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Virtually Yours: A Virtual Match Anthology, page 1

 

Virtually Yours: A Virtual Match Anthology
 



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Virtually Yours: A Virtual Match Anthology


  Contents

  Virtually Yours

  Wish I Might by Kait Nolan

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Epilogue

  A Note From Kait

  Lip Service by Wendy Sparrow

  Dedication

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Epilogue

  A Note From Wendy

  Code Name: Girlfriend by Jessica Fox

  Dedication

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  A Note From Jessica

  Dream Home by Lisa Kroger

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  A Note From Lisa

  Something Old and Something New by J.R. Pearse Nelson

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  A Note From J.R.

  Matchmaker Reality by Sharon Hughson

  Dedication

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  A Note From Sharon

  Virtual Surprise by Catherine Lynn

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  A Note From Catherine

  Home Field Advantage by Kate Davison

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Epilogue

  A Note From Kate

  Virtually Yours

  A Virtual Match Anthology

  Featuring stories from

  Kait Nolan

  Wendy Sparrow

  Jessica Fox

  Lisa Kröger

  J.R. Pearse Nelson

  Sharon Hughson

  Catherine Lynn

  Kate Davison

  Wish I Might

  A Wishful Novella

  By Kait Nolan

  Heat Level: 2 Flames

  Written and published by Kait Nolan

  Copyright 2016 Kait Nolan

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

  AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following is a work of fiction. All people, places, and events are purely products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual people, places, or events is entirely coincidental.

  License Notes

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. The ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  Cover design by Kait Nolan

  Chapter One

  “You know he up and left Tyler high and dry all those years ago. Broke her heart all to pieces.”

  “And now he’s back?”

  “Not only back but playing leading man to her leading lady in the musical.”

  “No!”

  At the tone of utter disbelief from the next booth, Cecily Dixon smiled into her mocha. To her mind, one of the greatest amusements of living in a small town was eavesdropping on the gossip. And boy, were Southerners champions at gossiping.

  “I thought Tucker McGee got that part.”

  “He did, but he broke his leg last week. Brody was the understudy. I heard Tyler nearly left the play over it.”

  “Well, who could blame her?”

  For the price of her favorite coffee at The Daily Grind, Cecily got the pleasure of stepping in and out of a series of little one-act plays. Though she’d only been in Wishful for six months, Cecily found that she often recognized the names of at least some of the players mentioned in each tale. And if she didn’t, well, she had enough imagination and experience on the stage herself to fill in the gaps, even if she hadn’t been in an actual play since college.

  Man, she was really going to miss this place.

  Her boss, Norah Burke, was the most brilliant marketing mind Cecily had ever known. Following her from Chicago had been a no brainer. The plan had always been to finish her internship and move on to the best position she could find, as far from her well-intentioned family as possible. Now that the internship was finished, Norah, the new city planner, was being kind enough to keep Cecily on for hourly wages, while she sent out resumes and interviewed for jobs elsewhere, but there was no full-time position here. That disappointed her more than she’d expected. Mississippi was just supposed to be a stopover. She hadn’t expected this tiny, quirky town to get so far under her skin.

  She wondered if she’d still be around to find out the resolution of Tyler and Brody’s soap opera.

  If she didn’t get off her butt and get some more resumes out and applications in, she certainly would be. Her personal savings, plus the hourly wage, was enough to get her through the end of the year, but anything beyond that would force her to dip into funds dedicated to other things. She preferred not to violate that particular personal rule if she could help it.

  Another pair of women reached the top of the stairs, bringing with them a new story.

  “—there’s been some support, but just not enough.” The woman’s not-quite-put-together look of yoga pants and denim jacket, hair bundled into a messy knot with what appeared to be a pair of pencils, was capped off by the extra large coffee clutched in both hands. She and her
companion sat at the booth behind Cecily.

  “I thought for sure the idea would take off after you saved the Booster Club pancake breakfast with your biscuits.”

  “That helped. And, in fact, it was Ginger Arnold who suggested I try opening a business. But I don’t think enough people in Wishful even know about the Kickstarter.”

  Cecily’s ears perked. A local Kickstarter? That was right up her alley.

  “There has to be a way to get the word out better.”

