Not Quite Perfect (Not Quite Series Book 5)

BOOK: Not Quite Perfect (Not Quite Series Book 5)
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PRAISE FOR CATHERINE BYBEE

Wife by Wednesday

“A fun and sizzling romance, great characters that trade verbal spars like fist punches, and the dream of your own royal wedding!”

—Sizzling Hot Book Reviews, 5 Star

“A good holiday, fireside, or bedtime story.”

—Manic Reviews, 4 1/2 Stars

“A great story that I hope is the start of a new series.”

—The Romance Studio, 4 1/2 Hearts

Married by Monday

“If I hadn’t already added Ms. Catherine Bybee to my list of favorite authors, after reading this book I would have been compelled to. This is a book
nobody
should miss, because the magic it contains is awesome.”

—Booked Up Reviews, 5 Stars

“Ms. Bybee writes authentic situations and expresses the good and the bad in such an equal way . . . Keep[s] the reader on the edge of her seat . . .”

—Reading Between the Wines, 5 Stars


Married by Monday
was a refreshing read and one I couldn’t possibly put down
 . . .”

—The Romance Studio, 4 1/2 Hearts

Fiancé by Friday

“Bybee knows exactly how to keep readers happy . . . A thrilling pursuit and enough passion to stuff in your back pocket to last for the next few lifetimes
 . . .
The hero and heroine come to life with each flip of the page and will linger long after readers cross the finish line.”


RT Book Reviews
, 4 1/2 Stars, Top Pick (Hot)

“A tale full of danger and sexual tension
 . . .
the intriguing characters add emotional depth, ensuring readers will race to the perfectly fitting finish.”


Publishers Weekly

“Suspense, survival, and chemistry mix in this scintillating read.”


Booklist

“Hot romance, a mystery assassin, British royalty, and an alpha Marine
 . . .
this story has it all!”

—Harlequin Junkie

Single by Saturday

“Captures readers’ hearts and keeps them glued to the pages until the fascinating finish
 . . .
romance lovers will feel the sparks fly
 . . .
almost instantaneously.”


RT Book Reviews
, 4 1/2 Stars, Top Pick

“[A] wonderfully exciting plot, lots of desire, and some sassy attitude thrown in for good measure!”

—Harlequin Junkie

Taken by Tuesday

“[Bybee] knows exactly how to get bookworms sucked into the perfect storyline; then she casts her spell upon them so they don’t escape until they reach the ‘Holy Cow!’ ending.”


RT Book Reviews
, 4 1/2 Stars, Top Pick

Seduced by Sunday

“You simply can’t miss [this novel]. It contains everything a romance reader loves—clever dialogue, three-dimensional characters, and just the right amount of steam to go with that heartwarming love story.”

—Brenda Novak,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Bybee hits the mark
 . . .
providing readers with a smart, sophisticated romance between a spirited heroine and a prim hero
 . . .
Passionate and intelligent characters [are] at the heart of this entertaining read.”


Publishers Weekly

Treasured by Thursday

“The Weekday Brides never disappoint and this final installment is by far Bybee’s best work to date.”


RT Book Reviews
, 4 1/2 Stars, Top Pick

“An exquisitely written and complex story brimming with pride, passion, and pulse-pounding danger
 . . .
Readers will gladly make time to savor this winning finale to a wonderful series.”


Publishers Weekly
, Starred Review

“Bybee concludes her popular Weekday Brides series in a gratifying way with a passionate, troubled couple who may find a happy future if they can just survive and then learn to trust each other. A compelling and entertaining mix of sexy, complicated romance and menacing suspense.”


Kirkus Reviews

Not Quite Dating

“It’s refreshing to read about a man who isn’t afraid to fall in love
 . . .
[Jack and Jessie] fit together as a couple and as a family.”


RT Book Reviews
, 3 Stars (Hot)


Not Quite Dating
offers a sweet and satisfying Cinderella fantasy that will keep you smiling long after you’ve finished reading
 . . .”

—Kathy Altman,
USA Today
, Happy Ever After

“The perfect rags to riches romance
 . . .
The dialogue is inventive and witty, the characters are well drawn out. The storyline is superb and really shines
 . . .
I highly recommend this standout romance! Catherine Bybee is an automatic buy for me.”

—Harlequin Junkie, 4 1/2 Hearts

Not Quite Enough

“Bybee’s gift for creating unforgettable romances cannot be ignored. The third book in the Not Quite series will sweep readers away to a paradise, and they will be intrigued by the thrilling story that accompanies their literary vacation.”


