Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Ava - Book 5 of the Perfect Match Series - on Preorder Now



Ava’s Perfect Match Dating Profile…

A Jaded Minnesota Girl - 31

I’ve had my heart broken in the past so I find it difficult to believe in the power of love.

I dare you to prove me wrong.

It would require someone who is honest and genuine, a man who would accept me for who I am and bring out the person I was before my heart was stomped upon—a crazy, fun-loving girl with an adventurous heart. If you really exist, you’re one in a million.

And you just might be the one for me.


Chapter One

May 20th - West Palm Beach, Florida
The Perfect Gift

Ava Godfrey sat in the plush seat of her rental car at the Silver Dolphin Restaurant, yawning loudly. She’d come all the way from Minneapolis to attend her best friend’s baby shower and the last thing she needed was to be so tired she couldn’t enjoy the party. She’d planned to catch a much-needed nap during her flight from Minneapolis, but the plane had hit turbulence en route to the Palm Beach airport, leaving her white-knuckled and on the edge of her seat the entire trip. A Starbucks Venti-sized cup of French Roast had helped somewhat, but the caffeine had left her more jittery than alert.

Darn, she thought as she flipped down her visor and forced her gaze to focus on the woman staring back at her. The best makeup in the world isn’t going to conceal my state of mind.

The mirror never lied. Her eyes, underscored with dark circles contrasting against her pale skin showed fatigue, but also revealed a sad, faraway look she hadn’t been able to shake since her divorce. Though she’d taken positive steps to move on, the mess she’d made of her life by marrying the wrong man still overshadowed the fun-loving girl she used to be. Mistakes were easy to make. Starting over was not.

“Straighten up, honey,” she said aloud as she searched her purse for a breath mint. “This is not the time to get sidetracked over what’s wrong with your life. You have to show up with a smile on your face and a spring in your step so everyone thinks you’re doing great.”

Her phone rang. With a sigh, she picked it off the seat and swiped the screen. The ID displayed Lisa Kaye-Wells. “Hi, Lisa,” she said in a rush. “Don’t worry, I’m coming—”

“Ava, where are you?” Music, chatter and laughter echoed in the background. “You’re supposed to be here by now.” Though their lives had changed since their days of rooming together at college, their differences hadn’t. Lisa still proved to be the punctual one. Ava was still always rushing in at the last minute.

“I’m in the parking lot. See you in five minutes. Bye.” She touched up her peach lipstick and shut off the car. Grabbing her purse, her phone and her baby gift, Ava braced herself against the drizzling Florida afternoon as she locked her car then sprinted across the parking lot to the restaurant.

She arrived at the front door at the same time as a well-dressed couple in their mid-forties. The man, tall and slim with graying dark hair, stood aside and opened the door for her. “Thank you,” she said as she entered the two-story building made of steel and glass overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. She hurried past the gift shop to the host stand and approached a young woman with burgundy hair standing behind a black podium arranging a stack of menus. “Hello, I’m looking for the Wells reception.”

The woman pointed toward the stairs. “It’s in the upper level.”

“Thank you.” Squaring her shoulders, she trudged up the wide, open stairway to a large room with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the ocean. Round tables covered with white linen cloths and adorned with small vases of fresh pink, white and yellow flowers were scattered about the room. A buffet filled with assorted hot and cold appetizers, fruit, punch and desserts stretched the length of an entire wall. Lisa stood near the gift table, wearing a floor-length, yellow dress with an empire waist. Her long dark hair hung down her back in soft, spiral curls.

“Ava,” she cried as she held out her arms for a hug, “I’m so glad you’re here. We haven’t seen each other in ages!”

The last year had gone by fast. Ava placed her gift on the table, vowing to herself not to let another year go by before they saw each other again.

They exchanged hugs. “How are you? You look terrific,” Ava exclaimed as they pulled apart. “Motherhood really agrees with you.”

“How have you been?” Lisa asked, turning the focus back on her. “Shawn and I have talked about flying up to Minnesota to see you, but our hotel is booked solid every week and it’s impossible to get away. Shawn wanted to be here today, but we had back-to-back weddings scheduled this weekend so he couldn’t leave the island.”

Lisa grew up in West Palm Beach, but she and Shawn presently owned and operated a historic hotel on Enchanted Island, a small island about fifty miles off the southern tip of Florida. The couple had met there several years earlier, when Lisa worked in her Aunt Elsie’s B&B and Shawn managed his family’s hotel, The Amaryllis on Azure Bay. They’d surprised everyone when they acquired the rundown Morganville Hotel and began restoring it, turning it into a popular destination in the East Caribbean. Since then, Lisa and Shawn had married and were starting their family.

