From four contemporary romance stars, stories filled with first kisses, first dances, and happily-ever-afters…
You’ll Be Mine by Marie Force: Will Abbott and Cameron Murphy are finally ready to tie the knot—as long as family, friends and a love-struck moose don’t get in the way.
Midnight Bet by Jodi Thomas: When cousins Rick and Lizzy Matheson of Harmony, Texas, wind up on the wrong side of an attempted shooting, they know they’re in deep. Still, the biggest danger is losing their hearts—Rick to an old flame and Lizzy to an old friend she’d never noticed before…
Wrapped Around Your Finger by Shirley Jump: Maggie McBride is just one of the guys in the hard-knocks world of construction. Until she’s dared to ask Nick Patterson to a wedding, enticing her to knock down some walls—and risk falling in love.
Carolina Heart by Virginia Kantra: Determined to leave her wild past behind, Cynthie Lodge is forging a new life for herself and her daughters—one that’s man-free and drama-free. But when her high school crush shows up on Dare Island, he’s determined to make her break her rules…
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Jodi Thomas is a fifth-generation Texan who sets many of her stories in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. She is a certified marriage and family counselor, a Texas Tech graduate and writer-in-residence at West Texas A&M University. She lives with her husband in Amarillo, Texas.
Shirley Jump is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Sweetheart Sisters novels and the new Southern Belle Book Club series.
A four-time Romance Writers of America RITA Award finalist, Virginia Kantra is the winner of numerous writing awards, including the Golden Heart, Holt Medallion, Maggie Award of Excellence and two National Readers' Choice Awards. She's the author of the North Carolina-based Dare Island romances.
Read an Excerpt
YOU’LL BE MINE
Along with their parents,
Patrick Murphy & Lincoln and Molly Abbott,
Cameron Murphy and Will Abbott
invite you to attend their wedding
on Saturday, October 24, at 2 P.M.
at their home in Butler, Vermont.
Reception to follow immediately.
TWO DAYS BEFORE her wedding to Will Abbott, Cameron Murphy shut off her laptop at exactly one forty-five in the afternoon and left it in the office she shared with her fiancé. She wouldn’t need the computer for two weeks. The next time she returned to the office, he’d be her husband and they’d be back from their honeymoon.
Filled with giddy excitement, Cameron turned off the office light and closed the door behind her. Will was already gone for the day, running last-minute wedding errands while she finished up at work.
Their office manager, Mary, stood up and came around her desk to give Cameron a hug. “Enjoy every minute of this special time,” she said, nearly reducing Cameron to tears.
“Thank you so much, Mary. I’ll see you tomorrow night, right?” She was one of a few special friends invited to join the family for the rehearsal dinner Will’s parents were throwing at the big red barn where Will and his siblings had been raised.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“I’ll see you then.”
Cameron skipped down the stairs and into the store where she was greeted with more hugs and good wishes from the employees. While no one would mistake her little old nuptials for the royal wedding, it sort of had that feel to it. In Butler, Vermont, the Abbotts were royalty. With a family of ten children and businesses that employed numerous members of the local community, an Abbott wedding was big news.
She accepted a hug, a kiss, best wishes and a cider doughnut from Dottie, who ran the doughnut counter. After talking wedding plans with Dottie and the other ladies for a couple of minutes, Cameron took her doughnut to the store’s front porch to enjoy it in relative peace. With only two days to go, she was no longer worried about fitting into her dress, so she took a seat on one of the rockers and ate her treat in guilt-free heaven.
She’d no sooner begun to relax than who should appear on a leisurely stroll down Elm Street but her very own stalker, Fred the Moose. Cameron sank deeper into the rocker, hoping Fred wouldn’t notice her. In all her years of living in New York City and after scores of first dates, she’d never had an actual stalker—until she came to Vermont and slammed her MINI Cooper into Fred, the Butler town moose. Since then he’d taken such a keen interest in her that Will’s dad, Lincoln, had recently concluded that Fred had a crush on her.
Fantastic. A moose with a crush. With her dad due at two, and Patrick Murphy always on time, the last thing she needed was yet another mooseastrophy. Fortunately, Fred didn’t see her sitting on the porch and continued on his merry way, leaving Cameron to breathe easier about Fred but not about her dad’s impending arrival.
The thought of her billionaire businessman father in tiny Butler had provoked more nerves than anything else about the upcoming weekend. Marrying Will? No worries at all. Getting through the wedding? Who cared if it all went wrong? At the end of the day, she’d be married to Will. That was all that mattered. But bringing Patrick here to this place she now called home?
Cameron drew in a deep breath and blew it out. She hoped he wouldn’t do or say something to make her feel less at home here, because she loved everything about Butler and her life with Will in Vermont. She’d experienced mud season—along with a late-season blast of snow—spring, summer and now the glorious autumn, which was, without a doubt, her favorite season so far.
How could she adequately describe the russet glow of the trees, the vivid blue skies, the bright sunny days and the chilly autumn nights spent snuggled up with Will in front of the woodstove? The apples, pumpkins, chrysanthemums, corn husks tied to porch rails, hay bales and cider. She loved it all, but she especially loved the scent of wood smoke in the air.
Cameron couldn’t have asked for a better time of year to pitch a tent in their enormous yard and throw a great big party. All her favorite autumn touches would be incorporated into the wedding, and she couldn’t wait to see it all come together on Saturday. At Will’s suggestion, they’d hired a wedding planner to see to the myriad details because they were both so busy at work.
At first, Cameron had balked at the idea of hiring a stranger to plan the most important day of her life, but Regan had won her over at their first meeting and had quickly become essential to her. No way could Cameron have focused on the website she was building for the store and planned a wedding at the same time.
She glanced at her watch. Three minutes until two. Patrick would be here any second, probably in the town car he used to get around the city. Under no circumstances could she picture her dad driving himself six hours north to Vermont. Not when there were deals to be struck and money to be made. Time, he always said, was money.
He’d shocked the hell out of her when he told her he wanted to come up on Thursday so he could spend some time with her and Will before the madness began in earnest. Her dad would be sleeping in their loft tonight, and Will had already put her on notice that he would not have sex with her while her dad was in the house. She couldn’t wait to break his resolve.
