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?

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

Chapter 1

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 weeklong 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?”

Desire’s face broke out into a grin as she scooted into the chair between Kaya and Tashi. “Fae told me you’re taking pole dancing lessons. Is that for your individual honeymoons?”

“Actually, we’re planning to crash our husbands’ bachelor party on Saturday.” Tashi’s eyes lit up with excitement.

“That should get a big rise out of them,” Desire said.

“Massive rises that we’ll all be eager to relieve.”

“No wonder you’re always pregnant,” Shaina said, eyeballing Michelle.

“Right. Like you and Mass don’t get your groove on every chance you get. All you all. I know all your dirty little secrets. So don’t you sit there acting all prim and proper, chastising me, just because I once lived on the wrong side of the tracks.”

Michelle’s fitting retort made everyone laugh, even Desire.

“I wish I had a circle of friends like you,” Desire said of their innocuous sparring. “But it’s hard to make friends in a town when your family’s name has been tainted.”

The wives looked at each other, having no idea how to respond.

“At least I have my cousin, Lisa. We’re as tight as sisters,” Desire added with a faint smile.

“Well, blood is thicker than water.” Kaya immediately gave herself a mental kick in the behind. Oh, this was going to be difficult, she thought, as she watched Desire pull her laptop, two white binders, and an assortment of fabrics from her tote and place them on the table. “Would you like something to eat, Desire?” she asked to redeem herself. “We still have a ton of food—some we haven’t even touched yet,” she said pointing at a side table laden with appetizers, lunch dishes, pitchers of ice tea and lemonade, and virgin specialties from the bar. “The Kobe fillet is to die for.”

“And so is the Wagyu rib eye,” Shaina added. “It was imported from Tokyo.”

Michelle snickered. “Not everyone is into the kind of steak rich people eat to remind themselves of their wealth and elevated social status.” Ignoring the gasps from her friends, she continued, “From someone who doesn’t eat beef, I vouch for the broiled eggplant and the stuffed red peppers.”

Desire gave the buffet table a fleeting glance. “It smells and looks delicious, and I’m tempted, but I’m meeting Chad for lunch when I’m done here. It would be rude if I arrived with a full stomach. I hope you understand.”

“No problem. Maybe next time.” Tashi gave Desire a tight smile. She was the first person Tashi had ever known to pass up the chance to eat at Ristorante Andreas. It was hard not to take it personally, seeing that her husband owned the restaurant.

“You’re meeting Chad Hunter?” Kaya asked. He was the only Chad she knew.

Desire’s eyes narrowed. “You know him?”

“I’ve never met him, but I know he’s an attorney. Steven Lynd, Bryce’s friend, has mentioned him in conversation. They’ve butted heads a few times in court.”

“I know his mom,” Michelle added. “She works at Granite Falls General. She’s one of the best nurses there. Are you and Chad dating?”

“No. We grew up next door to each other, so we touch base once in a while.”

“Doesn’t he have an older brother?” Michelle snapped her fingers. “Chase! I’ve heard his mother talk about him. He left town some years ago and never came back. Where is he?”

Desire’s mouth pulled into a tight line and she trembled slightly. “I have no idea. I’ll take a glass of water in lieu of the food.” She opened her laptop, indicating to the women that her personal life, like theirs, was not open to discussion.

Touché.  Kaya grabbed a clean glass from a mobile cart behind her and filled it with water from a crystal pitcher while her friends scrambled to clear the table, taking the half-eaten plates of food over to one end of the buffet table. She refilled everyone’s water glasses, and soon they all settled down in their seats again.

Desire pushed the binders toward the middle of the table, and motioned for them to lean in. For the next couple of hours, they discussed the checklist, eliminating, modifying, and adding to their choices of the menu, napkins, seating, cake—flavor and decoration— photographers and videographers, the orchestra and music selections, transportation and reservations at Hotel Andreas for out-of-town guests, and a host of other wedding preparations that none of the brides had foreseen.

Desire finally closed her binders, returned them to her tote, and leaned back into the cushioned chair. “Fae told me you’ve been having trouble deciding on the flowers for the church,” she said. “Have you been able to resolve it?”

“Not yet,” Michelle stretched out her legs under the table. “As close as we are, we have different tastes and preferences, and we do want some things to be unique.”

“Like your dresses, bouquets, and the four cakes. But your rings are all the same,” Desire pointed out. “Designing one set of rings for four couples is a unique idea, unheard of, really. Can I ask why you decided to do it?”

The women smiled and automatically joined hands. “We love each other like sisters,” Michelle spoke for all. “The one set of rings is a way of sealing our friendship, just like our husbands sealed theirs in high school in a blood oath. Our rings symbolize our commitment and promise to always be there for each other.”

“Not just for each other.” Shaina squeezed the hands in hers. “If anything happens to me, I know all these ladies will be there for my kid, or kids if I have more.”

“And our husbands, too,” both Kaya and Tashi said simultaneously, and then gave each other bizarre stares.

“You even have the same thoughts,” Desire said. “Your devotion to each other is positively exemplary. Every couple should have friends like you.” She smiled in obvious admiration as the women untangled their hands and sat back in their chairs.

