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CHAPTER 1

Want to know how pathetic my life is? I’m twenty-four years old and living with my fiancé—in my mother’s house. And what’s worse is that they’re both happy with this situation. You’re probably thinking Jeremy’s some Peter Pan type, but that’s not him at all. He was a lawyer in London and owned his own condo and stuff before he moved here to California to write romance novels. Seriously.

So, here we are. And right now, Jeremy’s just chilling on the sofa beside me while we’re waiting for dinner. He and Mom are watching BBC World News, but my mind’s on something else. I’m trying to decide if I should change the purple underlayer of my hair to blue or dye the blonde top layer purple too. But as distracted as I am, my ears perk up at that little sigh my mom gives when she’s about to say something important.

“You know, dear,” she says to Jeremy, “if your family lived here, Chelsea and I would have already gotten to know them.”

Uh-oh, I have a bad feeling I know what she’s leading up to.

“Yes,” he says with a sideways glance at me, “I suppose you would have.”

“But,” she says, “it’s not like London is on another planet.”

“Geographically that’s true, but in some ways . . .” He’s smiling at her, because his British politeness has kicked in, but he’s squeezing my hand. Hard.

It won’t work, but I have to react to his plea for me to do something to divert her. “Mom, shouldn’t you check on dinner?”

She frowns at me. “You go check it, Chelsea, I’m discussing something with Jeremy.”

His crushing grip on my hand says he’s also figured out what she’s leading up to and he might strangle me if I leave him alone to fend off this conversation.

“So,” she says, “I was thinking—”

“Whatever it is smells delicious, Marie.”

Her frown at both of us borders on glare. How could Jeremy not have learned by now that he can’t derail her train of thought?

“As I was trying to say, I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I think it’s past time you introduced us to your family. So I’d like for us to plan a trip to London.”

The jolt of alarm that proposal gives him results in serious pain in my hand, and I elbow his ribs to make him let loose. There’s no way in hell Jeremy will agree to that trip.

“That’s a good idea, Marie,” he says, flashing his irresistible grin. “I’ll speak to my parents about it.”

“Wonderful.” She stands and smooths her perfectly-styled hair and brushes at her spotless clothes as if she’d just wrestled that answer out of him—literally. “I’d better go check on dinner.”

I’m sitting here with my mouth still hanging open at Jeremy’s response, but as soon as she leaves the room, he’s on his feet pulling me down the hall and into our bedroom.

“I see no point in traveling to London,” he says when I shut the door behind us. “It’s certainly not an expense we can afford on top of the wedding.”

“Mom knows that. If she suggested the trip, it’s because she’s offering to pay for it. She wants to go with us.”

That shuts his mouth but only for a second. “Well, that’s impossible because we are not going.”

“Well . . . maybe we should. I think it’s time.”

“Since when?”

“Since . . . oh, we both knew it was inevitable.”

“But they—” His mouth snaps shut.

“They what?” Ohmygod. “They don’t want to meet me?”

“It’s not that.” He rubs his hands down his face. “They don’t know we’re engaged.”

“Oh yeah.”

“And, obviously, you were fine with that.”

“I never said that.”

He gestures as if I’ve proven his point. “You never mentioned it at all. Did you ask if I’d told them or how they responded? No. And we both know why.”

The look in his eyes dares me to disagree, but I can’t. Knowing who they’d already chosen for Jeremy to marry, makes me pretty sure they won’t be all that thrilled with his choice.

“Yeah. Okay. I avoided the subject. But I’ve been thinking about it lately. I have to be introduced to them. And don’t you think it’s going to be way more awkward for everyone if we meet for the first time at the wedding?”

“Problem solved.” He looks away. “They won’t be at the wedding.”

Wait, what? They couldn’t have said they won’t come if they don’t even know—”

“They won’t be invited.”

“Like hell.”

He crosses his arms. “I said they will not be invited. Discussion. Over.”

“Hey, Mr. High Tea, send Jeremy back.”

