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Authors: Heather McGovern

A Moment of Bliss

BOOK: A Moment of Bliss
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KISSING MADISON
“You're staring at my mouth.” Roark's voice came out low and gravelly.
“What?” She pinched her lips together, jerking her gaze to his eyes.
“My mouth. You keep staring at it.”
“So?”
“So. I wanted to kiss you
before
the staring. You keep looking at me like that and I will.”
Madison swallowed back a whimper, her heart hammering in her chest. She wanted him to kiss her. Then it could be his fault. She wasn't the one stepping out of line into the land of unprofessional liaisons. Roark was.
She looked away and counted to ten. Her door was right there. Turn the key, go inside. It would be so easy to be a good girl right now.
Madison licked her lips, slowly dragging her gaze to Roark's before intentionally staring at his mouth.
He said something on a harsh whisper, something like
thank god.
Then Roark grabbed her, and pressed his lips to hers . . .
A Moment of Bliss
Heather McGovern
LYRICAL SHINE
Kensington Publishing Corp.
www.kensingtonbooks.com
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
To the extent that the image or images on the cover of this book depict a person or persons, such person or persons are merely models, and are not intended to portray any character or characters featured in the book.
 
LYRICAL SHINE BOOKS are published by
 
Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018
 
Copyright © 2016 by Heather McGovern
 
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.
 
 
Lyrical Shine and Lyrical Shine logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.
 
First Electronic Edition: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1-6018-3836-0
eISBN-10: 1-60183-836-0
 
