Beside every happy husband stands an even happier wife…

Here come the wives: 
Michelle, Kaya, Shaina, and Tashi:
Married for sex, married for duty, married for money, and married for protection, each of these beautiful, billionaire brides was denied the wedding she desired. Although their lives are filled with love, children, and demanding careers, they still fantasize about walking down the aisle and giving themselves away to the men of their dreams.

There stand the husbands:
Erik, Bryce, Massimo, and Adamo:
These powerful billionaires weren’t looking for love when they enticed each of their lovely brides to say, “I do”, but love found them in the most serendipitous ways. Happily married with adorable children, and eager to please their women, they set business aside to plan a romantic group honeymoon they hope will win their wives’ hearts all over again...

But when circumstances arise—a death in the family, demons from the past, a troubling revelation, and an unforeseen nemesis—will the Fabulous Four couples cave to the pressures of life, or will they succeed in pulling off their spectacular group wedding, and finally jet off to their private island honeymoon where sizzling passion awaits?

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Ristorante Andreas.  July – Monday

“So we’ve decided on the orchids, right?” Kaya asked, as the four brides-to-be sat around a table at a private dining room at Ristorante Andreas.

“Just because your husband has an orchid delivered to you every single morning, it doesn’t mean they should be the dominant flower in our wedding.” Michelle took a bite of her broiled eggplant package—a flavorful bundle of plum tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil wrapped in thin slices of eggplant.

“You seem to forget that I donate those orchids to your Children of the Future Foundation, so perhaps I’m due a favor,” Kaya stated smugly, as she cut a portion from her medium rare Kobe steak.

“And I appreciate your generosity, Kaya, along with the sick, and the shut-in, and the destitute whose lives your orchids brighten on a daily basis, but it has nothing to do with our wedding. I vote for lilies.”

“No.” Shaina took a sip of ice tea and shook her head emphatically. “Tulips. Red, pink, and purple. Definitely.” Purple tulips were her mother’s favorite flowers, and every Sunday morning on their way from church, her father used to stop at a roadside vendor. Shaina remembered the smile on her mother’s face each time her father presented her with a bouquet of purple tulips. It was always as if she was receiving one for the first time. After her mother died, her father couldn’t bear to look at tulips, but with that sentimental flower as decoration, Shaina could imagine her parents watching her walk down the aisle.

“My husband cuts me fresh peonies from his garden. They were my mother’s favorite, so I think it should be peonies.” Tashi, the newest and youngest member of the Granite Falls Billionaire Brides Club, added her two cents as she dipped a chunk of ciabatta into a bowl of fontina cheese dip.

“Mine delivers babies, so maybe we should have little baby booties and crib mobiles lining the aisle of the church, and oh wait, a giant stethoscope suspended from the ceiling.”

“Well then,” Shaina chimed in, “since we’re ditching flowers, my man loves pussycats—leopards to be exact. We can sit Jabari and some of his friends next to each pew. Anybody they don’t like gets gobbled up. No questions asked.” She dusted off her hands.

The women roared as Shaina put the absurdity of their bickering to rest with sudden good humor.

“How is Jabari?” Tashi asked.

“He’s much better than when we got there, and he seems to be growing stronger every day, but he’s an old cat, you know.”

“Has Mass thought about putting him down?” Michelle probed her.

“No way.” Shaina quivered at the question. “He couldn’t. He’d still be in Kenya if Aria hadn’t come down with that virus. He had to choose between his cat and his daughter.”

“I can identify.” Kaya patted Shaina’s hand. “When Webster developed chronic renal failure last year, Bryce spent tens of thousands of dollars on a kidney transplant. Webster was part of his and Pilar’s family. He’s like the unborn child that died with Pilar, the child they never got to raise together. Okay,” she added when the room grew deathly silent. “We’re supposed to be planning a wedding, not a funeral, so let’s get back to the flowers and try to make a decision before Fae gets here. We have a little over three weeks before this wedding happens, and we’re all leaving on our individual family vacations next week.”

Michelle cleared her throat. “Yeah, about Fae. There’s a slight change in wedding planners. We had to hire Desire.”

Kaya’s back went ramrod straight. “You can’t mean Desire Summers of Weddings by Desire?” She looked anxiously from one woman to the next.