The thought of how she planned to accomplish that had her in giggles that died on her lips at the familiar thump, thump, thump sound that suddenly invaded the peaceful afternoon.
No way. No freaking way. He did not!
If this was what she thought it was, she’d have no choice but to kill him. Warily, she got up from her chair and ventured down the stairs to look up at the sky just as her father’s big, black Sikorsky helicopter came swooping in on tiny Butler, bringing cars and people to a halt on Elm Street.
One woman let out an ear-piercing scream and dove for some nearby bushes.
Equal parts amused and aggravated, Cameron took off jogging toward the town common, the one space nearby where the bird could land unencumbered. As she went, she realized she should’ve expected him to make an entrance. Didn’t he always?
Nolan and Skeeter were outside the garage looking up when she went by.
“What the hell was that?” asked Nolan, who would be her brother-in-law after the wedding. He was married to Will’s sister Hannah, who’d become Cameron’s close friend since she had moved to Butler.
“Just my dad coming to town.”
“Jumping Jehoshaphat!” Skeeter said. “Thought it was the end of the world.”
“Nope, just Patrick Murphy coming to what he considers the end of the earth. Gotta run. See you later.”
“Bye, Cam,” Nolan said.
“I assume that’s with you,” Lucas Abbott said, gesturing toward the town common with his thumb, as Cameron trotted past his woodworking barn.
“You’d be correct.”
“That thing is righteous. Does he give rides?”
“I’ll be sure to ask him.”
Cameron sort of hated that everyone in town would know her pedigree after her father’s auspicious arrival. Maybe they already knew. In fact, they probably did. The Butler gossip grapevine was nothing short of astonishing. If the people in town knew who she was, or who her father was, no one made a thing of it. After this, they probably would, which saddened her. She loved her low-key, under-the-radar life in Butler and wouldn’t change a thing about it.
But she also loved her dad, and after thirty years as his daughter, she should certainly be accustomed to the grandiose way he did things. She got to the field just as he was emerging from the gigantic black bird with the gold PME lettering on the side: Patrick Murphy Enterprises. Those initials were as familiar to Cameron as her own because they’d always been part of her life.
Hoping to regain her breath and her composure, she came to a stop about twenty yards from the landing site and waited for him to come to her—by himself. That was interesting, as she’d expected his girlfriend-slash-housekeeper Lena to be with him.
With her hands on her hips, Cameron watched him exchange a few words with the pilot before shaking his hand, grabbing a suitcase and garment bag as well as his ever-present messenger bag, which he slung over his shoulder. Wait until he experienced Butler Wi-Fi, or the lack thereof.
He was tall with dark blond hair, piercing blue eyes and a smile on his handsome face, and as he walked to Cameron, her heart softened toward him, as it always did, no matter how outrageous he might be.
She took the garment bag from him and lifted her cheek to receive his kiss. “Always gotta make an entrance, don’t you?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“The bird, Dad. You scared the hell out of everyone. They thought we were being attacked.”
He looked completely baffled. “I told you I’d be here at two.”
“I was watching for a car, not a chopper.”
Recoiling from the very idea, he said, “I didn’t have six hours to sit in traffic on the Taconic. As it is, my ass is numb after ninety minutes in the chopper.”
“We do have airports in Vermont, you know.”
“We checked on that. Closest one that could take the Lear is in Burlington, which is more than two hours from here. Time—”
“Is money,” she said with a sigh. “I know.”
“Besides, you’re taking the Lear to Fiji, and for the record, I’d like to point out it wasn’t my idea to move you out to the bumfuck of nowhere.”
Cameron laughed at his colorful wording. “This is not the bumfuck of nowhere. This,” she said, with a dramatic sweep of her arm, “is the lovely, magnificent town of Butler, Vermont.”
“It’s as charming as I recall from the last time I was here for Linc’s wedding.”
“Are you being sarcastic?”
“I thought Lena was coming with you.”
“Yeah, about that . . . We’ve kind of cooled it.”
“Is she still working for you?” Cameron had spoken to her recently and hadn’t heard that she was no longer in Patrick’s employ.
“Oh, yeah. It’s all good.”
Cameron was certainly used to the way women came and went in her father’s life. She’d learned not to get attached to any of them. They didn’t stick around long enough to make it worth her while. “Well, it’s great to see you and to have you here. I know it’s not what you’re used to, but I think you’ll enjoy it.”
He stopped walking and turned to her. “You’re here. That’s all I need to enjoy myself, honey.”
Cameron let the garment bag flop over her arm so she could hug him. “Thank you so much for coming, Dad.”
He wrapped his arms around her. “Happy to be anywhere you are.”
* * *
THEY stashed Patrick’s bags in Cameron’s black SUV. “Where’d you get this beast?”
“Will insisted I trade the MINI for something built for Vermont winters. I don’t love it, but as I haven’t survived a winter here yet, I’ll take his word for it.”
“So this is the store, huh?”
“Show me around.”
“You really want to see it?”
“I really do.”
She took Patrick’s hand, eager to introduce him to all her new friends. “Right this way.”
He followed her up the stairs to the porch and into the Green Mountain Country Store in all its glory.
“Wow.” Patrick took a look around and glanced up at the vintage bicycle fastened to one of the wooden beams above the store. “I feel like I just stepped into an episode of Little House on the Prairie.”
“Isn’t it amazing? I’ll never forget the first time I came in here. It was like I’d been transported or something.” She looked up at him as he took in the barrels full of peanuts and iced bottles of Coke and products from a bygone era, a simpler time, hoping he’d see the magic she saw every time she came through the doors to the store. “That’s dumb, right?”
“Not at all. It’s quite something. I’m wondering, though, how in the name of hell you build a website for a place like this.”
Cameron laughed. “Slowly and painstakingly.”
“I can’t wait to see how you’ve captured it.”
She tugged on his hand. “Come meet Dottie and have a cider doughnut.”
“Oh, I don’t think—”
“You have to! Your visit won’t be complete without one.” She led him back to the doughnut counter where Dottie was pulling a fresh batch from the oven. “Perfect timing. Dottie, this is my dad, Patrick, and he’s in bad need of a doughnut.”
Dottie wiped her hands on a towel before reaching across the counter to shake Patrick’s hand. “So nice to meet you, Patrick. We’re all very big fans of your daughter.”
