Read an Excerpt
"Here he comes!"
Kate Perry heard the announcement of the excited bride just as Kate ducked in reflex to the sound of a plane flying so low overhead that she thought it was going to crash into the Graysons' house.
Kate watched her soon-to-be-sister-in-law rush through the French doors that opened onto the balcony outside the second-floor bedroom. From there Marti Grayson waved wildly as two of the other bridesmaids followed behind. Kate only reluctantly brought up the rear. She wasn't sure she wanted to be on the balcony of the decaying old house if the plane made a second pass.
Which it did just as she got outside, towing a banner that said CONGRATULATIONS MARTI AND NOAH.
"That's Ry," Marti said with a laugh, enjoying the spectacle as the plane flew off this time.
Marti Grayson was about to marry Kate's brother Noah. Kate and her sister Meg were two of the four bridesmaids, but Meg was helping Noah with his tie while Kate stayed with the bride and the other bridesmaids.
But Kate seemed to be the only one of the group who had found it alarming to have a plane take a dive toward the house.
"I know Noah said your brother was flying in but did that mean he pilots his own plane?" she asked, wondering if she'd missed that bit of information somewhere along the line.
"That's what it means," Marti confirmed. "You name it, Ry does it—flies his own plane, races cars and motorcycles, does extreme sports, dives off cliffs—he'll do anything. He has no fear, our Ry. He's just a great big kid at heart. I don't think he'll ever grow up," the bride concluded affectionately.
Kate forced a smile at hersoon-to-be-sister-in-law's amusement. But to Kate, what Marti was saying about Ry Grayson—and many of the other things Kate had heard about him—just made him sound reckless and immature.
She kept her opinion to herself, though, as everyone moved back into the bedroom to continue the last-minute wedding preparations. Her preliminary opinion of Ry Grayson wasn't important to anyone but her.
"I can't wait for Ry to meet you, Kate," Marti was saying. "I know you were out of town for Wyatt and Neily's wedding a few weeks ago so you didn't get to meet him then, but you're going to love him—everybody does."
Kate did the smile again, adding a nod this time.
She knew everyone who had met the third Grayson triplet when he'd been in her small hometown of North-bridge, Montana, had liked him. And was still talking about him even though three weeks had gone by. Full of life. Will do anything for a good time. Over-the-top crazy man. Fun, fun, fun…
Those were only some of the things Kate had heard said of Ry Grayson. And swooping around in a plane with a congratulations banner? That was going to win him more popularity points with everyone else.
The Grayson triplets were the grandchildren of Theresa Hobbs Grayson, a native of Northbridge who had left town over fifty years ago. Theresa had only recently returned in the midst of a particularly bad episode of the mental instability and dementia she suffered. It had brought her back to her deserted family home in search of something she claimed to have had taken from her.
Her grandchildren, Marti, Wyatt and Ry—who were also her guardians—had opted to let Theresa remain in North-bridge while they sorted through her history and tried to make right the wrongs Theresa believed were done to her long ago.
In Northbridge, both Wyatt and Marti had made love-matches—Wyatt with Neily Pratt, and now Marti with Kate's brother Noah. But while Kate liked the down-to-earth Wyatt and Marti, she wasn't looking forward to meeting the more showy Ry.
There was a knock on the bedroom door just then and Kate's sister Meg came in carrying a box full of tiny white daisies.
"The florist said these are for everyone's hair," Meg said as she set the box on the bed.
"They're a surprise!" Marti informed them. "I asked for these with you in mind, Kate. They seemed like the perfect thing for that curly red hair and the way you're wearing it pulled back today. So everyone gets them since we didn't plan headpieces or hats."
Kate appreciated the special thought and took her share of the daisies to one of several mirrors set around the room for the occasion.
Curly red hair—that was what she had all right. Not wiry, coarse curls, just big waves of thick hair the color of red mahogany.
It was good hair. In fact, in high school, it had been voted Best Hair. But Kate sometimes wondered if it got her into trouble. If maybe the novelty of it drew the attention of the sort of men she was now dead set against getting involved with again.
Maybe she should dye it.
Change her hair color, maybe change her luck with men?
It was a thought….
