Authors: Melissa Foster
Sea of Love
The Bradens, Book Four
ove in Bloom Series
“A passionate and romantic exploration of
fear and love."
—Keri Nola, bestselling author
This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author and do not represent the opinions or thoughts of the publisher. The author has represented and warranted full ownership and/or legal right to publish all the materials in this book.
SEA OF LOVE
All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2013 Melissa Foster
This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means, including graphic, electronic, or mechanical, without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Cover Design: Natasha Brown
WORLD LITERARY PRESS
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A Note to Readers
Sea of Love
is the seventh book in the
Love in Bloom
series, and the fourth book of
. While it may be read as a stand-alone novel, for even more enjoyment you may want to read the rest of the
Love in Bloom
For the Starfish girls
PRAISE FOR MELISSA FOSTER
"Contemporary romance at its hottest. Each Braden sibling left me craving the next. Sensual, sexy, and satisfying, the Braden series is a captivating blend of the dance between lust, love, and life."
—Bestselling author Keri Nola, LMHC
"[LOVERS AT HEART] Foster’s tale of stubborn yet persistent love takes us on a heartbreaking and soul-searing journey."
“Smart, uplifting, and beautifully layered.
I couldn’t put it down!”
—National bestselling author Jane Porter
Sisters in Love)
"Steamy love scenes, emotionally-charged drama, and a family-driven story make this the perfect story for any romance reader."
—Midwest Book Review
Sisters in Bloom)
“HAVE NO SHAME is a powerful testimony to love and the progressive, logical evolution of social consciousness, with an outcome that readers will find engrossing, unexpected, and ultimately eye-opening.”
—Midwest Book Review
“[WHERE PETALS FALL] With vivid prose and a tender heart, Melissa Foster has crafted a psychological and emotional mystery fueled by love in all its forms.”
—Jennie Shortridge, Author of
Love Water Memory
"TRACES OF KARA is psychological suspense at its best, weaving a tight-knit plot, unrelenting action, and tense moments that don't let up, and ending in a fiery, unpredictable revelation."
—Midwest Book Review
“[MEGAN’S WAY] A wonderful, warm, and thought-provoking story...a deep and moving book that speaks to men as well as women, and I urge you all to put it on your reading list."
“[CHASING AMANDA] Secrets make this tale outstanding.”
“COME BACK TO ME is a hauntingly beautiful love story set against the backdrop of betrayal in a broken world.”
—Sue Harrison, bestselling author
LACY SNOW SAT between Kaylie Crew and Danica Carter, literally surrounded by her half sisters. In the year and a half since she’d met them, they’d become her closest friends, her coconspirators, and the women she most looked up to. She’d known they existed her whole life, but as the child of their father’s mistress of more than twenty years, she couldn’t exactly knock on their front door and introduce herself.
Kaylie reached for her hand and squeezed, flashing a sisterly smile. She and Lacy shared the same robin’s-egg-blue eyes and buttery blond hair, though Kaylie’s was shiny with a natural wave and Lacy’s was a mass of spiral curls, like Danica’s, save for the color. Danica took after their father with dark hair and olive skin.
“God, this place is gorgeous,” Kaylie said.
“It was built in a similar fashion to the original Chequesset Inn, which perished during an ice storm in the 1930s,” Lacy said.
Max and Treat had fallen in love in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, and it was only fitting that they wed at the Wellfleet Inn. The two-story inn overlooked the bay. Treat owned resorts all over the world, so it came as no surprise when he purchased the inn and added it to his collection.
“Oh my God,” Kaylie whispered. “You’re such a fact girl.” She looked at the altar. “Excited?”
, Lacy mouthed. She’d waited fifteen months to see Dane Braden, Treat’s younger brother, in-person again. Fifteen long months of sharing emails, intimate phone calls, sexy video chats, and too many unfulfilled fantasies to count. Fifteen months of Lacy working twelve-hour days seven days a week, vying for a promotion at her job, and long nights spent dreaming of Dane. She reached for Danica’s hand and—deep in conversation with her husband, Blake—Danica took Lacy’s hand like it was the most natural thing in the world. She’d met Danica and Kaylie just before their double wedding, in a Nassau resort owned by Treat Braden, the six-foot-six, darkly handsome man now standing at the altar, gazing into their friend Max Armstrong’s eyes. Max’s dark hair fell in gentle waves over the spaghetti straps and soft lines of the beachy wedding gown that Riley Banks, Treat’s brother Josh’s fiancée, designed for her. Weddings had a way of making the beautiful even more glamorous. Max and Treat were a striking couple, and they should have held Lacy’s attention as Treat held Max’s hand and looked lovingly into her eyes, promising her a lifetime of adoration, but Lacy’s gaze shifted to his right. To the line of Treat’s four striking brothers, proudly standing as his groomsmen, each one more handsome than the next. Each brother’s dark eyes were trained on their eldest brother as he vowed to love, honor, and cherish his soon-to-be wife—each one except Dane. Dane’s smoldering dark eyes stared hungrily at Lacy, sending a shock of heat right through her.