“As am I.”
“Can I get one of those for him?”
“Of course! Another for you, sweetie?”
“Absolutely not! I’ve got a dress to fit into on Saturday, so don’t tempt me.” To Patrick, Cameron added, “Dottie is the devil when it comes to these doughnuts.”
“Why, thank you,” Dottie said with a proud smile as she handed over a piping-hot doughnut to Patrick.
Both women watched expectantly as he took a bite.
His blue eyes lit up. “Holy Moses, that’s good.”
“Right?” Cameron said, pleased by his obvious pleasure. “I limit myself to two a week, or I wouldn’t fit through the doors around here. Come on upstairs and check out the office. See you later, Dottie.”
“Bye, Cam. Nice to meet you, Patrick.”
He followed her through the store, stopping to look at various items as they went.
“That’s Hannah’s jewelry,” Cameron said of the pieces that had stopped him for a closer look. “She’s Will’s older sister, twin to Hunter, who’s the company CFO.”
“She does beautiful work.”
“I know! I’m a huge fan. I have a couple of her bracelets. Helps to have friends in high places.”
“I’m glad you’re making friends here.”
They proceeded up the stairs to the offices on the second floor. “So many friends. And now Lucy’s here a lot, too, which makes it even better.”
“Back so soon?” Mary asked when they arrived in the reception area. “I didn’t think I’d see you here again for at least two weeks.”
“I wanted you to meet my dad, Patrick.”
Mary came around her desk to shake his hand. “So nice to meet Cameron’s dad. We adore her here.”
“So I’m hearing. Nice to meet you, too.”
“This is our office.” Cameron opened the door and turned on the lights so her dad could see her workspace.
“Mine and Will’s.”
“You two share an office? They didn’t give you one of your own?”
“We tried,” Mary said. “Those kids are inseparable.”
Cameron blushed and shrugged. “What she said. Besides, if I’m in another office, how am I supposed to play footsie with him during the day?”
“Ugh,” Patrick said with a grunt of laughter. “TMI. I’d go crazy sharing office space with anyone, especially such a small one.”
“Not everyone can have an acre in the sky to call their own,” Cameron said disdainfully.
He tweaked her nose. “It’s not a full acre, and I do need my elbow room.”
“You’re a spoiled, pampered brat, and we all know it.”
Mary laughed at their sparring.
“Don’t listen to her, Mary,” Patrick said with a wink, which had Mary blushing to the roots of her brown hair. “We all know who the spoiled brat is here.”
“Yeah, and it’s not me.”
“I’m afraid I have to side with your daughter, Patrick. There’s nothing spoiled about her. She works harder than all of us put together.”
“Thank you, Mary. I’ll make sure Hunter hears about your fifty percent raise.”
They left Mary laughing as they went back downstairs.
“What’s her story?” Patrick asked.
“Yeah. She’s adorable.”
“Dad . . . Don’t. She’s a really nice person. Leave her alone. She wouldn’t stand a chance against your brand of charm.”
“Why can’t I have a little fun while I’m in town?”
Cameron stopped on the landing and turned to him. “She’s off-limits. I mean that.”
“Don’t be so touchy, Cam.” He kissed her cheek and proceeded ahead of her into the store.
She watched him go with a growing sense of unease. She’d be watching him this weekend and keeping him far, far away from Mary—and all the other single women in Butler.
AFTER A WINDSHIELD tour of Butler and the surrounding area, Cameron took her dad home to their cabin in the woods. “I want to make sure you know it’s kind of rustic,” she said, biting her lip nervously. “You might find it primitive compared to what you’re used to.”
“Believe it or not, I wasn’t always a billionaire with a Park Avenue penthouse. You forget I grew up in a six-room ranch house in New Jersey with a single bathroom shared by five people. I can do rustic.”
“It’s just . . . I know you’ll be tempted, but don’t make fun of the cabin. Will loves that place, and he built it himself.”
“Not sure what you take me for, sweetheart, but I’m not about to poke fun at my future son-in-law’s home.”
“Okay,” Cameron said on a deep sigh of relief.
“I wish you’d relax. I’ve got no plans to rain on your parade. I know you’re happy here, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted for you, believe it or not.”
Cameron tried to do as he requested. What did she care, really, if he hated everything about her new home? It wouldn’t change how she felt about it. Except . . . she wanted him to understand why she’d chosen to live here. His approval had always mattered more than it should have. That was just a fact of her life.
“Right here is where I first met Fred the Moose,” she said, pointing to the spot on the road where her life had changed forever.
“He’s the one who crushed the MINI, right?”
“Yep, only he’d tell you the MINI crushed him, not the other way around.”
“And you have conversations regularly with this moose?”
“More often than I’d like to. Lincoln says he has a crush on me.”
Patrick laughed. “Is that right? Well, I hope to meet this fellow while I’m here so I can gauge his intentions toward my daughter.”
“I hope none of us lay eyes on him this weekend,” Cameron said hopefully. By now, she knew better than to expect a day completely free of Fred. He seemed to turn up with alarming regularity wherever she was. The thought of Fred crashing the wedding was one that Cameron refused to entertain.
“And here we are at home sweet home.” Cameron took the right turn onto the dirt road that also served as their driveway. “When I first came here last spring, it was mud season and this road was full of potholes.” Why was she telling him that? What did he care?
“It’s nice and smooth now. Does Will have to fix it every year?”
“Sure is pretty out here.”
“We think so, too.”
“But remote. Seriously, Cam. What do you do when you need milk?”
“We wait until the morning and get it when we’re in town.”
Patrick shuddered dramatically. “I’d go crazy.”
“I thought I would, too, but it’s amazing how quickly I adapted to life without everything at the tip of my fingers. Being way out here is an adventure, and I love it.”
“Will you still love it when you have babies and need diapers in the midst of a blizzard?”
Cameron laughed. Leave it to him to come up with a worst-case scenario. “I’ll send my mountain man out to get them for me. A blizzard is nothing new to him.”
“Better him than me.”
“Definitely better him than you. As I recall, you’ve never changed a diaper in your life.”
“Touché,” he said, chuckling.
They drove around the final bend in the road before the cabin came into view with a huge white tent off to the left side of the house. The autumn foliage was now past peak but had retained a breathtakingly beautiful golden hue that would perfectly match the dark gold silk dresses her bridesmaids would wear on Saturday.
