Hello Happy Readers!
I’m so excited to share the news that I’ve got a new release coming out!
One week from today on June 11th the ONCE UPON A WEDDING anthology hits the stands, featuring 11 (yes, eleven!) stories about second chances and I Do’s. Written with 10 of my amazing author pals from our Fiction From the Heart FB group.
Read on for a snippet of what each story is about, followed by a sneak peek at the first chapter of my novella, A WEDDING IN SWAN HARBOR!
Then RUN and take advantage of our crazy pre-order deal! Just .99 for the whole anthology. Yep, ALL 11 stories!
Say I do...
Eleven best-selling and aware-winning authors request the pleasure of your presence this June 11th as they share all-new novellas that will have you humming the wedding march and dreaming of champagne toasts. It’s easy to tie the knot with these heartwarming, second-chance love stories.
Featuring: A Wedding In Swan Harbor by USA Today & Wall Street Journal best-selling author, Donna Kauffman
Widowed blueberry farmer, Lily Dawson, is reunited with her late husband’s best friend, former Navy fighter pilot Sam Fletcher when he returns to their seaside Maine village to escort Lily’s daughter down the aisle. Will conflicting emotions on honoring the memory of the man they both cared for so deeply prevent them from taking a chance on building a possible future together?
Also included in this anthology:
I Do, Again by Jamie Beck
A makeup artist who is forced to become her bridezilla client’s eleventh-hour bridesmaid is dumbstruck to discover her ex-husband is a groomsman and he wants a second chance.
Weather or Knot, by Tracy Brogan
Two meteorologists with a turbulent romantic history join a team of storm chasers and discover that love, light lightning, sometimes strikes twice.
The Runaway Bride by Sonali Dev
A groom has one night to convince his runaway bride that her fears that he’s settling for her are anything but true.
Starboard Vow by K.M. Jackson
A cruise director is taken off course when the country’s hottest bachelor — and her secret husband — arrives aboard her ship for a whirlwind cruise.
Snowbound in Vegas by Sally Kilpatrick
A Best Man and Maid of Honor loathe each other…until they’re stuck in a mountain cabin meant for a honeymoon.
Starstruck: Take Two by Falguni Kothari
Embroiled in a Bollywood stunt wedding, an A-list manager is torn between doing what is right for her celebrity client or seizing a second chance with the bad boy groom herself.
Always Yours by Priscilla Oliveras
With love in the air at a familia wedding, two high school sweethearts separated by misguided mistakes just might find their second chance for a happily every after together.
Home Sweet Home by Hope Ramsay
Family secrets tore them apart as teens but a wedding in Sweet Home, Virgnia, may give star-crossed lovers a second chance at forgiveness and love.
Inseparable by Barbara Samuel
Thwarted high school sweethearts meet again in the gorgeous Colorado mountains for a wedding…of their children.
A Morning Glory Wedding by Liz Talley
A florist responsible for the break-up of the bride’s first marriage gets a chance for forgiveness and a new love with a hunky pastor
And now for a sneak peek at the first chapter of A WEDDING IN SWAN HARBOR….
“That’s the one! We’re definitely saying yes to this dress.”
Lily Dawsonlooked from the bridal shop mirror, down to the admittedly very pretty plum-colored dress she wore, then to her daughter. The corner of her mouth lifted in a dubious smile. “I don’t think the mother of the bride is supposed to show cleavage.”
“You look amazing.” Faith nudged her mom with her elbow. “Come on, live a little! Your only child is getting married, embarking on one of life’s great adventures. Take the plunge with me. Do something a little risky.” She wiggled her eyebrows. “A little risqué. I’m taking the biggest leap of my life. Surely you can show a little boob.”
Hazel eyes met matching hazel eyes in the mirror. Lily did a little shoulder shimmy, setting the aforementioned cleavage to jiggling. Faith snickered, and they were both lost in a fit of giggles.
“If we’re putting this up for a vote, I’d like to enter a yes, please,” came a very deep voice from behind them.
Lily’s gaze lifted to meet a pair of oh-so-familiar green eyes in the mirror at the exact moment Faith turned around and squealed in glee. Lily’s daughter launched herself into the arms of her father’s oldest and dearest friend. Lily instinctively covered her exposed cleavage with her hand, pressing her palm against her suddenly racing heart.
