books

The Write Match -- Margaret Carroll
April 30, 2006
Avalon
ISBN-10: 0803497741
ISBN-13: 978-0803497740

The Write Match -- Out now from Avalon

Kit McCabe may be a newly minted associate editor at New York's most exclusive bridal magazine, but her personal life owes more to bad karma than to romance. That is until she falls into a cab with Wall Street player Mark Dawson III, who is gorgeous, funny... and engaged to be married.

Mark Dawson's work may be risky business, but his loyalty to friends and family runs deep. He knows the wedding is a mistake, but it would be damaging to his fiancée and her career to call it off now. To make matters worse, Kit is covering their nuptials for her magazine and he can't seem to take his eyes off the lovely editor.

With the big day less than two weeks away, Kit and Mark struggle to hide their growing attraction to each other from everyone, including themselves.

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Chapter One

Weddings, The Van Winterden Way:
When Greeting the Groom, Offer Congratulations on His Good Fortune

Kit McCabe sprinted onto First Avenue in a heavy downpour, unaware that the next moment would have a far-reaching effect on everything that would follow for the rest of her life. But she didn't know it at the time. Karma is like that.

Kit yanked open the door of a yellow taxicab, and practically fell into the arms of a handsome stranger who was climbing in through the opposite door.

"Sorry, this cab is taken. I've been waiting for quite a while," she began firmly. A bus roared by, spraying her from head to toe. Kit tried to duck, lost her footing and sprawled forward. The man reached over and scooped her up, saving her from landing on the floor of the cab. She was suspended for one moment in his strong arms, just long enough to get a faint whiff of Ralph Lauren aftershave mixed with the smell of something else. Him. Nice. Kit found herself looking up into a pair of warm brown eyes. Twinkling eyes, actually. He grinned. It was too much. She backed off, sputtering.

"I didn't see you there but we can share this," she said, attempting to arrange herself in as dignified a manner as she could muster.

"Thanks. It's raining cats and dogs," he said, still grinning. Kit found herself smiling back, even though she was already late for an important business meeting, and covered head to toe with New York City puddle water. "Driver, two stops," he said. "Ladies first, since it is your cab." He had nice manners, too.

"The Plaza," Kit said. The cab lurched forward.

"I guess that makes just one stop, driver. I'm headed there as well," he explained. "Saves on gas."

He was funny, Kit noticed, despite the fact that she was nervous. She was headed to a meeting with someone who could make or break her career with a single email, practically speaking. And now she was soaked to the skin. Kit pulled back the sleeve of her raincoat to check her watch, only to discover it wasn't there. In her rush to leave the apartment, she'd forgotten it. She sighed. "Do you have the time?"

"Almost ten past nine," he said. Kit groaned. "Nobody's going to panic if you're a few minutes late. Don't worry. You'll wow 'em." He looked at her sympathetically. Then frowned. He pointed at her cheek.

"You've got something there," he said. "Um, a smudge on your cheek." He reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a clean white handkerchief, and handed it to her.

Kit accepted the offering gratefully. She dabbed at her cheek. He looked away politely, studying the rain outside the cab window. "Did I get it?" He turned and studied her.

"Not quite. A little higher. Nope, higher. Er, here, let me." He took the handkerchief, leaned forward and rubbed at a small place just below her right eye. She liked the gentle touch of his hand. She felt his breath on her face. He was at close range now and she got a good look. Those eyes. Definitely twinkling. He had fine features. A chiseled jaw with a dimple in the center of his chin. An easy smile. Lots of perfectly spaced white teeth. Kit felt a warm heat begin to rise. The beginning of a hot, full blush. The redhead's curse, she thought ruefully. "There. That's better," he said, pressing the handkerchief into her hand. "Keep it. In case you need it again." Chivalry was alive and well in Gotham, Kit thought.

"Thanks," she said, suddenly aware of the feel of her thin silk blouse against her skin and of the way her lightweight trench coat, now soaked through, clung to the curves of her body. She shivered, not entirely from the cold.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

"Fine," she replied, somewhat shakily.

"Good." He checked his watch again idly and took a swipe at his sandy brown hair with one strong hand, even though his hair didn't need smoothing. Unlike her own mane of unruly red locks, which hopefully remained coiled in a ballet bun high at the back of her head. "If it makes you feel better, I'm late, too," he said. Kit looked at him, puzzled. As coincidences go, this was getting to be a bit much.

"I'm meeting some people in The Palm Court," she said. "How about you?"

