Authors: Emily Duvall
WHISKEY CREEK PRESS
WHISKEY CREEK PRESS
Copyright Â© 2016 by
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Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.
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Cover Artist: Kelly Martin
Editor: Dave Field
Printed in the United States of America
To all the girls who love diamonds
I am so grateful to give this story a life. There are many people who helped with this process, beginning with Sarah Hurwitz at Colonial Jewelers in Downtown Frederickâthank you for my crash course on diamonds. To Dave Field for his editing and Kim Martin for such incredible cover art. To my local supporters, particularly Kim Menyhart and Sabrina Petrecz for showing up to my book events. Thank you to all my family and friends, both near and far, who support my writing. For Sonal Patel for being there and Erin Niemi for encouragement. Lastly, for Brian, my love, and to Nolan and Abby, my heart.
The best night of Jessie's life dangled in front of her. Music blared. People around her sipped drinks. An electric current filled the bar at
the swanky start to Jessie's bachelorette party. She wore her short black dress, the mandatory wardrobe for the night's festivities; Jessie looked hotter than ever. Even her breasts stacked up with the expensive bra and did her cleavage some justice. She blazed a trail of beauty with each step she took. What a night this had turned out to be. This place was insane, the energy contagious.
Jessie slurped the last of Maiden Voyage, a sweet concoction of vanilla, raspberry vodka, and some other magical ingredient. A light flickered to her side and she did a quick look to find her Maid-of-Honor, Clara, appear with some fine-looking guy with a dumb smile.
“This is the bride!” Clara shouted to the guy.
“Hey,” he said.
Clara noted the glass in Jessie's hand. “You're empty.”
Jessie shook the glass so the ice clanked. “I'm waiting for your boyfriend to buy me another.”
“I'm Axel,” he said, “and the next round is on me. What are you drinking?”
“Anything with alcohol.”
Axel drew Clara close to him and whispered in her ear. Clara nodded and giggled.
“Is he even twenty-one?” Jessie said, laughing.
“No idea,” Clara answered with a twinkling smile.
Jessie scanned the room, a place lit by faux candles hanging from the ceiling on invisible wire strands. Shades of red, pink, and gold covered the place from the curtains for the private parties to the cushions placed around the room. Music added to the subtle, sexy tones of the bar's interior. “So, where's the rest of our group?” she said.
“I saw Louise head upstairs to the lounge. She's going to find everyone else.” Clara took out lip gloss from her purse and reapplied. “I can't believe you're getting married.”
“Six weeks.” Another bachelorette party appeared at the corner of the bar. The bride wore a veil. Jessie wrinkled her nose. “I'm so glad you didn't make me wear one of those.”
“I thought black dresses made for a better statement. You'll bury your single life come December eighteenth.”
“I've only waited eight years.”
“Then make sure tonight is one of the best nights of your life.” Clara draped her arm around Jessie. “Did you notice that group of men over by the bar? The guy in the gingham shirt has his eye on you.”
Jessie's eyes followed the direction of Clara's gaze. “He's so cute.”
“I think you should talk to him.”
“He can come over and talk to me.” She glanced around. “So, what's next on the fabulous bachelorette task list you ladies are making me complete?”
“Wait for it. Axel's coming back.”
Axel walked towards them with a drink in each hand. Jessie grinned at the sight of this guy. What a beautiful man.
“Here you are ladies,” he said, handing over the glasses.
Jessie took her drink. Clara also reached for the drink, but Axel put his face in the way and kissed her. Thankfully, Jessie caught sight of another member of the bachelorette party, her dear friend Louise and four other girls in their group. They spotted Jessie too and made their way over.
Clara re-joined the group; a big smile on her flushed face. Axel took a step behind her and gave her some space. “Ladies,” Clara announced, producing a piece of paper.
Everyone in their immediate group paid attention. Louise clinked her glass against Jessie's.
“You've still got work to do,” Clara continued. “Let's see what else is on our checklist.”
Prior to the bachelorette party, all six women had created a list of items for Jessie to complete throughout the night. The first item had been for her to get three drinks paid for by a stranger, the second task, she had to get a guy to give her an article of clothing off his bodyâshe'd secured a bulky watch. The list gave Jessie a last-chance to flirt hard one last time. Live up the night. Have fun. Feel great. The most important part was to have no regrets. Everything would change after the wedding. Jessie raised her glass. She beamed with confidence. She was having the night of her life.
Jessie looked over at the list in Clara's hand. She squinted to make sure she'd read her friend's small handwriting. “You want me to do what?” Jessie said.
“Kiss a guy,” Louise said, and slung her arm around Jessie. “We want you to have your last first kiss.”
“You don't even have to use tongue,” Clara said, ripping the list out of her hand. “You just can't pick Axel. He's mine.”
Uncomfortable, but willing to hear their plan, Jessie said, “What about Carl?”
“You don't think Carl did something crazy at his bachelor party?”
“He golfed and went to dinner with his friends. You've met them. Odds are slim.”
Louise reassured her with a grin. “Don't do anything you're uncomfortable with. I got the idea from my sister. She did something similar at her bachelorette party. I thought the task would be fun, but there's zero pressure.”
