

Abby turned back to the place cards. Putting on tiny bead flowers was suddenly a lot less fun. Starting tomorrow she was going to be responsible for someone she’d never met and probably wouldn’t like. For three weeks! What on earth were they going to do?

Once her sister went back to San Francisco, Abby had planned to start working on her secret gift for the wedding. It was going to take a lot of time and organization. She supposed she could ask Joaquin to help. And they could walk around town. What else? She could take him to see her aunt Montana’s service dogs and they could go out to the Castle ranch and look at the horses. Or the goats. Although that might be too ordinary for a gifted surgeon. Maybe she could talk to her uncle Simon and get some ideas from him.

“I’ll put together a lesson plan,” she said. “Stuff for us to do every day between now and the wedding.”

Melissa grinned. “I’m sure he’ll love that.”

“He’d better. He’s messing with my summer vacation.”

A Fool’s Gold Wedding is available under that title in ebook. If you want it in print, you’ll find it as a bonus novella with the 10th anniversary edition of Chasing Perfect.

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