HOLD ON TO FOREVER
HOT, RICH, AND POWERFUL MEETS HIS MATCH AT A DESTINATION WEDDING IN BAREFOOT BAY!
Jack Martinez has the world at his feet. Heir to Florida’s most lucrative personal injury law firm, women love him and insurance companies quake at the mention of his name. But Jack harbors a secret wish. He wants to start a small practice of his own, away from the limelight, and he’s counting on his younger brother to finish law school and take his place at their parents’ firm.
Felicity Reed wants to save her family’s dying PR company. Landing a big client like Jack would be a dream come true, but she’s made a pitch and he’s already shot her down. Which makes it awkward when her baby sister and Jack’s younger brother decide to do a destination wedding at the Casa Blanca Resort in Mimosa Key.
When the soon-to-be newlyweds announce that they’re deferring law school, Jack offers Felicity a deal; help him convince the young couple to stick to their original plan and he’ll give her PR firm a slice of his business. Which seems easy enough until Felicity finds herself actually falling for the arrogant ambulance chaser. Now she’s going to have to make a choice between family loyalty or a chance on a forever love.
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Felicity Reed took one look at the Casa Blanca Resort and Spa and nearly lost her cookies. Not literally, of course. She’d had a salad for lunch, but she’d never heard of anyone losing one’s carrots. The elegant resort in Mimosa Key was everything the website promised. Beautiful, secluded, and reeking of expensive. How on earth was she going to pay for a destination wedding in this place?
“What name did you say the reservation was under?” the valet asked.
She took a deep breath and willed her stomach to behave. “Nicole Reed,” she said.
He peered down at the tablet in his hand. “I’m sorry, but I don’t see anything under that name.”
“Oh, try Felicity Reed, or maybe—”
“The reservation is under Martinez,” interrupted a male voice from behind.
Great. It was the ambulance chaser.
Felicity plastered her most professional smile—the one she used with a particularly prickly client—and turned to face her future brother-in-law. Correction: her sister’s future brother-in-law. She wouldn’t actually be related to this jerk. Would she?
“Jack, I didn’t hear you come up. What are you doing here?”
“I assume the same thing you’re doing. Attending the wedding of my brother to your sister?”
She flushed. Put that way, yes, her question did seem rather silly. “That’s almost a week away. I didn’t think you were the type to take a vacation.”
“I don’t think we know each other well enough to make those kinds of assumptions, do we?”
“Nope. You’re right. We don’t really know each other at all.” Thank God.
“Hopefully this week will change all that. Considering that our families are going to be related.” He smiled, and Felicity was hit with a wave of disingenuousness.
It was the same smile she saw every morning staring down at her on her drive to work into downtown Orlando. Every two point five miles, to be exact. Florida was littered with hundreds (thousands!) of billboards splattered with Jack Martinez’s face.
The billboards were all the same. His parents, the founding partners of the state’s largest and most lucrative personal injury law firm, stood stone faced in the background, each holding a legal brief in their hand, while Jack was front and center, his arms crossed over his chest smiling down at the world like a Pitbull on steroids. Beneath the intimidating pose were the words, Martinez and Martinez, Watching out for The Little Man.
Every time she saw one of those billboards she gagged. Who had come up with that awful tagline?
But, like thousands of gullible women everywhere, Felicity’s best friend and work partner, Aubrey, was enamored of those same billboards. “Is Jack Martinez as gorgeous in person as he is up large and far away?” she’d gushed after discovering that Felicity’s baby sister Nicki was dating Jack’s younger brother Mitch. “I think he looks just like Matt Bomer!”
“I hadn’t noticed,” Felicity had lied, because of course, she’d noticed. She wasn’t dead. She met Jack two months ago at a family dinner to celebrate Nicki and Mitch’s graduation from undergrad at The University of Miami. Up until then she’d only known him through his reputation. Handsome, rich, and powerful, he was rumored to be as ruthless in person as he looked on those billboards. At thirty-three, he was at the top of his game. The heir, and current managing partner, to the richest law firm in the state.
But the Jack she’d met that night at dinner had been quietly charming. So despite his reputation and those sleazy billboards, Felicity couldn’t help but be mightily attracted to him.
