Summer in Good Hope (A Good Hope Novel Book 2)

Also by Cynthia Rutledge / Cindy Kirk

Inspirational/Sweet Romance Written by Cynthia Rutledge

Unforgettable Faith

Undercover Angel

The Marrying Kind

Redeeming Claire

Judging Sara

Trish’s Not-So-Little Secret

Wedding Bell Blues

Season for Miracles (
online read
)

Kiss Me, Kaitlyn

A Love to Keep

The Harvest

Two Hearts

Love Enough for Two

For Love’s Sake

Rich, Rugged . . . Royal

Books written by Cindy Kirk

A Good Hope Series

Christmas in Good Hope

 

Romancing the Nanny

The Tycoon’s Son

 

Meet Me in Montana Series

Claiming the Rancher’s Heart

Your Ranch or Mine?

Merry Christmas, Cowboy!

RX for Love (Jackson Hole) Series

The Doctor’s Baby

In Love with John Doe

The Christmas Proposition

If the Ring Fits

Jackson Hole Valentine

The Doctor’s Not-So-Little Secret

His Valentine Bride

The Doctor and Mr. Right

One Night with the Doctor

A Jackson Hole Homecoming

Her Sister’s Boyfriend (
online read
)

The Husband List

Ready, Set, I Do!

The MD’s Unexpected Family

Fortunes of Texas Series

Expecting Fortune’s Heir

A Sweetheart for Jude Fortune

Fortune’s Little Heartbreaker

When She Was Bad

One Night Stand

Love at Mistletoe Inn

Baby on His Doorstep

Montana Mavericks Series

Betting on the Maverick

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2016 Cynthia Rutledge

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Montlake Romance, Seattle

www.apub.com

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Montlake Romance are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781503934641

ISBN-10: 1503934640

Cover design by Jason Blackburn

To Wendy.

You’ve grown into an amazing woman. I’m so proud to have you as my daughter and friend!

C
hapter
O
ne

Primrose Bloom Delaney stood at the edge of the dance floor, a smile frozen on her lips. Her sisters, heck, even her widowed father, were all out there laughing and having the time of their lives. Ami, her oldest sister, was somewhere in the center of the revelry with her new husband, Beck.

Only she stood alone.

As if the mere thought of her beautiful sister and handsome brother-in-law conjured them up, the two came into view as lines formed for the Electric Slide.

Ami moved into position, her green eyes sparkling with a joy that was evident from clear across the ballroom. Her golden brown hair was pulled back in loose curls, leaving a few face-framing tendrils. The relaxed, romantic hairstyle had been the perfect choice for her sister.

Dreamy. Down-to-earth. Nurturing.
Those words were often used to describe her sister. After their mother died six years ago, Ami had become the keeper of the traditions in the Bloom family.

Her sister had taken on so much responsibility at such a young age. As Ami’s thirtieth birthday had neared, Prim had wondered if the husband and children her sister had always wanted would be denied her. Then Beckett Cross had walked into her life, and their lives had both been changed when they’d fallen in love.

Now, Ami and Beck would begin building a life together. Until this moment Prim hadn’t realized how much it meant to know she’d be here to share her sister’s happiness. Not just on holidays and an occasional long weekend, but day in and day out.

As the newlyweds grapevined to the right under the large white tent, Beck tossed his jacket to his brother. His dark eyes never left his wife. His chocolate-brown hair appeared rumpled, as if her sister had recently run her fingers through it. Sometime during the evening he’d ditched his tie.

Prim’s heart gave a lurch. While the sight of Ami steeped in such happiness filled her with gladness, it made her own loss more pronounced. A lump was attempting to form in the back of her throat when her sister Fin appeared out of nowhere, grabbed Prim’s hand, and pulled her onto the dance floor.

“I haven’t done the Slide in years,” Prim protested.

“It’s like riding a bike.” Fin leaned close. “Or having sex.”

Prim laughed. Fin’s penchant for saying just what she thought was part of her charm. She was Ami’s doppelgänger, except
down-to-earth
and
dreamy
would never be used to describe Delphinium Bloom.
Vibrant.
Yes.
Charismatic.
Definitely.
Irreverent.
Most of the time.

The subtle blond strands in Fin’s hair caught the light as she moved to the seductive beat. Years in Los Angeles had given Fin a big-city polish, while Ami was small town to the core.

“You haven’t left the dance floor since the band started playing,” Prim remarked as she and her sister rocked forward in perfect synchronicity.

