A Little Bit Cupid

By: Jennifer Shirk
For Melissa, who suggested I try to write a novella for Entangled.

Chapter One

Six years in photography had taught Phoebe Ward one thing. Being the photographer at someone else’s wedding was the next best thing to being the bride in your own.

Unless, of course, that wedding happened to be your ex-fiancé’s.

The glowing bride and groom gave a final wave as Phoebe snapped the last picture. She lowered her camera and sighed. Quitting time—thank goodness. She wasn’t sure she could have endured one more minute. Not that she didn’t want Kyle to be happily married to someone else. She did. After all, she had never really loved him—not in the way he deserved—and he obviously hadn’t loved her. She swallowed the lump that lingered in her throat and went to find her camera case.

At least they’d broken up on amicable terms, which was why she agreed to be his wedding photographer. But that didn’t mean a pang of envy hadn’t hit a direct bull’s-eye on her heart at the start of the ceremony and dug deeper with each kiss throughout the reception.

Phoebe had seen the way the couple looked at each other. The way they’d shared secret smiles during the evening exposed the gaping hole in her heart and loneliness in her life. That was when she’d realized something was utterly wrong with her: she had never been in love. Not completely and truly.

And she doubted she ever would be.

Phoebe removed the strap from around her neck just in time to see the bride’s mother, smothered in green taffeta, waving a checkbook at her. “Don’t you just adore weddings the week before Valentine’s Day?” she said in a singsong voice.

For a single girl, someone else’s wedding and Valentine’s Day meant double the torture. But since the bride’s mother had yet to sign the last payment check for her photography services, Phoebe pasted on a polite smile and nodded.

The woman let out a booming laugh. “Ha! You don’t have to agree with me, you know. I’ll still pay you,” she said, shaking her pen at her. And true to her word, she signed the check and promptly handed it over to Phoebe.

Phoebe chuckled, tucking it into her jacket pocket. “Okay, maybe not. But it was a beautiful wedding—Valentine’s or not—and I hope your daughter and Kyle have years of happiness. It’s nice to see someone find love, at least.”

The woman clucked her tongue. “Alone for Valentine’s?”

Phoebe bristled at the presumption, even if it happened to be 100 percent true. “No, I—”

The woman held up a heavily ringed hand. “Take it easy, honey. I’m a mother of four young women. I’ve become adept at reading body language and yours is emanating ‘Hallmark holiday marketing ploy’!”

“I didn’t realize I was so transparent.”

“Only to a trained eye,” she said with a wink. “Don’t let weddings get you down, though. You’re a pretty girl. You’ll find true love soon enough and maybe even have your own Valentine’s wedding.”

Phoebe packed her camera in its case, and when the lid gave a sound click, she looked up. “No offense, ma’am, but I highly doubt that will happen. I’ve given up looking for love. It may be in the cards for some, but Cupid seemed to have missed his mark with me.”

The woman’s eyes filled with sympathy as she patted Phoebe’s arm. “Well, you never know, dear. Cupid just may find you yet. Have a nice evening.”

“Thanks. You, too.”

One of the bridesmaids called out and the woman went bustling in the direction of the bar. If Phoebe weren’t so tired, she would have headed for a drink, too. But adding alcohol to her already-down mood wouldn’t be a smart idea.

“Excuse me, doll,” a burly voice said from behind her.

She turned around and was met by a short, stocky man in an ill-fitted tuxedo. He had messy dark hair and a ruddy complexion she suspected might have been caused from one too many cocktails. If him calling her “doll” hadn’t already put her on the defensive, the creepy, eager smile he was radiating sure did.

“I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation about true love,” he went on.

Oh, great. An eavesdropper. She rolled her eyes, not bothering to hide her exasperation with his weak idea of a pickup line. “Look—”

“Allow me to introduce myself,” he said, reaching his chubby hand into his jacket pocket and pulling out a pink business card.

She hesitated to reach for it, not wanting to be rude. A pink business card didn’t exactly look promising, either. But it had been a long night, and since it was a wedding event, she decided to humor him and take it. The card read: Cosmo E. Cupid III.

Huh. His last name was Cupid. Funny, considering she’d just been talking about love. Then she took a closer look at the card and her stomach dropped. Oh, no.

Love expert?

Ugh. He wasn’t trying to hit on her at all—it was much worse. He was trying to enroll her in an online dating service. Not that she hadn’t tried that already. It just hadn’t worked.

She shoved the card none too lightly back into his palm. “Nice try, buddy. What are you, some kind of wedding chaser, hoping to prey upon single depressed females? Not interested.” Grabbing her camera case and coat, she sidestepped him and made her way to the hotel lobby.

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