“Friendship aside,” Michelle said, “every bride wants the church aisle to be lined with the flowers of her choice—flowers that have a significant meaning to her.”

“What do you each want?” Desire opened up an app on her laptop and began typing.

“I want red and white peonies,” Tashi provided. “Shaina wants purple, red and pink tulips. Kaya insists on pink, white, and yellow orchids, and Michelle—”

“I want lilies—Peruvian, calla, and those of the valley.”

“We thought of using a little of each since the purpose of this group wedding is to symbolize the bond of friendship and sisterhood we’ve created over the years, but it seems too crazy, like overkill, to have so many varieties of flowers in one place,” Kaya stated.

“Then why not have four aisles?” Desire opened another app, and began sketching away rapidly.

“Four aisles?” Shaina strained her neck to peek at Desire’s sketches.

“Why not? The church is big enough.” Desire motioned them close again. “Instead of walking down one aisle in single file as you’d previously planned,” she began, pointing to a rough blueprint of the church divided into eight seating sections and four aisles, “you’ll each simultaneously walk down your own aisle lined with your favorite flower. You’ll have your own spotlight, and your individual husbands—standing at the head of each aisle under an arched trellis fashioned from the flower of your choice—can focus on you, and you alone, while you walk toward him.”

Michelle took a closer look at the drawing.  “I like that.”

“The great thing about the trellises,” Desire continued, “is that they can be remotely controlled, so that once the person who gives you away delivers you—”

Shaina cleared her throat. “We’re delivering ourselves. We’re giving ourselves to them.”

Tashi raised her hand. “About that, my dad insists on walking me down the aisle. Sorry, guys, but he’s missed so much of my life, he doesn’t want to pass up on this sacred opportunity. You don’t have to follow suit, but—”

“Yes, we do,” Shaina interjected. “I can have Cameron walk me. He’d love that.”

“Robert gave me away once. He’d be delighted to do it again,” Michelle said.

Kaya smiled. “Jason wasn’t too thrilled about being an usher. He thought it would be cool to walk me down the aisle. It’ll make his day when I tell him he can have his wish.”

“Wonderful,” Desire declared, enthusiastically. “Once you’re given away, your husbands will escort you—under your individual trellis—to the center of the church where Pastor Kelly will be waiting to officiate. I’ve never done anything like this before,” she cautioned, “but I’m sure with some adept maneuvering and lots of practice, we can pull it off without a hitch.”

“Oh my gosh! Wow! This is awesome! Brilliant!” the women exclaimed in turn as they grinned at each other.

“I like that we each get our individual bride and groom section,” Michelle said.

“Exactly,” Desire responded. “That way, there’s no bickering over which family members get to sit in the front row.”

Shaina laughed. “Yeah, we were actually going to toss coins.”

“Now you don’t have to.” Desire closed her laptop and placed it in her tote.

Tashi shrugged. “Didn’t make any difference to me since the only family I have is my father, and besides you guys, Mindy is my closest friend. My bride section is gonna be practically empty.”

“That’s true for all of us,” Shaina remarked.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this line of work,” Desire offered, “it’s that quality is more important than quantity. I know of many brides who’ve regretted inviting people they hardly know to their weddings, just because they didn’t want to offend them. In the end, your wedding day is all about you, and nobody else. Since none of you have much family and since you’re all already married, my suggestion is that you don’t divide the bride and groom sections. Just quarter off a few rows in the front for your family, closest friends, and VIPs, and have the ushers seat the other guests from front to back. The early guests get the better seats.”

“See, this is why we wanted you in the first place.” Shaina gave Desire an animated smile. “You have vision.”

“You’re really giving us the wedding of our desire, Desire.” Michelle turned to Kaya. “You have to convince Bryce to let her do our wedding.”

“I know. I will.”  She’d just have to take off her panties before she arrived at his office, Kaya thought, or maybe she’d keep them on and leave them as a scented gift, a reminder of how obliging she could be when he saw things her way.

Desire stood up, picked up her tote, and swung it over her shoulder. “Well, ladies, it will be exciting putting the finishing touches on the planning of your unprecedented wedding.” She shook each of their hands. “I’ll start my team working on these changes when I get the confirmation call later today.” She spoke to everyone, but kept her eyes on Kaya. “If it’s positive, we’ll set up another meeting for later this week. See you around.”

“Anyone for dessert?” Michelle asked, after Desire left. She eyed a piece of German chocolate cake with walnuts nestling in the frosting.

“I have to go home and feed my baby. These things are bursting.” Tashi pressed her arms into the sides of her swollen breasts.

Shaina gave Tashi a slanted look. “And by ‘baby’, are we talking Adam or Alex?”

“Both. Adam is working from home today.” She pushed back her chair.

“Didn’t I give you a LaCrosse pump at your baby shower?” Michelle watched Tashi walk over to a sofa and retrieve the designer purses they’d all tossed there earlier. “Have you ever even used it?” she asked as Tashi returned and handed the purses to their owners.

