Authors: Kathryn Shay
Tags: #brothers, #trilogy kindle books, #about families, #contemporary romance novel, #Online dating site, #keeping secrets and telling lies, #Bed and Breakfast owner
Meant to Be
Copyright 2011, Kathryn Shay
Previously published 2000
Cover art by Patricia Ryan
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to the bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Discover other titles by Kathryn Shay
After The Fire
On The Line
Nothing More To Lose
Someone To Believe In
Close to You
Taking The Heat
Trust in Me
Promises To Keep
Ties That Bind
Still The One
Someone Like You
Maybe This Time
The Father Factor
Just One Night
A Price Worth Paying
Finally a Family
Practice Makes Perfect
A Place to Belong
Against the Odds
The Serenity House Trilogy boxed set
Home for Christmas
Cop of the Year
Because It’s Christmas
Count on Me
Bayview Heights Trilogy boxed set
America’s Bravest boxed set
“You’re a liar, Cole Porter Matheson, and you’re about to pay for it.” The accusation came from one of Cole’s older brothers, Joey, who right now lounged by the door, coffee mug in hand.
Cole stood in front of a beveled-glass mirror, checking out his appearance. He needed all the help he could get today and looking good was a necessity.
“Have you learned nothing from me and Spence?” Joe continued.
Since this line of reasoning came up often after Cole had confessed to his brothers what he’d done for the last several months, Cole had developed a pithy response. “Yep.” He straightened the lapels of his taupe blazer, under which he wore a dark blue T-shirt. The latter brought out the color of his eyes. “I learned that lying isn’t the death knell of relationships. You and Dana lied to each other and now you’re both over the moon.”
Joe grinned ear to ear. It was nice to see his taciturn brother so full of joy these days. “We are.” He sipped his coffee. “So are Spence and Annie.”
“It’s the babies.” Cole smirked. “I told you so.”
Both Joe’s wife and Spence’s were pregnant. Since the love of Cole’s life was his twenty-one-month-old daughter, Ellie, he couldn’t be happier with his brothers’ situations.
“So, when’s Dana getting here?”
“She’s bringing Kara and Kae as soon as she finishes work. The girls spend half their time at the studio these days.”
Dana was a former prima ballerina and now a dance teacher, which was remarkable because she was confined to a wheelchair. She’d been at the peak of her career when a girder had fallen on her backstage, causing a crush injury from the knees down, but she hadn’t let that destroy her. Cole couldn’t think of anyone he admired more for her courage and determination. They’d become fast friends in the months since Joe had married her. If his apartment building hadn’t had an elevator, Cole would have moved out to accommodate Dana.
Joe sobered. “Seriously, Cole, are you nervous?”
Cole stared in the glass and held Joe’s gaze. “No razzing?”
“Not this time. But you only get one bye.”
“Unbelievably.” He ran a hand through his dark hair, making a mess of it, because it was too long. “I’ve deceived Beth in two major ways on RightMatch—about my age and the fact that I have a child. It’s going to take a lot to charm her out of her…pique.”
Leaning more heavily into the doorjamb, Joe rubbed his scratchy-looking jaw. “You might wanna think of it as more than pique, buddy. My guess is you’re in for an avalanche of anger.”
“Yeah.” He faced Joe. “Say some prayers for me. Now let’s go see if Ellie’s up from her nap.”
Joe grabbed Cole’s arm as he tried to brush past him. “I’ve found that admitting my mistakes and not trying to justify them is the best way.” He snorted. “And I’ve had tons of occasions to grovel.”
Cole wished for the millionth time that he’d played this whole thing with Beth differently. “Spence said that, too.”
“Listen to both of us.”
“I will. But it’s going to take a miracle for Beth to forgive me.”
Looking down at his wedding ring, Joe grinned again. “Yeah, well, some of those have been doled out lately to our family.”
“I just hope God’s got one more up His sleeve.”
Because Cole knew the lies he’d told Beth Montgomery online for the last six months were going to be hard, if not impossible, to forgive.
“Maybe I should change again.”
“Elizabeth Montgomery, don’t be an idiot. You look great.” Beth’s closest friend, MJ Barnes, made the admonishment from where she sat on the sleigh bed in Beth’s suite of rooms at The Montgomery Inn, which she owned and where she’d moved when her husband died six years ago.
Still, Beth stared into the mirror as she scrutinized the soft peach blouse she wore with a matching skirt. “Maybe the outfit’s too young for me. I told you that when you insisted I buy it.”
she been thinking when she’d asked MJ to go along with her to buy something special for tonight? MJ had a flare for the dramatic, whereas Beth was more demure in her clothes and outlook.
“The outfit is beautiful. The color goes great with your hair.”
“Why didn’t I cut it this summer? It’s too long.”
“That’s it.” MJ stood, grabbed Beth by the arm and literally dragged her out of her suite. “I’m taking you outside for a glass of wine. It’ll calm you.”
Once they’d settled on the cedar deck sprawling off the Inn, overlooking Honey Lake, Beth sipped her wine and tried to calm down. MJ was right; this reaction was stupid.
As if reading her thoughts, MJ said, “Listen and listen good, sister. You stopped dating that Lewis guy because you felt a connection to Cole’s profile when he indicated he was interested in you. You’ve corresponded for nearly six months online. You’re crazy about him, as he is about you. Personally, I can’t believe you waited this long to meet.”
