Authors: Judy Christenberry
Judy Christenberry has been writing romances for fifteen years because she loves happy endings as much as her readers. Judy quit teaching French recently and devoted her time to writing. She hopes readers have as much fun reading her stories as she does writing them. She spends her spare time reading, watching her favorite sports teams and keeping track of her two daughters. Judy’s a native Texan, but now lives in Arizona.
HARLEQUIN AMERICAN ROMANCE
579—WHO’S THE DADDY?
612—WANTED: CHRISTMAS MOMMY
626—DADDY ON DEMAND
701—IN PAPA BEAR’S BED
726—A COWBOY AT HEART
735—MY DADDY THE DUKE
744—COWBOY COME HOME
773—ONE HOT DADDY-TO-BE?
777—SURPRISE—YOU’RE A DADDY!
785—THE LAST STUBBORN COWBOY
817—THE GREAT TEXAS WEDDING BARGAIN
842—THE $10,000,000 TEXAS WEDDING
867—RENT A MILLIONAIRE GROOM
When three best friends need advice on finding that perfect love match they turn to the wisest relationship book around…
2001 WAYS TO WED
You’ve probably dreamed about your wedding since you were a girl. Was your someday wedding a lavish event fit for a princess, or an intimate, candlelit ceremony at a town-square church? You likely imagined a dress to die for and a ring with endless glitter. What song would mark your first dance as man and wife?
Back then, the wedding was of more interest than the
. As a woman, your feelings about the opposite sex have come a long way from “icky”—you like men! So much, in fact, that you’d like to spend your life with one.
This book offers rock-solid advice about getting on the path to a happy marriage. First, you’ve got to stop treating the dating scene like a grab bag, taking the first “prize” you get your hands on. You’re a beautiful, talented, giving woman—and there’s an equally wonderful man out there for you. And with 2001 WAYS TO WED, you’re sure to find—and marry—him!
Elise Foster paused outside the front window of The Prickly Pear, spotting her two best friends through the plate glass.
The three of them were so different. Phoebe was a tall, beautiful blonde, the kind of woman men noticed. Not that they could ignore Daisy, with her auburn hair and vibrant smile. Elise considered herself to be average in looks compared to the other two, but tonight she had the answer to their problem.
With a pleased smile, she swung open the door and entered their favorite meeting place, a café and bar near Mesa Blue, the condominium complex where they all lived. “Sorry I’m late,” she said by way of a greeting.
“No problem,” Phoebe said with a grin. “We’ve been looking for potential candidates.”
“And?” Elise asked, wondering if her solution might not be needed.
Daisy didn’t smile. “Nothing. No one.”
“Daisy, maybe you’re being too…too choosey,” Phoebe said gently. “You know, there really aren’t any Prince Charmings out there. Just ordinary guys.”
Daisy stared her friend down. “Maybe not, but he should at least make me want—want him.”
“She’s got you there,” Elise agreed. Her friend had recently visited her doctor. After suffering from endometriosis for years, Daisy had to get pregnant in the very near future if she was ever to have a child. And she desperately wanted a baby.
That’s why Phoebe and Elise were trying to help her, in spite of their own reluctance to march down the aisle. So far they’d had no luck.
Elise put a package on the table. “I have a solution.”
Her friends stared at the small shopping bag and then at her.
Daisy leaned forward. “I had someone a little taller in mind, Elise.”
Elise grinned in return. “That’s the solution to
the man, silly, not the man himself.”
“Whew, that’s a relief,” Phoebe said with a chuckle. “I thought maybe you’d found a store named Daddys Are Us, or something.”
“I wish I had. It would make things easier. No, I stopped by the bookstore on the way here.”
Her friends rolled their eyes.
“Like that’s unusual,” Phoebe muttered.
Ignoring them, Elise pulled a book from the bag. “Ta-da!”
Both women leaned closer, staring at the title,
2001 WAYS TO WED.
“You’re kidding, right?” Phoebe demanded. “You bought one of those books that tells you never to go out without your makeup? To learn how to
cook gourmet meals and always agree with whatever he says?”
“No, this book is different. It’s—it’s sensible.”
Daisy pulled the book from Elise’s grasp and opened it.
“Well?” Phoebe asked as she leaned over to look, too.
“It does seem to be practical. It says to smile a lot. To be positive. To think good thoughts about yourself.” Daisy chewed on her bottom lip as she studied the words.
Elise noticed several men with their attention fixed on Daisy, clearly intrigued by her. That was why the entire campaign seemed ridiculous. Men wanted Daisy, but so far Daisy hadn’t come up with a man she wanted.