Tashi stood behind Michelle’s chair and placed her hands on her shoulders. “Adam tossed it. Said he and Alex are the only pumps I need, and there was no way in hell a LaCrosse was pumping his wife’s breasts.”

The room lit up with laughter.

“Those were Massimo’s sentiments. Verbatim. The cousins must have had a discussion about it.”

“Anyway, after trying several others and realizing that it really is the best on the market, I had to buy another LaCrosse pump to use during the trial.”

“Word,” Michelle pinned Tashi with an I told you so stare.

“What about you?” Tashi asked Kaya. “Did you ever use the one she gave you?”

“No way. With two babies and a husband fighting for nursing sessions, there was no need.” Kaya looked at Michelle. “I think you’re the only one of us who uses the LaCrosse pump.”

Michelle twisted her lips sheepishly. “Since we’re being honest, I do have to get home to nurse Fiona.”

Shaina tossed her an evil look. “So you don’t use your own pump, hypocrite?”

Michelle grimaced. “Just once. Last New Year’s Eve when I had to leave Fiona for a day. Don’t need a LaCrosse pump when I have the real LaCrosse’s tender lips, do I?”

“Case in point.” Shaina vacated her chair and tucked her Zagliani clutch under her arm. “We all have babies at home, waiting to be fed. No, no, no,” she added when her friends stared at her with questioning eyes. “I don’t still nurse Aria. I just like to have her meals with her.”

They let out their breaths, then Kaya said, “I have a husband to seduce, so—”

“Wait.” Michelle held Kaya’s wrist as she attempted to get up from the table. “Before you go, can we chat a little?” She turned to Tashi and Shaina who were sporting curious stares at her. “You two go ahead. We’ll catch up later.”

“Sure, Mama. Come on nosy.” Tashi tugged a reluctant Shaina toward the door.

Chapter 2

Fontaine Enterprises – Same day…

Kaya’s heart was beating two miles a second as she rode the up elevator at Fontaine Enterprises. It wasn’t the exciting kind of acceleration she’d come to enjoy at the anticipation of seeing her husband. Even after three years of marriage, he still took her breath away when he walked into a room, just as he’d done the very first time she’d laid eyes on him.

No, this quickening of her breath was caused by dread—not necessarily about Bryce’s reaction to the news she was about to give him, but about what revisiting the most painful period of his life would do to him—to them as a family.

As far as she knew, Bryce’s nightmares had ceased altogether, and he had tucked Pilar to the back of his mind. That’s where Kaya wanted her to remain. Interacting with any member of the Summers family would only trigger Bryce’s feelings of anger and regret and send him back into the dark pit she’d dug him out of three years ago.

Kaya didn’t know if she had the strength and will to handle Bryce’s ghosts again once they were evoked.

While on the island of Kaya, she and Bryce had talked about the significance of pledging themselves to each other again before God, family, and friends, and especially in the church he’d once refused to attend because it brought back too many painful memories, but where they now worshipped regularly together. The wedding was supposed to be a joyful occasion, a way for them to strengthen their commitment to each other and their children, and move forward into a solid future as a family.

She’d been all geared up to use foreplay and even sex-at-the-office to convince Bryce to let Desire plan their wedding, but after Shaina and Tashi left, Michelle had stayed back to give her some sound advice.

“We’ve joked about you seducing Bryce, and I have faith in your powers of persuasion, but this situation is a lot more serious, Kaya,” Michelle said with warmth and concern in her voice.

“I’m not taking it lightly. Bryce’s heart was closed to love and life when I met him. It took a lot to bring him back to a place where he could believe in happiness again. He has buried his ghosts, and—”

“That’s the thing with ghosts. Most people bury them, but they never deal with the demons associated with them, and because of that the demons have the power to resurface, and subsequently resurrect the ghosts at will—usually when things seem to be going well. Take this upcoming wedding, for instance.”

Kaya frowned in confusion. “Aren’t ghosts and demons the same thing?”

Michelle cleared her throat. “No. They’re two separate entities. Demons are catalysts for ghosts. I didn’t even know that until I had to deal with Erik’s demons. You see, after he found out how Cassie lied to him, Erik was able to bury her ghost, and move on with me. But when he learned that my father—or the man posing as my father—was the one who’d killed Cassie, his demons of guilt, anger, and regret came back at him full force, and they brought a couple allies with them for ultimate destruction.”

“Allies?” Kaya raised an enquiring eyebrow.

“Um-hmm. Our sessions with Samantha brought a lot to light for both Erik and me. From childhood, the most important people in his life had been secretive and less than honest with him. His demons were born from his parents’ unorthodox relationship, being taken from his biological mother as a baby and raised by his biological father and her best friend, practically being coerced into marrying Cassie, and then Cassie not trusting him and blatantly lying to him for five years.”

“The people who should protect you as a child can really mess you up for life. My own mother and father included.” As did Bryce’s by allowing his grandmother to take over the job of raising him, she thought, recalling the heated conversation she’d overheard between Bryce and his parents three years ago.