There goes his right eyebrow, arching halfway to his hairline. “Your attempt at wit is not in your favor, Flip-Flops.”

“And your attempt at pretending you’re the boss in this relationship is hilarious.” (Oh yeah, he’s learned a lot about me in the last few months too.)

He sighs and lets his arms drop to his sides. “Chelsea, please. Why would you want to meet people who have no interest in me and hence no interest in the woman I’m going to marry? The only family I care about is my sister. You may invite Laura to the wedding. And my uncle.”

“We’re inviting your whole family to the wedding, Jeremy. Even your brother.”

“No. We. Are. Not.”

“That’s ridiculous!”

“I beg your pardon,” he says. “Have I no say in this at all?”

“No matter what problems you had with your family in the past, they have to be invited.”

“Is that a law in your country?”

“It’s custom, smart ass. I bet it’s custom in England too. And since when is this not your country—at least by half?” (Jeremy’s parents are British citizens, but he was born in Massachusetts, so he has dual citizenship.)

He gives me that squinty-eyed thing he does when I prove him wrong, so I give him my you-can’t-resist-me pout and back him up toward the bed.

“Come on, tall, dark, and handsome. We can’t have the groom’s side empty of guests.”

“Sides,” he mutters. And then he pulls me down on the bed. Which is, of course, the exact minute my mom calls us to dinner. Jeremy flies off the bed, pulling me along with him. “We will resume that activity as soon as possible.”

“Reason number seven hundred and fifty six why we shouldn’t be living with my—”

“Yes, yes, I know.” And he’s out the door.

* * *

Dinner is pot roast, Jeremy’s favorite. My mom treats him like a king. You’d think she was his mother, not mine. But I’m not really jealous because from what I understand Jeremy’s mother never treated him like that. And to be honest, he treats us both like queens, so it’s all good.

When the royal family is all seated, I start the conversation to divert my mom from mentioning the London trip again. “Gabi is driving me crazy with the wedding planning.”

My mother pats my hand. “Well, sweetie, you should be glad she’s doing that.”

“Why?”

She and Jeremy exchange a look.

“You know how you are,” she says.

“What do you mean how I am?”

With another look, she passes the question to Jeremy.

“Well . . .” He rearranges his napkin. “You . . .” He spaces the salt and peppers shakers one inch apart. (I could probably verify that with a ruler.) He gives me a hesitant smile. “Sometimes . . . you’re a bit lax with details.”

“Seriously? You trust me with the details in our writing. You’ve even praised me for catching your continuity errors.”

“Oh. Yes, of course, in our writing . . .” He looks to my mom for help, but she only shrugs and forks a chunk of potato into her mouth.

“But?” I prompt.

“But . . . in real life . . .”

I grab a dinner roll and bounce it off his forehead. He and my mom sigh and slowly shake their heads. In tandem. That right there is reason number seven hundred and fifty-seven why we shouldn’t be living here. I swear, the first time he pats my hand and calls me sweetie, I’ll punch him.

“If I’m so bad at it, then you can take care of the wedding details.”

“And deprive Gabi of the pleasure?”

He’s right about that. Gabi planned her elaborate wedding for years, and then scrapped the whole idea when she got pregnant. She tried to pretend the small ceremony in her mother’s house was perfect, and it was sweet and beautiful, but I’m her best friend; she couldn’t fool me. It wasn’t anything like she’d described to me—in never-ending detail—throughout our high school and college years. Except for the groom. She was totally happy that it was Matt standing beside her and saying “I do.” He’s gorgeous and smart and hardworking and the exactly right guy for Gabi.

Anyway.

I feel I owe her the joy of planning my wedding. And to be honest, I know she’ll make the best decisions. It’s going to be a beach wedding, that’s about the extent of my planning ideas.

“You’re right,” I say. “Gabi’s in her element. And I have other things to worry about.”

Jeremy looks up from his plate. “Like what?”

“Like what comes after the book we’re writing now. We’re starting a new series, right?”

He chews for a moment. “If you say so.”

