Tempting the Best Man - By J. Lynn
The ivory invitation with its elegant calligraphy and lacy embellishments felt more like a humiliation time bomb just waiting to blow up in Madison Daniels’s face than a beautiful wedding announcement. Man, did she have a problem.
Mitch, her big brother by three years—her only brother—was actually getting married this weekend. Married.
She was totally happy for him. Thrilled, even. His fiancée, Lissa, was a great gal, and they’d become quick friends. Lissa would never do her brother wrong. A Hallmark movie could be based on the two. Met freshman year at University of Maryland, fell madly in love, got great corporate jobs straight out of college, and the rest was history.
No, Mitch and Lissa weren’t the problem.
And a wedding held deep in Northern Virginia’s vineyards definitely wasn’t the problem.
Not even her semi-lunatic parents, who owned and operated a very profitable online store called DOOMSDAY “R” US and would likely be hawking gas masks to the guests, were the problem. In fact, she’d take an asteroid with “Earth’s My Bitch” emblazoned on it and headed her way over this.
Her gaze dropped to the invitation, down to the list of attending bridesmaids and groomsmen, and winced. She blew out a slow breath, stirring the long strands of brown hair that had escaped her messy twist.
Right across from her name, separated by a few innocent dots and written in crimson ink, was the name of the best man: Chase Gamble.
God hates me. That was it. Well, she was the maid of honor, and any of the other Gamble brothers would’ve been fine as best man. But oh no, it had to be Chase Gamble. He was her older brother’s best friend, confidante, homie, whatever—and otherwise known as the bane of Madison’s existence.
“Staring at the invitation isn’t going to change a damn thing.” Bridget Rodgers leaned a plump hip against Madison’s desk, drawing her attention. Her assistant was a study in how a fashion disaster on some people could work for others. Today, Bridget wore a fuchsia pencil skirt paired with a purple peasant shirt sporting large polka dots. A black scarf and leather boots completed the look. Mysteriously, she actually looked good in what should have been a clown’s costume. Bridget was bold.
Madison sighed. She could use a little bold right now. “I don’t think I can deal with this.”
“Look, you should’ve taken my advice and invited Derek from the history department. At least then you’d be having wild monkey sex instead of lusting after your brother’s best friend during the whole wedding. A man who’s already rejected you once, might I add.”
Bridget had a point. She was crafty like that. “What am I going to do?” Madison asked, glancing out the window of her office. All she could see was the steel and cement of the museum next to her building—the Smithsonian, which always made her chest swell with pride. She’d worked hard to become one of the privileged few who got to work for this amazing cultural institution.
Bridget leaned down into Madison’s face and caught her attention again. “You’re going to put on your big-girl panties and deal with it. You may have a secret, undying love for Chase Gamble, but if he hasn’t recognized your awesomeness by now the man is clearly mental and so not worth this angst.”
“I know, I know,” Madison said. “But he’s just so… infuriating.”
“Most men are, Sweetie.” Bridget winked.
“It’s fine he’s not interested in me. Disappointing, but I can deal. And I can even forgive him for changing his mind the one time we almost hooked up. Well, sort of.” She laughed without much humor and stared at her best friend, willing her to understand. “But he’s constantly poking at me, you know? Teasing me in front of my family, treating me like a kid sister, when all I want to do is shake him…and get him naked.”
“It’s just one weekend—how bad can it be?” Bridget asked. She was trying to add the voice of reason to what was going to be the worst weekend of Madison’s life.
Dropping the invitation on her desk, she leaned back in her chair and sighed, idly contemplating calling the history department.
Ever since she could remember, there was Chase. Always Chase. They’d grown up on the same block in the suburbs of DC. Her brother and Chase had been inseparable since, well, forever. Which meant, being the baby of the family, Madison had nothing better to do as a kid than follow behind Mitch and his friends.
She’d idolized Chase. It was