As she brought her car to a halt outside the cabin, she was relieved to park next to Will’s big truck. She was glad he was here to help her welcome her dad to their home. At the sound of Cameron’s car arriving, their yellow Labs, Tanner and Trevor, came running around the cabin to greet her.
“There’re my boys,” she said to Patrick. “Come meet them.” She got out of the SUV and was immediately accosted by the dogs, who were now hers as much as they were Will’s. “Hi, guys! How was your day?” Cameron gave them both an equal amount of love and attention, which was richly rewarded with wet dog kisses that she absolutely adored.
“Boys, this is your grandpa, Patrick. Dad, meet your granddogs, Trevor and Tanner. Trevor has the black collar and Tanner’s is red. That’s how we tell them apart. And Tanner has this sweet white patch on the top of his head.”
“Nice to meet you, boys.”
“Sit.” Both rear ends dropped at Cameron’s command. “Now shake a paw and say hello properly.” Two left paws were extended to Patrick, who played along, laughing as he shook each one.
“I know, right?”
“They only do that for her,” Will said as he joined them, extending his hand to Patrick.
Her dad surprised them both when he bypassed Will’s hand to hug him. “Good to see you again.”
“You, too.” Will seemed pleased by Patrick’s warm greeting. “Welcome to our humble home.”
“It’s beautiful.” Patrick took a long look around at the towering evergreens and Butler Mountain in the distance. “I can see why you love it here.”
“It’s our own little slice of heaven.” Cameron leaned into Will’s one-armed embrace, closing her eyes when he kissed her temple. She opened her eyes to find her dad watching them with a smile on his face. “Come on in and see the rest.”
“I’ll get your bags,” Will said.
“Thank you.” Patrick offered his arm to Cameron. “We need to practice for Saturday. I’ve heard I’m supposed to give you away or some such nonsense?”
Cameron laughed. “It’s not nonsense, Dad. It’s tradition.”
“What if I give you away and then decide I want you back? Does this arrangement come with any sort of return policy?”
“Absolutely not,” Will said from behind them.
“I had a feeling he would say that,” Patrick replied glumly. “A girl owns your heart and soul for thirty years, and then you have to give her to another guy? It’s wrong, I tell you. Wrong, wrong, wrong.”
Cameron and Will laughed at his running commentary as they led him into the tiny cabin they called home. Will had lit the woodstove, so the space was warm and cozy and immaculate, thanks to the hours they’d spent the night before cleaning in preparation for her dad’s arrival.
She’d been a nervous wreck about making everything perfect, working until well past midnight when Will declared that it was as good as it was going to get. He’d picked her up and carried her to bed over her vociferous objections.
“This is great, you guys,” Patrick said as he looked around at their home. “I love it.”
Will took Patrick’s bag up the ladder to the loft.
“That’s your penthouse for the evening,” Cameron said, pointing.
“Looks good to me.”
Cameron went to him and hugged him. “Thanks for being such a good sport about everything.”
He returned her embrace. “I have no idea what you were expecting.”
She looked up at him and rolled her eyes dramatically, making him laugh. “Are you hungry?”
“Molly and Lincoln are coming for dinner.”
“I can’t wait to see them,” Patrick said of his Yale University classmate. It had been Lincoln’s idea to hire his old friend’s daughter to build a website for the store, which is what had brought her to Butler in the first place.
“Dinner is already in the oven,” Will said of the lasagna they’d made themselves.
“Smells amazing,” Patrick said.
“How about a beer?” Will asked.
“I’d never say no to that.”
While they waited for Will’s parents to arrive, they sat on the sofa with beers and the crackers and cheese Cameron put out to hold them over until dinner.
“So talk to me about the wedding plans,” Patrick said.
Cameron glanced at Will, who gestured for her to have at it. “Everything starts tomorrow afternoon with a rehearsal here followed by the rehearsal dinner at Lincoln and Molly’s.”
“Who’s coming to that?”
“The wedding party and a few friends.”
“Tell me again who’s in the wedding party. I know Lucy is your maid of honor.”
“Right, the others are Emma, Will’s sisters Hannah, Ella and Charley, and Simone is the flower girl.”
“What about you?” Patrick asked Will.
“I asked Colton to be my best man since we’re practically marrying sisters,” he said, referring to Lucy, Cameron’s best friend from the city and now Colton’s fiancée. “My other five brothers will be groomsmen along with Troy.”
“That’s a big wedding party,” Patrick said.
“I know,” Cameron said, “but we couldn’t narrow it down, so we decided to have everyone we wanted.” She shrugged. “This is what happens when you marry into a family of ten kids. Everything is big!”
“Ten kids.” Patrick shook his head. “I still can’t believe my old college buddy has ten kids.”
“Neither can he,” Will said. “They joke that by the time they figured out what was causing all these kids to arrive, they had ten of them.”
“I can hear him saying that,” Patrick said, chuckling.
“He also likes to talk about the long, cold winter in Vermont and the lack of things to do,” Cameron added.
“Does that mean you’re going to have ten kids, too?” Patrick asked.
“Oh, hell no!”
“We’ve agreed to stop at eight,” Will said.
Patrick cringed at the thought. “I sure hope so.”
“I’ve agreed to two, and then we’ll see,” Cameron assured her father.
“I can live with that.” Patrick put down his beer and shifted on the sofa to face them. “So there’s something I wanted to talk to you guys about, but I didn’t want to do it over the phone.”
Cameron was immediately on alert for bad news. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, honey, absolutely nothing. I swear. It’s just kind of a sticky issue where you’re concerned.”
“Hear me out and then you can do whatever you want with no hard feelings. I promise.”
“Okay . . .”
“I didn’t bring this up before now, because I know how fiercely independent you are, and I didn’t want to step on any toes as you were planning your wedding. I had a feeling you wouldn’t let me pay for anything, so I didn’t offer. That said, I’d still like to do something for you—anything you want if you’ll let me.”
“You did do something,” Will said. “You made the plane available to us for our honeymoon. That’s huge.”
“That’s nothing,” Patrick said with the wave of his hand.
“It’s not nothing to us, Dad. You made it possible for us to go to Fiji. We never would’ve been able to afford that otherwise.”
