She only remembers loving him. But he can’t forget the way she left.
Lucy Lovett can’t remember the last seven months of her life. She doesn’t remember leaving her fiancé Zac Callahan weeks before their wedding or moving to Portland, Maine. And she sure doesn’t remember getting engaged to another man. All she remembers is loving Zac more than life itself.
Zac was just beginning to get his life back on track after Lucy left him with no explanation. And now she’s back—vulnerable, homeless, and still in love with him. Has he been given a second chance with the only woman who stirs his passion and haunts his dreams?
Lucy knows she must unlock those missing months and discover why she threw everything away.
“I’ve been a longtime fan of Denise Hunter’s, and The Goodbye Bride has everything I’ve come to love about her romances: a plucky heroine with lots of backstory, a yummy hero, and a terrific setting. Highly recommended!” —Colleen Coble USA TODAY bestselling author of the Lavender Tides and Hope Beach series
“Can romance be any more complicated than a bride who doesn’t remember running away from her groom? Denise Hunter’s take on a woman’s attempt to find her way back to happily ever after again is sweetly endearing. Readers will keep turning pages, wanting to know how true love ever went so wrong . . . and if The Goodbye Bride gets her chance to say “I do.” —Beth K. Vogt, 2015 RITA® Finalist and author of Crazy Little Thing Called Love
“Denise Hunter has done it once again, placing herself solidly on my must-read list! The Goodbye Bride is a tender, thoughtful look at the role memories play in a romance. The clever plot kept me up way past my bedtime—and happy to be so!” —Deborah Raney, award-winning author of the Chicory Inn Novels series
“The Goodbye Bride highlights the abandonment that so many have experienced. More importantly, within the context of a wonderful Summer Harbor romance, the author deftly illustrates that there is One who will never abandon us, and when we trust Him, we can in turn trust the people He places in our lives. All this packaged inside one heart-stopping, page-turning romance that will leave the pickiest romance reader delighted and asking for just a few more pages.” —Cara C. Putman, award-winning author of Where Treetops Glisten and Shadowed by Grace
- Full-length Contemporary Romance
- Includes Discussion Questions for Book Clubs
- Now a Hallmark Original movie: An Unforgettable Christmas
- Part of the Summer Harbor series
- Book One: Falling Like Snowflakes
- Book Two: The Goodbye Bride
- Book Three: Just a Kiss
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Goodbye Bride
A Summer Harbor Novel
By Denise Hunter
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2016 Denise Hunter
All rights reserved.
Lucy Lovett had barely opened her eyes when she took notice of the pain hammering at the back of her head. She groaned, her fingers finding the tender spot, a lump that pushed up through her thick brown hair.
She closed her eyes again as other details registered. Her cheek, pressed to a cold, hard surface. A girdle-like squeeze in her middle. Pinched toes.
The squeak of shoes sounded somewhere in the distance, then a thud. Cool air whooshed over her.
Someone gasped. "Oh no! Miss? Miss, you okay? Oh mercy."
Lucy opened her eyes, rolling over, the lump connecting with the hard surface. "Ow."
Her gaze drifted over the water-stained ceiling tiles, then fell to the chubby cherub-like face of a middle-aged brunette.
"How many fingers?" the woman said.
Three thick fingers blocked Lucy's vision.
"Whatever happened?" she asked.
"Oh dear, you don't remember?"
Lucy's gaze bounced around the room. Gray stalls, a speckled floor, two porcelain sinks, their rusty guts exposed from her vantage point. Her eyes lit on a yellow folded sign on the floor nearby. Caution! Slippery When Wet, it warned above a stick figure doing the slippety-do.
Didn't she? She must've. Why else would she be lying prone on the floor — wet, she realized now, as the dampness registered — with a lump on her head? She winced as her hand found the bump again.
"Can you get up? Oh, have you hit your head? Maybe we should call 911."
"No!" Just the thought of the hospital had her sitting up. "See, I'm just ..." Her eyes dropped to her lap and took in the frothy white skirt. She followed the delicate beading up the bodice to her bare shoulders. Her thoughts raced, searching for answers, but all she found were scrambled puzzle pieces.
"Well, who are you here with? I'll let them know what happened."
"I — I'm alone." Wasn't she? Why couldn't she remember?
