Authors: Victoria Pade
His single days are numbered…
Look up unlucky in love in the dictionary, and you’ll see Gia Grant’s picture. Still, she takes inspiration from her elderly neighbors—married seventy years!—and will do anything to stop foreclosure on their home. That includes running interference with businessman Derek Camden. He says he’s here to help, but everyone knows Camdens can’t be trusted. So why is it every time she turns around she wants to kiss this lovable lout?
Derek has a knack for falling for the wrong women—over and over! Luckily, working with the goody-goody girl next door to make amends to her neighbors doesn’t represent a romantic threat. Or so he likes to tell himself—because the beautiful botanist is growing on him! Could this be the bachelor’s last stand?
“You were on my mind a lot this last week.”
Derek’s mouth eased into a small, thoughtful smile as his gaze lifted somewhat, and he added, “Must be the hair.” His blue eyes returned to hers.
Gia suddenly couldn’t think straight enough to say anything. She was just too overwhelmed with the idea of him kissing her. Something that certainly had no place here and now, at work, in her office, with her dressed for much worse than casual Friday, and him being who he was…
And yet he was looking at her as if he might be thinking about it, too.
That couldn’t be….
But he wasn’t making small talk anymore. He was standing there—dashingly handsome in a suit that probably cost as much as her car—just looking into her eyes.
Then down at her mouth…
Her chin went up a fraction of an inch as she looked into those astonishingly blue eyes of his, and she was ready.
* * *
The Camdens of Colorado:
They’ve made a fortune in business.
Can they make it in the game of love?
Gia Grant is on a crusade to help her financially imperiled neighbors. Not only are the elderly Bronsons wonderful people, they’re like family to her. And their feelings for each other after seventy years of marriage give her hope that true and lasting love can be found.
Fresh from embarrassing himself and his family, Derek Camden is trying to break his bad-girl habit. To occupy him during his time-out from romance, he’s on a quest to make amends to the aged couple wronged long ago by his own great-grandfather.
Gia is not Derek’s type. And Derek’s reputation with women, coupled with the Camden reputation for misdeeds, is exactly what Gia doesn’t want in her life.
But the minute their eyes meet, sparks fly. And once they do, do these two have any chance at all of ending up like the Bronsons?
It seems unlikely.
But you just never know—sometimes love finds its own way….
To Catch a Camden
Books by Victoria Pade
Harlequin Special Edition
Big Sky Bride, Be Mine!
Mommy in the Making
The Camden Cowboy
A Baby in the Bargain
It’s a Boy!
Maverick’s Christmas Baby
A Camden Family Wedding
To Catch a Camden
Silhouette Special Edition
Willow in Bloom
Her Baby Secret
Maybe My Baby
His Pretend Fiancée
Babies in the Bargain
Having the Bachelor’s Baby
∞The Pregnancy Project
The Baby Deal
Back in the Bachelor’s Arms
It Takes a Family
Bachelor No More
A Family for the Holidays
The Doctor Next Door
ΔDesigns on the Doctor
A Baby for the Bachelor
The Bachelor’s Northbridge Bride
Marrying the Northbridge Nanny
The Bachelor, the Baby and the Beauty
The Bachelor’s Christmas Bride
World’s Most Eligible Bachelors
Wed in Whitehorn
The Marriage Bargain
From Boss to Bridegroom
∞Most Likely To…
¶Montana Mavericks: Striking It Rich
ΩThe Foleys and the McCords
^The Fortunes of Texas:
§The Camdens of Colorado
¶¶Montana Mavericks: Rust
Other titles by this author
available in ebook format.
author of numerous romance novels. She has two beautiful and talented
daughters—Cori and Erin—and is a native of Colorado, where she lives and writes.
A devoted chocolate lover, she’s in search of the
perfect chocolate-chip-cookie recipe.
