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JUNE 4, 2024

July 30, 2013

Three Little Words

Fool's Gold, Book No. 12

The man who gave up on love finally has a reason to stay in Fool's Gold - if three little words can convince his love to do the same.

Isabel Beebe thinks she's cursed in the romance department. Her teenage crush, Ford Hendrix, ignored all her letters. Her husband left her for another…man. So Isabel has come home to dust off her passion for fashion and run the family bridal shop until her parents are ready to sell it. Then she'll pursue her real dreams. At least, that's the plan, until sexy, charming Ford returns and leaves her feeling fourteen all over again….. 

Seeing Isabel all grown-up hits bodyguard trainer Ford like a sucker punch. Back when heartbreak made him join the military, her sweet letters kept him sane. Now he can't take his eyes—or his lips—off her. The man who gave up on love has a reason to stay in Fool's Gold forever—if three little words can convince Isabel to do the same.

Three Little Words

Three Little Words has been selected for iBooks Best of 2013!

iTunes iBooks

A "Best Book of 2013" in Romance!

Amazon Editors

4½ Stars Top Pick! "Hot on the heels of last month's charmer, Mallery returns to Fool's Gold to not only give lucky readers former SEAL Ford Hendrix's romantic comeuppance, but also that of his brother, Kent. With twice the romantic action, this book is a dynamite read filled with humor, compassion and sexy sizzle."

RT Book Reviews

A Best Book of the Month in Romance! (This is Susan's third 2013 book to make this prestigious list. In March, THREE SISTERS and in July, TWO OF A KIND were also honored as Best Books of the Month by the editors at Amazon.com.)

Amazon Editors

Best of the Year in Romance! "All three of the books in this new chapter of Fool’s Gold romances are excellent—compelling, character-driven narratives with the perfect balance of sweetness and reality—but Three Little Words might just be the best of the bunch."

Alyssa Morris, Amazon Kindle

Buy It! "Reading Isabel’s young letters to Ford in Three Little Words really transported me back to that very young me, hoping beyond hope that this amazing/almost off-limits guy felt the same way... Three Little Words is sexy, sweet, and probably one of the more relatable books in this series. (There’s also a second romantic storyline between a tough lady and a very nice math teacher. Loved watching barriers come down for this one.) Plus football players are moving into town. Even more reason to check into Fool’s Gold if you ask me!

Did I mention this was probably the hottest Fool’s Gold book I ever read? Major heat wave, hot. Prepare yourself. Hydrate. You will need it."

Rather Be Reading

"This is a charming addition to this lovely series. If you are looking for a sweet but sexy contemporary story–this is it!"

Warren-Newport Public Library

"The romance is amusing. Ford persuades Isabel to act as his 'fake girlfriend' to ward off his mother’s matchmaking efforts. But, of course, things become all to real."

Jean Marie Brown, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

"One of my favorite contemporary romance books ever... I give Three Little Words an A!"

The Book Pushers

Grade A "Of all the Fool’s Gold books out so far, Three Little Words is my favorite."

The Book Reading Gals

5 Cups! "The queen of contemporary romance, Susan Mallery, has done it again... My Three Little Words – Read This Book."

Heather Coulter, Books, Books, and More Books

Kimberly: 5 Stars "I am never disappointed when I visit Fool’s Gold but this might be my favorite book of the series (and that is saying something) in a while. Maybe I was just like Isabel and had a crush on Ford even before he came back to town but having spent time with him I fell in love!

Kelly: 4.5 Stars "Loved this story!"


Grade: A "I love the vulnerability that Ford has about his time in the military and when that all comes out at the end...gorgeous and heartbreaking. Really just brilliant, emotional writing from Susan Mallery. Definitely another winner."

Smitten with Reading

Grade: A+ "I love small town romance and though this is the twelfth book in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone. I wasn’t lost at all and I haven’t read any of the others... I loved the steam and chemistry between the couples. The small town aspect worked very well with this story. I can’t wait to read more about this fun town!"