"Let's call somebody then. Your groom perhaps? I'll get some ice for that head, then we'll call. He must be worried silly."
The woman bustled out the door while Lucy tried to assimilate the facts floating through her ringing head. It couldn't be her wedding day. That just made no sense whatsoever. It was over a month away. Maybe this was just her fitting. But why didn't she remember a single thing? Why didn't she remember getting into the gown or coming here or falling?
Think, Lucy. Think.
Her last memory was of cleaning up the restaurant with Zac the night before. He'd walked her to her apartment afterward, the cool fall wind ruffling his longish black hair. He'd slipped his coat over her shoulders, and they'd talked all the way to her door. There, under a puddle of light, she'd looked up into his handsome face, into his stormy gray eyes, and felt a pinch of fear. That niggling worry that something would go horribly wrong and she'd lose the one person she needed more than air.
A shuffling of feet sounded outside the door, pulling her back to the present. She was fine. She just needed to get up and find Zac. He'd help her make sense of all this.
Lucy pulled her knees in and braced herself against the subway-tiled wall. As she got to her feet, her eyes fell on the white satin heels pinching her toes. Heels she'd admired a few weeks ago on Nordstrom.com. Kate Spade sling-back peep-toes with tiny demure bows. Shoes that were far out of her budget. She hadn't ordered them. She'd settled on a cute (if not darling) pair of pumps from a Summer Harbor boutique.
She looked down at the shoes. And yet, there they were.
The door burst open, and Cherub reappeared with a baggie of ice. She helped Lucy to her feet, and Lucy set the ice against the lump. A jackhammer was going in her head, and she blinked against the pain.
"Let's get you to a chair, honey. I think you should get an X-ray or something. You seem a little muddled."
"I'm fine. But I need to call my fiancé."
"Of course you do. My cell's about dead, but the manager will let you use her phone. I think she's worried about a lawsuit."
The bathroom door opened to a bustling diner that looked straight out of the 1950s with red stools and a black-and-white tiled floor. Lucy didn't recognize the place. A savory smell hung in the air, making her stomach churn.
She looked out the big picture window. The sun sparkled off the ocean in the distance, but the shops across the way were unfamiliar. Some corner of Summer Harbor she hadn't set eyes on? Though the little town only had so many corners, and she thought she'd seen them all.
Cherub retrieved a phone from the frowning lady behind the counter and handed it to her.
"You call that fiancé of yours. I'll be right back." She disappeared into the ladies' room.
"There was a sign," the woman said, glaring. "Soon as you walked in the door. You couldn't miss it."
Lucy nodded, making her head pound harder. Her breaths were quick and shallow. She was sitting in a room full of people, but she couldn't remember ever feeling so alone. Well, except the one time. But that was so very long ago. Way before Zac.
He's only a phone call away.
Lucy punched his cell number into the handset, trying to ignore the frowning manager and the prying eyes. She supposed it wasn't every day a person saw a bride in a diner.
Zac must be fretting about her, she thought as the phone rang. She did hope he wasn't waiting at the chapel. She glanced at the clock on the diner wall. No, it was too early for that. The wedding didn't start until five thirty.
My wedding day. What happened to the past month?
She pushed the questions away. Needing Zac more than ever, she dialed the Roadhouse.
* * *
Zac Callahan lined up the shot, drew back the stick, and struck the cue ball. It rolled forward, spinning across the green felt, and kissed the solid blue ball, which shot off at an angle and sank into the corner pocket.
The bystanders erupted in cheers. Wagers always had a way of upping involvement.
"Of all the luck," Beau said.
Zac straightened to his full six-four height. "Luck's got nothing to do with it, big brother."
"Yeah, whatever." Beau surveyed the table, his near-black eyes narrowing in a frown.
Zac had left him nothing. With the rest of his evening on the line, he wasn't leaving it up to chance. Marci, one of his servers, had called in sick, and the crowd was picking up. He was going to need the extra hands.
"I can't wait to see you in that apron," Zac said.
"Not happening." Beau's dark hair hung forward as he took a shot and missed.
His new fiancée, Eden, consoled him with a pat on the arm and mouthed to Zac, I'm so there.
"Zac, you're wanted on the phone!" his hostess called on her way past the poolroom.
He set down the cue stick and pointed at Beau. "No cheating."