RT Book Reviews
, 4 1/2 Stars, Top Pick

Not Quite Forever

“Full of classic Bybee humor, steamy romance, and enough plot twists and turns to keep readers entertained all the way to the very last page.”

—Tracy Brogan, bestselling author of the Bell Harbor series

“Magnetic
 . . .
The love scenes are sizzling and the multi-dimensional characters make this a page-turner. Readers will look for earlier installments and eagerly anticipate new ones.”


Publishers Weekly

Doing It Over

“The romance between fiercely independent Melanie and charming Wyatt heats up even as outsiders threaten to derail their newfound happiness. This novel will hook readers with its warm, inviting characters and the promise for similar future installments.”


Publishers Weekly

Also by Catherine Bybee

Contemporary Romance

Weekday Brides Series

Wife by Wednesday

Married by Monday

Fiancé by Friday

Single by Saturday

Taken by Tuesday

Seduced by Sunday

Treasured by Thursday

 

Not Quite Series

Not Quite Dating

Not Quite Mine

Not Quite Enough

Not Quite Forever

 

Most Likely To Series

Doing It Over

Paranormal Romance

MacCoinnich Time Travels

Binding Vows

Silent Vows

Redeeming Vows

Highland Shifter

Highland Protector

 

The Ritter Werewolves Series

Before the Moon Rises

Embracing the Wolf

 

Novellas

Soul Mate

Possessive

 

Erotica

Kilt Worthy

Kilt-A-Licious

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2016 Catherine Bybee

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Montlake Romance, Seattle

www.apub.com

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Montlake Romance are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781503937291

ISBN-10: 1503937291

Cover design by Shasti O’Leary Soudant

This one is for Marina Adair

Our friendship means the world to me

Chapter One

The problem with plumbers was every single stereotype in print, film, and gossip was true. Mary folded her arms across her chest and attempted to keep her eyes from the disturbing crack of ass peeking above the overzealous waistband of Leroy’s Dockers pants.

He pointed at the small screen showing the image of the pipe from her toilet to parts unknown. “This is where the real problem is,” he said with a grin that yelled dollar signs.

All she saw was sludge. “What is it?”

“Roots.”

“Roots? What kind of roots?”

“Probably from that pepper tree in your front yard. Nasty buggers. With the drought being as it is . . . we’re finding this all too often. Poor trees need water and your pepper has found a mainline IV of the stuff.”

“In my toilet?”

“In the drainage
from
your toilet.”

The postage stamp front yard of her condominium had a space of grass the size of her thumbnail and one tree. The grass was all but dead with the water police happily fining anyone found watering their yards outside the mandated times.

Leroy tugged on his camera and unearthed a smell that had her shoving a finger under her nose in an attempt to block it.

It didn’t work.

“What are you doing?”

“I’ll remove the roots and see how bad the damage is to the pipe.”

The putrid smell intensified and had Mary placing her full hand over her mouth.

Leroy simply smiled as if he were a flippin’ doe frolicking in a meadow.

“How long will this take?” she asked.

“Depends on how long these roots have been here and how far down they go.”

One more tug and Mary did what she had to do. “I’m going across the street to my friend’s. I’ll check back in about an hour.”

Leroy released a toothy smile and waved a gloved hand in the air as she turned and nearly ran out the door.

Once the door closed behind her, she shivered and sucked in a breath of fresh air. It helped that the morning had left a blanket of fog that reached to her portion of Orange County. If only that moisture had resulted in actual raindrops, problems with tree roots clogging up her pipes might not have happened.

She jogged across the street even though there wasn’t any traffic to speak of. Most of those who worked normal hours had left before the sun rose to rush to the freeway and crawl their way to the sources of their employment.

With Walt’s car missing from the driveway, Mary felt comfortable opening the door of Dakota’s condo without knocking.

Noise from the floor above told Mary that her BFF was up and walking around. “Hey, Baby Mama.”

“Up here,” Dakota’s singsong voice called from upstairs.

Mary climbed the stairs of what she considered her second home.

Dakota was in the nursery Mary and Walt had personally painted while Dakota watched a couple of months prior.

Dakota stood over the chest of drawers, folding baby clothes she’d unwrapped during the baby shower, which had happened the previous weekend. Even with a belly the size of a small city, Mary’s friend was stunning. With dark hair and skin that easily accepted the sun, she had the most expressive eyes and an attitude to match whatever life tossed her way. She’d still be wearing four-inch heels if not for her doctor husband, who threatened to throw her expensive collection in the trash if she didn’t give them up willingly. Truth was, Walt had asked Mary to hide them until after the baby was born if Dakota’s stubborn streak didn’t wane.