“Me? They’re your books.”

He frowns. “I don’t think of them as mine at all.”

“Okay, they’re ours. But if we start a new series, we’ll have to have a new theme. What will it be?”

“Romantic suspense might be nice,” my mom says.

Jeremy’s grins at me. “There you go.”

I blink. Twice. “You’ve never once mentioned us writing romantic suspense.”

“Does it sell well, Marie?”

My mother doesn’t blink. “Definitely.”

Like she would know. She’s never studied the romance book market in her life. Not that she’s wrong.

Jeremy’s resumed eating, so I direct my next question to his bent head. “Have you written any kind of suspense before?”

He lifts his head but turns it toward my mom. “This dinner is delicious . . . as always.”

“Jeremy?”

“What have you made us for dessert, Marie?”

“French Silk pie.”

His eyes light up. It’s one of his favorites. Of course.

I snap my fingers. “Hel–lo.

The face he turns toward me is blank with innocence. “Yes, short, blonde, and gorgeous?”

“We were talking about our next—”

“Please,”—Jeremy cuts another bite of roast—“let’s not discuss business over this excellent dinner.”

“Since when do we not discuss business at dinner?”

Both of them smile at me.

Reason number . . .

* * *

I push Jeremy’s shoulder.

What? What?”

“You’re snoring.”

He mumbles something and turns on his side.

I can’t get to sleep. I’ve been lying here freaking out. It probably doesn’t seem like it, after my dinner roll throwing, but I’m trying hard to master this adulting thing. It doesn’t help that Jeremy acts more than just three years older than me. I’m just afraid I’m never going to get the hang of being a real adult.

I mean, right now Jeremy thinks it’s cute when I do stupid things like throwing bread at him. Or when I say something totally dumb or inappropriate—ohmygod, I swear sometimes my brain is not connected to my mouth. Just last month when Jeremy and I went out to dinner with Mom and one of her friends, who happens to be a priest, I totally freaked the man out. I can’t help groaning again at the memory of it.

“I’m so happy you invited me out for dinner tonight, Marie,” Father Jacobs says. “I don’t get out as much as I used to since I retired.” He chuckles. “Not many people care to spend their evening with an old priest.”

“Oh, nonsense,” my mom says, “I’ve always enjoyed your company.”

She doesn’t bother telling him he’s not old since he’s about ninety, which isn’t young no matter how you look at it.

“When I called,” she says, “your housekeeper said you were at war over a house repair. What was that about?”

“My gutters.” For a moment, he closes his eyes and hangs his head, shaking it slowly. “I hired someone to repair a section, but he said it would have to be replaced. I agreed to that and then left for a church meeting. When I came home, two hours later, I found out he’d torn down all the guttering and hauled it away. I ended up being charged for a whole new gutter system.”

“That’s fucked up,” I say.

To a priest.

To an old priest.

I want to die. Mom looks like someone just smacked her in the face. Jeremy is about to bust a gut from trying not to laugh. Father Jacobs pales, smiles weakly, and hails our waiter with a shaky hand.

He ordered another bottle of wine, which I’m pretty sure he drank the most of.

Anyway.

If I were a responsible adult, I wouldn’t do stuff like that, right?

For now, Jeremy takes it in stride when I do and say those kinds of things. But sooner or later, they’ll start annoying him. They won’t be funny anymore. So I have to change. Being Chelsea Cole has become a liability. I have to learn to act like an adult before I become Chelsea Pearce.

In four months.

And what about after that? My mom’s already hinting about being a grandmother. How could she wish any child to have me for a mother? Oh right, in her scenario we’d all be living with her forever, so she’d be taking care of the baby. Or at least making sure I didn’t psychologically scar it for life.

But don’t forget that details thing Jeremy and Mom made clear I suck at. There’s a bazillion details to keep track of as a mother. What if I forgot to feed my baby? No, bad example, I think they let you know when they’re hungry. But I could forget other important things. I could forget I have a baby. What if the baby was sleeping and I just totally spaced and left the house? I might be gone for hours.

