Kathy “Play it Safe” Hendricks isn’t used to taking risks, or fighting for what she wants. But as Maid of Honor in her best friend’s wedding, Kathy will do anything to make sure it all goes smooth as bridal silk. She didn’t plan on the Best Man being Kevin O’Malley, the hotter-than-flames, can’t-commit bad boy who broke her heart five years ago.
SOMETHING NEW . . .
Kevin has never forgotten Kathy, the sweet, sexy brunette who ghosted him just when he was starting to think he was ready for something more. Kathy was different from the other girls Kevin dated, and five years later it’s truer than ever. Only now he senses a new strength in the shy girl who left him hanging all those years ago. And this time, he’s not going to let her get away . . .
Sometimes first love needs a second chance.
Praise for the For Your Love series
“Schroeder’s latest For Your Love sizzler has everything a romance needs.”
--RT Book Reviews, TOP PICK on Through Your Eyes”
“If this sweet romance doesn’t have you dancing a jig, nothing will.”
--Kirkus Reviews on Through Your Eyes
“Schroeder infuses plenty of emotion into this strong love story.”
--Booklist on In Your Arms
“A surprising big hearted romance.”
--Kirkus Reviews on Under Your Skin
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Sixteen months ago
Kevin O'Malley stood against the bar at O'Leary's Pub and watched the party unfold in front of him. Although he'd known the O'Learys his entire life, they were becoming family. He still couldn't believe that his older brother Jimmy had fallen in love with Mouthy Moira.
He tilted his bottle of beer to his lips with a smile. Watching Jimmy and Moira over the last six months or so had been jarring. Jimmy, who had always been the rock of their family, the man who took care of everyone, who told everyone what to do, was knocked off his game by a redheaded bombshell.
And they were so fucking happy that Kevin was a little jealous.
The jukebox blared music in the back room and people were dancing. Jimmy and Moira greeted every guest and thanked them for coming out in the cold to celebrate their engagement.
O'Learys and O'Malleys filled the entire bar and most were more than halfway to drunk. Their families knew how to throw one hell of a party. Unfortunately for him, he had a breakfast meeting in the morning and showing up hungover wouldn't bode well for his career. He'd worked too hard over the last few years to throw it away for an engagement party.
Not that any of that would stop him from messing with Moira. As she turned the corner toward the dance floor without Jimmy, Kevin saw his chance. He set his beer down and ran up behind his soon-to-be sister-in-law.
"Moira, baby. You owe me a dance." Before she could respond, he had his arm on her waist and led her to the dance floor.
"Why do you feel the need to fuck with me?" Moira said with a clenched jaw.
"What? I have precious few chances remaining to prove you chose the wrong O'Malley brother."
His quip did what he'd hoped, and she burst into snorting laughter. She relaxed in his arms and allowed him to lead in a dance.
"In all seriousness, I'm glad he has you."
Moira pulled back in his arms and studied his face. "How drunk are you?"
"Not at all."
"Sincerity from Kevin O'Malley? Hell must be freezing over."
"Tell anyone and I'll deny it till my dying breath." He paused and said what he wanted her to know. "You make him extraordinarily happy, and there's nothing more any of us could ask for him." He pulled her close again for the remainder of their dance.
In his ear, she whispered, "Does this mean you're finally calling a truce, and you're going to be nice to me?"
Now it was his turn to laugh. "No way, babe. Messing with you is one of life's greatest pleasures. It's bound to only get worse once you're family."
She shook her head slowly. "That's what I was afraid of."
Their dance ended, and he released her so she could return to Jimmy. Kevin went back to the bar and scanned the crowd to see if he could find some female company that he wasn't related to.
As he looked over his choices, his gaze landed on a tall brunette. Her long brown curls bounced wildly down her back, drawing attention to her luscious ass. It definitely looked like a firm handful.
He shifted to order a couple bottles of beer to use as a means of introducing himself. Before he got the bartender's attention, the woman turned and he caught a glimpse of her face.
