anything up for six weeks, which seems like a slam dunk until he finds himself matchmaker to the office “One Date Wonder” aka the boss’s daughter. It’s hard to stay focused when setting up the hottest girl he’s ever met with everyone but himself. Maybe he could just set her up with all the wrong men, and keep his hands off his new friend…Yeah. His promotion is toast.
After dropping off his briefcase in his office, Eric made his way to the end of the hallway and knocked on Jane’s door, flowers in hand.
He felt ridiculous. Sort of like he had before his prom in high school, only Jane wasn’t going to dance with him and the flowers were from someone else. Still, this was a chance to actually speak to her and that was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. He was about to make her day with a clearly expensive bouquet of flowers from another man. His chest tightened. So did his grip on the vase. He was beginning to think pathetic wasn’t a strong enough descriptor.
“Come in,” she called.
When he opened the door, she didn’t look up from her computer screen, clearly engrossed in whatever she was reading. Brow furrowed, she tapped the end of a pen on the side of her monitor. Holy shit, she was beautiful—intensely focused with the sun from the wall of windows making her hair shine like gold. He’d never been this close to her before and found himself a little overwhelmed, which was ridiculous. He was head of an entire team at one of the most prestigious law firms in New York City. Nothing should overwhelm him. Get it together, Blackwell.
When she finally looked up, her eyes widened and she pushed to her feet behind the huge, shiny desk. “I’m sorry. I thought you were Marcie dropping something off.”
“Well, I am… Not Marcie, but dropping something off.” Great. Just great. He groaned inwardly at how ridiculous his first words ever spoken to this woman were.
Her large blue eyes flitted from his face to the flowers and back again.
“These are for you,” he said, awkwardly holding them out.
“Oh…um…” She circled her desk, moving closer. “Wow. Thanks.”
“I’m Eric Blackwell.” He cleared his throat. “From Mergers and Acquisitions.”
She smiled, flashing straight, white teeth. “Yeah, I know.”
She knew? His heart hammered harder, which seemed impossible. He cleared his throat again. “Marcie was swamped and asked me to deliver these for her.”
“Oh…” She glanced at the flowers, her smile fading slightly.
“Yeah, she had a bunch of stuff come in at once, and I was already heading this way, so…”
She nodded. “That was nice of you. Thanks.” With her hair pulled into a knot on the back of her head, her eyes looked huge.
Eric placed the vase on her desk, taking a deep breath. Shit. She even smelled good. Maybe it was the flowers. “These are nice. You must have an admirer.” And his morbid curiosity wanted to know who it was so he could direct his irrational jealousy appropriately. He pulled the envelope from the arrangement and handed it to her, hoping not only to extend his time this close to her but also get some intel.
He gritted his teeth as she pulled out the card. This level of interest was incontestable proof that he was working way too hard and playing way too little. Since his break up with Shannon almost a year ago, he’d done nothing but work. No wonder being this close to a woman was the highlight of his day. He had to fix this. Quick.
No. He needed to hold tight until after he made junior partner. That had been his goal from the start. It was important he get that promotion. The money would be nice, but really, it was all about the security, something he never had growing up.
Jane’s face clouded as she studied the card. “Who does this kind of thing? What kind of…” She waved a hand in an exasperated motion. “What kind of jerk uses a romantic gesture as a way to deliver a message like this. Really?”
And here he’d thought dropping off the flowers would associate him with something positive in her mind. Today sucked.
“I thought I’d gotten a date right for once, you know what I mean?”
Nope. Not a clue. How could a woman like this—obviously smart since she worked at one of the premier law firms in NYC, and gorgeous on top of that—get anything wrong on a date? Eric had an overwhelming urge to hunt down and beat the shit out of the prick who sent those flowers.
When she turned, her eyes brimmed with tears. Not the stream down your face kind, but controlled and held in. Oh God, not tears. They made him feel helpless and “holdy.” That’s what his mother had called it. His solution for tears was to hug, which he absolutely under no circumstances could do to Jane Dixon. The image of holding her soft body against his harder one, made him… well, harder. He clasped his hands behind his back to keep from taking Jane in his arms. “I’m sorry. I…”
She blinked, pushing the tears back before they could fully form. “No, I’m sorry. You were just doing something nice for Marcie. You had no idea you’d been thrown in the room with the One-date Wonder.”
“Maybe I should—” He stepped backward toward the door.
She threw her hands up. “Seriously, how I can screw it up every time? Every. Single. Time.” She paced to the edge of her desk. “Do you know that I haven’t had a second date since I graduated law school?”
His day had just gone from pathetic to surreal. All he could do was shake his head.
She paced to the potted plant in the corner and then back to her desk. “Oh yeah. Loads of first dates. Never a second. And you know what?”
Hopefully that was rhetorical, because no way in hell could he possibly guess what would come out of her mouth next.
“I’m so done. I’m never going to find a guy to ask me out twice. I should swear off men forever. Men suck. Dating sucks.” She took a shuddering breath. “I suck.” And then one of the tears she’d held back this whole time escaped—only one—as she stood perfectly still and silent.
As if on auto-pilot, he crossed to her and folded her in his arms like he’d done with his mother so many times in his life. This wasn’t anything like those hugs, though, and his body made that fact painfully clear as she circled her arms around his waist under his jacket and leaned her cheek against his chest. And it was definitely her and not the flowers that smelled good.
After a few seconds, Eric’s heart hammered so hard he was certain Jane could hear it. There wouldn’t be enough lifeboats in the world to save Operation Smooth Sailing if he continued to rub his hands up and down his boss’s daughter’s back. Reluctantly, he loosened his grip, pulled away to create some space between them, and gave her shoulder an awkward, platonic pat.
