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Authors: Nicola Marsh

Lucky Love (7 page)

BOOK: Lucky Love
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I drummed my fingers against my forearm. “Your point is?”

“Why don’t you try the opposite?”

“You mean I need to date ugly, soppy guys who want to stay celibate? Yeah, that should solve my problems.”

Nat rolled her eyes. “I mean you should take it slow. Get to know the guy as a friend first then see what pops up.”


Bor-ing
.”

Though she had a point. She’d summed up the type of guy I usually went for perfectly. If he didn’t have a touch of bad boy, I wasn’t interested. I loved a challenge but it was getting me nowhere.

“Where do I find these great guys you think I need to meet?”

I didn’t like the sudden twinkle in her eye. “Why don’t you leave the details to me?”

“No blind dates, remember?”

Nat’s last attempt at matchmaking had ended in disaster, with Marlon’s friend who they’d set me up with moving to another state to marry an ex after only one date. And I’d put out that night too.

“Trust me.”

With that wicked gleam in her baby-blues, trust was the furthest thing from my mind.

She glanced at her watch, picked up her briefcase and stood. “Have to run. I’ll call you. Keep Friday night free and leave everything to me.”

As Nat rushed away to legal land, I felt a tad better. Talking about my disastrous love life seemed to halve the burden. But what did she have in store for me?

Maybe I should book that ticket to Love and be done with it?

 

Nat came through on her promise and rang me with details of my Friday night mission: meet at Delphi’s, twenty-hundred hours, outfitted in the always-reliable LBD, no hidden weapons like preconception, and willing to do whatever it takes to secure the objective-find a guy to keep me out of Love.

I wouldn’t admit it to Nat but I’m rather excited. She’d given the barest details, saying I’d have a good time and I’d be thanking her for it. I’ll reserve judgment.

At least I’d heard good things about Delphi’s. A new up and coming seafood restaurant-cum-bar, it had received rave reviews in all the latest mags. Even Brody had given it the thumbs up, saying he often took dates there before ‘heading back to his place for coffee’. No prizes for guessing what that meant for the lucky select few.

So, here I was. The girls at work had been disappointed I’d reneged on the usual Friday night drinks but hey, shit happens. Or more precisely, shit would happen if I didn’t find a guy to keep me out of my aunt’s matchmaking clutches.

I entered the bar area when a gorgeous guy with startling blue eyes approached.

“You must be Jazmyn.” He held out his hand. “Lachlan.”

I smiled and nodded, wishing all good things and more to Nat.

He released my hand, nice and slow. “Have you been here before?”

“No, but I’ve heard it’s great.”

His wicked smile made me wish I’d checked out this place a lot sooner. “A virgin, huh?”

I swear my stomach dropped away, like those imaginative authors perpetuate in romance novels.

“We’ll have to be gentle.”

We
? Just my luck, he was into the group thing.

I tried my best not to look confused as he steered me into the restaurant with a hand in the small of my back, but he must’ve sensed my ambivalence.

“Don’t worry. You’ll be taken care of tonight and if things don’t work out I bet you’ll come back for more.”

Worried? I was now freaking petrified and my trepidation grew as he led me to a large table filled with a mismatched crowd wearing similar terrified expressions as me.

“Everyone. I’d like you to meet Jazmyn. She’s our lucky last tonight.”

“Hi Jazmyn,” sang the chorus of seven men and six women, seated alternately.

Nat couldn’t have
.

“Take a seat, and I’ll clue you in on how these dinners work. There’s no pressure but good luck in meeting a compatible partner.”

I glared at Lachlan, hoping the horror didn’t show on my face.

Nat had
.

I was going to kill her.

Lachlan continued his spiel after I sat. “We have these dinners weekly. Feel free to chat to anyone. There’s no obligation to pair up but if you like someone, go for it.”

I nodded, struck mute. I’d hit an all-time low even for me. Before I could push my chair back and run screaming from the room, a mouth-watering plate of garlic calamari was placed in front of me.

So that’s how they did it, trap any deserters with magnificent food. Okay, I’d stay. But only until dessert.

I munched my way through three courses, each more delicious than the last. The critics were right; this place was gourmet all the way. Pity my dinner companions didn’t agree.