“Tell me about it. Erik thought he’d dealt with his demons until he discovered that I, too, had lied to him. With hurt and disappointment added to the mix, he completely lost faith in everything he held dear to his heart. It wasn’t so much about the fact that it was my father who’d killed Cassie, but more about the fact that the one woman he’d grown to truly love, the one person he thought he could depend on, had let him down.”

“You.”

She bobbed her head up and down. “I didn’t trust him, or our love enough to be completely honest with him. Instead, I emasculated him by thinking that he couldn’t handle the truth, just like every other woman in his life before me had done. Even Precious was lying to him by participating in every extracurricular activity he’d enrolled her into, even though she hated most of them. She went along so as not to upset him.”

“Wow. That’s heavy.”

“Yeah, but the kicker was Bridget Ashley.”

“Bridget? How does she figure into the equation?”

Michelle sighed and took a sip of water. “Bridget was the only woman in Erik’s life who was open and honest with him. She didn’t hide her feelings for him, or about me for that matter. It was during a session with Samantha that I came to understand why he gravitated toward Bridget after we broke up. He didn’t love her, but he could depend on her to be honest with him. She gave him the one thing he needed most from the women in his life whom he did love.”

“Trust,” Kaya said softly.

“Yes. Trust. My withholding vital information caused him to give up on love, and consequently, he might have married Bridget. Out of hurt and desperation, I might have married Ryan.” She shuddered as if a blast of cold air had hit her. “Ironically, it was Bridget’s honesty that got Erik and me back together. If she hadn’t told him that I was pregnant with Little Erik—even though I’d warned her not to—we might all be living Miserably Ever After.”

“No wonder you could wish Bridget well in her marriage and her new practice in D.C. I thought you were crazy when you let Erik attend her wedding alone.”

“I didn’t have a choice. I was eight and a half weeks pregnant with Tiffany. I wasn’t about to travel and put my baby’s and my health at risk just to prove a point. Bridget isn’t a bad person. She was just in love with a man who was in love with someone else. She found the right man for her, one who can love her the way she deserves to be loved. But we all learned a valuable lesson from that entire fiasco.”

“Which is?” Kaya asked.

“You can have trust without love, but you can’t have love without trust. And since love is what we all want most, we have to trust those we claim to love.”

“Oh my God, you’re so right.”

Michelle placed her hand over Kaya’s. “Bryce and Erik share a similar past when it comes to their late wives, so their demons are comparable in nature. My so-called father was the catalyst for Erik’s demons, and the Summerses are Bryce’s.”

Her fingers curled around her water glass. “Erik was an uptight mess when I met him, but I loved him anyway. I guess my heart saw potential in him, despite his faults. I couldn’t control it. He’s such a better man now that he has confronted and slayed his demons. He’s more relaxed, and he’s genuinely happy because he’s not holding grudges against anyone.” She smiled again. “The wise King Solomon wrote, ‘Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit.’ Our marriages, our relationships with our spouses, and our children are our fig trees. We have to tend them daily, constantly weed around the roots if we want them to continue bearing sweet fruits for our enjoyment.”

“I know what you mean,” Kaya said. “I had to deal with my issues of abandonment and neglect from both my parents so that I could be a better woman, a better wife, and mother.” My demons were shadows compared to Bryce’s, though, she thought.

Michelle pulled Kaya into a sisterly hug. “Exactly. And I had to slay mine of physical and mental abuse from Timmy Gleason. Both Erik and I had to see him for the unstable monster that he was, and forgive him.” Michelle paused for a moment as if she needed affirmation that her demons were indeed slayed.

“Like I said earlier,” she continued, “I believe that Bryce has buried Pilar’s ghost, but he hasn’t dealt with the demons associated with them. He has to journey backward into his past to eliminate them once and for all. He has to deal with the Summers family. He has to forgive them, just like you forgave your parents. I know you’re scared about what that would do to him, but you have to trust him, trust your love to see him through it and bring him back a better man. Before you two can enjoy ultimate bliss, not only in your marriage, but in every area of your lives as well, Bryce needs to let it all go, Kaya.”

Kaya knew Michelle was right-on, because every time Bryce ran into a member of the Summers family, he would tense up, and his demon of anger would resurface and keep him in a somber mood, sometimes for days. Granite Falls was a small town, so he tensed up a lot. And those were only the times she witnessed. The situation was complex, and seducing Bryce was not the appropriate way to solve it. It would be demeaning to even try.

The chime of the elevator brought Kaya’s awareness back to her surroundings and the change in her day’s schedule. Henry and Lillian had taken the twins to the petting zoo for grandparents bonding time. Jason wasn’t expected back from a two-week-long martial arts summer camp until tomorrow, and since Haley, the nanny, had the afternoon off, Kaya had planned to take Alyssa and Anastasia to the LaCrosse estate to play with Little Erik and Tiffany. To avoid disappointing the kids, Michelle had picked up the girls on her way home, leaving Kaya free to perform her daunting task.

“Good day, Mrs. Fontaine,” the armed guard near the elevator said as she stepped off onto the tenth floor.

