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Authors: Ginny Baird

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary

The Sometime Bride (3 page)

BOOK: The Sometime Bride
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Before, with gold-digging Alexia, he’d been reluctant to leave his “stable” job in real estate and pursue something more daring. Now, he had nothing in the world to stop him.

“Thought I’d find you down here.”

Mike looked up in surprise to find Carrie standing radiant in the sunlight.

“I believe I have something of yours,” she said, walking towards him and turning over his solitaire in her hand.

Mike stood. “That was awfully nice of you. But you didn’t have to. Particularly after the way I --”

She gave him the soft smile he’d always known her capable of. “Didn’t mean to offend you -- or imply that you, personally, were any kind of jerk. That’s just...uh, been my own unfortunate experience.”

“Yeah well, unfortunately, my experience with women hasn’t run much better.”

A cool morning breeze lifted off the water and fanned Carrie’s long skirt around her legs. “We’re a real pair, aren’t we?” she asked, bending down to smooth out the clingy material that Mike kind of wished she’d left in place. It had been doing a spectacular job at emphasizing the curves of her luscious legs.

“A couple of losers, you mean?” he asked, wrinkling his brow. “Now, I don’t think I’d go as far to say that.”

“Losers, absolutely not,” Carrie said coming over and sitting in a nearby chair. “Just down on our luck a bit at the moment.”

“I’ll say,” Mike said, pulling up another chair and sitting beside her. “Worked a good long time to buy that ring. That last house, especially, was a bear to sell. But I knew if I didn’t have the commission --”

“You’re in real estate?” she asked, looking amused.

“What’s so surprising about that?”

“Oh nothing, really,” she said, pursing her lips and looking toward the pool. “Just somehow I envisioned you in a line of work a little more -- physical.”

Mike spurted a laugh. “Lifeguard, you mean?"
 
He pondered the notion of giving her mouth-to-mouth as she turned her very kissable lips toward his. Lips that had no business looking so damn inviting on such down-right disastrous morning.

Carrie shrugged two silky white shoulders that peered out from beneath her halter-style dress. “Well, sure. That -- or a rock climber. Firefighter. Policeman...”

Carrie bit into her tongue, realizing how very much she sounded as if she were exercising her fantasies. And if she put her mind to it, Carrie was quite certain she could come up with one or two of those involving the well-built man beside her -- clothed or not.

It was probably getting close to check out and time for Carrie to get back to her room. Her first order of business was calling her grandmother to tell her tomorrow afternoon’s bridal shower was off. It would be a sorrowful disappointment to her grandmother and all of her grandmother’s old friends who’d worked so hard in the planning. Not only that, they’d all been expecting to meet the groom! And here Carrie was having to show up empty-handed.

Carrie cast a sideways glance at the man beside her, a totally absurd notion popping into her brain. No, he wouldn’t. She wouldn’t even dare to ask!

“You know the worst part about all of this?” Mike asked, still studying the water. But Carrie truly couldn’t imagine anything worse than the look on her grandmother’s face when Carrie confessed she’d let another eligible bachelor slip right through her ineffectual fingers. “It’s my reunion.”

“Reunion?” Carrie asked.

Mike grimaced. “High school. And, for once, I thought I’d finally have a fighting chance to prove them wrong.”

Carrie heaved a deep sigh, grateful that her own twentieth was still a good, safe five years away. Other than business success, she’d had nothing to show for herself at her tenth, so hadn’t gone. By her twentieth, she’d been certain she’d have a dashing man -- perhaps even a baby or two -- on her arm. Now, she wasn’t so certain.

“Which one is it?” Carrie asked, thinking she knew but feeling it only polite to ask.

“Twentieth,” Mike reported with a frown. A frown that didn’t much become him, Carried decided. His was an open expressive face meant for love and laughter. Carrie blinked hard at the thought, wondering where that love part had come from. “And the sad thing is -- after all these years -- I’m only going to prove those fellows right.”

“Which fellows?” Carrie asked.