After dinner, he had invited her to stay behind for a nightcap and she’d accepted. And yes, she hated to admit it, but she’d been disappointed when he hadn’t flirted with her. So after an hour of polite chitchat, she’d pitched him her small but smart (that was her tagline) public relations firm, because opportunities like that only came along almost never.
She’d been less than five minutes into her spiel when Jack had cut her off mid-sentence. He’d motioned to the bartender to close out their bill, stood, and looked down at her with the same cold green eyes she saw every morning on those billboards. “Thanks, but no thanks.” Then he’d walked off, leaving Felicity alone at the bar, her cheeks flaming with heat. He’d gone from lukewarm to frigid in a matter of minutes.
In the aftermath, it wasn’t hard to understand his reaction. She’d crossed the line and tried to use a personal connection to sell him, and Jack Martinez, apparently, didn’t like being sold to. But really, it wasn’t like she was trying to sell him crack cocaine. And she only wanted a little part of his advertising dollars. Martinez and Martinez had law firms all across the state. Their advertising budget must be in the millions. She’d have been a fool not to have tried. Yes, she’d messed up. But it wouldn’t have killed him to have been more gracious about the whole thing.
After that embarrassing debacle, a part of her had hoped she’d never have to see Jack again. But then a few weeks later Mitch had proposed to Nicki, and now they were going to be family.
Mitch Martinez was sweet and unassuming and just as smart as Nicki. They’d both been accepted into the University of Miami’s prestigious law school. Felicity liked Mitch, she really did, but he and Nicki were only twenty-two. She was still trying to wrap her head around the idea of her baby sister getting married so young when Nicki had called a couple of days ago to tell her that she and Mitch were getting married this Saturday.
“This Saturday. As in, a week from now?”
“Isn’t it great? There was a last minute cancellation at the Casa Blanca Resort in Mimosa Key and…oh, my God, Felicity, you’re going to love it! It’s absolutely gorgeous!”
“But…why not wait till next summer?” Or better yet, why not wait until they’d both graduated from law school? What was the big rush? Unless…
“I’m not pregnant,” Nicki had said, already guessing where Felicity’s mind had gone to.
“Okay. So, again, what’s the big hurry?”
“Because when you know who you want to be with for the rest of your life, you want forever to start right now.”
There were a million reasons Felicity could use to argue that sort of romantic nonsense. Between the two of them, Nicki had always been the dreamer. It wasn’t that Felicity didn’t believe in a forever kind of love. It was possible, because after all, anything was possible. But it seemed so much more prudent to wait till they were finished with law school and had established their careers before getting married.
Felicity was six years older than her sister and nowhere near ready to think about marriage. Besides, she was already in a committed relationship—to her job. Fourteen hour work days at the PR firm she’d inherited from their father didn’t leave much time left over for dating. A firm that was not, despite all her long hours, doing very well financially, so she didn’t regret pitching her firm to Jack Martinez. It was what any savvy business person would do. She only regretted that she hadn’t taken the time to approach him in a more professional manner.
Not much she could do about that now, though. All she could do at this moment was smile back at Jack and try to pretend the incident had never happened. It would be awkward, yes, but despite her reservations about their upcoming marriage, this week was about Nicki and Mitch. If Jack could put his game face on, then she could too.
The valet glanced between the two of them. “I have two villas under the Martinez reservation. Are you both staying in the same one?”
“Absolutely not,” she said at the same time that Jack said, “No.”
The valet raised a brow. “O-kay. Now that we’ve got that settled, can you tell me who goes where?”
Jack handed him the keys to a snappy red sports car. Something foreign that probably cost more money than Felicity had made in her entire lifetime. “You can have my luggage brought to wherever Ellen and Luis Martinez checked into this morning. Miss Reed will be staying in the other villa with her sister.”
Nicki checked into a villa? It sounded a lot more expensive than a regular room.
The valet grinned. “Ah! Of course. This Saturday’s big wedding. I’ll have both cars parked and the luggage sent to the correct destination. Don’t worry, sir. Here at Casa Blanca Resort and Spa, we aim to please.”
