Veterinarian Wade Roberts is done with love. But try convincing the elderly folk of Cape Harmony who are determined to play matchmaker. Now the young single women in town are bombarding him with baked goods and love notes, and being “taken” is the only way to stop the meddling grannies—which is why he needs a fake fiancée.Fast.
Arden Pearson loves planning weddings. Other people’s weddings, that is. After her own engagement ended in disaster, she prefers to live vicariously through her work. But when she needs to persuade a big client that she’s capable of planning the celebrity wedding of the year, she’s willing to go as far as pretending to be engaged herself to her best friend’s older brother.
Soon their ruse has everyone in town believing they make the perfect couple—including Arden. She’s always been nothing more than a kid sister to Wade, and it might take a village to convince him otherwise…
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Wade stood in line at the Drip N Sip, about seven people back, mentally warming up to let good old matchmaking Judy Tavish have an earful. What a friggin’ exhausting morning he’d had at work on Saturday, combating the flirting, the date requests, and the come-ons. Becky was right. His office had served more like a singles bar than a veterinary clinic. Well, no more. He was done with that, but mostly he was done with the meddling gray-haired coffee barista, looking over at him now and shooting him that wide, cheery-assed smile of hers.
“Oh, hello, Wade!” Judy waved, all sunny and good-natured, which ironically had the direct opposite effect on his already foul mood. He gritted his teeth and didn’t wave back.
“And what animal peed on your parade?” a feminine voice asked beside him.
He glanced to his right. Arden Pearson stood next to him with arms folded and an amused grin on her glistening pink-glossed lips. Arden was his sister’s best friend and all-around town sass-mouth—at least to him. He’d known her since high school when she had braces and blond hair down to her butt. Her mouth was still as sassy—maybe more so—but the braces were gone and her straight hair was cut shoulder length in a mature, professional style now. He’d always thought she was a cute girl back then, but as an adult, she was pretty damn stunning—when she wasn’t ribbing him. She had moved back to Cape Harmony about five years ago to open up her wedding planning business. Wade rarely ran into her in town unless she was with Kinsley, which made this day all the more agitating.
He turned away. “Right now, I’d actually welcome being peed on,” he muttered.
She made a tsk tsk sound. “Wow, you are having a bad day. Well, join the club.”
“Join the club?” Wade turned back to her and blinked. Damn, she had the prettiest eyes. The most unique kind of blue he’d ever seen. He immediately looked away. “Are you being bombarded at work and at home by hordes of single marriage-minded women?”
“Well, no— Wait.” She laughed. “Hold on. Are you?”
“Yes. And it’s all Judy Tavish’s fault,” he said, jerking his thumb in Judy’s direction. “She’s taken it upon herself to become my own personal walking, talking Tinder account.”
“Hmm…” Arden’s delicate brows drew together. “So, does this mean you want to book me ahead of schedule for a discount, or do you want to wait until the actual wedding proposal?” she said with a chuckle.
“I knew you wouldn’t see the seriousness in the situation.”
“You’re right. I don’t.” She shrugged. “I mean, so what if Judy thought you should get out and have some fun and gave your number to a few nice women. Oh, boo-hoo.”
He looked her dead in the eye. “Twenty-six women, Arden. Twenty-six. Not including the crowd that showed up at the clinic on Saturday with their fake sick pets. And did you know that when I got home from work there were brownies and half a baked chicken left on my doorstep.”
Arden whistled. “Damn. Remind me to use Judy when I’m looking for a date. Or need a snack.”
“That’s the problem. I’m not looking for a date. I’m not looking for anything. Why can’t I just be left alone? My life was pretty damn good until this point.”
Her eyes softened as she stared at him. “Was it really, Wade?” she said quietly. “Was your life really all that good?”
He bristled at her implication but couldn’t keep her gaze. “Of course it was good. It is good.”
Or at the very least…safe.
He and Miranda had planned a long life together. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Children. They’d been about to buy a house. But instead, cancer stole all that from him. He’d wallowed in grief and just when he’d thought he’d recovered, his dad passed away and he went through it all over again. Wade had completely shut down after that. He didn’t even reach out to his sister, he just continued to use work and his time volunteering at the animal shelter as a shield. And now that he had carefully carved out this solitary existence, being alone was second nature. It fit.
Arden heaved a sigh. “Look, I know your sister will kill me if I tell you this, but…she’s been worried about you. Actually, I have to admit, even I’ve been a little concerned about your hermit-like tendencies.”
“I’m not a hermit. I go out on dates. Once in a while.”
“Once in a great while you mean.”
“You should talk, Miss Married-to-My-Job.”
Arden’s jaw went rigid. “Oh no you don’t. Don’t turn this around on me. At least I go out with my friends. When was the last time you went out for fun?”
Wade scratched his head, then it occurred to him. “Last Sunday,” he answered with confidence.
“Really? Where did you go?”
“My in-laws.” Former in-laws, he mentally corrected. “I go there every other Sunday for dinner and it’s always fun.” Usually fun. Usually kind of fun. His skill at three-person mah-jongg was at an all-time high.
She rolled her eyes. “Ooh, I stand corrected, Kanye. You’re a regular party animal. I’ll make sure and tell Kinsley she has nothing at all to worry about then.”