Phoebe had suggested she and Elise help by introducing any men they knew. Unfortunately, Elise didn’t know many men. She’d sworn off them a long time ago. And the only man in the Foreign Language Department at Arizona State University where she taught was Herr Gutenberg. At 5 foot 6 inches, with no hair, the 60-year-old wasn’t the man for Daisy.
Their favorite waiter, George, arrived at the table. “Hey, Elise, what can I bring you?”
“A diet cola, George. I’ve got to keep a clear mind tonight.” That was a running joke, since Elise always ordered a diet cola.
“Aha, big doin’s this evening?”
“Yep. We’re on a search.”
George, assuming she was joking, said, “Well, if you find the meaning of life, let me know.” Then he took their orders and headed for the kitchen.
When they were alone once more, Elise said, “We’ll all three study this book. Surely, then, we’ll be able to find the perfect candidate for Daisy.”
“And maybe for both of you, too,” Daisy added, a hopeful smile on her face.
“No, thank you,” Phoebe and Elise said together.
They both laughed. Then Phoebe added, “Some people aren’t meant to be married, sweetie. I’m one of those.”
“And I have my career to think of, you know,” Elise added. “No, we’ll help you, but we’re not interested in husbands.”
Elise Foster hung up the phone and ran a hand frustratedly through her hair. Her mother was going to drive her crazy. As the eldest of seven sisters, Elise had lived through five weddings featuring her sisters. Now Sharon, the baby, was getting married.
Her mother was concerned about Elise’s old-maid status. And she’d urged her other daughters to talk to Elise about her solitary state, also. It seemed at least one of them called every day.
The situation hadn’t been helped when she received a wedding invitation in the mail yesterday from her ex-fiancé.
Their engagement had ended twelve years ago, at the end of Elise’s senior year in college. She’d discovered Richard wasn’t interested in her, just in a good hostess for his blossoming career. She, of course, wasn’t expected to have a career. It might interfere with his.
Even the fact that this was his second wedding didn’t settle her stomach. Nor did the fact that she didn’t want a husband.
But she wanted a fiancé badly.
That thought had been running around her mind for several days. A fiancé—temporary, of course—would get her sisters and her mother off her back. And she wouldn’t feel she had to justify choosing to be alone every time she was introduced to someone new at her sister’s wedding.
If she had a best friend, a hunk, hanging around, she’d ask him to do her a favor and pretend for a few days that he couldn’t live without her.
But all her friends were female.
With a sigh she settled back in her chair. Her gaze lit on the book she’d bought,
2001 WAYS TO WED.
If she were searching for a real husband…but she wasn’t. She had kept the book, however, to study it before she passed it over to Phoebe.
Maybe she should “hire” a fiancé. But that would mean going to an escort service. She’d heard those places were…distasteful. Besides, she wanted someone who would draw envy from her sisters. She wanted Prince Charming.
She picked up the book and idly flipped through it. She’d already read it several times. Then, suddenly, she sat upright in her chair. Of course. Why hadn’t she thought of that before?
The chapter entitled “Don’t Forget Your Neighbors” had given her an idea. She didn’t have any neighbors at home who would do. But at work, that was another matter. ASU had an excellent Drama Department. She could hire a starving actor to be her fiancé.
She hurried from her office. One of her fellow professors, Dr. Grable, had worked with the Drama Department last semester when they’d been producing
one of Molière’s plays. Maybe she could recommend someone.
Several hours later, after teaching her two o’clock class and delicately questioning Cecille Grable, Elise took a deep breath and headed for the Drama Department.
Cecille’s response kept playing in her mind.
“Well, if you’re looking for what the young ladies today call a hunk, I’d recommend Bobby Dillon. He’s a teaching assistant, a little older than the college students, but he grabs the eye. If one is interested in such things.”
Cecille, nearing retirement age, had a twinkle in her eye that told Elise even
was still interested in such things.
Elise opened the door to the semi-dark auditorium and slid into the last row of seats, hoping her eyes would adjust quickly to the dim light. On stage, a number of students were going through their lines.
How was she going to identify the young man? And heavens, she hoped he didn’t look too young. There were several handsome young men on stage, but—
“Repeat that line. I couldn’t hear it at all.”
The deep, silky voice that gave the command came from the center of the auditorium. Elise hadn’t noticed the man slumped down in his chair.
The voice alone made him perfect for her needs. He could read the telephone directory and she’d be enthralled. No wonder he was in the Drama Department. He had a great future ahead of him.
