The prodigal son of the wealthy Harrison family, Pierce Harrison’s wedding to lovely schoolteacher Abby McCord promises to be extraordinary—from the lavish Hamptons resort where the family gathers in anticipation, to the breathtaking ocean views where the couple will say their long-awaited vows. Conspicuously absent are the groom’s estranged parents—who nonetheless seem poised to do their best to destroy Pierce and Abby’s big day . . .
Pierce’s siblings, Tess, Charles and Dane have pulled together to protect their beloved brother from their meddling parents. But it seems Pierce’s wounds run deep—so deep he begins to wonder if the powerful love he feels for his bride is enough. Or if it’s even possible for someone like him to have—and keep—the kind of happiness that’s meant to last a lifetime. Will he realize that he’s the only one standing in his way, before it’s too late? . . .
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Pierce Harrison looked around with something he'd only gotten used to feeling since he'd met Abby McCord: content satisfaction. It was a bone-deep, easy warmth, that contentment and sureness ... and now the only person who'd ever enabled him to feel that way was about to become his wife.
He'd promised he'd give her the wedding of her dreams, and it seemed like it was going to be. So far, anyway. Everything had gone pretty smoothly, without much of the typical wedding planning drama he'd heard about from others. He'd simply given Abby carte blanche to do whatever she wanted. Being a millionaire had its benefits at times like these.
But his woman was no diva, and her friends and family were as down-to-earth as she was. There were times Pierce had actually had to insist that Abby choose the more expensive option if it was something she really liked, be it the entrée choices at the reception or the flowers for the tables. Abby had made his world a better place; he wanted her to have the wedding she wanted.
They'd gotten engaged the previous Thanksgiving, high on a mountain in Sedona. After a morning hike up the red rocks, under a crisp blue sky, he'd dropped to his knee and asked her to spend the rest of her life with him. Thankfully, she'd said yes and thrown her arms around him so hard, he'd fallen off balance and they'd gone crashing to the ground. They'd laughed and kissed and held each other in the red dirt, happy beyond measure. Every time he thought of it, he smiled again, infused with love.
The past nine months had flown by. She'd asked for an August wedding because she was a first-grade teacher and a summer wedding and honeymoon meant she wouldn't miss even a day of work. It made sense. But that was Abby: sensible, focused, smart ... how Pierce had gotten someone like her to fall in love with someone like him, he sometimes still didn't know, but he thanked his lucky stars every day. This strong, grounded woman had seen past his bad-boy reputation, not cared about his tumultuous history — both in the English tabloids and within his own family — and seen the real him ... the decent man he'd never realized was inside him until he met her.
Now he stood on the terrace of the bridal suite of the lavish, elegant Oceanview Hotel and Resort, drinking a bottle of his favorite IPA while admiring the panoramic view from seven floors up. Located in Westhampton, on the eastern end of Long Island, the five-star resort boasted magnificent lawns and grounds, with the beach and Atlantic Ocean fanning out only a few hundred feet beyond. He and Abby had arrived half an hour before, his idea. It was Wednesday afternoon and things were quiet. He wanted the two of them to have some time alone before all the friends and family descended.
There would be more than 120 guests coming to the wedding, most of whom were staying in the hotel at the resort. A select few — his older brother Charles and his family, for example — had rented some of the eight luxurious guest cottages on the property. The rehearsal dinner was Friday night and the wedding was Saturday evening. Afterward, there'd be a bonfire on the beach for the after-party and a brunch on Sunday morning ... a long, busy weekend of celebration. Pierce had wanted to savor the last bit of calm before the storm.
Out on the terrace, he stared out at the ocean for a while, thinking about how different his life was now than it'd been before. Two years ago this month, he'd returned to Long Island with his life in shreds. Since leaving his professional football career in tatters and leaving England altogether, life in New York had been the 180-degree turn he'd desperately needed.
He had bought partial ownership of the New York professional soccer team and gotten immersed in management there. He was heavily involved in the Edgewater Soccer Club, the local kids' league where he'd first met Abby. It was his way of giving back. Along with coaching and giving clinics, he'd been asked to join their board of directors for the new season and accepted, knowing he could make a difference. His relationships with his two older brothers had not only improved but he felt close to them, almost as solid as his always-strong bond with his sister, Tess. He spent time with his nephews and nieces ... he was truly part of the family at long last, and it was more satisfying than he'd ever thought it could be.
And, of course, there was Abby. Loving her, and being loved by her, had been the single best thing that had ever happened to him. They now lived in a lovely four-bedroom house in Edgewater, right on the Sound, and only half a mile from her parents' house — which was what they'd wanted, for whenever the family needed babysitting help for her nephew, Dylan. Abby loved her job as a first-grade teacher, still volunteered as a soccer coach for Dylan's team, and was involved in community activities. Pierce couldn't be prouder of her or more in love with her, and that just seemed to grow with every day.
If someone had told him two years before that this was what his life would be like, he would've laughed in their face. Small-town living? Getting married? No way.