“Uncle Sam, you came!” Faith hugged him tightly, then let go and grinned up at him. “I knew you would.”
Sam chuckled. “I get an SOS from my favorite girl? Of course I did.”
“SOS?” Lily asked. Forgetting about her exposed cleavage, she turned to her daughter. “Is something wrong? What happened?”
“No, it’s not like that,” Faith assured her. She linked her arm through Sam’s. “I just—I was going to tell you, but we got all caught up in dress shopping for me, then for you, and planning everything…” She trailed off, glancing up to Sam for help.
Lily looked from her daughter to Sam Fletcher, her late husband’s best friend, a man she hadn’t seen since he’d made a surprise appearance at Faith’s sweet-sixteen birthday party. That had been eight years ago. He’d spent all of his adult life quite far away from his Maine hometown, working in the most dangerous places on earth, doing things he couldn’t talk about. So, it hadn’t been surprising that he’d been overseas and out of reach when Dan had so suddenly been taken from them four years ago.
He’d called the second he’d been able to, mere hours after she’d buried her husband. She couldn’t even remember much of what they’d said. She’d been too numb at the time. She hadn’t spoken to him since. Not because he hadn’t tried, or because she was hurt or angry. She was neither. It had mattered to her only that he stayed in Faith’s life, and he had. That was the most important thing. The only important thing.
Now, though…now he was right there, right in front of her, unavoidable. And she was forced to admit she wasn’t thinking about her daughter or her late husband when she looked at Sam Fletcher.
His expression was open, easy, and reassuring, but he glanced to Faith, making it clear that his unexpected appearance was her story to tell.
Lily looked back to her daughter. “Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s okay.”
Faith nodded, took a short, steadying breath. “It’s just…I should have told you sooner. Everyone knows Max and I aren’t exactly traditional.” She laughed. “I mean, we’re getting married in a barn on our blueberry farm, right? No groomsmen, no bridesmaids. Max’s dad is his best man, and you’re my matron of honor.” She smiled. “The whole town is basically our wedding party anyway. We love our small-ceremony, whole-town-reception plan, but…” She trailed off again, and her gaze went to Sam, not exactly pleading, but clearly asking for a little assist.
Sam slid his arm from hers and laid it around Faith’s narrow shoulders, the more-than-foot-plus disparity in their height mitigated a little by the fact that Faith had stepped back up on the riser next to her mom. “Your little rebel here might be a teensy bit more like her traditional parents than you’d think,” Sam said, his voice a deep rumble filled with sincere affection as he glanced down at his goddaughter. He looked back to Lily. “Her wedding party might be a bit different, but she didn’t want to walk down the aisle by herself.”
Lily’s gaze flew to Faith’s. “Oh, honey—”
Faith stepped away from Sam’s reassuring hold and took her mother’s hands in her own. “Mom, it’s okay. Truly. It’s not a sad thing. I thought doing all of this so differently, it wouldn’t matter. I mean, of course it matters that Dad isn’t here, but…you understand, right? I thought it wouldn’t be this sad, glaring hole if I set things up a little differently. If I didn’t do the big walk down the aisle, if we just kind of gathered together, like we planned. Only…I kept thinking that I want that moment, you know? Where I step out into the aisle, and Max sees me for the first time in my dress? I thought about asking you to escort me, but I want you by my side at the altar. I want to walk toward you as much I want to walk toward Max. I’m so proud to be your daughter. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but—”
“It makes sense,” Lily said, her voice a little rough from the emotion she knew was swimming in her eyes.
Faith squeezed Lily’s hands. “I want you there. So…” She glanced up at Sam. “I asked Uncle Sam if he’d walk me down the aisle.” Her gaze went back to her mother’s. “I think Dad would really like that. With both Pops and Grandpa gone now, I just…” She trailed off.
Lily immediately pulled her daughter into her arms. “It’s a wonderful idea,” she said, and meant it. She pressed a kiss against Faith’s hair as she held her tight, then let her go. “It’s a lovely, sweet thing to want, honey.” She looked up at Sam, felt her pulse kick up another notch, and looked immediately back to her daughter. She’d deal with her own issues with Sam Fletcher in her own way, on her own time. This was Faith’s special time. “I’m all for it.” She took a moment, then looked up at Sam and smiled. “Thank you,” she said, never more sincere. “For coming all this way, for being there for Faith. I know it’s not always easy for you to pick up and go, and we both—”
“Actually—” he began, but Faith spoke at the same time.