“Well, um, you should know that your stay there has also been covered.”
Cameron couldn’t believe her ears. “What?”
“You heard me. It’s all set. And you’ve been upgraded, too.”
“Dad . . .”
“Don’t ‘Dad’ me. You’re my only child, and you’re getting married. Let me have my fun, will you?”
Cameron glanced at Will, who seemed equally stunned.
“You didn’t have to do that, Patrick.” Will took Cameron’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “But it was very nice of you just the same.”
Following Will’s lead, she decided to be gracious about her dad’s grand gesture. “Yes, it was.”
“You’re not mad?” Patrick asked warily.
“No,” Cameron said, laughing at his obvious concern, “we’re not mad. How could we be when you’re being so generous?”
“I know you, and I know how annoyed you get when I interfere.”
She affected a stern expression. “I’ll let it slide this time, but don’t make a habit of it.”
“And that’s more than enough of a wedding gift,” Cameron said. “We have everything we could want or need.”
“Positive.” Cameron hugged him and kissed his cheek. “Having you here with us is the best gift of all.”
Molly and Lincoln arrived a short time later, preceded into the house by their dogs, George and Ringo. They frolicked with Trevor and Tanner, who were George’s puppies. Yes, George was a girl, but that didn’t matter to the Beatles-obsessed Lincoln Abbott, who named all his dogs after the Fab Four.
Patrick stood to hug Linc and Molly.
“Never thought I’d see you here again,” Lincoln said.
“Never thought I’d be here again, but who could’ve seen this coming?” He gestured to Will and Cameron, who stood arm in arm as they watched their parents say hello.
“We’re so happy to have you here for such a wonderful occasion,” Molly said. “We couldn’t love Cameron any more if she were one of our own.”
Patrick directed a warm smile at his daughter. “She turned out pretty good, despite me.”
“You probably had something to do with it,” Molly said.
“Not as much as I should have.”
With no desire to dwell on the past during such a happy occasion, Cameron said, “Is anyone hungry?”
“Famished,” Lincoln said, “and my mouth is watering at whatever smells so amazing.”
“Our very own lasagna with garlic bread and salad,” Cameron said.
“Sounds delightful, honey,” Molly said. “What can I do to help?”
“Absolutely nothing. It’s your night off.”
The five of them enjoyed the meal and a conversation full of laughter and stories about Lincoln and Patrick’s years at Yale.
“Before this weekend gets away from us,” Patrick said, raising his glass of cabernet, “I’d like to propose a toast to Will, Lincoln, and Molly, who have made my daughter feel so at home here and welcomed her into the family she always dreamed of having, even if she thinks I didn’t know that. I miss her in the city, but I sleep much better at night these days knowing she is here with you, that she is happy and well loved and has all the things I ever wanted for her, even if I didn’t always do a very good job of telling her that. And to you, my beautiful, amazing, accomplished daughter, may you always be as happy as you are right now, and may your lives together be filled with all the joy and happiness the world has to offer.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Lincoln said as Cameron and Molly mopped up their tears.
Will leaned in to kiss Cameron. “Me, too.”
WITH HER DAD tucked into the loft, Cameron stepped into the room she shared with Will and shut the door, leaning back against it for a second to reflect on the evening they’d spent with their parents. Her dad had shocked the hell out of her with the toast, the laughter and his relaxed demeanor, not to mention the generous gift of paying for their honeymoon.
Will came out of the bathroom wearing flannel pajama pants she’d never seen before and a long-sleeve T-shirt.
Cameron started laughing the minute she set eyes on him. He always slept in the nude, no matter the season or the temperature. Once the laughter began, it overtook her in a fit of giggles unlike anything she’d experienced in recent memory.
“What is so funny?”
“You are.” She wiped the tears from her face and crossed the room to him. “If you think all these clothes are going to keep you safe tonight, you’re sadly mistaken.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. We have a guest. Of course I’m wearing clothes to bed.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Yes, I am.”
Cameron tugged at his T-shirt, trying to get it off him.
He fought back, pulling it down. “Knock it off.”
Sensing his determination, Cameron decided to fight fire with fire. “Fine. Be that way.”
“Fine, I will.”
While he got into bed, she went to the closet where she’d stashed the lingerie she’d gotten at the shower Lucy and Will’s sisters had recently thrown for her. She sifted through the silky, frothy fabrics until she found the one that Will’s sister Charley had given her “as a joke.” Except this was not a joking matter, and since she’d be spending tomorrow night with her bridesmaids while he camped with the guys on Colton’s mountain, Cameron was determined to break his resolve tonight.
With the outfit bunched into a ball in her hand, she scooted into the bathroom and shut the door. How to adequately describe the sluttiest thing she’d ever seen? Thinking about the laughter at the shower when she’d pulled this one out of the gift bag had Cameron giggling all over again. She’d had no intention of ever wearing it, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
It was black and entirely see-through with open holes over her nipples, a single snap at the crotch, a thong in the back and not much of anything else, except for the matching garter belt and sheer thigh-high hose that attached to the belt. Cameron had never before donned a garter belt, so it took some doing to get it just right. All she needed was a whip and five-inch spike heels to complete the ensemble, but she only wanted to seduce Will, not give him a heart attack.
She brushed her teeth and hair, put on the darkest red lipstick she owned and dabbed perfume in a few critical places. Once the giggles stopped, the nerves set in and she was reminded of the night they first made love. This felt like that all over again, and she tried to forget her dad was sleeping in the loft above them. She turned off the bathroom light and stepped into the bedroom where Will was engrossed in a thriller he’d been enjoying the past few days.
She cleared her throat.
He glanced at her, and she would never—for the rest of her life—forget the look on his face when he saw what she was wearing. His eyes nearly popped out of his skull, his mouth fell open, and the book dropped into his lap and then onto the floor with a dull thud. “What. The. Hell.” His rough, sexy whisper did away with any remaining nerves, reminding her of all the many ways she loved him and couldn’t wait to spend the rest of her life with him.
With that in mind, she moved toward the bed, crawling across the mattress to him.
“Cameron . . . I don’t know what you’re up to, but this is not going to happen with your dad sleeping ten feet from us.”
