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Authors: Elle Aycart

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BOOK: Inked Ever After
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“I know, Mom. It’s okay.”

Her mother smiled sadly, fresh tears running down her face.
“No, baby, it’s not okay. I didn’t want to accept reality, didn’t even see the
damage I was doing to the rest of my family until it was almost too late. Until
I almost lost you too. I want you to know how proud I am of the way you kept
Elle and me afloat. Rosita’s is thriving, the memories of your father and
brother alive there and not wiped out by some new owner, and it’s all thanks to
you. You made that possible. One day, your kids and Elle’s will be able to sit by
the counter, eating a snack and laughing at the goofy pictures on the walls. At
that one with your dad and Jonah dressed like clowns for Mardi Gras, tending
the bar, remember?” Tate had nodded, totally overwhelmed. Her throat vibrating
so hard even her ears hurt. “You gave them that, baby. It’s all because of
you.”

Tate couldn’t take it anymore and had thrown herself into
her mom’s arms, makeup and dress be damned.

“Honey, about Ron—” her mother began.

“I like him, Mom. It’s okay, really. You don’t need to
explain.”

Her mom shook her head. “I do need to explain, because you
need to know. I like him too, but whatever happens in the future between us, he
will never replace your dad in my heart. I will always love your dad. Always.”

That, of course, got Tate crying harder.

“Your father would have given anything to be here,” her
mother had said into the crook of her neck. “He was so proud of you. And he
would have approved of James. He would have had a cow at first, but it would
have taken him about five minutes to see through him—he was clever that way,
your father. Jonah, being more stubborn, would have taken longer to come
around, but he would have.”

Yeah, her father and Jonah had both been clever that way.
They could read people a mile away. That’s probably why they never liked Aidan.

“I’m sure they’re watching now, grinning from ear to ear,
loving the dress. Not so sure about the green thing peeking from your back,
though.”

At that they’d broken out in laughter, which rapidly
dissolved into more tears.

They’d wailed in each other’s arms for a while. Then Elle
had come into the room. She’d grimaced, right away understanding what was going
on.

“Guys, no, no,” she’d muttered, heading for them and
embracing them. “Don’t do this to me now.”

They’d clung to each other for a long time, Tate and her mom
sobbing, Elle holding on by her last thread, squeezing her sister and mother.

“Enough,” she’d said, her eyes shiny. That was Elle, brazen
and taking charge, but easily freaked out by touchy-feely scenes. “Let’s get rolling.
We’ll be late.”

And that had been the end of it. Her mom was similar to Elle
in that way. Tate took longer to process things, and that outburst of emotion
coming from her mother had left her shaken. And shaken and vulnerable was a bad
thing to be when you were about to walk down the aisle.

Suddenly she felt her mom tugging at her, taking her out of
her thoughts. Her mouth was moving. “We’re on,” she thought she read on her
lips.

Oh God. This was it.

Her heart in her mouth and her stomach at her feet, she
stepped into the yard, her mother by her side. The second she lifted her gaze
from the ground, her breath caught in her throat. The night was lit by
thousands of small lights that adorned the whole garden—it was so beautiful.
But that wasn’t all; the place was full, as in absolutely packed, a sea of
heads turned her way. Oh God. God. God. So many people, where did they come
from? Maybe she should have paid more attention to the wedding arrangements and
not given carte blanche to her mother and Aunt Maggie.

Panicking, she grabbed her mom’s hand, her eyes darting
around. She spotted some familiar faces—patrons from Rosita’s, employees,
friends from her old corporate job, neighbors from Boston and Florida—but most
people she didn’t know.

She faltered.

And then she saw Em, looking at her with tears in her eyes,
a big smile on her face. Tate’s knees almost buckled.

She glanced forward. James was standing at the end of the
aisle formed by the rows of chairs on each side. He looked tall and handsome in
a black tux, watching her, his eyes soft. By his side were Jack and his father.
On the other side was Elle, and standing beside her were Cole and Max.

She stopped abruptly, her throat closing over. James was
giving her his brothers. They were going to be standing by her side, and Elle’s
and her mother’s, in the places where her dad and brother would have stood. Her
eyes were filling with tears. He wasn’t only giving himself to her, but he was
also giving her his family. She’d never again feel alone or scared, because she
was now one of them, and they would always have her back—hers and the rest of
the Cooper women’s.

James held his hand out to her, and she all but ran to him.
Without a second’s hesitation, she took it, lacing her fingers with his.

“Everything okay, princess?” he whispered, squeezing her
hand reassuringly.

Unable to get a word out around the football lodged in her
throat, Tate nodded and threw herself at him, encircling his shoulders with the
hand she held the bouquet in. She brought her lips against his, kissing him
long and hard, her free hand sinking into his hair.

The whole place exploded in loud cheers and spontaneous
whoops. She heard people whistling all around her, clapping too, but she only
had eyes for James.

Yes, everything was going to be okay. More than that; as
long as she had James by her side, everything was going to be perfect.

Loose Id Titles by
Elle Aycart

Heavy Issues

Inked Ever After

More than Meets the Ink

Elle Aycart

After a colorful array of jobs all over Europe ranging from
translator to chocolatier to travel Agent to sushi chef to flight dispatcher,
Elle Aycart is certain of one thing and one thing only: aside from writing
romances, she has abso-frigging-lutely no clue what she wants to do when she
grows up. Not that it stops her from trying all sorts of crazy stuff. While she
is probably now thinking of a new profession, her head never stops churning new
plots for her romances. Keep in touch with Elle by visiting her at
http://elleaycart.blogspot.com
.

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BOOK: Inked Ever After
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