Opening Chapter

Colors of the Heart, Book 4

Champagne Book Group Presents
By DK Marie

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CHAPTER ONE

Lucas needed to get back to the wedding reception, but he couldn’t look away. The horse with the bulbous eyes and the demon sitting on the woman’s torso, her face a mask of hopeless despair, held all his attention.

This painting, The Nightmare, had been him for so long. Until, slowly, life and heartache moved on. The changes were so imperceptible he barely noticed them.

First, he was able to breathe around the sadness. After a while, his laughter began to ring true and his smiles weren’t a brittle, false mask. Then one day, he noticed he felt human again.

The click of high-heels pulled his attention from the painting and his musings. He turned to find a woman walking in his direction, her entire focus on the phone in her hand.

She was stunning.

Her black hair was swept into an intricate style matching her fancy dress. A few strands had fallen from her up-do, and she tugged on them with one hand while the other swiped a perfectly manicured thumb across the screen of her cell, scrolling through something.

He recognized her green gown. Like him, she was at the Detroit Institute of Arts for Jacob and Greta’s wedding. She was one of the bridesmaids.

She was within a few feet of him but didn’t notice she wasn’t alone. No surprise. He hadn’t moved since spotting her, and it was late in the evening. The DIA was mostly empty. Since sneaking away to the upstairs galleries for a breather, she was the only person he’d seen.

He cleared his throat to let her know he was there.

She gasped, her head shooting up as her phone clattered to the ground.

Shit. So much for not startling her.

He hurried forward, grabbing her cell. Glancing at the screen, he saw a marble statue.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” He handed her the phone, almost stuttering his words.

He’d caught a brief glimpse of her walking down the aisle during the wedding and thought she was pretty. Seeing her up close, with those gray-metal eyes pinning him, she was striking.

“No, my fault,” she said, her quiet, breathy laugh wrapping around him. “I was in my own world and didn’t see anyone on my way here.” She patted the lapel of his suit jacket. “Are you a guest from the Grimm wedding?”

He nodded, wishing she’d touch him again. It had been light, only lasting a second, yet the warmth of her hand and her nearness was distracting. And entrancing.

Not in a bad way, but definitely different, something that hadn’t happened in a long time.

Lately, he’d begun to wonder if that part of him died as so much had on that awful February afternoon two years ago.

“Coming from the same party, I wonder how we managed to miss each other.” She gave a brilliant, gleaming smile.

Clearing his throat again, he replied, “I probably left before you. I’ve been here a while.”

She quirked a questioning brow. “Are you avoiding the wedding or your date?”

He licked his bottom lip, his pulse zinging. Was this small talk, or her subtle attempt to find out if he was single?

He ran his thumb along his ring finger. The old, unconscious habit caused him a sliver of pain. His finger was, of course, bare. His wife had been gone for more than two years, and sometime last year he’d made himself remove his wedding ring.

He went with a half-truth. “Neither. I wanted to visit this painting.” He pointed to The Nightmare. “And, okay, I needed a break from my sister. She talks a lot.”

“You came here with your sister?” She lifted a single brow, her gaze running over him.

He wasn’t about to get into his reasons for not having a date and shrugged. “Yeah, so?”

“You’re handsome. I can’t imagine you’d have a difficult time finding a date.”

Pleasure warmed his veins. Perhaps she was interested in him.

He took half a step closer, her perfume teasing him. The scent was alluring and sensual, matching her perfectly.

“Plus, it makes me feel like less of a loser.” She smiled, her enticing full lips twitching with humor. “My mother is my date.”

A burst of sharp, surprised laughter escaped him. “Really? You couldn’t find someone to bring?”

The woman was hot. All she’d need to do was crook a finger, and men would come running.

“The bride is my cousin, so my mother was already invited. She was the logical choice. I don’t have time for a man in my life right now.” She shrugged a delicate shoulder. “Why waste my evening with one?”

Her lack of interest in men bothered him more than it should. He wanted to change her mind.

“However,” the sexy stranger continued, “if you happen to run into my aunt Sophia, please don’t tell her what I said. She’s been dropping hints since the wedding invites were mailed that I need to find a man before all the good ones are taken.” Leaning in closer, her eyes dancing with mirth, she said in a conspiratorial whisper, “Her other word of advice was to stay away from the groom’s side. According to her, they’re low-life commoners. She must’ve missed the memo that we aren’t living in the eighteen hundreds.”

He snorted. Jacob had told Lucas plenty of stories about his snobby mother-in-law. The man must really love his new bride to be willing to deal with her mother. “Aw, well, that’s a shame.”

“What is?”

“That you were warned off from the groom’s side, and you don’t have time for men.”

His flirting surprised the hell out of him, and when her smile turned from playful to wicked, his disbelief morphed into something hotter.

“I don’t take bad advice. And, I might have time for you.” She winked. “If you make it worth it.”

Right then, he wanted to make it his life’s mission. This woman’s boldness and confidence were alluring as hell.

He opened his mouth to say something. What, he had no idea, but her phoned buzzed, snagging her attention.

“Crap,” she muttered, reading the screen before returning her gaze to him. “I have to go back downstairs for my bridesmaid duties.”

He offered her his arm. “May I have the pleasure of escorting you back to the party?”

She licked her lips. It stroked along his desires.

“The pleasure is all mine,” she purred, linking her arm through his. “I’m Harper Marquette.”

“Lucas Genezen. Nice to meet you.”

Excerpt From: DK Marie. “Colors of the Heart.” 

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