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Matchmaker Cafe Series, Book 2
Worst New Year’s resolution…ever.
Of course, Cinderella Charming, C.C. to the world, had heard of “marriages of convenience.” After all, her parents had named her and her siblings after fairytale characters, even though she resembled one of Cinderella’s cute mice friends rather than a princess. She was also an avid romance reader.
But when her boss, the insanely handsome star quarterback and playboy Michael Campbell, proposed the fake marriage plan, her rational self screamed its objections. True, she’d be given a generous bonus when the marriage was annulled, so she could open her own restaurant. True, the fake marriage would help improve Michael’s image. True, she was in Scotland, one of her favorite places of all time. But C.C.’s main objection, and this was a big one, was that she feared she’d already fallen in love with Michael, and they would be spending New Year’s Eve together…alone.
Page Count: 178
Word Count: 40980
Church bells tolled the eight o’clock hour. The sound reverberated throughout the town, beckoning everyone to join in the celebration of Hogmanay. Young and old poured from their homes. The night was clear and crisp, a good omen to start the New Year, and for the moment C.C. felt safe. In the alley, she waited for Michael to arrange the yards of faded blue-and-black wool plaid Fiona had provided into a style that resembled a kilt.
They hadn’t heard the men from the tavern for almost half an hour. She hoped they’d given up the chase. With her back to Michael, she averted her gaze and looked to her left, where the alleyway led to the town. On her right, the alley emptied into a park-like setting. From her vantage point, the clearing could be anything—land set aside for the town’s use, complete with fairy trees, benches and flower beds, or the backyard of a rich merchant, or even a cemetery.
She heard Michael behind her, struggling with the volume of material. “Can I help?”
He mumbled, “No, thank you.”
She allowed her gaze to drift toward the park again. A short while ago she’d joked that he was different. He’d joked back that he attributed it to their traveling back in time like Dr. Spock in a Star Trek episode. It was more than a change of place or time.
Some people thought that if they could change jobs, move to a different city, or date someone new, their lives would be better. The reality was more complicated. Her mother had often said that no matter where you went you were still the same person, with the same hopes and fears. Change had to come from within.
Michael thought this experience was changing him, but C.C. had seen the changes before they left the States.
He’d started changing when he was researching Scottish history for the movie part he wanted to play. He may not have realized it, but he had gone above and beyond what she suspected most people would have done. It was as though he’d become addicted to learning something new, or that he’d spent his life starving and had just discovered a pantry filled with all his favorite foods.
Michael swore under his breath, something about if he couldn’t manage to belt the kilt in place, he’d walk out of the alley naked.
C.C. suppressed a giggle. “Are you sure you don’t need my help?”
“If you promise not to laugh.”
“I can’t promise anything.”
“Honesty. Fair enough.”
She turned slowly, expecting…well, she wasn’t sure what she expected. He had the wool fabric twisted loosely around his waist and draped over both shoulders. He held what looked like a death grip on the bunched fabric at his waist. “You seem to have the main idea,” she said encouragingly. “And you’re not naked.”
“I will be if I let go. I can’t get it to fit in place the right way.”
She bit on her lip to keep from smiling. “How can I help?”
“If you can reach my belt…”
C.C. picked up the belt from the Campbell kilt on the ground. “You have the plaid too bunched up. You’ll have to let go so I can readjust the fabric.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “That wouldn’t be a good idea.”
“We’ll go slowly, then.” C.C. reached up to slip the wool down over his left shoulder. “If I can pull this through…” His breath was warm on her skin as she slipped it around and down. “You have too much material around your waist. We need to smooth out the folds.”
Michael reached for her wrist. “I’ll do it. Can you hold this section on my right side?”
She felt her face flush as she ducked her head, grateful for the long curls that hid her face from his view.
“Better,” he said. “Now the belt. Once that’s done, I’ll take care of the sword and scabbard.”
She handed it to him, and he secured it in place. “I’m the one who’s done all this research, and yet you know how this type of kilt is worn. How is that possible?”
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