Wade sniffed. Okay, maybe calling dinner with your dead wife’s parents fun was stretching things a bit. But it was always…comforting and he did appreciate their company. He enjoyed hearing her parents talk about Miranda, sharing memories with them. He found he often needed that. Miranda was slipping from his mind more and more every day. But whenever he was around her family, it was much easier to hold onto her memory.
So what was wrong with that?
Just then his neighbor, Isabel Rollins, turned around and came walking their way with a box of doughnuts clutched in her eighty-four-year-old hands. “Wade Roberts,” she said with a warm smile. “How are you, dear?”
“I’m good, Mrs. Rollins. How are you?”
“Never better. Are you here to get your daily dose of vitamin D, too?”
He frowned as he glanced out the window. No sunshine. The weather looked about as miserable as his mood. “Vitamin D?” he asked.
“Why, yes. vitamin doughnut,” she said with a chuckle.
“Oh. Good one, Mrs. R.”
Mrs. Rollins’s smile faded as she cocked her head at him. “What’s wrong, dear? Has your love life not picked up yet?”
His jaw dropped. “My what?”
“Your love life. After I saw that post on Faceblog, I gave Judy a few names of some women who are complete sweethearts. Good cooks and such fun personalities, too. One of them even holds the speed-knitting record in Ocean Township.”
He heard Arden snicker behind him, which helped him keep his own similar reaction at bay. He always found women were a poor judge of what was actually attractive to men about women.
“It’s Facebook, Mrs. Rollins. And with all due respect, I don’t want to meet any women,” he said firmly.
“Don’t tell me you’re into men now.” She shook her head wistfully. “I knew it. It’s always the handsome ones. What a waste of sperm.”
He heard Arden half choke, half snort next to him.
“Hey,” he said, feeling a rush of indignance, “for your information I am not now into men, but even if I were, it would be nobody’s business but mine.”
“And your partner’s of course,” Arden chimed in.
Mrs. Rollins pointed to Arden. “She’s absolutely right. Whatever you want to do with your partner is your business.”
“But I don’t have a partner,” he stressed. “Male or female. And I don’t want one. Male or female.” Good grief. They had him babbling now.
“Methinks thou doth protest too much,” Mrs. Rollins said sadly. “Well, don’t let your sister’s engagement get you down. You’ll get married again someday I’m sure. Same-sex marriage is now legal in New Jersey.” She smiled brightly, then, after giving him a light pat on the cheek, turned and walked out the door.
Wade looked at Arden with disgust. “Did you hear that?”
“Heard it and loved it.”
“You could have helped, you know.”
Her lips twitched. “You’re right, you did need help. You did do a terrible job of coming out of the closet just then.”
Wade closed his eyes and ran a hand down his face. This was a friggin’ nightmare. He’d bet his veterinary clinic that tomorrow he would have love notes and baked goods from men now, too. If he couldn’t make this matchmaking nonsense stop he would have no choice but to sell his practice and move ten towns over.
“Wow, I’m so glad we ran out of coffee today,” Arden said, taking another step up in line. “This whole exchange has made my week. In fact, whenever my problems are about to get the best of me, I’ll only have to look back on this day for cheering up.”
He eyed her grimly. “You’re a twisted soul, Arden Pearson.”
Catch Him if You Can is a sweet and sexy fake relationship, friends-to-lovers romance. Both Arden and Wade have reasons for believing a romantic HEA is not for them–widower Wade because he already had his HEA (they’re one per customer, obvs 😉 ) and wedding planner Arden because her own wedding found her left at the altar–and each has their own reasons for “needing” a fake relationship, their agreement seems to be a perfect solution (Wade’s reason is a little more believable than Arden’s, but neither is too much of a stretch–plus, the opening scene at Wade’s vet clinic is truly LOL. The poor guy…).
But we all know how “perfect” it’s going to end up being, right? Yep, that’s what I thought. 😉
Catch is the second book in Ms. Shirk’s Accidentally in Loveseries (the first is Arden’s BFF/Wade’s sister Kinsley’s story) but it worked just fine as a standalone. Bargaining with the Boss has been on my TBR pile for a while, though, and the glimpses we get here of Kinsley and Damon will likely bump it up the list.
Now–how about Elena’s story? 😉
Rating: 4 stars / B+
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
Meet the Author:
Jennifer Shirk has a bachelor degree in pharmacy-which has in NO WAY at all helped her with her writing career. But she likes to point it out, since it shows romantic-at-hearts come in all shapes, sizes, and mind-numbing educations.She is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of sweet (and sometimes even funny) romances for Montlake Romance and Entangled Publishing. Her novel, FIANCE BY FATE, a 2015 Readers’ Crown Finalist, became an Amazon #1 bestseller for Series Romance. And recently, WRONG BROTHER, RIGHT MATCH, WON the Sweet Traditional category of the 2017 Golden Quill Contest and became a #1 Amazon bestseller for Holiday Romance and USA Today bestseller.
She serves on many volunteer boards in her community, but is most proud of her work on the Ocean City Free Public Library Board of Trustees, where she has served as President for over 3 years. She resides in a beach resort in NJ, and when she’s not involved in all the above, she’s taking care of her most treasured possessions: her husband, daughter, and dog (Sox).
- $15 Amazon Gift Card!