Broken Love Exclusive Sneak Peek

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Six Years Ago

Cade

“You son of bitch!” Pike yells as he charges toward me then throws a punch at my face. “How could you do that?”

The blow knocks me back against the bar, and I fumble trying to steady myself. But I don’t get time to recover. Pike slams his fist into my stomach. “I trusted you like a brother!”

“What the hell?” our friend Todd says, stepping between us and holding out his arms to keep the peace. “You’re best friends. What’s this all about?”

A livid Pike shoves Todd out of the way, knocking him to the ground. “What this is about is my best friend sleeping with my sister behind my back.”

“I can explain,” I say as his fist connects with my face again, this time cutting my lip open.

“There’s nothing to explain, you cocksucker! You fucked with my sister!”

“I wanted to tell you, Pike.” I hold up my hands in an attempt to protect myself. “But she wouldn’t let me!”

“That’s a bullshit answer. We’re best friends. Brothers. You betrayed me!”

He’s right. I did.

“And then you broke her heart!” he yells furiously, slamming me with a fast barrage of punches that connect with my temple, ribs, stomach, jaw, and then nose.

I don’t even try to stop him. I deserve this.

With the last punch, I spin in a circle and fall to the ground.

Pike glares down at me and spits on my shirt. “If you ever come near my sister again, I’ll fucking kill you.”

Then he turns and storms out of the bar.

The disgusted looks on our friends’ faces rain down on me.

I lay on the bar floor and close my eyes, both my body and heart feeling completely broken.

 

October 10th

Palmer

“So tell me all about your amazing travels,” my friend and assistant, Tory, says. “I’ve only seen you for like five days in the last month.” We are sipping martinis in the courtyard outside my home office, catching up.

“Going to Fashion Week is part of the job,” I say with a shrug.

“Yeah, yeah. Must be rough. You’re out galavanting around—hitting New York, London, Milan, and Paris—while I’m back here holding down the fort.”

“If I recall, you turned down my offer to accompany me. Something about a hot young stud?” I tease. Tori, who recently had her eleventh twenty-ninth birthday, is addicted to her personal trainer, botox, and guys half her age.

“Sadly, that was over before your plane was wheels down in New York. It was for the best, though. He had a great body, but he couldn’t carry an intelligent conversation. I had an epiphany while you were gone and realized that I’m attracted to more than just good looks.”

“Does that mean you might consider dating guys who are out of college?”

She pours herself another drink, scoffing. “I’ve told you many times. Age is a state of mind. I’ve met some very mature twenty-year olds.” She giggles. “Plus, at that age, they’re so damn flirty. It turns me on. You should try dating someone your own age. You’re still in your twenties. You’re a beautiful actress. Why do you insist on dating older men?” She doesn’t give me a chance to reply. “I know! I could set you up.” She takes her phone out and scrolls through a list, landing on someone named Scruff Boy. “This is the guy I think you would like. He is so good-looking. Dark hair, gorgeous eyes, and the hottest scruff. He is so hot…he is pretty. Kinda like your former agent, Cade Crawford.” She pauses and takes a drink.

“I survived another chance encounter with him when I was in New York City,” I say, as I nonchalantly run my finger across the sugar rim on my glass and then lick it off.

“Palmer,” she says with a dramatic sigh. “Do you ever think these ‘chance encounters’ aren’t chance, but rather the universe putting two people together over and over until they finally smarten up and realize they were meant for each other?”

“Um, no. I don’t think that.”

“Fine,” she huffs. “Tell me what happened.”

“I walk into the VIP section of a club and the first thing I see is Cade juggling a model on each knee, flirting and laughing. When he noticed me, the smile literally fell off his face.”

“So what did you do? Just ignore him like usual?”

“I would have, but his brother, Carter—”

“Who you love. You love his whole family.”

“I do.” I nod in agreement. Cade has a wonderful, close-knit family.