Rhonda Dennis, Delighted Reader

"Susan Mallery's created a town I'd love to be part of. The friendly faces, neighbors knowing neighbors, and a collection of stores and boutiques that make you want to spend time outside of your home... Three Little Words is actually a two-for-one romance. Not only do you get to watch Ford and Isabel battle their growing feelings, but Ford's brother, a single dad, also finds himself falling head over heels for Ford's co-worker, a military woman with a rough background. This made it feel like you got a bonus! I can't wait to see how things are going for both couples in future Fool's Gold romances."

Tracy Farnsworth, Roundtable Reviews

"This was my first experience with the FOOLS GOLD series, but I didn’t find any issues with characters with back-stories that I needed to read... The characters and the funny scenes made THREE LITTLE WORDS a great contemporary novel."

Parajunkee Reviews

"I feel like I say this every time I read a Fool’s Gold book but…I LOVED this story! Susan Mallery has yet again given us a couple who are perfect together in every way but just can’t admit it to themselves... I guess I just have to admit to myself that I am addicted to Susan Mallery’s writing. I wonder if there’s a twelve step program for that?"

Harlequin Junkie

Rating: 5 HOT "I must say the third book in the Fool’s Gold Bodyguard Trilogy is my absolute favorite!! Not only do you get the beautifully funny and charming love story of Isabel and Ford, but you also get the beautifully self-conscious and unsure, although equally as charming, love story of Ford’s brother Kent and his unlikely lady-love Consuelo Ly. Both stories are so different yet alike. Mallery is the absolute master at formulating quaint small town life and charmingly real characters."

A. Lyn, My Book Addictions and More

"Where have I been? I had no idea Susan Mallery's Fool's Gold series was up to book #12. I forgot how much I love Susan Mallery's writing, and the characters she creates. Also, a big bonus, I do not have to read the books in order for me to understand, or keep up with the Fool's Gold world and its characters. I jumped right into Three Little Words and did not feel lost or confused one bit... Isabel and Ford have to be one of my favorite characters in a contemporary romance ever... I haven't laughed this hard while reading a book in so long!"

Damaris, Good Choice Reading

"I may have no clue what happened in the previous books, but I felt it was easily read as a stand alone... this one hit the mark...definitely one for romance fans!"

Freda's Voice

"I had such a fun time reading this book and learning about some of the Fool's Gold's residents! I guess this is book twelve, but it was fine as a stand-alone. I may need to go back and pick up some of the first ones!... I would definitely pick up another book by Susan Mallery."

Books and Needlepoint

5 Stars! "If you’ve never read a Fool’s Gold book, or anything by Susan Mallery, pick up Three Little Words... I absolutely love Susan Mallery’s books. She always makes me smile, laugh, sigh and even occasionally cry. And her stories never fail to delight – full of characters that are witty, touching and sexy, and dialogue that is smart, funny, flirty, and sweet. It’s an irresistible combination that makes me happy every time."

Julie Johnson, Book Trib

5 Stars! "This book is fantastic and I really enjoyed Ford and his lightheartedness. Despite leaving town under bad circumstances and having experienced some difficult things while he was in the military, he is able to be fun and loving when he returns to town. The light, teasing nature of Ford and Isabel's relationship made me laugh out loud a number of times... Ms. Mallery does a great job writing the reconnection of two characters who both want so badly to guard their hearts against any pain or devastation. The large, close knit family elements also add some hysterical moments to this story... As always, I enjoyed this Fool's Gold tale and all of the characters in it. I look forward to so much more from this idyllic little town."

Lynn, The Romance Reviews

"Men are idiots. Susan Mallery knows that well, and illustrates it perfectly in the latest Fool’s Gold novel – Three Little Words...There is one of the most romantic lines I have ever read near the end of this one! Days later it still has me swooning!! I have to say that Ford Hendrix could be my favorite romantic hero, EVER!!... If you haven’t read the Fool’s Gold books, I strongly recommend you start!!"

