Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What's New?

Be My Hero by Nell Dixon
109 Pages

Nathalie Mayer is thirty-four. On the surface she is an attractive, happy, single, successful woman running her own bridal business. Despite her line of work and her obvious delight in other people’s weddings, including that of her twin brother, Nate. Nathalie has always declared that a settled relationship is not for her. There has only ever been one man whom Nathalie felt she could love.

Evan Davies is back in town after a six year absence. Last time he was here, he and Nathalie had tentatively begun to take their friendship to a different level. Now he’s home again and has the reason for his sudden departure from six years ago with him – his daughter, Polly.

Chapter One

Nathalie hurried over to the window as fast as discretion allowed, certain her eyes had played a trick on her. Around her, her twin brother’s wedding guests chattered and circulated on the dance floor. She focused on the large picture window and the man she thought she had glimpsed on the terrace outside.
“Nathalie, are you all right, dear?”
Her mother’s concerned tone snapped her out of her reverie.
“I’m fine. I thought — Never mind. I’ll just go and get a drink.” She picked up the skirt of her long, dark red velvet gown and headed toward the bar area. One of her brothers would be sure to know if the man she thought she’d seen in the garden was really at the reception.
“Hey, little sister,” Jerome, her older brother, called from the bar. Nate, Nathalie’s twin, stood next to him. Dressed in their dark formal wedding suits, their family resemblance appeared even more marked than usual, with their matching height, black hair, and piercing blue eyes. Jerome had more of a devil-may-care appearance, she thought. He had a reckless edge, even in wedding attire.
“You look flustered,” Nate observed, looking at her warm cheeks.
“Dancing always makes me thirsty.” She accepted one of the glasses of juice that stood amongst the flutes of champagne, on large silver trays that sat all along the bar.
“Thank you so much for arranging all this for us today, Tali. Jenni and I couldn’t have organised the wedding without you.”
Nathalie smiled at her twin’s use of her nickname. “Planning weddings is my job, and I’ve enjoyed every minute,” she assured him. “Although a little more notice would have been nice.”
“Has Jerome told you he ran into Evan in town yesterday?” Nate asked.
Nathalie took a big gulp of her drink, pressing her fingers hard against the glass so her hand wouldn’t betray her sudden trembling. “No, he didn’t mention it.” She was pleased her voice sounded cool and controlled, even if she didn’t feel that way.
“I met him outside the bank. I invited him to drop in to the party today if he had a chance.” Jerome had a teasing look in his eyes as he watched to see how she would take the information. All her brothers knew how she’d once felt about Evan.
“When was he last in town? It’s been a few years.” Nate placed his empty glass back down on the bar and, rather than waiting for an answer to his question, allowed himself to be steered off by his bride to greet some more guests.
Six years, Nathalie thought. In all the time Evan had been gone, she’d only heard the barest snippets of information. She didn’t even know if he had married or started a family.
“Look who I just found outside!” Barnaby, her youngest brother, called from the doorway.
The prickling of the hairs on the nape of her neck and an inner sixth sense warned her who she would see when she turned around.
“Hello, Nathalie.”
The sound of her name spoken by Evan’s cool, gravelly voice sent little butterflies of excitement skittering around in her stomach. She struggled to take a breath. “Evan,” she acknowledged.
He hadn’t changed much in the last six years, except he‘d gained a man’s frame, broad-chested and broad-shouldered. Small lines crinkled at the corners of his bright blue eyes, and his hair had been cropped in a new shorter style.
Jerome handed him a glass of champagne. “Glad you could make it. Have a drink.”
“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Where is the groom?” Evan looked around the crowded room.
“His bride spirited him off.” Barnaby helped himself to a drink.
“We’ll go hunt him down,” Jerome offered. He and Barnaby walked away, toward the dance floor, leaving her alone with Evan.
“So, how have you been?” he asked.
Nathalie swallowed. “Fine. Busy. You?”
“The same.”
Heat crept into her cheeks. This was ridiculous. She was thirty-four, not thirteen. He’d been gone all this time, and he could still make her blush like a teenager.
“I guess, now that Nate’s married, you’ll be next.” He took a sip of his drink.
“What gives you that idea?” She dated, yes, but not seriously. There had only been one man she had ever given her heart to, and he stood in front of her — six years after he’d walked out of her life without any warning.
“You and Nate are twins. You always did everything together, and you’re a beautiful woman. It seemed a natural assumption.” He shrugged.
“How about you?” Her gaze darted automatically to his ring finger. She wondered where he’d been and what he’d been doing whilst he’d been gone. There were a million questions she longed to ask.
“I’m single. I was married for a while.” His expression hardened, and the sudden ice in his gaze sent a chill along her spine.
“Oh. So what brings you back into town?” She decided to turn the conversation to a safer subject. That way she could ignore the inconvenient feeling of sweet relief that had swept through her when he’d said he was single.
“I’m visiting family. I’m looking for a house to buy, as I intend to settle back here.”
“I see.” Nathalie dropped her gaze and took a sip of her drink. Her mind worked overtime at his news.
“Evan!” Her brothers returned with Nate and Jenni.
Nathalie took advantage of her clan’s arrival to slip away and recover her composure. Just an hour ago, she would have sworn she was so over him. Now, after seeing him again, she wasn’t so sure. Nathalie never liked to feel unsure about anything.
If he moved back into town, it was inevitable she’d bump into him again. They had the same friends, had always moved in the same circles. He had been friends with her brothers for years, from when they were growing up. How would she cope with seeing him all the time?
Her mother, slim and chic in her pastel blue dress, beckoned to her from the other side of the dance floor. “Have you seen Jenni?”
“She’s in the bar with Nate. Evan Davies has just arrived.”
Her mother’s blue eyes, so like Nathalie’s own, surveyed her shrewdly. “How wonderful. I’d heard he’d come back. Jenni will need to go upstairs and change soon. I wondered if you could go and help her.”
Nathalie wondered why all of her family except her seemed to know Evan was back in town. Keeping her thoughts to herself, she pinned a smile on her face for her mother’s benefit. “Of course, I hadn’t realised the time. I’ll go and see if she’s ready.”
Her mother patted her hand, much the way she had done when Nathalie had been a small child in need of reassurance. “Thank you, darling.”


