What happens when the police insist a wedding date will bring the stalker out in the open, and Elliott suspects Charlotte of being a crook?

 


Lauraine Henderson began writing as a child, poems and journaling, until babies, building houses, and bookkeeping jobs usurped her world. 



Now, well established in Oregon and with the children grown, she devotes her time to writing her favorite genre: clean romance. Years of life experience translate into plots, calamities, and happily-ever-afters as she writes her inspirational and romantic stories about fictional people who seem so real, you’ll want to know what happens after the book ends! 

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Where’s the harm in pretending to be engaged for a couple months?



Elliott Palmer’s brilliant impulse to propose a fake engagement to his sister’s teacher in order to get rid of a stalker may be the biggest mistake of his life. Or it could be the best thing to happen since his cookie empire went national. 


Charlotte Bloomberg feels like she’s walking a tightrope at work after the scandal last year that almost cost her teaching job. Yet…Elliott’s proposal could be the answer to her saving face with not only her co-workers, but her family, too. 


As the two work through school calamities, nosy family members, and a stalker getting closer all the time, the lines between real and fake start to blur when hearts get involved. But what happens when the police insist a wedding date will bring the stalker out in the open, and Elliott suspects Charlotte of being a crook?

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Snippet:

“We’ll start with the painful stuff first,” Elliott said. “Have you thought any more about what might have happened to the ring? If not, I’d like to contact the principal and the police.”
“I’ve been trying to remember. I went in to wash my hands after dinner. I didn’t want to get anything on my dress, and I think I was more nervous last night than I was the first night.” Charlotte wrung her hands together as she talked, and Elliott clasped his hands over hers to stop them.
“Calm down. Work the problem.”
Charlotte took a deep breath and closed her eyes, as though she could watch her memories like a movie. “I took off the ring and rinsed it because my hands were sticky. I set the ring on the shelf above the sink.” She paused. “I walked to the paper-towel dispenser to dry them off and…” Charlotte’s voice faded, but Elliott could tell she was living the memory. “And Krista came in. That’s right,” Charlotte’s voice lifted in excitement. “She said something mean. I laughed at her. She frowned and demanded I dump you. I think I laughed at her again. Then she got really angry and kind of scary, too. I realized that laughing at her probably wasn’t the best reaction. So, I simply told her we were in love and there was no reason to break up.” 
“Good girl,” Elliott said, his heart swelling for this beautiful woman.
“Oh my gosh! Then I left. I was so distracted by Krista’s ridiculous demands, I forgot about going back to the sink and putting the ring back on.”
“Well, if Krista took the ring, I doubt we’ll ever find it again.”
“Oh, Elliott, I’m so sorry! I’m just sick about losing the ring. Is there anything I can do to replace it?”
Elliott pretended to consider her request. There wasn’t, of course. The ring had been in the family for years, but he was pragmatic enough to understand that it was only a ring. After his parents died, material things didn’t mean nearly as much as before and although he had enough money to live well, money itself and what it could buy never outweighed what was truly important in life; his sister, extended family, and now, Charlotte. “I know you don’t believe me, but I honestly can’t get upset. It’s a ring. A piece of metal with stones so small, you have to squint to see them. After my parents died, I put money in its proper place, way down on the list of important things in life. Possessions share that place on the list.”
“That’s why you don’t mind spending money?”
Elliott didn’t like where the conversation was heading. “Let’s not talk about money. It isn’t worth the time. I want to talk about us.”
“Us?” Charlotte’s voice squeaked.
“Here’s the thing, and I know it’s not exactly the most romantic setting and everything, but I really like you Charlotte. I think I may even be falling in love with you. I don’t want our relationship to be fake. I don’t know if you’re ready for a real engagement, but I really want to see where this might go.” He motioned his fingers between the two of them. “It’s possible we’ve been a little cavalier in our expressions for the sake of the ruse, but I want you to know,” he took a deep breath, preparing for Charlotte to run, “I’ve meant every word.”
Charlotte sucked in her bottom lip and looked at Elliott with puppy eyes, filled with wonder and awe. But a dark cloud blocked out the admiration he saw and pain replaced it. “You may change your mind when you hear what I have to say.”

 

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