No. I’m not responsible enough to be a mother.

I’m not responsible enough to be a wife.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m even responsible enough to be a human.

* * *

Until his lease ran out, Jeremy and I lived in his place at the Ocean View Luxury (not) Apartments. I wanted us to rent another apartment then, but Jeremy, in uncharacteristic frugality, voted to accept my mom’s offer of sharing her house—“just until your finances stabilize.” The problem is, as far as she’s concerned, our finances will never be stable.

Anyway.

Part of the deal we have with her is a division of chores. When she cooks, we clean up the kitchen, which usually means that Jeremy fills the dishwasher and I hand wash anything that won’t fit or can’t go in there. But tonight he’s got sex on his mind, so he keeps stopping to kiss or feel me up.

“Give it a rest, Jeremy, and get your job done.”

He grimaces and lays a hand over his heart. “Thy rejection hurts.”

“Yeah? Well, if we had our own—” He clears his throat in a warning sort of way, and when I turn to give him a dirty look, I see my Mom crossing the kitchen. But she keeps moving and goes out the door to the garage. I presume she’s going to her home office. After my dad died, Mom walled in what used to be his workshop area of the garage and converted it. She claims it’s because the room has a door to the outside for her accounting business clients to use. I think it’s because she feels closer to my father there.

“Looks like she’ll be busy with work for a while,” Jeremy says. Knowing exactly how sexy he looks to me with his shiny dark hair around his shoulders, he looks deep into my eyes as he pulls the band off his ponytail and shakes his hair free.

“Oh, you are so obvious.”

“Am I?” He steps behind me and slides his hands up under the front of my shirt.

“We are not doing anything here.”

“Aren’t we?” he whispers, his breath hot in my ear as he cups my breasts.

I turn to push him away, but he’s quicker, lifting me to sit on the edge of the counter. He has my jeans unzipped and halfway down my thighs when the door from the garage opens. He jumps away from me so fast I fall to the floor.

Mom glances at us and blushes hard. Looking like every ounce of her blood is pooled in her face, she pauses for only a second before stumbling past us with her hands held out like a blind woman making her way across an unfamiliar room.

I don’t move. I just look up at Jeremy. His eyes are closed.

“I know, I know,” he mutters, “reason number whatever.”

“Can we finish the clean up now?”

He opens his eyes and gives me a hand up. “And then what?”

“Seriously?”

“I mean,” he says, furiously finger-combing his hair back into a tail, “we can’t just walk into the living room and watch TV with her like nothing happened.”

“She’ll never mention it.”

“Of course she won’t. That’s almost worse.”

“You could tell her you’ll start sleeping in our office.” When he looks like he’s actually considering that, I kick his foot. “That was a joke.”

“Right. Well, when we’re done here, I think I’ll go for a drive.”

Sigh. “I could go with you.”

“And allow your mother to watch Grey’s Anatomy without you?”

“Okay then, we’ll talk when you get back.”

He shuts the dishwasher and grabs a towel to start drying the pans. “Talk?”

“It’s been two days. We need to have another discussion about the London trip.”

His face is blank, but I know his mind isn’t. He’s trying to decide whether to argue or keep his mouth shut. I wash and rinse and wait. When I finish and pull the plug, he hands me the towel.

“I’ll be back,” he says.

By the time I’ve dried the last few items, he’s not back, so I turn off the light and head to our bedroom. He’s not there. He’s not in our office either. I go to the living room.

“Mom, have you seen Jeremy?”

“He left a few minutes ago. Didn’t you know he was going out?”

“Yeah. Sure. I just didn’t know when.” So that’s the game he’s playing.

She pats the sofa cushion next to her. “Come sit with me, sweetie. The show’s about to start.”

As the opening begins, I slip my phone out of my pocket and text him.

You can’t avoid me forever, dude.

He doesn’t respond.