“Oh no! Mom, I just realized we’ve got the cake tasting in ten minutes,” she said. “You better go get changed.”
Lily glanced in the mirror, immediately remembered her exposed cleavage, and was proud of herself for managing a bright, reassuring smile, and for keeping her hands by her sides and not covering herself. She might not appreciate having to admit it, but possibly her twenty-four-year-old daughter had a point. Lily could try to be…a little more spontaneous. But could I please be spontaneous somewhere else? Anywhere else? Wearing anything else? She met Sam’s green eyes in the mirror and felt the warmth steal across her face. Then spread.
“I’m really glad you were able to come,” she told him, relaxing when she noted that he comfortably held her gaze and that his eyes never left hers for even one moment. Of course they didn’t. Like your forty-five-year-old-mother-of-one cleavage is so enticing. Lily liked to think she’d matured a bit from the geeky farm girl she’d been, newly thirteen and hormones all a-flutter, when she’d first laid eyes on Sam Fletcher. And yet, apparently she hadn’t.
“It’s my pleasure and honor,” he told her, shooting Faith a fast grin. “I’m looking forward to meeting your groom. Making sure he’s worthy.” He held up a hand when Faith started to say something. “I owe that much to your dad.”
“Dan knew Max,” Lily said somewhat abruptly, knowing she sounded a little defensive, protective maybe, despite not meaning to. Lily knew Dan would, in fact, be very happy to know Sam was looking out for his little girl’s best interests. Maybe it was the inference that Lily hadn’t already properly vetted and approved Max herself, or that her approval wasn’t enough. Which was equally silly, since clearly Sam had been teasing. “We all love him, and his family,” Lily said, shifting her gaze to Faith, her smile coming naturally then, even as she silently wished she could magically transport herself to the dressing room and away from this quickly spiraling conversation.
Back in their school days, long before she’d started dating Dan, she always seemed to find herself either suddenly and hopelessly tongue-tied or blurting things that never came out the right way when Sam Fletcher was around. That apparently hadn’t changed either.
“If cake is waiting, I won’t hold you two up,” Sam said with a smile, graciously letting the subject drop. He turned and looked around.
“How did you know where we were?” Faith asked.
“I didn’t,” Sam said. “That was a happy surprise.” A man with a measuring tape came bustling toward them, and Sam gave him a nod. “Looks like I’ll be needing a tux,” he said. “And I didn’t happen to have one on me when you called,” he added, winking at Faith.
Lily tried very hard not to imagine the six-foot-three, all-grown-up Sam Fletcher in a tux, and failed. Quite spectacularly. She swallowed against a suddenly parched throat. “We shouldn’t hold you up, then, either.” Lily managed a brief smile, then took Faith’s hand and headed straight to the dressing room. She didn’t even care if she looked like she was escaping. She was. One good thing about being that forty-two-year-old mother of one, and a widow, was that she’d gotten over worrying about what people thought of her. All that mattered was Faith, her farm, and taking care of the people who helped her run the place.
Used to her mom’s no-nonsense approach to dealing with things that made her uncomfortable, Faith just laughed and waved over her shoulder at Sam as she trotted to keep up with her mother. “The cake will still be there when we get there,” she told her mother, a little breathless, her cheeks still pink with delight over seeing Sam, or from all of the wedding planning, actually.
Lily quickly changed back into her jeans and hoodie and breathed a bit more easily. Definitely more her speed.
Faith stuck her hand inside the dressing room. “Hand it over,” she said, wiggling her fingers.
“I can hang it back up,” Lily said, tucking her feet into her work boots. She hadn’t had time to change into something more presentable before racing to town to meet up with her daughter. It had been one of those days when one crisis got solved and two more popped up. She honestly hadn’t expected to find anything to try on anyway and assumed she’d scope things out, then come back later by herself to find something she felt comfortable wearing. She should have known her daughter’s enthusiasm wouldn’t allow for window-shopping.
“We’re not hanging it back up. We’re buying it. I mean, did you see the way Sam looked at you?”
Lily yanked the curtain open with a bit more force than was necessary. “Faith Marie!”
