Persuading Spring: A Sexy New Zealand Romance (The Four Seasons Book 4)

BOOK: Persuading Spring: A Sexy New Zealand Romance (The Four Seasons Book 4)
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Persuading Spring

 

The Four Seasons Book Four

 

Serenity Woods

 

*

 

Copyright 2016 Serenity Woods

 

All Rights Reserved

 

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and
incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously.
Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or
organizations is coincidental.

 

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Chapter One

The day started with rain.

Bridget Hitchcock, known as Birdie to her
friends, stood in front of the mirror in her wedding dress and tried to still
the wave of panic that threatened to overwhelm her. It wasn’t an omen. For
God’s sake, what had she expected when she decided to get married in October in
Wellington? Spring in New Zealand’s capital was a season of rainbows—sunshine
and showers. Wet weather wasn’t at all surprising.

Not that she could call the current
torrential downpour a shower. Even her glass-half-full mentality couldn’t
stretch that far.

It didn’t matter, she told herself. It
didn’t matter that it was raining, and it wouldn’t matter if the guests didn’t
turn up, or Mal’s best man forgot the rings, or if the restaurant they’d booked
for the reception burned down. What mattered was that the man she loved was
about to promise to love her for the rest of his life. Nothing else was
important.

Bending closer to the mirror, she ran a
finger under her bottom lip to clear away a speck of gloss and pressed her lips
together.
Today’s going to be the happiest day of your life,
she scolded
herself.
Stop worrying.

The door opened behind her, and Rowan, one
of her best friends, came in. They were in Rowan’s apartment where Bridget had
stayed the night before. All morning, people had been coming and going—the
hairdresser, the guy delivering her bouquet, a few of her friends come to give
her their best wishes—but now it was just the two of them.

“Ready?” Rowan came over and rested her
hands on Bridget’s shoulders, smiling at her in the mirror. “You look so
beautiful, Birdie.”

“Aw, thank you.” She wore a long, elegant cowl-back
gown and a matching veil that fell to her shoulder blades rather than all the
way to the floor. “I hope he likes it,” she murmured. Mal had said she’d look
gorgeous in anything she chose to wear, but he always said that, and she hoped
he truly thought she looked beautiful in it.

“How can he not? You look like a princess.
Here, let me straighten your veil.” Rowan fingered the delicate lace gently to
erase a kink, then stood back and sighed. “There. Perfect.”

Bridget turned around and enveloped the
other girl in a hug. “Thank you so much for being with me today.”

“Thank you for asking me!”

“I hope the others didn’t mind me choosing
you.”

In an ideal world, a bride had her mother
with her for her big day, but Bridget’s parents had died when she was young,
and her brother, Nathan—whom everyone called Hitch—had taken care of her until
she was ready to go to university. She knew that was probably why she thought
of her friends like her family. She ran a lingerie business called the Four
Seasons with Rowan and two of their other friends, Callie and Neve. She would
love to have asked them all to be her bridesmaids, but Mal had wanted to keep
the day understated, so she had to be content that they would all be at the
registry office. Because Callie had given birth to her first baby only a week
before, and not wanting her to feel left out, Bridget had decided to ask only Rowan
to be with her in the morning.

“Of course not,” Rowan said smoothly. “They
know we’re going to be sisters-in-law soon.” Rowan was marrying Hitch the
following year.

“Yeah.” Bridget checked her lip gloss
again. She still wished she’d asked the others to be with her, but it was too
late now.

“Are you wearing the underwear?” Rowan
teased. A few months ago, they’d launched a set of Rowan’s new designs. Called
Snow White, the white lacy lingerie had been inspired by her visits to Iceland
and Antarctica. After Neve had met up with a wedding planner on a course who’d
asked to stock it for her business, the girls had decided to market it as
wedding lingerie.

“Oh yes.” Bridget grinned. “Basque and
stockings. Don’t ask me to sit down though.”

“Don’t give me that,” Rowan scoffed. “It’s
designed to be comfortable as well as sexy. You should be able to do cartwheels
in it.”

“I probably could, but I don’t think I’ll
put it to the test.”