For information about her latest and upcoming releases,
visit Victoria Pade on Facebook—she would love to hear from you.
his is a wonderful thing you’re doing, Gia.”
Gia Grant laughed uncomfortably at the compliment from the church pastor. “The Bronsons are wonderful people,” she demurred. “I didn’t know how tough it could get for the elderly until seeing the way things are for Larry and Marion. And thanks again for letting us use the church basement tonight to organize everything so we can get started.”
“Of course. The Bronsons have been church members since my father was pastor here. We want to do all we can.”
“That reminds me—thank your mom, too, for the cookies and the brownies and the cupcakes. I was surprised when the Bronsons wanted to come tonight—they just don’t go out much—but it’s turned into a rare social event for them. Complete with goodies,” she added with a nod toward the opposite end of the big room, where the elderly couple who were her next-door neighbors were chatting with other members of the church.
Gia had launched a grassroots effort to help the Bronsons. They were on the verge of losing their house because their fixed income wasn’t meeting the cost of living expense increases and the additional medical expenses mounting with their age.
After making several calls and searching the internet for help for them, she’d discovered there weren’t a lot of options available to older people in their predicament.
But she couldn’t just sit back and watch what was happening to them without doing something. So she’d spread the word in their surrounding neighborhood that help was needed.
Small business owners who knew the Bronsons had put out donation jars at their checkouts. The church had sounded the alarm in their newsletter, and Gia had persuaded a local news station to do a human-interest piece on them. It mentioned both the donation fund Gia had started for them and the need for manpower to do repairs and maintenance on their house.
Gia’s highest hope was that she could raise enough money to keep the Bronsons out of foreclosure. If she couldn’t do that, then she at least wanted to get the place in order so that it could be sold before that happened.
Tonight, neighbors, friends and church members had gathered to form a plan of action to spruce the place up, and now that the meeting was finished it had become a social hour. Gia was happy to see the eighty-nine-year-old Larry and his eighty-seven-year-old wife, Marion, enjoying themselves.
“I was also wondering if you might have dinner with me some night...” Pastor Brian said, interrupting her thoughts.
Gia had wondered if that was coming. Although she didn’t belong to the Bronsons’ church, the minister had asked to be part of her efforts to help the older couple, and that had meant seeing him here and there. He’d become more and more friendly over the past few weeks.
At first Gia had thought he was merely trying to entice another sheep into his flock. But then a personal undertone had developed when he talked to her and she’d begun to wonder if he was interested in her.
Thinking that he probably wasn’t, she’d still considered what she might do if he asked her out.
At thirty-four, Pastor Brian was only three years older than she was. He was nice looking, with golden-blond hair and hazel eyes. And he certainly came equipped with the attributes she was determined to look for in a man from here on out—he was upstanding and honest. There wasn’t so much as a hint of wrongdoing in any aspect of him—he was a minister, for crying out loud.
But the fact that he was the head of his church put a crimp in things. Not only wasn’t Gia a member of his religion, his job brought with it obligations and duties that were an uncomfortable reminder of the family ties that had bound her ex-husband and caused her to take a backseat in his life.
Plus, even though it had been nearly a year since her divorce was final, she felt as if she was just beginning to catch her breath, and she wasn’t ready to get into the whole dating thing again yet. With anyone.
And then there was the fact that she
“Thanks for asking, Brian, but no,” she answered. “I like you, I do. But right now just the thought of dating gives me the willies. And even if it didn’t, I’m
And your congregation is old-fashioned. I’ve overheard Marion’s church-lady friends talking about finding you a wife—”
“I’m surprised they haven’t formed a committee. By now I think I’ve been introduced to every young single female they’re even remotely related to.”
“You haven’t been introduced to the ones who are single through divorce, I can promise you that,” Gia said. “Because believe me, when it comes to who they want to see you with, it isn’t anyone with that in her background. In their eyes, that’s damaged goods and definitely
a prospect for their Pastor Brian.”