“Mom!” Faith parroted back, pasting a mock look of shock on her face, then breaking into a peal of delighted laughter. “If you could see your face right now. And don’t even try telling me you two weren’t trying hard to pretend you weren’t checking each other out. How long has it been since you’ve seen him?” She waved her hand like she was fanning her face.
Lily knew her mouth was still hanging open and had to snap it shut again, just so she could set her daughter straight. “Sam Fletcher was your father’s best friend and like an uncle to you. Your dad, Sam, and I have known each other since we were kids. The very last thing I would ever do is think—”
“Oh, you were thinking,” Faith said, her knowing smile making it clear she was perfectly okay with that. “Dad told me you knew Sam before he did. Grandpa said he worked at his hardware store when you were in high school.”
“Middle school,” Lily told her. “He was fourteen. And I didn’t know him. I mean, everyone knows everyone in Swan Harbor, but we weren’t friends. He only worked for Grandpa that one summer. I think it was his first job. I spent my summers working on our farm and babysitting for our neighbors to earn extra money. Our paths really didn’t cross.” She could hear the nervous babble, but she couldn’t seem to stop. “And we definitely didn’t run in the same circles in school. I was a science and art geek who spent her spare time drawing or playing in the dirt growing things, and Sam was the quintessential golden-boy jock who dated cheerleaders and prom queens.” She laughed. “In fact, he was the one who introduced—”
“You and Dad,” Faith finished, looking more intrigued by Lily’s blurted explanation, not less. “I know. He and Dad were friends, and Dad had a crush on you but was too nervous to say anything, so Sam approached you and told you Dad wanted to take you to the movies and that you’d be missing out on the best thing that ever happened to you if you didn’t say yes.” Faith smiled and batted her eyelashes. “So, you asked Dad out, and the rest is legend.”
Lily did smile at that, and her heart squeezed, but in a good way. “I did, and it was. I loved your dad with every part of my heart. In that respect, Sam was absolutely right. Dan Dawson was the best thing that ever happened to me.” She pulled Faith in for a hug. “And he made it possible for the other best thing to happen to me.” She kissed the top of her daughter’s head. “You.”
Faith hugged her mom back, then straightened. “We’re still getting this dress. And don’t think you distracted me from my original point. You and Sam might have been worlds apart back in the day, but that was back in the day. Things are different now. You can’t pretend that oglefest out there didn’t happen. I’m surprised the mirrors didn’t steam over.”
Lily’s mouth dropped open, then closed again just as quickly. “I’m going to pretend this conversation never happened. At least this part anyway.”
Faith’s teasing smile shifted to one of love and earnestness. “Mom, no one would ever doubt, for one second, that you and Dad weren’t the best partnership, the best team, the best parents, ever. I wish, every single day, he was still here. But he isn’t. That is our reality now. And he wouldn’t want you to be alone. Not forever. And honestly, Mom, who better to forge a new path forward with than someone Dad trusted the most?”
“We need cake,” Lily said quite abruptly, simply unable to even consider what her daughter was saying, in any context. She took Faith’s hand. “Lots and lots of cake.” She hung the dress on the restock rack and was perfectly willing to drag her daughter from the store if necessary.
Faith snagged the hanger as they went past. “I’ll just come back and buy it, so you might as well save me the trouble.” She waved to Sam, who was now on the riser, being measured for a tux, as they passed.
“Fine, fine, let’s just—” Lily stopped talking at that point, not trusting herself to say anything further. Nor did she trust herself to so much as glance in Sam’s direction, certain the entire inappropriate discussion she’d just had with her seriously misguided daughter would somehow show over her head in a flashing, neon-lit conversation bubble. Instead, she focused on getting them both to the front of the small bridal shop. Swan Harbor’s only bridal shop. Lily knew that every single person in town would know exactly what dress she bought before the sale had been completed. Just as she knew they were likely already gossiping that Sam Fletcher was back in town over coffee and blueberry pie across the street at Dixie’splace. Lily supposed she could console herself that at least the blueberries had come from her farm.
Ten minutes later, she and Faith were two blocks over, seated at one of the little bistro tables at Brooke’s Bakes, breathing in the rich scents of delicious buttery cake. Like Dixie’s, and the bridal boutique, Brooke’s was the only shop of its kind in town. Lily and Faith could have driven into Bangor and taken advantage of the much broader array of options in the city, but it was important to Faith to be loyal to the shops and businesses where she’d grown up, on the farm started by her great-great-grandfather. Lily was proud of her daughter for that, amongst many other things.
