Authors: Christine DePetrillo
MORE THAN COOKIES
By Christine DePetrillo
Copyright 2014 Christine DePetrillo
All Rights Reserved
Cover design by Dar Albert of
Wicked Smart Designs
Edited by Janet Hitchcock
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the copyright owners except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, places, events, business establishments or locales is entirely coincidental.
To the lovely state of Vermont and all her sweet treats…
Table of Contents
A solo guitar captivated the entire room. Sage Stannard watched her cousin, Rick, as his fingers deftly strummed the strings to accompany the band’s lead singer as she sang “Angel Eyes,” by The Jeff Healey Band. He didn’t look like the hermit cousin she’d known her whole life. He looked like… well, he looked like a guy in love.
Sage glanced to Lily, Rick’s brand new wife, sitting in a chair right in front of the band, her wedding gown spilling white and lace and pearls all around her. Red-gold curls were piled high on her head, a sparkly tiara headpiece nestled in all that hair. She looked like a princess, and Sage wondered how in the hell her formerly grouch-tastic cousin could have ever snagged such a woman.
It doesn’t add up.
Lack of logic aside, Sage was happy for her cousin and his bride. Rick had helped Lily overcome her fear of the woods due to a bear attack when she was a child, and Lily had pulled Rick out of the solitary existence he’d prescribed for himself after suffering a heart attack at such a young age. The sassy Los Angeles hotel designer had managed to bring the quiet Vermont maple syrup maker back to a semi-human level.
She’d even gotten him to wear a tuxedo again.
It was a nice story all around. So nice, it made Sage gag a little. Nothing too major. Just a slight difficulty swallowing all that perfection, all that ooey-gooey sweetness.
All that happily-ever-after bullshit.
Not that Sage didn’t want a slice of that sunshine for herself, but her track record in that department… well… sucked. Big time. Not only was the pool of available men in their thirties back home in Vermont no bigger than a goldfish bowl, but the fish in that bowl were super huge yawns with a capital Y. She’d given them a chance, but how many hayrides can a girl go on before it just isn’t romantic or cute or fun anymore?
Forty-three. That was how many. Sage knew firsthand, and she was totally done conducting research on the matter.
“Hey.” A sharp jab to her side made Sage turn to face her sister, Hope, sitting next to her. Both of them sported bridesmaids sheath dresses Lily had picked out for the wedding. Dressed alike, they resembled identical twins though Sage was a year older than Hope. “I never thought we’d see the day our Ricky was so… so…”
“Happy,” Sage said with a sigh.
“Yeah. I mean, look at him. Normally he’s scared to perform in public. He usually closes his eyes when he plays as if he’s hiding or something.”
Hope was right. At the moment, Rick’s big blue eyes were staring right at Lily. He had an expression on his face that clearly said he’d never get tired of looking at his wife, never get tired of waking up next to her. God, he must love her so much.
Something stung in Sage’s eyes and she squeezed them shut.
“You okay?” Hope slid her arm around Sage’s shoulders.
Sage nodded and folded her arms across her chest. The time to get out of her bridesmaid dress was fast approaching. She was about done with this wedding, happiness for Rick and Lily aside. A foul mood lurked around the corner, waiting to seek, pounce, and destroy.
“Why wouldn’t I be okay?”
Hope studied Sage’s face for a few uncomfortable seconds then shrugged. “I don’t know. You seem—”
“Look, I’m fine. You’re fine. Rick and Lily are extra-fine.” She caught sight of their mother, Joy, whooping it up with Lily’s father, Robert Hinsdale, the famous actor, and his actress girlfriend, Jeri Kappen. “Even Mom is fine. Let’s just finish this night up and get on with things.”
“Someone needs more wine.” Hope tapped a finger against Sage’s empty glass. “Turn that frown upside down, girlie, before I have to officially classify you as ‘downright pissy’.” She attempted to poke Sage in the cheek, but Sage slapped her hand out of the way.
“Knock it off.” Okay, now she sounded downright pissy to her own ears.
She focused on Rick stepping off the stage and pulling Lily out of her seat. He dropped a light kiss on the back of her hand then slid his arm around her. The two of them slow danced to the next song and soon the dance floor was full of couples. Hope had already trotted off to stand next to their mother. Neither of the girls had brought dates to the wedding because it was in California. Not that both of them hadn’t tried, but summer in Vermont meant every able-bodied male was outside nearly around the clock growing, cutting, building, or digging something. They were permanently attached to their John Deere tractors. None of them were willing to hike across the country, especially to Los Angeles, the direct opposite of small-town Danton, Vermont.
