Lily Dean twirled the old-fashioned yellow number 2 pencil as she swung side to side in the leather office chair. She inhaled through her nose and glanced at the round clock on the wall for the thirtieth time in as many minutes.
Thirty minutes late.
Who did that? As far as she was concerned, only the devil.
Okay, now she was starting to sound like her time-obsessed sister, Taylor. Except, Taylor had really loosened the reins to her control since marrying Roman Wilson.
A fact that didn’t help Lily with her scheduling issues.
Pulling out her own planner, Lily furrowed her brow as she studied the carefully written appointment time and information.
Julie Aspen, 2:30 pm, client to be considered for matchmaking contest. TW
The TW stood for Taylor Wilson. The client had been a referral from Lily’s sister and not-so-new brother-in-law. Somehow the potential client knew Brock so it was considered a conflict of interest for the Wilson Matchmaking Services to take her on.
Knowing what Lily knew about Brock Wilson, she had no doubt it was a conflict of interest. She didn’t need to picture the good-looking cowboy to remember his charm or the way his eyes glinted with devilish flirting. He would flirt with a rock, if the rock had something he wanted.
Nostrils flaring, Lily leaned back in her seat, narrowing her eyes as her thoughts turned to the man who had a way with women and had no problem flaunting it.
He was charming – wait, she’d already said that, polite, hard-working, and had carried his family since his brother had left and his father had died. He could be a solid strength when he wanted to be. But none of that mattered when nine times out of ten, Lily heard about the broken hearts strewn around Montana and Wyoming and even into Idaho. Many of those hearts became Lily’s clients.
Instead of being frustrated with Brock, maybe she should send him a thank you fruit basket or something as a token of gratitude for all of the work he’d unwittingly sent her over the last few years.
She growled under her breath as she leaned forward again, bracing her forearms on the edge of the conference table. She’d be lying to herself, if she didn’t at least own the fact that she found him extremely attractive – but only in a physical, wow he’s gorgeous, kind of way.
She’d never date a guy like him. He was too… what was the word? Egotistical. Yes, that fit him to a T.
Lily took a deep breath. She couldn’t think about him. It wasn’t prudent. Especially when she was just wasting her time.
No, the person wasting her time was Julie Aspen. Maybe the woman didn’t actually want to be matched. The no-show wouldn’t be the first time someone had gotten cold feet about the process. Lily just needed to stop taking things so personally.
Julie wasn’t canceling on Lily exactly, but more like the whole process. Julie didn’t even know Lily. They’d never met. Taking things personally wasn’t going to help Lily’s nerves in the slightest. Or maybe Julie had found someone to love since making the appointment. Crazier things had happened.
Lily popped her knuckles, a bad habit she’d picked up from her sister Brooke and one she was constantly trying to stop. She shook her hands and glanced at the clock. Okay, five minutes. Julie was officially thirty-five minutes late. That had to be enough time to wait before calling it a flop.
Picking up her smart phone, Lily swiped the touchscreen device and pulled up Taylor’s number. She pressed call and lifted the phone to her ear, standing from the seat and packing up all of her items.
“Lily? What’s going on?” Taylor’s voice had an echoing effect.
Lily pulled the phone away from her ear, glanced at it and then put it back so she could hear. “Taylor? We might have a weird connection. I think I need to call you back.”
Taylor laughed, suddenly appearing at the ajar conference room door. She hung up her phone and shook her head. “No, I’m right here. But by all means, call me, if you need to.” She took up more space than normal with her overly pregnant belly leading the way wherever she went.
“Oh, you’re just a road apple.” Lily rolled her eyes, but didn’t fight the smile curling her lips.
Taylor huffed as she walked through the door, leaning back and pressing her hand to the side of her large stomach and the other to the small of her back. “I know you didn’t just call me a piece of horse poop. That just wouldn’t fit your ladylike demeanor.” Taylor winked at Lily and sank into the seat where the client would have sat. She heaved a massive sigh of relief and closed her eyes for a brief moment before opening them again and studying her sister.