“I’m doing fine,” Ava said with a smile.

“Are you sure?” Lisa’s brows furrowed. “I can’t help worrying about you. This past year has been so difficult—”

“Hey, you have enough to worry about right here,” Ava said as she patted Lisa’s rounded tummy. “I can’t wait to see your little mini-me when she makes her debut into the world!”

The couple that had followed Ava into the building came up to them, greeting Lisa and diverting her attention away from Ava. Seeing her chance to escape the interrogation over her well-being, Ava glanced around the room, looking for the bar. She had decided to get a glass of Cabernet and find somewhere to sit down, but her plans stalled when Lisa grabbed her by the arm instead and introduced her to Ian and Belinda Wells, Shawn’s brother and sister-in-law.

“I’m going to have a couple of those deep-fried wonton from the buffet and a glass of wine,” Ava said as more people arrived and crowded around Lisa.

“You rat,” Lisa whispered with an envious smile. “I haven’t had any booze or junk food for six months. Have a glass for me, too.”

“I will!” Ava laughed. “Don’t worry, it won’t be long before you’ll be thin again and able to eat what you want.”

Many of Lisa’s friends from her book club were there. Ava stood in line at the bar with one of the women. “You’re Tara, right?” She smiled at the pretty brunette as she waited for the bartender to pour her a glass of red wine. “I remember you from Lisa’s wedding.”

“I remember you, too,” Tara replied. “You’re Ava—Lisa’s college friend from Minnesota. Are you here by yourself? Come and sit with us.” She pointed toward a large round table filled with five vivacious women. “All of the out-of-towners have gathered together.”

“All right,” Ava said, curious about the women Lisa had befriended on line. After they received their drinks, she accompanied Tara to the table and Tara introduced her to the group, naming them from left to right—Amy, Clair, Meg, Jenny and Hope.

For the next hour, she sat and sipped her wine while listening to amusing stories about the books they’d read and their retreat on Enchanted Island where they’d met for the first time. Each member had tossed a bottle containing a message to her dream hero into the bay. Though Ava refrained from joining in the conversation, she truly enjoyed hearing about this pretty island that everyone seemed to love so much. Something in her heart stirred, creating in her a yearning to visit Lisa and Shawn on Enchanted Island once their little girl, Emma, was born.

“Oh, my gosh, Ava. This is the perfect gift! Thank you!”

Lisa stood at the gift table pulling out the contents of a large, handmade diaper bag filled with a girl’s layette. She waved for Ava to join her. “Where did you find such precious little outfits?”

“My Aunt Ruth made them and the bag, too. Did you see the newborn diapers?”

“Oh, look at this,” Lisa said as she pulled out a box filled with several pairs of miniature fleece slipper-socks and a white, crocheted baptism set. There were Onesies, sleepers, receiving blankets, bibs and changing pads. At the bottom of the bag, Lisa found two dozen tiny diapers made with soft flannel in pastel colors. A chorus of oohs and ahhs came from women in the room as Lisa held up each different item. She carefully packed all of the pieces back into the bag and set it aside.

“Now,” she said to Ava, “I have something for you.” Lifting the pink tablecloth, she reached under the table and pulled out an envelope from her purse. “Here,” she said as she straightened and offered it to Ava. “This is something special just for you.”

“For me?” Ava gingerly accepted the white square envelope. “What is it?”

Lisa’s eyes widened. “Well, open it and you’ll find out!”

Inside, Ava discovered an invitation. She pulled out the embossed card, speechless as she read the words.

You’re cordially invited to spend an all-expenses-paid, week-long trip to the island of your choice, courtesy of Perfect Match Online Dating and Travel Agency.

“What is this?” Ava laughed, thinking it was a joke of some kind that Lisa had received and wanted to show her. “A clever new way to hook people into a timeshare presentation?”

“No, it’s nothing like that! Look at it again.”

Ava scanned the invitation a second time. Was it real, after all? “Wh-why me? Why are you offering this to me instead of one of your book club friends?” She tried to give it back, but Lisa refused and pushed her hand away.

“Don’t you see, this is just what you need—seven days on a beautiful island with nothing to do but kick back and enjoy yourself!”

Ava frowned. “What would I do on a tropical island by myself?”

“You’re not going to be alone.” Lisa laughed, sounding as though she thought Ava was kidding again. “The agency will select the perfect match for you.”

The wha—what?