The minister smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, I told my folks I was going to ask you to dinner and they said the same thing,” he admitted. “But it would only be dinner and I thought I might risk a little scandal....”
Oh, good, I could go from being a shut-out in-law to a church scandal,
“But I’m really not ready,” she repeated honestly. “I’m just barely getting my being-single-again sea legs.”
He shrugged. “It’s okay. I just thought I’d ask—no harm, no foul. I’m still with you a hundred percent on this project to help Larry and Marion.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that.” Gia pointed at the restroom sign. “I’m headed to wash my hands—I got into something sticky.” And had just avoided getting into something even stickier....
“Yeah, I think I’m ready for another cup of coffee myself,” he said, leaving Gia free to go into the bathroom.
Safely behind a closed door, she went straight to the row of three sinks, breathing a sigh of relief now that that was over.
It hadn’t been
awkward, she decided.
The minister had taken her rejection in stride, so she thought it would all be okay. She hoped it would all be okay. And at least she knew now that she hadn’t been imagining things—because even as she’d thought he might be showing her undue interest, she’d also wondered if she was flattering herself.
She washed her hands and took stock of her reflection in the mirror above the sinks. Dark eyes. Decent skin. An okay nose—not too prominent, not misshapen. A mouth she was afraid might be too wide, especially when she smiled. And dark, curly, curly—
hair that she had to keep six inches below her shoulders so the weight of it would keep it from bushing out like a fright wig.
A neglectful husband—whose eye had begun to wander at the end of their marriage—and then a divorce had her making more assessments of her looks than she had since she was a teenager. And finding flaws. So even as she’d thought the pastor might have been showing her undue interest, she’d also been skeptical of the possibility that she
attract a man’s attention.
Of course, there was also the fact that she was only five feet three inches tall—that made her one of the few people the five feet five inch minister was taller than....
That was probably the real reason, she thought suddenly, doubting herself all over again.
Gia’s second sigh was a bit demoralized.
Oh, well. At least she could say she’d been asked.
She finished washing her hands and after drying them with a paper towel, she used the towel to brush wrinkles from the black slacks she’d worn to work today with her plain white blouse. Then she tossed the used paper towel in the trash and left the restroom.
Which was when she noticed someone new coming down the steps into the church basement.
A latecomer, was her initial thought.
Before she took a second look and recognized the man.
Unless she was mistaken, that was Derek Camden.
She’d never met him. But not only had the Bronsons’ dislike and resentment of the Camdens brought the well-known family to her attention whenever they were in the news or in magazine or newspaper articles, she also had some small knowledge of this specific Camden. He’d been involved for a brief time with her best friend Tyson’s cousin—a woman Tyson referred to as the family nutcase—and Gia had seen a snapshot of the two together.
Being reasonably sure that was who he was, she moved to intercept him before he got out of the stairwell and could be seen by anyone else.
“Can I help you?” she asked in a hurry, hoping not to draw the attention of the Bronsons.
“Umm...I don’t know. I heard through the grapevine that tonight was the night people were getting together to talk about helping Larry and Marion Bronson—that’s the group I’m looking for....”
“But you’re Derek Camden, aren’t you?” Gia said.
“I am. And you are...?”
“Not going to let you in here.”
His face erupted into a grin.
The face that she’d already noted was even more striking in person than it had been in the photograph. And he’d looked incredibly good in the photograph.
His hair was an even darker brown than hers was—verging on black—with just a touch of wave to the top that he left slightly longer than the short sides. His nose was the perfect length and shape—thin and straight. His mouth was just lush enough. He had the sexiest hint of a cleft in his chiseled chin. And nothing she’d heard about the Camden blue eyes had done his justice, because they were the vibrant blue of the delphiniums she loved to look out at through her kitchen window every morning.
And it all went with six foot two inches of muscular masculinity not at all hidden behind the tan slacks and cream-colored shirt he was wearing with his brown tie loosened at the open collar, and the suit coat he had hooked by a thumb over one impressively broad shoulder.
