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Authors: Kristan Higgins

The Perfect Match

BOOK: The Perfect Match
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What if
the perfect match
is a perfect surprise?

Honor Holland has just been unceremoniously rejected by her lifelong crush. And now—a mere three weeks later—Mr. Perfect is engaged to her best friend. But resilient, reliable Honor is going to pick herself up, dust herself off and get back out there…or she would if dating in Manningsport, New York, population 715, wasn’t easier said than done.

Charming, handsome British professor Tom Barlow just wants to do right by his unofficial stepson, Charlie, but his visa is about to expire. Now Tom must either get a green card or leave the States—and leave Charlie behind.

In a moment of impulsiveness, Honor agrees to help Tom with a marriage of convenience—and make her ex jealous in the process. But juggling a fiancé, hiding out from her former best friend and managing her job at the family vineyard isn’t easy. And as sparks start to fly between Honor and Tom, they might discover that their pretend relationship is far too perfect to be anything but true love….

Praise for
New York Times
bestselling author Kristan Higgins

“Higgins [offers] strong storytelling and a refreshing, sarcastic wit…thoroughly entertaining.”

People
magazine

“Well-placed flashbacks; snarky, snappy dialogue; and conflict both tender and traumatic will shove you into love with a perfectly irresistible array of imperfect characters. You’ll adore every bit of this story… Higgins’ latest is sexy, screwy, funny and fulfilling—a simply radiant read.”

USA TODAY
on
The Best Man

“The result is a deliriously funny story…
The Best Man
is Kristan Higgins’s best book—and that’s saying a lot.”
—Eloisa James

“Romance fans and lovers of women’s fiction will devour this witty and tender novel. Highly recommended.”

Library Journal,
starred review, on
Somebody to Love

“Both gut-wrenchingly emotional and hysterically funny at the same time…Kristan Higgins writes the books you don’t want to end.”
—#1
New York Times
bestselling author Robyn Carr

“Kristan Higgins specializes in the kind of prose that makes you laugh out loud…hilarious on the surface, but with a bittersweet subtext.”
—National Public Radio

“A funny, poignant romance.”

Publishers Weekly,
starred review, on
My One and Only

“Cheeky, cute and satisfying, Higgins’s romance is perfect entertainment for a girl’s night in.”

Booklist
on
Too Good to Be True

Winner—2010 Romance Writers of America RITA® Award

Also available from
Kristan Higgins
and Harlequin HQN

A Blue Heron Novel
THE BEST MAN

SOMEBODY TO LOVE
UNTIL THERE WAS YOU
MY ONE AND ONLY
ALL I EVER WANTED
THE NEXT BEST THING
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
JUST ONE OF THE GUYS
CATCH OF THE DAY
FOOLS RUSH IN

Watch for the next book
in the bestselling Blue Heron series
WAITING ON YOU
Coming soon from Harlequin HQN

Kristan Higgins

The Perfect Match

This book is dedicated to Maria Carvainis, my wonderful friend and agent.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Madame.

PROLOGUE

T
HE
DAY
H
onor
Grace Holland turned thirty-five, she did what she always did on her birthday.

She got a Pap smear.

Sure, sure, Honor was aware that gynecology was pretty low on the totem pole of celebrations. It was just easier to schedule the dreaded appointment if it was on a memorable date. Practical, that was all, and she was nothing if not practical. Faith and Prudence, her sisters, and Dana Hoffman, her closest friend, had planned to take her out, but there’d been a snowstorm last weekend, and they’d had to cancel. The family would gather this weekend for cake, so it wasn’t like the Pap smear was the only celebration she’d be having.

She assumed the position on the exam table while her doctor kindly averted his eyes, and practiced the deep breathing the irritatingly flexible yoga instructor had demonstrated with such vigor until she and Dana had giggled like two little kids in church. Didn’t work then, didn’t work now. She stared at the Jackson Pollock print on the ceiling and tried to think happy thoughts. She really needed to update the website. Design a label for the new pinot gris Blue Heron Vineyard was launching. Check the month’s orders.