“Of course, I called you that. I love you. If I didn’t call you names, you’d think I didn’t care.” Lily knitted her eyebrows together and pointed at the planner under her hands. “Taylor, do you know if Julie Aspen cancelled? She was supposed to be here at two-thirty and it’s already after three. I haven’t heard anything.”
“Um, I’m not sure. Let me text Roman. He might know something.” Taylor pulled her phone out, her fingers flying over the on-screen keyboard. When she finished, she set her phone on the table and leaned back, taking a deep breath. Her long hair had been braided back and left to trail down her shoulders.
“When are you due again? I can’t keep all of the dates straight.” Lily grinned as she sat down in the chair she’d just vacated. A few minutes with Taylor was exactly what she needed to eradicate the frustration with the no-show appointment.
“Two weeks. I feel like my skin is going to pop. Roman wants to buy the baby a horse. Can you believe it?” Taylor shook her head, but her smile neutralized the irritation in her words. “But honestly, he’s so excited. I just don’t think he understands that the baby won’t be ready to ride a horse on the day he or she is born.”
Lily shook her head, reclaiming the pencil in her fingers as she smirked. “Well, don’t be too surprised that everything is so new to him. You two are the only ones with babies on either side.”
Which was a huge reason hope had increased in so many of the Dean and Wilson family members. If one of them could find happiness, then why not the rest of them? And it wasn’t just one of them! That was the best part. It was two.
That gave everyone hope and Lily probably the most of all.
Lily and Taylor fell silent, both lost in thought. After a moment, Lily glanced up at her sister and pressed her lips together before asking, “Are you glad you stayed in Mistletoe?” Lily had asked her that exact question a few other times in the nine months since Taylor had decided to stay with Roman in their hometown. Her impromptu wedding had left the entire matchmaking season in an uproar with two matches instead of just the one at the end of the contest.
Taylor’s humor faded and her expression softened. She dropped her gaze to the table and appeared to give Lily’s question serious thought. After almost a minute of silence, she lifted her eyes to study Lily. “You know why I wanted to leave?”
Lily half-shrugged, almost sorry she’d asked. “No. Was it because you’re sick of our winters?” She tried to chuckle, but it came off more like a cough.
“Winters don’t help, that’s for sure. I almost left because I didn’t want to be here, in Mistletoe, while Roman lived here and moved on. I couldn’t stand the fact that he might find his happy-ever-after and it wouldn’t be me.” Taylor screwed her lips to the side.
Lily nodded. Would she ever love anyone that much? Most days it didn’t seem possible. She was a few years younger than Taylor and hoped she would find someone before she hit her sister’s age. That was a long time of loneliness ahead of her when she already had a bunch behind her. Lily cleared her throat, nodding. “I understand.”
But did she? How could she understand? She’d never been in love like Taylor had. Lily had never felt the bitter sting of being left at the altar. She’d also never been able to take her dreams with a possible suitor past the third date. The spark she longed for was never there.
“You know what I think I need?” Lily returned to packing up her meeting items. “I mean besides a Mexican hot chocolate?”
“Oh, that does sound good. It’s hard telling with you.” Taylor’s phone buzzed and she pulled the cell closer to where she could see it.
“I think I need someone who will push me. I need a challenge, you know?” Lily finished packing her items into a neat pile and tucked them into the blue milk crate she liked carrying her files around in. She’d tried a tote bag but her files were easily hidden and then she didn’t know what she had. Keeping them all in a crate kept things organized. Somewhat.
Taylor pursed her lips and cocked her head to the side. “Are you sure you’re supposed to be meeting with Julie today? Roman texted and said that Brock is meeting with her right now. I guess she just showed up?” Taylor texted something back and shook her head. “I’m sorry. I’m not sure why she would go back to him. He has said repeatedly that he isn’t interested in pursuing anything with her. Roman told me five times the job was a sure thing.”
