My very best friend, Lizzie, was going to have the wedding of her dreams, and I couldn’t be happier for her.
That is if Kane McBride didn't screw everything up.
What were the odds that Kane would be the best man? Lizzie’s old high school boyfriend. When he'd left, she'd gone through boxes and boxes of tissues. So many that I wish I'd bought stock in the tissue company.
Now, six years later, here he is looking all sexy…and single. What will happen when they see each other again? Will Kane ruin
Grant and Lizzie's wedding? Not if I can help it.
I'm not the plain, shy Gemma from high school anymore. I'll just seduce Kane and make him fall in love with me before Lizzie arrives on the island, so he doesn’t pick up where he left off with Lizzie all those years ago. Before he broke her heart, that is.
I’m pissed when I discover Gemma has a list of ways to seduce me. She looks so innocent, and delicate, and she has all the right curves in all the right places—except she played me for a fool. She might’ve succeeded if I hadn’t discovered her devious plot.
Now I’m going to make her pay!
Except when Lizzie arrives on the island, my flirting with Lizzie backfires when she starts to fall for me all over again. That wasn’t supposed to happen. There’s only one solution, enlist Gemma’s help to make Lizzie think we’re falling in love. Gemma will do anything to make sure this wedding goes as planned. Except actually fall in love with me.
But what will happen when I start to fall for her?
“Give it back!" I tugged, but the golden retriever pulled harder, practically dragging me along with him. What the hell! Dammit, this was my favorite pink lacy bra the dog had latched onto, and he wasn't letting go. I religiously washed it by hand—unless it accidentally got mixed in with my clothes, which is what happened this morning.
Good Lord, the dog had to weigh at least eighty pounds. I was one hundred and twenty, but the dog was a hell of a lot stronger.
How had this mongrel managed to get my bra, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. I'd walked over to the laundry room and washed my clothes—which was a feat in itself because I hate doing laundry, then I returned to the quaint little tiki hut I was staying in at the resort.
I had just set the basket down, literally just set it on the ground so I could open the door when the dog came barreling up out of nowhere, tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, and latched onto my lacy pink bra that came from Victoria’s Secrets. Everyone knows they’re not cheap, but so worth the money. Then the mongrel takes off, pink lace flapping like a flag of honor, except I’m pretty fast and grabbed one end.
That was how our tug-of-war started.
And I damn sure wasn't about to hand over my bra like it was a new chew toy! I yanked harder. The dog bounced on his front paws as if we were playing a fun game, then tugged a little more. The dog was winning with pure brute force. He pulled, and I stumbled along, filled with determination and a tight grip. Yes, I had a stubborn streak, and I wasn't going to give up without a fight.
"I said, give it back!" I growled, leaning back and putting all my weight into pulling.
"Drop it," a firm voice commanded.
The dog immediately released my bra.
Oh crap! Not good!
With a hard thud, I kerplopped onto the grass, right on my ass.
Ow! I leaned slightly and rubbed one butt cheek, until I remembered I wasn’t alone and raised my gaze. Even as I glared at the man who'd been instrumental in my ungraceful landing, I could feel my face warming.
And then I really looked at the guy.
Wow! I mean, the cover of GQ wow. I gave him a quick once over, then went back for more. I couldn’t stop staring. My mouth immediately went dry. Triple, wow! The guy was beautiful in a burn-your-fingers-if-you-touch-him way. The only guys I'd ever seen who looked this good were airbrushed on the front of a magazine at the grocery store checkout.
My gaze slowly traveled over him. From the coal-black hair to the deep green eyes. Past chiseled features, and then beyond the broad shoulders. I lingered on his gorgeous biceps and sexy six-pack abs a little longer than necessary.
My gaze followed the dark trail of hair that disappeared inside his low-riding, red swim trunks before realizing I must look like the village idiot with my mouth hanging open.
Please don’t let me have drool on my face, I silently prayed. I jerked my gaze back to his face. Damn, I didn't even know they made men who looked like him!
I frowned. There was something vaguely familiar about him, but as soon as he began to speak again, I focused on his words.
"I apologize for my dog. Are you okay?” he asked in a low, raspy voice that melted over me like warm caramel sauce—which brought on a whole new fantasy. Add a little whipped cream, some chocolate…
I might have had the breath knocked out of me when I landed on my ass, but this man took my breath away. And he'd just asked me something. What the hell had it been? Oh yeah, if I was okay. Well, I wasn't, but not because of his dog.
I attempted to clear my head, but it still took a moment, and when it did clear, I remembered what I’d been doing. This guy was the reason for my ungraceful landing. I glared at him.
"Really? Really! Did you have to command your dog to let go at the same time I was pulling? It's your fault I fell."
Was that a smile crinkling around the sides of his mouth? Was he about to laugh? The audacity of the man! Apparently, my narrowed eyes had him thinking otherwise because he stuck his hand toward me instead. I hesitated half a second before I took it.
The moment our hands connected, I felt a jolt of electricity go through me. It tingled erotically over my body in a delightful way and reminded me just how long it had been since I'd had sex.
Okay, if I'm being truthful, not that long. Not that I'm slutty or anything, but I’d never had sex with a man who looked like this. Plus, his hand had been so big, well, compared to mine, anyway.
And right now, he probably thought I was brain damaged or something. As soon as I was standing, I dropped his hand. It must've been static electricity that jolted through me. I really needed to get my shit together.
"Again, I apologize for my dog."
His words scraped across my raw nerve endings. Then he did the unthinkable. His gaze slowly moved over me, lingering in all the right places before returning to my face with a look of appreciation. At least, that was what I was going with. I’d come a long way from high school when I was considered a geeky tomboy.
"Are you sure you're okay?" he asked as if he knew the effect he was having on me.
What did he expect? He was practically…I swallowed past the lump in my throat…naked. Sure, he wore swim trunks, but they rode low on his hips. One tug on the string…
And yes, for a moment, I couldn’t say a word. I just wanted to stand and stare at him and listen to him talk. He had one of those voices that immediately sent a woman into a fantasy world of naked bodies entwined on top of red silk sheets, a light breeze blowing in through the open window, the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach...
I mentally shook my head to clear it. "Your dog is a thief," I informed him, crossing my arms in front of me.
"Bandit, thief, what difference does it make? Just look. My favorite bra is ruined!" I held up my bra to prove my point. There were rips and tears all through the pink lace.
His scorching gaze moved between the bra and me. I could almost see him stripping off my shirt and fastening the bra on me, or even better, tossing it to the side and leaving me naked to his heated gaze. It didn't take much of a stretch of my imagination to visualize him doing just that, and my imagination was always in overdrive. Or so I’d been told.
"Let me make it up to you. Would you like a cup of coffee?" He waved toward the next hut over.
Just great, we were neighbors. I didn’t need any distractions right now. I was getting close to the finish line, and had a ton of things I still needed to do. I didn't have time to carry on a hot romance. Not that he’d even hinted about going out on a date…or fucking…or anything.
In case he did, I reminded myself I wasn't on the gorgeous island of Oahu for vacation. Not exactly. I was here to coordinate a wedding for my best friend. I squared my shoulders and raised my chin. “No thank you. I believe you and your dog have done more than enough damage for one day.”
I turned on my heel and marched toward my hut. I applauded myself on my exit. It was tempting to look over my shoulder just to see his expression. I bet he didn’t get turned down very often.
As soon as I got to the door of my hut, I realized exactly what I’d done.
Idiot! Why did I turn him down? I mean, the guy was gorgeous. Was I stupid? No, it was that damn stubbornness of mine rearing its ugly head again. It started when I was about two, I think. My brothers were always telling me it was going to get me into trouble one day. They’d been right.
Oh well, it didn’t matter now. I had a job to do. I’d been at the resort for just over a week now, pulling my best friend’s wedding together and making sure everything would run smoothly on her important day. I didn’t have time for a romantic fling. Although…
I didn’t get to finish that thought because my phone began to ring. I grabbed my basket of clothes and hurried inside, before answering. I smiled when I saw Lizzie's face on the screen. She'd been my best friend since grade school, and it was her wedding I was planning.
“Good morning,” I said as I went straight to the kitchen and turned on the coffee pot. “How’s the bride-to-be doing?”
“Fantastic. You sound wide awake. How long have you been up?”
“A while. I did some of my laundry this morning, then played tug-of-war with one of my favorite bras,” I told her.
“Gemma? Are you there? We must have a bad connection because I thought you said you played tug-of-war with one of your bras,” Lizzie said.
“No, you heard right. I’d set my basket of clothes on the ground and was about to open the door when this golden retriever ran up and grabbed my bra out of the basket. I got hold of it, though. The damned dog kept pulling me along with him. I didn’t think I was ever going to get it back.”
“How did you?”
I frowned. "The dog's owner came up and commanded the dog to drop my bra. Except I was pulling at the same time the dog let go, and I landed on my ass. In a very unladylike position."
She began to laugh.
I frowned. “I thought you were on my side.”
“I am, and always will be, you painted a pretty hilarious picture of the tug-of-war. So, what did the guy look like?”
She’d blindsided me. I probably shouldn’t have told her so much. It was Lizzie I was talking to, though. I might as well jump in with both feet. “He was probably the most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen. I’m talking movie star good looks. I could’ve definitely done him.”
“So are you? Going to do him, that is?”
"Of course not." I switched her to speakerphone, then poured myself a cup of coffee, adding generous scoops of cream and sugar.
“Why not?” she asked.
“Did you forget? I’m here to finish the final touches on your wedding. I don’t have time for a fling.”
"You know you're not just my assistant. You're also my best friend. Just because I gave you a job, I don't want our relationship to be any different than it was. And don’t forget, Grant and I are already living together.”
"Thanks, but living together doesn't count. I want this wedding to be perfect. You'll be Cinderella marrying her Prince Charming. It will be absolutely beautiful."
"I'm sure it will be perfect with you planning it," she told me.
“True. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?” I laughed. “But seriously, you should see this guy. I wonder if he’s an actor or something. He was so hot.” I paused for a moment. “He might be, come to think about it. He did look vaguely familiar.”
We spoke a few more minutes, with her telling me if there was anything I needed to let her know, then we ended the conversation. I slipped my phone back inside my pocket, then walked out to the covered lanai with my coffee.
I casually took a drink as I covertly glanced toward hot guy's hut, which was only a few feet from mine. Even though it was nearby, I could barely see the hut because of the trees and vegetation. I was pretty sure the trees and plants were meant for privacy, but I could see enough to know that hot guy was not outside on his lanai. Oh well. I didn’t actually want to start something up with the stranger. I had way too much work to do.
I turned my attention back to the beach. I could only see a small strip of it, but the view was beautiful. The water was clear blue with frothy white waves rolling onto the shore. I closed my eyes for a moment as I let the peaceful sounds wash over me. I could almost taste the salt in the air. I still had to pinch myself that I was on Oahu and could walk down to the beach from my hut.
The resort where I’m staying was one of the best on the island. Lizzie knew me well, and I was staying in a tiki-like hut, complete with a grass roof. There was a lanai with outdoor furniture, a small living room, kitchenette, bedroom, and bathroom.
The main hotel was huge. Two swimming pools, restaurant, and next to the beach was a tiki hut bar where you could watch the waves rolling in or take your drink to one of the lounge chairs. I could get used to this lifestyle.
Any lingering stress from this morning evaporated. This was going to be the perfect wedding. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As renewed determination swept over me, I went back inside and deposited my empty cup into the sink. Lizzie was my best friend, and she deserved the perfect wedding. I was going to make it happen.
We’d been planning our weddings since we were ten and had watched Cinderella. I knew exactly what would make Lizzie happy. I’d talked to Grant, and he gave me the perfect answer—spare no expense as long as you think Lizzie will love it. She was so lucky to be marrying him.
I sighed. I would definitely spend his money. Well, a good chunk of it.
This morning I was meeting with the hotel management to go over some last minute details. Then I had errands to run in town, so it was time to start my day and stop thinking about my hot neighbor.
I went to the bedroom and slipped out of my clothes. The shower here was phenomenal. It was indoor and outdoor at the same time. The walls were black lava stone, and there was a large shower head that felt like gentle rain.
The top was open air so I could look up at the sky. How cool was that? It was like taking a shower naked while I was outside. I wondered if whoever designed it wanted you to feel a little naughty. Maybe. All I knew for sure was that I was taking a shower every day, sometimes twice.
There was so much to love about this place. The hut was rustic in a super luxurious way. The furniture was bamboo, but with cushions on the sofa that were so comfy they made you want to close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you: the ocean, the birds.