From the time she’d been old enough to bat those long eyelashes, Fin had attracted more than her share of masculine attention. Tonight, Prim thought she looked especially beautiful in a form-fitting satin dress of deep gold. The elegant yet surprisingly sexy style suited her sister.

“This is the most important party of our sister’s life, Prim.” Fin flashed a beguiling smile at Clay Chapin, the new high school principal, who stood at the edge of the mahogany dance floor. “Which means no sidelines for me. Or for you.”

The vibrant smile appeared to have worked its familiar magic. The song had barely ended when Clay claimed Fin’s next dance.

As Prim stepped off the hardwood, she caught sight of Marigold dancing with Anders Cross, the younger brother who bore a striking resemblance to his older sibling.

It appeared all the Bloom sisters were making fun a priority. The bride stood next to her husband less than ten yards away visiting with his parents, who’d made the trip from Georgia for the wedding. The classy woman with her hair in a chignon was now Ami’s mother-in-law.

Mother-in-law.
Prim cringed, thinking of her own. Even before her wedding, Prim had known Deb was going to be trouble. The woman hadn’t disappointed.

The lights from the paper lanterns suspended overhead added a romantic glow, and when Beck’s arm slipped around Ami’s waist, she relaxed against him. He smiled and brushed his lips against her hair. The sweet gestures spoke volumes about the trust and love that existed between the newlyweds.

Certainly her eldest sister had never looked as joyful as she did beside the man who was now her husband. It hadn’t taken long for the attorney-turned-café-owner to capture Ami’s heart when he’d moved to Good Hope last summer.

When Ami’s eyes met hers, Prim’s smile came easily, though she was puzzled by her sister’s subtle thumbs-up.

“Hey, Prim.”

She swiveled at the sound of the familiar baritone and found herself face-to-face with Max Brody. Like Beck, he’d deep-sixed the jacket and tie. Prim couldn’t help but notice how broad his shoulders were beneath his white dress shirt. She forced her eyes back up to his. Just when had the tall, geeky kid who’d been her math buddy turned into a blond Adonis?

When Max stepped even closer, Prim realized the flowers in the room might as well close up shop. No way could they compete with his delectable scent. The combination of soap and shampoo and an indefinable
something
brought a tightening to her lower abdomen.

“They’re a good match, him and Ami.”

“She found a kindred spirit in Beck.” Prim hesitated, then continued, knowing if anyone would understand the emotions filling her heart to near bursting, it would be Max. Max had always understood her. “He completes her as a person . . . and she completes him. I know that sounds corny—”

“Not corny at all.”

Prim met those brilliant blue eyes. Emboldened by the understanding she saw there, she continued, “You know how practical and down-to-earth Ami is . . .”

Max nodded, totally focused on her.

Something in that intense gaze had her insides jittering. She willed herself to settle down.

Focusing on a bouquet of hydrangeas, roses, and peonies for a moment gave Prim the time she needed to organize her scrambled thoughts.

What had she been about to say? Oh, yes, now she remembered. “When we were getting dressed for the wedding, Ami confided she was grateful Mom had read us fairy tales as kids and promised one day we would each find our prince. She said she’d begun to lose hope. Then she met Beck.”

Remembering how emotion had thickened her sister’s voice, Prim felt tears sting the backs of her eyes. “She said Beck was her prince, her soul mate, and he’d definitely been worth the wait.”

What would it be like
, Prim wondered,
to love someone with such intensity?
She’d loved her husband, but over time it had become clear that she wasn’t his soul mate . . . and he wasn’t hers.

“Though calling Beckett Cross a
prince
sticks in my craw,” Max shook his head, a smile teasing the corners of his mouth, “I agree he and Ami are a perfect match. I’m sure they’ll be very happy.”

Though Max had kept his tone light, sincerity shone in his beautiful blue eyes.

Prim’s heart kicked into doing the samba—or was it the rumba?—against her ribs at his nearness. She moistened her lips, resisting the almost overwhelming urge to lean into him as she’d seen her sister do with Beck only moments earlier.

“Champagne?”

Prim reared back, feeling like a kid caught dipping into a cookie jar.

The college-age server wore tailored black pants, a crisp white shirt, and a polite expression. He held out a silver tray filled with a dozen crystal flutes.

“I’d love some.”

Before she could reach for a glass, Max confiscated two from the tray and handed one to her. As his knuckles brushed her fingers, she felt a jolt.

