Title: The Sweetheart Kiss
Author: Cheryl Ann Smith
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Pub Date: May 9, 2017
Jess Lucas works hard at the all-female PI firm Brash & Brazen, and after a brush with death, she’s determined to play hard too—preferably with a certain detective on the Ann Arbor police force…
Jess was stuck at a frenemy’s wedding, playing bridesmaid in a mustard-yellow monstrosity, when chaos erupted. First the bride’s ex tried to stop the wedding. Then someone really put a damper on the big day by sending a bullet through a stained glass window and into one of the groomsmen. At least her ugly dress came in handy to stop the bleeding . . .
While the poor guy is rushed to the ER, Jess gets grilled by a gorgeous cop who’s not thrilled to learn she’s part PI and part pit bull. But he has to admit she’s highly observant . . . and he observes that she’s pretty hot, too.
The thing is, Jess was walking up the same aisle as the victim, and Sam suspects she was the real target. It’s more than professional duty that makes him want to protect her—if he doesn’t arrest her first for interfering in his investigation . . .
There was one thing guaranteed to get Jess Lucas through a wedding that she didn’t want to be in, with a bride she intensely disliked, and a headache that had spiked through her skull the moment she slipped the hideous bridesmaid dress over her head: Alcohol.
The crystal clear liquid called to her with a sweet siren song from within the bottom of her oversized tote bag. There had been speculation among her friends that Amelia Earhart— and aircraft—could be found in the tote along with Bigfoot and extinct dodo birds, if the right team of explorers took on the search. Laying that rumor to rest would have to wait until she finished soaking her throbbing brain with fermented potatoes and ethanol.
Jess was certain a quick dash into the changing room wouldn’t be noticed as the groom hadn’t yet taken his position at the altar. Maybe the clueless sap had wised up and was now making a run for the Ohio border.
No luck. She caught a glimpse of him talking to the minister and smiling. She didn’t know him well, but felt sorry for the guy. He was so dumbstruck by love that he couldn’t see past the big teeth and enhanced breasts to the character within his future wife.
But that wasn’t Jess’s problem. The ceremony was not to start for three minutes and she was quick, despite a slight buzz from previous liquor shots. Without any impediments to block her path, she could get to the bride’s room, down the 1.5 ounces of vodka left from a raid on the minibar during a trip to Vegas last summer, and be back in line before anyone noticed her missing. She just had to shake off groomsman number three.
She’d brought a variety six pack of those little booze bottles, knowing that in order to survive the wedding of Mandy Mae Smith—soon to be Jones—she’d need liquid courage.
Not much of a drinker, she’d managed to chug three bottles already, but her duties had kept her from the fourth.
The white crinoline along the bodice of the wide fifties-prom-dress inspired bridesmaid dress was already rubbing off the top layer of skin on her left arm pit. By the time the evening came to a thank-God-it’s-over close, she intended to be ripping drunk and naked with a groomsman in a vestibule closet somewhere. After all, wasn’t a single woman entitled to be cliché at least once in her life?
“Er, what?” Jess looked way up at tall groomsman number three,
Dodger Drake. Yes, that was his name. His fake tanned orange face grinned down from a foot above her, his teeth so white that she became convinced he ate, slept, and probably had sex while wearing teeth whitening trays.
“It’s time to line up,” Dodger said and his gaze dipped unapologetically to her modest cleavage pushed up under her chin by the bone-corset bodice of the dress.
Gawd, she hoped that Dodger was a nickname and not some sick joke his parents had heaped on their innocent baby to toughen him up on the playground.
By the way he was measuring her cup size, he was clearly angling to be her next sexual misadventure. Heck, her first sexual misadventure. She was too smart to jump into anything without weighing the pros and cons beforehand.
For the last several very long weeks, she’d been weighted down by gloom over a very serious health scare. After getting good news, she’d taken a look at her life and wasn’t happy with what she saw reflected back at her.
Outside of work, she’d been kind of going along without much purpose. Her social life was boring and she hadn’t had an adventure since she and her friends had been kicked off a bus and almost eaten by buzzards.
She was healthy now. It was time to start living.
Perhaps she should do something reckless.
She’d have to make a plan.
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Cheryl Ann Smith became hooked on romance at age fourteen when she stayed up all night to read The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Her own writing journey happened much later, when one afternoon she ran out of books and decided to write her own. Previously, she has published five sexy Regency novels and one novella with Berkley in her School for Brides series.