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Marriage on Madison Avenue (Central Park Pact #3)
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From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne, comes the final installment of the Central Park Pact series, a heartfelt and laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that’s perfect for fans of Sally Thorne and Christina Lauren.
Can guys and girls ever be just friends? According to Audrey Tate and Clarke West, absolutely. After all, they’ve been best friends since childhood without a single romantic entanglement. Clarke is the charming playboy Audrey can always count on, and he knows that the ever-loyal Audrey will never not play along with his strategy for dodging his matchmaking mother—announcing he’s already engaged…to Audrey.
But what starts out as a playful game between two best friends turns into something infinitely more complicated, as just-for-show kisses begin to stir up forbidden feelings. As the faux wedding date looms closer, Audrey and Clarke realize that they can never go back to the way things were, but deep down, do they really want to?
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SATURDAY, JULY 21
Audrey Tate had dreamed about this moment dozens of times. Maybe hundreds.
Standing outside a church? Check.
A little breathless? Definitely.
A bit shaky? Yup.
Her heart pounding as she prepared to walk up the steps and down the aisle toward the man who’d determinedly swept her off her feet and stolen her heart? Absolutely.
But in her dreams, she’d been wearing white. In her dreams, the man she was walking toward hadn’t been someone else’s husband.
In her dreams, he hadn’t been dead.
Audrey felt someone give her arm a comforting squeeze as they passed, and another kissed her cheek. She forced an absent smile, even though she didn’t bother to look at the well-wishers. She was too busy trying to do what they were all doing: walking up those steps to say a final farewell to Brayden Hayes.
Audrey took a deep breath and ordered her right foot to move.
And it did. But not in the way she intended. Before Audrey could think through the consequences, she started walking, not into the church, but away from it. Away from him. Away from his wife.
Away from her dreams.
She barely noticed when she reached Central Park, and when she veered mindlessly to the left, she didn’t register that her four-inch Louboutins were hardly suited for the dirt path.
She angrily wiped away her tears. She’d always been a crier, but this was a whole new level. Her eyes had been in a chronic state of leaking ever since she’d gotten the news.
Brayden was dead. Brayden was married.
Had been married.
Audrey was so focused on trying to get a grip on the warring grief and anger that she didn’t realize what she was inadvertently walking toward. She halted in her tracks, blinking rapidly as she waited for her imagination to get a freaking grip. But no matter how long and hard she stared, the women sitting on the bench were real.
And one was the very woman who’d haunted Audrey’s every waking hour since she’d learned that her boyfriend had drunkenly fallen off his sailboat and drowned.
She blinked again, but there was no doubt about it. Audrey was staring directly at Brayden Hayes’s widow. The other woman, a stunning redhead, was a stranger—maybe vaguely familiar, but Audrey lacked the mental or emotional energy to sort out how or if she knew her.
What do I do?
Audrey’s self-preservation instincts instructed her to run, even as her conscience demanded she do what needed to be done and walk forward. In the end, it wasn’t her decision. As Audrey stood there debating her next move, Claire Hayes turned her head, and though she wore sunglasses, Audrey could feel her gaze boring into her.
She felt her eyes widen. “You know who I am?”
The blond woman gave a short nod. “You’re Audrey Tate. I did a little digging after you called the house that night.” There was a lengthy pause before she spoke again, her voice soft. “I know you were sleeping with my husband.”
The redhead whipped her head toward her companion, then looked back at Audrey. She too was wearing sunglasses, but Audrey sensed she was just as shocked by Claire’s pronouncement.
Brayden’s wife knew.
Audrey let out a hiccupping sob and walked to the bench, sitting down, mainly because she wasn’t sure her shaky legs would support her much longer. She looked at Claire Hayes, and then the words started tumbling out. “I didn’t know,” Audrey pleaded. “I didn’t know until you picked up the phone that night that he was married. I swear to you, he told me his wife had left him, that he was separated… I never would have— You have to believe me. I didn’t know—”
“Oh, honey,” the red-haired woman interrupted, sounding horrified by Audrey’s verbal diarrhea. “You’ve got to get it together.”
Irritation wriggled its way through Audrey’s misery, and she glared at the interloper. “Respectfully, you don’t know the first thing about what’s going on here.”
“Well now, that’s the thing,” the redhead said, looking down at her manicure. “I sort of do.”
Claire jolted in surprise, looking as shocked as Audrey felt. These two women didn’t know each other, Audrey realized. Whatever she’d walked in on, it hadn’t been one friend comforting another, but two strangers.
Claire’s next words confirmed it. “Who are you?” she asked the redhead.
Instead of answering Claire, the redhead studied Audrey, and though she wasn’t usually so bold, this time, she studied her right back. Even with the oversize sunglasses, she could tell the other woman was gorgeous, and not just because of the vibrant red hair. The woman herself was vibrant—seemingly crackling with an energy and confidence that was perfectly suited to the designer dress, flawless makeup, and not-so-tiny diamond studs in her ears that Audrey would bet her favorite Chanel bag on were real. Again, she was struck with the sense that there was something familiar about her…