"Me, too," he said. Kit considered this. The Palm Court was a popular spot for meetings in midtown. It was located just off The Plaza's lobby, separated from the hustle and bustle of guests checking in and out by a ring of giant potted palms that gave the space its name. The place was a favorite for brunch among New Yorkers and tourists alike, so it was not unusual for him to be headed there. But still. "Hey," he began. "You don't suppose..."

"Let me guess, party of four?" Kit asked.

He nodded.

She took a deep breath. "White Weddings magazine?"

He nodded again and smiled.

"I'm Mark Dawson," he said, taking her hand in one of his and shaking it. His hand, she noticed, was warm and strong. Like him. "Let's see," he said. "That makes you either Ethel Van Winterden, the famous wedding planner, or..."

"Kit McCabe, the not-so-famous associate editor of White Weddings magazine," she said, finishing his sentence.

"Pleasure to meet you," he said. "Funny coincidence. Out of all the cabs in New York City, we wind up in the same one."

"Karma," Kit said.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Karma," she repeated. It was a favorite expression of her mother's, used to explain the pattern that existed in what seemed to be random occurrences but in fact was the universe's mysterious way of revealing to each person their fate, a tiny bit at a time. Karma was a small gift. According to Kit's mother, anyway. Mark nodded solemnly.

He was from the Midwest. Grosse Pointe, Michigan, to be exact. She had read it in the background notes she had received about him, printed out from her editor's email and reviewed last night. He was Mark Dawson III. Up-and-coming financial analyst at a blue-chip firm on Wall Street. Avid kayaker, hiker and outdoorsman. One-half of the happy couple whose winning essay had earned them a free wedding, courtesy of the publishers of White Weddings magazine. The couple whose wedding would be picture-perfect, thanks to the attention to detail and considerable resources of Mrs. Ethel Van Winterden herself, famed wedding planner and founding editor of White Weddings magazine. Mark Dawson, currently unknown, soon would enjoy his 15 minutes of fame thanks to having won the magazine's contest. His wedding would be broadcast live before millions of viewers on Big Breakfast, the nation's leading TV morning news show. And, more importantly, his engagement would be dissected and recounted in detail in Kit's cover story, "Anatomy of a Perfect Day." The article that would give Kit her big break, winning the attention of feature editors everywhere who would vie for her services. She would be promoted out of the ranks of nameless editorial slaves who spent their days in airless cubicles churning out a steady stream of articles on how to have a wedding to remember. All of which made Mark Dawson III an important man, indeed. And he was spoken for. Darn.

"Congratulations," Kit said. Rule number one of wedding etiquette, according to Mrs. Ethel Van Winterden: Congratulate the groom on his good fortune in having successfully wooed a young maiden. It was an outdated concept, Kit thought ruefully, which did not reflect the current ratio in New York City of seven single women for each eligible male.

"Didn't think you were Ethel," Mark said. "Not unless she discovered the fountain of youth since her photo was taken for the book."

Kit smothered a laugh. Mark obviously had seen an advance copy of Weddings The Van Winterden Way, the new coffee-table book from the publishers of White Weddings magazine. Within its thousand-plus pages, anxious brides could find practical advice on such matters as working with a florist to find the right supplier of orchids, to a brief history on the timeless art of calligraphy. A bonus CD-Rom, programmed for download onto most hand-held computer devices, contained a His & Her To-Do list beginning 18 months before the big day.

"Mrs. Van Winterden is a treasure," Kit said. "You'll enjoy working with her."

"I'm sure I will," Mark said, looking doubtful. "This is Ruby's idea. I want her to have the perfect wedding." Ruby must be a nickname for Rachel Lucinda Lattingly, Mark's bride-to-be. The woman who was seated at this very moment with Mrs. Van Winterden at a linen-draped table within the lush confines of The Palm Court restaurant inside The Plaza Hotel.

* * *

Weddings, The Van Winterden Way:
When Greeting the Bride, Offer Best Wishes for a Lifetime of Happiness

The cab lurched to a stop in front of The Plaza Hotel. "I'll get this," Kit said, digging for her wallet in her Kate Spade bag. "Courtesy of White Weddings." But her cab mate was already in control of the situation. He climbed out onto the sidewalk, turned and handed the driver a bill, instructing him to keep the change. Mark reached back in for Kit, all but pulling her out of the cab in one smooth motion. Strong hands, Kit thought. A doorman rushed over with an oversized umbrella. They crowded under it for a second while Kit gained her footing on the red carpet. Mark placed one hand lightly and gently on her elbow as they made their way up the carpeted steps and into the lobby of the world-famous Plaza Hotel. Kit was aware of Mark's body beside her, tall but not overly so. He had a powerful build. Rachel Lucinda Lattingly was a lucky girl, indeed.

They headed inside to the Palm Court and waited to be seated. Kit heard the sounds of string instruments.