“Good to hear that.” Jack slipped the valet a bill that made the guy’s eyes bug out.
Wait. Did the valet say big wedding? When Nicki phoned to tell her that she and Mitch had decided on a whirlwind ceremony, she’d indicated it would be a small, family only affair. One look at the resort and Felicity knew that even an intimate wedding here would cost a fortune. And a not so intimate wedding?
Felicity mentally went through her meager savings. She hadn’t been completely honest with her sister about the family finances. If Nicki thought they had the money to pay for this wedding it was because Felicity hadn’t dispelled her of the notion. When their father died three years ago, he’d left them a lucrative public relations firm. Now, that same firm under Felicity’s management was on the verge of financial ruin. It wasn’t for her lack of work ethic, but she just didn’t seem to have the same knack David Reed had brought to the business world. It was embarrassing to think how in just a few years she’d mucked it all up.
Still, there was enough left over in the small life insurance policy their father had left to pay for a nice wedding. Just not a nice wedding plus three years of private law school tuition.
“After you.” Jack motioned her through the entrance to the Casa Blanca lobby, which was just as impressive inside as outside. More so, because it’s simplicity only enhanced its elegance. The spacious lobby was three stories high and faced the crystal blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico giving the entire place a light and airy feel.
Her flip-flops made a squishy sound against the cool marble tile floor. It was Monday and she’d opted to try to get a half day of work done before she’d gotten in the car to make the five hour drive from Orlando to Mimosa Key, but she’d taken the time to change out of her work clothes and into shorts and a T-shirt. But despite having the air conditioner on high the whole way over, she still felt like a piece of lettuce that had been sitting outside in the sun for too long.
Jack, on the other hand, wore what looked like a five figure power suit. Miami wasn’t as far a drive as Orlando, but he’d still had to have spent a few hours in the car. Yet, here it was late July in south Florida and he looked crisp and completely put together, not one dark hair out of place. Felicity could see him now, one hand on the steering wheel, zipping through traffic while he barked out orders into his Bluetooth to some poor overworked secretary back at the office.
An attractive woman in her late thirties smiled at them from behind the desk. “Welcome to Casa Blanca. I’m Lacey Walker, the resort’s owner. I understand you’re both here for the Reed-Martinez wedding?”
“That’s right.” Jack’s gaze slowly took in his surroundings. “This is a beautiful place.”
“Thank you. My husband designed it,” she said, not bothering to hide the soft pride in her voice. “With a little guidance on my part.”
“Then you and your husband have excellent taste. You probably get asked this all the time, but did you name it after the movie?”
Lacey pointed to a Moroccan tapestry on the side wall. “What do you think?”
“I think I could happily spend the rest of my life here,” Jack said.
Lacey looked at Jack like she’d just met her new best friend. “That’s exactly what Clay and I intend to do.”
Wow. This schmoozer Jack was a close relative to the man she’d met at dinner two months ago. But Felicity knew from experience that he could turn off the charm just as quickly as he could dole it out.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Lacey said, realizing that they’d excluded her from the conversation. “We’re talking about Casablanca.”
“So I gathered.” She reached across the reservation desk to shake Lacey’s hand. “I’m Felicity Reed, sister of the bride and maid of honor.”
“Jack Martinez, brother of the groom and the best man,” Jack added.
“Let me say that on behalf of myself and the rest of the staff here at Casa Blanca, we’re very excited to have you here. I’ve seen the plans for the wedding and I have to say, I think the whole thing is going to be just lovely.”
Felicity felt her smile wobble. Nicki had already consulted the wedding planners? She had thought they’d draw up a preliminary budget, then she and Nicki and Mitch would talk to the Barefoot Bay Brides wedding planners together.
“It will just take a few minutes to check you both in,” Lacey said.
“You go first,” Jack said to Felicity. She expected him to wander away from the desk, or at least stand behind her and give her some personal space, but no, he planted himself right alongside her, like he was the boss of the world.
Go away… Go away… Go away…
Felicity firmly believed in the power of a strong mantra. If she chanted it to herself enough, it could happen.
Lacey began typing into a computer. “So you’ll be staying the entire week with a late check out on Sunday?”