Careful attention was required for Kate to intersperse the flowers among the curls but even so, she was the first to finish while Meg and the other two bridesmaids continued to place them as artfully as possible in their own hairdos.
She asked if anyone wanted help but since they didn't, she used the time to make a final assessment of the rest of her own appearance.
Mascara brightened her blue-green eyes. Blush helped accentuate her cheekbones in her otherwise pale skin, and she hoped a slight dusting of it across her nose camouflaged what she thought of as a too-narrow and pointy beak.
Her lips were highlighted with a mauve gloss that matched the calf-length, nondescript bridesmaids' dresses. And she loved the earrings that Marti had given her as a gift—they were small teardrop diamonds. Traditional and conservative. Like Kate. Who was just an old-fashioned small-town girl through and through.
Everyone else was still fiddling with the flowers when a gust of early June wind came through the French doors, left open since the flyby. Kate went to close them and, just as she did, the loud roar of an approaching motorcycle caught her attention from below.
"That will be Ry again," Marti said at the sound. "Wyatt left him a motorcycle in the field where he had to land so he could get here as quick as possible. Now we'll be able to start anytime."
But her brother had only flown overhead about twenty minutes ago. Had he been able to land a plane, hop on a motorcycle and get here already? Apparently all that racing Marti had mentioned paid off.
Kate closed the doors but curiosity kept her there to peer through the glass at the arrival of the helmeted man in coveralls.
Coveralls? They'd at least have to wait for him to change clothes, wouldn't they?
Bounding right up onto the old house's already patchy lawn, the man who was presumably Ry Grayson brought the motorcycle to an abrupt halt, turned off the engine and then sat straddling the big machine with his long legs while he took off his helmet.
Golden-blond sun-streaked hair gleamed in the late Sunday-afternoon sunshine. It was cut short at the sides and in back, but with the removal of the helmet, he ran a big hand through the longer top, managing to muss it to perfection by ruffling his fingers through it.
From the distance Kate couldn't tell the details of his face, but she could see that he was as handsome as she'd heard. He had a sculpted, masculine bone structure and a well-defined, strong chin. There was no doubt in Kate's mind by then that the man was Ry Grayson because he resembled his siblings. And even without close inspection, Kate could tell that Ry was the jewel in the crown when it came to looks. Wyatt and Marti were more than attractive, but Ry was striking.
He hung his helmet on the motorcycle's handlebars and swung a long leg over the seat to get off, standing tall and lean and broad shouldered. Then he yanked apart what must have been snaps holding the coveralls closed and shrugged out of them to reveal a dashingly tailored tuxedo underneath.
First the plane, then the motorcycle and now the stripping off of coveralls to transform into the debonair groomsman—the guy seemed to think he was James Bond.
There was a knock on the bedroom door just then, followed by the photographer asking to take a few shots of the bride and her attendants getting ready.
"Will you let him in, Kate?" Marti asked.
Kate took one last glance at Ry Grayson as he headed for the house, then she tore herself away from the French doors to do the bride's bidding.
But even as she did, she became aware that there was suddenly a tiny flicker of eagerness in her to get this show on the road so she could have a better look at the man who was just coming in downstairs.
But it was a flicker she stomped out the minute she realized it was there.
No more Peter Pans! she swore.
And she meant it.
But why was it that they always seemed to come in such prime packaging? she wondered as she showed the photographer in.
"Kate! There you are! Finally! Every time I think I'm going to be able to introduce you to Ry you slip away."
Kate smiled at her new sister-in-law as if she didn't know what Marti was talking about when, in fact, Kate had been doing her best to avoid the introduction since the minute the wedding ceremony had ended.
Only now Marti had literally cornered her in the dining room.
"Ry, this is Kate, Noah's other sister—the one you haven't met because she couldn't make it to Wyatt's wedding. Kate, this is Ry."
"Kate," he repeated in a deep voice that was so sexy it made just the saying of her name sound like an endearment.
"Nice to meet you," she lied, feeling her smile tighten as she raised her gaze for her first steady, open, straight-on look at Ry Grayson—something else she'd been avoiding.
And was he less handsome when she could scrutinize every detail? Oh, no, it would have been too much to ask for anything about him to have been ordinary. Instead—of course—he was so, so much more handsome close-up than when seen at a distance from the French doors in the bedroom, so much more handsome than she'd been able to see when she'd been averting her eyes.