Kevin's mouth went dry at the realization. He hadn't seen her in almost four years. Not since she'd blown him off.
But before that, they were hot together.
Suddenly Moira was once again at his side.
"Don't even think about it," she said.
"I wasn't anywhere near you."
"Not me. Kathy. You leave her alone."
Her stern comment had him turning away from the bar to fully face her. She wasn't kidding. This was no playful warning. "Kathy and I have history."
"Yeah. You did a number on her."
Moira stared at him for a full minute. It was the quietest minute he'd ever had with her. "You really are clueless," she said.
"When it comes to whatever you're rambling about right now, yeah."
"I don't know how it happened, but when you were dating Kathy, she was totally falling for you." He started to grin until she continued, "And you broke her heart."
"I did not."
Moira's hand flashed up in his face. "I'm not going to argue with you about something that happened years ago. I'm just saying that you need to leave her be."
Then she flounced off, leaving Kevin to order and drink a beer alone. He waved the bartender over and got his drink. When he turned to the crowd again, a tall man had an arm slipped around Kathy's shoulders. So even without Moira's crazy warning, Kathy would be off-limits. His days of sleeping with a woman regardless of her relationship status were long over.
The more he thought about Moira's words, the more they gnawed at him. He and Kathy had been scorching for a while.
Memories came flooding back. They'd been good together and then she disappeared. Totally ghosted him.
He hadn't broken up with her. Or done anything to break her heart.
All of his residual anger surfaced and he swallowed it down as he guzzled his beer. He had no idea what Kathy had told Moira, but if there was a victim here, it was him.
It wasn't like he'd never been dumped, but it usually came with some form of fuck off. They'd been having a great time. They were good together in bed and out. Kathy hadn't said good-bye or anything. He'd called and gone to her apartment, but she never answered. She'd sent a clear message without saying a word. That bothered him more than he'd like to admit. But he had no problem moving on to the next warm woman who'd been willing to join him.
At least that's what he told himself as he finished his drink.
* * *
Kathy laughed with Maggie, Moira's little sister. She hadn't seen Maggie in a long time because Maggie had taken off and lived in Ireland for over a year. Ray was bored out of his mind at this party because he knew next to no one, except Moira and Jimmy, but he was being a good sport about it.
Moira came up beside Maggie and took hold of one of Maggie's hands and one of Kathy's "We need to talk. Come with me." She began tugging at both of them.
Kathy pulled to a stop and looked up at Ray. "Will you be okay?"
"I'm fine as long as Moira doesn't keep you too long. You still owe me a dance." He kissed her cheek.
Moira resumed her pulling.
"What the heck is the rush?" Maggie asked.
When they got to the back hallway of the bar near the bathrooms, Maggie said, "If you're gonna puke, I don't think you need both of us. Kathy can handle holding your hair."
"Ha-ha. I'm not sick. I'm not even all that drunk."
Kathy snickered. Moira might not be drunk, but she was far from sober. They got to the office, and Moira toed the door open and pulled them through. Finally she released their hands and pushed them forward, closing the door behind them. Kathy looked around to figure out what was going on.
Near the desk, Jimmy stood with Liam, his best friend and one of Moira's brothers, and his own brother Kevin. Kathy froze as she took in the sight of him. Of course he would be here. She'd known that, done her best to mentally prepare for seeing him.
Unfortunately, no amount of preparation could ready her. It had been four years, but seeing him put her whole body on alert. There might as well have been a flashing red sign above his head. Danger!
While Moira talked with Liam, Kathy took a moment to regain control over herself and better assess the situation. Kevin looked good in jeans that were worn but neat. His sweater stretched across his biceps and chest just enough to allow her to notice he was still fit. Why couldn't he have a beer gut and suffer from male pattern baldness? Her gaze drank him in all the way up to a full head of dark hair, styled, but not overly so — like it was ready for fingers to run through it.