CHAPTER 2

When Jeremy wakes and heads to the bathroom, I’m awake but lying in bed with my eyes closed. The thought of meeting his parents scares the hell out of me, but I have to do it. I have to. That’s the grown-up thing to do. Adults face what they fear, right? But how am I going to convince Jeremy to agree?

When he turns the shower on, I get out of bed. He doesn’t hear me slip into the bathroom because he’s singing. (That’s a talent I didn’t know he had until we moved in together.) I quickly brush my teeth. Then I strip and join him. He’s always ready for sex in the morning.

“Well, hello there,” he says.

“I just wanted to show you what you missed last night by”—I mime quotes—“driving around for hours.”

He looks me up and down, turning me around. “Hmm, looks like I was a stupid git to pass up a chance to do this.” He backs me against the shower wall and lifts me so my legs can circle his hips.

This is one of those instances when I’m happy about our height difference. And for his strong arms and legs. And for hot morning showers with a sexy man.

Oh. Oh. Ohhhhh.

The idea of talking to him about the London trip floats right out of my mind.

* * *

As usual after breakfast, Jeremy and I go to our office. We don’t have to leave the house to do that. This house is a typical California ranch style: a four bedroom two-and-a-half bath one level with attached garage. When we moved in with her, Mom tried to give us the master bedroom, but we refused—on my part because I hoped we’d be here less than a week before Jeremy decided we needed more privacy. The joke’s on me. We’ve lived here for six weeks already.

Anyway.

Jeremy and I took over the next largest bedroom. (Not my former room because my mom keeps that as a memento of my childhood or something.) We chose the smallest bedroom for our office because it looks out onto the rose garden. Jeremy requires a desk and a view when he writes. All I need is my laptop and I’m good.

We have four romance novels published now, which are all selling well, and we have another ready to go. Jeremy had saved a lot from when he practiced law in London, added to the equity he got from selling his Notting Hill place and our royalties and the fees we earn from an occasional speaking engagement or freelance article under our author pen name, Penny James, we’re doing okay. Definitely well enough to afford an apartment, but I’ll be good and not mention that today.

We’ve been working for a while when Jeremy swivels his chair toward the bed where I’m sitting. “What did you think of the cover?”

“Oh. It’s finished?”

“He sent it to us last night.”

There’s a reproof in that comment. One of my jobs is to keep up with our business email, but I forgot to check it before I opened Instagram and sort of lost track of the time.

“Sorry, I’ll look at it now.” The cover for our next book looks great to me, but Jeremy’s more picky. “I love it. Why don’t you?”

“You don’t think it focuses too much on his muscles?”

Silly man. “Eighty-four percent of our readers are women who will swoon over the guy, and the other sixteen percent will picture themselves as him.”

He frowns, but a few seconds later says, “Approve it then.” He swivels back and starts typing.

Okay, time to get to work. I approve the cover. When the designer sends us the final files for print and digital, I’ll start uploading those and the interior files. It doesn’t seem to be a big deal to Jeremy, so he always lets me have the thrill of clicking those publish buttons. I’ve been the female half of Penny James for six months, and it’s the best job in the world. But even though, with each new book, Jeremy’s increased the number of scenes he leaves for me to write, I still can’t think of myself as a writer. I mean, I’m writing, yeah, but he’s the novelist.

“Word count?”

That’s Jeremy-speak for are you writing or wasting time?

“How do you expect me to write when you haven’t given me the lead-in scene?”

“Working on it.”

“You’ve been saying that for days as you sit there typing away. What are you doing, starting over every morning?”

“You’re a natural at writing romance; I’m not. Just write one of your swoon-worthy sex scenes and we’ll fit it in. Get to it.”

“And how can you expect me to write about rapturous love with you nagging me?”

He just smiles.

For a minute, I watch his fingers flying over the keyboard. Such long fingers. Such long, nimble fingers. Fingers that know just where to—okay, I’m inspired now. Sometime later, I come up for air. Jeremy is still in his chair, but watching me.

“Good scene?”

“Very.”

“Join me at the club?”