Evan made small talk with his old friends at the bar, but all his attention was on their sister—the once-so-familiar figure of a tall, slender woman in a dark crimson gown on the edge of the dance floor.
Six years before, he had been at another wedding, where Nathalie had been a bridesmaid and he’d been best man. He’d received the bombshell letter that same day, the day he’d left town without saying goodbye. That had been the last time he’d seen her, until today.
The first time they’d met, he’d been sixteen. He and Jerome had played hooky from school to go fishing. They’d snuck back to Jerome’s house to get some snacks and drinks when a tall, skinny schoolgirl with jet-black pigtails and flashing blue eyes had caught them in the kitchen. It had been pure bad luck that Nathalie had come home early for a dental appointment. Both he and Jerome had been grounded for a month for that escapade.
Nathalie rejoined the circle and spoke to her twin’s new bride. “Mum said to see if you wanted to get changed yet.”
Jenni nodded. “Give me a minute.” She headed back toward the dance floor.
Nate and his brothers turned to speak to another guest, and Evan found himself face-to-face with Nathalie for the second time that day.
“Here we are again.” He wished he’d said something less prosaic.
“Nate told me that you organised all of this.”
She seemed glad of the conversational opening. “I own a bridal shop, and one of the services we offer is wedding planning. Nate and Jenni only just got engaged at Christmas, so a Valentine’s Day wedding was a little short notice, but if I couldn’t help my own brother, well…” She shrugged.
Evan surveyed the faint flush along her high cheekbones. “You were a bridesmaid last time I saw you.”
Her expression changed, and for a moment, Evan saw the fourteen-year-old-girl from the kitchen all those years ago. “Yes, well, thanks for reminding me of that!” she snapped. “Excuse me. I have to help Jenni.”
He watched her go in search of Nate’s bride and cursed his own idiocy. Nathalie hadn’t needed to be reminded of the last time they’d met. Some things didn’t alter — he’d made a mess of things then, and he’d made a mess of them again now. That had been tactless, reminding her of how he’d treated her.
Absentmindedly, he took another sip of champagne and sighed as Nathalie continued to walk away through the crowd with Jenni and another bridesmaid.