That prominent chin had a dimple. The corners of his lips quirked up with an intriguing aura of mystery. When he smiled at her, two laugh lines bracketed his mouth like parentheses around a secret he was silently sharing. His nose was exactly the right length and width and straight-ness. And his eyes weren't merely silver-blue; they were a spectacular, sparkling, metallic silver-blue.
"Where are you in the family order?" he was asking. "Eldest, youngest, somewhere in the middle?"
Kate forced herself to stop counting the ways she could have a weak spot for him if he was a different sort of man and concentrated on his question.
"I'm the youngest but at this time of year, Meg and I are the same age for a while because we're only ten months apart. Jared is the eldest, Noah is second, then Meg and me."
He probably hadn't wanted the details, she chastised herself, he was merely making small talk. It was just that the way he looked in that tuxedo was causing her to be a little scatterbrained.
"I'm the baby of the family, too," he joked. "Wyatt was born first, Marti seven minutes later and me ten minutes after that."
"Does that account for you being the spirit-of-youth in your family?" Kate said then, mostly to remind herself.
His eyebrows dipped together in an amused frown. "The spirit-of-youth?"
"The daredevil," she qualified.
"I have been known to take some risks, that's true," he confirmed.
"You nearly scared poor Kate to death when you flew over earlier," Marti contributed in explanation. "I think she thought a plane was about to crash into us."
He hadn't taken his eyes off Kate even when his sister spoke, and he didn't now. "You must be easily frightened," he goaded.
"It did sound like you were going to land in the bedroom," Marti said.
He grinned as if that was exactly what he'd been going for. But he finally glanced away from Kate to look at Marti.
"I had to let you know I was on my way," he countered remorselessly. "And I wanted you to see the banner."
Marti rolled her eyes at him, apparently not wanting him to know she'd been delighted by his antics.
But it was to Kate that she said, "I'm forgiving him everything today because he got Gram out of hiding in the kitchen for my wedding—that was where she watched Wyatt's because she's so skittish about being around a lot of people. I don't know if you saw her and Mary Pat, but they came down the stairs and watched from just behind where everyone else was sitting—it made me feel like she was at least a little more a part of it."
"I did see her and her nurse," Kate said. She'd also noticed out of the corner of her eye during the ceremony the frequent glances Ry Grayson had cast in that direction, accompanied by reassuring smiles.
"She'll do things for Ry that none of the rest of us can ever get her to do. He's a master," Marti said with admiration.
"Your grandmother wouldn't stay downstairs afterward, though?" Kate asked because she hadn't seen Theresa since the pronouncement of Noah and Marti as man and wife.
"Not even Ry could get her to do that, no," Marti said sadly. "She's fearful and phobic. And she's particularly embarrassed about facing people in Northbridge—I'm sure Noah has told you that we're just piecing together why that is and trying to convince her that she doesn't need to be."
But as if that wasn't a subject for a festive occasion, Marti changed it and said to her brother, "Ry, I also wanted you to meet Kate because she's a masseuse."
That brought a slow, lascivious smile to Ry Grayson's handsome face. "A masseuse. Really? You know, when someone says masseuse the first thing you think of is—"
"Medical massage therapist?" Kate challenged, knowing what he was insinuating.
"Ry…" Marti said in an exaggeratedly reprimanding tone. "You are not honestly making a massage-parlor innuendo to the Reverend's granddaughter—who you just met—at my wedding, when I'm trying to get you medical aid, are you?"
"Who? Me?" he asked, the picture of innocence were it not for the gleam of mischief in his remarkable eyes.
Marti shook her head and said to Kate, "He can be incorrigible."
"I never would have guessed," Kate responded partially under her breath.
But rather than being insulted by her remark, Ry Grayson laughed again and his gaze locked onto Kate's once more as if he were enjoying the polite sparring.
"Anyway," Marti continued. "What I was about to tell you, Kate, is that Ry hurt his shoulder yesterday—trying out his neighbor's son's skateboard, if you can believe it. I thought there might be something you could do to help since he couldn't see anyone in Missoula before coming here."