Kaya nodded on a forced smile and made her way along a sky blue hallway with doors that led to numerous empty conference and training rooms on both sides. She’d taken the elevator farthest away from Bryce’s office to give herself time to rehearse the speech she planned to deliver to him. The place was deserted, since apart from Bryce’s, only two other offices occupied this floor—Elaine’s, his personal assistant, and…

“Libby,” she called out as she turned a corner and spotted a young woman in a dark business suit and high heels hurrying ahead of her. Libby was the manager of the accounting division of Fontaine Enterprises.

Libby stopped and turned, a big smile on her freckled face as she shifted a pile of folders from one hand to the other. “Kaya, what are you doing here?”

“I came to see Bryce.” Kaya caught up and gave Libby a big hug. “I like your hair,” she added, inspecting Libby’s red hair that was fashioned into a French braid.

Libby patted her braid. “Thanks. Your mother-in-law has been teaching me to braid so I can do Jenna’s hair,” she said as they resumed walking.

Kaya smiled at the mention of Libby’s two-year-old daughter—also a redhead—whom she shared with her husband, Steven Lynd, the attorney who’d called her with tragic news that had changed her life, almost four years ago.

Libby was the first friend Kaya had made when she moved to Granite Falls. She’d met her even before she met Bryce and his buddies, and before Michelle who was the only other wife at the time. Libby and Steven were two of the few people Bryce trusted.

Libby sometimes joined Kaya and the other wives on shopping sprees and lunch and dinner dates, and she and Jenna were often invited for playtime with all the kids. Steven hung out with the husbands at the country club a lot, and they both attended many of the monthly get-togethers, but understandably, the four couples didn’t share the same closeness with the Lynds as they shared with each other.

“Is Bryce expecting you, or is this a surprise?” Libby gave Kaya a knowing wink.

Kaya blushed, remembering the time Libby had walked in on her and Bryce about to make love on his desk, during the early months of their marriage. It was embarrassing for all of them, and they never spoke about it, but after that near mishap Bryce began locking his office door whenever she visited, and both Libby and Elaine usually disappeared from the floor when she and Bryce were in session. “No, he’s not expecting me. Is he busy?”

“He’s in a meeting with Marcus Spencer. You know him.”

“Yeah. How long do you think they’ll be?”

Libby glanced at her watch. “Maybe another half hour or so, but he has another one after lunch, and then he leaves for that two-day conference in Philadelphia.”

“I know. We cut our vacation by one day so he could mentally prepare for that conference.”

Libby grinned. “How was it?”

Kaya was powerless to conceal the dreamy smile that parted her lips. “Fantastic. He got a lot of rest.” From work, she thought with warm memories.

“Good. He’s been working too hard. And with the wedding coming up, he’s trying to wrap up a few more projects in the making before you leave for your honeymoon. He asked me to fetch these files from the marketing department downstairs so he can work on them right through lunch. I’m dropping them off before I break for lunch. I’m meeting Steven at the Thai restaurant on Oak Street, if he gets out of court on time. With both of us working fulltime, it’s hard to…”

Kaya’s throat ached at the thought of turning Bryce’s world upside down and sending him back into a place from where he might not be able to escape the second time around. Three years ago when she’d told him to choose between her and Pilar, he’d disappeared for four days. Those four days were the most unbearable of Kaya’s life—far worse than when her father had walked out on her at five, and when her mother had abandoned her at twelve years old.

She and Bryce were barely a month into their marriage at that time, and she hadn’t known him well enough to even imagine he’d choose her, especially since the only reason they’d gotten married was to provide a home for Jason, Alyssa, and Anastasia as they grieved the deaths of both their parents.

While Bryce had been away contemplating, Kaya had begun to believe her mother’s words that she was unlovable. If it weren’t for Michelle, who’d assured her that Bryce loved her and would come back to her, and the fact that she’d just found out she was pregnant, Kaya would have packed up the kids and moved back to Florida. That was then, before she knew Bryce.

She knew him inside out now, and she knew that he would never abandon her and their children, but she felt as if she was abandoning him by forcing him out of his happy present, back into his dark past that could affect their future for a long, long time.

“Kaya?”

Kaya glanced up to find Libby frowning at her.

“What?” She hadn’t heard a word Libby said.

“Hello, Kaya.”

Kaya stopped and turned her head into the direction of the voice. “Hi, Elaine.” She smiled at the kind-face middle-aged woman sitting behind an alabaster circular desk. The only other furniture in Elaine’s open receptionist space were a couple of black club chairs and a marble table that were fixed to the floor, between them. The glass walls gave her an excellent view of the mountains in the background. It was not a place to loiter, but merely a place to state your business and move on. “How are you?” she asked.

“Your husband’s keeping me busy, which I like. You look beautiful, as usual. That dress is stunning.”

“It definitely is,” Libby agreed.

“Thanks.” Kaya ran her palms down the soft batik material of her light purple dress with island native flowers printed all over it. The deep V-neck and halter top showed off the nice tan she’d gotten from her recent days in the sun. Bryce had bought the dress for her last year while he was on a business trip in the Dominican Republic. It was simple, but elegant.

“Well, Bryce appreciates your effort. Comes in here with a big smile on his face every morning.” Elaine tapped her earpiece. “Oops, back to work. Nice seeing you, Kaya.”