“So what was Carter Crawford doing at Fashion Week? He’s a sports agent. Shouldn’t he have been at ESPN or something?”

I roll my eyes.

“Oh, duh,” she says with a laugh. “Models are at Fashion Week, aren’t they?”

I laugh and take another sip of my martini. “Uh, yeah. It’s kind of their job. And you know those Crawford boys like to surround themselves with beautiful women.”

“Like you?”

“It’s been six years since Cade and I broke up. What is interesting, though, is that Carter looked to be pretty smitten with one particular model. Vale.”

“Oh, Vale’s really pretty.”

“Aren’t all models pretty?”

“Yeah,” Tory concedes, “but Vale is different. She’s not stick-thin like most. She’s got big boobs like mine. And she was in that movie. I can’t remember the name of it, but she was fucking funny. And she seems smart.”

“Hey! I started out as a model. I’m not exactly dumb.”

“Whatever,” she says, refilling my glass. “You know what I’m saying.”

“Well, if Vale’s smart, she’ll hang on to Carter. I swear, he just keeps getting hotter.”

“You know you are really talking about Cade. All those boys look alike.”

“I will admit that Cade looks good. Which pisses me off a little.”

“I hate how men do that,” she admits. “They look sexier with crinkles around their eyes, a little grey at the temple.”

“Ha!” I laugh. “How can you even say that? When was the last time you dated a guy your age?”

“Don’t you curse at me,” she says with a laugh. “Back to the club. What happened?”

“So, I said hi to Carter and gave him a hug. He introduced me to Vale. And Ashlyn Roberts was there, too.”

“Oooh, has she read the script for the movie you’re slated to be in? Is she interested in playing your sister?”

“She hadn’t read it yet, but Cash had.”

“Cash? He’s the youngest Crawford brother, who has the twin sister, right?”

“Yep. I hadn’t seen him in years. He went up north for college and law school and is now back home working for Cade as a junior talent agent. Anyway, he said he really liked the script. Which is encouraging, because I think he and Ashlyn might have a little thing going on.”

“Ohmigawd! I almost forgot!” Tory blurts out. “Did you hear what happened to Ashlyn? The whole sex tape thing?”

“Yeah, I felt so bad for her. I can’t believe her asshole ex could do that. I hope she sues.”

“That’s old news, Palmer. I’m talking about her appearance on The Elle Show! When she was being interviewed, Elle told her that another sex tape had been released, and she started playing it.”

“Oh my gosh! How horrible!”

“No, that’s the thing. It wasn’t. It was a video this guy did for her. Now I know why he looked so familiar. It was Cash Crawford. Anyway, I guess she and Cash met at a wedding, hooked up, then went to Vegas and got married! And then I’m not sure what happened, but they were like broken up. So in this video he was lying on the bed, shirtless. His hair was all messed up, and you can tell that he’d been fucking all night.”

“How could you tell that?” I ask.

“I don’t know. I just could. Stop interrupting me. Anyway, he was super sexy and muscular, and he had a dreamy voice, and he’s all like, I just married the most amazing girl last night. And then he showed pictures of their night together. Taking selfies. A picture of her ass. Her asleep. And it was so damn cute. And Ashlyn was crying. And then someone from the audience yelled out, and she got up and was looking for him. And he was right there in the audience and then he proposed. And although you never saw them on screen, his whole family was there, I think—wait, you have to watch the video. It’s gotten like a gazillion views. I can’t believe you haven’t seen it yet.”

“I have been kind of busy,” I tease. We watch as the video of The Elle Show plays—switching from Cash to Ashlyn’s reactions. Then he proposes.

“It sounds like his whole family was there,” I comment. “Oh, that’s so sweet. She’s really lucky.”

“Do you want his family to do that for you?” she asks slyly.

“That will never happen, Tory.”

“Come on, tell me for once what the deal is. Why did you really break up with that fine piece of man candy, and why can’t you get back together?”

