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The Wedding Favor
A Save the Date Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Date of Publication: 12/31/2013
In her deliciously sexy debut, Cara Connelly gives a whole new meaning to crashing a wedding.
BEFORE THE WEDDING Tyrell Brown wanted to get the hell out of Houston and back to his ranch. Instead, he’s stuck on a flight to France for his best friend’s wedding. To top it off, he discovers he’s sharing a seat with Victoria Westin, the blue-eyed, stiletto-heeled lawyer who’s been a thorn in his side for months.
AT THE WEDDING Victoria can’t believe it! How can she be at the same wedding as this long, lead cowboy with a killer smile? So what if they shared a few in-flight cocktails, some serious flirting, and a near-miss at the mile-high club? She still can’t stand the man!
AFTER THE WEDDING The wedding disaster’s in the rearview, but the sizzle between these two is still red-hot. They tried to be on their best behavior in France, but back in the States all bets are off…
The Wedding Favor
“That woman,” Tyrell aimed his finger like a gun at the blonde across the hall, “is a bitch on wheels.”
Angela set a calming hand on his arm. “That’s why she’s here, Ty. That’s why they sent her.”
He paced away from Angela, then back again, eyes locked on the object of his fury. She was talking on a cell phone, angled away from him so all he could see was her smooth French twist and the simple gold hoop in her right earlobe.
“She’s got ice water in her veins,” he muttered. “Or arsenic. Or whatever the hell they embalm people with.”
“She’s just doing her job. And in this case, it’s a thankless one. They can’t win.”
Ty turned his roiling eyes on Angela. He would have started in – again – about hired-gun lawyers from New York City coming down to Texas thinking all they had to do was bullshit a bunch of good ole boys who’d never made it past eighth grade, but just then the clerk stepped out of the judge’s chambers.
“Ms. Sanchez,” she said to Angela. “Ms. Westin,” to the blonde. “We have a verdict.”
Across the hall, the blonde snapped her phone shut and dropped it in her purse, snatched her briefcase off the tile floor and, without looking at Angela or Ty, or anyone else for that matter, walked briskly through the massive oak doors and into the courtroom. Ty followed several paces behind, staring bullets in the back of her tailored navy suit.
Twenty minutes later they walked out again. A reporter from Houston Tonight stuck a microphone in Ty’s face.
“The jury obviously believed you, Mr. Brown. Do you feel vindicated?”
I feel homicidal, he wanted to snarl. But the camera was rolling. “I’m just glad it’s over,” he said. “Jason Taylor dragged this out for seven years, trying to wear me down. He didn’t.”
He continued striding down the broad hallway, the reporter jogging alongside.
“Mr. Brown, the jury came back with every penny of the damages you asked for. What do you think that means?”
“It means they understood that all the money in the world won’t raise the dead. But it can cause the living some serious pain.”
“Taylor’s due to be released next week. How do you feel knowing he’ll be walking around a free man?”
Ty stopped abruptly. “While my wife’s cold in the ground? How do you think I feel?” The man shrank back from Ty’s hard stare, decided not to follow as Ty strode out through the courthouse doors.
Outside, Houston’s rush hour was a glimpse inside the doors of hell. Scorching pavement, blaring horns. Eternal gridlock.
Ty didn’t notice any of it. Angela caught up to him on the sidewalk, tugged his arm to slow him down. “Ty, I can’t keep up in these heels.”
“Sorry.” He slowed to half speed. Even as pissed off as he was, Texas courtesy was ingrained.
Taking her bulging briefcase from her hand, he smiled down at her in a good imitation of his usual laid-back style. “Angie, honey,” he drawled, “you could separate your shoulder lugging this thing around. And believe me, a separated shoulder’s no joke.”
“I’m sure you’d know about that.” She slanted a look up from under thick black lashes, swept it over his own solid shoulders. Angling her slender body toward his, she tossed her wavy black hair and tightened her grip on his arm.