“So, you’re not upset?” Faith asked. “About Sam, I mean?” She lifted a hand. “Not about what I said in the dressing room—I stand by that—but that I asked him to walk me down the aisle? I should have told you right away, and I wanted to, but…I guess I didn’t want to hurt your feelings, or make you think I was disrespecting Dad.”
“Oh, sweetie,” Lily said, releasing some of the tension she’d been carrying since Faith’s little recitation in the dressing room. “You could never disrespect your father, it’s not in you. I think you’re paying him tribute by asking Sam.”
“Good,” Faith said, relieved. “Because that’s how I saw it.” She paused, then said, “I know he hasn’t been home in ages. And that you two haven’t talked much in the past few years. I know we both understood why he wasn’t at the funeral, so I assumed things were okay between the two of you, but maybe I should have asked if everything really is okay.”
“Everything is fine,” Lily said and knew Faith wasn’t totally buying that simple statement. Lily debated glossing it over, but her daughter wasn’t a child any longer, so she decided to share at least part of it. “I think, back then, it was hard—and this isn’t remotely fair or even rational, okay? I know that, I knew it then, and didn’t blame Sam. I knew it was my problem. But I think initially it was hard because there Sam was, traipsing all over the world, putting himself in harm’s way, no family back home worrying about his survival—”
“And it’s Dad who ends up dying instead of him,” Faith finished softly. She laid her hand over her mother’s and squeezed. “Mom, you were grief-stricken, we all were. No one would blame you for that. I mean, you don’t still feel—”
“No, no, of course not. I was very grateful that he continued to keep in touch with you. He’s your godfather, and he’s always taken that role seriously, and I truly respect that about him. Always have. Especially with your dad gone.” She turned her hand over and laced her fingers with Faith’s. “With Gramps and Pops gone, too, I thought it was really good that you had him in your life, that he was there for you. I know how much you mean to him, and vice versa. I’ve always been thankful for that. But he was your dad’s close friend, and yes, we all grew up in Swan Harbor, but honestly, Sam and I never really spent much time together, as kids or adults.”
“But he always spent time with us when he was home.”
“He spent time with you, and he and your dad would go off and spend time together. I wasn’t really part of that, and that was fine,” she hurried to add. “I loved that they’d kept their friendship strong for so many years and over such a distance. Your dad treasured that, and I treasured it for him. But Sam and I…we both cared deeply for your dad, for you, but that’s pretty much all we had in common. It’s not like Sam and I ever sat down and talked. I was on the periphery, which felt normal. So, I don’t know what I would have said to him, once your dad was gone. Since he remained connected to you, I felt like he had what he needed, in terms of still feeling close to your dad. And you had what you needed.” She lifted her shoulder. “That’s all that mattered.”
Faith nodded, taking it in, giving it honest thought. “Thank you, Mom. For telling me all of that. It does make sense. And it means a lot.”
Lily nodded, thinking how lucky she was that she and her daughter had always been able to be direct with each other, that talking things out came naturally to them. To that end, when she noticed Faith was still toying with her napkin, she came right out and asked, “Is there something else? Are you nervous about the big day? How is Max handling all the planning chaos?”
Faith seemed to realize she’d twirled her napkin into a tight spiral and gave a rueful smile, putting it back on the table. “I’m excited, nervous, too, I guess, but not about marrying Max. I just want the day to get here so we can throw this big party and get on with the adventure, you know?”
Faith’s eyes were shining with real happiness. She was just so certain of herself, of this next step. Lily knew that and had to remind herself she’d been two years younger than her daughter was now when she’d married Daniel Dawson. They’d still been in college when they’d eloped. They’d been so very certain, too. And they’d been incredibly fortunate to discover that they’d been right. Lily had meant what she’d told Sam. She loved Max, loved his family. They were a generations-old Swan Harbor family, too. Also like Lily and Daniel, Faith and Max had more or less grown up together, too. They’d been a couple even longer than Dan and Lily had been, sending little notes back and forth to each other as early as sixth grade. Best friends, thick as thieves, they’d been finishing each other’s sentences before they’d even reached puberty.
Lily felt a pang in her heart, a little stab of loneliness, of missing her other half. Daniel had been all of that for Lily, though it had taken the pair all the way to high school before they’d started dating.