* * *

Sometimes, I worry that Jeremy will wake up one day and decide he gave up too much for me. He’s had trouble learning to live within our budget. We still took all the California trips we’d planned to research locales for our romance series, but we cut costs by staying in motels or B&Bs and eating cheap. That’s no big deal to me, but it took Jeremy a while before he stopped apologizing that he couldn’t pay for the luxury hotels and five-star restaurants he was obviously used to. Going cheaply was no loss to me; I was just thrilled to go.

One of the expenses Jeremy refused to give up was his club membership. I knew from my surveillance last year, when he lived in the apartment above mine, that he went somewhere every afternoon, and then I found out it was his club. I thought he meant an ordinary fitness place. But no. He has a membership in the most exclusive country club in town.

Jeremy pointed out that he’d already paid the one-time—and “much dearer”initiation costs. (When I asked him how “dear,” he told me I didn’t want to know.) And surprisingly, though it’s considerable on our current budget, the monthly fee is not out of this world, so I agreed to not waste the sign-up costs by canceling unless we absolutely have to. He uses the facilities almost daily and, really, I’m not complaining about the yummy shape it keeps him in.

Right now, I’m sweating on the treadmill next to Jeremy’s. “Do you have to run twice as fast and twice as far as me,” I ask him.

“I have longer legs than you.”

It takes me a second to realize that makes no sense, and when I look at him he winks. “Ha. Ha.”

“Step up your game, Cole, or you’ll never make the team.”

He’s not even breathing hard. I’m just about to call it quits when Scarlet Johannson walks in. She takes the treadmill on Jeremy’s other side. Of course she does. Before she even starts to warm up, she sets her treadmill at an incline. Looks like she would have no trouble making his team. And doing it in designer style. Now I feel even more conspicuous than usual in my Target workout clothes.

“I saw they posted the schedule for the tennis tournament,” she says to Jeremy. “Are you going to play?”

“Not this time,” he says.

What the hell? He knows her? They’ve talked before? And he kept that secret from me? This won’t do at all. Think, Chelsea, think.

Ow.” I hit the off button and then nearly fall hopping off the treadmill on one leg.

Jeremy turns his attention to me. “What happened?”

“Oh, honey, I must have stepped down wrong and twisted something.” I’m massaging my right foot as if it really hurts.

“You should get an icepack for it,” Scarlet says.

I don’t move.

“They have them in the locker room,” she adds.

Yeah, like I’m going to leave Jeremy alone with her—well, not alone exactly, there are at least ten other people in here. Still.

Jeremy gets off his treadmill. “Yes, darling, let’s go see about that ice.” He wraps his arm around my waist and helps me limp out of the room. He pulls me to a stop in the hallway. “You are so obvious,” he says, but he’s grinning.

“Why didn’t you tell me you’re friends with frigging Scarlet Johannson?”

His brows rise. “Friends? I played tennis with her husband once.”

“Oh.”

Ohhh.” He kisses the tip of my nose. “I’m certain your foot is magically healed now, so shall we change for the pool? I’ll have to swim twice as many laps to make up for the short run.”

Every time I say I’ll come to the club with him, he asks if I’d like to play tennis, which is my fault because I sort of told him I knew how, but I don’t. I mean I know the rules. I just suck at actually playing, but maybe I should at least watch if he’s going to be playing with gorgeous celebrities.

I swim with him for a while. Well, not actually with him because he’s in the lap pool, but it’s right next to this one. At least swimming is something I excel at—well, not competitively or anything, like Jeremy did in school, but I’ve been swimming since I was a baby. But compared to surfing in the ocean, the pool is a bore. After twenty minutes or so, I’m done. I swim to the edge and look for Scarlet because if she’s here, I’ll have to limp when I get out of the pool. Oh. My. God. Is that Matthew McConaughey walking toward the parking lot? Dang. I really should come here more often.