As if he hadn’t said a word, she straddled him and was gratified to feel the hard press of his erection between her legs. Despite what he said, at least one part of him was fully on board with her plan.
“Cameron . . . come on. I told you—”
She didn’t wait to hear how that sentence was going to end. Rather, she leaned forward and kissed him, using every trick in her arsenal to persuade him. She bit his bottom lip and then soothed the sting with her tongue, drawing a deep groan from him.
“Shhh,” she said, reminding him they had to be quiet.
When he cupped her breasts and ran his thumbs over her protruding nipples, she knew she had him. “You’re the devil, you know that?”
She smiled. “You love me.”
“Not with him here. I can’t.”
She rotated her hips over the obvious proof to the contrary. “Yes, you can,” she whispered in his ear. “I need you tonight. I’ve got to sleep a whole night without you. How will I survive if you don’t make love to me tonight?”
“You’re evil, and you’re the devil. And where in the name of God did you get this outfit?”
“Your sister gave it to me at my shower.”
“I don’t even have to ask which sister.”
“No, you don’t. I believe she intended it to be a joke gift, but I’m not joking right now.”
“Does knowing your dad is in the house turn you on or something?”
“No! Knowing you think nothing is going to happen because he’s here is what turns me on.”
“Guilty as charged.” She tugged again at his T-shirt, and this time he let her remove it. “There’s my favorite chest in the whole wide world.”
“I’m always powerless where you’re concerned, and then you come in here looking like a vixen . . .”
“Ohhh, a ‘vixen’! I love that word.”
“What else did you get at this shower of yours?”
“You’ll find out in Fiji.”
“God, I can’t wait. How much longer till we get there?”
“About seventy-two hours.”
“I don’t know if I can make it that long.”
“Then you’d better make tonight count.” She kissed him again, and this time he participated fully, his tongue tangling with hers, arousing her to the fevered state of need she’d only ever experienced with him. His hands were everywhere, caressing and stroking her, feeding the fire inside. “Will,” she said, gasping as she broke the intense kiss. “Please . . . I want you so badly.”
“You have me. Hook.” Kiss. “Line.” Kiss. “And sinker.”
Cameron smiled as she kissed him, loving him more than she’d ever known it was possible to love anyone. She tugged on the flannel pants she hadn’t even known he owned. “Lose ’em.”
“Are you secretly a dominatrix?”
“I might be. I’m rather enjoying this.”
His eyes heated with lust that only added to the desire beating through her. “I can see that.” He reached between her legs and gave a tug to the snap holding her outfit in place. And then his fingers were inside her, bending and curling to find the spot that always drove her wild. Tonight was no exception.
She would’ve cried out if his mouth hadn’t found hers in time to muffle a sound her father surely would’ve heard if he were still awake.
“Shhh,” Will said, laughing softly. “If you’re determined to have your way with me, we have to be quiet. I’ll never be able to look him in the eye again.”
With her lips pressed against his ear, she said, “Pssst.”
“He knows we have sex.”
“Not with him ten feet from us, we don’t!”
Cameron rotated her hips, which drove his fingers deeper into her. She let her head fall back in bliss that she endured silently when she’d usually be letting him know how much she liked everything he did to her. Then his teeth were clamping down on her nipple and she had to bite her lip—hard—to keep from crying out again.
“So hot,” he whispered. “So beautiful, so smart and talented and loving and sweet and all mine. Mine, mine, mine. How’d I get so lucky?” His thumb circled her clit, which was all it took to detonate the orgasm that had been brewing since the minute she’d donned the outfit.
He collected her moans and gasps in another searing kiss that, combined with what he continued to do with his fingers, had her climbing again before the first one had even ended.
She opened her eyes to find him on top of her, looking down at her with the beautiful golden eyes that had held her captive since the memorable night she met him, the night that had changed both their lives forever.
Cameron raised her legs and wrapped them around his hips, encouraging him to take what she offered.
Never one to need an engraved invitation, Will entered her in one long stroke that filled her to overflowing with love for him, for the life they shared, for all the days ahead they had to look forward to together.
“God,” he whispered against her ear. “It just gets better and better and better all the time.”
“For me, too. Don’t go slow, Will. I need you so much.”
“Be. Quiet. You hear me?”
She giggled softly. “I’ll try.”
“One sound and I’ll stop.”
“I’ll behave. I promise.”
He kissed her. “That’ll be the day.”
She squirmed under him while squeezing him tightly from within.
“Vixen,” he said on a gasp, but her tricks did the trick. He began to move faster, giving her what she wanted in deep thrusts that made her see stars.
Her hands traveled down his back to cup his ass as he made love to her. She squeezed, and he groaned, loudly.
“Shhh,” she said, teasingly.
“Stop doing stuff you know is going to make me groan.”
She squeezed again, and he picked up the pace. Lost to him, Cameron raised her hands over her head and grasped the slats in the headboard, letting him take her hard and fast, the way she loved it best. He knew exactly what she needed and gave it to her every time.
Coming silently, with Will deep inside her, was one hell of a challenge, but Cameron bit her lip and wrapped her arms around his neck, holding him close as he let go, too.
“God, that was hot,” he whispered.
“Mmm, so hot.”
“I didn’t stand a chance against you and that outfit, which of course you knew.”
“What was I to do when you came to bed wrapped in flannel?”
Laughing softly, he said, “You’re quite proud of yourself, aren’t you?”
“Mmm hmm. Quite proud.”
“Love you, Cameron Murphy-soon-to-be-Abbott.”
“I love you, too, and I can’t wait to be Cameron Abbott.”
THE FESTIVITIES BEGAN late on Friday afternoon with the rehearsal at Will and Cam’s house, where Regan, the cheerful, energetic wedding planner, ran things with the precision of a boot camp drill sergeant.
“She’s kinda scary,” Will whispered to Cameron as they watched Regan give marching orders to the wedding party. Petite and curvy with shoulder-length dark hair, her voice carried when she gave orders with the kind of authority no one dared to question.
“Scary in a good way. This would be a hot mess if we’d tried to do it ourselves.”
“She’s even got Lucas and Landon hanging on her every word.”
Will’s younger twin brothers were known for their comedic misbehavior at most family events, but he was right. Regan had them rapt with attention as she went through the sequence of events that would transpire the next afternoon.
“Where’re our bride and groom?” Regan called.