“How did Dad and Sam become such close friends in the first place?” Faith asked. “I don’t think I ever asked either of them that, or if I did, I don’t remember the answer. I mean, they couldn’t be more different.”
Lily laughed. “Truer words. Actually, Sam was responsible for that, too. Your dad was kinda nerdy, like your mom.” Lily’s smile was a fond one. “I was into science. Your dad was a math whiz. He was a bit…socially awkward at times, definitely reserved.” Her smile spread to a grin. “Whereas I didn’t care so much what people thought and didn’t have a problem speaking my mind.”
Faith laughed. “No,” she said, pretending to be shocked. She propped her elbows on the table and her chin on her hands. “Tell me more.”
“You know how it is, there are always those kinds of kids who make fun of kids like your dad and me. I blew it off, because why would I want them as friends anyway? I didn’t get them, and they surely didn’t get me. I think your dad tuned it out for the most part, too. I was just more obviously dismissive of it. Sam happened to see a bunch of kids picking on your dad one day early in their freshman year in high school. And he stepped in, took care of it.”
Faith’s eyes widened. “He did? Like…how? Beat them all up?”
“No, nothing like that. Sam got most of his height early on, and he was pretty much the most popular guy in school and everywhere else. He didn’t have to do much more than step in for the others to take off.”
“And Dad? What did he say about Sam doing that?”
Lily laughed again. “See, this is the part of your dad that you and I know, but people who didn’t know him, like those other kids back then, not so much. Your dad had this quiet, dry sense of humor that was so wickedly sharp and utterly unexpected. I loved that about him. In fact, that was a large part of what made me fall in love with him, his ability to make me laugh at the most unexpected moments. When the other kids sulked off, their fun ruined, Sam turned to your dad to see if he was okay. Instead saying thank you, Dan just looked at him and deadpanned, ‘I was just about to deliver a withering setdown, but I guess your way works, too.’”
Faith’s eyes went wide. “‘Withering setdown’?” She hooted. “That is so Dad. What did Sam do?”
“What we all always did—he laughed. He was so caught off guard by it, he basically decided he liked Dan right then, and that was that. They were going to be friends. In Sam’s mind, they were from that moment on. To Sam’s credit, he never stepped in again. He truly befriended Dan, sat with him at lunch, they hung out together.” She laughed. “Your dad’s social circle was definitely different for having Sam as a pal. But in return, your dad was the one who helped Sam keep his grades up enough so he stayed on this or that sports team when they were in high school.”
Faith nodded. “Sam told me that without Dad he’d have never made it into college.”
“Their bond was as tight as it was true. I’m glad it continued after Sam left Swan Harbor.” Lily smiled. “And I’m glad we chose him as your godfather.” She leaned back in her chair, her smile turning wry.“I have to say, I didn’t think he’d make as great a one as he has, what with his lifestyle, his work. I should have known, given how his relationship started with your dad, that he’d always stand by you, just like he stood by Dan.”
Lily didn’t miss the considering look in her daughter’s eyes, but before she could say anything, Faith said, “I’m so happy he could rearrange things to get back a little earlier than he’d planned so he could be here in time for the rehearsal and all the other parts leading up to the big day.”
Lily frowned. “What do you mean, earlier than planned?”
“Ooh, cake!” Faith said in response, sitting up straighter and picking up the Brooke’s Bakes signature pink linen napkin and shaking it over her lap.
Brooke reached their table a moment later, carrying a tray loaded with slices of every possible kind of cake in existence. “I can feel my jeans getting snug just looking at those,” she laughingly told Brooke.
“Oh, Brooke, this is amazing.” Faith’s eyes were round as she looked from the display to the baker. “I will never be able to pick one.”
“Maybe we should wait for Max to get here before starting,” Lily said.
Faith laughed at that. “Have you met him? He still eats like he’s a college linebacker. He has never met anything with frosting he doesn’t love. He will be no help whatsoever.”
“Except for keeping us from inhaling all of this ourselves,” Lily said, looking at the array of plates and wanting every slice.
“True,” Faith said, and they both laughed.
“You all take your time,” Brooke told them, beaming proudly at their reaction. “There is a card under each plate with the name of the cake and frosting on it. I’m happy to do any frosting on any cake.” She handed Faith a small sheet of paper. “This is the full list, the pricing, and some notes on the bottom about which frosting is best for certain kinds of decorating. I have a whole binder filled with photos of decorations and cakes I’ve done in the past for you to look through as well.”