Everyone stood huddled around the desk. Kathy edged forward wondering what Moira was up to because the woman was always up to something.
"So here's the deal. Jimmy and I have been talking a lot about the wedding."
"Correction," Jimmy said. "She's been talking. I've been a sounding board."
Moira walked around the group to stand next to her fiancé. She rose up on tiptoe and kissed his cheek. "That's one of the many things I love about you." Then she turned to the rest of them while holding Jimmy's hand. "The thing is, we have to figure out the wedding party and we really don't want anyone to be upset or hurt because you're all so important to us."
Kathy smiled. She knew exactly where this was going.
Apparently, so did Maggie, who stepped forward and said, "I bow out."
"What?" all the guys said in unison.
Men. So clueless.
Maggie rolled her eyes. "Kathy should be your maid of honor. I appreciate you thinking of me, but your friend should do this. I've been gone for most of this romance. She was the one holding your hand when Jimmy was being an ass."
"Hey," Jimmy protested.
Moira patted his arm.
Kathy touched Maggie's shoulder. "You're her sister. I can't get in the way of that."
Maggie shrugged. With one brow lifted, and an evil grin on her face, she said, "Too bad. You do it or she won't have a maid of honor."
"Harsh," Kevin said.
His voice still held the light quality she remembered. Like he was ready to burst out in laughter at any moment. She'd always liked that about him. Being in the same room wasn't quite as hard as she'd thought. At least there were others to act as a buffer.
Maggie hugged Moira and then hugged Kathy. "Do right by her," she said to Kathy.
Kathy's stomach was still tight. She felt like an intruder in what should be a family moment.
"Ha!" Moira yelled. "And you thought I was going to have a hard time. Your turn," she said, poking Jimmy's chest.
Jimmy looked at Liam and Kevin. "Look, guys, I don't know how you want to handle this. You're both a huge part of my life."
Liam held up his hands. "I'd be honored to be your best man, but I'll be there no matter what. I'm not going to be pissed. Kevin's your brother."
"Hell, I'll be pissed," Kevin said. Then with that wicked smile he enjoyed tossing around, he added, "Just kidding. Whatever you decide is fine."
Kathy's heart sped up and then tumbled into her stomach. She did not want to stand up to her best friend's wedding with her ex-boyfriend. Talk about uncomfortable situations. Although she'd known she wouldn't be able to escape seeing him, having to interact with him was a different thing altogether.
Jimmy continued, "I can't decide. That's why we asked you guys here."
"Flip a coin," Liam offered.
A fifty-fifty shot at freedom was better than nothing. Kathy crossed her fingers and sent up a silent prayer.
"Rock, paper, scissors," Kevin countered.
Before Jimmy could stop the game, both Kevin and Liam were waving fists. Kathy's heart stopped as they called it.
Liam was a rock — apt for him because he was as steady as they came. Kevin, on the other hand, chose paper and won. Didn't that just figure. He was a guy who got carried away on a breeze or whim.
The men congratulated each other, and Kathy forced a smile. Jimmy poured everyone a shot of whiskey and when the glasses were drained, they left the office to rejoin the party.
In the hall, Kevin stepped in front of her, startling her to a halt.
Standing close he asked, "Can I talk to you a minute?"
Although he'd phrased it as a question, his eyes said more. Her sense of fight or flight kicked in — and with her it was always flight — but she fought the urge. She didn't want to talk to him because she had nothing to say, but she nodded. Kevin O'Malley had the look of a man who'd make a ruckus if he didn't get his way. She wouldn't cause a scene at Moira's party. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Not only did she dread any negative attention, she also wouldn't risk ruining what should be a fabulous night for her best friend. Kevin stepped backward, deeper into the dim hallway. The noise from the party raged behind them.
"Moira said something to me earlier, and I wanted to clear the air." His words came out harsh and he sounded pissed.
Kathy crossed her arms. She was well aware that although Moira was often annoyed by Kevin, his relationship with Kathy had become a special point of contention between them.