Ty got the message. The old breast-crushed-against-the-arm was just about the easiest signal to read.
And it came as no surprise. During their long days together preparing for trial, the cozy take-out dinners in her office as they went over his testimony, Angela had dropped plenty of hints. Given their circumstances, he hadn’t encouraged her. But she was a beauty, and to be honest, he hadn’t discouraged her either.
Now, high on adrenaline from a whopping verdict that would likely boost her to partner, she had “available” written all over her. At that very moment they were passing by the Alden Hotel. One nudge in that direction and she’d race him to the door. Five minutes later he’d be balls deep, blotting out the memories he’d relived on the witness stand that morning. Memories of Lissa torn and broken, pleading with him to let her go, let her die. Let her leave him behind to somehow keep living without her.
Angela’s steps slowed. He was tempted, sorely tempted.
But he couldn’t do it. For six months Angela had been his rock. It would be shameful and ugly to use her this afternoon, then drop her tonight.
Because drop her, he would. She’d seen too deep inside, and like the legions preceding her, she’d found the hurt there and was all geared up to fix it. He couldn’t be fixed. He didn’t want to be fixed. He just wanted to fuck and forget. And she wasn’t the girl for that.
Fortunately, he had the perfect excuse to ditch her.
“Angie, honey.” His drawl was deep and rich even when he wasn’t using it to soften a blow. Now it flowed like molasses. “I can’t ever thank you enough for all you did for me. You’re the best lawyer in Houston and I’m gonna take out a full page ad in the paper to say so.”
She leaned into him. “We make a good team, Ty.” Sultry-eyed, she tipped her head toward the Marriott. “Let’s go inside. You can . . . buy me a drink.”
His voice dripped with regret, not all of it feigned. “I wish I could, sugar. But I’ve got a plane to catch.”
She stopped on a dime. “A plane? Where’re you going?”
“Paris. I’ve got a wedding.”
“But Paris is just a puddle-jump from here! Can’t you go tomorrow?”
“France, honey. Paris, France.” He flicked a glance at the revolving clock on the corner, then looked down into her eyes. “My flight’s at eight, so I gotta get. Let me find you a cab.”
Dropping his arm, she tossed her hair again, defiant this time. “Don’t bother. My car’s back at the courthouse.” Snatching her briefcase from him, she checked her watch. “Gotta run, I have a date.” She turned to go.
And then her bravado failed her. Looking over her shoulder, she smiled uncertainly. “Maybe we can celebrate when you get back?”
Ty smiled too, because it was easier. “I’ll call you.”
Guilt pricked him for leaving the wrong impression, but Jesus, he was itching to get away from her, from everyone, and lick his wounds. And he really did have a plane to catch.
Figuring it would be faster than finding a rush-hour cab, he walked the six blocks to his building, working up the kind of sweat a man only gets wearing a suit. He ignored the elevator, loped up the five flights of stairs – why not, he was soaked anyway – unlocked his apartment, and thanked God out loud when he hit the air conditioning.
The apartment wasn’t home – that would be his ranch – just a sublet, a place to crash during the run-up to the trial. Sparsely furnished and painted a dreary off-white, it had suited his bleak and brooding mood.
And it had one appliance he was looking forward to using right away. Striding straight to the kitchen, he peeled off the suit parts he was still wearing – shirt, pants, socks – and balled them up with the jacket and tie. Then he stuffed the whole wad in the trash compactor and switched it on, the first satisfaction he’d had all day.
The clock on the stove said he was running late, but he couldn’t face fourteen hours on a plane without a shower, so he took one anyway. And of course he hadn’t packed yet.
He hated to rush, it went against his nature, but he moved faster than he usually did. Even so, what with the traffic, by the time he parked his truck and went through all the rigmarole to get to his terminal, the plane had already boarded and they were preparing to detach the jet way.
