A Surprising Fact About Love
A Surprising Fact About Love
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When Ashley Malone is cursed...err...gifted with a ticket to a singles' event, she begins to wonder if the universe is out to get her. Once she arrives, she's certain it is. After one too many creepy stares and visions of being tied up in a trunk, Ashley has had enough.
It isn't until she sees a sexy strangers across the room that things to start to look up. Except that he's not part of the event. He owns the resort and barely even glances in Ashley's direction before disappearing. Just to end her evening on a high note, Ashley finds out the family she's been a nanny for no longer needs her. When things can't get any worse, she gets an email from the sexy stranger she thought she'd never see again. The problem is that she's moving to Virginia, and the fling she's been fantasizing about could become a reality her heart can't handle.
- Matchmaking Gone Wrong
- Happily Ever After
Emilia Hudson has never been one to consider arranged marriages, especially if it meant her fifty-five year old parents would have a say, but with her dismal love life, she’s almost reconsidering.
After her latest dating disaster, Emilia writes a simple blog post that goes viral. Worse yet, people start considering her a relationship expert, and all she feels like is a fraud.
As the emails and speaking engagements start rolling in, she realizes her only option is to take the bull by the horns and run with the unexpected fame.
What she doesn’t want to do is talk about the real reason why she won’t ever fall in love again.
However, when she gets an offer she can’t refuse from a major publisher, that’s all they want her to write about, but It isn’t until she meets the man behind the proposal that she realizes why…
Intro to Chapter One
Intro to Chapter One
“When the bell rings, that means it’s time to move to the next table.” The woman who organized this dating event was standing behind a podium, holding a microphone with one hand and a champagne glass in the other. She scanned the room, grinning at all the gullible victims who were here to meet their soulmates. “It doesn’t matter if you think you’ve made a connection. You must move on. Names and connections will be collected and sorted at the end of the event. That’s where technology and love meet. After all, you don’t want to miss out on your true love because you didn’t change tables.”
“God forbid,” Ashley Malone said under her breath as she slid out of a chair and took a seat in front of a man who looked extremely anxious.
She’d been given a table number and told she needed to start the event at that spot. The one thing Ashley was good at was following directions. She clutched her iPad, which they’d handed out to score each encounter, and hoped for the best.
“Hi, uh . . . boy.” The man cleared his throat across the table where she’d taken a seat. “This is awkward, isn’t it? I’ve never done anything like this.”
By the looks of it, every sizzle, zing, and zap of chemistry had left the building the moment she’d stepped inside and glanced around the room. The bar in the Silver Ridge Resort was cozy and perfect for an intimate encounter, with a fire blazing in the mammoth stone fireplace and windows for walls so guests could look upon the ski resort. But there was nothing and never would be anything intimate going on between her and the man she was staring at.
Ashley brought her gaze to the nervous man’s, and she smiled. “Me neither.” Her eyes fell to his nametag. “Chester.” She smiled wider. “I’ve never done anything like this before either.”
And I plan never to do it again, she vowed silently.
“Ashley, is it?” The man let out a slow, nervous breath. His dark hair had a fair amount of curl to it, his gaze looked a little twitchy, and the tip of his nose looked bright red. “You’re absolutely beautiful.”
“Oh, well thank you. I think it’s just because the lighting is low. If I stumbled into direct sunlight, it would be an entirely different story.” Ashley smiled and smoothed her damp palms along her jeans.
Awful didn’t even begin to describe this encounter.
“I don’t think so.” He licked his bottom lip, and her skin crawled. “Do you live around here?”
And if she did, she certainly wouldn’t tell Chester.
Ashley suddenly had a feeling there was an axe in the back of his vehicle along with several sets of rope and duct tape.
She shook her head. “And you?”
“Nah. I came from the city.” He shook his head. “There aren’t any good women down there, so I figured maybe the mountains would—”
Saved by the bell, and Ashley couldn’t have been happier.
“Nice to meet you.” Ashley nearly catapulted from her seat and found the next table she had been assigned where a blond guy was sipping a martini.