  “I don’t know, but I’ve got to figure something out. Rick’s going to be in physical therapy for months, and the doctors have already said he’s not going to be able to go back to work at that job. I’m the one who has to step up and be primary breadwinner now. If the Dixieland Biscuit Company doesn’t get funded, I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m a housewife, Lucy. I’ve got no work experience past the waitressing I did in high school.”

  “There’s still a week left to the Kickstarter. Don’t give up hope yet.”

  Cecily opened a new tab on her laptop and hit up the Kickstarter website, doing a search for Dixieland Biscuit Company.

  Ah, here we go. Dixieland Biscuit Company, proposed by one Beth Carmichael. As starters for a new business went, it was a modest campaign. The goal was only $15,000, going primarily toward commercial ovens, supplies, and necessary conversion of the proposed business space. But with just over a week remaining, she was sitting at $6,350. That would hardly get it done.

  One of Cecily’s tasks working for Norah was managing the city’s social media feeds. They’d built quite the connected network over this past spring, when Norah went head-to-head with GrandGoods, the big warehouse store that had tried to come into Wishful. Cecily couldn’t think of a single reason not to use it to help Beth start her business. Keeping local business local and revitalizing the local economy was what Norah was all about.

  As Lucy and Beth continued to chat behind her, Cecily put together a quick social media blitz, nabbing pictures of the mouthwatering buttermilk biscuits from the Kickstarter page and crafting specialized messages for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She was just getting things laid in and scheduled as her roommate slid into the booth beside her.

  “And how are you this fine day, my dearest darling?”

  Cecily shot a glance at Christoff, whose usual acerbic wit had sweetened since their arrival in Mississippi back in the spring. She knew the credit for that went to Daniel Palmer, the barista who’d captured his heart.

  “Someone clearly just saw his sweetheart.”

  Christoff grinned, his sharp blue eyes twinkling behind the square-rimmed hipster glasses. “Speaking of, Daniel sent this up for you.” He handed over a cookie the size of a bread plate, studded with chocolate chunks and walnuts.

  Cecily took a nibble and sighed. “He’s adorable, thoughtful, and has amazing abs. Why couldn’t he play for the other team?”

  “Because that’s way too much fabulous to pack into a straight man frame. What are you working on here?”

  “Just a quick little side project.” She finished setting up the multi-point blast for the biscuit shop and clicked back over to the Kickstarter page, logging into her own account. She input her own donation, toggling Anonymous before hitting enter and shutting down.

  Christoff went brows up.

  Cecily just sipped her coffee as a cell phone dinged somewhere behind them.

  A mug clattered against a table. “Oh my God.”

  “What’s wrong?” Lucy asked.

  “This can’t be right,” Beth said.

  “What? What is it?”

  “Someone just donated five thousand dollars to the Kickstarter.”

  “Seriously?”

  “Oh my God! I have to go tell Rick!” Beth scrambled up and bolted for the stairs.

  “Wait for me!”

  Christoff waited until the two women had departed. “You know, I’ve seen you play a lot of roles over the years, but simple intern has to take the cake.”

  “It’s not a role. I am a simple intern. Or I was before I finished the internship.”

  He kept his voice low. “You are the only trust fund baby I know who insists on living off what you can earn yourself and puts all your inheritance to charity.”

  “I’m the only trust fund baby you know, period. And you know you’re supposed to keep that under your hat.”

  “Yeah, about that.”

  Cecily straightened in her seat, grabbing hold of his arm. “Did you tell Daniel?”

  “No. Though even if I had, he wouldn’t spread your little secret. It’s just that the rest of your family seems less intent on letting you maintain your cover.”

  “What are you talking about?”

  Christoff pulled a magazine out of his interior coat pocket and laid it on the table. The latest issue of M & S. With a picture of her grandfather smack dab on the cover.

  “Oh God.” Cecily’s hands fumbled as she flipped through to the article. Ten full, glossy pages, complete with family pictures. Including her. “Oh God.”

  She skimmed the interview. The focus was, as usual, on the family’s diversified empire, with plenty of nods given to their charitable foundations and the fact that the family hallmark was investment in people. The bulk of the article talked about her grandfather, her mother, and uncles, including speculation on whether her Uncle Hugh was going to finally enter the gubernatorial race.

