Ava




AVA - Book 5
Perfect Match Series



Prologue

 

Ava’s Perfect Match Dating Profile…

 A Minnesota Girl – Age 31

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

Do you have what it takes to prove me wrong?

I’m looking for someone honest and genuine, a man who would accept me for who I am and bring out my true self—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 soft leather seat of her rental car in the parking lot at the Silver Dolphin Restaurant, yawning loudly. She’d come 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, 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. Once she’d arrived, the first thing she did was purchase a Starbucks Venti-sized cup of French roast. It had helped somewhat, but the caffeine had left her more jittery than alert.

Darn, she thought as she flipped down her visor and looked into the lighted mirror at 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 hazel eyes, underscored with dark circles against her pale skin showed fatigue, but also revealed the 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 gregarious, fun-loving girl she used to be. Mistakes were easy to make. Starting over was not.

“Straighten up, girl,” 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 Lisa 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.

“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 hot, drizzling Florida afternoon as she locked her car then sprinted across the puddle-filled parking lot to the restaurant.

She arrived at the front door at the same time as a 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, Ava trudged up the wide, open stairway to a large room with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the ocean. Round tables covered with white linen 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, emphasizing her round “baby bump.” 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 visit you, but the hotel is booked solid every week and it’s impossible for both of us to get away at the same time. He 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 Wells, her husband of one year, owned and operated a historic hotel on Enchanted Island, located 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 had managed his family’s hotel. 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 worry about you. The past year has been so difficult for you—”

“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 followed Ava into the building approached them, greeting Lisa and diverting her attention. Realizing Lisa needed to attend to her other guests, Ava glanced around looking for the bar. She’d decided to get a glass of Cabernet and find somewhere to sit down, but before she could wander away, Lisa grabbed her arm and introduced her to Shawn’s brother and sister-in-law, Ian and Belinda Wells.

“Come and sit with me later when you get a few minutes,” Ava said as more people arrived and crowded around Lisa. “In the meantime, I’m going to have a couple of those deep-fried wontons from the buffet and a glass of wine.”

“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 able to eat whatever you want.”

Many of Lisa’s friends from her online 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 wine. “I remember meeting you at 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 online. 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 all twelve members of the group had met for the first time. Each woman 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!”

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 aahs came from women in the room as Lisa held up each item. “Thank you so much!” 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 floor-length tablecloth, she reached under the table where she’d stored her belongings and snatched 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 with anticipation. “Well, open it and you’ll find out!”

Inside, Ava discovered an invitation. She pulled out the embossed card and stared at it—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?”

Lisa blinked, taken back. “No, it’s nothing like that! Look at it again.”

Ava scanned the invitation a second time. Was it real, after all? “Are you saying this invitation is for me personally?”

Lisa nodded.

“Why me? Why aren’t you offering this to one of your book club friends?” She tried to give it back, but Lisa refused.

Lisa 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 replied 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 been previously married. And failed at it. 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. “Really, I think you should 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 persistence, Ava didn’t know what else to say. Suddenly, all of the women in the book club stood up and surrounded 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 for 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. Plus, you may be asked to participate in a promotional video. I have no doubt that you’ll be very happy with all of the arrangements.”

“Other than the seven-day stipulation, the survey, and the promotional video, 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 even browsed a dating site, much less one that sends you to an exotic location to meet your so-called perfect match,” 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 beginning of September. Book your trip for the week of my due date and be with me when the baby is born!”

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

Maybe a trip someplace far away from my problems 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 on Enchanted Island when Lisa has the baby. It sounds like a wonderful place and frankly, my life is so dull…

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

Ava is on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Get your copy today!

~*~*~*~

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!

PERFECT MATCH SERIES (Ava)

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.

This is Ava’s story…


It sounds too good to be true…

The invitation from “Perfect Match” offers Ava Godfrey an all-expense-paid week on Enchanted Island with the man of her dreams. Seven days of Caribbean sunshine, tropical beaches and, candlelight dinners sounds like heaven. The only catch—she can’t meet her Prince Charming until she arrives on the island. The scenario sounds risky, yet she finds the prospect intriguing. Will she find her “perfect match” or will she encounter the perfect scam?

They send him to deal with the diva…

Jeffrey Thomas has a job to do—cancel Ava Godfrey’s contract. She’s cost his boss a small fortune by turning down not one, but two matches sent by the agency. He’s determined to cut her loose until he meets the spunky, fun-loving redhead and is irrevocably attracted to her. Though he’s tempted to stay and find out if she’s his perfect match, his priority is to persuade her to go home. But when Ava’s bag is stolen along with her identity, Jeff’s only concern is helping her recover what she lost. Will he lose his heart to her in the process?

Meet the women of Perfect Match!

BREE (Raine English)
MARNI (Aileen Fish)
MOLLY (Julie Jarnagin)
JADE (Rachelle Ayala)
AVA (Denise Devine)
MAEVE (Josie Riviera)




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