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Valentine's Fantasy: When Valentines Collide\To Love Again, page 1

 

Valentine's Fantasy: When Valentines Collide\To Love Again
 


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Valentine's Fantasy: When Valentines CollideTo Love Again


  On this special day

  dedicated to romance, wonderful things can happen: secret desires may be spoken, roses can arrive with a card saying “I love you,” or a dizzying kiss is exchanged for the first time. Now, two of your favorite Harlequin Kimani authors—with some help from cupid, of course—have sent their own Valentine’s Day gift: a duet of thrilling stories filled with passion and desire…

  When Valentines Collide

  by ADRIANNE BYRD

  Dr. Chante Valentine and Dr. Matthew Valentine know all the right moves to nurture relationships—except when it comes to mending their own. Since divorce would jeopardize their respective careers, the love gurus reluctantly agree to a “sex-therapy” retreat. Will the love doctors gain a second chance at happiness?

  To Love Again

  by JANICE SIMS

  San Francisco caterer Alana Calloway is bitter and lonely after the death of her police officer husband. Then she receives flowers from a secret admirer. After a stunning revelation, will Alana be able to let go of the past and learn to love again…in Nicholas Setera’s arms?

  VALENTINE’S FANTASY

  Adrianne Byrd

  and

  Janice Sims

  CONTENTS

  When Valentines Collide by Adrianne Byrd

  To Love Again by Janice Sims

  WHEN VALENTINES COLLIDE

  This book is dedicated to the new angel on my shoulder—

  Alice Coleman Finnley. I can still hear your laughter.

  Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Epilogue

  Chapter 1

  “He’s an egotistical, self-righteous son of a bitch,” Chanté Valentine spat, storming through her best friend and publishing editor, Edie Hathaway’s front door. “The man thinks he’s God’s gift to psychology.”

  “Please, come in,” Edie mumbled in the wake of her trail, sighed, and then closed the door. Shaking her head and tightening her belt around her curvy, plus-size figure, she followed her friend back into the dining room.

  “I can’t do this any longer,” Chanté announced as she marched straight toward the bar.

  “It’s eight in the morning.”

  “What can I say? I like vodka with my eggs.”

  Edie patiently watched her bestselling author splash out a glass of her expensive liquor. “You could add a dash of orange juice so I’d feel better about you getting something nutritional out of that drink.”

  Chanté smirked, but complied. “I want a divorce.”

  “Absolutely not.” Edie crossed her arms. “It would ruin both of your careers.”

  Chanté downed a deep gulp and then came up for air. “I don’t care.”

  “Sure you do.” Edie shuffled over to the table where her breakfast grew cold. “Besides, you still love him...or you would’ve left him a long time ago.”

  “Ha! I’ve been trying to leave Matthew for the last two years, but it’s always ‘wait until after contract negotiations, wait until after you write your book, wait until after the book is published.’ Now the blasted thing has been number one on the New York Times bestseller list for ten weeks running and you’re still telling me to wait.”

  “You should wait.” Edie shook her head as she slathered butter onto a biscuit. “How would it look if America’s two top relationship gurus divorced each other? Don’t you think we would have a credibility issue here?”

  “Oh, give me a break.” Chanté downed a second gulp. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you, Seth and Matthew have all teamed up to drive me nuts.”

  “All right.” Edie lowered her biscuit without taking a bite. “I know I’m going to regret asking, but what did Matthew do this time?”

  One of Chanté’s brows rose quizzically. “I take it you didn’t watch Letterman last night?”

  “Tivo. I’d planned to watch it this morning,” Edie said, sounding concerned. “Why? What happened?”

  Chanté’s eyes narrowed as she simmered. “Letterman snidely pointed out the differences in our approaches in relationship counseling and then asked how people should choose whose advice to follow.”

  Edie leaned back in her chair and brushed back her thick straw curls from her face. “And...what did he say?”

  “That people should follow the advice from the one who graduated from a real school.”

  Edie’s mouth rounded silently.

  “You should have seen him sitting there as proud as a peacock, cramming his overpriced education down everyone’s throat.” Chanté sloshed her drink down onto the breakfast bar and flailed her hands in the air. “Oh, look at me. I’m a Princeton graduate while my wife—”

  “Graduated from Kissessme College in Karankawa, Texas,” Edie finished.

  “Which is a damn good school,” Chanté snapped. “I busted my butt with two waitressing jobs to get my degree. I didn’t have a rich daddy to write me a blank check.”

  Edie frowned. “I know you two are going through a rough patch—”

  “This is more than a rough patch.”

  “But sometimes I wonder how the hell you two got together in the first place.”

  “Oh, that’s easy.” Chanté strode to the table and pulled out a chair. “Ten years ago, Matthew Valentine was handsome—”

  “He still is.”

  “Charming—”

  “Check.”

  “Successful.”

  “Double-check.”

  Chanté’s lips curled wickedly. “And great in bed.”

  Edie’s eyebrows rose with surprise and interest. “Oh?”

  “Now he seems to think all he has to do is get his groove on and wait for a baby. A baby. That’s all he ever talks about. After nine miscarriages you’d think he would give it a rest.” Chanté drew a deep breath.