“This fish is over-cooked,” said Grumpy from the opposite end of the table.

“It’s not that bad,” said a shy Bashful.

A barrage of earth shattering sneezes from the graying guy with a wispy goatee; Sneezy.

“You can get medication over the counter for that.” A helpful Doc.

“Hey, when’s that band going to give it a rest?” asked Sleepy, a work-a-holic type who’d practically snoozed through every course.

“It’s only a string quartet,” said Dopey.

It’s a trio and I stifle a grin.

“Interesting lot, don’t you think?” The guy next to me grinned, a genuine, guileless smile; he’s definitely Happy.

The seven dwarfs surround me but I’m no Snow White. I was done sitting back and waiting for my Prince Charming.

Throughout the painful small talk among my dinner companions, Lachlan sits at the head of the table like a benevolent god and due to my
virgin
status, I’m seated next to him.

“You’re not like our usuals.” His stare is unwavering and a tad disconcerting.

I’d already checked out the competition and had to agree. The rest of the ladies seemed older than me and a lot more desperate.

“How so?”

His gaze flickers to my breasts before returning to my face. “You’re a babe. You could get any guy you wanted. Why resort to Qwikie-Dates dinners?”

A babe? Yeah, a babe who consistently attracted jerks. Like him.

“This is my friend’s idea of a joke.”

“That explains it.” His hand inched across the tablecloth until it reached mine.

“See anyone you fancy?” He ran his index finger lightly along the back of my hand while maintaining eye contact.

I didn’t go for sleaze and I bet he cracked onto a different girl every night at these dinners.

“Not really.” I slid my hand away, picked up my wineglass and took a sip. The Shiraz was as good as the food; no use letting it go to waste.

“The evening’s winding down soon. Why don’t you stick around and we can finish this bottle at the bar?”

Logic demanded I walk away.

“Besides, Nat would kill me if I didn’t look after you.”

I stiffened.

Nat hated anyone abbreviating her name. Only the privileged few—her family, Marlon and I—did it. So why the hell was
he
calling her that?

My spidey senses tingled. Uh oh. Now I had to stick around to discover why Lachlan the Lech was fraternizing with my best friend and was close enough to call her Nat.

I nodded. “Okay.”

He sat back with a confident grin and his smugness grated, as if my agreeing had never been in doubt. Cocky bastard. The type of guy I used to go for. Ugh. Shoot me now.

As the Seven Dwarves and the female desperadoes filtered out, I braced for more of Lachlan’s questionable
charm
. But I’d put up with it to discover what the hell Nat was playing at.

“Tell me about yourself.” He placed a glass of wine in front of me without asking. Arrogant and sleazy.

“Not much to tell. I work at an events company. Weddings, mostly.”

He winced. Yeah, like I didn’t already know he hated matrimony, considering he was schmoozing up to my
married
BFF.

“What about you?” The faster I figured out his connection to Nat, the faster I could get out of here.

“I’m a law clerk.” He squared his shoulders, like he expected to make Supreme Court judge next week. “I do this occasionally to help out a friend when she’s busy with her kids.”

Okay, maybe he had a nice streak and the arrogance was a front.

“She’s
eternally
grateful.”

So much for that theory.

I tried a different tack. “You know Nat pretty well, then?”

“Yeah, though she swore me not to tell you.” I didn’t like his wolfish expression. “Nat’s the greatest.”

Shit
. My instincts screamed he had the hots for my best friend. And I vaguely remembered she’d mentioned some spunky law clerk she flirted with for kicks.

Not good.

“Do you work with her?”

“Yeah, we’re pretty close.” I didn’t like his suggestive eyebrow wiggle. I liked the fact it implied Nat was close to this creep even less. “Hasn’t she mentioned me?”

“Nope. She’s too busy talking about her husband to mention trivialities.” Take that, smart-ass.

He had the audacity to pat my hand. “Don’t go getting jealous. Plenty of me to go round.”

Resisting the urge to knee him in the balls, I downed the rest of my drink. I needed to have a serious conversation with Nat. Though this creep was probably full of his own self-importance, I had to make sure she wasn’t doing anything as stupid as flirting with danger.

I stood. “Thanks for the drink.”

He almost fell off the bar stool in his haste to join me. “What about a night cap at my place?”

