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Authors: Liz Crowe

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Mutual Release (62 page)

BOOK: Mutual Release
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June had maintained she wasn’t interested in shotgun weddings and was going to wait until he returned, as if her waiting for him implied his safety in a very dangerous part of the world. Captain Butler had other, more traditional ideas and had sprung an engagement ring on June at their family Christmas Eve party. Something both Julie and Evan had been in on from the start.

And now here they were, at a wedding on the coldest, snowiest Valentine’s Day on Michigan record.

Julie tried not to let her sorrow at how bittersweet the whole holiday season had been spoil June’s day. Evan rose and put a hand on her shoulder, crouched down to kiss her cheek, then his daughters each in turn, giving them all his quiet, solid support.

“I told you I didn’t want to do this, not so soon after…” June said, taking her mother’s hand.

“No, honey, Mike is right. You guys should be married. He’ll be back in a year. And we’ll be fabulous grandparents, we swear. Not too interfering… or overbearing. Well, not me. I can’t promise anything when it comes to your father. I mean, he has memorized the route between our house and yours so he can get there in his sleep.” She kissed June’s forehead. “I still think it’s awesome you found some guy named Captain Butler to marry. So very Scarlett O’Hara of you.”

“Mom,” Claire insisted, “we weren’t talking about that. We were talking about…”

“Okay, ladies. I think if we delay much longer Mike may hyperventilate,” Evan interrupted, stood, pulled Julie and the girls all to their feet. “I say… stay with Dad, you know? Since I still don’t like this guy.”

June sighed and rolled her eyes.

“You never like any guy, Daddy,” Claire claimed, helping her sister settle a veil on her head. “So just back off.”

“Nope,” Evan said. Julie took his hand to give herself another touchstone of peace. It worked. As always. She took a breath, watched the girls arrange themselves as the wedding planner took over and got them all lined up.

“Is he here?” she whispered to Evan as they made their way along the foyer towards the ceremony hall.

He patted her hand. “Yes, I see him. There.” He pointed, and Julie saw their friend, the tall, handsome, distinguished Jack Gordon, in his own tuxedo looking as dashing as ever, with his thick head of hair gone silver. He stood tall as he held out a hand to shake Evan’s.

“Congratulations guys.” His deep voice was rough, raw-sounding. Evan gripped his friend’s palm, then pulled him in for a fierce hug instead. Julie bit her lip, put her arms around them both.

Jack broke away first, looking angry, then resigned. He accepted hugs from the twins, complimented the bride, then turned back to Julie.

“C’mon, gorgeous. Let’s get this show on the road.” His voice made it clear they would not be doing anything but focusing on the here-and-now, letting June have her special day without spoiling it with any other drama. A typical Jack Gordon move – taking control by showing he was in control, no matter how brutal these last few weeks had been for him personally.

She took his arm, leaned into his shoulder. “Thank you for doing this. We wanted…” She gulped. “I mean, I know it’s really soon, and I’m not…”

Jack shook his head. He looked down, then back up into her eyes, his jaw clenched. “I’m honored to be a part of this day. Your friendship means more to me now than ever. But otherwise, I’m not in a chatty mood.” He smiled, but it was weak, a mere shadow of the one she loved.

The wedding planner nodded at them, then opened the double doors, revealing the three hundred guests in a room full of candlelight and flowers. Julie walked down the aisle on the arm of her friend, noting the faces she’d come to know and love, marveling at the years and experiences they shared between them. And how full circle they’d all come, here, now, together, a large extended family of Gordon, Adams, Freitag, Robinson, Inez.

She spotted many familiar faces, but wouldn’t allow her gaze to rest on just one. Jack patted her hand, whispered in his reassuring, familiar way as they walked past smiles and not a few sets of red-rimmed eyes. She spotted Suzanne’s red hair for some reason, zeroed in on it. She met Julie’s gaze, tried to smile, then closed her eyes and leaned into her husband. The way all these people in her life were attached never ceased to amaze Julie. But she loved it and tried to send soothing vibes to the woman as she passed.

Her eyes were drawn to Lila Freitag next, Rob’s wife, a slight brunette woman standing and staring toward the front. Gabe, Lila’s tall, blond, handsome son, stood on one side of her, arm around his mother’s shoulders. He caught Julie’s eye, smiled and nodded, his natural positive energy soothing despite the circumstances.

The other young adults and teenagers that peopled their extended family sat together in a group in the middle of June’s side of the room. They all represented various stages of life, the many storms they had all weathered together, and it meant so much to have them all here today. But fate had certainly made a harsh U-turn and ripped a hole in their tightly woven fabric, at practically the same moment something wonderful happened – June and Mike getting engaged. She swallowed hard, leaned on Jack’s arm and kept her eyes forward, unwilling to look at anyone else as she let him guide her to a seat at the front.

Julie turned around to watch her daughter’s bridesmaids proceed down the aisle. Then she stood with the rest of the room at the first strains of the bridal march. Her heart pounded, but her eyes stayed dry as she smiled at the sight of Evan, his gaze bright when he handed June over to Mike, shook the man’s hand, and then took his place beside her. She trembled, clutching her tissue, until he put a hand on her leg, then draped an arm over her shoulders.

“I love you,” he whispered. “Everything will be fine.” She nodded, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. “Complicated
,
maybe, but fine.” He kissed her softly.

“Lovely girls you have there,” she whispered, taking a breath, determined to enjoy the here and now.

“Yeah, that’s what they tell me.” He puffed up his chest, making her grin and poke his thigh. “Their mother isn’t too hard to look at either.”

“’I’ve heard that,” she said, settling back into his arm. “Thank you,” she turned and whispered to him.

“You’re welcome.” He smiled. “But I should be thanking you.”

“Damn straight you should.” She raised an eyebrow as her heavy heart lifted ever so slightly. And they sat, hands clasped tight, while June and Mike made their vows, exchanged rings, and kissed so long Evan rolled his eyes and harrumphed until they stopped.

Everything was perfect…almost…but for the one person they all missed
.

The End

Other Books By Liz Crowe

Want to know more about the characters in this book?

For Jack and Sara’s story read:

Floor Time

Sweat Equity

Closing Costs

For Rob, Blake and Lila’s story read:

Essence of Time

For Suzanne’s story read:

Conditional Offer

And to see what happens “after” Essence of Time read:

Escalation Clause

Coming Soon…

Good Faith - The final novel of the Stewart Realty series (November 2013)

In His Shadow (Early 2014)

The Black Jack Gentlemen Series

Man On (August 2013)

Free Agent (August 2013)

Red Card (September 2013)

About Liz Crowe

Microbrewery owner, best-selling author, beer blogger and journalist, mom of three teenagers, and soccer fan, Liz lives in the great Midwest, in a major college town. Years of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as an ex-pat trailing spouse, plus making her way in a world of men (i.e. the beer industry), has prepped her for life as erotic romance author.

When she isn’t sweating inventory and sales figures for the brewery, she can be found writing, editing or sweating promotional efforts for her latest publications.

Her groundbreaking romance subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” has gained thousands of fans and followers who are interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”)

Her beer blog
a2beerwench.com
is nationally recognized for its insider yet outsider views on the craft beer industry. Her books are set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch and in high-powered real estate offices. Don’t ask her for anything “like” a Budweiser or risk painful injury.

Table of Contents

Cover Page

Author’s Note

Table of Contents

Part I:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Part II:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Part III:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Part IV:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Epilogue

Other Titles

About the Author

BOOK: Mutual Release
6.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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