“The ones who voted me ‘Most Likely to Remain a Bachelor’.”

“Hmm.”

Mike turned to look at her, his eyes catching a glint of sunshine bouncing off the spreading oaks that surrounded the pool area. They were deep green eyes and swimming like the ocean, a deep lulling current Carrie was quite sure she could get lost in if she wasn’t very, very careful. “That’s not why I proposed to Alexia, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“Alexia?” Carrie pondered. “Sounds very -- sophisticated.”

“That’s a polite way to put it.”

Carrie laughed. “Well, I’m sure not the most objective one to pass judgment at the moment.”

“And you and yours?” Mike asked. “Mr. So-Wonderfully-Terrific you felt compelled to chuck his ring into the pool?”

“Well, I doubt I could be very objective about him either,” Carrie admitted, sheepishly studying her toes through the straps of her sandals. “But then again, men like Wilson Haywood don’t deserve much objectivity.”

Mike cracked a grin. “Wilson, huh? Sounds very -- sophisticated.

Carrie’s lips pulled into a smile.

“Say,” Mike began, his eyes alighting with mischief. “I’ve got it! How about we get your Wilson together with my --”

“Afraid it wouldn’t work,” Carrie said, shaking her head. “Wilson’s already taken.”

“That fast?! That’s gotta be some kind of...

“Oh,” Mike said, his cheeks falling in understanding. “No wonder you chucked his ring! So tell me, what was it with this guy? Deaf, blind or stupid? Or possibly, all three?”

Carrie let loose a belly laugh, delighted with the turn this conversation had taken. “All three, I guess,” she said, giggling into her hand. “And, your girl? Alexis?”

“Alexia,” Mike corrected.

Carrie shrugged.

“You’re right,” Mike agreed. “Really doesn’t matter any more, now does it? I mean, you give a gal the perfect ring...”

Carrie suddenly realized she still had Mike’s ring clutched in her hand with the other. “Oh my goodness,” she said, attempting to pass it over. “Here! I almost forgot!”

Mike shook his head. “Finders, keepers.”

“Now, wait a minute! You left this on the table by accident!”

Mike gave her a sly wink. A wink that did terrific things for the tingles that had been laying dormant in her spine. “You quite sure of that?”

“Of course, I’m sure. You went to all the trouble to dig it out of the pool, didn’t you? The ring obviously still means something to you, even if the woman you intended to wear it doesn’t.”

Yeah, Mike thought, that ring still meant a lot. Like about three thousand dollars, an amount he honestly couldn’t afford to throw away, not with his renewed plans to move to the Caymans. If he was to make that long-lost dream a reality, he’d have to start counting every dime.

Mike stretched a reluctant hand in Carrie’s direction and took back the ring.

“Quite a game of ring toss we’re playing here, eh Mike?” Carrie asked with the most compelling smile he’d seen on her face yet. Boy, wouldn’t his old high school buddies just die if Mike showed up with someone like that on his arm. Classy but genuine, with an unguarded warmth that seemed to be getting hotter by the minute.

Mike wiped an arm across his moistened brow. “Got that right,” he said, giving her a smile. “And, it’s getting a little warm out for ring toss..."
 
Her dark eyes widened, expecting who knows what kind of proposition. “But perfect for a swim,” he finished as he watched the color rush back into her face.

Yessiree, she was quite a looker. Would knock every one of that high school gang out cold! If only Mike could think up a way to take her.

“Oh no,” Carrie said, scrambling to her feet, “I’m not much for swimming.”

“No?” Mike asked, standing beside her. “But why in heaven’s name not? It’s hot as the blazes out --”

Yes, damn it, Carrie could quite appropriately feel the heat. It was sticking to every inch of her with gummy fingers that prickled her skin with perspiration and sent a cascade of droplets sliding down her cleavage. But no way in Hades was she going to let a man as perfectly formed as Mike Davis see her practically naked in a swimsuit -- even her modest one-piece kind. Carrie wore her dresses ankle-length for a reason, a reason that centered mostly around her buttocks and thighs.