Beside her Mark smiled. "Oh, good. I hate to arrive before the trio starts playing."

He had a sense of humor, that was certain. Which was good. The assignment would be more fun that way. Kit snuck a glance in the mirror. She felt like a drowned cat but saw she didn't look too bad. Which was good, because the Maitre'd had already come to seat them.

Mrs. Van Winterden and Ruby would have been easy to spot in a restaurant twice the size. Mrs. Van Winterden was dressed in a smart brown suit with a boiled wool jacket and brass buttons, topped with one of her signature hats, a rust-colored wool number with a small spray of mums and leaves tucked inside the small brim. Homage to autumn. Ruby was very blond and pencil-thin, dressed head to toe in black. She was perched on the edge of her seat, listening with rapt attention to Mrs. Van Winterden.

Kit snuck a quick peek in a giant, gilt-framed mirror. Her blouse still clung in places where her skin was soaked from the rain. The gold and black silk pattern was a bright choice for a gloomy day; it brought out the warm tones of Kit's complexion and accented her hair, which somehow had remained in place except for a few auburn tendrils that framed her face. Okay. She was about to meet the founding editor of the magazine, the woman whom she passed in the hall on occasion and had once shared an elevator with, the woman whom every associate editor at the magazine recognized but never dared speak with unless first spoken to. Kit took a deep breath.

"You'll wow her," Mark whispered behind her. "Don't worry!" He gave her shoulder a quick squeeze. Which helped.

"Darling, hello. You're late," Ruby said as they approached. Mark bowed to kiss her on the cheek and she wrapped one thin, bejeweled arm around his neck. There were several thousand dollars worth of David Yurman bracelets on that slender, pale wrist. Those bracelets would need to come off for the big day, Kit noted. "And who is this? Someone you rescued from the rain?" She turned to Mrs. Van Winterden. "He's all heart," she said in an aside. The blond turned her frosty blue gaze full on Kit. "Poor thing, you're soaked."

"Sweet pea, let me introduce Kit McCabe," Mark said. "She works with Mrs. Van Winterden. Kit, this is my bride-to-be, Rachel Lucinda Lattingly. You can call her Ruby for short, like the rest of us."

Kit shook Ruby's hand, noting the long red nails. "Actually, I work for Mrs. Van Winterden," she said. Small point. "It is a pleasure to see you," she said, turning to the older woman. Manners, Kit thought. Don't act like you're meeting her for the first time. That would reveal the fact she hasn't spoken to you even once in almost three years. Mrs. Van Winterden extended a dainty manicured hand in Kit's direction. Kit shook it gently. "Allow me to introduce Mark Dawson."

"My fiancé," Ruby added. As though they didn't know. Mark pumped away with vigor at Mrs. Van Winterden's hand. Too much vigor. Kit winced. Mark must be nervous, too.

"Congratulations, young man." Mrs. Van Winterden's voice was surprisingly strong, coming as it did out of her tiny, size two frame. She was getting on in years, but had appeared to have availed herself of every cosmetic procedure that existed to smooth the way. "I wish you both every happiness in the world," she added, in perfect observance of one of her own primary rules of wedding etiquette.

"Thank you. This is going to be one of the most important days of our lives. I appreciate your efforts to get us off on the right foot," Mark said, with genuine warmth. Touching.

"Ruby wants everything to be perfect." He looked at his bride with a proud smile. She was at that moment busy tapping away at her Palm Pilot. She finished, lifted her head and turned to get a closer look at Kit.

"So," she began. "You're the reporter who is going to tell the world all the news about our wonderful romance." Kit bristled. Reporter was a title used to refer to junior staffers at small regional newspapers, not editorial staffers like Kit who wrote for the glossy pages of large-circulation national consumer magazines. Kit had just been promoted to Associate Editor, a title that carried a certain amount of prestige, despite long hours and low pay. Along with her new title, Kit had landed the opportunity to write her first bylined piece for the magazine. About this very couple. Kit considered whether to correct Ruby, and decided against it. Rachel Lucinda Lattingly did not strike Kit as the sort of woman who would be interested in the nuances of the publishing world.

Kit felt Ruby's gaze as she weighed her response. Those steely blue eyes did not miss much, Kit was certain. And neither did Mrs. Van Winterden, who focused on Kit through the thick lenses of her signature half-framed, black horn-rimmed glasses. Kit was grateful she had taken a few extra minutes this morning to brush her gold suede slingback pumps before slipping them on over a brand-new pair of sheer silk stockings. The shoes were now soaked through, splotched with gray. Probably ruined. Her black pencil skirt hung in limp wet folds around her knees. Dry clean only. Well, rain made the flowers grow. Another quote from mom. Kit stood her ground.