It occurred to her that work should not be her happy thoughts. She tried to think of something not work-related. She had some Lindt truffles at home. That was good.

“So how are things, Honor?” Jeremy asked from between her legs.

“Working a lot. You know me.” And he did. Jeremy Lyon was an old family friend as well as her sister’s ex-fiancé. He was also gay, which didn’t seem to make his palpation of her ovaries any less yucky.

Jeremy snapped off his gloves and smiled. “All done,” he said.

Honor sat up fast, despite the fact that Jeremy was terribly nice and had famously gentle hands. The good doctor handed her a prewarmed blanket—he was thoughtful that way. He never made eye contact during the breast exam, and the speculum was always placed on a heating pad. Small wonder half the women in Manningsport were in love with him, no matter that he liked men.

“How’s Patrick?” she asked, crossing her arms.

“He’s great,” Jeremy said. “Thanks for asking. Speaking of that, are you seeing anyone, Honor?”

The question made her blush, not just because Jeremy’s famous hands had been Down Under, but also because...well. She was private. “Why do you ask?” Did he want to fix her up? Should she say yes? Maybe she should. Brogan was never—

“Just need to ask a few questions about your, um, certain personal aspects of your life.”

Honor smiled. Jeremy, despite being a doctor, was still the cute boy who’d dated Faith all through college, and couldn’t quite forget that Honor was a few years older. “If it’s covered by HIPPA, then the answer is—” Yes, indeed, what
was
the answer? “The answer is yes. Sort of. And if you tell anyone in my family, I will kill you.”

“No, no, of course not,” he said, smiling back at her. “But I’m glad to hear it. Because, um...”

She sat up a little straighter. “Because why, Jer?”

He gave a half smile, half grimace. “It’s just...you’re thirty-five now.”

“Yes, I know. What does that have to do with—oh.” Her stomach sank abruptly, as if she was in a fast-moving elevator.

“Nothing to worry about, of course,” he said, blushing again. “But the years are precious. Egg-wise.”

“What? What are you talking about?” She pulled her hairband out and shoved it back on her head. Nervous habit. “Is there a problem?”

“No, no. It’s just that thirty-five is considered advanced maternal age.”

She frowned, then tried to stop. The mirror had shown a permanent line between her eyebrows just this morning (damn you, natural light!). She’d have sworn it wasn’t there last week. “Really? Already?”

“Right.” Jeremy winced. “I’m sorry. It’s just the quality of your eggs starts to decline about now. Medically speaking, the best time to have a kid is around twenty-two, twenty-four. That’s the sweet spot.”

“Twenty-four?” That was more than a
decade
earlier. All of a sudden, Honor felt ancient. She had a wrinkle between her eyes, and her eggs were aging! She shifted on the examination table. Her hip creaked. God, she
was
ancient! “Should I be worried?”

“Oh, no! No. But it might be time to think about these things.” Jeremy paused. “What I mean is, I’m sure it won’t be an issue. But yes, the chances of birth defects and infertility do start to increase about now. They’re still small, and infertility treatments are amazing these days. This doctor in New Hampshire just had success with a fifty-four-year-old woman—”

“I’m not planning to have a baby in my fifties, Jer!”

Jeremy took her limp hand and patted it. “I’m sure it won’t come to that. I’m required to tell you as your doctor, that’s all. Same as telling you to eat right. Your BP is just a tiny bit high, but that’s probably white-coat anxiety.”

She wasn’t anxious. At least, she hadn’t been when she’d first come in.
Fungus.
So now she had high blood pressure, in addition to leathery skin and hardening ovaries.

“You look fantastic,” Jeremy went on, “so there’s probably no cause for worry—”
Probably?
It was never good when a doctor said
probably!
“—but if you’re seeing someone, it might be time to start thinking about the future. I mean, not that you need a man. There’s a really good sperm bank—”

She yanked her hand back. “Okay, Jeremy, you can stop now.”