I slip on my sunglasses and settle down to lounge by the pool while Jeremy finishes his workout. He also plays golf here, but I told the truth about not playing that. Then he found out my mom does, so now they’re both bugging me to learn. Jeremy points out the driving range every time we come here. I swear the next time he brings it up, I’m going to make a deal with him—I’ll learn to play golf if he learns to surf. With his weird aversion to sand, that should end the discussion. Oh, wait. Maybe I should ask who he plays golf with.

As it often does when I’m not distracted, my thoughts turn to writing. Romantic suspense, huh? I had another idea in mind, sports-themed romances. With my surfing knowledge, and Jeremy’s sports experience, I thought we could come up with several ideas for a series. I’ve already had fun outlining the first two novels. But it’s Jeremy’s call. Still . . . maybe I’ll show him my ideas.

My eyes fly open when cold drops hit my stomach. Jeremy’s standing over me dripping water.

“You ready to leave?” he says. “Or would you like to try out the driving range first?”

I run my nails down his thigh. “I’d rather go home and play in our bed.”

He grins and pulls me to my feet.

I know, I know. But hey, when I’m this close to a gorgeous, nearly naked man, can you blame me?

* * *

Jeremy has the most gorgeous eyes, sometimes blue, sometimes green, and always sexy . . . well, except when he’s angry, but that’s not often. Right now, his eyes are heating up my girly parts. I swear, just that look gets me halfway to orgasm. (No wonder women gobble up his romances.)

He lies down beside me, his head propped on one hand, and traces a finger from my bottom lip to my navel. Slowly. Oh, so deliciously slow. When he leans closer to kiss me, his hair falls forward, a dark curtain, hiding our faces.

“You were the most beautiful woman at the pool.”

I wasn’t.

“All the men were looking at you.”

They weren’t.

“Do you know how happy I am that you’re all mine?”

“Will you show me?”

“Oh, yes.” He kisses my throat.

“Yes.” He licks my nipples.

“Yes.” He slips fingers inside me. Those long, nimble fingers.

Oh, yes. Yes. Yes.

For a moment, he is hot and hard against my thigh and then he slides down, pulling me to the foot of the bed, pulling me to him. Kneeling on the floor he slips his hands under my ass and lifts slightly, bringing me to his mouth as if I’m a delicious pastry he means to devour. And he does.

For hours, it seems, we are lost in a place both inside and out, filled with moans, and cries, and husky-voiced whispers. And finally, when he withdraws from me, leaving a bit of himself behind, his hot, herbal life essence, a kind of treasure just for me, I’m thankful that monogamy makes condoms no longer necessary.

“I love you,” I say for the thousandth time.

“You are my life,” he says, his voice already thick with impending sleep.

Jeremy has the most perfect profile. Actually, he has the most perfect face at any angle, but I love lying beside him and watching him sleep. I want to talk to him now, though, so I slide my finger down the slope of his nose. He always wakes with a jerk and looks around as though he can never remember where he fell asleep. I think that’s funny, but if he ever looks over at me and seems surprised, the dude’s in trouble.

“Hello, gorgeous,” he says.

“Hello, handsome. I need your help with something.”

He grins. “Good God, you’re insatiable.”

I smack his chest. “Not that. I want your input on the wedding.”

“Right. Well . . . I’m all for it.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Linda Cassidy Lewis believes that life is all about relationships, and her fiction reflects that belief. Indiana born and raised, she now lives with her husband in California, where she writes versions of the stories she held in her head during the years their four sons were growing up. Her home is in the city, so she's thankful for the gift of imagination that whisks her away to sea or mountain or countryside whenever she wishes.

Q. Why do you write?
A.
I write because I love to read. I think it's marvelous to escape into another life for a while, and I hope others feel the same when they read my books.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
Chelsea is a character that barged into my mind one day and continues to insist on telling me her story, so I continue writing it down. She's also hinting that some of her friends and family have their own stories I should listen to.
Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
No matter how hard Chelsea tries to reign it in, her "gotta be me" side comes out. I thought this idea of a girl wearing kickass shoes with her wedding dress symbolized that perfectly.

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