Beau gave a Who, me? face as Zac headed toward the counter. The restaurant was already half full because of the Red Sox game on TV. The crowd gave a hearty shout as the tying run crossed home plate.
Zac paused a moment to watch, then continued on his way. He patted Sheriff Colton's shoulder as he passed and avoided the booth where Morgan LeBlanc sat with a friend. He'd had a couple dates with Morgan, and they were going out again soon. He tried to work up some excitement about that and failed.
He slipped behind the counter and snapped up the handset. "Zac speaking."
"Zac! Oh, thank heavens."
Adrenaline flushed through his body, tingles zinging across his skin. His shoulders went rigid. He hadn't heard her voice in seven months. That sweet Southern drawl that used to give him palpitations. Now it made his heart stop in its tracks.
"Something awful's just happened. I — I fell, and I don't rightly know where I am. Can you come for me?"
He rubbed his forehead, his thoughts spinning. "What?"
"I don't want to be late, and I'm already just sopping wet, and my hair — "
"Late for what?"
"That is not funny, Zac Callahan." She sounded near tears. "My head's cranking, and I — I need you to come fetch me."
"Lucy, you're not making any sense. Why are you even calling me?"
There was a long pause. "Are you kidding me?"
He remembered that day seven months ago, returning from his weekend trip. The unanswered calls, the unanswered knock at her door. Being worried, calling her landlord only to find her apartment empty and Lucy gone.
His fingers tightened on the handset. "Call somebody else. You're not my problem anymore."
She gave a little gasp. "Why are you being so hateful?" The last words wobbled.
Why was he —? He pulled the phone from his ear, scowled at it, and put it back in place. "You're the one who left, Lucy. If you need a ride, call a cab." He started to hang up.
"Wait, Zac! Please. Oh my gosh, you can't do this to me. I hit my head and there's a great big lump and my head is pounding and I need help. I need you."
His gut clenched hard. How many times in the recent months had he longed to hear those words from her lips? She sounded so ... confused. So lost. And it wasn't like she had any family left.
And you're a great big sucker, Callahan.
"Please. I don't know where I am or what's going on. You have to help me."
He leaned back against the bar. "Lucy. You need to go to the hospital. You must have a con — "
"I can't go to the hospital!"
Zac dragged his palm over his scruffy jaw, remembering Lucy's phobia. He'd never be able to talk her into an ER visit over the phone. Even when she'd torn a tendon in her ankle, she'd refused to go. An EMT friend of his had treated her in his apartment upstairs.
If she really had a head injury, it could be bad. She could even have bleeding on the brain or something.
He sighed hard, knowing he sounded put out and not caring. He really was a sucker. "Where are you?"
"I — I don't know. Hold on. Don't hang up."
A shuffling noise sounded in the phone. He strained to hear over the clamor of voices and clanging of silverware.
On Lucy's end a woman rattled out a street address.
"Wait," Lucy said, her voice muffled. "Summer Harbor?"
"No, honey. Portland."
"Portland ...?" Lucy asked. "Portland, Oregon?"
"What? No. Maine. Portland, Maine."
Ah, for the love of — Zac poked his fingers into his eye sockets. "Lucy." More shuffling. "Lucy."
"I'm right here. Zac, I'm in —"
"I heard." He gave a quiet growl. He shouldn't even be thinking about doing this. She was gone from his life. He was finally over her.
Sure you are. That's why you're going to rush to her rescue.
He'd always been so weak where Lucy was concerned. She'd had him in the palm of her hand since the day she'd walked into the Roadhouse. Right up until she stomped all over his heart with her fancy pointy-toed heels.
"This better not be some trick, Lucy."
"Why would I even do that?" Her voice was a mixture of outrage and hurt.
He huffed. Like he'd ever been able to figure her out.
"Please, Zac. I'm truly desperate."
His resolve crumbled at the sound of tears in her voice. Aw, dang it. He'd never be able to live with himself if something happened to her. He ran his palm over his face as resolve settled over him.
"Sit tight. I'll be there in a few hours."CHAPTER 2
Lucy stared out at the bustling harbor. Her backside was numb from the wooden bench she'd been sitting on since her call to Zac. After she'd hung up she'd been eager to escape the glowering manager, curious patrons, and nauseating smells coming from the kitchen. She'd hiked up her skirts and crossed the street, relieved to find an out-of-the-way bench where she could ruminate in private.