“You kind of zoned out a minute ago.” Libby resumed their conversation as they continued walking toward Bryce’s office. “What’s wrong?”

Kaya let out an audible sigh, and moved her white Fendi handbag from one shoulder to the next. “I just found out about Fae’s accident, and that Desire will be planning our wedding.”

“Oh boy.”

“So you knew.”

Libby shrugged. “Michelle ran it by me while you were away. You guys want to stay local so—”

“What do you think Bryce’s reaction will be when I tell him?” Libby was there when Bryce’s world came crashing down around him almost ten years ago, long before he knew Kaya. Libby was one of the first people Bryce had called immediately following Pilar’s murder, so the panicky look she gave Kaya was understandable.

“I don’t know, Kaya. I mean he’s clearly put Pilar to rest in his heart. If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t be able to love you the way he does. And I know he loves you unconditionally.”

Libby was preaching to the choir, Kaya thought as they came to a stop outside Bryce’s office. The door was closed, but Kaya could hear voices coming from inside. It reminded her of the day, just months after their marriage when she’d visited him, unannounced, to find him wearing Pilar’s wedding band instead of hers. That scenario had brought them to the crossroads where she’d forced him to choose. He’d chosen her and they’d been happy ever since. But according to Michelle, that happiness would remain precariously unstable until Bryce faced his demons head-on.

Libby placed her hand on the doorknob. “You want me to tell him you’re here?”

“No. I’ll catch him between meetings.” She would have loved to deliver the news at the end of his day, preferably after they’d made love and he was still trembling inside her. But he would be gone for two days, and she couldn’t keep Desire in limbo any longer. Business was business.

Chapter 3

Kaya backtracked to Elaine’s desk, hoping to engage in small talk to keep her mind off the impending conversation with her husband. But Elaine was busy on the phone scheduling meetings and arranging travel plans for Bryce—both domestic and foreign—for the next few months.

She strolled back to the commodious waiting area outside Bryce’s office. It was classically decorated with black and white leather sofas and chairs, arranged around glass and marble coffee tables that were topped with the latest issues of the leading newspapers and business-related magazines in the country.

A variety of life size trees in terracotta pots were scattered strategically about, blending nicely with the sky-blue interior and the natural landscapes of the White Mountains and Crystal Lake made visible through the walls of glass.

Since it was erected fifteen years ago, Fontaine Enterprises had been voted the most architecturally aesthetic building in Granite Falls. Yet no one but Bryce knew the identity of the young architect, who preferred to remain anonymous. Bryce hadn’t even confided in her, not because he didn’t trust her, but because he’d signed a contract of confidentiality. Business was business.

Kaya began sorting idly through a stack of magazines on one of the tables, and her eyes popped when she saw the heading of an article sprawled across the top of the latest issue of Granite Falls People News. “Love and Marriage – Granite Falls Billionaire Husbands Tell All.” An elegant photo of the four couples embracing and staring into each other’s eyes took up the entire cover. Kaya remembered the husbands insisting on posing for that photo last July during the private family party at Mountainview Café—the party where the wives had made their husbands kneel and propose to them properly. Philippe had taken several photos of them.

Kaya immediately called the other wives—conference style. Like her, they weren’t aware that their husbands had done the interview with Lester Cobbs.

After hanging up, she flopped down on a sofa that gave her full view of Bryce’s office door, and flipped open the magazine to page four. They’d gone public with the news of their renewal of vows midway between Thanksgiving and Christmas, hoping that people would be too busy with holiday planning to pay them much attention. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Just hours after the news broke, Granite Falls had become a beehive of activity with paparazzi from every corner of the globe buzzing around. Their phones had been ringing nonstop and the streets close to their individual estates had been lined with photographers and news reporters, trying to snap pictures and procure interviews. It wouldn’t have been so bad if they didn’t have children to protect. Michelle, who’d just given birth to Fiona, and Tashi, who was six months pregnant with Alex, were in greater danger than the rest of them.

Escaping Granite Falls was the only solution. Since they had an in-house OB/GYN, they’d all given their household staff and nannies a long paid vacation, packed up their immediate and extended families, and jetted off to Michelle in the Seychelles for Christmas. They’d enjoyed the peace and quiet so much that they’d decided to make it an annual ritual, spending the holidays on each private island in turn. After Christmas, the parents had left their ten children in the capable care of seven grandparents and two uncles in the Seychelles, and flown to the newly acquired island of Tashi off the Amalfi Coast to ring in the New Year in naughty, grownup style.

By the time they all returned home to Granite Falls, the buzz had died down.

Kaya smiled as she began reading the men’s versions of how they met their wives, how they knew right away that each woman was the one and when they first knew without a shadow of a doubt that they were hopelessly in love.