Static electricity
, Prim told herself. Still, as he watched her watching him, she felt oddly out of breath.

A corner of his mouth curled upward. With their gazes locked and loaded, they toasted Ami and Beck. As the champagne bubbles tickled her throat, Prim began to finally relax.

“How are you holding up?” Max’s penetrating gaze bored into hers.

Her smile faded. She shifted her attention to the band, idly recognizing the sax player as a high school classmate. She took another sip of champagne and wondered why she was hesitating. There was no need to lie to Max or pretend all was well. He knew her too well, or at least he once had.

Prim kept her tone conversational. “I had one bad moment. Just before I walked down the aisle, I couldn’t stop thinking that if he hadn’t died, Rory would have been a groomsman. He’d have been standing there at the front of the church, waiting for me.”

Max placed a hand on her arm. When she shifted her attention back to him, his expression was soft with sympathy.

“I knew when I married Rory that because of his cystic fibrosis our life together would be cut short.” Prim tightened her grip on the glass of champagne until it felt as if the crystal stem would break in two.

Though Rory had appeared strong and healthy on their wedding day, they both had known he likely wouldn’t see his fortieth birthday. But she
had
expected him to take care of himself and to not take risks with his health.

Even now, nearly two years after his death, she railed against the injustice he’d done to her and the boys. Time with them should have mattered more than risking his life for transient adrenaline highs.

“I remember your wedding.”

Prim blinked in surprise. “You do?”

He nodded.

She cocked her head, curious what exactly he recalled.

“I remember how beautiful you looked.”

For a second she swore he blushed. But she must have been mistaken, because that cocky grin was on his lips as he continued.

“And the reception. Man, that night was a college boy’s dream. A pig roast and all the beer you could drink. It was the talk of Good Hope for months.”

It may have been the talk of Good Hope, but it hadn’t been the wedding—and certainly not the reception—of her dreams.

“Rory loved barbecues and big splashes. I was hoping for something small and intimate. But Rory’s mother encouraged me to let him choose.” Prim smoothed the satin of her pale gold bridesmaid’s dress with her palm. His mother had used his illness as an excuse to spoil him. “I swear, if Rory had been a girl, Deb Delaney would have been the quintessential stage mama.”

“She was always in the stands for his games.”

“I think she even went to the practices.”

“Yep.” Max finished off his champagne and grinned. “We used to razz him about having his mommy in the stands.”

It was easy to forget that even though she and Max had shared so many scholarly interests in high school—chess club, math club, debate—Max had been an athlete, too. He’d played ball with her husband.

“How did Rory take it? The razzing, I mean.” It felt strange to be asking such a basic question. Wasn’t this something, as Rory’s high school girlfriend, she should have known?

“He’d flip us off.” Max grinned. “Rory could hold his own.”

“You got that right.” Following his example, Prim downed the last of her champagne.

Plucking the empty glass from her hand, he placed it along with his on a nearby tray. “Okay, enough reminiscing. There’s a dance floor with our name on it. What do you say, Primrose? Are you ready to show your sisters you can boogie with t
he best?”

Prim hesitated. She looked for her sons, found them safe and sound on the edge of the dance floor with her father. What would be the harm in one dance? This was a party, after all.

Max’s warm hand took hers. “It’ll make your family happy to know you’re enjoying yourself, rather than standing on the sidelines.” His tone turned persuasive. “Ami, especially, will want to see you having fun.”

Putting on a show for her family was something Prim had gotten used to doing over the past years. This was Ami’s big day, and if there was ever a time to fake it until she made it, this was it. Besides, this was Max, and dancing with an old friend might be just what she needed to hold back the memories for a few minutes.

“Okay, you win. I’d love to dance.” Her voice came out casual and offhand, just as she’d intended. “Thank you for asking.”

Max’s hand cupped her elbow, but instead of leading her onto the dance floor, she found herself standing with him in front of the raised dais that held the band. The loud beat of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” had the crowd rockin’.

Jerry, the sax player, smooth skinned and baby faced when they’d graduated high school, now sported a full beard. Though only in his late twenties, a few strands of gray ran through his dark hair, and fine lines now spread outward from the edges of his eyes.

When Max motioned to him, Jerry put down his instrument and came to crouch down at the edge of the dais.

“I’m bringing a rookie on the dance floor and we’re going to need a slow song.” Max spoke loudly in order to be heard above the vocals.

“You got it.” Jerry winked at Prim, then turned to the band leader.

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