Fool Me Once


Cynical divorce attorney Lori Cumberland lives by one motto: Love is grand, but divorce is a hundred grand. With one failed marriage under her own personal belt, Lori had fallen hard and early—and it isn’t something she plans on repeating. She’s content focusing on the temporary marriages of her rich and famous clients. When she joins some of her recent divorcées on a celebratory cruise, her only vow is fun, sun, and new friends. But Lori finds herself tempted by a jury of one.

For Reed Barlow, falling into the world of private investigation was easy. He knows the law and knows how to avoid breaking it—all while doing his job. His rule to live by? No emotion, no involvement…until Lori. His charming smile and cocky attitude distracts Lori and lowers her guard, which is exactly what Reed desires.

But what appears as a one-time-only flirtation may be a plot orchestrated by Reed. As he’s taking his investigation to a dangerous level, it’s Lori who could end up in jeopardy. Reed has only one shot for Lori to grant him a second chance. But if he comes clean with her, he blows his cover. And that just might cost him the opportunity for an alliance of family…and of love.


“Tell me about yourself,” Lori changed the subject.

He lifted one questioning eyebrow but didn’t bring up her travel companions again.

“What do you want to know?”

Everything…but then, if she started asking about what he did for a living, he’d ask her. “Tell me more about this philosophy of yours.”

“Which one?”

“Living life beyond your comfort zone.”

He leaned back. “That’s easy. As kids, we learned to take risks every day. Jumping into a lake without a life preserver and learning to swim because of it. Do you remember your first roller coaster?”

“Not really.”

“Do you remember being afraid to go on one?”

“Yeah. I still get that way.”

He lifted his hands in the air. “But you still go on them.”

“They’re fun.”

“The thrill comes from fear.”

The waiter returned with the wine and took their order.

“Sometime between the age of eighteen and thirty we forget to take risks, and the fun in life is lost on us,” Reed told her.

“You’ve been skydiving, haven’t you?” Lori asked.

“More than once. You should try it sometime.”

“I’ll stick to the inside of airplanes, thank you.”


She couldn’t help but laugh. “What is this, junior high?”

“Maybe. What are you afraid of?”

Lori lifted her wineglass. “Oh, I don’t know…hitting the ground at two hundred miles per hour.”

“It’s only about a hundred and twenty.”

“That sounds so much better.”

Reed had an addictive smile. “What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?”

Lori blinked…twice. “I traveled to China by myself.”

Reed stared at her. “China? That’s it?”

“Hey, I don’t speak Chinese. It was scary.” What she failed to mention was that she was meeting a potential client of Alliance. A businessman looking for an American bride. The scary part took place when, on behalf of Alliance, she passed on the man as a client. He had a violent side she picked up on shortly after meeting him in person.

“What about you?”

“My biggest adventure?”

“Or the biggest step outside your comfort zone?”

He hesitated. “I voted.”

The wine Lori sipped burned when she started to laugh. When her eyes started to tear up, she took a drink of her water.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Voted? That’s outside your wheelhouse?” “Well, yeah, what if the guy I voted for won by one vote? What if he sucked or started a war? That’s a lot of responsibility.”

He was messing with her, but she liked to laugh.

“Ever been married?”

He nodded. “Once. You?”

“Once. I was really young. No kids. You?”

He opened his eyes wide. “Oh, no. I’d be a terrible dad.”

Their salads arrived and they kept talking. “Sounds like I found something outside your comfort zone.”

“What about you? You’re beautiful, and obviously have your life together, with trips to China and this.” He pointed around the room. “Why aren’t you married?”

“Not interested.” Which was only half-true. Romance had been stripped out of marriage with her profession. “I like being in control, and marriage feels like giving away half of that.”

Reed lifted his glass. “To the Not Interested Club.”

They’d finished the bottle of wine and shared a froufrou dessert.

Even though neither one of them talked about their daily life, they managed to carry a conversation for two hours.

“Nightcap?” Reed suggested.

She placed a hand over her stomach. “I don’t think anything else is going to fit.”

“Let’s take a walk, then. I’m not ready to say good night.”

“And if I am?”

“You’re not.”

The Book

Fool Me Once
The First Wives Series, Book One
A Weekday Brides Spin-Off
September 2017, First Edition
eBook & Print

Ranks & Awards

#10 Wall Street Journal Bestseller
Amazon Kindle Bestseller
Publishers Weekly Top 10 Upcoming
Reads Fall 2017
Best of the Year 2017, Library Journal
Amazon Editor’s Pick: Best Romance
(December 2020)


“Bybee still delivers a story that her die-hard readers will enjoy.”

“A marvelous portrait of friendship among women who have been bonded by fire.”

“All about the bonds of female friendship and with a touch of danger thrown in to keep things lively, Fool Me Once started off Catherine Bybee’s new First Wives series in grand style. And fans of her Weekday Brides series will be sure to enjoy this spinoff, too, as we got to catch up with some of the cast, with this being set in the same world.”

“As with most of Catherine’s books, Fool Me Once has an amazing cast of

Fool Me Once is an absolute surprise of a read. There’s so much intrigue and suspense, sublime romance and the chemistry between all the players is an absolute pleasure to read and enjoy.”

“I love the fast pace and jet-set lifestyles in Bybee’s books.”

“She [Catherine Bybee] always makes me laugh, swoon and tear up. Add in a little suspense and it’s a perfect combination.”

“It is intriguing, fun, suspenseful, romantic and of course hot. With every single page, I was more and more captivated by the characters and their story. I loved the secrets that were revealed one by one and the connection with the Weekday Brides series was just awesome.”

“I really enjoyed this story. It is a great blend of humor, emotion, mystery and suspense. I loved being able to switch back and forth with the ebook and audiobook seamlessly. Awesome narration on the audiobook! ”

“Catherine does a wonderful job bringing so many characters to life in one story, and her ability to utilize previous characters to keep them all alive even after their stories have ended is awesome.”

“…I devoured [Fool Me Once] in one afternoon because I simply did not want to, nor could, put down until I go to the last page!”

“My favorite thing about Bybee’s stories is how human her characters are…there’s something about the way she writes them that makes them feel authentic and truthful. That, in addition to the romance, is why I enjoyed this book.”

“In the first installment in the Weekday Bride series spinoff, First Wives series, we get a glimpse of some of our past faves and meet some new characters…This book has everything the first series had: friendships, strong women, romance, suspense, and more. It sucks you right in from the very beginning! A terrific start to the new series and I cant’ wait to see what lies ahead!”

Quick Links

Reading Order