Of course, she also hoped he was handsome. But Cecille had said—
The house lights came up and the man stood. Tall,
broad-shouldered, trim. So far so good. Elise quickly rose and hurried down the aisle, determined to catch him before he moved to the stage and they had an audience.
“Mr. Dillon?” she called softly.
He’d just reached the end of the row of seats and he spun around, as if startled. With a frown, he replied, “Yes?”
“May I have a word with you?”
He didn’t look any too happy, so she quickly added, “It’s about a job.”
He stared at her, and she felt her cheeks flush. She wasn’t used to such concentrated interest. He began, “The normal channels—”
“It’s—it’s personal. I mean, I don’t need you to appear on stage, but—it’s rather difficult to explain. I’ll be glad to buy you a cup of coffee while I try to make it clear. I haven’t figured out how much to offer you, but I’m sure we can come to an agreement.”
His surprise didn’t make sense, unless it was caused by his pride. “Why, yes. Please don’t be embarrassed. I understand acting jobs aren’t too plentiful unless you’re in Hollywood.” He continued to stare at her. “You are Bobby Dillon, aren’t you?”
His eyes seemed to widen. Then, after a quick look over his shoulder, he said, “Yes, that’s me. I’m—I’m Bobby Dillon.”
And Cecille had been right. He was perfect. “If you don’t want to go to the Student Union, there’s a coffee shop a couple of blocks over. Shall I meet you
there in—” she paused to look at her watch “—fifteen minutes?”
“All right,” he agreed.
She stuck out her hand to seal the agreement, almost afraid he wouldn’t show. “I’ll see you there.”
“Yes,” he agreed.
She could feel his gaze on her as she walked out of the auditorium, and for the first time in her life she wished she had Phoebe’s knockout looks.
She wasn’t much of a match for the Prince Charming she’d just found.
at the young woman walking away. Her neat figure would attract almost any man, but it was the anxious expression in her green eyes that had caught his attention.
That and the offer of a job.
He chuckled, a sound not often heard of late. There hadn’t been a lot to laugh about. Which explained why he was hanging out on campus, visiting his brother, the apparently famous Bobby Dillon.
“Who was that?” Bobby asked, coming up behind him.
“I’m not sure.”
Bobby shrugged. “Well, thanks for helping me out. I was pretty sure Sandy wasn’t projecting, but I needed to be on stage to keep the pace going.”
“Glad to be of assistance.” James was barely following Bobby’s words. He couldn’t stop thinking about the woman. She wasn’t a student—not dressed in that suit. Her light brown hair had been pulled back with a clasp, small gold earrings on her ears. Nothing flashy, suggestive or even inviting.
The opposite of Sylvia, his ex-wife, thank God.
“So, I’ll see you later?” Bobby asked, turning back toward the stage. “Or you’re welcome to hang around for the next class, if you want.”
“Uh, no, thanks, I’ve got—got some things to do. See you later.”
Bobby called an agreement over his shoulder, leaving James free to concentrate on the mystery woman.
Her request had seemed really important to her. Of course, he knew it was unfair to let her think he was Bobby. After he heard her offer, he’d probably have to confess his lie. But just for a while, for an hour, he could be someone other than James Dillon, wealthy businessman, pursued by women all over Arizona.
Lately, being James Dillon hadn’t been much fun.
So dressed in jeans, tennis shoes, a short-sleeved knit shirt with the shirttail hanging out, he’d come to see Bobby.
He checked his watch. He’d have to hurry to make the fifteen-minute deadline. And it suddenly seemed important to find out exactly what Miss Green Eyes wanted.
Because he was a sucker for green eyes.
LISE HAD GONE
straight to the coffee shop, needing time to pull herself together and go over her proposal. The man was perfect, and she didn’t want to mess things up. Now that she’d seen him, the half-baked plan had become a necessity.
Her sisters would die. He was handsome, as Cecille had said—but there was more. He carried an air
of authority that commanded attention. Her thoughts flew to her ex-fiancé, Richard. He’d be apoplectic with jealousy.
That thought pleased her, even as she acknowledged its pettiness. Why Bobby hadn’t been discovered professionally yet, she didn’t know. But she could predict a brilliant future for him in Hollywood.
Something caused her to look up, and she almost forgot to breathe. He stood by the table, waiting for her to invite him to join her. “Oh, hi!” she said, realizing she sounded as breathy and enthralled as a freshman girl talking to the senior football star.
She cleared her throat. “Won’t you sit down?”
That was better, more professional.