“We can’t get back together because my brother, Pike, hates him.”

“But why?”

“Pike and Cade were best friends. When we broke up, they got into a fist fight over it and haven’t been friends since.”

“And what about this?” she asks, pulling an envelope out of her pocket—the one I’ve been ignoring since I got home.

“It’s probably just an invitation to another party I don’t have the time to go to,” I suggest, hoping she will leave it be.

“Why haven’t you opened it yet?” she asks, turning it over and studying it.

“I just got home. I’ve been busy.”

“I understand that. But what I want to know is why it didn’t get put in my mail pile? I always reply to your invitations. It’s, like, my job.” She squints her eyes at me. “Oh, I see what this is. You were trying to hide it from me, weren’t you? It’s from the Crawford family in Laguna Hills. That’s why you haven’t opened it. Admit it.”

“What if Cade is getting married?” My hand automatically goes to my chest. I’m not sure my heart could take it if he did. No matter how much I pretend to hate him.

“Well, let’s take a look.” She rips it open. “It says here that Cash Crawford and Ashlyn Roberts are getting married—tomorrow. You’re invited, and you’re going to attend.”

“No, I’m not. I can’t.”

“I’ll be your plus one,” she says sweetly as she refills my martini from the pitcher we made earlier. “That way I know you can’t back out.”

 

October 11th

Cade

“Can you believe our little brother is actually getting married?” I whisper to my other younger brother, Carter. We’re dressed in tuxedos, lined up at the altar, and ready for the wedding processional.

“He looks nervous,” Carter says. “Don’t you think so, Cade?”

Cash shushes us. “I’m not nervous. I’m just excited to see Ashlyn in her wedding dress.”

“And can’t wait for the honeymoon, I bet,” Carter teases, elbowing him.

I start to say something in reply, but my voice catches in my throat as my heart skips a beat.

Palmer Montlake is being escorted down the aisle by an usher.

And she looks beautiful.

Like I pictured she would have on our wedding day.

Her blonde hair is done up, and little wispy tendrils frame her face. Her long dress is blowing in the ocean breeze. Palmer was my first real love. My only real love. Which was crazy. We’re complete opposites. She’s six years younger than me. But she’s amazing—free-spirited, stubborn, tenacious, and beautiful. She used to squeeze the toothpaste from the middle. Drove me nuts, but I was so enamored with her that I didn’t care.

For a brief, wonderful moment, I imagine her walking toward me, getting ready to marry me, like she should have all those years ago.

When she takes a seat, I stop holding my breath, letting it out with a whoosh.

The good news is she’s with her friend, Tory, and not with some guy—or worse, her brother. I would have kicked Cash’s ass, special day or not, if he would have invited Pike Montlake to his wedding.

I pry my attention away from Palmer as my parents start the wedding processional.

We’re in a wood-beamed, stained glass chapel perched at the top of a cliff, overlooking the ocean. Cash told me that when he and Ashlyn were visiting wedding locations, this one stood out right away because it reminded them of their—not legally binding—Vegas wedding. Palmer and I weren’t engaged long enough to plan our wedding. It was a weekend of bliss, followed by the fight that ruined everything.

My little sister, Cash’s twin, is Ashlyn’s maid of honor. She looks shockingly different than she did at the rehearsal dinner last night—where her hair was black with blue streaks. Chloe is an artistic jewelry designer who changes her hair almost as often as she does her underwear. Tonight she looks almost demure in her natural brown color, but black motorcycle boots peek out from under her bridesmaid gown, and when she gets up to the altar, she puts her hand in front of her chest so no one behind her can see and then, in true Chloe form, she flips us all the bird.

We’re chuckling until “Here Comes The Bride” starts playing, and Ashlyn makes her way down the aisle.

Ashlyn’s eyes sparkle with joy and, although my brother is beaming from ear to ear, he’s choked up.

I feel emotional, too.

My baby bro is getting married.