“Besides,” Carrie added hastily, “I’ve got some packing to do.”

“Packing?” Mike asked, looking crestfallen. “But, I thought for sure you were staying. Isn’t there some sort of two-night weekend minimum at this place?”

“Why yes, but --”

“Well then, what’s your hurry?”

And why, Carrie wondered scrunching up her lips, was he trying so hard to convince her to stay? “I’ve got things to do,” she informed him. “Arrangements to -- cancel.”

“And tomorrow will be too late?”

“Might be,” she told him, meaning it absolutely. Too late for a lot of things. Particularly her heart. This man, Mike Davis, had an unsettling effect on her. His whole wounded puppy dog ploy had worked wonders at disarming her emotion. Emotion she’d sworn only last night as she stood weeping by this same pool she would indefinitely keep under wraps.

“Aw, come on,” he coaxed with a crooked grin. “I’ll bet your room’s already paid for.”

She looked at him and blinked. The fact was, Wilson had already footed the bill.

“Hey, I’m not proposing anything indecent here."
 
For some reason that admission did not make Carrie happy. “Only a little attempt at sweet revenge.”

Carrie eyed him suspiciously. “Revenge how?”

“Revenge in our not letting them ruin our weekend.”

Big, fat chance of that one, Carrie thought. More than her weekend had been ruined. How about her life? “Listen, Mike,” it’s a sweet idea, your wanting to keep me company and all...”

Now that was putting it mildly, Mike thought, feeling the rising sun beat down through his stuffy cotton shirt. Disturbingly, he was finding himself wanting to more than ‘keep her company.’
 
He wanted the opportunity to not even let her out of his sight -- for the next twenty-four hours at least.

The guy who’d tossed Carrie away just as cavalierly as Alexia had thrown his ring in the pool had been a total imbecile. The sweat dribbled down Mike’s open shirt collar and pooled, damn it, somewhere near his naval. Without even trying, the woman set him virtually on fire. And here she was saying she was about to leave?

Carrie tapped her toe against the pool deck and considered his disappointingly not-so-indecent proposal. Forgetting the drop-dead gorgeous part, he did appear to be a very nice guy. Maybe even nice enough to be her friend. Which would be a definite first for Carrie St. John, as she’d never befriended any man for longer than thirty-six hours without things between them becoming intimate. But, of course, as her track record only consisted of two serious beaus, maybe she was being a bit hasty in making a sweeping assessment.

Besides, friendship was good. Perhaps even what she most needed at the moment. And having a friend who looked, and carried himself like the athletically-inclined Mike Davis, could quite possibly come in handy. Maybe even in the very near future.

“Alright, I’ll stay,” Carrie said, “but under one condition.”

“Any condition’s fine with me,” Mike said, knowing that at long as whatever it was involved his taking off his boiling clothes, it would be A-Okay with him. Particularly if it involved Carrie St. John stripping down as well.

“You understand this thing between us is about comradery. Two down-and-outs on the same flip side of the coin. Compadres.”

Mike gave her a tight smile, damning every inner instinct he had and telling his licentious libido to behave. “Sure thing, Carrie,” he said, reaching out an arm to shake her hand. “We’ll play it any way you want.”

 

 

****

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

Carrie sat in the narrow oaken stairwell finally getting a cell signal. The remoteness of the inn made service unpredictable. Carrie hadn't been able to pick up more than two bars anywhere but here.

She nervously twirled a lock of chestnut hair, rehearsing what she would tell her grandmother. I’m sorry, Grandmother, but things just didn’t work out... No, Carrie had already been there and done that one. Besides, her second strike would make her look like a total washout, not the “together” young woman her adoring Grandma Russell took her to be.

Grandmother, there’s been a last-minute change in plans...

Nope, that would only make her look inconsiderate. Horribly inconsiderate, given the wedding shower was scheduled for tomorrow.

Carrie sighed and hit autodial, trusting something brilliant would come to mind the instant she heard her grandmother’s voice.

BOOK: The Sometime Bride
7.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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