He smiled, and she had to take another deep breath. She figured his value just doubled.
“Thanks. You know me, but I haven’t met you before, have I? What’s your name?”
Her cheeks flamed. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I was intent on getting you to listen to me. I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Dr. Elise Foster, French professor at the school.”
“I’m delighted to meet you.”
“Thank you, Bobby,” she said, letting out her pent-up breath. He looked older and somehow more sophisticated than the college students. But he was a teaching assistant, she remembered, so he had to be in advanced graduate studies.
He frowned, and she wondered what she’d said wrong.
“Would you mind calling me James? Bobby is a stage name. Unless I need it for the job you’re offering.”
“Of course, James. I mean, it won’t be necessary if you— Yes, that’s fine.”
The waitress appeared beside the table, distracting them. Elise ordered a diet cola, but James opted for coffee.
“Do you want anything to eat? A piece of pie, French fries, a hamburger?” she offered. After all, actors were notoriously broke. Maybe he hadn’t eaten in a while.
“No thanks, just coffee.”
As soon as the waitress left, he leaned forward, loosely clasping his hands together on the table.
She loved his hands. Well-tended, the fingers were long but strong, powerful. She also noticed he wore no wedding ring. She hadn’t even thought to ask about that.
“You’re not married, are you?” she asked hurriedly.
One dark eyebrow rose over clear blue eyes. “This…offer is getting more interesting by the minute.”
She blushed again. “No! I didn’t mean— It might complicate things if— Never mind.”
“No, I’m not married.”
“Oh, good.” At least he hadn’t run out of the coffee shop in horror. She wasn’t managing to sound as in control as she’d planned, but he was still here.
“Why does it matter?”
“Well, I told you the job was—was personal. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, but I need an escort.”
That fascinating brow rose again. “I can’t believe you have difficulty finding an escort, Dr. Foster.”
“Um, make it Elise. It’s not— I don’t date much.”
“Your choice, I’m sure.”
That was flattering, but considering all the weeks they’d worked trying to find a man for Daisy, she wasn’t sure it was accurate. The thought of Daisy made her feel guilty. Should she introduce her friend to Bobby—James? No, an actor wasn’t in a stable job situation. That wouldn’t do at all for a prospective father.
That rationalization made her feel much better.
“Are we talking about a class reunion?” he guessed. “I’ve heard of people taking pretend partners to those things to impress their classmates.”
He was taking everything very well, but Elise hated the conversation. She would never do that, lie to impress someone. That had been Richard’s standard M.O.
But that’s what you’re doing, isn’t it? a small voice inside her asked.
No, I’m lying to get some peace from my family.
She needed to make sure that James understood that.
“It’s not a reunion.” She licked her suddenly dry lips. “You see, I come from a large family.”
She blinked, surprised by his response. “Don’t you have brothers and sisters?”
“One brother. But there’s eleven years difference between us, so it was almost like being an only child.”
“Oh. Well, I guess there are advantages to a large family, though some days it’s hard to remember them.”
He smiled again, and she figured he’d make his
fortune on the basis of his smile alone. Or his eyes. His Paul Newman blue eyes crinkled slightly at the corners.
“Um, yes, well, I have six sisters and one brother.”
“So there are eight of you. That’s quite a large family these days.”
She felt as if she was babbling, and she’d had everything planned out so rationally. “Yes,” she agreed, and clamped her mouth shut.
That eyebrow again. He looked at her, waiting for her to continue.
“Sharon, my baby sister, is getting married soon.”
“The youngest? How old is she?”
“Twenty-two. She finished college in December.”
He frowned, and she caught her breath. “You and your sisters must’ve been born close together because you don’t look much older.”
He was good with the flattery. She supposed it must be his stock-in-trade. “I’m thirty-three. My brother is older.”
“And you already have your doctorate? I’m impressed. Did you study in France?”
“Yes, at the— Never mind,” she hurriedly said. If she wasn’t careful, she’d get distracted and never tell him what she really wanted.
“You want to stick to the subject?” he asked, smiling again, a twinkle in his eye.
With a sigh, she said, “Yes, please. This is difficult enough as it is.”
“To ask me to escort you to your sister’s wedding? That’s not asking much. I’ll be glad to take you.”
Elise seriously considered accepting his offer. Then she could tell him just before the wedding that she actually needed him to appear to be more than just her date—but that would be wrong.
With another sigh, she said, “Thank you, but that’s not exactly what I’m asking.” She cleared her throat and tried again. “I’m asking you to be my fiancé.”