“You’re not going to let me in here?” he repeated, as if her thinking she could stop him amused him no end.
“No, I’m not,” Gia asserted. “It would ruin the Bronsons’ night.”
It only occurred to her as she said it that this man appeared to be about her own age and maybe didn’t know what had been done by his family generations before. That maybe he was there purely in response to word getting out, and had genuinely just come to help. Without knowing that his family was at the heart of the Bronsons’ hardship.
“I’m sorry, did you know that there’s bad blood between the Bronsons and your family?” she asked.
The alarm in her tone only made him laugh. “A lot of people don’t like the Camdens,” was all he admitted to.
“This is more than just—” she wasn’t sure how to put it so she repeated his words “—a lot of people not liking the Camdens on some sort of principal—”
“It’s okay. I came to help anyway,” he assured as if he didn’t view an aversion to his family as an obstacle.
“Yeah...well...it wouldn’t be okay with Larry and Marion, and I’m reasonably sure they wouldn’t take help from any Camden,” Gia said more bluntly because she was concerned that he wasn’t getting the picture. “And this may not look like it, but it’s a night out for them, they’re having a good time talking to people they haven’t seen in a while and I don’t want it wrecked for them....” She had no doubt the presence of a Camden would do just that.
“But I do want to help them,” Derek Camden said.
He was kind of stubborn. Great looking and amiable and certainly nothing more than tickled by her blockade, but difficult to persuade.
“They lost their hotel years ago to H. J. Camden. So maybe if you give them the Camden store that was built where their hotel was...” Gia suggested to get her point across. And to test his response and possibly learn whether or not he knew the history.
It worked, because he flinched charmingly and Gia had the impression that he knew exactly what she was talking about. “I don’t think I can do that. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to do
And by the way, who
you?” he asked without any rancor.
“Gia Grant. I live next door to the Bronsons.”
“And you’ve taken them under your wing,” he guessed. “The guy who cuts my hair down on University had a donation jar. He said there was some
behind this. Is this whole thing your doing, Gia Grant?”
neighbors. The Bronsons are good, good people and I can’t sit by and just watch what’s happening to them—”
“Which is what, exactly?”
Gia glanced over her shoulder at the long lunch table where the group that was left was talking. They hadn’t yet noticed that she wasn’t back from the restroom, but that wasn’t going to last forever.
“The longer I stand here, the more likely it is that someone is going to see you and, honestly, I won’t let you put a damper on Larry and Marion’s night.”
want to help,” he insisted.
He nodded that oh-so-handsome head sagely. “We’re interested in more than just stuffing some cash in a donation jar. My grandmother isn’t too much younger than the Bronsons, and let’s say they’ve struck a chord with her. She sent me to represent the family and make sure whatever needs the Bronsons have are met.”
“Then donate a
of money. Anonymously, or they won’t take it.”
He inclined his head as if that might be a good solution but he just couldn’t accept it. “We don’t want to just throw some money at the problem. We want to find out what
of the problems are and lend a hand getting them addressed in the best way possible so these people can finish out their lives comfortably, safely and securely.”
“You’re admitting that what your family did way back when caused the problems, and now you have a responsibility to make things right,” Gia surmised.
“We just want to help,” he said, firmly holding that line and acknowledging nothing else.
Gia shook her head. “The Bronsons are in trouble. But they’re proud people. I’ve convinced them to accept help from their friends and neighbors, their church, by assuring them that the help is coming from people they’ve given business to for decades, from the same people they’ve helped in the past or would help if the need arose even now and they could. I’ve promised them that it isn’t charity, it’s people who know and care about them just wanting to do something for them. But they hate you—I’m sorry to be so direct, but that’s just a fact. I know them—they’ll think that anything you do will have an ulterior motive. If they know you’re behind a dime, they won’t take it.”