And the love of my life is here to see it.

 

Palmer

When I walk down the aisle to take my seat, I can’t help but notice Cade standing at the altar with his brothers. His unruly dirty blonde hair is slicked back neatly and his usual scruffy face is clean-shaven, revealing a strong jawline and lush lips designed for pleasure.

I’m fantasizing about all the things those lips used to do to me, when Tory leans over and says, “You do realize this is your dream wedding?”

“No, it’s not. I wouldn’t want anything so elaborate.”

“Remember the night we got drunk on homemade sangria and binge watched wedding shows?”

“Barely,” I whisper, rolling my eyes at her. “Obviously, I didn’t know what the hell I was saying.”

“Every girl dreams of a wedding like this, don’t you think? Princess ball gown, handsome groom, gorgeous flowers, beautiful location, and everyone you know here to watch.”

I shush her as the ceremony begins.

My heart survives the trauma of seeing a tuxedo-clad Cade standing at the end of the aisle in front of me, and before I know it, the ceremony is over and we’re grabbing champagne off a platter on a brick patio surrounded by candles flickering in hurricane lanterns.

It takes me back. 

Cade and I in a helicopter, flying over the snowy mountains. And, there, set on a perfect flat peak, is a ring of flickering lanterns. 

“Cade, look at how pretty and romantic that is.”

“Yeah, cool,” he says, seemingly unimpressed as we pass by.

A few minutes later, we land at a lodge, where we are greeted by an elderly man and his wife, suited up in ski coveralls, and then offered a snowmobile. 

We take off up the snow-covered slope, my arms wrapped tightly around Cade as he drives. The scenery is gorgeous. The thick pine trees smell of the impending holiday season, and powdery snow shimmers in the moonlight.

We wind our way to the top of the mountain and then stop—at the ring of lanterns that I saw from above. Only now, I can see a table for two set inside the ring.

“Cade, what is all this?” I ask.

“All this is our first date.”

“Admit it,” Tory says, clinking my champagne flute with hers and bringing me back to the present. “You’ve still got a thing for him.”

“Don’t be silly. It was a long time ago.”

“Based on the way you were eye-fucking the shit out of him, I’d say time doesn’t matter.”

“I was not! I shouldn’t be here. It’s all my fault Cade and I broke up. I should have apologized to him a long time ago.”

“Maybe you should do that tonight. In the meantime, I’ve got my eye on groomsman number three. Do you know who he is?”

“Friend of the groom,” I say with a sly smile.

“Yes, that was in the wedding program. Which is slightly bothersome as it probably means they went to college together, and I’m going to have to go cougar. Again. Don’t care, though. He’s hot. And I didn’t see a ring. Come on, let’s do a drive by.”

“A drive by?”

“Yes, we’re casually going to walk to that bar over there, and on the way, if he’s as cute up close and doesn’t seem like too much of a douche, we will ask him to join us for a shot in honor of the bride and groom.”

“Um, no, we’re not. Cade is standing right there next to him.”

She grabs my arm and pulls me anyway.

Thankfully, Cash and Ashlyn arrive at the bar when we do, so instead of having to make eye contact with Cade, I’m able to congratulate the happy couple.

“I think this calls for shots!” Tory yells out.

Groomsman number three agrees. “How about some Fireball?”

“Go with tequila,” Cade says. “Palmer is allergic to cinnamon.”

Surprised he remembers, my gaze flickers toward his gorgeous blue eyes. When he meets my stare, I turn away. I have to stop looking at him. It’s like I’m stuck in one of those bad dreams where something is just outside your reach. In this case, I’m standing on opposite sides of a glass door, staring at the most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen, but every time I try to open the door to be with him, I find the door is locked. Which is fitting. The door to Cade and me together is permanently locked, and I’m sure he purposely threw away the key. Actually, he probably torched the key and melted it down to nothing, so it could never, ever be used to unlock that door again.