The moment passed with help from the Palm Court waiter, who pulled two chairs out from the table. He seated them with a flourish, pushing Kit's chair in close to Mark's so their knees were almost touching. His leg radiated warmth. Kit felt the heat spread the length of her thigh. In another minute, she thought, steam would rise from her damp skirt.

"There," the waiter said, beaming. "Now that the happy couple has been seated, we can serve you a wonderful brunch." Kit flushed red at the man's mistake. She and Mark were not the Happy Couple. Mark and Ruby were the Happy Couple. Mark said something about how his cup runneth over, and shifted his chair a few inches away from Kit. Ruby looked ready to scalp someone. Mrs. Van Winterden cleared her throat delicately.

"Good wait staff is so important," she said, leaning towards Ruby. "The staff here do a superb job at making guests feel at home from the moment they arrive. There is no substitute for well-trained staff. It's one of the reasons I recommend hosting a reception in a five-star facility such as this one whenever possible. Finances permitting, of course." Ruby nodded in agreement, happy again. They ordered breakfast: oatmeal with sliced bananas for Kit, eggs hollandaise with salmon for Mark, an English muffin for Mrs. Van Winterden, and grapefruit with black coffee for Ruby.

"Kit, I've been thinking about your article and I think it's just the sweetest thing," Ruby began. "I think you should start by telling everyone how it was love at first sight. He came into the store one day when I was working at The Haberdashery." The store was Madison Avenue's most elite shop for men's wear. The original was located on Jermyn Street in London, and a third was on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Several famous young models had been discovered working the floor of The Haberdashery. "I was rearranging some items in the window display. Mark walked by, saw me, and came in."

"I was looking for a pay phone. I'd left my cell phone at the gym and needed to make a call," Mark said. Kit bit back a smile.

Ruby continued, nonplussed. "Anyway, there I was in the window and in walks the man who is going to rock my world. I knew right away."

"She talked me into buying a brown suit," Mark said. Kit couldn't contain a small laugh. Mrs. Van Winterden smiled.

"Darling, please," Ruby said. "Nobody cares what you bought that day. And anyway, brown is the new black," she added, with a glance at Mrs. Van Winterden. "Anyway, it was really very romantic. How he saw me there in the window and was drawn to come into the store. Shouldn't you be writing this down?" Ruby made a scribbling motion in the air with one hand. Kate bristled. "Because otherwise you might leave out some of the details. And it is so romantic." She draped one hand on top of Mark's. He shifted in his seat. Nervous again, Kit thought. Men hated public displays of affection.

"Actually, I don't need to take notes on the way you met," Kit replied. "The focus of the story will be on the planning process itself. Based on the advice given in Mrs. Van Winterden's new book, how the two of you will work together to design a day that will fulfill your dreams and meet your expectations. For both of you." She paused for emphasis. Not that Ruby seemed to notice. Mrs. Van Winterden, who had been pecking at her English muffin, came to life.

"The way I see it," she said, gazing at a point somewhere deep within the foliage of the potted palms in the nether reaches of the dining room, "Kit's article will use your planning process to illustrate the points I make in my book."

Kit began taking notes.

"Your wedding, in essence, will be used as an example to every bride and groom to show how anyone can use my new book to plan the perfect day." She turned and waited until Kit had caught up. Kit wrote as fast as she could, wishing she had learned shorthand. Mrs. Van Winterden's blue eyes were surprisingly sharp for a woman her age, and appeared much larger than they were through the magnification of the trademark horn-rimmed lenses. The overall effect was disconcerting. Mrs. Van Winterden was hailed in the media as the Grande Dame of weddings. Around the offices of White Weddings, the magazine she had founded more than four decades ago, she was known as the Great White. After the most powerful predator that ruled the waves.

"Are we all clear on that?" Mrs. Van Winterden asked.

"Yes," Kit replied.

"Sounds good," Mark said.

Ruby nodded reluctantly. "Maybe you can work it in toward the end."

Kit took a deep breath. This assignment was going to be quite a challenge. Looking back later, she realized she didn't know how right she was.

reviews

“The book is heavy on love and a powerful, instant connection between two people...”

— Kim North-Shine, Detroit Free Press (posted October 2006)

“The Write Match is engaging from the first page... the characters grab the reader's heart from the get go. It is a stellar beginning to her career. I can't wait to see what else is hiding in her mind!”

— Tracy Farnsworth, Roundtable Reviews (posted June 2006)

“Cute and funny, this timely tale touches the romantic streak in us all.”

— Maria Hatton, Booklist (posted June 2006)