Blurb: Matchmaker extraordinaire Molly Matthews is an expert in love, but her skills are put to the ultimate test when international heartthrob Rory Campbell waltzes into her office.
Molly Matthews knows everything there is to know about love. She should too, she runs the most exclusive marriage bureau in town. So why, then, is her own love life a complete disaster area?
When Rory Campbell, the international film star and hell-raising playboy, turns up at Molly’s office, she can’t believe he’s looking for a wife. Despite her better judgment, Molly agrees to help Rory in his quest, but all her attempts at finding him the perfect woman are met with disdain from her trickiest customer to date.
Molly is furious that her professional integrity has been compromised and she’s allowed her personal feelings to get in the way of a business relationship.
When photos of Rory appear in the press with Emma D’Santi, a beautiful pinup and the only woman Molly suspects Rory has ever loved, she wonders if Rory is wasting her time and playing with her heart.
Can Molly still find Rory the woman of his dreams while putting her own burgeoning emotions to one side and hanging on to what’s left of her frazzled heart?
That feeling, delicious though it was, was short-lived. By the next morning, the fizz had fallen decidedly flat and her stomach was heavy with regret. What an idiot she’d been, acting like a love-struck fan. Rory would be used to women fawning over him, but she should never have let her professionalism slip. Admittedly, she’d been caught by surprise. She’d expected to come back from the wedding to do some light admin work before heading home. Not to find one of the country’s most eligible bachelors making himself at home in her office. The champagne, the wonderful wedding, her flirty high heels had put her in a frivolous mood and she’d been unnecessarily snarky and confrontational with her visitor. Thinking about it, she wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d walked away, taking his business with him. Instead, he’d managed to manoeuvre her into a dinner date, which wasn’t her usual way of conducting matters at all! Clearly a man like Rory was used to being in charge, but if their business relationship had any hope of succeeding, then he might need reminding that, this time, she would be taking the controls.
At least tonight would be a chance to put things straight. To get their relationship back on a proper standing. Rory Campbell needed a wife and if there was one thing Molly was good at, it was bringing people together. She always had been. On the playground, she’d acted as mediator when her friends fell out, as a teenager she’d relished being the go between, passing on love notes between the boys and girls and when she started work in PR, building up an enviable address book overflowing with contacts, she’d eagerly put likeminded people in touch if she thought they could help one another. A natural people person, it was her knack for picking out potential love matches among her friends that brought her the most satisfaction and when a friend suggested she put her skills to good use by setting up her own marriage bureau, she didn’t need any persuading.
Rory was simply another client. In need of her help.
* * * *
She frowned at her reflection in the mirror. What was she thinking? Red lipstick! It clashed horribly with her hair. With the back of her hand, she wiped it away and chastised her reflection with a shake of the head. She didn’t usually take so much trouble over her makeup, so why was it bothering her so much today?
And if that was the case, if Rory was just another client, why was she feeling so uncertain and giddily nervous, like one of those love-struck teenagers she’d proved such a help to in the past?
Get a grip, she told herself. With the lipstick gone and the high heels replaced by a sensible pair of black brogues, she headed off to meet Rory. Plain black trousers and a cream caramel blouse completed the look. She only hoped she looked as inconspicuous as the restaurant, she mused, as the cab pulled up in an exclusive West End street and she gazed up through the window. There was no clue to the restaurant name outside, just heavily bronzed windows with No. 18 etched on the glass in fancy italics. Treacherously, her heart pulsed rapidly in her chest. She took a deep breath as the door swung open and she was greeted by the debonair maître d’.
“Miss Matthews. Welcome. Let me take your jacket. Mr. Campbell is here and waiting for you. I’ll show you the way.”
Molly startled at the prompt attention, wondering whether he’d been lying in wait for her. She stifled a giggle as she followed him, immediately regretting her choice of clothes as she took in the splendor of the restaurant. She felt dowdy and drab against the understated elegance of the oak-paneled room. Individual booths suffused in soft lighting gave the place an intimate and cozy atmosphere. Single orchids adorning each table added an exotic touch. “Molly, how lovely to see you again.” Rory stood and took hold of her hand, grazing her fingertips with the lightest of kisses. It was a ridiculously over-the-top gesture yet heartwarmingly chivalrous at the same time. Her body responded, desire surging in her chest, as his gaze ran the length of her body. “You look beautiful,” he whispered in her ear, her whole body turning to mush.
“Thank you.” She sat in her seat, trying hard to hide her discomfort. She knew Rory was only being polite, but she wished he hadn’t made the comment. She looked all manner of things, neat, presentable or smart, but beautiful wasn’t one of them. Growing up with a fashion model for a mother and an older sister, Natalie, who had inherited the gorgeous gene, she knew exactly where she stood on the beautiful scale.
The maître d’ hovered, presenting a bottle to Rory for his approval.
“I took the liberty of ordering champagne. You mentioned it was your favorite. Mine too.” He grinned conspiratorially. “Besides, who needs an excuse to crack open a bottle?”
Molly cringed. She’d obviously been far too indiscreet the other day. So much for her sticking to the orange juices tonight.
“Lovely,” she said, watching helplessly as the bubbles filled her glass, before instinctively reaching out and taking a sip just to calm her nerves. Keeping company with a screen heartthrob twice in the space of a couple of days was playing havoc with her peace of mind.
She’d interviewed dozens of eligible men in the course of her work, all handsome, intelligent and charismatic, but not once had she allowed herself a spark of attraction to any of them. Not once had her legs been reduced to a wobbly mess as hers were now moving restlessly beneath the table. Not once had she found it so difficult to construct a simple coherent sentence in a man’s presence. Yet tonight, with Rory looking more gorgeous than ever in chinos and blue chambray shirt that offset the dark hue of his eyes perfectly, she was struggling with all of those things and more.
“I hope you’re hungry.” Rory surveyed the menu. “The rack of lamb is excellent, as is the steak Marsala. But everything is reliably good, so go for whatever you fancy.”
Molly tried hard to ignore the sensation that this was feeling more like a date with each passing moment.
About the author: Jill Steeples lives with her husband, two children and a high maintenance English Pointer called Amber in a lovely house surrounded by Monkey Puzzle trees in a small market town in the UK. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with family and friends, and enjoys reading (of course!), films, musical theatre, walking, baking and eating cakes and drinking wine!
Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and women’s magazines around the world and she is the author of four romantic comedy novels.