For Love and Books

"My first time reading this author's work and certainly not my last, I was enchanted by the story, captivated by the surroundings and utterly drawn into the relationships."

Insatiable Readers

"I know it might seem odd that my first Mallery book is also the twelfth in a series, but the books are companions and the author did such a nice job of subtly filling in details on the characters and their ties to one another, that I did not have a hard time keeping up... He was very cocky, but in a fun way. Isabel was a sweetheart, and so easy to love... the relationship was so genuinely sweet and fun that I was simply happy to be along for the ride."

The Bookish Babes

"Although this was my first time reading a Fool’s Gold novel, the characters and the setting had a warm and inviting feel, which could explain why I went out and purchased the previous 11 books in the Fool’ Gold series. While Three Little Words is part of a series and subseries, it reads as a stand-alone book and I had no trouble following along. I have to say that the chemistry between Ford and Isabel was amazing."/p>

The Royal Reviews

"This book is my favorite of the Fool's Gold series books so far... [Ford] was such a good guy and took really good care of Isabel when she needed someone. He was sexy and funny and the bedroom scenes were really hot."

The Book Garden

"...while this book primarily focused on Ford and Isabel, the secondary story between Kent and Consuelo was just as touching... [Fool's Gold] is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary romance series!"

Always with a Book

"Reading Fool’s Gold is always a joy!... To live in a town where people are easy going, friends show camaraderie, and festivals all year long. Fool’s Gold is indeed the place for happy endings."

Vivian Situ, Opinionated Person

"I was a little apprehensive going into Three Little Words by Susan Mallery as it is the twelfth book in a series, but just as promised this delightful romance worked perfectly as a standalone. Three word review: small-town, charming, and romantic... The sparks, banter and personalities of the characters allowed me to slip right into the tale. I laughed, grinned, and giggled my way through this."

Caffeinated Book Reviewer

Grade: A "Another delightful romance featuring characters who we root for in a town we’ve grown to love... Fool’s Gold has a way of growing on you like a much beloved vacation spot. I like to visit as often as I can and catch up on all the people I know and love, to see what’s going on in their lives."

Veena, The Good, the Bad, and the Unread

"Heart-grabbing, loaded with humor and emotions, Three Little Words by Susan Mallery is a charmingly funny, deliciously sexy, and emotionally satisfying read."

Mina's Bookshelf

"Fool’s Gold is one of those towns that I love visiting whenever I get a hankering for a contemporary romance where the women are spitfires, the men are all adorably dense (at times), and the friendships are forever... It was a blast to watch them realize just how much they mean to each other."

The Geeky Blogger's Book Blog

"...such a delight. I loved the characters and the story line was oh so sweet... Susan Mallery is just a wonderful writer."

Being Alison

"Isabel has been in love with Ford since she was 14 and Ford was engaged to her sister. She wrote letters to him for 10 years, then stopped before she got married. Her marriage didn’t last and now they are both back in their hometown. Ford’s mom is adamant that he gets married, so he decides to 'fake it' with the girl who was once head over heels for him. I absolutely loved the relationship between Isabel and Ford in this book. They have a history. They are fun. They are playful. Oh and they have some great chemistry."

The Kari Annalysis

"Fool's Gold, somewhere in California, is one of those places where everyone knows everyone else, and any newcomer will probably find him- or herself married to one of hte locals before much time has elapsed. And why not? They're such a caring, cheerful bunch!... A charming, intriguing read."

Kelly Ferjutz, Tulsa Book Review

"I have been waiting forever to read Ford’s story and Susan Mallery did not disappoint... The sex was amazing and the love story was touching... Susan Mallery has made Fool’s Gold the most magical place and I can’t wait to see who strikes it rich with love in her next book."