“That’s right.” She lowered her voice, although there was really no sense in doing it because from where he was standing, unless he was deaf, Jack could hear their entire conversation. “May I ask, um, exactly how much the rate is for the villa?”
Sensing her discomfort, Lacey wrote down a figure on a slip of paper and discreetly handed it to her.
Dear God. This figure was equal to almost half a year’s rent on her apartment back in Orlando!
Felicity tried to keep her voice from squeaking. “I think there might be a mistake. It’s just me and my sister, so we probably don’t need anything as large as a villa.”
“Your sister said to expect an aunt, along with a few cousins? The villa has three bedrooms, as well as a kitchen and a private pool. So although it’s more expensive than separate hotel rooms, the amenities and all the extra room make it worth the extra money.”
Of course, Aunt Cindy and the cousins would be coming in a couple of days. Felicity had forgotten about that.
“Okay, yes, that all makes sense.” A trickle of sweat ran down the back of her thighs. She pulled out her MasterCard, then quickly stuffed it back in her purse. No way was that card going to go through. Not for the amount Lacey had written. She had no choice. She was going to have to use the Virgin Visa, the card she kept hidden in the back compartment of her wallet to be used only in case of extreme and dire emergency.
This wasn’t exactly what she’d been saving it for, but a sudden vision of Jack witnessing her MasterCard get rejected, popped into her head. Extreme and dire didn’t begin to describe the situation. She handed the never used Visa over to Lacey.
“I’ll just run this for incidentals,” Lacey said.
“The suite has already been paid for by the Martinez family,” Lacey clarified.
Felicity’s gaze flew to Jack’s. “Oh, I can’t have you do that.”
He shrugged. “My parents would insist.”
“No, really, please go ahead and charge the villa to that card,” she instructed Lacey.
Lacey hesitated. “I’ll have to void out the other card that was used and redo the account, but if that’s what you’d like…”
Jack reached over and plucked the card from Lacey’s hand. “Since my parents aren’t here at the moment, I’m afraid I’ll have to step in and insist on their behalf. Please charge any incidentals to the card already on file,” he said to Lacey. He handed the Visa back to Felicity. “You can duke it out with my parents if you like, but I hope you’ll be civil enough to accept their generosity. For everything.”
He hoped she’d be civil enough?
Jack Martinez had a way of making her feel like a bug beneath his two thousand dollar Italian leather shoes. A bug he could happily squash at any time. She was grateful that she didn’t have to pay for the villa, but…wait. Did he say for everything? As in, the entire wedding?
“Thank you,” Felicity said tightly, because what other choice did she have at the moment? She wasn’t about to make a scene here in the middle of the lobby.
Lacey got all Jack’s information, then handed them each their room keys, along with an itinerary. “Willow Hershey, one of the wedding planners here at Barefoot Bay Brides, ask that I give each member of the family a detailed rundown of the week’s events. There’s a welcome dinner at Junonia in the next hour. That’s the restaurant here at the resort. They’ll also be catering the food for the wedding reception.”
Felicity quickly perused the itinerary. Tonight’s dinner was the just the beginning. Tomorrow morning there was a fitting at a bridal shop in nearby Naples, a beach excursion on Wednesday, manicures, pedicures, massages, a luau, and on and on. The week culminating of course with the wedding on Saturday evening. There was even a farewell brunch for Sunday morning.
“Looks like we’re on a cruise,” Jack muttered, which was exactly what Felicity had been thinking too.
Lacey smiled sympathetically. “As the best man and maid of honor, of course you’ll be expected to cheerfully participate in all the events together.”
“Right,” said Jack.
Felicity grit her teeth and smiled. Dinner in an hour? Okay. That gave her plenty of time to have a serious one on one with her baby sister.
Everyone knew it was the bride’s family that paid for the wedding. Of course, times were changing and the Martinez family could probably afford a million weddings at Casa Blanca, but David Reed would have never let someone else pay for his daughter’s wedding, let alone their accommodations. When her father died, it had essentially left Felicity as head of the family. It was bad enough that she’d run her father’s business into the ground. Allowing someone else to pay for Nicki’s wedding would be like…letting her father down all over again.