Then there was the king-size bed. Nothing but the best when Grant was picking up the tab. I’d never slept in a bed that you just sank into. I had to drag myself out every morning.
The screened lanai was my favorite of all places to be. Early in the morning, I would sit out there, drink my coffee, and listen to the sound of the ocean waves. Breathe in all the tropical scents. This was the perfect setting for Grant and Lizzie’s wedding.
Except they would be staying in the hotel. The honeymoon suite, to be exact. I’d already toured it. Done exquisitely in shades of beige, cream, and gray, a private balcony with an ocean view that was stunning. Along with a jacuzzi and canopy bed. I was having chocolate and champagne delivered, along with an assortment of fresh fruit. I’d thought about oysters on the half shell, but decided that might be overkill.
It was almost time for my meeting when I stepped out of the shower and dried off. I quickly dressed then hurried out the front door.
Yes, I glanced over at the other hut. Still no hot guy. He had been delicious eye candy. I really should think about going on a diet. But then again, it didn't hurt to look. I mean, who gained weight staring through the window of a pastry shop?
By the time I finished all my errands and ate a light lunch at one of the quaint restaurants along the shore, I was ready for my usual walk along the beach. Then maybe a glass of wine.
I was living on the fringes of my best friend’s life, and feeling very blessed to do so, but there was something missing from mine. Not that I was ungrateful. I knew exactly how lucky Lizzie was that she was marrying so well, then Grant had talked her into hiring me as her personal assistant.
I loved Grant. He was like another brother to me. I didn’t want to take advantage of them, though. After the wedding, I was going to look at taking some more college courses in event planning. I wasn’t just a secretary in a pool with other secretaries anymore. Lizzie would be entertaining more, and I didn’t want her to be embarrassed if anything didn’t go right. I’d be the best damned assistant she would ever want.
There was an envelope stuck partway inside my door when I returned. I frowned. I wasn’t expecting anything. I brought the envelope inside with me, then tore it open. I smiled. It was a gift certificate to a very exclusive boutique on the island that sold ladies lingerie. I unfolded the note. One word—sorry.
I was still smiling as I changed from my casual attire to white shorts and a yellow tank top. The island was beautiful, but the humidity was terrible. After I slipped on sandals, I stepped out of the hut. I paused when the golden retriever ran toward me.
I raised an eyebrow. "I have nothing for you to steal, if that's what you're looking for," I told the dog.
The dog jumped up and down on his front paws. I couldn't help but smile and run my fingers through his golden fur. The dog was beautiful, along with being very friendly.
"I'm going for a walk on the beach. Come if you want, or stay. Makes no difference to me." The dog walked beside me. I only hesitated as I stepped from the path and saw the dog’s owner. I would’ve turned back, but he looked up at the same time. I had never been a coward, and it was too late to become one now.
“I hope my dog isn’t bothering you again,” he said as he walked nearer.
I admit it. For a moment, all I could do was stare at him…again. I don't know if it was the way he nonchalantly walked toward me as he strolled along the beach, or if it was all those gorgeous muscles shimmering in the sun as it began to dip toward the horizon.
Again, for just a moment, I felt there was something familiar about him. The way he walked with just a little bit of a swagger. I'd seen it somewhere before… He could be an actor. Maybe that was where I'd seen him, in the movies or a TV show.
I mentally cleared my head. "No, he wasn't bothering me. I was just going for a walk along the beach, and I guess he decided he would go with me." I hesitated. Manners wouldn't let me not mention the gift card. "Thank you for the gift card, but you didn't have to."
“Bandit insisted.” He looked toward the beach, then back at me. "Would you like some more company?"
My hesitation was brief. It wouldn't hurt anything. It wasn't like I was going to jump in his bed. We were just walking on the beach.
"Sure," I casually said, even though my pulse was racing.
"Are you here on vacation?" he asked.
I shook my head as I walked near the water's edge. I loved feeling the waves wash across my feet, but I didn’t want to take a chance
I might step on a sea creature. "You could say a working vacation,” I told him. “My best friend is getting married. I'm coordinating the wedding."
"That wouldn’t be Grant Byrd’s wedding, would it?"
I stopped walking and stared at him. "How did you know?"
He laughed lightly, but it was a deep rumbling sound that sent shivers of desire over me.
"I'm one of the groomsmen."
"But you're not supposed to be here for another week, at least." I started walking again, and he followed beside me.