Reading in Pajamas

"Without a doubt, this is my all time favorite Susan Mallery novel... Three Little Words has all of Mallery’s usual charms. A wonderful love story with glimpses of past main characters, humor and wit. All her novels are charming but this one was extra sweet."

Aubrey, Romancing the Book

"THREE LITTLE WORDS (FOOL'S GOLD #12) is a sweet yet hot contemporary novel that really pulled at my heart strings with not only Isabel and Ford's story but Kent's and Consuelo's too. I didn't think I could love this series any more than I already did but Susan Mallery proved me wrong. Their stories touched my every emotion and I was so drawn in I couldn't put it down until I read each and every word all in a six hour span!"

JoAnne Weiss, Romance Junkies

"Susan Mallery knocks it out of the park again with Three Little Words!!... Isabel and Ford are a great couple! This story is so feel good and heartwarming that it can turn your gloomy day into a great one."

Jenelle's Book Shelf

"There’s something about Ford Hendrix. I loved him. I think he’s probably my favorite Fool’s Gold hero, followed closely by Simon (Only Yours #5) and Clay (All Summer Long #9). He’s funny and doesn’t take himself too seriously. I usually go for the alpha male types, but I love a guy with a sense of humor."

Gone Pecan

"I did worry that I would be a little lost in all that familiar sauce but HAVE NO FEAR. You may not know who every character is nor how they came to be friends, but you can still enjoy them, and they make you want to read previous books to get to know them better. Mostly, I just enjoyed the dual romance in this book, following Isabel and Ford, Consuelo and Kent. THREE LITTLE WORDS is a happy book, so since I’m not an unhappy person, I have no complaints and just basked in all the happy things waiting to hug me. I’ll be smiling all day."

Paranormal Indulgence

"I love these characters! Isabel is sweet and funny and confused and vulnerable, particularly after her divorce. Yet she has an essential optimism that I found endearing. Ford is a charmer with a terrific sense of humor and an understanding heart, an irresistible combination... The secondary romance between Consuelo and Kent is also wonderful, although their relationship is very different from Isabel and Ford’s. Consuelo and Kent are such an unexpected match, and yet they are great together."

Just Janga

"I decided to try a Susan Mallery book and loved it! Being my first Mallery novel I wasn’t sure if I could just jump into the Fool’s Gold series but that wasn’t a problem... The relationship between Isabel and Ford was built up perfectly. It wasn’t an instant love with no basis to the relationship. We got to see them go on dates, doing chores around the house and really get to know each other and then fall into bed with each other."

Debbie's World of Books

"Susan Mallery is my go to author when I need a book that makes me feel warm and fuzzy. She has the ability to take you on a romantic journey filled with passion and humor like no other. I have read quite a few books in the Fools Gold series and this by far is my favorite. What I love about this series is the fact that any book could be read as a stand alone. So if this is your first visit to FG, no worries, you won't be lost."

Christy, Winding Stairs Book Blog

Reviewers' Choice AwardTHREE LITTLE WORDS has received the Reviewers' Choice Award in contemporary romance from CataNetwork's SingleTitles.com!



Dear Ford, I can't believe my sister was stupid enough to cheat on you with your best friend two weeks before your wedding. I know I'm only 14, but I still love you. I'll love you forever and write you every day. Or at least once a week. I cried and cried when you left. Maeve wasn't happy. She said I was making a scene. I got right in her face and told her she was a bitch for cheating on you. Then I got in trouble for swearing at my sister. But I don't care. I wish you didn't have to leave. I really will love you forever, Ford. I promise. Stay safe, okay?

Dear Ford, I'm going to the prom! I know I'm just a sophomore but Warren asked me and I said yes. My mom is practically more excited than me. We're going to San Francisco to buy a dress. My grandmother offered me one of the bridesmaid dresses from her store. OMG. As if. But mom was cool and said we could get something from one of the big department stores. Yay! I'll send a picture of me in the dress. Stay safe, okay?

