Authors: Candy Halliday
Tags: #Contemporary, #Romance
Still no response.
“Okay, you're right,” he said. “It was wrong of me to barge in on you here at the bridal shop.”
She jerked the door open.
Tony jumped back.
“That's the first intelligent thing I've heard you say,” she said, her green eyes flashing.
She was still wearing the dress.
Mouth in gear.
Brain stuck in park.
All Tony could think to say was, “You really do look beautiful in that dress.”
“Congratulations,” she said. “That has to be the
corniest pickup line I've ever heard.”
She tried slamming the dressing room door.
Tony reached out and caught it in time.
“I swear. I am
trying to hit on you.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Says the cop to the victim he's obviously stalking.”
“Let me prove it,” Tony said. “If you agree to help me out, I'll buy your wedding dress for you. Think about it. Would a guy
who was trying to pick you up buy the dress you were going to wear when you marry another man?”
She let go of the door.
She sent him a smug look when she reached for the price tag attached to the front of the dress and flipped it over.
Tony didn't even blink.
“Believe me. That's a bargain for the jam I'm in. Say you'll help me. I'll pay for the dress right now.”
certifiable,” she said. “How did you even find me here?”
“Jason? Your assistant at the gallery?” Tony said. “He told me where to find you.”
When she frowned, Tony said, “But don't give the guy a hard time for cooperating with a policeman in uniform. I told him I
needed more information from you about some weird guy who was bothering you at the exhibit in Central Park a few weeks ago.
I just didn't tell him that the weird guy was me.”
He tried smiling.
The expression in her eyes softened a little.
Tony decided begging might work even better.
“Please? Would you just hear me out?”
“Okay,” she said, tossing her long, silky hair back over one shoulder. “Let's hear it. Tell me what's so important that you
would lie to my assistant, track me down at a bridal shop, follow me all the way into the women's dressing room, and offer
to buy me a wedding dress if I helped you.”
, Kate thought, when he finished explaining his problem.
He grinned, and said, “I'm sure you're thinking how relieved you are that we
destined to be together. I doubt there's a woman alive who would want to get mixed up with a crazy family like mine.”
No, what she was thinking was that his little-boy grin looked out of place on a big, strong policeman—which only made the
grin ten times more irresistible. And she was also thinking that he was obviously a man devoted to his family whether they
were crazy or not, or he wouldn't be standing there in a women's dressing room.
He's getting to you.
Especially when he kept looking at her so intently Kate had the uneasy feeling that there really was some kind of special
connection between them.
Don't be an idiot.
You can't get involved.
Kate said, “And you really expect me to believe your mother will stay locked in her bedroom praying until I come to the restaurant
and prove I'm not the woman you're supposed to marry?”
He shrugged. “Hey, no one is more surprised than I am that my mother has held out for almost three weeks praying. She's a
very stubborn woman. What can I say?”
Kate didn't have an answer.
“I know this isn't your problem,” he said.
“You're right. It isn't my problem,” Kate told him.
If she had any sense, she would send him on his way.
Still, she couldn't keep from feeling a little bit sorry for him. With a grin like his? And when—amazingly enough—she really
was the only person who could help him with the problem he was having with his mother?
“Let's say I did show up at your parents' restaurant,” Kate said. “And let's say your mother keeps her word and doesn't tell
your grandmother we've already met. Don't you think when you introduce your grandmother to a green-eyed blonde she might just
put two and two together?”
He shook his head. “Not possible. My grandmother has been blind since birth.”
“Oh, God,” Kate said. “I'm so sorry. I didn't know.”
The grandmother was blind, too?
Had Alex called this guy and told him every one of her sympathy buttons to push?
“There's no need to apologize,” he said. “But my grandmother's being blind is the main reason my family believes she has the
ability to predict the future. They believe it's God's way of compensating her for the loss of her eyesight.”
There was that grin again.
“Wait a minute,” Kate said. “If your grandmother has been blind since birth, how does she
those tea leaves?”
He laughed. “Braille-like, I guess you'd call it. She puts her hand over the cup, and…”
“Forget I asked,” Kate broke in.
She shook her head, trying to clear it.
The conversation was getting more bizarre by the minute.
“Look,” he said, his expression turning serious, “I know everything I've told you sounds like an episode straight from the
Ripley's Believe It or Not.
But I swear, the last thing I ever intended to do was bother you again. I truly believed if I told my family you were already
engaged, they'd forget the whole thing.”
His sincerity was even more disarming than his grin.
“So, that's it,” he said, still holding her gaze with those dark brown eyes that seemed to look into her very soul. “I've
told you everything I came to say. And whether you decide to help me or not, I'll never bother you again.”
Dammit, why did you have to come along now?
It just wasn't fair.
Kate truly liked everything about him.
His devotion to his wacky family alone was enough to win any woman's heart.
Then there were those tiny laugh lines at the corner of his eyes that crinkled when he grinned, proof that he laughed much
more often than he frowned. She was a sucker for his voice, too—deep and sexy. Even the way he was standing turned her on—confident,
sure of himself, yet not the least bit cocky.
