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She’s the last woman on earth I’d marry….again.
Hitched is a red hot, enemies-to-lovers laugh-a-palooza featuring a girl in need of a marriage of convenience and a man in need of a cold shower to keep from falling for his fake wife. They say opposites attract, but with Blake and Hope, they also combust…
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(aka a man unaware he’s about to repeat his biggest mistake)
* * *
There comes a time in every man’s life when he needs to mind his own business.
For me, that moment is right now.
This is me.
Minding my own business.
Turning around in the morning sunshine, walking away from the Happy Cat courthouse where the magnolias are blooming and the spring pollen is turning parked cars a sickly yellow-green and Hope St. Claire is sitting on the wide steps of the red brick building in a wedding gown, her light brown hair brushing the tops of her shoulders and a wilted bouquet of dandelions clutched in one hand.
I have places to be. Errands to run. Jobs to do.
So she’s apparently getting married, and I had no idea she was even dating anyone seriously. So I didn’t recognize her at first, because that puffy meringue dress is so far from what she normally wears. So what?
It’s none of my damn business.
And I sure as hell don’t want to watch her marry someone else.
And yet, she called me. Said she had a job for me, and to meet her at the courthouse…
I’ve been doing odd jobs around town while I wait for my grape vines to mature. And seeing as she short-circuits electronics just by looking at them, I’ve done a lot of work for Hope St. Claire.
But whatever she needs in a wedding gown on the courthouse steps isn’t a job I’m up for. Especially when my time is better spent pestering Gary at the Department of Revenue office about the liquor permit application he’s sitting on for my tasting room, so I can quit doing odd jobs around town and get my winery off the ground.
With her head drooped the way it is, Hope hasn’t spotted me yet, so I ease back into my pickup truck and start the engine nice and quiet.
As quietly as I can, anyway. I’m about to pull away from the curb when Hope drags a hand through her hair, granting me a glimpse of her miserable-looking face.
Guilt grips my nuts and holds them for ransom, because for all the irritation Hope brings to my life, she’s still a person.
And a neighbor.
Neighbors are important in Happy Cat. Love or loathe each other, everyone here seems to understand that the only way we’re getting through the hard times is together.
And hard times come around for all of us. Not a single person is immune.
I shift in my seat to try to take the pressure off my balls. The bobblehead hula man that my brothers glued to my dash as a joke wiggles his hips and strums his ukulele, silently encouraging me to lighten up and do the right thing.
I told her I was on my way, after all.
“I know, I know,” I grumble. “But I didn’t know she’d be dressed like—like—that.”
I really don’t care for the sight of Hope in a wedding dress.
It’s bringing back reflux-flavored memories.
You know the kind, the ones that sit in your gut and throw poison darts at your lungs and heart, making you feel like you’re going to lose your lunch.
That’s pretty much how I feel every time I look at Hope. She does things to me. Bad things. Confusing things. Poison-dart-in-the-heart kinds of things…
“Chin up, kid, you’re going to be fine,” I whisper. To her, but maybe to myself too. “You always are. But I’ve got to sit this one out.”
There’s no way she could have heard me. I’m half a block away, inside my truck with the windows closed. But still, her head lifts, our eyes meet, electricity crackles through the air, and the need to make tracks grows so intense that my hand reaches for the gearshift without my conscious permission.
But I don’t drag the handle down.
I’m not a runner or a responsibility dodger. I’m a good person who works hard and keeps my word.
It’s usually so easy. But not with Hope. Nothing’s easy with her, and it hasn’t been for a damned long time.
Gut twisting, I kill my engine, and climb out, pretending I just got there.
“Knock out power to the entire block?” I call as I approach across the cracked sidewalk. “Or just the building?”
She starts to lift her hand—undoubtedly to flip me the bird—but then drops it into her lap over the lacy wedding dress with a sigh.
“Give me two minutes and an open mind,” she says wearily. “I have a strange proposition for you.”
“Stranger than usual?”
“Way stranger. But you’re going to seriously consider it, because that’s the plan.”
I grunt. “Sounds like a terrible plan.”
She waves her saggy bouquet at me. “Seriously. Don’t start with me today. My grandmother died and—”
“I’m sorry,” I say, meaning it. I didn’t know her gram, but I know several of Hope’s animals came from her, so I assume she was a good woman. But I’m still not sure what that has to do with me. Or this dress. “You do know that most people go with black for mourning, right?”