"She said something about me breaking your heart. ..."
Kathy felt sick. She didn't want to rehash anything. Especially with Kevin. "Don't worry about it. It was a long time ago."
He paused, confusion filling his face. "I'm not apologizing."
"Excuse me?" She'd figured Jimmy had put him up to this to create peace before the wedding.
"Why the hell would I apologize when you're the one who took off? No good-bye, no fuck you very much. Nothing." His gaze met hers and those brilliant, deep blue eyes held an emotion that looked eerily similar to hurt.
But Kathy knew better. His sharp comment kept her heart at a gallop as she processed his words. "What?"
"You were there in my life, then all of a sudden you weren't. We were having a great time. Then, like a ghost, you were gone." His dark eyebrows lowered.
Kathy licked her lips and took a moment to formulate her response. The audacity of this man. What had she ever seen in him? Only a pompous ass like him would try to spin the crappy way their relationship ended to place blame on her. She lowered her voice and through gritted teeth said, "I disappeared because I found out you were cheating on me. As far as I was concerned, that sent a clear message that we were over."
Her breathing sped up, but she managed to get the words out without her voice wobbling. Go, Kathy! A first for everything.
His eyes widened in shock. Looking down, he rubbed the back of his neck as if he regretted starting this. "It wasn't —"
His reaction gave her the fortitude to continue. She stepped closer and kept her voice low. "Do not lie to me now. I saw. You canceled a date with me, claiming you had to work late. I felt bad for you and wanted to surprise you. I came to your apartment just in time to see you stumble up with another woman. She was hanging all over you, and you went into your apartment together."
His eyes squinted as if he struggled to remember the night. He appeared genuinely confused. Had everything meant so little to him that he had no memory?
Waving a hand, she dismissed both her thoughts and him. "Look. It doesn't matter. It was a long time ago. Water under the bridge. Life goes on and all that."
She turned to walk away because she didn't want to continue this conversation. Her stomach was still in knots and now she'd have to explain to Ray where she'd been. At least she felt slightly vindicated at letting Kevin know how wrong he'd been about what had happened between them.
"See you around?" he asked quietly.
Not if I can help it. "Some, I guess, with the wedding." She walked out of the hallway and toward her boyfriend. Yeah, that was right. Life did go on, and she was at this party with her boyfriend. If that caused an extra cocky sway in her hips, so be it. Kevin should know what he'd been missing.
Kathy walked through her apartment, gathering torn wrapping paper and empty cups. How the heck had a group of women made such a mess? If they were this bad for Moira's bridal shower, she'd hate to see what would happen at the bachelorette party. Jimmy and Moira stacked presents near the door to prepare to leave.
In a moment of sweet bliss, Jimmy pulled Moira into his embrace and kissed her. Kathy almost sighed. Envy was such an ugly thing. But she wanted that. She was glad Moira found it, even if it was with Jimmy. Kathy would never quite understand the attraction to a guy who was little more than a caveman, but somehow they made it work.
She shoved another handful of paper into the industrial-sized trash bag. Moira pushed Jimmy toward the door with a stack of presents. Then to Kathy, she said, "Let me help."
Kathy shook her head. "This was your shower. As the bride, you don't do any work." She eyed the pile by the door. "Plus, you'll need your energy to unpack all of that."
Moira laughed. "That's Jimmy's job. He has some kind of organization in his head for everything."
"How are you going to get all of that back to your house?"
Moira's gaze bounced around the room. "Don't kill me." She took a deep breath and then added, "If anyone deserves to be killed for this, it's Jimmy, but since I love him and I want to spend my life with him, don't kill him either, okay?"
Kathy ignored the bad feeling Moira's words conjured because when Moira got into full-on rambling mode, she was hilarious. "Just spill."
"Kevin's coming to help bring everything to our house." Moira closed her eyes as if to brace for impact.
Excerpted from "From Your Heart"
Copyright © 2018 Shannyn Schroeder.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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