“Maybe not.” As her phone vibrated, Rowan
read the text and smiled. “Hitch is outside. Time to go, sweetie.”

Bridget’s heart immediately doubled its
pace. Blowing out a breath, she smiled at Rowan, picked up her bouquet of red
roses, and followed her out. Rowan walked to the elevator with her, making sure
she didn’t catch her dress on anything. The two of them rode it down, walked
into the small foyer, and Rowan opened the door.

Bridget stopped and laughed with delight as
she saw the huge silver car outside bedecked in white ribbons. “I was convinced
he’d turn up in his Mini.”

“I told him I’d never talk to him again if
he did that. Luckily, he didn’t like that idea, so he hired this.”

Carrying an umbrella, Hitch got out of the
car and walked up the path to where she stood in the doorway.

“Look at you,” he said softly, taking her
free hand and admiring her. “You look a million dollars.”

“Thank you.” Bridget lifted onto her
tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek. “You don’t look so bad yourself.” He wore a
dark-gray suit with a lilac-colored tie, and he looked gorgeous.

“Ready to get married?” he asked
cheerfully.

A swell of excitement swept over her. She
was getting married! “I think so!”

“Come on then. Let’s get you to the church
on time. Well, the registry office anyway.”

Holding the umbrella over her, he and Rowan
helped her into the car, tucking her dress in carefully, and Rowan closed the
door before getting in the front beside Hitch. Bridget settled herself, trying
not to compare her big day to her friend Callie’s. Callie and Gene hadn’t had a
huge wedding or spent a fortune, but Callie had worn a gorgeous flouncy gown
with her three best friends as bridesmaids, they’d married in church, hired
professional photographers and a proper wedding car, invited a hundred guests,
and had a marquee erected in the gardens of a nearby hotel for the reception.

It had been a wonderful day, and Bridget
had dreamed of having something similar for her own wedding. But Mal had said
it made more sense to save their money, adding what did it matter how they got
married as long as they exchanged their vows? Why hire a professional photographer
when her brother did it for a living, and why invite a hundred people they
didn’t speak to from week to week? It made perfect sense, but a tiny part of
her still wished she’d had all the pomp and ceremony.

She pushed her dissatisfaction away though.
She was getting married! Today! Screw the rain, and screw everything else.
Tonight she’d be a married woman, on her way to Vanuatu for their honeymoon,
and that was all that mattered.

Hitch drove them through the Wellington
suburbs to the registry office and pulled up right outside. “That’s Rhett’s
car,” he said, referring to Neve’s partner. “And Callie’s already texted me to
say she’s here. She says the foyer’s a bit busy—let me go and check
everything’s ready and then I’ll come back for you.”

“Okay.” Bridget watched him turn up the
collar of his jacket and run up to Rhett’s car. He banged on the window and
said something, then laughed and ran up to the building, where he disappeared
through the door.

“This damn rain,” she said, seeing it
pooling on the pavement. “I knew I should have worn gumboots.”

Rowan laughed. “Don’t worry, we’ll get a
dozen umbrellas on you so you don’t get wet!” They watched Neve and Rhett get
out of the car and run up to the building, Neve squealing all the way as she
tried to protect herself from the rain. “I’m so glad the two of them got back
together,” Rowan said. Her phone beeped and she took it out and swiped across
the screen. “I honestly thought Neve would never talk to him again.”

“Me too.” Bridget had been stunned when the
two of them had returned from a course in Queenstown and announced they were
back together. She didn’t know what Rhett had said to convince Neve to forgive
him, but ever since then the two of them had been ecstatically happy.

Rowan slid her phone back in her bag and
looked out of the window, pressing her lips together.

Unease prickled down Bridget’s spine. “What
is it?”

Rowan smiled. “Oh, nothing for you to worry
about. There was another wedding before yours and nobody wants to leave because
of the rain. They’re just trying to get rid of everyone so there’s plenty of
space for you. I hope Vanuatu’s weather is better than this!”

“There will probably be a cyclone there
knowing my luck,” Bridget said distractedly. She scrubbed at the misty window.
Figures were moving in the doorway—was that Callie? Yes, it was, and as Bridget
watched, she saw her friend open an umbrella and run along the path to the car.