  “‘Intriguingly absent from our interview was the next-generation heir apparent, Genevieve’s daughter, Cecily Dixon, a former graduate of Brown University and Northwestern, founder of The Hero’s Help Alliance’ Oh my God. I am not the heir apparent.”

  “You’re the eldest grandchild. Stands to reason that at some point you are.”

  “No.” Cecily shook her head vehemently. “No. No. No. No. That’s not who I am. That’s not what I want. You know how hard I’ve worked to keep myself separate from all this. I can’t let this get out. I don’t want people looking at me differently. And the last thing I need is a repeat of Jefferson. Once was enough, thanks very much.”

  “Sweetie, if anybody who even vaguely resembles the likes of Jeff the Jerk comes sniffing around you, you can be sure that I, as your trusty pit bull, will slice his balls off.”

  “I do love you. But I’m serious. We have to round up every copy of this magazine in town.” She shoved her laptop into its satchel.

  Christoff gave her the Eye. “You know that means you actually have to go to the bookstore, right?”

  Inglenook Books. The place she’d been studiously avoiding for the last three months because she couldn’t bear to see its proprietor. What exactly would he think of her suddenly showing up in his shop? Cecily cringed. “You could go for me.”

  “I was just there, which is where I got this copy, and it would look pretty damned weird if I went and bought up all the rest.”

  Reaching out for his hand, she put on her best begging face. “Christoff, in the name of all our years of friendship, you have to help me with this. Don’t make me go in there alone.”

  He squeezed her hand. “Babycakes, you know I’ve always got your back.”

  Cecily relaxed. “Thank you.”

  “But we’re not going in there without a plan. Here’s how this is going to work.”

  ~*~

  “Thank you. Really. I don’t know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t been willing to take a chance on hiring me.”

  Reed Campbell shut the register drawer and looked at his newest employee. In her late thirties, Brenda Walker had just emerged from a vicious divorce, wherein her cheating bastard of an ex had traded her in for a younger model. Stress had whittled her down, and bitterness had carved deep grooves around what might’ve been a pretty mouth if she smiled. She had no retail experience to speak of, having spent the duration of her marriage as trophy wife to a cardiologist, but she knew books. An avid reader and long-time customer of Inglenook well before Reed bought the place, Brenda had been a familiar face as long as he
could remember. She’d worked on a number of literacy campaigns with his mother over the years. Offering her a job had seemed like the obvious and kind thing to do, even before his mom started pressuring him to do it.

  A good thing, too, as there was no chance of saying “no” to Anita Campbell.

  “You’re a smart woman. You’d have figured something out.”

  “Yes, well, I’m grateful to you that I don’t have to.” Brenda did smile then, and something about that curve of lips and the tone of her voice had a wisp of unease blooming.

  Surely she wasn’t flirting with him?

  She laid a hand on his arm, her thumb lightly stroking the underside of his forearm. “It’s nice to know that there are still some kind men out there.”

  Nope. He wasn’t imagining it. Brenda was actually coming onto him.

  Shit.

  Reed resisted the urge to jerk away. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt her feelings or shatter whatever nascent confidence she’d managed to rebuild in the wake of her divorce. But he had to shut this down in a hurry. What could he do? What could he say that wouldn’t embarrass them both?

  The door chime sounded, and Brenda’s hand fell away as they both turned toward it.

  Saved by the bell.

  All thoughts of his cougar problem evaporated, replaced by surprise as the woman stepped through the door.

  Razor sharp wit, brilliant mind, and geektastic sense of humor, all wrapped up in effortless class. Cecily Dixon. The one who got away.

  With a population of only a little over five thousand, Wishful was small enough that they ran into each other often—at the coffee shop, at McSweeney’s Market, on the town green. Since her boss was about to marry Reed’s cousin, Cam, he even occasionally saw Cecily at family events. But at no point in the last three months had she deliberately sought him out. So what had brought her in today?

  Christoff Bergan, the other Chicago transplant who’d followed Norah below the Mason-Dixon line, came in behind her.

  “Back again?” Reed asked him.

  “I’m just riding shotgun with the damsel in distress.”

  Cecily rolled her eyes and crossed over to the counter. When she came straight to him instead of diverting to Brenda, Reed felt a surge of curiosity and hope.

  “I need your help.”

 
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