He'd felt alone and misunderstood for most of his life. He'd acted out and rebelled in every way, even leaving the country altogether for over a decade. He'd found fame and fortune in England, living the fast life until he'd crashed and burned. And still, somehow, he'd ended up back on Long Island, with the support of his family, a career he enjoyed, and an amazing, special woman at his side. His life was richer, better, and so different from what he'd envisioned for himself. He was the last guy in the world he'd thought would have a happy ending ... yet it was happening for him.
A soft breeze off the water ruffled the front of his dark hair, and he narrowed his eyes at the crashing waves, out to the horizon beyond. On the other side of that ocean was the life he'd left behind. He was very lucky to be where he was now, and he knew it. Small, quiet miracles ...
He tipped back another swallow of beer, set the bottle down on the little glass table, and went back inside the bridal suite. It was elegant and lavish, all whites, taupe, glass, and chrome. A big, soft couch and plush armchairs, a tremendous flat-screen TV, a small bar in the corner ... but no fiancée. "Abby?"
"Back here," she called from the bedroom.
Was she still unpacking? Pierce crossed the wide front room to find out. The carpet was blissfully lush beneath his bare feet. He peeked into the bedroom to find her bent over as she rustled through a suitcase on the floor. The back of her pale blue tank dress lifted a little, showing the backs of her legs. Unable to resist, he moved in behind her, gripped her hips, and rubbed himself against her. The feel of her soft, sweet ass against his cock stirred his blood.
"Oh!" she gasped, rising up and whirling around in the circle of his arms. She laughed, her dark blue eyes sparkling as she wrapped her arms around his neck. "You're naughty."
"Damn right." He grinned and squeezed her ass, pressing her close. Blood surged south and he ground his pelvis against hers as he quipped, "It's one of the many reasons you're marrying me."
"Damn right." She grinned back, running her fingers through the back of his hair, which was a drop shorter than usual, freshly cut for the wedding. Her fingertips caressing him sent a little shiver over his skin. "I'm so glad you wanted to do this. I mean, us getting here early, being alone today and tonight before the chaos takes over ..." She brushed her lips against his and smiled warmly. "Even driving out here with you — the windows down, the scenery, just the quiet of it — was a pleasure. Thank you for thinking of it." She kissed him, long and sweet, then looked into his eyes. He saw the deep affection there and it warmed his heart. "Thank you for everything," she whispered and kissed him a little harder this time. "I love you."
"I love you more." Pierce pressed his lips to hers, savoring the feel of her. Of her sweet mouth, her silky blond hair in his fingers, her warm body against his. This woman was everything. All he wanted to do this long, special weekend was show her how much she meant to him. Remind her that the coming chaos was about one single thing: them. And their love for each other. Edging her backward as they kissed, he lowered her onto the bed, himself on top of her.
"Let's get this wedding weekend started properly ..." he whispered in her ear, nipping the lobe before he worked his way down her neck with hot, openmouthed kisses. A low hum of pleasure floated from her as his hands glided over her body. "I mean ... I have to make the most of this." He caressed her breasts with both hands, listening to her breath catch as his thumbs stroked over her nipples. "I only get to make love to my fiancée a few more times and that's it."
"Really?" Abby asked breathlessly. Her soft hands slipped under his T-shirt and she lightly raked her fingernails down his back, sending delicious shivers along his spine. "Why? What happens then?"
"Then I get to spend the rest of my life making love to my beautiful wife." He kissed her hard, possessing her, and she met his heat with a matching fervor of her own. As their tongues tangled, he grasped the hem of her cotton sundress and pushed it up to bunch around her waist. "Which will make me ..." He started moving down, dropping kisses everywhere as he went. "... the luckiest man on the goddamn planet." He pushed her panties to the side and sealed his mouth to where she liked it the most.
Abby opened her eyes slowly. It was dark in the room; Pierce had pulled the blackout shade at some point during the night. He loved it as dark as possible when he slept. She'd gotten used to that quickly, but it always threw her for a few seconds when she first woke up because she had no idea what time it was. A glance at the glowing blue numbers on the nightstand told her it was 8:05 A.M. They'd spent the afternoon making love, then gone downstairs for a five-star seafood dinner. They'd walked along the beach as the sun set, sat on the sand, and talked with the waves as their background music. When it finally had gotten dark, they'd gone up to their suite and back into bed. By the time she fell asleep, it was only ten o'clock, but she was so tired she'd slept like the dead. Now, feeling refreshed and glad to be able to wake up at her own pace, she stretched and rolled over to look at her fiancé.
This beautiful man had given her everything. When she'd first met him, she'd immediately written him off as an entitled, self-involved player, everything the gossip tabloids had said about him ... but she was wrong. Maybe that was who he'd been before she met him, but he constantly surprised her. He had more depth and heart than he showed to most of the world. A lifetime of having to protect himself, having to guard his feelings and heart, had hardened him. Beneath the swagger, the bad-boy rep, and the façade was a kind, thoughtful man who strove to be better every single day. He'd shown her that. She'd watched him struggle, then evolve. He'd proven to her he'd be the kind of man she wanted and needed. And she'd fallen head over heels in love with his genuine efforts, with his fierce devotion ... with him.