Nathalie’s hands shook as she attempted to unfasten the tiny seed pearl buttons on the back of Jenni’s bridal gown.
The other bridesmaid offered to help. “Here, let me.”
Jenni craned her neck to see what her two helpers were doing. “It’s not like you to be all fingers and thumbs.”
“I’m sorry.” Nathalie picked up the clothes hanger, ready to help her friend remove her dress for hanging.
“He did look very nice.” Jenni stepped out of the pool of white silk.
Nathalie’s cheeks flamed. “Who? Evan’s just an old friend of Jerome’s.”
Two pairs of eyes looked at her with interest.
“I used to have a crush on him. Then we dated for a while before he left town a few years ago.” Nathalie bent to pick up the wedding dress and hide her hot cheeks.
“Methinks the lady doth protest too much.” Jenni laughed.
Nathalie placed the dress on the padded hanger and zipped up the protective cover with care. “We’d better hurry. The car will be here for you and Nate soon.”
“I’d better not keep my husband waiting. I have to toss my bouquet.” She smiled at Nathalie.
Nathalie ignored her comment about the bouquet. Her new sister-in-law meant well, but Nathalie had no wish to become a bride. Romance and fairy-tale weddings were for other people. She had resigned herself a long time ago to remaining the bridesmaid and never the bride. Hadn’t Evan just reminded her of that?
They found Nate waiting on the staircase for his bride, so the newlyweds could say their farewells before setting off on honeymoon. Nathalie joined her parents at the foot of the stairs with the other guests, as the final photographs were taken.
“I’m glad he’s finally happy,” her mother murmured.
“Me too.” Nathalie felt pleased her twin had managed to put his past behind him, but she couldn’t help feeling sad, knowing the same kind of happiness wasn’t destined to be hers.
“Okay, get ready!” Jenni called as she turned her back to the crowd and prepared to toss her bouquet.
Pure instinct brought Nathalie’s hand up in time to catch the posy of scarlet roses and green ferns as it came winging toward her. Her brothers whooped as she made a perfect catch, and the guests standing around her congratulated her.
“Your turn next, dear.” Her father patted her arm and moved off with the rest of the family to see the bridal couple leave.
Nathalie stood still for a moment and bent her head to inhale the deep, rich scent of the roses in her hand. Ridiculous superstition!
“Are you coming to see them off?” Evan’s voice, deep and masculine in her ear, made her jump. Lost in her own thoughts, she hadn’t realised he was still there.
“Of course!” She drew a deep breath. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap.”
“No, it’s okay. I think it’s me who owes you the apology for earlier.”
She forced a smile, her nerves feeling ragged and raw. “Then we had better put it behind us.” She took a step forward, ready to leave, only to freeze again as Evan slipped his arm through hers to escort her.
Her pulse thudded as he walked with her to where the wedding guests sprinkled more confetti and tied the last tin can onto the back of Nate and Jenni’s wedding car.
“Look after yourself, Tali, and thanks again for everything,” Nate whispered in her ear. He hugged her before climbing into the car next to his new bride.
As Nathalie struggled to keep her composure, Evan circled his arm around her waist in support. A tear slipped down her cheek. She dashed it away with her free hand. “I’m okay.”
“Let’s go inside. It’s cold out here,” Evan replied.
“The party will be ending soon. I should find my parents.” Nathalie peered into the golden pool of light that spilled from the open door of the reception area, out on to the driveway where she and Evan still stood.
“Have you got time for one dance?”
A shiver ran down her spine, and not from the cold. The gentle warmth of Evan’s hand on the small of her back and the musky scent of his cologne sent a tattoo of desire through her body.
“I don’t know.” She licked lips that felt dry.
“For old times’ sake?” he murmured. His gaze fixed on her face, and she couldn’t refuse when he continued to look at her the way she always dreamed he would. The same way he had used to look at her.
Dumbstruck, she nodded, and he led her back inside.
The band had switched to waltzes, since the evening had almost drawn to a close. Around them, couples slowly circled the dance floor. Nathalie’s feet moved to the rhythm of the music, all her senses on maximum alert. She tried to scramble her brain into gear as they danced. They had always been well matched as dance partners, and dancing with a man who was taller than her was a rare pleasure.