And I deserve that.

The group gathers around the bar, minus Cash and Ashlyn, who move on to greet more guests.

“I’m Tory,” she says, holding her hand out to groomsman number three. “If we’re going to do shots together, we need to know each other’s names.”

“This seems like a no-names kind of night,” he laughs. “In honor of the bride and groom.”

“I don’t get it,” Tory says.

“Haven’t you heard the story or seen the video of how Cash and Ashlyn met?”

“I saw the video from The Elle Show of how he proposed,” Tory admits, but then she lies. “But I don’t really know the whole backstory. I’m the plus one.”

The groomsman glances at Tory’s perky boob job, which is prominently on display in her low-cut, bronze cocktail dress, and apparently he decides she’s worth telling the story to.

“It just so happens,” he says, “that the bride and groom met at a wedding, just like we are now. They got drunk, hooked up, flew to Vegas, and got married. They didn’t tell each other their real names.”

“How could Cash not have known who Ashlyn Roberts is?” Tory inquires. “She’s pretty famous.”

I’m trying very hard to pretend to be enthralled with their conversation, but I can feel Cade’s eyes on me.

“He knew who she was, but she didn’t know who he was,” the groomsman continues.

“But his brother, Cade, is her agent. Cash looks like him.” Tory is playing dumb to keep the guy talking. She totally knows this entire story.

The groomsman waves his hand. “Doesn’t matter. They figured it out, and now we are here at their wedding.” He passes around the shots and says, “To a no-names kind of night.”

We clink our glasses together then down the shots. The groomsman passes me a lime wedge, but I shake my head, causing him to pull me aside.

“My name’s Jared,” he says with a cocky smirk.

“I thought this was supposed to be a no-names night?” I reply, giving him shit, even though I have no interest in him.

“It is. But for you, I’ll make an exception. You need to know what name to say when I make you scream later.”

Cade comes up from behind Jared, clamping his big hand down on Jared’s skinny shoulder.

Jared glances back at Cade. They share some kind of a look that causes Jared to immediately ditch me. He saunters over to Tory and throws his arm around her, which earns him a hint of a smile from Cade.

“So does this mean you’re not married?” Tory asks Jared.

“Nope, I’m single as a Pringle,” he replies.

I expect Cade to say something to me, but instead he turns away.

I’m not sure what just happened, but I think it was some guy-code thing.

And it pisses me off.

Tory sees the rage on my face, takes my hand, and drags me off to the bathroom.

“What’s wrong?”

“Did you see that!?” I rant, as we step inside the ladies’ room, finding a long line. “Cade cock blocked me! Not that I wanted that guy’s cock, because you already called dibs on it, but Cade didn’t know that!”

“Since you don’t have a cock,” she replies. “I think it’s called blocking the box.”

“Oh, no,” the girl in front of us says. “It’s called twat blocking.”

“I thought it was boxed,” another woman says.

“Baseball players call cock blocking stealing signs.”

A voice from inside one of the stalls yells out, “It’s called clam jamming.”

Pretty soon everyone in the bathroom is giving us their opinions.

“Twat swatting or twat stopping.”

“Beaver dammed.”

“Va-jected!”

I shake my head at Tory. “Whatever. It really shouldn’t matter what part you have. I got cock blocked because I will be having no cock tonight.”

“There’s still time,” Tory says. “You can have the groomsman. You need to get laid worse than I do, honey. It’s been far too long.”

“But why would he cock block me and then walk away?!”

As soon as the words tumble out of my mouth, Cade’s mother steps out of one of the stalls.

I put my head down, hoping she won’t notice me and, thankfully, she squeezes past us without saying a word.

“Holy buckets,” Tory says when the door closes behind her. “Wasn’t that his mother?”

“Uh, yeah. You can kill me now.”

By the time we get back from the ladies’ room, everyone is being seated for dinner in the elaborately decorated ballroom. We find our table assignment then discover we’re seated next to Jared—who probably switched our cards—along with a group of he and Cash’s rowdy fraternity brothers.

