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The Wedding Wish

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«The Wedding Wish» - Элли Блейк

Party planner Holly Denison decides that if she is ever going to have the leading role in her own wedding party, she has to take matters into her own hands! Surely her best friends can fix her up on a few blind dates?Sure, they say. And that's how Holly meets Jake Lincoln. He's gorgeous, rich and successful. In fact, he's perfect marriage material–if only Holly can get Jake to agree…
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The Wedding Wish Ally Blake

Dear Reader,

We’re constantly striving to bring you the best romance fiction by the most exciting authors…and in Harlequin Romance® we’re especially keen to feature fresh, sparkling, warmly emotional novels. Modern love stories to suit your every mood: poignant, deeply moving stories; lively, upbeat romances with sparks flying; or sophisticated, edgy novels with an international flavor.

All our authors are special, and we hope you continue to enjoy each month’s new selection of Harlequin Romance books. This month we’re delighted to feature a novel with extra fizz! New Australian author sparkles with a fresh, vivid and lively writing style, and The Wedding Wish simply effervesces with vibrant, witty, lovable characters such as Holly and Jake—but also their friends Beth, Ben and Lydia. It’s fresh, flirty and feel-good!

We hope you enjoy this book by Ally Blake—and look out for future sparkling stories in Harlequin Romance. If you’d like to share your thoughts and comments with us, do please write to:

The Harlequin Romance® Editors

Harlequin Mills & Boon Ltd.

Eton House

18-24 Paradise Road

Richmond

Surrey TW9 1SR, U.K.

or e-mail: www.Tango@hmb.co.uk

Happy reading!

The Editors

Ally Blake worked in retail, danced on television and acted in friends’ short films until the writing bug could no longer be ignored. And as her mother had read romance novels ever since Ally was a baby, the aspiration to write Harlequin novels had been almost bred into her. Ally married her gorgeous husband, Mark, in Las Vegas (no Elvis in sight, thank you very much) and they live in beautiful Melbourne, Australia. Her husband cooks, he cleans and he’s the love of her life. How’s that for a hero?

This is Ally Blake’s first book!

The Wedding Wish

Ally Blake





www.millsandboon.co.uk

This book is dedicated to my angel, Mark, who looked after me, brought me M&M’s and made me feel as if I had it in me all the time.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER ONE

‘I’M GETTING married,’ Holly announced as she slammed her briefcase on the desk in her office at Cloud Nine Event Management, fifteen minutes later than her usual start time.

‘You’re doing what?’ Beth’s voice rang metallic and loud from Holly’s speakerphone.

Holly sat down, crossed her legs, noticed a run in her stockings, and her mood went from bad to worse. She grabbed a new pair of stockings from the neat pile stocked in her bottom desk drawer, before moving into her private bathroom to change from frayed to fresh. She had to raise her voice for it to reach the speakerphone, but in her current temper that was not a problem.

‘I said I’m getting married.’

‘But I can’t remember you dating any man more than once in the last six months, much less becoming familiar enough to want to marry one of them.’

Holly’s assistant Lydia chose that moment to enter the office. She stopped in her tracks, the coffee she carried all but sloshing over the sides, and stared at the speakerphone as though it had produced an offensive noise. Holly came back into the room, new stockings in place, and waved a ‘hurry up’ hand at Lydia who placed the cup down without spilling a drop.

With no apology, Lydia joined the private conversation. ‘Did I hear you guys right? In the time it took for me to make Holly a cuppa, she’s hooked herself a fiancé? That’s saying something for instant coffee.’

‘Is that you, Lydia?’ Beth asked.

Lydia leaned towards the speakerphone, articulating her words as though speaking to someone hard of hearing. ‘How are you, Beth? When is the baby due?’

‘I’m fantastic. Baby Jeffries should be here in a month or so—’

‘Ah, guys,’ Holly interrupted, ‘major life decision being made here.’

Lydia mimed buttoning her lips shut tight.

‘Sorry, sweetie,’ Beth said. ‘Blame Lydia. You know if anyone asks about the bubby, I gush. Do go on.’