You don't even realize how gorgeous you are.
Which only made him that much more adorable.
She needed to get this guy out of her life.
“You promise,” Kate said. “One quick trip to your parents' restaurant tomorrow night to meet your grandmother, and you'll
never bother me again?”
“Cross my heart,” he said, and made the motion over his chest. “You can even bring your fiancé with you.”
When Kate hesitated, he said, “But you don't have to tell him anything about my grandmother's prediction, if you think it
would make him jealous. Just show up at the restaurant. You can excuse yourself to go to the restroom for a second. I'll take
you on a quick detour to meet my grandmother. And then you and your fiancé can enjoy a great meal without any further interruptions.
On the house, of course,” he added. “How does that sound?”
“I don't keep secrets from my fiancé,” Kate said. “I told him about you the day after I met you in the park.”
say, was that when she did tell Harold about him, instead of being jealous, Harold had laughed in her face.
“How embarrassing for you, darling,” he'd said. “Like
would be interested in some blue-collar cop.”
She hadn't cared for Harold's snotty attitude, and she'd told him so right in front of his mother while they were having dinner
that night at the country club in Bridgehampton. But being the charming man that he was, Harold had managed to turn her reprimand
around to his own advantage.
“See why I'm so crazy about this woman?” he'd said to his mother before sending Kate an adoring smile. “Kate's a genuinely
caring woman. Just like you've always been, Mother.”
She'd sure been gullible enough to believe a couple's therapist could help Harold with his impotence problem.
She couldn't let her mind drift in a penis direction.
standing right in front of her.
Not with those fabulous lips holding her attention while he kept talking, talking, talking—when all she could think about
was grabbing the lapels of his uniform jacket, jerking him inside the dressing room with her, slamming the door shut behind
“I'm glad your fiancé knows the whole story,” he said.
snapped Kate back to the conversation.
“I'd like to thank him in person for being a good sport about my predicament and bringing you to the restaurant.”
Kate shook her head. “Sorry, Harold's in Chicago. He's preparing for a big lawsuit involving one of his corporate clients.”
Did she imagine it?
Or did the expression in his eyes brighten slightly?
“Maybe your friend Alex could come with you,” he said.
Kate almost laughed.
The last thing she needed was Alex tagging along.
Alex would probably rush to the grandmother's side, tell the old woman the truth, then beg the grandmother to marry the destined
couple herself right there on the spot.
“Just give me the address,” Kate said. “I don't need anyone to come with me.”
“I'd be happy to pick you up myself,” he offered. “Straight there. Straight back. Scout's honor.”
Kate shook her head. “Definitely not a good idea.”
He grinned. “You're probably right.”
No, dammit! Don't think about that.
Just get the address and get his cute ass out of here!
He finally handed over one of the restaurant's business cards. But when he pulled his billfold out of his pants pocket, Kate
laughed out loud.
“Don't be ridiculous,” she said.
He glanced up at her. “What? A deal is a deal. You've agreed to help me out. I'm going to buy your dress.”
my dress,” Kate explained. “I was only trying it on for my friends.”
He seemed surprised. “You don't like it?”
Kate paused. “Actually, I love it. It's just not appropriate. I'm not having a big wedding. Harold and I are getting married
by his mentor. A judge. In the judge's chamber.”
He looked at her for a long time.
So long, Kate felt the heat rise to her cheeks.
“What?” she finally asked.
“That's a damn shame.”
“About the dress?”
“About the dress and the wedding. All women deserve a big wedding.”
Who is this guy?
“What are you? A cop by day, and a bridal consultant by night?”
“Maybe,” he teased back. “I have five younger sisters. I've attended enough big weddings that I could probably handle the
“Wow. Five sisters.”
Kate shook her head. “Only child.”
“Do your parents work in the gallery with you and your grandmother?”
Kate laughed. “Hardly.”
“Why is that funny?”
have a crazy family? At least your parents aren't currently living in a nudist colony in northern California.”
He shrugged, apparently not shocked at all. “Hey, it takes all kinds. It would be a pretty boring world if we were all alike.
Certainly not Harold's reaction.
Of course, Harold might have only acted so horrified because he was picturing himself and his gherkin walking around naked
in a nudist colony.
He smiled slightly. “Would you mind if I ask you a personal question?”
Kate laughed. “Well, since I've just blurted out that my parents are nudists, and I doubt it can get much more personal than
that. Sure. Why not?”
“Do you love this guy, Harold?”
She forgot she was talking to a cop.
She'd been rattling off her life story faster than if he'd jabbed her with a needle filled with sodium pentathol. Dammit,
enough times to know a cop was trained to wrangle information out of people!
“Does the right to remain silent apply to that question, Officer Petrocelli?”
“Call me Tony,” he said. “And I didn't mean to pry. I only asked because… well, you just don't seem like the typical happy
“And it's none of your business,” Kate finished for him.
He said, “You're right. Whether or not you love Harold isn't any of my business.”
Stop looking at me like that.
Like you really know me.
We're strangers, dammit. Strangers!