"Grant convinced me I should come early. It's not often I have any downtime. I realized he was right. I remember Grant telling me that he had someone coordinating the wedding. He spoke very highly of you."
Heat crawled up my face at his compliment. "Grant is a great guy."
"By the way, I'm Kane. Kane McBride."
Everything seemed to move in slow motion, and then it came to a grinding halt. Even the sounds around me slowed as I stopped and stared at the man beside me. This couldn’t be happening. There was no way. I’d planned the perfect wedding, right down to the smallest detail. I must’ve misheard him.
"I’m sorry, I thought you said Kane McBride," I said with a sickly sounding laugh.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “You can’t be Kane McBride.”
His forehead creased. "According to my driver’s license, that’s who I am. Is there a problem?"
Of course there was a problem! If he was the same Kane McBride, there was a huge problem of catastrophic proportions.
Maybe he was another Kane McBride. But how many men were named Kane? It wasn’t like his name was John or Henry or something equally common. I ignored his question. "Did you have a Harley-Davidson at one time? Hair down to your shoulders? Did you hang out with a bunch of bikers your senior year of high school in Allen, Texas?"
His frown deepened as I studied him, trying to picture him a little leaner with longer hair, a five o'clock shadow, and sunglasses. It sort of looked like him, but I had to be sure.
"Are you that Kane McBride?" I asked again. Kane the Ass? And I don’t mean that in a good way. Not the Kane I had a crush on. The Kane who said I…
I swallowed past the lump in my throat. The Kane who said every pretty girl needed a plain Jane sidekick to take up the slack?
Referring to me! The one who dated Lizzie? Was this the same Kane?
"Do I know you?"
I stomped my foot, splashing water on both of us. "Are you?"
"Yes," he said.
I stumbled. He caught my elbow. My words came out in a rush, "You have to go away. That's all there is to it. Just disappear. We’ll pretend you were never here. I'll make up some kind of story. We can say you got malaria." Or a bad case of the clap. Yes, that sounded even better. Probably more believable, too.
He wasn’t agreeing with me or even saying anything. He was staring at me as if I'd lost my ever-loving mind. I pushed against his chest to get my point across, but nothing moved. Dammit, he was not supposed to feel that good either—all hard, sinewy muscles. I quickly moved my hands back to my sides. "How soon can you leave?"
He slowly shook his head. "You know, they have doctors who can help you."
Eghhhhh. I slapped my hands on my hips. "I'm not crazy," I said between gritted teeth.
He cocked an eyebrow. "Well, I hate to tell you this, but I'm not going anywhere. I promised Grant I would be his best man, and that's exactly what I plan to do. I'm not sure what kind of problem you have with me, but you'll just have to get over it."
My anger began to boil. Get over it? I didn't think so. I knew I needed to calm down, though. I didn't want to do anything irrational.
Like pick up that piece of driftwood on the beach and hit him over the head. I could push his unconscious body into the ocean, and the tide would take him out, and the sharks would eat him. Problem solved.
What was happening to me? I wasn't a violent person—most of the time. The guy was pissing me off royally, though.
My eyes narrowed on him. "If you do anything to screw up this wedding, you will live to regret it," I warned and then marched toward the path that would lead to my hut. I had to think this through. Figure out what to do.
The first thing on my agenda was calling Lizzie and tell her about Kane. Oh my God, she was going to be completely devastated that he was here. She might even have a damn heart attack! Oh God, what would Grant do when he found out that Kane and Lizzie were hot and heavy in high school?
I took in a slow deep breath. No, we would get through this. Then we’d figure out what we were going to do.
Some wedding planner I was. I didn’t even know the best man was my best friend’s first love and that it had taken her months to get over him. His leaving had devastated her. I’m talking boxes and boxes of tissues. I could’ve made a fortune in the market buying stock in tissue. Lizzie had vowed never to love another like Kane.
I stomped inside my hut, letting the door slam behind me. That’s when it hit me.
I planted my hand on the wall as the room began to spin.
Oh, hell. What if she still had feelings for him? Kane looked even hotter than he had in high school. One look at him and she might fall hopelessly in love with him all over again. No! I couldn’t let that happen.
If only I could wake up and find out that this was just a bad dream.
Oh damn, this was going to be the worst wedding ever.