‘Thank you.’ Holly took a deep breath and launched into her story. ‘This morning, as I walked the last block along Lonsdale Street, this…man all but barrelled me over. Everything I was carrying went flying. My briefcase ended up in the gutter, pens rolled down the road and all my precious papers scattered across the footpath. And as I was on my hands and knees crawling around collecting my materials he had the nerve to tell me to watch where I was going.’

‘Was he cute?’ was Lydia’s instant response.

Not cute, Holly remembered. She pictured early morning sunlight glinting off light flecks in hazel eyes. Tired dark smudges underneath those eyes. Sympathy she had felt at his exhausted expression. His scowl as he had realised she had dropped everything she was carrying. The same scowl that had extinguished her sympathy. The rich, deep voice with a hint of a foreign accent as he had said his piece. No, cute was not the word.

‘Tall,’ Holly eventually established, ‘dark mussed hair. Matching dimples. Smelled nice. But that’s irrelevant.’

‘Irrelevant?’ Beth said. ‘He sounds perfect.’

‘I reckon,’ Lydia agreed.

‘Just when you stop looking where you are going, he finds you. It’s kismet.’

Holly rolled her eyes, picturing Beth reaching for one of her New Age books to justify the incident.

‘He did not find me, Beth, he berated and bruised me. See.’ Holly pointed out a light scrape on her knee to Lydia, who pouted in appreciation.

‘And this is the guy you’re going to marry?’ Lydia asked.

‘No! You’ve both missed the point.’

‘Which is?’

‘The point is, the whole horrible episode brought about an epiphany. My social life consists exclusively of attending parties we coordinate. But instead of meeting men, I meet male party personalities. They mislead me with an attractive, charming, confident disguise but there is never anything more going on behind the eye-catching masks they wear. The gentleman this morning was very attractive, uncompromising, and uncaring and was therefore the embodiment of all that is wrong with the men I meet. It’s a foolproof theory.’

‘I’m confused,’ Lydia said. ‘If not this guy, who on earth are you marrying?’

‘That’s the thing—I’ve decided Ben is going to find him for me.’

‘My Ben?’ Beth asked after a couple of seconds of bewildered silence.

‘Of course. Can’t you see it’s the only way? Ben works in a big company, he’s got plenty of staff under him, mostly young men he has hand-picked, and he knows me better than anyone apart from you guys. He’s the perfect objective observer and if he can find me someone he likes then we can all be friends for ever. You know, live next door to one another, have neighbourhood BBQs, go on camping trips…’

‘You hate camping—’

‘I’m not joking, Beth. Come on, you have to see how flawless a plan it is.’

‘And all of this came from banging into some very attractive, dimpled, nice smelling guy on the street?’ Beth asked.

‘It was like when we collided he smacked some sense into me.’

‘Gave you concussion, more like it,’ Lydia muttered.

Holly shot Lydia an unimpressed look.

‘This guy must have been something to get you of all people talking marriage,’ Beth said.

‘Why me of all people?’

‘Come on, Holly. You are the most controlled, independent woman I know. You keep a colour range of spare pairs of stockings in your office drawer, for goodness’ sake.’

Catching sight of those very packets, Holly casually closed the drawer shut with her foot.

‘And here you are,’ Beth continued, ‘wanting to put your future happiness in someone else’s hands.’

‘Ben is not just someone else and you know that. I trust him to make a good choice.’

‘I can’t believe you are making some sort of sense,’ Beth admitted. ‘All right, come over for dinner tonight so that we can ambush my poor, unknowing husband.’

‘Thanks, Beth. You are the best friend in the whole wide world.’

‘And don’t you forget it.’

After Beth rang off Lydia peeled her lanky form from the chair and loped to Holly’s office door where she turned back to ask, ‘Did he help pick the stuff up?’

Holly dragged her attention away from the beckoning projects on her desk. ‘Mmm, he dropped his bags and bent down to help almost instantly. But he was telling me off at the time so that’s irrelevant too.’

‘And you were walking with your head down, immersed in thoughts of what you had to do today, not looking where you were going, weren’t you?’

‘Sure…’

‘But that’s irrelevant, right?’