Will took Cameron’s hand and led her into the fray. “Here we are.”
“Will, I need you up here with Colton—and Patrick, in the house with Cameron.”
Before they parted company, Cameron put her arms around Will’s neck and kissed him as their guests whistled and hooted at them to get a room. “See you soon.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
Cameron released her fiancé and took the outstretched arm her father offered her. They walked together across the yard to the cabin. Outside the front door, the wedding party was being arranged according to Regan’s instructions. First came Lucas and Landon, who would accompany their mother.
Then Emma and Troy, Ella and Max, Hannah and Hunter, Charley and Wade. Lucy, who would walk in with Simone, their flower girl, came next. A flower arbor and chairs would be placed on the lawn tomorrow. For now, they were left to imagine the aisle that would run between the chairs.
“Are we ready?” Regan asked.
“As ready as we’ll ever be,” Cameron said. “Let’s do it!”
Beaming, Molly was escorted by her sons. Waiting for her at the end of the imaginary aisle were Lincoln and Elmer, who would perform the ceremony. She hugged them both and then broke loose to hug Will.
Cameron loved the way he laughed at his mother’s infectious joy. When she was done with Will, she hugged and kissed Colton, too.
Emma and Troy were given the go-ahead, followed by the others in staggered pairs.
“Here we go,” Lucy said, turning to smile at Cameron before she accompanied a giddy Simone with her imaginary basket of rose petals.
Patrick rested his hand over his stomach. “I feel like I’m going to be sick, and this is only the rehearsal.”
Cameron laughed at the tormented expression on his face. “Stop it. This is the moment you’ve been preparing for all my life.”
“And I’ve been thinking about it for thirty years that went by in a flash. How can you be all grown up and getting married when I still picture you as this itty-bitty thing in a tutu, dancing around the apartment like a tiny sprite?”
Cameron brushed at an unexpected tear. “Is that how you picture me?”
“I have a million pictures of you in my mind, but from now on, the one I’ll always have in my mind is the way you look right now.”
“How do I look right now?”
“Absolutely, positively beautiful.”
Cameron hugged him, clinging to him long after Regan gave them the signal to proceed. “Let’s do this, Daddy.” She hadn’t called him that in decades, but it seemed to fit the occasion.
They broke apart, and Patrick used his sleeve to wipe his face. “If I have to.”
“I’m afraid you do.”
He tucked her hand into his elbow and then covered it with his hand.
Cameron never took her eyes off Will as she walked through the yard on her dad’s arm. If the rehearsal was this overwhelming, she couldn’t imagine what tomorrow would bring. Will watched her intently, never blinking as she came toward him. As always, he gave her his full, undivided attention.
A hundred images spiraled through her mind in the few minutes it took for them to cross the yard: from the moment she first laid eyes on him, ankle-deep in the freezing Vermont mud with an angry moose standing between them, straight through to the night he proposed to her in the exact same spot with the exact same moose serving as their witness.
She almost expected Fred to come busting through the trees to make it official.
And then she was standing before Will, and he was extending his hand to her. Cameron turned to her dad, hugged him and kissed him and whispered, “I love you,” in his ear.
“Love you, too, baby.” He shook Will’s hand and stepped back.
Will picked up Cameron and swung her around, bringing her down with a passionate kiss that had her blushing while everyone else laughed. “Thought you’d never get here.”
She hugged him. “I’ve been right here, waiting for you to make an honest woman out of me.”
Smiling, he kissed her again. “In that case, we really ought to get married.”
“Best idea you’ve ever had.”
Into her ear, he whispered, “I’ve got a couple other ideas I’m saving for Fiji.”
Cameron’s entire body heated at the thought of two weeks alone with him in the South Pacific. She wasn’t one to wish her life away, but she was excited to be completely alone with him, away from work and able to spend day after day together. As much as she was looking forward to the wedding, she couldn’t wait for the honeymoon.
“Let’s practice the recessional,” Regan said, clapping her hands to gain the attention of the rowdy wedding party.
Will and Cameron led the way. Halfway to the cabin, he scooped her up into his arms and carried her the rest of the way home.
* * *
LINCOLN and Molly served an Italian feast for the rehearsal dinner. As she loaded her plate with ziti, chicken, pasta, salad and bread, Cameron wasn’t thinking about fitting into her dress. Rather, she wanted to enjoy every minute of this once-in-a-lifetime weekend, surrounded by the people she loved best.
Cameron had never seen so many people at the Abbotts’ home at one time, but the spacious barn in which they’d raised their ten children was more than up to the occasion.
Joining the party for dinner were Hannah’s husband, Nolan, Hunter’s fiancée, Megan, Mary from the store, Patrick’s assistant, Maggie, who’d driven up from the city, and Lucy and Emma’s dad, Ray Mulvaney.
Molly moved through the gathering refreshing drinks, taking plates and making everyone feel welcome. Cameron had loved her future mother-in-law from the first time she met her. In Molly, Cameron had found the mother she’d never had, as her own mother had died giving birth to her. As the wedding approached, Cameron had missed what she’d never had more than ever.
Molly had been right there to fill the void, doing double duty as the mother of the groom and stand-in mother of the bride.
Cameron followed Molly into the kitchen. “Everything is wonderful, Molly. Thank you so much for this.”
“Oh, honey, it was completely and entirely my pleasure. Such a wonderful, happy occasion.” She hugged Cameron. “Are you ready for tomorrow?”
“Will is, too. I’ve never seen him this excited about anything.”
“I’ve never been so excited, either. I’ve pretty much felt that way since the night I met him. Or, well, I guess it was actually the next day when he stopped being mad at me for coming to town to build a website he didn’t want.”
Molly laughed. “He was instantly taken with you. Linc and I knew right away that you two were going to be something special. I’ve never been so happy to be right about anything.”
A loud whistle came from the big great room in the middle of the barn.
“That’ll be Linc looking to make a toast.” Molly extended her arm to Cameron. “Shall we?”
They walked into the room full of loved ones. “There’s the blushing bride,” Lincoln said. “Come on up here with your future husband and let me embarrass you both for a minute.”
“Do we have to?” Will asked.
Will’s brothers pushed him forward, and Cameron caught him as he landed right where Lincoln wanted him. Will put his arms around Cameron from behind and held her against him.