Usually, being alone didn’t bother Sage. Today, it was getting to her. She needed a break from all this mushy stuff.
Wedging her small purse under her arm, she got up and marched out of the ballroom. She hunted down the bathroom and pushed open the door. Standing under the air conditioning vent, she let the cool air wash over her face. She walked to the sinks and the wall of mirrors behind them. Giving herself a once over, she had to admit Lily had chosen well with the bridesmaids dresses. An electric green that made Sage’s eyes a deeper shade of emerald, the dress showed off curves and emphasized legs toned from tons of hiking in the woods, running around Rick’s store, baking cookies and other confections during sugaring season, and zipping to catering jobs in between. The dress also showed that, though Sage liked to cook and adored eating even more, her size six ass was in top shape.
She angled herself a little to check out her own butt in the mirror.
Why doesn’t someone want a piece of that?
Well, she supposed men existed who wanted a piece of that, and several she’d already given it to, but none that she wanted to say “I do” to.
And she was bored with the search. So bored.
She used the bathroom, washed her hands, and finger-combed her straight blonde hair before applying more lip gloss and heading back to the reception. She paused in the doorway of the room and spotted Lily’s cousin—whose name she’d forgotten—making his way toward her. He’d rubbed up against her “accidentally” three times when they were taking part in the actual wedding ceremony, and Sage was certain she didn’t want to allow him a fourth “accident.” She couldn’t be responsible if her hand “accidentally” made contact with his face.
Deciding to go outside instead, she turned on her three-inch high heels and made her way down a stairway with a pearl-embellished railing. When the jewel-encrusted doors slid open, Sage stepped onto the sidewalk in front of Gems Utopia Resort, one of the themed hotels Lily had designed before she left it all to come to Vermont to be with Rick for as long as they both shall live.
Craning her neck as she looked back, she took in the impressive exterior of the hotel. All cut angles and shiny surfaces, the entire structure screamed extravagance and creativity.
That was what Sage needed in a man. She didn’t mind the roughened, lumberjack look—hell, who would?—but she was looking for more than muscles encased in flannel. She wanted someone with a spark.
Or someone who could light a spark in her.
The July sunshine filtered through the maple trees and white pines, casting warm, golden streaks on the lush greenery beneath Orion Finley’s booted feet. He absolutely loved summertime in the Vermont woods. Everything smelled fresh and alive. Huge dragonflies hovered in place as they checked on a leaf here, a branch there, then landed on a rock bordering the path leading deeper into the woods. A few hawks circled overhead, letting loose screeches every now and then to make sure Orion knew they were keeping an eye on him.
Only two things were missing to make this trek into the forest perfect. His dog, a Greater Swiss Mountain dog named Ranger, and his six-year-old daughter, Myah Rose. Both were currently held captive in his fire-breathing ex-wife’s lair.
He had to constantly remind himself that it wouldn’t be this way forever. He would get both of them back. Soon. Orion didn’t care what he had to do, but Ranger and Myah belonged with him and he wouldn’t stop until everything was as it should be. He had plenty of room at his farmhouse for a small girl, a large dog, himself, and his father, Ian Finley, a retired fisherman who Orion now cared for. He could handle it all. He knew he could. Proving it—when his opposition was a she-beast lawyer he used to love—was turning out to be the biggest challenge of his life, but he wasn’t one to shy away. Especially not when the reward was getting to see Myah every single day.
Damn, he missed her blue eyes and her black hair—two features she shared with him, only her eyes were bigger and her hair longer. Her smile was definitely better than his too, because she still remembered how to smile. His lips, on the other hand, were reluctant to take on that shape since The Divorce. Since Adriana Whitfield-Finley, his once true love, decided being married to a chainsaw artist and living in the woods of Vermont wasn’t what she was “put on this stinking planet to do.” She wasn’t supposed to be “wasting her time and intelligence on someone like him.” Her words. Her razor sharp, dice-a-man’s-heart-into-pieces, fuck you words.
Whatever. He never should have gotten involved with her in the first place. He knew as well as his father did that sophisticated women didn’t settle down with men like them. Men who liked to spend their days outdoors, making things with their own two hands. Men who were more comfortable wearing sawdust than cologne.
Men who weren’t rolling in money.
Orion’s mother had skipped out on them when he was ten. Adriana hadn’t made it to Myah’s tenth birthday before she had to get away from the “stifling squeeze” Vermont—and apparently he—had applied to her metaphorical throat.