Thankfully, Dakota Laurens, romance author, had relented to Dakota Eddy, soon-to-be mom.

“I feel like a house,” Dakota complained as she closed the drawer of the dresser.

“If it helps . . . you only look like a cottage.”

Dakota’s wicked gaze snapped into a smile. “I love you.”

“I know.” Mary pulled the bulk of her long, curly blonde hair behind her back and stepped close to take the laundry basket from Dakota’s hands.

“I got it.”

“Humor me. Watching you move makes me hurt.”

Dakota didn’t argue as she let her belly lead the way out of the nursery. She did a little hop in the threshold. “I keep jumping in hopes Junior will get the eviction notice.”

Dakota sat at 39½ weeks and grumbled every day since her OB told her she could safely deliver at any time. In Dakota’s head that meant labor day was every day.

Junior had other ideas.

They’d all grown accustomed to calling the baby Junior, though Dakota and Walt had no intentions of giving the baby that title. The nursery they were walking away from was a plethora of yellow and green with a sprinkling of pink and blue. Everyone left tags and gift receipts for gender specific stuff. The one thing about baby gifts was the practicality of those giving. It was amazing how many people added a massive box of diapers as a joke. Dakota had added cloth diapers into the mix, organic girl that she was . . . but Mary didn’t give that much time before her friend caved to the tossable variety.

Dakota hesitated on the stairwell and held her belly.

Mary watched with a hawk’s eye.

Dakota shrugged and continued. “Not that I don’t like the company . . . but why are you here so early?”

They moved into the kitchen, where Mary insisted Dakota sit while she helped herself to the coffee that must have been made by Walt before he left for his twelve-hour ER shift. The man was pulling all kinds of overtime so he could stay home once the baby arrived.

“Want some tea?” Mary asked, knowing Dakota’s preference.

She released a moan. “God no. Can’t stand it this month.”

Mary laughed and thumbed the pink box of doughnuts on the counter. “Refined sugar?”

Dakota offered an enthusiastic nod.

Laughing, Mary placed a maple glazed on a napkin and brought it to her friend, who sat on a cushioned kitchen chair. “I’m going to love rubbing this in six months from now when you’re past all this stuff.”

Dakota bit into her doughnut with her eyes rolling into the back of her head. She chased a bit of sugar with her tongue before offering a comment. “Junior is bound to be a sugar-holic.”

“That’s crazy talk.”

“Has to be some kind of explanation.”

Dakota didn’t eat refined sugar, or a ton of processed food, before she was knocked up. The switch had tossed Mary for a loop when she realized she could explore the world of fast food with her friend for the first time.

Dakota bit into her doughnut again and shifted in the chair with a hand to her belly. “This has been great and all . . . but I’m about done having my ribs kicked.”

“Junior will come when they’re done.”

She looked down and scolded her unborn child. “You’re done! Let’s get on with it . . . shall we? Team. Team effort.”

Mary loved the misplaced logic.

Dakota laughed at herself and glanced up. “Why are you here again?”

Mary explained about her plumbing issue before launching into the story of the proverbial plumbing crack that wouldn’t stop winking at her while she was standing by.

“Roots?”

“That’s what he told me.”

“Sounds expensive.”

“I just want my toilet to flush . . . call me crazy.”

“You have a second bathroom,” Dakota reminded her.

“Yeah, but it’s slowing down, too. If I don’t fix it, I might be walking over here all the time when I need to go.”

“You’re here all the time anyway.”

A tiny, transient sense of insecurity nibbled at Mary’s psyche. She purposely, forcefully, pushed it away. “Is Walt working?” The question was rhetorical.

Dakota answered with a nod. “He wanted to cut his shift today.”

Mary glanced up from her task. “Why?”

“Says the baby dropped.”

From where Mary stood, the baby hadn’t done anything but push Dakota’s belly further into next week. “Dropped?”

“Yeah . . . I don’t get it either. Junior is still baking. I think I’d know if they were going to make an appearance before Walt does.”

Mary stopped staring at her best friend’s stomach and noticed the ripples on the surface of the coffee in her cup.

“I’m only twenty minutes away at any given time if Walt’s at the hospital.”

Dakota shifted positions again. “I know, hon . . . I appreciate it.”