Erik spoke about his instant attraction for Michelle when she came sashaying up his driveway hauling a suitcase behind her to interview for a nanny position, and that he fell in love with her when she made the most horrible pig face that made Precious laugh. He also talked about his mistakes and how he almost lost her forever. “When I found out that the man who raised her—the man she thought was her father—was the one who’d killed my first wife, like a blind idiot, I took out my hurt on Michelle. That was the biggest mistake of my life.” He attributed the reason they made it back to each other to Michelle’s big heart and forgiving spirit. “She proved to me that even idiots deserve to be loved.  Even after five years of marriage, every single day I wake up thinking of ways to make it up to her.” Grins widely. “I’m the happiest idiot in the universe. I love Michelle more than life itself.”

Kaya’s heart trembled as she read Bryce’s story. “When I first saw Kaya, my heart stopped beating for countless seconds. She was the most gorgeous woman I’d ever seen. I just wanted to wrap her up and take her home, unwrap her and gaze at her loveliness for hours on end. Boy, was I smitten. Then my jets cooled when she showed her strong, stubborn-to-a-fault personality.” Looks away dreamily. “I knew she was the one when I tried to pay her to give me custody of my godchildren who’d just lost both their parents. Kaya practically told me to take my money and shove it.” Chuckles. “I knew I loved her when I walked into the nursery and found her at her wits end trying to comfort a cranky baby. She had no idea what she was doing, but I saw my future with her and our children. At that moment, I knew I would do anything to make, and keep her happy. Anything. But as men are wont to do, I hurt her. Thankfully, she forgave me and has given me a reason to live again. I’m nothing, nobody without Kaya. I love her like I’ve loved no other woman. Ever.”

That public declaration included Pilar, Kaya thought on a sob. “I love her like I’ve loved no other woman. Ever.” Kaya said the words out loud. 

Tears blinded her as she moved on to Massimo’s partially invented story. He couldn’t tell the world that he’d met his wife when she offered to sell him her virginity for four million dollars. That was a story best kept in-house. He’d instead reported that he’d fallen in love with Shaina’s eyes when she was only seventeen years old—which was actually true—but that he had to wait seven years for their paths to cross again when she fell on the slopes in front of him while skiing. That was their public story and they were sticking with it.

“Many people don’t know, but shortly after my father died, I almost followed him into eternity.” He talked about his run-in with the injured rhino and about Jabari who dragged him back to the Masai village. “For months I lingered between life and death, and each time I fell into the blackness, Shaina’s eyes led me back to the light.” Heavy sigh. “Here’s something else I’ve kept from the public: in his will, my father stipulated that in order to gain my inheritance, I had to marry before my thirty-fourth birthday, stay faithfully married for three years, and produce an heir within one.” Shakes his head. “Talk about pressure. When I met Shaina, I was two weeks shy of my birthday.” Chuckles. Waves hands in the air. “My announcing our engagement that day at the country club made her mad as hell, and she did everything in her power to run. Who could blame her? I was a notorious playboy who wanted to marry her for money—a fact that she was unaware of at the time.” Massimo went on to explain about drawing up a prenup for a three-year marriage, and having Shaina arrested, then giving her the options of either staying in jail or marrying him. “Not very heroic, but by then I was deeply in love with her and would have done anything to keep her in my life. I threw out the prenup, of course.” Chuckles again. “Shaina saved me from a life of emptiness and loneliness. She has changed me in ways I never imagined I could be changed. She provides everything I need and want in a woman. Since the day I met her, I’ve never given another woman a second glance or a thought. Shaina is the only woman I’ve ever loved. Will ever love.”

Adam recaptured the moment he and Tashi collided with each other in Mountainview Café. “My world stopped spinning that very moment. One glance into her emerald eyes and I felt as if I knew her, like we’d been together in a previous life.” Chuckles and combs fingers through hair. “I’m a man who’d been hurt, twice, and so skeptical me brushed it off as the hormonal reaction of a boy to a girl. But the universe was working against me, or perhaps for me, and two more times, it brought Tashi and me together.” Chuckles again. “The third time, as they say, is really a charm, although there was nothing charming about that meeting.” He went on to explain how he had to crawl through Tashi’s bedroom window to rescue her from dying of food poisoning, and that when he saw her lying weak and helpless on her bed was the moment he knew he loved her. “Tashi and I were born to love each other. My life is complete. There’s nothing else in this world that I want or need. I loved Tashi before life and I love her beyond death.”

As expected, there was no mention of Tashi’s New York troubles. Like Massimo and Shaina, there were portions of Adam and Tashi’s story that needed to remain private.

“Kaya, darling.”

Kaya started at the sound of her husband’s voice. She glanced up to see him standing at his office door, his face shrouded in surprise at seeing her. She turned her head in the direction of the receptionist area and realized that she’d been so preoccupied with the article that she hadn’t even noticed Elaine had left for lunch. That she could understand, but how the heck had she missed Marcus Spencer leaving Bryce’s office and taking the elevator next to it? Had she dozed off?

Bryce strode toward her, his surprise turning into open exhilaration.

Kaya smiled as he drew closer, looking scrumptiously sexy in a pair of gray trousers, white shirt, and gray and white striped tie. He’d removed his jacket, and even from a distance of a few yards, she could see his powerful muscles rippling under the silky material of his shirt. Overcome with affection, Kaya dropped the magazine on the sofa and raced toward her husband. “I love you, Bryce. I love you so much,” she panted throwing her arms about his waist.