  “So I take it you haven’t told him you’re—?”

  “How can I?” She sloshed down another gulp, exhaled, and then finally slumped her shoulders in defeat. “Nine miscarriages. Five years. I should have started trying to have a family earlier.”

  “Come on. You wanted a career first. That’s understandable.”

  “Yeah, but now I’m pushing forty and my body attacks every fertilized egg like I’ve caught a disease or something.” She shook her head. “I can’t help but wonder if I’d tried sooner I’d already have our baby as opposed to being on this wild race against my biological clock—a race Matthew is determined to win.” Chanté shook her head during another sigh. “I just need a break—physically and emotionally.”

  “Is that why you kicked him out of your bedroom?”

  “How did you—?”

  “Seth.” Edie filled in the blanks. “He’ll never admit it, but those two gossip more than we do. If I remember correctly it’s been...what—five months?”

  Chanté took another gulp. “Something like that.”

  Her friend shook her head as she folded her arms and leaned back in her chair. “You know you’re playing with fire when you let too much testosterone pile up.
Not to mention, you seem a little wound tight yourself.”

  “If I’m wound too tight it’s because I’m frustrated that Matthew and I can fix everyone’s marriage problems but our own.”

  “That’s because it always boils down to the battle of the wills with you guys.” Edie shrugged and then returned her attention to her breakfast. “Both of you always have to be right.”

  Chanté grew indignant. “That’s not true...entirely.”

  Edie continued eating.

  “The problem is that two perfectionists should never marry each other.”

  “Or two stubborn people.”

  “Edie! You’re supposed to be on my side.”

  “I’m on reality’s side.” Her friend finally cast her a long look. “It’s not going to kill you to bend a little.”

  “If I bend any further you may as well remove my spine,” Chanté snipped.

  “Better flexibility can only improve one’s sex life.” Edie winked. “I can testify to that.”

  “I just bet you can.”

  * * *

  Once a month, Dr. Matthew Valentine and his agent, Seth Hathaway, met at the International House of Pancakes for their favorite selection of Rooty Tuitty Fresh and Fruity pancakes.

  “It was a joke,” Matthew laughed, and then leaned toward Seth. “It was Letterman, for Pete’s sake.”

  Seth leaned his six-foot-five frame over the table and settled his serene ocean-blue eyes on him. “Let me guess, Chanté didn’t think it was funny?”

  “Blew a damn gasket is more like it.” Matthew rolled his eyes. “For punishment, I endured a four-hour rant about how I was undermining her authority and poking holes in her credibility—not the first time I heard that crap by the way.” He stabbed his pancakes and twirled it absently in its strawberry syrup. “There’s no pleasing her anymore.”

  Seth kept his face blank as he bridged his hands above his plate. “Far be it for me to give America’s top relationship guru advice.”

  Matthew glanced up wearily. “But something tells me I’m not going to be able to stop you.”

  “Hey, I don’t have a fancy degree, but twenty-five years of marriage—an interracial marriage at that—says I’m qualified.”

  Matthew flashed his million-dollar smile and forced a casual shrug. “All right. Shoot.”

  Seth waited until he’d captured Matthew’s full attention. “Apologize.”

  Matthew waited for more, but concluded none was forthcoming when his agent returned his attention to his breakfast.

  “That’s it?”

  “Yep.” Seth shoveled food into his mouth.

  Matthew rolled his eyes. “Good thing I didn’t call you for help during the writing of my last book.”

  Seth smiled and dabbed the corners of his mouth. “C’mon. It’s not rocket science. A man is just fooling himself if he thinks he could ever win an argument with a woman. Everything is always our fault. I don’t care what it is. So apologize and move on.”

  “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

  “You’re joking, right?” Seth rocked back in his chair as his laughter rumbled. “Look, I don’t mean to offend you or anything. I mean, you’re my best client and all, but, when a woman gets mad it’s usually for three reasons: something we did, something we didn’t do or something we’re going to do.”

  “Sounds scientific.”

  “Thanks. It is.” He took another bite and quickly swallowed. “In this case, you went on a nationally televised show and made a lousy sucker punch to her reputation. Every man watching knew you’d get the couch last night.”

  “You don’t understand.” Matthew slumped back in his chair and refused to give credence to Seth’s advice. “Once upon a time Chanté didn’t take everything so seriously. She knew how to laugh at herself. C’mon. She graduated from Kissessme College. That’s funny.”

  “She also has a syndicated talk radio show and is a bestselling author.”

  “I know about her accomplishments. I’m proud of what she’s done—”

  “So it’s not so hard to understand she just wants to be taken seriously in her profession.”

  Matthew shook his head. “I’m telling you, I know my wife. She’s not mad about something I said on Letterman. There’s something else that’s bothering her and she just won’t spit it out.”

  “She keeps asking for a divorce,” Seth reminded him.

  Matthew shook his head again. “She doesn’t want a divorce or she would have been gone by now. It’s something else—I’m sure of it. She just won’t talk to me.”

  “Two psychologists who can’t talk. I think that falls under irony.”

  “Very funny.”

  Seth chuckled. “How long now since the Love Doctor has been locked out of his own bedroom?”

  Matt grunted and lowered his gaze.

  “Five months, right?” the agent continued, during Matt’s silence. “Look, you’re a big shot in your field—four number one New York Times bestsellers and a syndicated television talk show, but maybe it’s time you listen to advice other than your own. Apologize and move back into your old bedroom. If you don’t, things between you and Chanté are only going to get worse.”

  Chapter 2

  Chanté breezed into WLUV’s studio with her head held high but with her lips showcasing a nervous smile. The station’s small crew greeted her with wide toothy grins, however, no one’s eyes managed to meet hers. To top it off, on more than one occasion, she heard snickering whenever she turned her back.

  “Oh, don’t pay it any mind,” Thad Brown, Chanté’s extremely young, talented and laid-back producer advised as he settled behind the glass partition separating them and reversed his New York Yankees baseball cap.

  “Easy for you to say,” Chanté mumbled, and then placed on her headset.

  “To be honest, I thought it was pretty funny,” Thad said into his microphone. “Of course, I’m a little hurt I didn’t know this embarrassing tidbit about you. I thought we were best friends.”

  “Thad—”

  “Yeah, yeah. I forgot. You have a new best friend—a hotshot publishing editor.”

  “Thad,” she warned.

  “Okay. Okay.” He shrugged with a lopsided smile. “But when you start hobnobbing with Oprah...call me.”

  “First, I’ll have to call my mother.”

  “You’re on a hot streak. Hell, I bought your book yesterday and I’m halfway through it. Real good stuff. A lot better than—well, it could have been professional jealousy that sparked Dr. Matt’s comment on Letterman the other night. Did you ever think of that?”

  The On Air sign lit up.

  “A little competition will do Matthew Valentine a world of good. Maybe his loyal readers will actually demand he write new material instead of rehashing the same trivial tripe of his last three books.” She laughed and rolled her eyes. “And don’t get me started on those Jerry Springer rejects he says he counsels on his show.”

  Still laughing, Chanté lifted her eyes to Thad and was stunned to see him frantically pointing upward. When her gaze landed on the sign, her voice failed her.

  Static filled the airwaves.

  Thad cringed and rolled his hands, urging her to speak.

  “Good evening...and welcome to The Open Heart Forum. I’m thrilled you could join us. I am your host and friend, Dr. Chanté Valentine. If you’re trying to salvage a relationship or if you’re experiencing trouble moving on, I urge you to pick up the phone and talk to a friend.”

  Thad slumped back into his chair and sighed in relief.

  With her nerves still tied in knots, Chanté settled into a groove.

  From the computer screen on her desk, she read Thad’s notes regarding her first caller and launched into her introduction. “Hello, Maria. Welcome to The Open Heart Forum.”

  “Hello, Dr. Valentine.” A young, giddy voice filtered on to the line. “I can’t believe I actually got through. I have to tell you, I read your book, I Do, and I’m a big fan.”

/>   “Why, thank you.” Chanté smiled. “What’s on your heart tonight?”

  “Uhm...actually, I was wondering if everything was all right with you and your husband—The Love Doctor?”

  Chanté blinked and glanced up.

  Thad grimaced, shrugged, and then mouthed an apology.

  Chanté forced a chuckle. “Yes. Yes. Everything is wonderful between Matthew and I.”

  “Oh. Well, I didn’t think much about it when I saw Dr. Matthew on Letterman, but then I heard you a few minutes ago...?”

  “No. No. I was just joking with Thad, my producer. Everything is fine,” Chanté lied.

  “Well, it just sounded like—”

  “Maria, I’m reading here you called in about a friend of yours?” She kept her voice sugary sweet.

  “Well, yes. You.”

  Chanté frowned. “I don’t understand.”

  Maria laughed. “Don’t you always encourage your listeners to view you as our friend?”

  “Yes. Yes. Of course.” Chanté covered quickly. “And thank you, Maria, for your concern. But I assure you, Matthew and I are fine. Thank you for your call.” She disconnected the line and then returned her attention to the computer screen.

  “Okay. Our next caller is Sienna. She’s calling in from Decatur, Georgia. Hello, Sienna, what’s on your heart tonight?”

  “Hello, Dr. Valentine. I’m a first-time caller and longtime fan.”

  “Welcome to the show.”

  “Thank you. I just have one question.”

  Chanté relaxed. “Sure. What can I help you with?”

  “I was looking on the Internet and I couldn’t find anything about Kissessme College. Is that a real school?”

  Chanté glared at her producer and slid her finger across her neck to let him know exactly what she was going to do when she got her hands on him.

  * * *

  “I’m going to kill her!” Matthew swore as he toted his autographed Reggie Jackson baseball bat and paced the spacious foyer of their multimillion-dollar home.

  Their dream home. Ha! It was more like a palatial prison—one of their making.

  “Maybe I imagined it,” he reasoned, but then shook his head. His wife had turned on him on national airwaves. He couldn’t believe it. “I should just give her that damn divorce.”

 
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