“Are you moving back to be near your family?” Evan’s mother and his sister still lived locally.
“Mum’s not getting any younger, and I’ve been offered a job here.” He twirled her around the corner of the dance floor.
Her heartbeat quickened with the beat of the music. “It sounds pretty definite, then?”
“I’ve some appointments to view properties tomorrow.”
The music stopped, and the bandleader started to make his announcements. Evan released her from his arms. “Thank you for the dance.”
“My pleasure.” Nathalie shifted her feet. What is the matter with me? She hadn’t felt so socially inept in years.
“I have to go. It was good to see you again. Could I give you a call sometime?”
“That sounds nice.” She struggled to sound cool and collected. Perhaps if she agreed to see him again, she would get some answers and maybe break this stupid spell he seemed to have cast over her.
“I’ll be in touch.” He leaned forward and brushed his lips against her cheek, sending heat into her skin.
Only when her mother called to her from the edge of the dance floor did Nathalie realise that Evan hadn’t asked for her phone number. She made her way across the room, cursing herself for her stupidity at falling for his charm all over again.
“Could you come and help me see everyone off home?” her mother asked.
“Of course.” She scanned the thinning crowd. A little part of her half-hoped Evan might still be there and realise his mistake.
Her mother moved to the door to say goodnight to some of Nate’s employees. “Jerome’s giving Evan a lift to his mother’s,” she added. “It was nice of him to call by.”
Nathalie’s heart sank. If he asked Jerome for her number, she would be the subject of merciless and annoying teasing from her brothers. Being the only girl in a family of brothers meant that any man who showed any interest in her was subjected to an interrogation the Spanish Inquisition would have taken pride in.
The last little group of guests departed with hugs, kisses, and pieces of wedding cake.
“You will still come to dinner tomorrow, won’t you?” her mother asked as she sank onto a nearby armchair and slipped off her high-heeled patent leather shoes.
“If the offer’s still good,” Nathalie teased.
“Good? You and Nate have always been so close, being twins. I don’t want you to feel lonely, now that he’s got Jenni.”
Nathalie sighed. She would miss being able to call Nate at any time, now that there was someone else to consider. “I’ll be fine.”
“Mmm.” Her mother didn’t sound convinced.
“Really, Mum. I’m quite happy living on my own.” She knew her mother would love for her to move back home, but Nathalie loved her little townhouse, with its tiny garden and modern styling. She also valued her independence.
“Are you still seeing that young doctor you were dating?”
“I only saw him a couple of times.” She leaned on the top of her mother’s chair and affectionately kissed her grey hair. “It wasn’t serious.”
“It never is, darling.” She heard the note of reproof in her mother’s voice.
“Mum, I told you I’m fine. I’m not like Nate. I like being single. I’m having fun.” She wondered if she would begin to believe it, if she told herself that often enough.
Her mother squeezed her hand. “Oh, sweetie, I just want you to be happy. You know that.”


Evan watched from his mother’s front door as the red taillights of Jerome’s car pulled away. It had been good to meet up with his old friends. It had been even better to see Nathalie again. He turned the key and let himself into the darkened house, trying not to make a noise.
“Is that you, Evan?” His mother appeared from the kitchen, a china mug in her hand. She had changed into her nightwear.
“Yes. I thought you’d be in bed.”
“I just got up to make a drink and to check on Polly.” His mother smiled at him.
“Is she all right?” His heart jumped. If anything had happened while he’d been gone, he would never forgive himself.
His mother hastened to reassure him. “She’s fine. I heard her cough, but she’s okay now.”
“I’ll go up.”
Evan crept upstairs and pushed open the door to his daughter’s room. His pulse settled when he saw her eyes shut tight in sleep, her small face flushed and healthy in the soft glow of her nightlight. Relieved, he closed the door and headed for his room. Polly had been the both the joy and worry of his heart since the day she’d been born. Now that he had sole charge of her care, he worried about her ill health all the time.

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