“Sorry.” She straightened his lapel and brushed it, stepping back to arm’s length. “I…” She took a deep breath. “…got a little emotional on you there.”
Eric remained frozen in place, only a couple of feet from her, completely clueless what to do or say. He needed a how-to manual for this kind of thing.
She leaned against her desk, facing him. “I’m so frustrated.”
“I mean, why can’t a guy just go out on a date without an agenda or strategy? And why are women held to a different standard?”
Rhetorical. Please let that be rhetorical. He tried to look somewhere else, but couldn’t draw his gaze away from her hands as she fiddled with the necklace that disappeared into her cleavage behind her silk blouse.
“If a guy spills ice water in his date’s lap, she wouldn’t hold it against him forever. She wouldn’t send him flowers with a Dear John letter attached. Am I right?”
Ice water in his lap might be just the ticket right now, Eric decided, finally pulling his gaze away from the freckle on her neck peeking out from under her silk collar. “No. Uh… I mean, yes. Yes, you’re right.” Right in so many ways it made him dizzy. Coming to her office had been a mistake. It had to be the ten months of abstinence in combination with the ridiculous hours he’d been putting in leading up to this merger, and the stress of blowing his promotion this close to his annual review that had him in this state.
“I guess I’m just scared I’ll never find a guy who’ll go out with me more than once. It’s kind of a joke in my family. My three brothers are married and I can’t even get a second date.”
“Maybe it’s just that you’re going out with the wrong guys. I know lots of men who would give anything to go out with someone like you.”
“You do?” Her eyebrows rose, her expression hopeful.
“Sure.” He could think of one in particular, but sadly there was that non-fraternization clause he’d signed when he was hired.
“Ohmygod, you’re the best, Eric!” She held out her hand. “You’re on.”
What the hell? He accepted her extended hand, and she gave it a vigorous handshake.
“I’m free on Fridays after seven.” She scribbled on a Post-It note on her desk. “Give one of your friends my number, and we’ll set up a time.”
He took the slip of paper. “O—kay.”
She smiled. It was a huge smile that lit up her entire face, like the sun coming out. “Great. You’re the best. Really, you are.”
Oh yeah. He was the best for sure. The best at mucking everything up. He finally had Jane’s phone number and now he was tasked with finding another man to give it to. Perfect.
“Oh. And I have another favor to ask.”
Maybe this could turn around.
She held up a finger and wagged it. “No lawyers. I will never date one. Ever. I’d rather stay single the rest of my life.”
Nope. No turning this disaster around.
Numb, and not exactly sure how he’d gone from up-and-coming attorney to flower delivery boy to Jane Dixon’s personal dating service, Eric shuffled out the door and down the hallway to the safety of his office. This time, he closed the door.
Such a sweet read!
Dear Jane is the first in the Animal Attraction series, which is a spin-off of Ms. Clarke’s Anderson Brothers series (one of lawyer hero Eric’s bigger clients is the titular Anderson brothers). As such, it’s a fine place to start reading Ms. Clarke’s books, and of course sets up the new series nicely. (That said, knowing the name of the series acts as a spoiler of sorts when you’re about 2/3 of the way through the story, when one character says something and the reader can pretty quickly figure out how one aspect of the story, at least, is going to end. It’s not a big deal, but it was a definite ah ha! moment.)
I really liked both Eric and Jane, both as characters and as friends (and later, as a couple). Jane’s dating disasters were amusing–I can just imagine how much fun the author had coming up with them!–and Eric’s accidental slide into her friend/dating consultant was really cute. Eric had been aware of Jane for two years at the start of the story but never pursued her (boss’s daughter!), a history of sorts that made their kind-of-quick relationship here (the novella’s just over 100 pages long) fairly believable. Things move really fast at the end–that part could have been expanded, but still worked pretty well as is–and left our characters in a good place, a place I’m looking forward to visiting again as the series continues!
Rating: 4 stars / A-
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
She’s off-limits. And he needs to keep it that way, even if the heat building between them is hot enough to blow off the roof…
Each book in the Wedding Favors series is a stand-alone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 Bridesmaid Blues
Book #2 Random Acts of Marriage
Book #3 Properly Groomed
“Are you sure there isn’t somewhere else you can stay?” She paused, then added, “For everybody’s sake.”
He pivoted to face her, a lazy grin curling his mouth. “Is this about last night?”
“No.” It was totally about last night and whether she should be embarrassed or relieved. “Why would you think this was about last night? Nothing happened…right?”
“You don’t remember?”
Mortified, she shook her head.
He closed the distance between them to a couple of inches and stroked his finger along her jaw. “Now that’s a shame.”
All the saliva in her mouth dried up and her breath hovered in her throat as his azure gaze caressed her face. He smelled like an autumn harvest and minty toothpaste, with a dash of cinnamon thrown into the mix. If lust had a smell, it would be Lincoln.
Before she could reply, he turned toward the front door and walked inside, Chester trotting alongside him. Damn it, he’d breached her barricade with no more than a steamy look.
Marissa Clarke is a multi-award-winning, RITA® nominated author of romance for adults and teens. She lives in Texas, where everything is bigger, especially the mosquitoes. When
writes young adult novels for Penguin USA.
To receive updates and insider information on Marissa’s upcoming books,
subscribe to her newsletter.
Amazon Best Selling Author Boone Brux’s stories range from high fantasy to humorous paranormal.Having lived all over the world, and finally settling in the icy region of
Alaska, she’s always looking for the next adventure. It’s not unusual to find Boone traversing the remotest parts of the Alaskan bush, gathering information for her stories. No person or escapade is off limits when it comes to weaving real life experiences into her books or blogs.Join Boone’s V.I.P. Club and be first to hear about new releases, events, free read, contests and giveaways, and so much more. Sign up for her newsletter and stay informed.