Authors: Melissa Whittle
Tags: #aa romance, #series, #small town, #ptsd, #grief, #bakery, #coffee shop, #Alpha Hero Romance, #business partners, #Melissa Blue, #contemporary romance, #multicultural romance
“You don’t do full circles.” Sasha tried to look contrite but still managed sex goddess. “God, we’re such horrible friends. Why did we let her talk herself into this? We should be doing a dare or getting drunk at McNally’s.”
“We already tried something normal and that didn’t work.” Emma’s grip tightened on Abigail’s arm.
She knew they were stalling and appreciated the hell out of it. “Stuffing ourselves with sweets is an every day type of thing. We’ve been desensitized,” Abigail said.
Emma perked up. “Margaritas!”
“Come on. We can’t say no to margaritas,” Sasha said with a little too much cheer.
“There’s a free wet bar at the reception.” Abigail stepped forward trying to drag them with the motion. The women didn’t budge and she was jerked back.
“We are not going to the reception.” Emma shook her head.
Abigail put the only thing on the bargaining table. “You’ll get to see your competition’s cake.”
Emma’s golden-hued gaze went hot with anger, turning the shade amber. Greg and his Bride-to-be had actually went to her bakery, Sweet Tooth, first. It’s how all of them found out about the wedding. Of the three, Emma had the least bite. Well, up until she met Tobias she didn’t have any. Yet, her friend had pulled Greg aside and asked if he had lost his damn mind for coming to her to make his wedding cake. Emma had been just as appalled when the invitation had come, and when Abigail RSVPed.
Another cool breeze slammed at them, fluttering Sasha’s skirt. Abigail barely felt the late summer wind. “We can’t stand out here all day.” She tried for calm she didn’t feel. “We’ll sit and watch the wedding. We’ll get plastered at the reception. I’ll wish him and his bride the best, and this chapter of my life will be over.”
Abigail squeezed both their arms. “Sasha, I need closure as you pointed out not too long ago.”
“We can burn the box of all the stuff of his you still have.” Sasha’s lips formed into a sexy pout as she thought on it more. “Naked,” she added. “And dance around the fire. That’ll be closure.”
“Or, like Sasha suggested, we can do a dare,” Emma said.
Doing a dare for the broken-hearted was a long held tradition for them. Ten years worth. She should have let go of the torch long ago, but Abigail had begun to suspect he was the one she let get away. The
one. More than once she’d considered looking him up, just to see how he was doing.
When Abigail found out about the wedding there was, of course, horror. There was also relief. To think she would have put her heart out there to be beaten like a piñata. He would have been nice and gentle in his rebuff, but the humiliation would have felt the same. The sequence of events solidified one fact—love sucked. If she hadn’t believed this truth before, the gold-leafed wedding invitation would have rammed that last nail in.
Once again, finding faux inner calm, she said, “You guys can go if that’s what you want.”
Even her faux calm sounded a little deranged. Abigail unhooked her arms from theirs and marched forward. A sharply whispered argument ensued behind her. A few minutes later, the two women caught up at the church steps. Orange-blushed orchids decorated the rails. Abigail clasped her hands together, not wanting to touch them.
“We want it noted,” Emma supported her left side, “that this is stupid.”
“Duly.” Abigail nodded.
“And we were against it.” Sasha supported the right side. “And we will be getting you drunk at the reception.”
“No,” Emma corrected. “We’ll all be getting drunk.”
“Right,” Abigail said. The ache receded, allowing the nerves to take over. “Ready? That’s a dumb question, but I’ve got nothing.”
Emma stepped up to the plate. “Just FYI, if any of Tobias’ ex-girlfriends show up to our wedding, be ready and willing to kick their ass out the church.”
“I will do my friendly duty,” Abigail said and meant it.
They stepped into the heavily decorated church. The one person she never wanted to see again stood guard at the inner doors. Fortunately, neither friend said told you so. Unfortunately, the older woman yelled for security.
It shouldn’t have given Drew Carter satisfaction to see the security guards blocking Abigail’s war path into the church. To keep her honest, someone needed to stand in the way of her surefire path, especially when that stubborn line above her brows appeared.