Though he was in no frame of mind for it, he forced himself to dazzle and cajole the pretty girl at the gate into letting him pass, then settled back into his black mood as he walked down the jet way. Well, at least he wouldn’t be squished into coach with his knees up his nose all the way to Paris. He’d sprung for first class and he intended to make the most of it. Starting with a double shot of Jack Daniels.
“Tyrell Brown, can’t you move any faster than that? I got a planeful of people waiting on you.”
Despite his misery, he broke out in a grin at the silver-haired woman glaring at him from the airplane door. “Loretta, honey, you working this flight? How’d I get so lucky?”
She rolled her eyes. “Spare me the sweet talk and move your ass.” She waved away the ticket he held out. “I don’t need that. There’s only one seat left on the whole dang airplane. Why it has to be in my section, I’ll be asking the good Lord next Sunday.”
He dropped a kiss on her cheek. She swatted his arm. “Don’t make me tell your Mama on you.” She gave him a little shove down the aisle. “I talked to her just last week and she said you haven’t called her in a month. What kind of ungrateful boy are you, anyway? After she gave you the best years of her life.”
Loretta was his Mama’s best friend, and she was like family. She’d been needling him since he was a toddler, and was one of the few people immune to his charm. She pointed at the only empty seat. “Sit your butt down and buckle up so we can get this bird in the air.”
Ty had reserved the window seat, but it was already taken, leaving him the aisle. He might have objected if the occupant hadn’t been a woman. But again, Texas courtesy required him to suck it up, so he did, keeping one eye on her as he stuffed his bag in the overhead.
She was leaning forward, rummaging in the carry-on between her feet, and hadn’t seen him yet, which gave him a chance to check her out.
Dressed for travel in a sleek black tank top and yoga pants, she was slender, about five foot six, 120 pounds, if he was any judge. Her arms and shoulders were tanned and toned as an athlete’s, and her long blond hair was perfectly straight, falling forward like a curtain around a face that he was starting to hope lived up to the rest of her.
Things are looking up, he thought. Maybe this won’t be one of the worst days of my life after all.
Then she looked up at him. The bitch on wheels.
He took it like a fist in the face, spun on his heel and ran smack into Loretta.
“For God’s sake, Ty, what’s wrong with you!”
“I need a different seat.”
“Who cares why. I just do.” He slewed a look around the first class cabin. “Switch me with somebody.”
She set her fists on her hips, and in a low but deadly voice, said, “No, I will not switch you. These folks are all in pairs and they’re settled in, looking forward to their dinner and a good night’s sleep, which is why they’re paying through the nose for first class. I’m not asking them to move. And neither are you.”
It would be Loretta, the only person on earth he couldn’t sweet talk. “Then switch me with someone from coach.”
Now she crossed her arms. “You don’t want me to do that.”
“Yes I do.”
“No you don’t and I’ll tell you why. Because it’s a weird request. And when a passenger makes a weird request, I’m obliged to report it to the captain. The captain’s obliged to report it to the tower. The tower notifies the Marshals, and next thing you know, you’re bent over with a finger up your butt checking for C-4.” She cocked her head to one side. “Now, do you really want that?”
He really didn’t. “Sheeee-iiiiit,” he squeezed out between his teeth. He looked over his shoulder at the bitch on wheels. She had her nose in a book, ignoring him.
Fourteen hours was a long time to sit next to someone you wanted to strangle. But it was that or get off the plane, and he couldn’t miss the wedding.
He cast a last bitter look at Loretta. “I want a Jack Daniels every fifteen minutes till I pass out. You keep ‘em coming, you hear?”
Cara Connelly is an award-winning author of contemporary romances. Her smart and sexy stories have won high praise, earning Cara several awards including the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart, the Valley Forge Romance Writers’ Sheila, and the Music City Romance Writers’ Melody of Love. Cara lives in rural upstate New York with her handsome husband Billy and magical rescue dog Bella. Cara is proudly represented by Jill Marsal of the Marsal/Lyon Literary Agency.