The dinner conversation is bawdy and fun. The toast Carter gives is heartfelt and funny. Dinner is four courses of deliciousness. Then we watch as the happy couple shares their first dance and then as they cut the cake.

Tory and I immediately head straight for the cake while the boys opt for the bar, promising to bring us back more shots.

“Tell me why you broke up,” Tory says. She wasn’t my assistant back then, and I’ve never told her. It’s not something I like to talk about, and I usually avoid the subject.

But tonight I comply.

Must be the shots.

“I got my first big break in a starring role. The contract had a nudity clause. I said yes. Cade said no. We fought about it. Broke up. End of story.”

“That’s not the end of the story,” Tory says, putting a forkful of cake in her mouth. “I see the way you look at him.”

“If I had a shrink, he’d probably tell me I’m standing in the way of my own happiness. That I need to let go of the guilt I feel about it. It’s just that when we broke up—even though I was the one who did the breaking—it destroyed me. I hated myself. Hated him. But, mostly, I hated my heart. I think I’m still grieving. I’ve dated since then but never had more than a casual relationship. And it doesn’t help that he’s an agent. That he’s hot. That we seem to end up at a lot of the same events and parties. It’s like a constant reminder of my idiocy.”

“Take a bite of cake,” she says. “It’s divine. Remind me again—when was the last time you ended up at an event together. The time before Fashion Week.” I roll my eyes. She knows the answer to her question. Probably wrote it on my calendar. She grins at me then snaps her finger like she just remembered. “Oh, I know. We both saw him at that charity 10K. He ran, right?”

“Yeah,” I say flatly. “He and Carter ran in it together.”

“Those boys shirtless. Jogging. It was better than a Chippendales show. Remember the way all those women were gawking at their muscles? You’d think they had their dollar bills ready.”

“If I recall, you were the one taking photos of their abs from afar.”

She giggles. “Those Crawford boys are scrumptious. I’d like to take a bite out of—”

“Tory!”

“I’m just saying. Hard to believe no one has snagged them yet.”

“Well, one did. Ashlyn. Thus, the wedding…”

“Whatever, all I know is we are going out for the bouquet toss.”

“You can take part in that craziness,” I tell her. “I’m not. That’s the last thing I want to do.”

“Oh, yes you are. Even if I have to drag your ass out there.”

“You can drag me, but I’m not even going to attempt to catch it. I shouldn’t even be here. This is ridiculous. I brought a gift. Made an appearance. Let’s go.”

“We’re not going anywhere. One of us is getting laid tonight. And if you don’t want Jared, I’ll take him for myself. I’m pretty sure he wants to get naughty, and I think mama can teach that boy a thing or two.”

Tory glances behind me and grins.

I turn to see what she’s looking at, expecting to see a hot guy, but instead finding Cade’s mother approaching us. I look for a way to escape, but I can’t find one.

“Palmer, it’s so good to see you,” she says, giving me a warm embrace.

“Thank you, Mrs. Crawford.”

“It’s been too long since we’ve seen both you and that handsome brother of yours. We’ve had to resort to watching your movies and seeing Pike play baseball on TV. It’s just not the same.”

“I’ve just been—” I glance at Cade, whose eyes I can feel from across the room. “Um—”

“Busy?” she asks.

“Yes, work has kept me busy.” I shove cake in my mouth, hoping she won’t say anything else.

“Just because you fired Cade as your agent, doesn’t mean you can’t still be friends. Our families were friends for years. I’m glad you’re here, dear. Who did you bring with you? Are you dating anyone?”

“Uh, no,” I fumble over my words. Mostly because Cade just winked at me. It’s an old habit—something he did even before we dated—when I was starting out in the movie industry. When people thought I was just an airhead model. It used to give me confidence. Now, it simply unravels me. “I brought my, uh, my friend—”

“I’m Tory,” Tory finally says, extending her hand. “Palmer’s assistant. Delighted to meet you.”