Now they were getting married. Three mornings from this minute, she'd wake up as Mrs. Pierce Harrison. He'd be her husband. The word held weight, and the thought of it sent that familiar delicious thrill rolling through her. She'd fallen in love with him thinking even though he loved her back, he wasn't the marrying type. Again he'd surprised her, turning her ideas about him on their head. He'd planned a romantic proposal on a Sedona mountaintop. He'd bought them a gorgeous house she could only dream about before, claiming he wanted to fill those extra bedrooms with kids someday. He'd bought it in her hometown because he knew how important her family was to her. He'd gladly, seamlessly found a way to make sure her parents, sister, and nephew stayed a top priority for her while not taking anything away from their growth as a couple.
He supported her, championed her, and loved her. She was marrying the man of her dreams, dreams she'd given up on before she'd met him. She was lucky and she knew it, always grateful for what she had, never taking it for granted.
She only hoped she made him feel as unequivocally supported, adored, and loved as he did her. He'd had such a lack of love and affection for most of his life; she was happy — almost eager — to give him what he needed because he'd given that to her.
Now her eyes caressed his features as he slept beside her. He was the most handsome man she knew and way sexier than his very handsome older brothers, in an edgier way, always hinting at sin — again, lucky her. Her fingers ran through his tousled dark hair as she gazed at the thick, black lashes that feathered over his chiseled cheekbones, his sensual lips, the dark scruff on his square jaw. Her hands trailed down over his strong, tattooed shoulders, his muscled, tattooed arms, his smooth chest, then slipped around his waist. She let her head drop to his chest as she snuggled close, wrapping herself around his sexy body. The sound of his slow, steady heartbeat beneath her ear soothed her now as it always did.
She had a lot to do. So much to do. Excitement whooshed through her as she thought of all the things ahead in the next three days ...
Pierce's hand moved up and squeezed her ass. Still mostly asleep, he kissed her forehead and turned so he could hold her closer. Her cluster of thoughts evaporated for a moment. He often had that effect on her: making her worries dial down from a bubbling boil to a low simmer. They wrapped themselves in a cocoon of intertwined limbs and warm flesh. She kissed his neck and sighed in pure contentment as they lay together in silence.
His cell phone rang on his nightstand. They ignored it. When the noise stopped, they both exhaled and snuggled closer.
A minute later, it rang again. "Fuck them," he growled, his voice raspy with sleep. "Whoever's calling me this early, fuck them."
"That's what voice mail is for," she murmured into his skin. He grunted.
The room went quiet again. But a minute later, the phone rang again.
"Maybe it's important," Abby said. "Maybe you should answer it?"
Pierce groaned and didn't even open his eyes as he reached for the phone. "Hello?" he ground out.
Abby watched as his eyes snapped open and his expression changed into an instant combination of surprise and anger.
"Mom," he said. One small word, yet so many emotions conveyed.
Abby's insides tightened for him. He'd been avoiding his mother as much as possible since their engagement had been announced. He didn't want either of his parents involved with the wedding, or even in attendance.
She totally understood why he didn't want his father anywhere near the wedding, and the truth was, she was grateful for that. She didn't want the Harrison patriarch there either. He was nasty, harsh, and had made it clear from the start he considered Abby and her middle-class family to be beneath the mega-wealthy Harrisons. The relationship between Pierce and his father was toxic, and they weren't on speaking terms. To have Charles Harrison II there was ludicrous, and the only person who'd thought otherwise was Charles II himself. Luckily, Pierce's three wonderful siblings had run interference for him over the past months, doing damage control throughout the wedding planning. They'd surrounded their baby brother like knights or soldiers, and she knew it meant more to Pierce than he could express.
But Abby had never met his mother. She had heard about the infamous Laura Dunham Harrison Evans Baisley, who spent her time jet-setting from one tropical paradise to another. Charles II had divorced Laura and thrown her out when Pierce was only six. She'd left without looking back, barely staying in contact with her four children. In recent years, the contact had only lessened, and she hadn't shown any interest in any of her grown children or small grandchildren. She hadn't even been at Charles and Lisette's surprise wedding a few months before; she hadn't been called. Pierce's mother, as he'd often said, was a mother in name only. She hadn't raised him; the nannies had. He'd come to terms with that, but his resentment lingered, even now, as a thirty-three-year-old man.
Excerpted from "Happily Ever After"
Copyright © 2017 Jennifer Gracen.
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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a delightful way to spend the time between full-length books! In this short story, we get more of Pierce and Abby (my favorites so far in this series) in the days leading to their wedding, which are rife with true Harrison clan dysfunction, as well as a glimpse into what’s been happening in the lives of the Harrisons whose stories we’ve already enjoyed. Plus there’s a sneak peek of Tess’s book at the end, which is out next year. Can’t wait!!