Holly narrowed her eyes, willing Lydia not to continue, but her mocking look was to no avail.

‘A tall, dark, handsome stranger bowls you over and then gets down on his hands and knees to help. And you have decided this is a bad thing. I, on the other hand, would spend the rest of the day looking dreamily out the window if that happened to me. But no such luck. My morning consisted of being rubbed up against by a schoolboy on the train.’

Lydia sighed spectacularly and Holly could not help but grin at her amateur dramatics. ‘You do realise that since I am your boss your job is to ooh and aah and say, “poor Holly”, don’t you?’

‘I thought my job was to get you coffee and stand on chairs so that you can drape fabrics over me and hold all incoming calls from any men you may have had uninspiring dates with the night before.’

‘Sure,’ Holly agreed after a moment’s thought, ‘that too.’

Lydia left the room and headed back to her desk to prepare herself for a day of imagining walking up Lonsdale Street and banging into tall, dark, handsome strangers.

Jacob helped the driver haul the last of his luggage into the waiting taxi. As the car pulled away he ran a hand through his mussed hair, leant back onto the headrest, and was surprised to catch such a world-weary reflection peering back at him from the window.

Jacob’s focus shifted and he watched the familiar home-town buildings flick past. He was not yet sure how he felt about being home. So far, so good. And a hot shower and a sleep in his own bed would only make it better. But how long would it be this time before he yearned to move on?

Either way Jacob knew Melbourne was a magnificent city. Take that enchanting woman he had just had an exchange with on the street. Now there was a real Melbourne woman. Pale smooth skin suited to the temperate clime, stylish to a fault, a compelling face, and subtle, easy confidence. You didn’t find women quite like that anywhere else in the world. In any case he hadn’t yet. During the drive home, his thoughts kept coming back to the brunette with the fiery blue eyes who had somehow roused his ordinarily controlled temper.

Jet lag. It had to have been jet lag.

‘Babe?’ Ben’s voice called out from the front hallway.

Holly’s hand leapt to her throat. She had not even heard the front door.

‘In here, darling,’ Beth called, sitting on an armchair they’d dragged into the kitchen to ease her aching back.

Holly understood Beth’s raised eyebrows and tight mouth. This is your last chance to change your mind, her expression said. But Holly was not to be deterred. ‘Just follow the delicious aroma of grilled chicken à la Holly wafting from the kitchen.’

Ben popped his head around the door. He leaned down and kissed his wife, not even asking why their lounge chair was in the kitchen. Holly offered her cheek for a kiss, which she duly received.

‘To what do we owe the pleasure of your company, gorgeous?’ Ben leant over Holly to have a good look at dinner. She slapped his hand as he tried to grab a piece of potato.

Holly glanced once more at Beth, who gave her a discreet thumbs up. ‘I want you to set me up with someone from your work.’

Holly clenched her face waiting for the inevitable ‘no’.

‘Sure,’ Ben answered.

Holly was too stunned to stop him spooning a baby potato into his mouth. ‘Really?’

‘Of course. It’s Derek from Payroll, isn’t it? He’s always had a thing for you, you know.’

‘For starters it’s not Derek. I mean, yuck.’

‘Come on, Ben,’ Beth said in support, ‘you know she likes tall, dark and handsome. Derek’s a weed.’

‘Then who?’

Holly proceeded to explain her inspired theory and the mechanics of her plan with endlessly increasing enthusiasm until Ben could have no doubt of her sincerity.

‘You two are serious, aren’t you?’

‘Deadly serious,’ Beth agreed. ‘I have mapped out her stars, and Holly is primed.’

Ben did a Groucho Marx with his eyebrows. Beth slapped his thigh playfully. ‘Primed for a big change, you idiot. This is serious, Ben. She is getting on in years.’

‘She’s twenty-seven.’

‘And I want to be her matron of honour while I’m still young enough and pretty enough to at least have a shot at outshining the bride.’

‘You’re nuts, the both of you. I shouldn’t let the two of you alone in a room together. It bodes badly for the future of mankind.’

‘But you will do it, won’t you, darling?’

Faced with their excited united front, there was nothing Ben could do but agree.

.

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