Damn, he’s sexy
. Lacy couldn’t blink. She couldn’t look away. Hell, she couldn’t breathe.
“Careful,” Kaylie whispered, “you’ll drool on that pretty dress of yours.”
Lacy felt her face flush, but she still couldn’t tear her gaze away. Each of the Braden brothers had thick dark hair, and while Treat and Josh wore their hair short and Rex wore his cowboy-long, covering his collar, Dane’s hair fell somewhere in between, as if he’d missed his last trim; it brushed the tops of his ears, with sides that looked like he’d just run his hands through them.
. Lacy narrowed her eyes.
That’s not it at all
. As she watched Dane’s lips lift into a smile, she bit her lower lip and thought,
He looks like he could have just come from the bedroom—or, like he’s ready for it
He winked, and Lacy caught her breath.
“Behave,” Kaylie warned.
“Oh my God,” Lacy whispered, drawing her eyes to her lap. “He’s so…”
“Sexy? Gorgeous? Hot?” Kaylie offered, arching a brow.
“Shh.” Danica shot a harsh stare at them.
Lacy and Kaylie drew their blond heads together with a silent giggle. Danica shook her head, and though Lacy couldn’t see her face, she knew that her eldest sister was rolling her eyes at them with her lips pinched in a tight line.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Mr. and Mrs. Treat Braden.”
The announcement sent a shiver of nervous energy through her stomach. Everyone stood as Max and Treat walked down the aisle hand in hand. Max’s smile lit up her eyes, and Treat walked with his shoulders back, his eyes on Max, beaming with pride. Kaylie’s blond hair tumbled down her back as she reached her sinewy arms around her husband Chaz’s neck and kissed him. Lacy watched Danica smile lovingly at Blake; then he took her chin in his hand and kissed her. Lacy turned away, thinking about Dane.
As Treat and Max approached, Lacy and her sisters tossed rose petals.
“Congratulations!” Lacy shouted, but her eyes had already left Treat and Max and had settled on Dane once again. She hadn’t remembered how broad his chest was, and the wanton look in his eyes hadn’t seemed quite as strong over Skype and FaceTime. Her pulse ratcheted up a notch.
“You’re so beautiful!” Danica said to Max.
The groomsmen made their way down the aisle next, and Kaylie squeezed Lacy’s hand so hard that Lacy winced.
“There he is,” Kaylie said.
“Stop,” Lacy said under her breath. “I’m nervous enough.”
Dane walked toward her, his perfect pearly white teeth visible through his wide smile. His broad shoulders swayed slightly, and those dark eyes of his never wavered from hers. Her legs turned to Jell-O, and she gripped the back of the chair for stability. The man in the aisle in front of hers reached for Dane.
“Hey, buddy. I haven’t seen you in months. Good to see you,” the older man said.
Dane embraced the tall, thin man, his eyes still pinning Lacy in place. “You, too, Smitty. We’ll catch up at the reception.” Dane took a step closer to Lacy’s row. He embraced his cousin. “Blake, great to see you.” Then he pulled Danica into a soft hug and kissed her cheek. “You look as gorgeous as ever,” he said. He reached for Kaylie next.
Lacy’s heart slammed against her chest as Blake and Danica moved into the aisle, following the rest of the guests into the reception room. She had forgotten how tall he felt when he was near, and as she watched him wrap his arms around Kaylie, she realized that she’d also forgotten how large his hands were.
Big hands, big— Stop it!
“We need to call our sitter before the reception. Good to see you,” Kaylie said. She gave Dane a quick hug and pulled Chaz behind her, leaving Lacy alone with Dane.
IT HAD BEEN four hundred and fifty-seven days since Dane had seen Lacy in person.
Too damn long
. He reached for her hands and then drew her close, placing one soft kiss on each cheek and inhaling the sweet smell that he remembered: a combination of citrus and floral with an underlying hint of musk. To anyone else, it was Chanel Coco Noir. To Dane, it was the smell of Lacy that he remembered from the day they’d met, and their only afternoon together, the day before her sisters’ double wedding in Nassau. The smell he’d dreamed of, which had carried him through those long afternoons out at sea when they were tagging sharks miles from shore.
Her slim fingers trembled against his palms. A shy smile lifted her supple lips and sent Dane’s pulse into overdrive.
“Hi,” she said softly.
Her blond curls fell in thick spiral ropes across her tanned, lean shoulders. She wore a royal-blue halter dress that fell to the middle of her thighs, revealing her long, toned legs. It just barely covered the edge of the scar Dane knew held the worst of her fears. Dane lowered his lips to one of her slender hands and pressed a soft kiss to it. All those months of emails, phone calls, and video chats came rushing back. They had never been enough, but his demanding travel schedule as founder of the Brave Foundation made it almost impossible to steal away for a weekend, and Lacy was working day and night in hopes of obtaining a promotion, so even if he had found the time, she probably wouldn’t have been able to break away. Brave’s mission was to use education and innovative advocacy programs to protect sharks, and in a broader sense, the world’s oceans. Dane’s passion for saving and educating had begun right after college and had only grown since. He’d created a life around doing what he loved, and now he lived on a boat off the coast of Florida, where Brave’s headquarters were located. He had a small administrative staff and was well connected enough to have temporary staff and volunteers in the areas where he worked. When he wasn’t in the water, he could be found running the foundation, which required heavy travel, a busy social calendar, and a boatload of ass-kissing. Unfortunately, over those months, his and Lacy’s schedules hadn’t come together.