He smiled. “Sorry.”

Another attempt at a calming breath. “So think about babies sooner rather than later, is that what you’re saying?”

“Exactly,” Jeremy said. “And I’m sure you don’t have anything to worry about.”

“Except birth defects and infertility.”

“Right.” He smiled. “Any questions for me?”

* * *

S
HE
CALLED
D
ANA
from Jeremy’s parking lot, safe within the womb of her Prius. Small wonder that everything was taking on obstetrical overtones.

“House of Hair,” Dana answered, which made Honor mentally flinch every time.

“It’s me,” she said.

“Thank God. I just got done giving Phyllis Nebbins her monthly perm and blue rinse and I was this close to screaming. Like, do I really want to hear about her new hip? Anyway, what’s up?”

“I just got out of Jeremy’s. I’m old and need to have babies, quick.”

“Do you?” Dana said. “I don’t know if I can stand losing another friend to motherhood. All those stories of screaming and colic and precious, precious angels.”

Honor laughed. Dana didn’t want children—she said it was the main cause of her divorce—and often called to describe the brattiest behavior she saw at House of Hair in curdling detail.

But Honor loved kids. Even teenagers. Well, she loved her seventeen-year-old niece, Abby, and she loved her nephew, Ned, who still had the mental age of fourteen, even though he was twenty-two now.

“Other than that, what’s up?” Dana asked. “Wanna go out tonight, grab a few drinks in honor of you being an old hag?”

Honor was quiet for a minute. Her heart started thudding. “I’m thinking that, given the news, maybe I should have a talk with Brogan.”

“What talk?”


The
talk.”

There was silence. “Really.”

“Well...yeah.”

Another pause. “Sure, I guess I can see your rationale. Aging ovaries, shriveling uterus.”

“For the record, there was no mention of a shriveling uterus. But what do you think?”

“Um, yeah, go for it,” Dana said with a decided lack of enthusiasm.

Honor adjusted her hairband. “You don’t sound sure.”

“Are
you
sure, Honor? I mean, if you’re asking me, maybe you’re not, even if you’ve been sleeping with the guy for the past however many years.”

“Quietly, quietly, okay?” It’s not like there were a dozen people named Honor in Manningsport, New York, population seven hundred and fifteen, and Dana and she had very different views on what could be talked about in public.

“Whatever. He’s rich, he’s gorgeous, you’re hung up on him. Besides, you have everything already. Why not Brogan, too?”

There was a familiar edge to her voice. Honor knew her friend had a very rose-colored view of Honor’s life, and yes, certain aspects of it were quite wonderful. But like everyone, Honor had her issues. Spinsterhood, for example. Aging eggs, for another.

Honor sighed, then saw her reflection in the mirror. There was that frown again. “I guess I’m just worried he’ll say no,” she admitted. “We’ve been friends for a long time. I wouldn’t want to jeopardize that.”

“Then don’t ask.”

The years are precious, egg-wise.
She was going to have to talk to Jeremy about his delivery. Still, if there was a sign from God, it was probably those words. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess?” she suggested, hoping for some reinforcement.

Dana sighed, and Honor sensed her patience was coming to an end. Couldn’t really blame her. “Honor, if you want to pop the question, do it. Just lay it on the line and he’ll probably say, ‘Hells yeah, I’ll marry you! You’re Honor Freakin’ Holland!’ And then you can go to Harts Jeweler’s and pick out that rock you’ve been eyeing for the past year.”

Okay. That was a nice thought. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” she said. But yes. There was a ring in the window of the jewelry store on the green, and Honor had admitted—only to Dana—that if she ever
did
get engaged, that would be the ring she wanted. Just a simple, stunning, emerald-cut diamond set in platinum. Honor didn’t think of herself as the type who loved jewelry (she only wore her mom’s pearls) or clothes (gray or blue suits from Ann Taylor, tailored white shirt—sometimes pink, if she was feeling sentimental), but that ring
did
things to her.

