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Authors: Kate Davies

Cutest Couple

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Cutest Couple
By Kate Davies

Book
two
of
the
Girls
Most
Likely
to
...

Ten years ago, Marc and Bree were voted Cutest Couple—until a graduation-night argument destroyed their relationship. Unable to contact him, Bree had no choice but to forget Marc—and raise the son she never got to tell him about.

Marc got Bree’s message loud and clear when he never heard from her again. Now stationed near his hometown, he sees their high school reunion as a chance to make peace with the past. But after one glimpse of Bree, he knows he never really got over her. And after one glimpse of her son, Marc knows he’s the boy’s father...

Despite the secrets and lies that kept them apart, Marc and Bree can’t resist picking up where they left off. But when the weekend is over, it may be too late to build the future they once dreamed of.

For
Kelsey
and
Nathan’s
story
,
check
out
Most Likely to Succeed.

22,000 words

Dear Reader,

April is when the romance conference season really starts to get busy for me. Every spring, I attend the
RT
Book
Reviews
convention, a gathering of about 500 authors, readers and publishing professionals who come together to celebrate their love of both romance and genre fiction. Each year, I come away from that conference, and the many others I attend that are focused on the love of books (like the Lori Foster Reader Get Together in Ohio), with a renewed enthusiasm for diving back into my to-be-read pile. As well as a long list of authors and books to add to that to-be-read pile! But because it’s a busy travel time of year for me, that also means more time on the plane and in airports for reading.

Maybe you’re like me—traveling to conferences and in need of some plane reading. Or maybe you just need one more book to add to your to-be-read pile. Possibly you’ve got a newborn baby who keeps you up at night and gets you up early in the morning, and you need something you can read on the ereader in one hand while the baby is in the other. Or perhaps you’re just in search of a good book. You’re in luck; our April books can fill all those needs!

The first book in our newest genre addition, New Adult, releases this month. If you love contemporary romance, sports romance, a (mostly) Jewish, spunky heroine and a hero who will make your heart melt, you’ll want to read
Rush
Me
by debut author Allison Parr.

This month, I’m pleased to introduce the first book in a six-book series written by four authors. Ginny Glass, Christina Thacher, Emily Cale and Maggie Wells kick off a series of contemporary romance short story collections with
Love
Letters
Volume
1
:
Obeying
Desire
. Each volume will center around a different seriously sexy theme. I’ll bet you can’t guess what the theme of the first volume is, with a title like
Obeying
Desire
! Look for the second volume,
Love
Letters
Volume
2
:
Duty
to
Please
, releasing in May 2013.

Fans of contemporary romance will enjoy
Saved
by
the
Bride
, the first book in a new trilogy by RITA® Award-winning author Fiona Lowe. Who knew that being a klutz and combining it with a distrust of wedding bouquets could lead to a black eye?

Joining Fiona and Allison in the contemporary romance category is Kate Davies, with
Cutest
Couple
, book two in Kate’s high-school reunion trilogy, Girls Most Likely to… Look for the conclusion of the trilogy,
Life
of
the
Party
, in May 2013.

Co-authors Anna Leigh Keaton and Madison Layle deliver another scorching Puma Nights story with
Falke’s
Renegade
, while Jodie Griffin joins them in heating up your ereader with her third erotic BDSM Bondage & Breakfast book,
Forbidden
Fires
.

On the paranormal and science fiction front, we have a number of titles for fans. Veteran author Kate Pearce begins a new series with
Soul
Sucker
, in which
Moonlighting
meets
The
X
-
Files
in San Francisco Bay and two worlds collide. Kat Cantrell, winner of Harlequin’s 2011 So You Think You Can Write contest, joins Carina Press with her first science fiction romance,
Mindlink
, while returning author Eleri Stone gives us another jaguar shifter in
Lost
City
Shifters
:
Rebellion
, book three in this compelling series.

Clockwork
Mafia
by Seleste deLaney brings us back to the Western steampunk world of
Badlands
. Inventor Henrietta Mason is retiring from airships and adventuring to return home to Philadelphia. Determined to erase all trails leading to her late father’s duplicity, she dismantles his lab and removes all records of the Badlands gold. And last but certainly not least in the paranormal category,
Night
of
the
Dark
Horse
by Janni Nell continues the adventures of Allegra Fairweather, paranormal investigator.