I refrained from sticking two fingers down my throat and making gagging noises, just. “No thanks. Deadlines.”

And instantly regretted inventing a lie for this cretin.

He shrugged. “No big deal.”

He’d already flipped open his cell phone and hit redial before I’d taken two steps. I gritted my teeth as I heard him invite himself to some poor woman’s house to
catch up
. Is that what they called it these days?

As I headed home, I made several vows: ring Nat first thing in the morning and ask WTF was she thinking, never trust anyone—even a best friend—to set me up with a guy, and maybe check out airfares to California.

Love couldn’t be any worse than this.

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

 

Aunt Flo’s tips to be lucky in love.

Comparing prospective life partners to Chris Hemsworth isn’t wise. The reality will never live up to the fantasy (though dress-ups with Thor costume may help?)

 

 

Not surprisingly, Nat wouldn’t take my calls the next day. Marlon said she’d gone to work, where she was unreachable, and she’d switched her cell off.

The inquisition would have to wait. It figured Lachlan was a work acquaintance and he’d probably dreamed up a little courtroom fantasy. I couldn’t contemplate the other scenario, where I’d totally misjudged my best friend and would strangle her for messing with her marriage.

After a coffee, I scanned the weekend papers. An article on page three caught my eye. Cameron Lovell had jetted into town for his upcoming nuptials, the same ones I’d been helping coordinate. Though I’d never met the guy I’d seen his picture a few times and hadn’t been all that impressed. In this photo, a half-blurred profile shot, he looked like a typical businessman: short back and sides, rimless specs, permanent frown, briefcase in hand.

Some of the girls at the office said he was a hottie—personally, I couldn’t see the attraction. And funnily enough, I couldn’t imagine Amanda going for someone like him either. He looked too boring, too staid, though the guy’s billions probably worked like an aphrodisiac.

Folding the newspaper in half, I made a decision. Seeing the article on Lovell’s pending nuptials prompted me to think of the pile of work waiting on my desk. Last week had been a bust productivity-wise as it took me five days to recover from the James debacle. And I had three weddings coming up over the next two weeks with a stack of unfinished details waiting for my attention.

So, feeling like a total loser, I headed into work on a Saturday. A few other foolhardy souls were scattered through the office as I snuck in, sat behind my desk and switched on the computer.

A quick scan of my emails elicited nothing more interesting than a couple of crude jokes I’d seen before. Facebook had the usual weird animal pics with slogans. Twitter was abuzz with the latest football draftee being caught peeing in public.

Plum out of procrastination tools, I’d have to work. I dragged the Lovell-Shaw file across the desk and flipped it open, scanned the contents, making brief notes on Post-its for last minute essentials.

The guest list looked like a who’s-who of the celebrity world. That’s what happened when the bride owned the runways from Milan to New York and the groom had more money than he knew what to do with.

Engrossed in table settings for five hundred guests, I didn’t hear anyone enter the office until someone cleared their throat about two feet away from me.

“Yeah?”

My abrupt ‘what can I do for you?’ didn’t make it past my lips as the darkest eyes I’d ever seen fixed on me with a penetrating stare that left me pinned like an amoeba under a microscope.

“Hi. Cameron Lovell. I came past on the off chance someone would be working today and here you are.” He smiled and I learned what the attraction was besides his millions. He had a great smile. Potent. “I admire weekend diligence. You should come work for me.”

Bet that would go down a treat with Amanda. Me ditching her for her ex.

I closed his file. “What can I do for you, Mr. Lovell?”

“Call me Cam.”

“I’m Jazmyn. Is there something you wanted?”

He ran a hand through his hair, an uncertain gesture that surprised me. Rich guys were never tentative. They had confidence to burn yet Cameron appeared rattled.

“Could we get out of here and discuss it over coffee?”

He glanced over his shoulder twice, as if he expected to be waylaid by Amanda at any moment.

I should’ve shooed him into my cubicle and made him spill. But it was a beautiful spring day in Sydney, it was Saturday and my curiosity was piqued. Besides, I had to ensure this wedding went off without a hitch and if there were some kind of problem, Amanda would kill me if I didn’t work it through before the big day.

BOOK: Lucky Love
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