“Oh whatever,” Jessie said, feeding off the unpredictability of the evening. “I'm in!”
Everyone around her burst into cheers and laughter.
No big deal, right?
A kiss without tongue meant nothing, whereas her life with Doctor Carl Hughes would be forever.
A preppy guy at the bar seemed like a good choice. She took a step forward too late. A girl joined him and soaked up all his attention. Another guy in the same group made eye contact with her. She stared back in a way that said,
you've got five seconds to get over here.
To show good intentions, she stepped forward. He did too, but this time a brunette got in the way. This other woman threw her arms around him and they began making out. A quick are-you-kidding-me glance at her friends and they lifted up their glass with their big smiles and laughing eyes. Their egging her on only made her want to do this more.
Onward to someone else. Jessie spun around and
tripped over someone's foot. A scream hurled out of her mouth on the way down and her face was about to collide with the floor. A strong arm stopped her fall. She blinked at the black shoe less than an inch away from her face.
The arm lifted her upright like a crane. She looked up at him and did a double take. The drinks were officially messing with her head. This face in front of herâ¦ She knew him. From somewhere. She continued to stare at his face. The dark eyes matched the black suit he wore, except for the patch of skin showing through the collar. Stubble ran over his chin, and an angular nose, all of these features came together with suchâ¦wow. What a face. A familiar face. She continued to stare at his unfriendly eyes and a nagging feeling tugged at her midsection. This man reminded her of someone else. Kind of like...no way. Maybe it was him. Jessie shook her head. This was a coincidence. The man in front of her resembled her sister's husband, a man named Luke Harrison, and by all means, her enemy.
For one sobered second, Jessie allowed herself to think of Melanie. The only person she swore not to think about tonight. The sister who should be here. The sister who should be her Maid-of-Honor. Jessie hadn't even been invited to Melanie and Luke's wedding, and even though Melanie had been invited to hers, she'd declined. Her sister had checked the regrets box on Jessie's beautiful invitation. Not one word Melanie had written on the card. Not even a
. Just a cold âX' to indicate she wouldn't attend. The image still stung. A lot. If Melanie wouldn't come to her wedding, there could be no forgiveness between them. Ever.
“Excuse me,” familiar guy said, and stepped around her.
“Wait.” Jessie's hand flew to his arm and she pulled him back around. How many brothers did Melanie's husband have? One? Two? Three? She couldn't remember. The last time she saw the Harrison brothers they'd been sitting on the opposite side of the courtroom. That was almost ten years ago. Jessie kept a firm foot in front of this man. She drank him in hard and fast like a shot of something strong. The light shifted into white and put a spotlight on his face. The image of his face burned down her throat and ears. “Do I know you?” she said.
“No,” he retorted and sidestepped her again.
Again, she blocked him. “You're sure we haven't met?”
This time he didn't try to leave. Instead, he leaned in closer. Close enough to feel the warmth of his breath on her face. The faintest scent of alcohol breathed into her open mouth. His gaze bore over her face and lingered on her lips. “I'm sure.”
Jessie's hand flew to his chest like she could stop him from moving. “How can you be sure?”
“I'm sure.” The crook in his mouth deepened. “Are you going to move?”
She held her breath. “No.”
“Is this the one you want?” Louise said with enthusiasm and moved towards Jessie without catching the warning glance to stay away. “Did you know that my friend here is getting married?”
He raised an eyebrow. “She's engaged?”
“Louise, really, it's okayâ”
“My friend needs one little kiss before we can move to our next bar.”
A grin formed at his lips, like a challenge.
The hesitation prompted Louise to add, “You don't think she's pretty enough?”
This provoked Louise further. “My friend is gorgeous. She's marrying a doctor.”
The guy outright laughed. “Then he's a fool.”
“He is not,” Jessie said, defensive of Carl.
The stranger laughed again. “Good luck to him.”
“You don't have to be such an ass,” Jessie said, louder than intended.
The shift in his gaze happened immediately. A flicker of something predatory. Jessie took a step back. He put his hand on her arm. Rough hands on her soft skin. He dragged his finger down her forearm to her wrist and then her hand. She felt his fingers brush her knuckles. She held her breath as he drew her hand up to his line of vision. There he casually looked at the rock set in white gold.
Abruptly, he dropped her hand.
“What?” she said, annoyed.
His gaze shot to her lips. “If you were mine, you wouldn't beg for another man's kiss.”
Boom. Heat rushed up her breasts and down her back. “It's not like that.”
“It's exactly like that.”
Jessie's heart beat fast. Forget this. She started to back away. But someone pushed her directly into his chest. His hand gripped her waist with an all-consuming possession. She hadn't expected this. She didn't have time to think. His lips crashed down on hers. The trace of liquor on her lips blended with his. Their mouths fit together; their lips moved in-sync, even as he deepened the kiss and drew her against him with such force. He drove his tongue into her mouth. The effect made her nipples hard and her panties damp. The kiss stirred up everything within her all at once. Each blunt movement of his lips took her one step closer towards trouble. His hands slid down her waist. His fingers molded the indent of her sides. Somewhere in the background she heard the music flip from fast tempo to slow make-out music.