This month, Bronwyn Stuart follows up her fantastic debut historical romance,
Scandal’s
Mistress
, with her unique regency romance,
Behind
the
Courtesan
, featuring—you guessed it—a courtesan heroine.

On the non-romance side, Jean Harrington brings us the third Murders by Design cozy mystery installment,
Killer
Kitchens
.

And joining Carina Press with an epic fantasy trilogy, Angela Highland tells the story of a half-elven healer with no control over her magic. Faanshi has always been a pawn of the powerful, but after healing two mysterious and very different men, she faces a choice that may decide the fate of a whole kingdom. If you love fantasy, pick up
Valor
of
the
Healer
, book one in the Rebels of Adalonia trilogy.

As you can see, April is full of books to distract you wherever you are, whatever you’re supposed to be doing, and even if you have a baby in your arms. I hope you enjoy these titles as much as we’ve enjoyed working on them.

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to
[email protected]
. You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com
www.twitter.com/carinapress
www.facebook.com/carinapress

Dedication

To my amazing beta, Maia Strong. You’ve been a writing/critique partner for years, and a friend for even longer. Thank you for everything that you do.

Grateful acknowledgement to Jessica Scott for the military advice. Any and all errors are completely mine.

And many thanks to my wonderful husband for the support, encouragement and cheerleading over the years. Couldn’t do it without you.

Chapter One

If there was a list of places Bree didn’t want to be tonight, the parking lot of Mac’s Pub would definitely be on it. Maybe even in the top three.

Center of a volcano, middle of the desert, Mac’s Pub. It was a toss-up.

But the fact was, the longer she sat there, the more likely someone would spot her, and the embarrassment factor would ratchet up to a hundred.

It was time to go in, make an appearance, give Tess and Kelsey a hug or two, then leave. She’d have fulfilled her promise to come to the reunion, but would still get a decent night’s sleep at the same time. It was a win-win.

Bree reached for the door handle, then jumped backward as the shrill ringing of her cell phone broke the silence inside her car. She smacked her elbow against the steering wheel, fumbled her purse onto the passenger-side floor, and accidentally honked the horn trying to retrieve the phone.

Yeah. It was a good thing she’d never gone into police work. Stakeouts would be totally out of the question for her.

Pushing the talk button, she took a deep breath in the resulting silence. “Hey, Mom.”

Bree half listened as she shoved items back in her purse. She’d heard all of it before.

“Yes, Mom. Ben needs to keep his usual bedtime. You know he likes to push, and I’d rather not deal with the fallout when he wakes up exhausted tomorrow morning.”

Bree blinked and focused on her phone. “Yeah, Mom, I’m here. No, I haven’t gone in yet.” She paused, tapping her fingers against her jeans-clad thigh. “Because if I had, you wouldn’t be able to hear me. It’s really loud in there.”

A couple walked past, arms around waists, focused on getting inside and not on the woman sitting in the car, talking on her cell phone. And that was totally fine with her. The more invisible she was this weekend, the better.

Bree rolled down the window as she waited. It was a little muggy tonight, and the last thing she needed was to go in there with sweat dripping down her face. “No, Mom. I haven’t seen him. And I don’t expect to. I don’t think anyone has a clue what happened to him.”

She gritted her teeth. “No, I don’t care. We’ve made it ten years without him, so why would we—” Bree pinched the bridge of her nose. “Look, I’d better get in there. I’ll see you later, okay? Give Ben a hug for me.” She punched the off button and stuffed the phone back in her purse.

She could do this. Get out of the car, walk up to the door, go in and mingle. They were just classmates, most of whom she’d seen around town over the years. Besides, Kelsey and Tess were in there. The Girls Most Likely could handle anything together.

The door of the bar opened up again and light spilled onto the sidewalk in front. A couple, hands tightly clasped, hurried out into the parking lot.

Just her luck. The couple decided to stop next to the car in front of hers, and they were standing only a few feet away. She had two options, neither of them good. If she got out of the car, it could be awkward and strange. But if she didn’t, there was the strong possibility they’d notice her sitting here looking at them, and she’d go beyond awkward and strange right to stalker.

The guy was right up behind the woman, arms around her waist, nuzzling her neck, and for a moment Bree was jealous. Single mom, young son, small town, not a whole lot of opportunities for dating. Or anything else.

The couple moved a little, shifting into the yellow glow of the light above their car. The woman turned her head and...