ISBN-13: 978-1-60183-837-7
ISBN-10: 1-60183-837-9
To my Irishman. Thank you for your love, laughter, and support.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
With special thanks to:
My executive committee: Jeanette Grey, Elizabeth Michels, and Laura Trentham. None of this would be possible without your critique and consultation, and I certainly wouldn't be having this much fun.
The fabulous ladies at BadGirlzWrite.com, for the encouragement and friendship.
My agent, Nicole Resciniti; my editor, John Scognamiglio; and all of the wonderful people at Kensington for believing in me and helping me share my stories.
Chapter 1
M
adison lifted her chin and sniffed the lobby again, thankful no one was around to see her bang-up bloodhound impression.
She was at the inn to work; to make the impossible happen with her skill and professionalism. But right now something smelled like fresh-baked heaven covered in sinful cinnamon frosting, and she had to find out what.
The reception area held no piles of cookies or cakes. No candles or bowls of potpourri; only a single flower arrangement centered on a mahogany table the size of her car. She leaned over and gave the flowers a good long whiff.
Someone behind her cleared his throat in a deep rumble.
Crap.
“May I help you?” A man—too good looking and looking too amused—stood beside the reception desk. Tall and broad enough to fill the doorway behind him, he struck a serious figure in his dress shirt and slacks, but he held a tiny, frilly edged, peach-colored towel in one hand.
“Your gladiolus smells like cookies,” she told him.
One dark eyebrow crept up. “I'm sorry, my what?”
She pointed her finger, an accusatory arrow right at the lobby's floral arrangement. “This flower. It's a gladiolus, but it smells like cookies.”
“It's not the flowers.” He closed the space between them in three long strides, and Madison's pulse jumped at his approach.
“I'm Roark Bradley, owner of Honeywilde Mountain Inn and Resort. Is there something I can help you with?” His Southern drawl rolled the words off his tongue, like rough rocks that'd been tumbled smooth. He made the question sound so much more appealing than it really was.
She knew exactly who Roark Bradley was, from Honeywilde's website. She wasn't about to tell him that though, or that he was even better looking in person.
“Madison Kline.” She stuck out her arm.
Her plan was to take charge of this meeting and keep the upper hand until she got her clients what they wanted. So far, she'd managed to get busted sniffing the flowers and eyeing the owner.
All she could do now was hope her palm wasn't sweaty.
Roark shook her hand, not tight and overpowering, but firm and polite. His skin was smooth enough that she could tell he took care of it, but not so smooth that he'd never known a day's work. Hands like his were a good sign for any business owner, and she always took note of the signs.
“You're the wedding planner.”
“Event coordinator,” she corrected him.
“Sorry. Event coordinator.”
Polite, well dressed, well spoken—he was exactly what she'd come to expect from the hospitality industry. He was well built too. Not that it had anything to do with his business skills.
“So, you want to have a wedding here.”
“No.” She corrected him again. “I want to take a tour of the place to see
if
my clients might be interested in having their wedding here. That is all.” All a big bluff, more like. Her clients wanted Honeywilde and nowhere else would do. Madison's job was to make it happen and pull it off in less than three weeks.
“I'm sure once you have a look around, it will be an easy decision.”
The decision was already made. The trick was in the execution, but at no point could Roark Bradley realize the cards were dealt in his favor—like, royal flush in his favor. “We'll see. First, are you going to tell me why these flowers smell like dessert, or is it an inn secret?”
He shrugged and held up the little peach towel like it explained everything. Then he nodded toward his arm.
Madison followed his gaze to a huge wet splotch that covered the left sleeve of his dress shirt.
“It's me. I was in the kitchen right before you arrived, and our chef is baking for the afternoon tea. There's this vanilla and cinnamon and spices mixture he uses. He can be all elbows sometimes and . . .” Roark glanced up with a sheepish grin. “Anyway, there was a thing with some vanilla and now I smell like cookies. How about we get started on that tour?”
She forced her lips into a polite smile. The man smelled delicious. Of course he did. Because that's just how her day was going.
Roark held up the little towel. “Let me put this back in the office and I'll show you around.” He strode toward the office with a lot of dignity for a man who was cookie-scented and carrying a little peach towel.
Madison gave Honeywilde's lobby another once-over. She could see why the bride-to-be insisted on getting married here. The inn held a unique charm. It was a well-kept secret that it had been off its game in the last several years, but what was bad news for Honeywilde might be good news for her.
This was her first big event since she'd struck out on her own, and if she succeeded, all the naysayers would have to eat their words.
Madison smoothed her hair back, making sure her chignon was secure. Her fingers trembled with nerves, so she clutched her portfolio tighter.
“We can avoid the kitchen for now, if you think the cookies are dangerous,” she told Roark when he returned. Her comment came out unintentionally playful and she fought not to roll her eyes at herself.
With a lazy grin that proved he'd caught the tone, Roark clasped his hands behind his back. “Yes, we should probably save the danger for later. Play it safe. Since your main concern is most likely the location for your clients' wedding ceremony, may I suggest we start outside the inn, on the veranda? You'll find the view from there is second to none and it's the ideal setting for a ceremony.”
Now was the perfect opportunity to take charge and lay down the groundwork for how this appointment would go. She couldn't let Roark charm her with his good looks and easy smile. No slick sales pitch, only to slap on an astronomical price tag when it came time to book the inn.
She might be desperate to hook Honeywilde, but he didn't have to know that.
“Actually, I'd like you to answer a few questions first, and I have an order I want to follow for the tour.” She opened her black leather portfolio and whipped out her pen. “I have several main concerns, not just about the location of the ceremony, but the entire inn. You've recently taken over operation of Honeywilde, correct?”
“I worked as manager under my parents, but I became the owner a few years ago, yes.”
“Word is, the resort fell off in the last few years, prior to your inheritance of the property.”
His smile disappeared as he worked his jaw. “That is true, but now my siblings and I run things entirely. I've invested a lot of time and money into the resort and I assure you our place is in top shape.”