“Yes, that Desire.” Tashi reached across the table and rested her hand on Kaya’s. She understood Kaya’s reaction to the news that Desire Summers would be planning her wedding—their wedding. The Summerses and the Fontaines had some bad blood between them.

“Bryce will not go for this. You guys know that, right?” Kaya was a bit disappointed that her friends would even consider the option, much less decide on it behind her back.“

I imagine he’ll have objections, but like you mentioned earlier, we don’t have the time to look around,” Shaina replied in a soothing voice. “It’s not like we have a long list of planners to choose from. Fae and Desire are the only two in Granite Falls, and Fae has already turned over our account to Desire. She’s all caught up and ready to move forward with our plans—Desire style.”

“We agreed to hire a local planner for this wedding and we chose Elegant Brides together. Nobody consulted me about this change.” Kaya made no attempt to disguise her disapproval.

“In all fairness, you weren’t here when we had to make the decision,” Michelle said. “You and Bryce were off on your private island in the South Pacific.”

“And Mass and Shaina were visiting Jabari in Kenya,” Tashi added. “So Michelle and I had to make the decision.” Tashi knew that even though she was the newest member of the Billionaire Brides Club—now the Billionaire Wives Club—her opinions and suggestions carried just as much weight as everyone else’s.

Shaina swallowed a mouthful of bruschetta topped with tomatoes, then glanced briefly at Michelle and Tashi before catching and holding Kaya’s gaze. “To be honest, we initially wanted to hire Desire, simply because she is better than Fae. But out of sensitivity for you and Bryce, we opted not to. We have no choice, now. Maybe the cosmos is trying to tell us something.”

“Like maybe it’s time to forgive and move on,” Michelle said, gently.

Kaya crossed her arms and shifted uneasily in her chair. “That is strictly up to Bryce. He has as much say in this as any of us.”

“Well, not technically. It was agreed that we, the wives, would take care of the wedding and our husbands would take care of the honeymoon.”

“It’s not that simple anymore, Tashi. Bryce needs to approve, and if he doesn’t we’ll just have to go fishing again.” Kaya frowned at her friends. “Have you told your husbands about the change? How do they feel about it?

”Michelle spoke up. “Mass and Shaina returned from Kenya only three days ago, and Erik is still in South America on a humanitarian mission, so, no. We wanted to wait to tell you first. And,” she added, glancing at Kaya through lowered lashes, “we were hoping you’d be the one to break it to Bryce.”

Kaya threw her hands in the air. “Oh sure, take me deep into the thick dark forest and leave me alone with the giant grumpy bear.”

“Well, he’s kinda big and intimidating. And since he’s your bear, we figured he wouldn’t hurt you.” Shaina gave Kaya a hopeful smile.

Kaya glanced out the window at the blue waters of Crystal Lake as she thought of the week-long break from which she and Bryce had recently returned. It was more of a break for Bryce since he and Massimo had been working double time running Fontaine Enterprises and Andretti Industries, respectively, and also Fonandt Energy—the wind energy company they’d founded together a few years ago.

Kaya’s ire dissipated, and a smile played at the corners of her mouth as she remembered the intimate, bonding moments she and Bryce had spent walking and playing naked along the sandy white shores of Kaya, and the countless hours of passionate lovemaking every single day and night. Oh, yes, he’d bought her an island in the South Pacific as a first wedding anniversary present, and named it Kaya—to make up for the unceremonious way they’d gotten married, he’d told her.

He’d learned well from Erik, who’d bought Michelle her own private island—Michelle—in the Seychelles as an apology for hurting her during the months they’d spent apart when she was pregnant with Little Erik. To avoid jealousy and harassment, Mass had followed suit with Shaina in the Mediterranean. And for Christmas last year, Adam had purchased Tashi off the Amalfi Coast of Italy, where all four couples had celebrated last New Year’s Eve.

“So can we count on you to tell Bryce about Desire?”

Kaya started as Tashi’s questions cut into her reveries. “Sure,” she said, bringing her attention back to her friends. She took a sip of her Bloody Mary. “I’ll try to break it to him gently.” She would just have to remind Bryce that there were many more passionate moments to come once they left on their honeymoon, the location of which was still a secret to her, as it was for the other women. They knew their husbands were planning something big, but none of them had been able to squeeze any information out of any of them. “What happened to Fae? Why can’t she finish the wedding?” she asked grasping at straws.

“She slipped on a blanket one of her kids left at the top of the stairs and went flying down them. She suffered a concussion, broke both arms, and twisted an ankle.” Michelle said.

“Oh my God, that’s awful. I hope she’ll be okay.”

“As long as she follows her doctor’s orders and stays off her feet,” Shaina said. “So how do you feel about Desire?” she added. “You think you can work with her?”

“It’s not like I have a choice at this late hour. Bryce will just have to deal with it.”

“I’m sure you know how to help him deal with it,” Tashi said with a grin.

“Well, listen to Miss Cloistered and Innocent,” Michelle murmured over the rim of her lemonade glass.

Kaya stared Tashi full in the eyes. “This chick may have been cloistered, but she hasn’t been innocent since the day she walked up on Adam naked in his garden. Played any games lately, Tashi?”

“Lost any panties lately, Kaya?” Tashi threw a piece of focaccia at her and squealed when Kaya caught it and popped it into her mouth with aplomb.

“Go, Tashi. You’re learning the art of backlash, girl.” Shaina high-fived her.

“Actually, I seldom wear panties anymore since Bryce is always taking them off and never giving them back,” Kaya said with a dreamy look in her eyes. “It just makes more sense to go commando. Easy access, entrance, and withdrawal, especially when he corners me at odd places in the house for a hot and raunchy quickie, if you know what I mean.”

“Oh, we know.” The women’s undiluted amusement echoed throughout the room.

“Well, I’m glad to find you all in good spirits.”

“Desire’s here,” Tashi whispered.

The ladies turned their heads toward the door and, immediately—as if on cue—they sobered up as a young woman with long black hair walked in.

“Please, don’t stop on my account.” Desire advanced farther into the room.  “What’s so amusing?” she asked, setting an oversized tote on the floor.

“We’re just messing around.” Michelle tossed clandestine smiles at her soul sisters. It was one thing to share their secrets with each other, but nobody from outside their circle had knowledge of their relations and daily interactions with their husbands, especially not about their bedroom activities.

She knew it was the same for the men. She and her friends were always wondering how much their husbands shared with each other. There were tacit codes of ethics and protocol within and among the male and female clubs. One thing the women were certain of was that their husbands were always extremely amorous after spending time with each other—which indicated that they shared intimate marriage details. Not that the ladies were objecting. This was Sex and the Country, the rustic equivalent to New York’s Sex and the City.

“Yeah, just inside jokes. You wouldn’t get it.” Shaina smiled up at Desire. “Welcome aboard,” she added, to move the conversation away from their personal lives and on to the business they’d gathered for.

“Thanks. It’s really an honor to be working with you ladies. Planning the wedding of four of the most powerful couples in the country will definitely look good on my resume.” She gave Kaya a fleeting glance before peering out the window, clearly to avoid her gaze.

Deciding to confront the elephant that had appeared in the room, Kaya turned to Desire. “I’m fine with you taking over for Fae, Desire, and I—” She paused and made an all-inclusive motion with her hands. “We appreciate you taking us on at such short notice. We know you’re the best, and for obvious reasons we didn’t hire you initially, but now that we have, I’m sure you’re aware that it will probably cause some tension where my husband is concerned.”

Probably? You haven’t told him yet?” Desire asked, a disparaging tilt to her voice.

“I was just told about this a few minutes ago. And once we’re done here, I will head over to Fontaine Enterprises to speak with Bryce.”

“My decision to take over from Fae was contingent upon you informing Mr. Fontaine, immediately. What if he says no? I don’t want to waste any more time on a project that I might not be able to follow through to the end. I have two more weddings I’m working on, and—”

“We understand,” Shaina assured her. “And we promise that you’ll have an answer by the end of the day.” She caught Kaya’s gaze, silently pleading with her to convince her husband to make it a positive one.

“I’ll call you after I talk with him,” Kaya promised Desire.

“Perfect.” Michelle indicated the vacant chair at the round table. “Should we get down to business?”

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With These Four Rings  (Billionaire Brides of Granite Falls #5)

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