“Sweet, Kaya. I love you, too, baby.” He picked her up and hugged her close as his lips opened over hers.

Kaya wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him tighter as his tongue worked its way into her mouth. He was bold and masculine, and tasted like peppermint, and the familiar fire that blazed to life whenever they touched began to spread heat through her. Bryce’s low throaty groan and the bulge of his erection pressing into her belly were evidence that he too felt the electricity between them. Her panties were already wet. Even though he was busy, she knew it would take very little to entice him to carry her to his office and make love to her.

But she hadn’t come here to seduce him. She’d come to destroy him. I’ll do anything to make and keep her happy. I love her like I’ve loved no other woman. Ever. Kaya hoped Bryce would remember those words when she dropped the bombshell of Desire on his head. She tugged her mouth from his and wriggled out of his arms.

“We said our goodbyes this morning,” he said, steadying her on her feet, “but I’m glad you stopped by.”

He sported a happy sexy smile that filled Kaya with guilt. The man had to prepare for another meeting in an hour and then a conference tonight. She was a terrible wife to mess with his head at such an inopportune time.

“How long have you been waiting?” he asked.

“Since Libby brought you those files.”

“She didn’t tell me you were here.”

“I asked her not to. I didn’t want to bother you.”

He pulled her into his arms, and tangled his fingers into her hair. “Sweetie, you’re never a bother. I would excuse myself from an audience with President Obama to see you.”

His last statement brought Kaya a mixture of joy and pain. “Oh, Bryce.” She sighed into his chest.

He eased her away and gazed lovingly down at her. “What’s the matter, baby?”

“Have you eaten lunch, yet?” she asked, stalling for time.

“I grabbed a sandwich from the cafeteria earlier. I ate it during my last meeting.”

“Where’s Mr. Spencer? I didn’t see him leave.”

His eyes narrowed and he dropped his hands from her shoulders. “How do you know I was meeting with Marcus?”

“Libby told me.”

“Did she tell you why?” He crossed his arms and stared at her.

“No, Bryce. Why are you acting so suspiciously?”

He passed his hands down his face. “I’m sorry. I’m just tired.”

Kaya swallowed another mouthful of guilt. “Is he still in your office?” Say yes. Say yes.

“Um—no. We took the back stairs from my office down to the garage, and I took it back up. You know that’s how I stretch my legs between meetings. If I hadn’t come out to grab something from Elaine’s desk, I would have missed you.”

I wish you had. Maybe she should just go home, and tell the girls that Desire was out. She cared more about her husband’s sanity than about throwing the perfect wedding. They were already married anyway, so who cared…

“Is something wrong at home, Kaya? Is one of the kids hurt?” Panic dulled his eyes and voice.

“No. No. It’s nothing like that, but you might want to sit down for what I’m about to tell you.” Since they were alone on the floor, Kaya led him over to the corner of the sofa she’d occupied earlier. It was probably psychologically better for him if she kept this conversation away from his office where he’d have to concentrate on business shortly.

He glanced down at the magazine she’d dropped on the sofa. “Oh, it’s out. Captivating picture.” He picked up the magazine and his face broke into a handsome grin. “Is this it? Did I say something in here that upset you?”

She pulled him down beside her on the sofa and clasped his face in her hands. He felt smooth and strong under her palms. “I love every word, every letter, and every comma. What an amazing surprise. I called the girls and none of them knew about it either. You guys can really keep secrets.” She gave him a quick peck on the lips.

“I meant every single word. I’m nothing without you.” He twirled a lock of her curly hair around his finger, and leaned his forehead against hers. “You make me happy, Kaya,” he said, his hot breath fanning her face.

“I know, and I’m sorry, Bryce.”

He drew back and frowned at her. “Sorry about what?”

Kaya dropped her hands and her gaze to her lap. “That what I’m about to tell you might put a crinkle in your happiness.”

She felt the muscles in his thigh tensing as his hands came down over hers. “Just tell me,” he said in a quiet voice.

The proverbial quiet before the storm, she thought, raising her gaze to find him staring at her, his mouth drawn into a firm line. Kaya licked her lips and swallowed. “You know I was meeting the girls and our wedding planner this morning.”

“Mm hmm.”

“Well. I don’t know if you heard that Fae had an accident last week.”

“I hadn’t heard. What happened to her?”

“She fell down the stairs and broke both arms and a leg, I think.”

“Aw! Is she going to be okay?”

“Yes, but she can’t do our wedding. She can’t finish.”

He shrugged. “Well, just hire someone else.”

“They did. We did hire someone else,” she added after a pause since she’d already bought into the idea of Weddings by Desire.

“Then what’s the problem?”

“It’s Desire. Desire Summers.”

His black eyes blazed and dazzled with fury. Just the thought of the anguish she’d caused him ripped at Kaya’s heart. The only other time she’d ever seen Bryce this furious was when he’d found out that Michael and Lauren had left their children to her instead of him.

His best friends had betrayed him then.

His wife was betraying him now.

Also in this series

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