“Are you going to introduce me, or just block the aisle?” Dane’s younger brother Rex pushed in between them.
Dane shook his head to clear his thoughts. Rex was a year and a half younger than him and had worked their family ranch for years, which was apparent in his brawny cowboy build. Dane turned to face his brother with a joking sneer.
“Isn’t Jade around here somewhere?” Dane asked.
A year earlier, Rex had fallen in love with Jade Johnson, and their love had brought a long-standing family feud to a head—and then to a long-overdue end. Dane had never seen his brother so happy. Rex and Jade had bought the property in between the two families’ ranches in Weston, Colorado, and had recently built a house there.
As he stared into Rex’s dark eyes, he had a momentary flash of unease. His height matched Rex’s six-foot-three inches, but his brother’s arms were as thick as tree trunks, and the way his tux stretched tightly over his massive chest would turn on any woman. He knew his brother’s ever-present five-o’clock shadow and longish hair gave him a bad-boy quality that had sent even the strongest women into a state of rapture. But Dane also knew that there was no need for a silent warning, or even a hint of possessiveness where Lacy was concerned. Rex had eyes only for Jade, and he was all too aware that Lacy wasn’t his to possess.
“Step aside.” Rex pushed his massive forearm across Dane’s chest and held out a hand to Lacy. “I’m Rex, Dane’s brother. You must be Lacy.”
Lacy blushed. “Yes, hi,” she said. Her eyes darted to Dane, and the surprise in them was blatant. “He’s mentioned me?”
Rex laughed. “Oh, he might have mentioned you once or twice.” He cracked a crooked smile at Dane. “Pleasure to meet you, Lacy. No wonder Dane was so distracted during the ceremony. Well”—he let out a dramatic sigh—“you two kids have fun. If you’ll excuse me, I need to find my girlfriend.”
“Bastard,” Dane whispered as Rex passed with a sly grin and gave Dane a playful shove. The room emptied quickly as the guests moved toward the reception hall. Dane turned his attention back to Lacy.
“I’m glad you’re here.”
“Me too.” Lacy smiled. “Your brother seems nice.”
“Yeah, he is,” Dane said. The image of Lacy wearing the tiny bikini she’d worn in Nassau came rushing back to him. He swallowed hard to repress the memory before it could excite him the way it had over recent nights, when he knew he’d be seeing her again.
“Save me a dance?” He’d felt the anticipation of seeing Lacy mounting for weeks, but he hadn’t expected his nerves to be strewn so tight, or the desire to kiss her to be so strong. He stood so close to her that all it would take was the slightest dip of his head to settle his lips over hers, to tangle his hands in her hair and pull her against him.
“Sure,” she answered, and he’d almost forgotten that he’d asked her a question.
His father’s deep voice pulled him from his thoughts.
Hal Braden took a couple steps toward them. He stood a few inches taller than Dane. His skin was a deep bronze, rivaling Dane’s rich tan. Fine lines snaked out from his father’s eyes and mouth, and a deep vee hunkered between his thick brows. “Excuse me. I’m sorry for interrupting.” He held his hand out to Lacy. “Hal Braden, Dane’s father.”
Lacy shook his hand. “I’m Lacy.”
“Dad, this is Lacy Snow.” Dane watched his father’s dark eyes change from serious to warm.
“Lacy Snow. Related to Blake’s wife, Danica?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m her half…her youngest sister.” She flushed again.
Dane had an urge to put his arm around her and comfort the nerves he heard in her voice.
Hal nodded. “Well, any sister of Danica’s is a friend of ours. It’s a pleasure to meet you. They’re taking pictures, Dane. Don’t be too long.”
“I’ll be right in, Dad,” Dane said. He watched his father walk away and felt pride swell in his heart. He’d always had a good relationship with his father, and now, at thirty-six years old, he found himself seeing his father in a different way. Dane’s mother had passed away when he was only nine years old, and his father had raised him, his four brothers, and their sister. And to this day, when he spoke of their mother, the love he exuded hadn’t dimmed. Dane hadn’t thought of marriage very often, but lately he wondered—no, he hoped—that one day he’d find whatever it was that his parents had found together. He wanted to experience that love.
“You’d better go in,” Lacy said. She blinked her long lashes several times and fidgeted with her hands.
God, she’s cute when she’s nervous
. Dane wondered if she could tell that he was just as nervous as she was. The last thing he wanted to do was leave her side, but the sooner he got those pictures over with, the sooner he could be with her again. “Yeah. I’d better. Remember our dance, okay?”
“I look forward to it.”