She made notes, knowing it'd show diligence. With her former employer, Madison was known as “a hard-nosed broad.” Yes, she'd really been called that, even in the twenty-first century. She was proud of the moniker, but what people left off was she
had
to be hard-nosed to crawl her way up from the bottom.
“Rumor has it you intend for Honeywilde to reclaim some of its former glory,” she said as she wrote.
“Not some, all. It's more than just a rumor too. You'll see the improvements as we tour. Honeywilde will again be
the
inn to stay in.”
“I like your enthusiasm, but the tag line needs work.” Madison clicked her pen and pointed toward the front door. “Now, since I've seen the inn's entrance and lobby, rather than see the veranda, I prefer to continue on through the great room. Then I'd like to make my way to one of the guest quarters, then the restaurant and kitchen, and finally the exterior, including the veranda and the view.”
Roark's eyebrows crept up. Surprisingly, she didn't detect the usual judgment she got for taking charge. He looked more impressed than offended.
“Starting in the great room works for me.” He held one arm out, inviting her to join him.
They took the three steps down into the sunken great room and walked toward the center seating area. Roark was at least six foot two, built like the baseball player he was—according to a quick Internet search he'd played ball for all four years of college at Appalachian State, then went on to get his MBA there—and able to reach the center of the large room in about ten steps.
Lagging behind allowed her quite the view, but she knew better than to let him lead.
With her height and long strides, she easily caught up to him, and marked it down as a small victory.
Four people occupied the large common area, on the far side of the room, and she hadn't seen a single guest milling about since she arrived. Unless everyone was playing the most successful game of hide-and-seek ever, the rumors of slow business were true.
“Touring in the order I listed, I get to experience Honeywilde as if I were one of the wedding guests. I can see what they'll see and know if this is the right place.”
“Of course.”
“My clients are very . . .” She looked at the enormous stone fireplace at the end of the room, hoping the right word would pop down like Santa Claus. The bride and groom seemed like perfectly nice people, and for newly minted celebrity-status musicians, they were strangely down-to-earth. “Discerning. They know what they want and it's my job to make sure they have it.”
Their business manager, on the other hand? Arrogant, intolerable, and insistent that Madison come in under his budget. But she couldn't say anything about a business manager or celebrities. Not right now anyway.
“I have to be one hundred percent sure of Honeywilde before I begin any arrangements,” she told Roark.
Why did she keep justifying her actions to him? She was supposed to spin this as the resort being lucky to have her business. The goal was to exude confidence and command or a man like Roark Bradley would never respect her or her offer.
“I agree completely.”
Trying to rebound, she gave him a curt smile. “You're just agreeing with me to be polite, but I don't need to be schmoozed.”
Roark turned to her with a playful smile. “Actually, I legitimately agree, but I can disagree with you for the rest of the tour, if that's preferable.”
She tilted her head, reconsidering the man in front of her.
This wasn't some Southern gentleman patronizing her, or a man offended that she'd come across bossy. This was Roark Bradley being a smart-ass.
She liked a smart-ass. A person who could give as good as he got, that was someone she could work with.
“Schmoozing isn't my thing either. I prefer to get down to business.”
Madison unclicked her pen and clutched her portfolio in front of her. “Good. Then you won't be offended when I ask some pointed questions?”
“I welcome them.”
She studied Roark for a sign he was bluffing to get on her good side.
The line of his jaw didn't budge, his blue gaze steady, clearly confident in his claims.
“How many weddings have you hosted in the last three years?”
“Only two, but before we'd have at least two each season.”
“How many other events in general?”
“A few in the spring and summer, but not as many as I'd like.”
“When do you think you'll have the hearth around the fireplace redone?”
“Excuse me?” He finally blinked.
“The hearth.” She pointed over with her pen and stepped closer to the floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace. “Some of the stones are missing on each end.”
“Right.” Roark cleared his throat, clenching his teeth enough that she could see the tension in his jaw. “That's on my list. It's the last item on the great room renovations, and we have a guy coming out next week.”
She made a note in her portfolio, also noting she'd hit a nerve. “I hope you can appreciate why I ask. When I'm planning someone's wedding, I can't sugarcoat the questions.”
His gaze met hers as soon as she looked up. “Ms. Kline, I can handle sugar-free. The hearth was supposed to be fixed last month. I'm not happy about it either.”
She studied her notes again so she wouldn't stare at him. When he looked at her like that, a zing of pleasure rushed through her body. It seemed there'd be no BS with Roark Bradley, but working with him could still prove complicated. “That's good to hear. And you may call me Madison. Now, regarding the fireplace. Is it operational otherwise?”
“Fully operational and comfortable to use anytime, except maybe in the middle of summer. Even in September you can have perfect weather for a night fire. When the sun goes down up here, it can drop more than twenty degrees. Summer to early winter in one day.”
“I remember.”
“What's that?”
“I . . .” She'd gone and opened her mouth about it; now she had to spit it out. “I used to live near here.”
“Oh yeah? Well, welcome back.”
She glanced over, clicking the top of her pen. Roark's voice was pure warmth, full of sincerity like he was welcoming her home.
When Madison was fifteen, her mother's boyfriend of the moment got moved to western North Carolina for a job. They'd lived there for all of nine months. It was the longest she'd lived anywhere, until she turned eighteen and her mother told her to get the hell out and get her own place.
People like Madison didn't call anywhere home, even if they wanted to.
Her grip on the pen tightened. “What's beyond that door?”
“That is our game room, complete with a couple of billiard tables, darts, and foosball.” He went past the fireplace to the door on the left and pushed it open. “We keep it separate so people can be enthusiastic about shooting pool without disrupting our quiet readers and lobby loungers.”
BOOK: A Moment of Bliss
2.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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