His blue eyes sparkled when his gaze landed on hers, and all Ashley wanted to do was to escape deep into the blizzard outside, but instead, she sat in the chair across from the man who was looking at her like he wanted to slurp her up.
Ashley shifted in her seat and wished she could turn and run out of the room, but her employer bought this matchmaking gift for her for Christmas, and they’d been pestering her ever since to book a night of speed dating.
So, here she was, counting down the minutes until she could escape . . . err, politely leave.
The woman’s voice came over the speakers again. “Don’t forget to score your last encounter.”
Oh, right, Ashley thought.
She tapped on her iPad and picked a score of one out of four as she sat in front of her new two-minute date.
“Ouch,” the blond guy said as he glanced over in Chester’s direction. “Hope I fare better than he did. My name’s Dave.”
Ashley couldn’t help but chuckle as she turned off the iPad. “Doubtful. I’m Ashley.”
“Well, I’ve always admired honesty.” He laughed, and while Ashley felt absolutely nothing for the man, she at least didn’t feel like she might be trapped in a trunk of a car in a couple of hours.
The man leaned over the table and grinned. “I’d tell you I’ve never done one of these things before, but it would be a lie.”
“Really?” she asked in surprise. “You’ve done these events before? How’d it work?”
“I’m here again, so . . .” He laughed. “Either I’m really dense or just a hopeless romantic. How about you?”
“My bosses bought me a ticket,” Ashley confessed right when her gaze caught a man rushing by the bar behind Dave and her heart skipped a beat.
The stranger was gorgeous.
But men who were that good-looking always led to trouble.
Not that Ashley would know. She’d never been out with a guy who’d looked like he fell off a movie screen, but she could imagine they’d lead to nothing but trouble.
Yet, here she was.
Staring at this beautiful stranger.
Everything about the man sizzled into Ashley’s brain, and it was like the room full of men around her vanished as she watched the sexy man strike up a conversation with the bartender, a female.
“Figures,” Ashley muttered and rolled her eyes.
“Did I say something wrong?” Dave asked.
“Huh? Oh, no. Sorry.”
Ashley stood clinging onto her iPad when Dave spoke up. “Could you do me a favor and maybe rate me like a two or something?” He pointed at Chester. “I feel like my ego couldn’t take a—”
Ashley chuckled and nodded. “How about a three?”
“So, there’s a chance?” Dave laughed.
“Sure.” Ashley winked and chuckled as she moved to the next table.
At least Dave was a good sport, but it wasn’t until she sat down that she felt the sense that she was being watched.
Her pulse immediately spiked, and she turned to make sure Chester hadn’t pinned her as his next victim. Ashley’s shoulders immediately relaxed when she realized he’d become smitten with the woman sitting in front of him.
Ashley turned her attention back to the gentleman in front of her. He was a definite silver fox with bright green eyes and a kind expression, but she was clearly not cut out for this type of event.
First, she liked being single. She never thought she needed any help in finding a partner until she got this gift for the holidays.
But was it really a gift?
She thought the family she nannied for liked her, but after tonight, she wasn’t so sure.
“So, you don’t look like you’d have any trouble finding a date,” the older man said.
“Thank you.” Ashley smiled. “I think?”
He folded his hands. “My daughter bought this for me at Christmas. I think it’s her way of getting me out of her hair.”
Ashley chuckled. “The family I work for bought me the ticket as well. Maybe that was their way of telling me the same?”
“Oh, what do you do?” the man asked, seemingly interested.
“I nanny for a family with three children, two towns over.”
“That must keep you on your toes.”
“Morning, noon, and night.” Ashley grinned, finally enjoying some real conversation. “The kids are sweethearts, though. Such well-behaved children.”
“Says a lot about their nanny, I’m sure.” His smile was kind.
Ashley blushed. “Actually, the children were like that when I arrived. I think it says more about their genetics.”
The man laughed and nodded his head. “Could be.”
“I honestly don’t see how this accomplishes anything.” The man chuckled.
