CRAZY FOR THE BEST MAN (Crazy in Love #2) is now LIVE!
Entertainment reporter Anna Blake strives to be the first to get the scoop on the city’s hottest celebrity gossip. But when the competition outs her as the long-lost sister of the bride in what’s been heralded as the wedding of the year, Anna’s forced to go undercover as a bridesmaid to find the scoop that just might save her job.
Best man Nick St. Claire hasn’t forgotten that Anna almost cost him his first election ten years ago. When she appears as a less-than-enthusiastic bridesmaid right before he’s set to announce his senate candidacy, he’s more than suspicious. To ensure the wedding—and his campaign announcement—goes off without a hitch, Nick makes a bargain with Anna: be the model maid of honor, and he’ll give her access to an exclusive story that’s sure to save her job.
But in between dance lessons, bridal showers, and football game fun, these longtime enemies might discover there’s something bigger to fight than each other, something a lot like…love.
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Excerpt of CRAZY FOR THE BEST MAN:
Good Lord. This was going to be a long week.
Nick St. Claire took the glass of whiskey the bartender poured him and strolled out to the courtyard of the Van Hollins estate in Napa, where tonight’s informal gathering was taking place. The attendees were sparse since the bride had wanted to keep things intimate to give the members of the bridal party—such as the bridesmaids and groomsmen, the readers and ushers—a chance to get reacquainted.
The only problem was, with so few people, finding a nice out-of-the-way spot to chill and not invite attention was out of the question. A problem that became apparent when he spied Janie’s bridesmaids already headed in his direction, one bridesmaid specifically whose gaze was set markedly on him. Sara DeWinters. Not just one of Janie’s oldest friends but also a woman who Nick had made the mistake of getting entangled with last year and had who he’d been trying to get himself permanently disentangled from ever since.
The woman couldn’t accept that things were over, a sentiment she shared with Nick’s mother, Kathryn St. Claire, who, since the breakup, had been reminding him of all the reasons he and Sara had been a perfect match. Reasons like her family’s political connections, not to mention their money and obvious social influence, all things that Kathryn esteemed above all others.
Nick wasn’t ready for this, wasn’t ready to have the complete and undivided attention of Janie’s very young, very superficial, and very single friends. Not when he didn’t have reinforcements from the other groomsmen to help allay their attention.
He turned his head, looking for any kind of distraction that would halt their approach. Where was Dax when he needed him? Probably off canoodling with his future bride, or maybe he’d decided to pick up the errant groomsman from the airport…
Wait a minute.
Nick’s gaze fell on a blonde standing over at the bar, watching the bartender pour her a glass of wine. He was almost certain that he hadn’t met her before. Last he’d heard, Janie’s fourth bridesmaid and maid of honor was currently laid up in the hospital after a wakeboarding disaster and wasn’t going to make it here at all.
Well, whoever the blonde was, she might be what he needed to hold off the three lemmings who were almost on him. Without a second to spare, Nick strode over, noticing the woman’s long, shapely legs, legs that told him she earned her figure not by starving herself on kale smoothies and raw almonds but through actual sweat. As she turned around, he noticed a few of the woman’s other attributes, like a pert nose, full, rosy lips, and clear, glowing skin.
Before he could second-guess his decision, Nick placed his hand on her arm, hoping that, should anyone be watching, they might assume they knew each other. Only, instead of mild surprise, the woman jumped a good inch at his touch before whirling to face him, her eyes blaring with fury.
Great. Add a well-deserved assault charge to what was sure to be a dreadful week.
“Excuse me,” the blonde sputtered as he carefully placed himself between her and the bridesmaids’ line of sight, attempting to minimize the damage of his ill-thought-out strategy.
“My apologies. I mistook you for…for someone else,” he said lamely, adding a grin that usually had women flustered and eager to return his smile. Not so with this one. In fact, from the fire in those bluish-gray eyes, he was betting that an apology alone was not going to suffice.
He glanced over his shoulder, noticing with some relief that the trio had stopped their approach and were instead keeping a careful eye on him and the mystery woman.
Nick turned back to find the blonde staring at him, only now her anger had turned to something closer to horror and her eyes had widened as if in recognition. People’s reactions when they realized who he was always varied to some degree. But he had to admit, this woman’s shock was anything but the usual happy surprise or curiosity he received. No, her eyes narrowed to near slits and her face had taken on a splotchy red color.
There was a quick flash of something that hit him, a memory that niggled at him. There was something familiar about her…
He studied her again, trying to figure out why she reminded him of someone. Her long blonde hair was a mix of dark honey and golden strands as it flowed around her shoulders, and her face, angry splotchiness aside, had a slight sun-kissed tone, as if she tried to remember to wear sunblock but forgot half the time. Her eyes were a little wider-set than current beauty standards dictated, giving her a more distinctive quality, and compelled him to reach further back into his memory, to a time when he’d found satisfaction at drawing her ire.
She still hadn’t spoken, although her mouth opened and closed as if she was struggling for words. He needed to try again. To dig for that natural St. Claire charm and put her at ease and assure her that he wasn’t some pervert. Despite the anger that still reverberated in her tense shoulders and pursed lips, she was definitely someone he thought he might want to get reacquainted with, someone who might make these next few days less onerous.
“I’m Nick. Nick St. Claire. And you are?”
She still didn’t respond, but her brows shot up and she gave him a look that seemed to tell him he shouldn’t have to ask. Before he could question her further, however, a high-pitched squeal drew both their attention to the small blonde blur in pink who was racing in their direction.
“You’re here!” Janie Van Hollins screamed before launching herself into the blonde’s arms.
Nick’s brother, Dax, followed his soon-to-be bride, a curious smile on his face as he watched the women’s reunion. The blonde stood stiffly under Janie’s embrace, quietly waiting for the tinier woman to disengage, which she eventually did with reluctance.
“To tell you the truth, I had some doubts that you were going to come,” Janie said, staring in wonderment at the woman. “Not that I could blame you, under the circumstances. The fact that you still came, after everything”—Janie fanned her hand in front of her face as if to ward off tears—“well, it means more to me than you know.”
“I’m happy that I was able to move some things around on my schedule to make it after all.” The blonde attempted to smile back, but the smile didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“Well, now that you’re here, I want you to meet this lovable, cuddly bear of mine,” Janie said in that nauseating baby talk she employed so often when she talked about Dax. “This is the man who, in four more days, is going to be my husband, Dax St. Claire. And this is Dax’s brother, Nick, our best man. Gentlemen, may I present my…my sister.”
Sister. That explained their similarities, at least in physical appearance. Nick recalled Dax mentioning something about a family fury a month or so back when it came out that Malcolm Van Hollins had had a love child stashed away that no one knew about.
But that still didn’t explain his sense of déjà vu. Was she a lobbyist? Had she been working on his rival’s campaign? Or could she be a friend of his mother?
“Anna’s a reporter for The Daily Rundown,” Janie burst in proudly. “You may have seen her byline—that’s the right word, isn’t it? Anna Blake.”
And in a flash, it all came back. Why he remembered this woman.
And why, if he had any sense, he’d take leave of everyone and run.
Ashlee Mallory is a USA Today Bestselling author of Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense, and Thrillers. A recovering attorney, she currently resides in Utah with her husband and two kids. She aspires to one day include running, hiking and traveling to exotic destinations in her list of things she enjoys, but currently settles for enjoying a good book and a glass of wine from the comfort of her couch.