Dakota was the closest thing Mary had to a sister, and they’d only known each other for just over a half a dozen years. They’d connected because they were neighbors and cemented their friendship when they realized how alike they were. Dakota was completely OCD when it came to prepping for the apocalypse, or the more likely event of a nasty earthquake . . . and Mary was obsessive about analyzing every person who crossed her path. It helped that Dakota was a writer and tended to study people without realizing it. She’d often turn to Mary when they were in a restaurant and point out a habit the waiter displayed . . . or a customer with an unusual tic. People watching was a shared pastime between a psychologist and a romance novelist.

“What’s on your agenda today?” Dakota asked, her mouth twisting as she attempted to get comfortable and obviously failed.

“I have a client at one and another at three.” Mary felt her face contorting to mimic her friend’s. “You look miserable.”

Dakota huffed out a breath and pushed off the stool. “I am. And I need to pee. Again!”

Mary chucked as Dakota heaved her pregnant belly, along with the rest of her, off the stool and rounded the corner. The sound of her friend walking up the stairs had Mary shouting, “You have a bathroom downstairs.”

“This is the only exercise I’m getting these days.”

Mary opened her mouth to argue and snapped it closed.

With the squeak of the floor above her for company, Mary moved around the kitchen island to look out at the backyard. It looked a lot like hers, only with more flowers. It was a postage stamp, like most of those in Orange County. Add the fact that they were in a townhouse condominium development, and that yard became even smaller, bumped up to the attached condo on one side. Mary knew it was only a matter of time before Dakota and Walt . . . along with Junior, moved to a bigger place.

Just the thought of her best friend moving away left her empty inside.

She allowed herself a half second of self-pity before shaking away the cloud that had started to form over her head.

Hearing the sound of a toilet flushing, Mary forced herself to smile. If Dakota saw her staring out the back window with
poor me
written all over her face, she’d put her friend in an awkward place. The last thing Mary wanted was to dampen Dakota’s joy at being a new wife and soon-to-be mom.

“You know, Mary . . .” Dakota called from the stairs.

Mary started to move around the dividing wall from the kitchen to the living room when Dakota yelled.

“Son of a—”

A horrendous thud followed Dakota cussing and had Mary running toward her friend.

Dakota sat crumpled at the bottom of the stairs, one hand on her belly, the other on her leg.

“What the heck?”

“Oh, damn. Oh . . .” Dakota started to rock back and forth, her eyes closed and her face squished in pain.

Mary managed to put her cup on the floor as she knelt down beside her. “What hurts? Did you fall?” Stupid question, but Dakota didn’t call her on it.

“Slipped,” she said, gritting her teeth.

Mary glanced at the stairs, noticed liquid on the surface of the polished wood.

“Did you spill something?”

Dakota finally opened her eyes and pulled up the edge of her pants on her right leg. It was already turning red.

“Damn . . . just, son of a bitch!”

“Are you okay?”

“No. I think I broke it.”

Mary’s heart leapt in her chest. “Really?” She peered closer.

“Oh, damn.”

Mary swept back her hair and tried to catch Dakota’s eyes. “Should I call an ambulance?”

Dakota shook her head.

“I’ll call Walt.”

“No . . .”

“What?”

“Yes. Oh, God it hurts!”

“Your leg?” Mary glanced down again.

“No.”

“Your leg doesn’t hurt?”

“It. All. Hurts!”

Mary stood quick enough to feel a little dizzy. “I’m calling an ambulance.”

“No, Mary . . . Walt will freak.”

Mary didn’t listen and found the cordless receiver sitting on the counter in the kitchen. She dialed 911 and hurried back to her friend.

“Mary, I’m okaaay.” Dakota winced as she said it and closed her eyes.

“Nine one one, what’s your emergency?” The operator sounded bored.

“Yeah, my friend fell down the stairs.”

“Is your friend awake?”

Dakota started to pound her fist on the floor beside her. At first Mary thought maybe it was a tactic to end the phone call, then she noticed the grimace on her face.

“She’s awake.”

“Any visible injuries?”

“Her leg. But she says everything hurts.”

It took Dakota moving her hand from her leg to her belly for Mary to report the obvious. “She’s pregnant. Nine months pregnant.”

“Is she in labor?”

“No . . . uhm.” Once again the liquid on the stairs had her pause. “Dakota?”

“What?” Her friend bit the question out.

“Did your water break?”

“No my water didn’t—” Dakota didn’t finish her sentence. They both looked down at the same time.

BOOK: Not Quite Perfect (Not Quite Series Book 5)
6.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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