“I hope you didn’t pay a lot of money for this,” Ava said as she smacked the invitation on the table, “because you’re not setting me up with a total stranger for a solid week. What, are you crazy? Allowing an agency to select my perfect match is the most ridiculous, hair-brained scheme I’ve ever heard of. I mean, that stuff is for adventurous twenty-year-olds with romantic dreams. It’s not practical for a thirty-one-year-old-woman who has already been married once. The last thing I need is to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a blind date for seven days.” She watched Lisa’s smile fade and instantly regretted her hasty refusal. “I’m sorry. I know you mean well, Lisa, but this is definitely not my style.” She pointed toward the table of Lisa’s friends. The women were watching them intently, causing her to wonder if they were secretly in on this, too. “I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you give it to one of them?”

Lisa shook her head. “They already have invitations of their own. Amy’s fiancé, Dawson Yates, owns the agency and he gave each member of the book club a complimentary invitation to pass along to the person of her choice.”

Oops... Ava’s cheeks flamed with embarrassment. Amy had heard every word she’d said.

Lisa picked up the invitation and put it back into Ava’s hand. “My choice is you.”

“But...but, I’m not ready to start dating yet.”

Lisa smiled patiently. “Take it from me, Ava. No one ever is after a bad break up. You need to take a chance, step outside your comfort zone and meet someone new.”

Stunned by her best friend’s obstinacy, Ava didn’t know what else to say. She resorted to glaring at Lisa instead when suddenly all of the women in the book club stood up and walked over to them. Amy Sheridan, the one with curly, dark brown hair and green eyes, stepped forward.

“I understand your apprehension,” Amy said in a soft tone, “but my fiancé’s agency is top-notch and that means he’s careful about the matches he coordinates. Once you establish a profile online, a Perfect Match Specialist will match you with someone who shares common interests with you.” Her eyes twinkled as she placed her hand on Ava’s arm. “If you accept the invitation, you only have one obligation to Perfect Match. You must stay the entire week. That’s it. Just have a fun-filled vacation with your match, taking in the sun and enjoying the beauty of your destination. I can assure you with full confidence that your satisfaction is Dawson’s utmost concern.”

“What’s the catch?” Ava folded her arms. “What does your fiancé want in return for giving me this free offer?”

Amy’s expression changed from soft to serious. “You’ll be given a survey at the end of your week to grade your satisfaction on how well the agency handled setting up your trip—and your match. I have no doubt that you’ll be very happy with all of the arrangements.”

“Other than the seven-day stipulation and the survey, there are no strings attached?”

Amy shook her head. “None.”

Lisa’s soft jade eyes took on a pleading look. “Come on, Ava, accept the invitation. You’ve been through so much this past year. You deserve a break. Do this for yourself, okay?”

“I’ve never been out of the continental U.S. in my life,” Ava said, running out of objections. “Where would I go?”

Lisa held up her palms. “Well, that’s a no-brainer. Isn’t it?”

“Enchanted Island!” Lisa’s friends responded in a chorus then they burst out laughing.

Lisa laughed so hard she contracted a pain in her side and had to lean with one palm on the table. “This is perfect,” she said, clutching her side. “I’m due at the end of September. Book your trip for the last week and be with me when the baby is born!”

The chance to be present when Lisa had her baby sounded tempting, but...

Maybe a vacation some place far away from my problems in Minnesota is the prescription I need to pull myself together and start thinking about my future. Spending quality time with my best friend wouldn’t hurt, either. Maybe I should accept the invitation and spend my week in Enchanted Island in late September.

But...finding her perfect match in a computer database through an online dating system? The thought made her almost laugh out loud.


You’re cordially invited to spend an all-expenses-paid week-long trip to the island of your choice, courtesy of Perfect Match Online Dating and Travel Agency.
Grab your beach umbrella and prepare for six weeks of romance and fun in the sun with a brand-new series brought to you by USA Today bestselling authors…
Perfect Match!
Six exciting, sweet novellas linked by a unifying theme. You’ll want to read each one!
Six women receive invitations from Dawson Yates, owner of Perfect Match, a brand-new online matchmaking travel agency for a free week-long vacation to the island of her choice. As part of an extensive promotional campaign, Dawson expects to make six perfect matches that he can use to champion his business. The women expect to meet the men of their dreams. What none of them anticipates is the chaos that ensues when six couples who were strangers before agreeing to spend the week together discover that love is a lot more complicated than a match made by computer algorithms. Join Bree, Marni, Molly, Jade, Ava, and Maeve as they embark on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation in the pursuit of love.
Meet the women of Perfect Match!
BREE (Raine English)
MARNI (Aileen Fish)
MOLLY (Julie Jarnagin)
JADE (Rachelle Ayala)
AVA (Denise Devine)
MAEVE (Josie Riviera)
You can find all six of the Perfect Match stories below: