Holiday wishes, p.4
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       Holiday Wishes, p.4
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         Part #4.5 of Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis
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  She stared at him and let out a long, shuddering breath. “Okay, you know what? After much consideration, I’ve decided adulthood isn’t for me. Thank you and goodbye.”

  “I’m sorry, Lotti.”

  “No, you don’t understand,” she said. “I have flights.”

  “I know.”

  She looked around. “And I’m actually off work for once. There’s no other guests until after the first of the year.” She paused. “Are you sure there aren’t any open roads out of here, not a single one?”

  “Not until the storm moved on and they’ve cleared everything of debris. The reports say we’re at least twenty-four hours out from that. More likely forty-eight hours, or even more.”

  “Oh my God.” She sank heavily to her desk chair, dropping her forehead to the desk. “This is all my fault.”

  “Yeah? You personally called Mother Nature and asked her to unload her wrath?”

  Keeping her head down, she moaned. “I actually thought this was going to happen, that I could get away from here. Two weeks, that’s all I asked for.”

  “I’m so sorry your vacay got screwed up. And I’m sorry for my next question.”

  She lifted her head. Her smile faded. “Sean, you can’t stay. I’m closing down the inn.”

  “That’s already happened, Lotti,” he said on a low laugh. “I hear you but there’s literally nowhere to go.”

  With a sigh, she stood up and faced him. “Okay, then what’s your question?”

  “Since we’re all stuck for at least the next twenty-four hours, I was hoping we could throw my brother and Pru an impromptu wedding reception.”

  “That’s usually preceded by an actual wedding,” she said.

  “Yeah. Thought we could do that too.”

  She stared at him. “You’ve lost it.”

  “This place is actually the perfect wedding setting.”

  She laughed but when he didn’t, she shook her head. “Sean, a wedding is an organized event. I mean, I’m a very organized person. I have lists and check them twice and all that, but even I couldn’t pull this off on the fly on my own, and I don’t have any employees scheduled because I was supposed to be off work.” She picked up a clipboard on her desk and showed him, flipping through all the stuff she had on it.

  She was right, she was organized as hell. He stopped her on the page labeled: Cabo. There were three things listed:

  Sand

  Surf

  Surfer

  “That’s my to do list for Cabo,” she said. “Beneath it’s my flight itinerary, which says nothing about being sidelined by the storm of the century.”

  He met her gaze, which was dialed to stubborn and determined. And . . . hopeful. “Your to do list includes a surfer?” he asked.

  She looked a little embarrassed but held his gaze. “I’ve discovered that I’ve got a little problem with relationships,” she said. “So I’m trying something new. I’m going for the opposite of a relationship. And nothing, not the storm, not my B&B responsibilities, not even you is going to stop me.”

  “I can appreciate that,” he said. “But—”

  “No buts, Sean. I don’t have time for buts. And here, let me make you another list, one of everything else I don’t have time for.” She grabbed a pen and hurriedly scribbled on a piece of paper, which she handed to him.

  Things I don’t have time for:

  Your shit

  Crazy shit

  Bullshit

  Stupid shit

  Fake shit

  Shit that has nothing to do with me

  He laughed, thinking his younger self had been the biggest idiot on the planet that he’d let her get away. She was funny, sweet, amazing, and sexy as hell. “I get it,” he said. “But sometimes life doesn’t play along. We’re not getting out of here and neither are you.”

  “Dammit,” she said.

  “So . . . about having a wedding here . . .”

  “Seriously, you’re nuts.”

  Yeah. There was no doubt. And something else. He couldn’t stop looking at her. For him, she was everything he’d never deserved, especially all those years ago. He should’ve left things alone, left their attraction as a “what if.” But he’d never been good at leaving things alone. He hadn’t been able to resist taking a taste of her, even though he’d not been mature enough for her. He’d had issues over losing people, big issues.

  So when she’d told him that she was moving, he’d simply walked away first. Yeah, he’d been a first-rate asshole, but the truth was he always walked first to protect himself.

  Except now the joke was on him because even to this very day, she was still the one who’d gotten away. And as a result of what he’d done, Lotti now walked away from relationships, at least emotionally, because she was afraid of getting hurt and he hated that. “It’s not completely nuts,” he said. “I could get ordained online and—”

  “Sean,” she said on a low laugh. “It won’t work. There’s not enough room, for one thing. And there’s no one to cater. No wedding decorations or cake or—”

  “The big living room is perfect,” he said. “We all fit in it, no problems. And you won’t have to do a thing, I’ll handle it all.”

  She just stared at him. “That doesn’t sound like you.”

  He managed a small smile. “People change, Lotti. I’ve changed.”

  “So you keep saying,” she said softly and paused. “Look, I think it’s incredibly sweet of you to want to do this for your brother. You’re trying to make up for your past.”

  He held her gaze. “Yes. Apparently, I have a lot to make up for.”

  She flushed a pretty pink and lifted a shoulder.

  “Oh, don’t go shy on me now,” he said with a smile. “I still need to hear specifics on the ‘not that great’ thing.”

  She covered her face.

  He felt a ping in his heart. “I really was that bad, huh?” he said as lightly as he could.

  “Well, it’s not like I’m keeping score or anything,” she murmured demurely.

  “But . . .” he coaxed, giving her a “go on” gesture with his hand.

  “Okay, okay, but remember you asked.” She hesitated. “Everything was actually great, but only one of us . . . finished.”

  He winced at his own ineptitude back then but managed to catch her when she laughed and went to turn away. “If I could go back,” he said solemnly, “and do things differently, I would.”

  This clearly surprised her. “You would?”

  “One hundred percent.” He paused. “I’d like a chance to right my wrongs with you, Lotti. All of them.”

  She stared up at him as if she wanted to believe that and he leaned in, letting their bodies touch, and when her breath caught, he felt a surge of relief.

  He wasn’t in this alone. She still felt something for him, even if she didn’t know what exactly.

  “I think you’ll be too busy to right that particular wrong,” she said a little breathlessly, not moving away, but instead making sure they stayed plastered up against each other.

  He stared down at her mouth and wanted it on his. So badly that he lost track of what she was saying. “Too busy doing what?”

  “Giving your brother a wedding.”

  “Wait.” He stilled. “You’re in?”

  “Well far be it for me to be the one who stands in the way of you doing something amazing for your brother,” she said. “Besides, what do you know about planning a wedding?”

  “Uh . . .”

  “Exactly,” she said. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you know nothing about it. Whereas I know more than you, at least. So . . .”

  “So . . .” He took her hand in his. “We’re doing this.”

  She inhaled a deep breath and let it out slowly as she squeezed his hand. “I guess I’m nuts too, but yeah, we’re doing this.”

  Chapter Four

  Lotti was pretty good at picking herself back up after a fall, proverbial or otherwise. Sh
e’d had to be. By late afternoon, the storm had renewed itself and she’d resigned herself to that, and also to playing hostess for longer than she’d intended. And if she was being honest, it wasn’t exactly a hardship to get an extra day or two with Sean in the house.

  Darkness came quick at this time of year. In one blink, the gray and stormy day turned to a pitch black stormy night. Electricity had come and gone several times.

  They were all pretty much used to it by now.

  Lotti had spent several hours with everyone, going over what they could do to make a wedding actually work. Lotti had been pleasantly surprised to find Pru a very calm, logical, easy to please bride-to-be. Sean’s brother, Finn, was pretty great too. He just wanted to make Pru happy.

  The rest of the friends were . . . well, amazing. Flexible. Loving. Sarcastic. Lotti loved them all. They’d decided on the next day for the ceremony and were making lists for the plans.

  “I’m so excited we’re going to do this here,” Pru’s friend Willa said. “It was going to be a ‘rustic Christmas’ wedding at the winery, but this here . . .” She gestured to the holiday-decoration-strewn place. “This is the real deal rustic. And also, you’re wonderful, Lotti. And you too, Pru. If the weather had messed up my wedding, I’d probably be acting like an angel who’d just had their wings broken.”

  “We’re all angels,” Elle, another bridesmaid, said. “And when someone breaks our wings, we simply continue to fly . . . on a broomstick. We’re flexible like that.”

  “We’re extremely limited in food and resources,” Lotti warned. “I was expecting to close up today for several weeks so supplies are almost nonexistent.”

  Finn looked worried about this. “You mean food? We’re short food?”

  Pru, sitting next to him, raised a brow. “Since when do we need food to get married?”

  “We need sustenance, that’s all I’m saying. Maybe—”

  “Hold on.” Pru gave him a long look. “If you’re trying to say you don’t want to do this after talking me into it, then let me be clear and say that I will run you through with my umbrella while you sleep.”

  Finn blinked. “That was oddly specific and violent.”

  “I stand by my statement,” Pru said.

  Finn eyed said umbrella and nudged it farther away from her.

  Pru laughed before looking around the room at her friends, all of whom were sitting around, taking part in this emergency wedding meeting. “I know we could wait,” she said. “I could start all over with a new venue, but . . . I don’t want to.” She reached for Finn’s hand. “Everyone we love and need is right here. I want to do this. Here.”

  Finn leaned over, and apparently not at all concerned about their audience, kissed her softly. He stayed close, their gazes connected for a long beat during which their love seemed to fill the room.

  It was so . . . real that Lotti actually had to look away. She’d never experienced anything like what the two of them shared, had never in her life yearned that much for one person. Her gaze collided with Sean’s and her heart skipped a beat. Okay, so she had felt that way. Once. But she’d been young and stupid. It’d been puppy love, clearly not anything like what Pru and Finn so clearly had. But now she could admit that after only a few days with Sean as an adult, he was even more appealing than he’d been all those years ago and looking into his green eyes, she saw emotion there, deep emotion.

  I want a chance to right my wrongs with you, Lotti. All of them.

  Damn but he still could still reach her. In the gut. In her overactive brain. And the hardest hit was . . . right in her heart, and she had to close her eyes and remind herself she no longer was interested in such things. Not even a little bit. She’d already planned to go the opposite route from here on out and she needed to stick with that. Sun, surf, surfer.

  She realized everyone was looking at her and that Pru had asked a question. “I’m sorry,” she said. “What did you say?”

  “I just wanted to make sure you’re really okay with all this,” Pru said. “It’s asking an awful lot of you. We’re of course going to pay for everything; the extra stay, your time, your resources, all of it. But . . . are you really okay with us pretty much hi-jacking your B&B and turning it into a wedding site?”

  “Of course,” Lotti said with much more ease than she felt, avoiding Sean’s gaze because he seemed to still be able to read her like a book. “We’re already halfway there.”

  Pru nodded and reached over and hugged her. “Thank you.”

  “What will you wear?” Elle asked.

  Pru’s smile fell a bit. “Oh crap. I don’t have a dress. I never even thought of that.”

  “I have a dress,” Lotti said and when everyone looked at her, she lifted a shoulder. “Don’t worry, it was never worn. We’ve done weddings here before, in the backyard. There’s also a pretty wooden archway in the shed out back. And I have those beautiful potted flowers in the dining room and foyer. We can rearrange them in here to make an aisle.”

  Everyone was looking at her in awe like she was some sort of creative genius. But she wasn’t. Not even close. It’d all been for her wedding, the one that hadn’t actually happened. But hell, it might as well all go to some good, right?

  Right.

  By that night, Lotti was looking down at her clipboard thinking they might actually pull this off. The property next door belonged to a rancher who’d been the son of her dad’s best friend. Jack told her to send someone over, that he could help with extra provisions. On the far side of him was another neighbor, Sally, a close friend who ran a garden nursery. She said she didn’t have much in the way of blooming flowers at this time of year but to come over and help themselves.

  Lotti had sent the guys to the ranch and the ladies to the nursery. Everyone came back wet but the men had three frozen pizzas, a package of bacon, and the makings for tacos. Lotti slid a worried look to Pru on the items but she seemed on board.

  “I know some people are all about live, laugh, love,” Pru said. “But I’m all about pizza, bacon, and tacos.”

  During the cleaning and straightening and planning melee, Lotti’s mom called to check on her since she’d seen the weather on the news. Lotti had told her she was fine, she still had guests and was working.

  Her mom had paused. “Anyone single and gainfully employed and worth going for?”

  Lotti had rolled her eyes and then rushed her off the phone before being dragged into that conversation, because her mom had nothing on the CIA. She could sniff out a secret from five thousand miles no problem.

  Not ten minutes later, Lotti’s phone buzzed an incoming text from her cousin Garrett.

  Garrett: You didn’t get to Cabo.

  Lotti: Mom’s such a tattletale. Weather’s bad.

  Garrett: She didn’t say anything about the weather. She had hopes you were with a guy.

  Lotti: Is there a point to this conversation?

  Garrett: Just remember, if his name starts with A-Z, he’s likely to ruin your life. You were warned.

  Lotti had to laugh, but she put her phone away and her family out of her mind. That night, they all shared the pizzas, saving the bacon for the morning and the tacos for the wedding feast. Afterward, everyone went to bed early.

 
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