“I gotta go,” Dana said. “Laura Boothby’s coming for a rinse. Rock his world, pop the question, see what he says. Or don’t. Just don’t be wishy-washy. Okay? Talk to you soon.” She hung up.

Honor sat another minute. She could call one of her sisters, but...well, neither one knew about Brogan. They knew he and Honor were friends, of course, but they didn’t know about the romantic part. The
sex
part. Prudence, the oldest of the Holland clan, would be all for it, having recently become a sex kitten as some weird by-product of menopause or whatnot. But Pru didn’t have much in the way of filters and tended to announce inappropriate things at family dinners or at O’Rourke’s, the local pub.

Faith, the youngest of the three Holland sisters...maybe. She and Honor had always scrapped a little, though things had been better since Faith had moved back from San Francisco (the only Holland to live out of New York State in eight generations). She’d love the idea...she loved anything romantic, being a newlywed and kind of a mushy, emotional person in general.

And then there was Jack, their brother. But he was a guy and hated nothing more than hearing stories that confirmed the suspicion that his sisters were indeed female and, worse still, had sex lives.

So no sympathetic ear other than Dana’s. That was fine. It was time to get back to work, anyway. She started the car and headed through town.

Manningsport was the jewel of the Finger Lakes region of western New York, a famed wine-making area. The winter months were the quiet time of year here—the holidays were over, and the tourist season wouldn’t kick in until April. The grapevines had been pruned, and snow blanketed the fields. Keuka Lake glittered black in the distance, too deep to ice over completely.

Blue Heron Vineyard was the oldest farm around, and the sight of their sign—a gold-painted heron against a blue background—never failed to cause a surge of pride. Set at the top of the area known as the Hill, the Hollands’ land encompassed more than two hundred acres of field and forest.

Honor drove past the Old House, a saltbox colonial built in 1781, where her grandparents (almost as old) lived and fought, past the New House (1873), a big white Federal where she lived with dear old Dad and Mrs. Johnson, the longtime housekeeper and supreme ruler of the Holland family, and pulled into the vineyard parking lot. The only other car here belonged to Ned. Pru, who handled the farming end of the vineyard, was either in one of the equipment storage barns or out in the fields; Dad and Jack, and possibly Pops, would be checking the huge steel casks of wine or playing poker. Honor was the only one who came to work in the office every day, though Ned was part-time.

Which was fine. She liked being in charge of the business end of the vineyard. And besides, given Jeremy’s little bombshell, she needed to think. She needed to make lists. She needed to color-code.

She needed a plan, given that the years were precious.

Into the main building she went, through the beautiful tasting room, past the gift shop and into the suite of offices. Ned’s door was open, but he wasn’t here. That was good; she did her best thinking when she was alone.

Sitting behind her large, tidy desk, Honor opened a new document on her computer.

Men were a field in which Honor didn’t have a lot of...panache. She did business with dozens of men, as the wine industry was still heavily skewed toward males. If they were talking distribution or media coverage or crop projections, she had no problem.

But on the romantic front, she didn’t really have the knack. Faith, who was built like Marilyn Monroe and had red hair and blue eyes and a slightly Bambi-esque, innocent air about her, practically caused a stampede just by getting out of her car. Pru, despite her lifelong tomboy ways and propensity for wearing men’s clothing, had had no trouble getting married; Carl was her high school sweetheart. The two were still quite (if far too publicly) happy in their marriage. Even Dana, who was extremely picky when it came to men, always had some date lined up who would inevitably irritate her.

But Honor didn’t have the touch. She knew she wasn’t bad-looking; average height, average figure, maybe a little on the unendowed side. Brown eyes. Her hair was long and straight and blond, her one great beauty, she thought. She had dimples, like her mom. Hers was a pleasant face. But all in all...average.

BOOK: The Perfect Match
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