“Exactly what I was thinking.” Ashley stood and picked up her iPad. “It was nice to meet you, and as brief as it was, I enjoyed our mini-conversation.”
Ashley spun around and scanned the room for her next table number, finally landing on it in the far corner.
She took a deep breath and wondered if she could make a dash for the exit, but guilt settled deep into her bones. After all, the Finns had been so sweet to her for years, and she knew this cost them quite a bit of money. This was one of the most expensive and renowned matchmaking services in the area.
So, Ashley trudged her way through the crowded bar toward her next mini-date. She glanced toward the bar and saw the stranger from earlier no longer talking with the bartender.
Instead, the man’s gaze fastened on hers, and every part of Ashley’s body warmed with something she’d long since thought she’d lost. Her mouth fell open, but she shut it quickly as she weaved through the crowd to the table where an overly eager man sat waiting for her.
“They saved the best for last,” the man said, and Ashley’s stomach knotted.
She was absolutely awful at these things. No one-liners would roll off her tongue like that.
In fact, everything about tonight had been excruciating.
Ashley plastered her smile on and glanced at his nametag. “Nice to meet you, Jerry.”
“Call me Jer.”
“Okay, Jer.” She sat down and glanced over her shoulder to see the man still at the bar, but he’d turned his attention back to the bartender.
Figured. The bartender was an attractive redhead with lashes to make any woman jealous.
Not that Ashley was the jealous type. She was pretty comfortable in her own skin.
She didn’t mind that she had a little limp from a horse accident when she was a teenager.
She didn’t care that there was a scar stitched into her along her thigh all the way down to her knee.
And she certainly didn’t mind that she had stretch marks circling her waist and thighs from gaining so much weight from the accident, only to have taken over fifteen years to lose some of the excess.
It wasn’t like she’d actually been with a man in recent years, but if she had been with one, she knew none of it would bother her.
Or maybe it bothered her more than she knew, which was why she hadn’t dated much in recent years.
Either way, she knew tonight’s event wasn’t going to be the gateway to soulmate heaven.
Ashley grinned at the man sitting in front of her and realized his lips were moving and she had no idea what he was saying.
“ . . . so, I hope that I’ll finally be able to settle down.” He took a swig of beer and let out a low, deep burp into his fist. “But I don’t think a person is ever too old to party. So the girl I find had better understand that a guy just has to be a guy sometimes.”
Ashley wished she’d taken the host’s advice and gotten a drink for herself. “Yeah. Hopefully, you can find that girl.”
But it won’t be me, Ashley thought.
“You know how it goes, though, baby.” He took another swig, and Ashley wondered why in the world it was taking so long for the ding. “Right?”
“Not really. I’m not much for going out and partying.” She let out a slow breath and glanced at the host, who was busy talking with someone.
No wonder the bell hadn’t dinged yet.
“What if we changed that tonight?” The man wiggled his brows and held up his beer bottle.
“Changed what?” Ashley’s right brow arched in disgust.
“Getting you to become a party girl.”
“Umm . . .”
“Okay, everyone. That concludes the first portion of our evening,” the host began. “Now’s the time to refill your drinks, and women, turn in your iPads.”
“So, how about it?” the man pressed as Ashley stood up from the table and looked at his nametag.
“In your dreams, Fred.” Ashley tapped on her iPad and quickly scored the man a one as she scooted away from the table toward the bar.
“It was Jer,” he hollered after Ashley. “Jerry!”
The bartender’s eyes connected with Ashley’s right before the friendly bartender looked over Ashley’s shoulder.
“I’m being followed, aren’t I?”
“Bogey coming in at twelve o’clock.” The bartender smiled, and Ashley froze.
“Ugh.” Ashley rolled her eyes at the woman behind the bar.
“I’m on the fourth floor. Room 402.” Jerry’s voice sent a chill up Ashley’s spine.
“Why do you think I care?” Ashley asked, spinning around to see the man nearly waddling his way toward her.