She'd had hours to think, or so it seemed, and she'd reached a disturbing conclusion. She'd definitely lost a month of her life. There was no getting around it. She wasn't sure why she was in Portland or why Zac was in Summer Harbor, but she had to face it — her brain wasn't operating at optimum capacity.
She felt mildly dizzy, and her vision was slightly blurred no matter how hard she tried to blink it away. The sunlight glinting off the water felt like knife blades jabbing her in the eyes. She closed them against the pain and focused on breathing.
While the headache and dizziness were disorienting, the anxiety roiling in her gut was even worse. What was wrong with her? Were the memories of the past month gone forever? Did she have a serious injury? How long would this befuddled state last? What if it never went away?
She watched a lobster boat coming in off the water, the men quitting for the day. What time was it? What was taking Zac so long?
What if he didn't come?
Ridiculous. Of course he'd come. He loved her.
She thought back to their phone call. The sound of his voice, his Mainer accent, had been so reassuring, the dropped r's as familiar as the sound of waves rolling ashore. Lobstah. Satahday. Chowdah.
She frowned, the memory of the call digging in deeper. The conversation was fuzzy. He'd seemed out of sorts, but she couldn't remember exactly what he'd said.
What if she had a brain injury? She was going to have to go to the hospital, she just knew it. Anxiety swelled inside. She was suddenly eight years old and sitting alone by her mother's hospital bed. A machine beeped quietly, keeping track of her heartbeats.
Until it stopped altogether.
Lucy's heart pounded at the memory, making her headache worse. The hospital felt like death. Smelled like death. But she would have to go.
You won't die, Lucy. What is the matter with you?
She didn't have the time or mental capacity to answer that question. And why could she remember something that happened sixteen years ago when she couldn't remember putting on her wedding gown only hours ago?
She turned at the deep timbre of Zac's voice. Her heart soared at the sight of his familiar face. His strong, masculine features, the sharp turn of his jaw. She knew every curve and angle by heart. She frowned at the sight of his short beard. His black hair was longer than she remembered too, a thick curl falling over his forehead.
Shaking the confusion, she jumped up and took a step toward him, eager for the safety of his arms. But the world tilted, and she stumbled sideways on the walkway.
Zac sped to her side, catching her by the elbows. "What are you doing?"
She winced at the gruffness in his voice. Her grip tightened on his forearms. She blinked away the dizziness and stared into his gray eyes, wishing she could see more clearly. He felt stiff and sounded cold. Not at all like her Zac.
"Zac ... I'm so glad to see you. Will you take me home? Please?"
"Just sit down for now." He eased her back until she hit the bench, letting go as soon as she was seated.
She looked down at the dress, clutching the frothy material. Their wedding day was ruined. Completely ruined. After all that work.
Sudden tears clogged her throat, filled her eyes. "You weren't supposed to see me yet."
Not until she came down the aisle. There was supposed to be awestruck wonder on his face. It was a bride's right, for gosh sakes. She'd wanted the altar lights on just to be sure she caught a glimpse of his expression.
She frowned at the thought. The chapel was in Summer Harbor, and she was in Portland. It was all so confusing. She rubbed her temple. "I'm afraid I'm a bit befuddled."
"Where'd you hit your head?"
"In the ladies' room." She gestured over her shoulder. "At the diner. The floor was wet, and I guess I just ... slipped."
"I mean where on your head?"
"Oh. Here." She took his hand and placed it gently on the lump.
He pressed his lips together. "You've got a good-sized lump going. Were you knocked unconscious?"
"I — I don't know. I think so. Maybe?" She couldn't even remember that!
He withdrew his hand, and she immediately missed the comfort of his fingers. Why wasn't he touching her? Holding her? She needed comfort, daggonit!
"Lucy ... you were unconscious, you're dizzy, and you've got some time gaps. You need to get looked at."
She looked at him pleadingly, tears welling up in her eyes. "No ..."
"I'll go with you. There's no choice. We need to see what's going on."
Where was his warm voice? His tender touch?
"What about the wedding? We need to call people. I can't believe this is happening." Her breaths were coming hard and shallow, like her lungs couldn't keep up.
Excerpted from The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter. Copyright © 2016 Denise Hunter. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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