Dear Ford, I know I haven't written in a while. It was too awful. Prom, I mean. Warren wasn't who I thought and he got drunk. He and his friends had hotel rooms. I thought we were going to a party, you know, but that's not what he had in mind. He said he thought I understood. What is it with guys and sex? Explain it to me, please. Not that you ever write me back, but if you ever do. I kicked him like Dad taught me and then he threw up on my dress, which made me throw up. I wish you'd been here to take me to the dance. Stay safe, okay?

Dear Ford, I'm sorry I haven't written again for so long. My grandma died. She wasn't sick or anything. Just one day, she didn't wake up. I can't seem to stop crying. I miss her so much. Mom is sad and it's really hard. I'm trying to be there for my mom, doing my chores and cooking dinner a couple of nights a week. Sometimes, when I'm having fun with my friends, I feel guilty. Like I'm never supposed to smile again. Dad took me out to lunch and said it was okay for me to be a teenager. I wish I knew if that were true. I hope you're okay out there. I worry about you, you know.

Dear Ford, I'm graduating. I'm enclosing a picture because, I don't know. Is it weird that I write? You never answer, and that's okay. I don't even know if you read these letters. But it's what I do because in a way, I still miss you. Writing you has become this thing I do. We've agreed on UCLA. I'm going to major in marketing. Mom keeps pushing accounting but with my math skills, we all know that's not going to happen. I'm excited and happy, except I still miss my grandma. Are you in Iraq? Sometimes when I hear the news on TV about the war, I wonder where you are.

Dear Ford, I love college. I'm just saying. Westwood is completely amazing and wonderful and we go to the beach most weekends. I'm dating a surfer. Billy. He's teaching me to surf. I'm not going to class as much as I should, but I'll make it up soon. I got highlights and I'm tan and this is the coolest my life has ever been. I love everything. I hope all is well over there, too.

Dear Ford, Fool's Gold community college isn't so bad. I miss my friends and Westwood, but this is okay, too. My parents still aren't speaking to me except for the long conversations every week about how disappointed they are with me, that I wasn't mature enough to handle UCLA. I feel really bad about being so stupid and irresponsible, but me saying that doesn't stop the lectures. Still, I know I deserve them. Billy broke up with me a couple of weeks ago. I'm not surprised. He wasn't exactly long term boyfriend material. I'm going to pay attention to my classes and work on being more mature. Sometimes I think about you going off to war around my age. That must have been incredibly hard. I'm still learning how to stand on my own two feet. Thinking of you and hoping you're well.

Dear Ford, I have a job in NYC. Can you believe it? A marketing job. Do you know how many marketing students graduate every year? Like a million and there are maybe 2 jobs and I got one of them! Me!! Mom and I are going to find me an apartment. I've been looking online and basically what I can afford is about 200 square feet with a toilet. But I don't care. It's New York. I'm really doing it. Little Isabel from Fool's Gold is going to the Big Apple. By the way, do you why they call New York that? Why is it like an apple? I'm not sure you're even getting these letters but I wanted to tell you the good news. Maybe someday when you're back in the States you'll come visit me.

Dear Ford, Sorry I haven't written in so long. I've been crazy busy. We're working on a campaign for a new Tequila brand. We've teamed them up with MTV and I'm involved. It's really exciting. I'm meeting all kinds of people and I even get to go to the MTV Awards? I love New York and I love my job, even though dating here is as dismal as I heard. Too many single girls. But I'm not desperate. I love my work and if a guy doesn't treat me right, then I walk away. Hey, look—I finally grew up. I saw your mom last time I was home and she says you're okay. I'm glad. Fleet Week was last month and I thought of you. Hope you're staying safe, Ford.