“Something’s wrong,” Bridget whispered.

Callie reached the car, wrenched the door
open, and slid in beside her with the umbrella, quickly closing the door behind
her.

“Jesus.” She winced as a shake of her hand
scattered droplets over Bridget’s dress. “I’m sorry. What appalling weather!
Only you could have a cloudburst on your wedding day, Birdie.”

Her voice was jovial, her smile bright, but
Bridget knew her well enough to see behind the grin. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing.” Callie patted her hair and tried
to peer into the car’s rear view mirror. “Just clearing some space, that’s all.
Thought I’d come and keep you entertained.”

Her mother was looking after Ewan for the
day. It was probably Callie’s first full day away from him, Bridget thought
with some distant piece of her mind, and Callie wasn’t talking about the baby.

“What is it?” Bridget couldn’t keep the sharpness
out of her voice.

Callie and Rowan exchanged a glance—long
enough for Bridget to suspect the truth.

“Mal’s not here.” Her voice was little more
than a whisper. Both the other girls knew. That was what the texts had been
about, and that was why Hitch had gone inside.

“It’s probably the weather,” Callie said.
“The traffic’s awful—we got stuck for ages. I’m sure that’s all it is. Hitch is
ringing him now to find out where he is.”

Bridget’s heart banged against her ribs.
Rowan smiled and reached out to rub her arm. “Don’t worry,” she soothed,
“everything’s going to be fine.”

But something deep inside Bridget couldn’t
believe that. Maybe it was the culmination of years of Mal carefully
sidestepping any talk of commitment or the future. God knew their relationship
had been on-off more times than a light switch. She would just start to think
she was getting somewhere and then he’d let her down—not turn up at a function,
or disappear somewhere for a day or two—telling her that he was a free spirit,
and that it was wrong to tie him down. Every time, she walked away, and every
time—like a mug—she let him tell her he loved her and convince her to have him
back.

Turning, she yanked open the car door.

“No, wait!” Callie said, startled, but
Bridget stepped out into the rain. Her sandaled feet sank into a puddle, but
she ignored the cold and ran up the pathway to the registry office. It was only
a short distance, but by the time she reached the doorway she was drenched.

She saw Rhett first, and his eyes widened
with alarm as she pushed past him. “Birdie, wait,” he said, but she marched
through the foyer of the small building. She passed a few of Mal’s friends and
his parents, who were clustered to one end of the foyer, talking in low voices,
and strode toward her brother, who was on the phone at the other end of the
room. Gene stood beside him, hands on hips, his face serious.

Neve moved in quickly to catch her. “Hold
on, honey. Hitch is talking to him.”

Bridget tried to push her to the side, but
Callie and Rowan had caught up with her, and they all held her back. “Where is
he?” she shouted.

Hitch turned at the sound of her voice, and
from one look at his face, Bridget knew. Suddenly, her lungs ceased to
function. She couldn’t breathe in or out.

Hitch’s chest heaved. He listened for a
long moment, his eyes fixed on hers. Then he said, quietly, into the phone,
“You’re done, Wilkinson. If I see you anywhere near my sister again, I’ll
fucking kill you. In fact, I might fucking kill you anyway.”

He drew back his arm and threw the phone
violently across the room where it met the wall and shattered into a dozen pieces.

He was so rarely angry that Bridget jumped
and clapped her hand over her mouth. Hitch put his hands on his hips, tipped
his head back, and stared at the ceiling.

For a long moment, nobody said anything.
Everyone seemed frozen, jaws dropped, eyes staring, horrified. What was there
to say?

Bridget couldn’t catch her breath. He
wasn’t coming. She’d been jilted at the altar.

What a fucking cliché.

Eventually, Hitch dropped his head to look
at her, and his face was filled with anguish. “Birdie… I’m so sorry.”

Her head spun. She was still holding her
breath. She exhaled in a rush, and that seemed to jerk everyone into action.

BOOK: Persuading Spring: A Sexy New Zealand Romance (The Four Seasons Book 4)
8.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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