“We had chemistry. I could feel it all the way across the table.” Jerry slid up between Ashley and another woman as the bar became crowded with dating participants.
“I’m not sure that’s what you were feeling.” Ashley smiled but turned toward the bartender and ordered a Moscow Mule.
Jerry slipped his hands on Ashley’s shoulders and began massaging, which literally sloshed around the cheeseburger Ashley had grabbed right before the event.
“Please don’t.” Ashley shrugged his hands from her.
“There’s more where that came from,” Jerry whispered as the bartender slid Ashley her drink.
“There’d better not be if you want to walk out of here.” Ashley narrowed her eyes on Jerry, who not only wasn’t getting the hint, but he seemed to perk up at the notion.
“I’m telling you, Ashley.” The man burped into his fist again, and Ashley pressed herself up against the bar. “One night with me and you’ll be begging—”
“Excuse me, sir,” a man’s voice boomed over the crowd, and everyone within a ten-foot radius quieted as their eyes landed on the sexy man Ashley had spied earlier. “Is there a problem here?”
Jerry’s eyes turned serpentine, and Ashley’s stomach roiled over. “No problem at all. Just trying to get this beautiful lady up to my room, if you know what I mean.”
Nervous male laughter rolled through the crowd, and Ashley took a sip of her drink, unable to take her gaze off the sexy stranger.
“It didn’t sound like she wanted to take you up on your offer,” the man continued.
“She just needs a little warming up. That’s all.” Jerry ran his finger along Ashley’s jaw, and she clenched, feeling a tingle run through her knuckles. She knew how to throw a mean right hook, but this wasn’t the time or place.
The crowd parted, and the man charged through, his eyes darting to Ashley’s nametag, and all she wanted to do was crawl under a rock somewhere.
“Ashley?” the good-looking stranger asked.
“Is this man bothering you?”
“Who do you think you are to get in my way of getting a little something?” Jerry interrupted Ashley, and the stranger cocked his head slightly.
It was apparent that he wasn’t used to being spoken to with so little respect, which only made Ashley more curious.
“I think it’s time we escorted you off the property.” The man gestured at two large hulks standing by the door.
“What? You think you can kick me out? Who do you think you are? It’s not like you own this joint.” Jerry threw his beer bottle on the ground, and Ashley noticed the man who came to her rescue clenched his jaw and stood straighter as the two men from the door came upon Jerry with powerful ease.
The moment the men started escorting Jerry out, the crowd began cheering and clapping, but when Ashley turned to thank the stranger, he had disappeared.
Ashley’s pulse was still racing as she took another sip of her drink. This certainly wasn’t how she’d planned the evening to go, and she had no idea what she was going to tell the Finns about their Christmas present.
“You okay?” the bartender asked quietly.
“Yeah.” Ashley nodded and set her drink down. “It’s just a good reminder as to why I’m single.”
“Tell me about it.” The bartender grinned as Ashley took a seat on one of the stools. “I’m Erika Larson.”
“Ashley.” She pointed at her own nametag. “Ashley Malone. So, who was that guy who kicked Jerry out?”
Erika’s brows shot up in surprise. “You don’t know?”
“Should I?” Ashley squirmed on the stool.
“He’s a North brother.”
“North brother?” Ashley shook her head, not knowing the significance.
“Austin North. He’s the oldest brother of five, and the North brothers own Silver Ridge Resort.” She licked her bottom lip and glanced across the room. “And most of the town too.”
“Huh. Never heard of them.” Ashley’s heart rate quickened as she thought about the gorgeous Austin North.
His blue eyes sparkled like the Caspian Sea, and his dark hair was perfectly mussed, which naturally led her to wonder what it would be like to have her fingers running through the dark strands.
But that was what Ashley loved about daydreaming. Nobody knew the random thoughts that ran through her mind and kept her happily single. She was more of the look but don’t touch kind of person. It was less messy and time-consuming, and while she couldn’t wait to get back home to the Finns’ residence tonight, she had to wonder why of all the men who could have made her daydream, it had to be the least attainable man in the area?