Dear Ford, Eric is the guy I told you about before. He works on Wall Street and is very cute and funny. Smart, too. One of his friends hinted that he's about to ask me to marry him, which is exciting, of course. The thing is, he doesn't know that I write you. I know, I know, you never answer and it's more like writing my diary, only I think I need to stop. Because when I write you, I'm not just writing a diary entry. I'm wondering who you are and what you're like now. It's been forever. Ten years. Maeve is still popping out babies every couple of years. I'm sure you're over her. At least I hope you are. I know you're still serving our country. No one knows what you do, but I can't help thinking you're in danger sometimes. I'm not that 14 year old kid who swore she would love you forever anymore, but as silly as it sounds, you'll always have a piece of my heart. Take care, Ford. Good-bye.


Chapter One

"Death by lace and tulle," Isabel Beebe said as she waved the nozzle of the steamer.

"I'm so sorry," Madeline told her, then winced as she studied the front of the wedding gown.

"Brides-to-be are determined." Isabel lifted up the front layers of the white dress and carefully clipped them to the portable clothesline in the back room of the boutique. With a dress like this—multiple layers of flowing chiffon—she would start on the inside and work her way out.

Isabel focused the steam on the wrinkles. An excited bride had wanted to find out if her potential wedding dress was comfortable to sit in. So she'd sat. For half an hour while on the phone with a girlfriend. Now the sample had to be steamed back into perfection for the next interested customer.

"Should I stop them next time?" Madeline asked.

Isabel shook her head. "Would that we could. But no. Brides are fragile and emotional. As long as they're not tossing paint on the dresses or reaching for scissors, let them sit, twirl and dance away. We are here to serve."

She showed Madeline how to hold the chiffon so the steam flowed through evenly and then explained about the layers and the time to let the dress cool and dry before being put back with the other sample dresses.

"It helps if you think of each wedding gown as a very delicate princess," Isabel said with a grin. "From a family with a lot of inbreeding. At any second, there could be disaster. We're here to keep that from happening."

Madeline had only been working at Paper Moon Wedding Gowns for three weeks, but Isabel already liked her. She showed up early for her shift and was endlessly patient with the brides and their mothers.

Isabel passed over the steamer. "Your turn."

She watched until she was sure Madeline knew what she was doing, then returned to the front of the store. She replaced sample shoes, straightened a couple of veils, then gave in to the inevitable and admitted she was stalling. What had to be done, had to be done. Putting it off wouldn't change reality. Oh, but how she wanted to.

After sucking in a breath for strength, she went into the small office, grabbed her purse and stepped into the work room and smiled at Madeline. "I'll be back in an hour."

"Okay. See you then."

Isabel left the shop and walked purposefully to her car. Fool's Gold was small enough that she generally walked everywhere, but her current destination was just far enough to warrant a car. That and the fact that driving meant a faster and cleaner getaway. If things went badly, she didn't want to have to run like a frightened bunny. Not that she could in her four inch heels, but still. With a car, there might be a spray of gravel and she could disappear in a cloud of dust, like in the movies.

"Things are not going to go badly," she told herself. "Things are going to go great. I'm visualizing greatness." She nearly closed her eyes, then remembered she was driving. "I'm wearing my tiara of greatness even as I turn."

She went left on Eighth Street, then right and before she was ready, she found herself driving into the parking lot of CDS.

Cerberus Defense Sector was the new security firm in town. They trained bodyguards and offered classes in self-defense and other manly things. Isabel wasn't clear on the details. She found that she and exercise had a much better relationship if they avoided each other.

She parked next to a wicked looking muscle car from maybe the 1960s, a large black Jeep tragically painted with flames and a monster Harley. Her Prius looked desperately out of place. Not to mention small.

Now that she wasn't driving, it was safe for her to close her eyes. She did and tried to visualize, but her stomach was churning too much for her to do much more than worry about throwing up.

"This is stupid!" she announced and opened her eyes. "I can do it. I can have a reasonable conversation with an old friend."