But, any idiot could see the hurt underneath the mask of determination. Then again, Drew saw a lot when it came to Abby. Or, he was delusional. That option was always on the table, especially when it came to her.
When his cousin Greg had popped the question, so long ago, it seemed Drew was the only one to catch on to the stark raving fear in her eyes, not tears, like a normal reaction.
And therein lay the problem.
He could always see past the hard-edged veneer. He wished he didn’t. Like every one else, when Drew looked at Abigail he wanted to see the militant-straight ebony strands, the sharp cheek bones and chocolate-brown eyes, all telegraphing back the hell off. Unfortunately, he didn’t.
He stared at her for another second, hoping his reaction would ease, but his heart refused to slow. Drew had prepared himself to see her. Not today, but soon. He’d wanted to take one look at her and feel nothing but disgust and loathing. That would be easier. He sighed.
No loathing or disgust, so Drew smiled and ran a hand down the starched-white shirt. The duck tails of the jacket bounced against his legs as he continued down the hallway. It took huge balls to face Greg’s mother and not bail. But the stubborn chin was up, delicate shoulders back and, from the glint in her brown eyes, Abby wouldn’t back down now either. She would see
wedding to the end.
“Abby!” He widened his arms. “You came.”
He vaguely remembered the two knockouts standing on both sides of her. They donned all black. He’d bet money it wasn’t to make sure they didn’t out-show the bride.
“And you brought friends.” Drew wagged his brows as he came to a stop in front of the guards.
Nadine stood at the church’s inner doors, arms crossed. The burnt orange dress suit creased from the stance. “
invited her? I should have known.”
The disgust he should have felt marred his aunt’s beautiful face. For a woman closer to sixty than fifty there were only a smattering of wrinkles around her mouth and eyes. At the moment, those wrinkles deepened with anger. “For the life of me I don’t know why my Greg wanted you as best man.”
Drew shrugged but smiled at Abby. The fire behind her gaze aimed at Nadine turned in his direction. The burn of the glare made his smile widen into a grin. “He was thinking of his bachelor’s party.”
“You would have strippers on speed dial,” Abigail muttered.
He held back the laugh. “And yet I chose you and your two beautiful friends as my date, Abby.” The smile held at her flinch, but she got the not so subtle cue: shut up and go with it.
Nadine’s head looked as if it was about to explode. She sputtered, “Is he the reason?”
“No.” Abigail shook her head. Her friends drew closer when her voice wobbled with unspent tears. “No.”
Nadine’s anger deflated. “If you so much as cough during the service…” Maybe only a little deflated.
“Yes, ma’am,” Abigail answered.
“Fine.” Nadine transferred the anger from Abigail to him. “Don’t think I’m not talking to your father,
.” The last word could have been exchanged with a choice curse word. She waved a hand at the security guards and they left. “Back row,” she said to Abigail.
Greg’s mother stepped aside to allow them in. Seeing a chance to annoy Abigail, he slipped between the friends and encircled her waist with one arm. One curvy hip pressed against his leg and the other filled his hand. He had to curtail the urge to tighten his grip because good God she was soft.
“Let me show you the way.” His voice could have been made of silk from the slickness of the tone.
Surprise took hold when she placed a hand on his chest, plastering all that softness against him. Drew’s brain misfired and snagged on a hope he’d buried deep. How many times had he imagined this reaction? Up until now it would have been wrong. It would have been a million other things, but her against him now felt right. She stood on her tip toes, brushed her mouth against his earlobe. A groan escaped from his lips. His fingers twitched, wanting to cup her ass and palm the rounded flesh to hold her closer.
She whispered in his ear, “I’m going to break your arm off and beat you with it, later, for touching me.”
The threat dragged him back to reality. The words still filled him with warmth and made his cock thicken. How sick was he? Very. Yet, a keen sense, honed over years of portraying the man a woman didn’t even tell her friends about, allowed him to hear the challenge underneath.
Or, maybe there was simply something wrong with him, because that was always an option. Pants still a bit snug from the sensation of her lips on his earlobe, Drew said with sincerity, “Looking forward to it, Abby.”
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