“Very nice to meet you, too, Tory. Oh, look. They’re getting ready to do the garter and bouquet toss.” She pushes both Tory and I out onto the dance floor. “Go on. It’s a silly tradition, but everyone can use a little luck in the dating scene these days—what with Tinder and all those hooking up apps. It’s no wonder a man doesn’t want to marry.”

Tory and I end up in a group of single women.

“Guess we’re both going out to catch the bouquet,” Tory quips.

Cash leads Ashlyn out to the center of the dance floor where she sits in a chair. Cash drops to his knees and starts digging through the fluffy layers of Ashlyn’s ball gown. When he finds the garter, he gives her a naughty smirk—one that looks exactly like Cade’s—leans down and sexily pulls it off with his teeth.

The frat boys all go nuts, cheering and whistling.

Cash shoots the garter up into the air, and I watch as it literally drops into Cade’s hands. Like, he didn’t even try to catch it.

“Shit. Now I have to catch the bouquet,” I mutter.

“If catching it means I get that ridiculously handsome man for myself,” Tory says, “I’ll fight you for it. I’d cut a bitch for a piece of that.”

“You can’t go against me, Tory! Besides, look at all the women eyeing him now. And that one—” I point, “—she’s giving him flirty eyes. She needs to stop that!”

Tory pushes me into the center of the dance floor as Ashlyn takes her place, turns her back toward us, and tosses the bouquet high into the air.

I’m tall, and my brother used to make me play catch with him in the backyard. Screw Miss Bedroom Eyes, he’s mine.

I jump up, stretching my body out like I’m going up for a pop fly to center field.

A flower hits my hand, I grasp it with all my might, and come down with it.

“Woot!” Tori yells, cheering me on. The rest of the girls let out a collective sigh, scowl at me, and then disperse.

The wedding photographer grabs me by the arm. “We need a photo of you with the guy who caught the garter.” She drags me over toward Cade, telling him the same and pushing us together.

“That was quite the leap,” Cade says to me.

“You didn’t even try. The garter pretty much fell into your hands.”

“You know what this means, right?” the photographer asks. “You two will be the next to get married.”

I look into Cade’s beautiful blue eyes. Eyes that haunt my soul. Eyes that invade my dreams. Eyes I thought would be my future.

“I wouldn’t bet on that, Delilah,” Cade replies to the photographer. And I swear, he’s flirting with her. Is he hitting on her in front of me? After he just cock blocked me? What the fuck?

“Cade is a perennial bachelor,” I say, wanting to wipe that smile off her face. “No woman will ever tie him down.”

Cade puts his hand across the small of my back and leans in toward me, his touch causing me to jump.

“One woman did, once,” he whispers, going a step further and pulling me completely into his arms.

Goosebumps instantly form, even though I feel quite flush.

“Are you cold?” he asks, sliding his hands up and down my arms to warm me.

“Yeah, ocean breeze, I guess.” A stupid thing to say since we are inside a ballroom.

“Okay,” the photographer says, “Smile and say, I’m getting married soon!

Cade reaches out and brushes his finger down my cheek. “You just have a little frosting—”

I gulp when he touches me.

Neither of us is paying any attention to the photographer. We’re just gazing at each other, our eyes locked, conveying words we don’t dare to speak. I haven’t been in his arms in years, but it feels like the most natural thing in the world. Like our breakup never happened. He glances at my lips, causing me to lick them and tilt my head upward in anticipation of his kiss.

“I need you to look at me,” the photographer growls, snatching away our brief but beautiful moment.

Cade and I turn toward the camera and smile.

She clicks and leaves.

“You winked at me—from across the room,” I stutter.

“Old habit, sorry,” he states. “Nice to see you, Palmer, and good luck with the bouquet.”

 

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