Bree gasped, slapping a hand over her mouth as she stared. Holy fuck, that was Kelsey! She leaned forward, squinting through the windshield, trying to see the man’s face. She had her suspicions, but without confirmation, she wasn’t going to start planning the ticker-tape parade just yet.

Although if Kelsey was making out with someone other than the man she suspected was on the other end of that lip-lock, they were going to have some
very
serious conversations once this weekend was over.

But the moment passed and the two of them got in the car, their heated glances obvious even to her. Kelsey pulled out a little too fast and almost bumped into Bree’s car. Bree tapped the horn in warning, giggling a little as Kelsey waved apologetically but kept driving. Kelsey clearly hadn’t recognized Bree or her car. She watched as they pulled out of the parking lot and sped down the road out of sight.

Oh my God. She was so pumping Tess for information as soon as she got inside.

The noise and heat of the crowded bar was almost like a physical barrier as Bree walked inside. This was so not her scene. And where the hell was Tess?

Bree looked around. Pretty much everyone in here was recognizable in that “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” way. Not surprising since Tess had reserved the place for their reunion. Anyone not in the class of ‘02 would be either a spouse, an employee, or wildly out of place.

Sort of like Bree felt. Many of her classmates were just starting families, while she had a kid almost in double digits. She’d missed out on the bar scene the first time around in favor of late-night feedings and T-ball.

“Bree!” She looked up in time to see Tess barreling down on her through the crowd, tackle-hugging her like they hadn’t talked on the phone earlier in the week.

Bree rolled her eyes, but hugged Tess back just the same. “Told you I wouldn’t miss it,” she said.

Tess grabbed her arm and started weaving through the crowd. “I’ve got a couple of minutes. Let’s sit and chat.”

Tess took the lead, holding on to Bree’s elbow as she steered them through the crowd to a little table in the back of the bar, where there were fewer people and the noise was at least down to a dull roar. Once they were both seated, she waved at a guy across the way—Bree tried to remember where she’d seen him before, but failed—and made some complicated hand gesture that apparently meant something because he nodded and turned away.

Then Tess leaned forward, propped her elbows on the table and rested her chin in her hands. “I am
so
glad you’re here.”

“Me, too,” Bree said, and was a little surprised to find she actually meant it. As much as she’d fought the idea of going to their reunion, when it came down to it, she’d known she wouldn’t miss something that meant so much to Tess.

“Took you long enough to get here, though,” Tess said, mock-glaring at her. “You were going to bail, weren’t you?”

“No, of course not...” Bree sighed. “Well, the thought did cross my mind. Once or twice.”

“Mmm-hmm.” Tess rolled her eyes. “You are so predictable.”

“Thanks.” Bree looked around. “Not that you’re
wrong
, but still.”

“And not only that, but you missed the big, juicy, gossip-worthy part of the evening so far.” Tess leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, “Guess who just snuck out of here for a little friends-with-benefits action?”

“Kelsey!” Bree grabbed Tess’s hand. “I saw her in the parking lot with some guy, but couldn’t see who it was. Please, please, please tell me it’s who I hope it is!”

“Okay, seriously, you just ruined my gossip.” Tess pouted.

“Here you go, ladies.” Bree looked up to see that same vaguely familiar guy standing next to the table, two glasses of wine in his hands. “Hope you enjoy.”

“Thanks, Jeremy.” Tess took the wineglasses from him and handed one to Bree. “What do I owe you?”

“Don’t worry. We can settle up later.”

“Here, let me get the tip.” Bree grabbed her purse and started digging for her wallet. “It’s only fair.”

Tess snorted. “No, Bree, you don’t have to do that. This is Jeremy Wright, manager of the Silverton Hotel. He doesn’t work here.”

“Wait, this is Jeremy? The guy you keep talking about?” Bree smacked Tess on the arm. “Thanks for letting me make a fool out of myself,” she grumbled.

Jeremy smacked Tess on the other arm. “Thanks for cheating me out of a tip,” he complained.

“Ow!” Tess frowned at them both. “I don’t like either of you anymore.”

“You know you love us,” Bree said. “So don’t try to deny it.”

Tess cleared her throat. “Anyway,” she said, clearly changing the topic, “Jeremy is helping me out this weekend.”

Bree stared at Tess. Why was she blushing?