“Thank you so much,” Faith said, taking the price sheet, which Lily promptly took from her hand.
“I’ve got this part,” Lily told Brooke.
“I know you and Max want to handle this yourself, but I want to help.”
“You’re letting us take over the farm for our wedding and reception—”
“And I’m taking care of the cake.” She smiled up at Brooke. “Whatever she wants is fine with me.”
Brooke nodded, then looked to Faith. “It’s not often I get to make the wedding cake for two of our own. I’m so excited to be doing this for you. If you don’t see what you want, or have questions on any of it, you’ve only to ask.”
“You’re the best,” Faith said, eyes shining. She looked at Lily. “And thanks, Mom. You really don’t—”
“I really do,” Lily said, then picked up her fork and wiggled her eyebrows. “The only thing left to do is figure out where to start.”
Forty-five minutes later, they were both leaning back in their chairs, dizzy from the sugar rush. “I can’t take another bite. I also can’t decide. I’m sorry,” Lily said. She sighed, her eyes closing. “They are all sogood. I’ll have to jog around the fields for the next week to make up for this.” She opened her eyes and met her daughter’s gaze. “And it will be so worth it.”
Faith let her fork drop to the last sampler plate, then looked at the tray. “What just happened? We only had to taste them.”
They both laughed, then groaned a little as they looked at the cake carnage littering the table. They had made notes. Faith and Lily had both written notes all over the chart Brooke had given them. “I don’t even think I can read my own writing,” Lily said.
Faith nodded, squinting at something she’d scribbled on one of the cake cards. “It’s like we were in a carb frenzy.”
“What happened here?”
Lily’s gaze jerked up and met Sam’s smiling eyes. First with the exposed cleavage, now in a cake coma… Couldn’t he ever, just once, catch her in a good moment? What happened to not caring what people think?
“Wedding cake deliberations,” Faith told him. “I’m sorry, you missed it.” She lifted a plate that had a dab of frosting on the edge. “We lost all control.”
“I remember Brooke’s cakes. I can’t say I blame you.” He swiped a dollop of cream cheese frosting with his fingertip and popped it in his mouth. He closed his eyes and nodded.
Lily told herself not to watch, then didn’t even try to listen. Her throat went dry all over again as she watchedhim in his cake-frosting bliss.
From the corner of her eye, she caught Faith looking at her, then at Sam, then back at her, a very satisfied smile on her face. Too satisfied. Lily’s eyebrows narrowed.
Faith simply smiled sweetly and popped her frosting-covered fingertip between her lips.
Lily was going to have to have a little talk with her daughter, it seemed. She glanced up to Sam.Is he in on this? He seemed oblivious to the undercurrents. Of course, he wasn’t. Lily Marie Foster Dawsonwas the last woman on earth Sam Fletcher would be interested in.
And he’s the last man on earth you can be interested in, she reminded herself. Not that she was interested. Sure, what red-blooded woman wouldn’t swoon a little? He’d been a good-looking kid, and he was a strikingly gorgeous grown man. And then some, her little voice helpfully offered.
Still, if she was ever tempted to take her daughter’s advice and open herself up to so much as considering the idea of dating—God, just the word datingmade her want to crawl back into her rambling old farmhouse and never come out—and even if Sam Fletcher ever saw her as anything but the geeky girl from school he’d quite successfully matched up with his nerdy best friend, the very last person she could consider fair game was Sam Fletcher. Ever.
“Did the tux-fitting go okay?” Faith asked.
“I didn’t know there were so many body parts a person could have measured,” Sam said with a chuckle, “so I certainly hope so.”
Oh my God, Lily Dawson, get your mind out of the gutter. She immediately pretended to study her cake notes and did not—repeat not—think for one more second about the parts of Sam Fletcher that she might like to measure.
Feeling like she was quickly losing control—of herself, of the situation, of life in general—Lily pushed her chair back somewhat abruptly and stood. “I’ll go talk with Brooke, tell her we need some time to decide,” she said, then unashamedly and unapologetically escaped. Again.
Like that was going to fix anything. Sam Fletcher was back. And in Swan Harbor, there were only so many places a person could hide.
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