“I like to take my time.”
“So does he, apparently, which is to his credit. As is his thoughtfulness, his easygoing charm, his sensitive insights.”
Another mistake Beth had made—letting MJ read some of her and Cole’s correspondence. But the woman was her best friend, as well as manager of the Inn, and Beth had needed advice and support to pursue the relationship online. Ava, her daughter, had signed her up. Beth had talked with a few guys, but Cole was the first she’d agreed to meet in person. She hadn’t dated anyone since Peter died six years ago, and so her first foray into the singles’ pool was nerve-wracking. Still, MJ was right. She felt inexorably close to Cole from their intense cyber relationship over the last half year. It seemed as if they’d shared everything.
MJ glanced at her watch and gulped the rest of her drink. “I’m leaving. Much as I want to stay and see what Price Charming looks like in the flesh, I won’t.”
“Hmm,” Beth said dreamily. “Since his picture was a profile, I can’t wait to get a look at his face.”
After MJ left her, Beth took their glasses into the inn, straightened up the kitchen, and stared out the back window, thinking of Cole’s suggestion for the weekend…
We’ve been talking online a long time, honey.
She hadn’t been startled by his endearment. He did that all the time in IMs, texts and emails.
Got something in mind, handsome?
He typed a smiley face, then,
She waited. Did she really want to do this?
So they’d set a date. Every year, she and MJ closed the Inn for a week in August to enjoy some lake time of their own. MJ spent it with her husband and son, who lived in town, and Beth invited her own son and daughter down for a few days. Both would come Monday after Cole left.
Worrying about what Ava and Rob would think of Cole, she fidgeted with the stem of her wine glass until she heard the doorbell. Her stomach leapfrogged, but she forced herself to breathe deeply as she did in the yoga classes that she took whenever she could get away from the Inn. Raising her chin, she made her way to the front door. She could see Cole’s outline through the glass of the double, oak doors.
she thought, swinging one open.
And there he stood. Oh, dear God. He was drop-dead gorgeous!
She was lovely, standing in front of him, her auburn hair catching the light coming in through the windows of the Inn’s entryway. Her pretty locks were longer than in her online photo, and richer.
He came out of his trance first and realized they were both staring at each other. He grinned, she smiled, and said, “Hello, Cole. Your picture doesn’t do you justice.”
Most of the time he didn’t care about his looks. But today, he wanted his appearance to please her. “I was thinking the same thing about you.”
She blushed. How cute. When
the last time he’d seen a woman react so demurely? Her hand went to the locket at her neck and rested in the V of her shirt. He dragged his eyes away from the delightful sight and opened his arms. “How about a hug? I think we know each other well enough for one.”
Hesitating only a second, she stepped into his embrace. He enfolded her, pressed his lips against her hair and inhaled the fresh scent of her—something paradoxically innocent and alluring. “Hmm. That’s better.” He asked, “Still nervous?”
I’m nervous about meeting,
she’d said last night.
No, no don’t say that. I’m looking forward to it like a kid on Christmas morning.
She nosed into his shirt. “Not so much. I’m glad you’re here.”
“Me, too. And I’m glad we didn’t go by the suggestions of the site—to meet in a public place.”
Since their last names, their locations and details about their families had come up several times online, the precaution seemed ludicrous.
“We should have. But I feel like I know you so well…”
When she stepped back, she raised her chin and even her eyes—hazel with flecks of green—smiled at him. “I’ve made hors d’oeuvres and a cold supper of shrimp and salad. Would you like something to drink with them?”
“I’d take a Scotch, if you’ve got it.”
She chuckled and gestured to the right. From what he’d seen already, the Inn was huge with sprawling rooms off the foyer and three levels of guest suites. “I have a whole bar, Cole. Follow me.”
The cocktail lounge was mostly wood—planks on the floor, real pine paneling halfway up the wall, broken by some drywall painted a soft beige, then a pine-slanted ceiling. “Wow. This room is beautiful. Who did the carpentry?”
Ah, the husband, dead now six years. Though he’d tried not to—knew it was a big kind of stupid—over the course of their conversations, he’d become jealous of a dead man.…
Peter was a terrific father—he and Rob were so close.
Well, Cole matched the guy in that area. Although Cole was good at a lot of things, he knew he was best at being a dad.
He was a brilliant man. His company was very successful.
Cole remembered thinking at the time,
Probably not as successful as me, the boy genius
, as the people in the computer world called him.
Taking a seat on a stool covered in butter-soft leather, he watched her pour him a Scotch and herself a glass of wine. He rubbed his free hand on the dark-stained wood. “He make this, too?”
Cole was a klutz at carpentry and construction, anything that smacked of
His brothers teased him mercilessly when they tried to teach him skills. The only thing he’d mastered was painting.
Cocking her head, she angled her chin to the back of the Inn. “Let’s go out to the deck.”
He followed her there, sparing only brief glances at a big dining room and two large sitting rooms decorated in—not his taste—early American. But he loved the modern kitchen, skylights and open air of the whole rear area.
They walked into a screened-in porch that took up half of the rear of the Inn, off which sprawled a deck butting up to the other side of the building.
“Wow, Beth, it’s beautiful back here. Really private.”