Lincoln extended his hand to his wife and then put his arm around Molly when she joined him. “It’s such a pleasure to welcome you all here tonight for this happy occasion. This has been an incredible year in which we welcomed Nolan, and now Cameron, to our family, as well as Lucy, and Megan, who’ll join us before too much longer. When you have ten children, people think you’ve maxed out your capacity for love. But then someone new comes into your life, and you realize your capacity expands when the right people come along. Cameron, Molly and I couldn’t be more delighted to welcome you into our family. We knew you as a little girl and thought you were adorable. You grew into an amazing, loving, caring woman who has made our son so very happy, and we love you very much.” He held up his glass. “So I’d like to propose a toast to Cameron Murphy, who will become Cameron Abbott tomorrow, and to Patrick, who becomes an honorary Abbott when our kids get married. Our family is lucky to have you both. And to Will, who is the most wonderful son any parents could ever hope to have. Thank you for bringing Cameron to us.”
“Wow.” Cameron mopped up tears while Will did the same behind her. Then they hugged and kissed his parents. “You know how to get a girl.”
“May I?” Patrick asked Lincoln, who gestured for his old friend to proceed. “Thank you for those kind words, Linc, and for this wonderful dinner and evening. I’d like to propose a toast to Will, the man who has won my little girl’s heart and quite possibly the only person in this world who could make her prefer the wilderness of Vermont to the wilderness of New York City. After spending time in Butler and at their home in the woods, I can see why Cameron loves it here. And I can certainly see why she loves Will so much. Linc, I’ve wondered what the heck you were doing out here in the boonies all these years. But tonight, surrounded by your incredible family, I can see you’ve been doing something right in your barn in the boonies. You certainly did something right with Will, my son-in-law, a man most worthy of my little girl. Congratulations. To Will and Cameron.”
Will dabbed at his eyes. “Cripes. The dads are on fire tonight.”
“Weddings do that to parents,” Elmer said. “And grandparents. I’d also like to raise a glass to my beloved William, who has been a joy to me—and his late grandmother—from the day he was born. You were always a happy little fellow, who grew up to be a man anyone would be proud of. And then Cameron came crashing into town, and we got to watch you two fall in love. I couldn’t be happier to be celebrating this occasion with both of you, and I’d like to thank you for the honor you’ve bestowed upon me by asking me to officiate. When I became a justice of the peace, I thought it would be something fun to do in my retirement. It never occurred to me that I’d get to perform wedding ceremonies for my precious grandchildren. That has been the ultimate side benefit.” He raised his glass to them. “To Will and Cameron, I love you both, and I’m looking forward to being a great-grandfather to your children.”
Laughing through their tears, Will and Cameron hugged his adorable grandfather.
“Do we get to give toasts, too?” Lucas asked.
“Absolutely not,” Molly said.
“Aw, come on, Mom,” Landon said. “That’s not fair.”
“It’s absolutely fair. This is a rehearsal dinner, not a roast.”
“How does she always know what we’ve got planned?” Landon asked his twin.
“She has ESP,” Will told his brothers.
“I know you guys,” Molly said. “And I don’t trust you for a second.”
The wine continued to flow, along with the laughs and several kinds of cake. Cameron was blissed out on alcohol, sugar and happiness when Will joined her to tell her it was time to go their separate ways for the night. She hated the idea of spending even one night without him, but they’d agreed weeks ago to spend this evening apart.
The guys were camping up on Colton’s mountain while the girls took over their cabin.
“So tomorrow,” Will said, leaning in to kiss her. “You’ll be there right?”
“Wild horses couldn’t keep me away.”
“Don’t be late.”
“Couldn’t have dreamed this,” he said, “so I wouldn’t dream of being late to make it official.”
She took his hand and led him into the mudroom, the one place in the house that wasn’t overrun with people. With a minute to themselves, Cameron hooked her arm around his neck and drew him into a deep, passionate kiss.
“This time tomorrow,” he whispered against her lips, “we’ll be making our big escape.”
“Mmm, can’t wait for all of it.”
“Let’s go, Romeo,” Colton called to his brother. “You’ve got two weeks in Fiji to kiss her face off.”
Will pulled her in close one more time, pressing his erection into her belly as he kissed her again, telling her with every stroke of his tongue that she was loved and desired. “I gotta go.”
“I gotta let you.”
“See you tomorrow, baby.” He kissed her lips and then lingered with a kiss to her forehead.
“Get some sleep.”
“Not likely, but I’ll try if you do.”
“Deal.” He hugged her one more time. “Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
Cameron released him to leave with his brothers for their campout on the mountain. Right after the guys left with much bickering and laughter, Hannah came to find her. “Ready to go?”
“Let me just say good-night to my dad and your parents.” Patrick would be spending the remainder of the weekend at Lincoln and Molly’s house.
Cameron hugged Molly. “Thank you so much for an incredible evening.”
“I loved every minute of it.” She kissed Cameron’s cheek. “Try to get some sleep tonight.”
“I’m too excited to sleep.”
Molly smiled. “I’ll be over in the morning to help.”
“I’ll see you then.”
“Thank you for making Will so happy.”
“Being happy with him has been the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”
She hugged Lincoln and Elmer and then her dad. “Molly and Lincoln will take good care of you.”
He raised his glass of bourbon. “They already are. This is the good stuff.”
“Nothing but the best,” Lincoln chimed in.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said to her dad.
“I’ll be there.”
HANNAH DROVE CAMERON, Lucy, Ella and Charley to Cameron’s house where everyone but Hannah, who was pregnant, enjoyed glasses of wine while they painted fingers and toes and talked about wedding plans. Emma and Ray had taken Simone back to the Butler Inn earlier. They would rejoin the wedding party in the morning.
Excerpted from "Ask Me Why"
Copyright © 2015 Jodi Thomas.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for the authors of Ask Me Why
“A masterful storyteller.”—Catherine Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Walking on Air
“Compelling and beautifully written.”—Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Mr. Miracle
“Marie Force makes you believe in the power of true love and happily ever after.”—Carly Phillips, New York Times bestselling author of Dare to Touch
“Genuine and passionate.”—Publishers Weekly
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“Intimate and inviting…Contemporary romance at its most gratifying.”—USA Today