“That’s right.” Jeremy winked at them both. “And it’s nice to meet you, Bree.”

Bree smiled and shook his outstretched hand. “Nice to meet you, Jeremy.”

“You two enjoy your wine. Tess, I’ll catch you later.” With another smile, he turned and walked away.

Bree watched in amusement as Tess tracked his every move across the room. “He’s cute,” she said.

Tess jumped and turned back around. “Who?”

Bree rolled her eyes. “Who do you think?”

“Oh, Jeremy?” Tess cleared her throat and looked away. “Yes, I suppose so.”

“You’ll never make it on the professional poker circuit.”

“What?” Tess stared at her in confusion.

“You’re physically incapable of hiding your emotions. Right now, your face is saying, ‘He’s so cuuuuuute.’ And you know it.”

“Okay, fine.” Tess shrugged. “He’s cute. End of story.”

Bree gave Tess her best side-eye, but the woman was apparently immune to her repertoire of tricks.

“So, we’ve established that I saw something interesting in the parking lot on the way in,” Bree said, handing over the change of topic as an olive branch.

“But you only know half the story,” Tess said. “Thank God. Otherwise I’d have to turn in my ‘knows all the dirt’ badge.”

“Please. As if that would ever happen. You’re like the clearinghouse of gossip for Silverton. In the nicest possible way, of course.”

“Of course.”

Bree took another sip of her wine. “Come on, Tess, don’t leave me in suspense. Who was the guy?”

“Nathan Barrow,” Tess said with a grin.

“Yes!” Bree did a little fist-pump into the air. “Good for her.”

Tess leaned back. “It’s about damn time.”

“Ten years in the making.” Or more, Bree thought, remembering how big a crush Kelsey had on Nathan all through high school. “So, is he moving back to town, or...”

Tess was already shaking her head. “Nah, he’s some mover and shaker for a relief organization or something. He’s just here for the reunion.”

“So a reunion hookup, huh? Totally not what I expected, but way to go, Kelsey!” She lifted her wineglass in a toast to their absent friend. “Three cheers for going out and getting some!”

“Hear, hear.” Tess tapped her glass against Bree’s.

“And now I think it’s your turn.”

Tess choked on her wine. “Me? What about you?”

Bree waved a hand absently. “I’d rather live vicariously through you and Kelsey.”

“Please. You’re just making excuses not to put yourself out there.”

“And take some random guy back to my house for some fun? No, thanks.”

“People with children manage to have sex all the time,” Tess said. “That’s how they have more children.”

Bree rolled her eyes. “One, I’m not in the market for additional children, thank you very much. And it’s different when you’re a single mom. It would be hard to explain why there’s a guy hanging around all of a sudden, and then having to explain why he’s
not
there anymore. No, thank you.”

“So you just assume it’s going to end, I take it.”

“I don’t have the best track record,” Bree said. “And where am I going to find a guy around Silverton?”

“There are heaps of eligible men in Silverton, and you know it.”

“And ninety percent of them are in the military.”

“Nothing wrong with a military man,” Tess chided.

“My father was in the army, and he died. Then my high school sweetheart joined up and I haven’t seen or heard from him since. Sounds like a whole lot of wrong to me.”

Tess’s expression softened. “I know how hurt you were by both. But don’t you think—”

“Drop it, Tess. Not going to happen.”

“Okay, fine.” Tess shook her head and smiled. “You’re hopeless, you know that, right?”

“Yep.” Bree crinkled her nose at Tess. Maybe her life hadn’t turned out the way she’d expected, but she had a wonderful son, a decent job and two of the best friends anyone could ever ask for, and that was more than a lot of people could say.

The music was getting louder now, and the noise of the crowd rose in tandem as people shouted conversations at each other. Bree could feel a headache starting to build, so she stood up and waved a hand toward the door. “I’m going to get a little fresh air,” she all but yelled at Tess, who nodded.

“I should make sure everything is going okay in the kitchen,” Tess responded. “Catch you in a few.”

Bree had taken only three steps toward the entrance when the door opened and a figure stepped through.

He was tall, blond and impeccably dressed. He glanced around the crowd, his gaze sharp and unerring. She knew, without a doubt, that he was looking for her. A quick glance told her there was nowhere to hide.

It had been ten years since she’d seen him last; too long, and not nearly long enough.

Her long-absent baby daddy had finally returned home.

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