Only Ford Hendrix wasn't an old friend and the talk was going to be about how despite her vow to love him forever, the ten years she'd spent writing him, not to mention including pictures, that he had no reason to be afraid of her. Because she thought that he might be. Just a little.

She doubted it was anything he would admit. The man had been a SEAL. She knew that, in addition, he'd be part of some special joint task force that had been even more dangerous. She also knew he'd returned to Fool's Gold nearly three months ago and in all that time, they'd managed to avoid on another. But that wasn't possible anymore.

"I am not a stalker," she said, then groaned. Bad way to start a conversation. And not one designed to get him to believe her.

"Whatever," she muttered and got out of her car.

She paused to smooth the front of her black dress. It was fitted without being tight and skimmed all the lumpy bits. As much as she loved clothes, a reasonable person would assume she was obsessed with looking great and therefore working out. But for Isabel, the call of the cookie was hard to ignore. So she was really good at draping her curves and still looking stylish. Or so she told herself.

She adjusted her sleeves, paused to brush off a bit of dust from her shoes and then prepared to face the lion in his den. Or warrior in his cave. Whichever.

She walked into CDS. No one sat at the reception desk, so she started down the hall toward the sound of music and a weird thumping noise. She saw double doors standing open and stepped through them into the biggest workout room she'd ever seen.

The ceiling had to be thirty feet high. Ropes hung from beams at one end of the room. There were all kinds of scary looking exercise equipment, boxing bag thingies and other weights and stuff she couldn't name. In the center of the room a petite woman with long dark hair pulled back in a ponytail was taking on a much larger man. Taking him on and maybe even winning.

They both wore protective headgear and each had tape around their hands. It took her a second to recognize her friend Consuelo Ly as the woman.

Isabel watched as Consuelo swung out her leg. The guy moved, but not quick enough. Her heel caught him behind the knee and down he went. Isabel winced, but then the guy was up faster than she would have thought possible and he had the woman in a headlock. Consuelo flailed around, trying to kick him or punch him. Her elbow connected with his midsection. He grunted, but didn't let go.

"You two know what you're doing, right?" Isabel asked. "Is someone going to get hurt? Should I call 9-1-1?"

The man turned toward her. Consuelo didn't. One second he was standing, then next he was flat on his back and she had her foot pressed against his throat.

"Sucker," the woman said and pulled off her protective headgear. She glared at her victim. "Are you that stupid on a mission?"

"Not usually."

She held out her hand. The guy took it and she pulled him to his feet. Consuelo turned to Isabel.

"Thanks. I owe you."

"I didn't mean to be a distraction," Isabel said. "You're so small and he's so..."

The man removed his headgear and turned to her. Isabel felt her mouth go dry, which was a much better reaction than the sudden flipping going on in her stomach. She had a feeling she'd either gone pale or red and kind of hoped for the former. It would be less embarrassing.

The man—all six feet of muscles in a T-shirt and sweatpants—was just as handsome as she remembered. His eyes were just as dark, his hair as thick. Fourteen years away had no doubt changed Ford Hendrix on the inside, but on the outside, he was better than ever.

She still remembered him standing in her parent's living room, confronting her sister. Isabel had been told to stay in her room, but she'd crept out to listen. She remembered crouching in the hall, crying as the man she'd loved as much as her fourteen-year-old heart could allow had asked why Maeve had cheated on him and if she really loved Leonard.

Maeve had cried, too, and apologized, but said it was all true. That she was ending things with Ford, that she should have ended them weeks before. As their wedding was in less than ten days, Isabel couldn't help but agree. There'd been more fighting—mostly yelling on his part, then he'd stalked out.

Isabel had run after him, begging him not to go. He'd ignored her, had kept on walking. Two days later, he'd joined the Navy and left Fool's Gold. She'd declared her love in an endless stream of letters, but had never seen him again until this second.

As an aside, he hadn't answered her letters. Not a single one.

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