“Wait, she’s meeting with Brock right now? Is it possible that she’s decided to work with the Wilsons?” Just thinking about Brock made Lily’s blood boil. She couldn’t focus on him. She refused to think past the moment at hand. “Do you think she set this up? What if she still has a thing for him?”
“Oh, she definitely does. The question is does Brock have feelings for her.” Taylor pushed her hands on the armrests of the chair. She held herself bent backwards at a slight angle to take the pressure off the front of her hips. Adjusting her shoulders, she winked at Lily. “Soon. I can’t wait to find out if we’re having a boy or a girl.”
Lily offered a distracted smile and watched as her sister waddled from the conference room. Brock was meeting with Julie right then. Had he found out about the meeting Lily had with the potential client? Maybe he’d called her in so he could pull business away from Lily. The Wilsons and Deans were the only matchmakers in Montana and as far as Lily was aware, the only competition for each other.
Or maybe Brock was jealous that Julie was trying to get matched to someone besides him. Lily wasn’t sure of Brock’s history with Julie, but Lily had no doubt he’d broken her heart and was now stringing the poor woman along.
Well, that wasn’t acceptable. Filled with righteous indignation both on her behalf and Julie’s, Lily jumped to her feet and grabbed her crate. Clutching the inset handles, she stopped by her office to drop the items off and grab her jacket.
September was a notoriously cranky month. One minute it was warm and eighty degrees and the next sleet poured from the skies in thirty-two-degree temperatures.
As Lily stepped out the front door, she blinked at the bright afternoon sunlight. Hooking her jacket over her arm, she swung it softly while she strode across the street and down the main thoroughfare to where the Wilson offices were located.
The distant sound of cars moving calmly through the town’s arterials wasn’t loud enough to be distracting or even unpleasant. Even the smell of the town of Mistletoe was rich with pine and holly. The small town had plenty of great traits to make it hard to want to leave, but Lily wasn’t getting anywhere either, much like her sister had felt.
At the Wilson offices, Lily set her jaw, tucking her chin as she pulled open the front door and stepped inside. The interior of the Wilson office space had a more professional ambience than the Dean offices. The Wilsons were all men except for their matriarch leader and they had a tendency to be more professional and less warm. One of the great things about the Dean Matchmaking Services was their feminine touch. Lily’s sister, Cari, had treats baking all the time in the kitchen of the renovated home they used for their offices. No one could say no to a well-made batch of brownies.
Roman glanced up from his position by the vending machine. His eyebrows raised. “Lily, what a pleasure seeing you here.” Normally the Deans kept to their offices while the Wilsons kept to theirs.
They had to share Mistletoe, but that didn’t mean they had to like it.
Ever since Roman walked out on Taylor on their wedding day, the Wilsons and the Deans had been in a horrible feud. Even with a truce of sorts since Roman and Taylor finally did get married, that didn’t mean it was easy to get over things that fast.
Tension was still high, but Lily smiled brightly as she lied through her teeth. “Hi, Roman. Where’s Brock’s office? I’m late for a meeting.” She’d have to apologize later. Calling Brock out for being a cad to his brother wasn’t appropriate when she was more than willing to do it to Brock’s face.
Roman narrowed his eyes but pointed mutely down the hall. He watched as Lily held her chin up and strode the direction he indicated.
She wasn’t sure what to expect. Images flashed through her mind of Brock leaning across his desk with an entire presentation for the matchmaking plan in full display out for Julie. Lily imagined storming in and finding him signing her to a contract.
She couldn’t let him do that. He couldn’t steal a potential client. Lily needed one. She didn’t need for Brock to destroy her plans.
Licking her lips, Lily approached the door emblazoned with Brock Wilson beneath a neat wood sculpture that depicted a horse and rider.
Did she knock? No. She wasn’t going to give them the opportunity to hide what they were doing. If they were going to sign a contract, then she wanted to see the evidence. Narrowing her eyes, Lily turned the handle and pushed the door open.
No matter what, her pride demanded that she fight for the job.