Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You
New York Sullivans Spinoff
Summer Lake #2
Please enjoy the following excerpt of Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You: New York Sullivans Spinoff (Summer Lake #2), copyright 2017, Bella Andre…
Liam Kane heard the applause and cheers as he walked through the inn’s front door. From the flower petals drifting out of the event room, he could easily guess it was a wedding.
It instantly struck him as strange. Why would his brother, Wesley, schedule another wedding at the inn on the same weekend as his own? And how exactly did his brother plan to clean up this wedding party and still have time to set up for his own rehearsal dinner that night?
Liam had been planning to head straight upstairs to his suite to take a shower after his red-eye flight from China. It had been a crazy three weeks of constant flights, of hotel rooms he’d barely had time to check in to before he was leaving for the next airport, the next meeting. But he hadn’t been back to the lake in so long that curiosity had him dropping his bags behind the check-in counter and walking toward the large room that overlooked the lake to see who was getting married.
As he stopped at a side door behind a large potted plant, he was stunned to realize that Sarah Bartow, whom he was related to through his grandmother, was wearing a wedding dress and holding hands with her old boyfriend, Calvin Vaughn.
As far as he’d known, they’d been broken up since graduating high school. When had they gotten back together? And how come he’d had no idea they were getting married today? Admittedly, he hadn’t done a great job of keeping up with his family, or the Summer Lake locals, over the past few years. But that didn’t mean Sarah would deliberately leave him off the invite list, did it?
Telling himself there must be a rational explanation why he hadn’t known about the wedding, as Sarah and Calvin kissed to seal their vows and the crowd cheered, Liam could see that they really were in love. For now, at least. It was what happened later—ten, fifteen, twenty years down the road, once they had kids and were supposed to be a cohesive family unit who all looked out for each other—that he had no faith in. In fact, the only thing he knew for certain was that the people who got hurt when love failed weren’t just the man and the woman who had once made vows to each other on their wedding day. No, the net was cast much wider than that.
Which was why in nearly twenty years of dating, Liam had never wanted to get married, had never been even remotely tempted to get down on one knee and ask one woman to be his for eternity.
He never normally let rogue emotions get the better of him like this, so he pushed them back down deep as he scanned the occupants of the room. It had been a long time since he’d been back to town, but he recognized nearly everyone at the wedding. The old football coach. The owner of the general store. Several people he’d gone to school with. The Sullivans he’d gotten to know during the summers when they’d come to the lake from the city to help their father, William, build his log cabin.
And then he saw a flash of movement that caught his gaze—and held it.
Golden hair was gliding like silk across a woman’s shoulders as she moved out from behind a tall elderly man. And when she turned toward Liam, his breath actually lodged in his chest. Her eyes were glittering with tears, and her cheeks were flushed. She was biting her lip, her hands covering her heart.
And she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.
The bride and groom were starting to make their way up the aisle and out of the room, and he knew he should head over with the rest of the crowd to offer his congratulations. But he couldn’t tear his gaze away from the woman who wasn’t only taking his breath away, but who was making his heart beat faster too.
Her green dress was well tailored, but not at all flashy. The pearls at her earlobes and around her neck were elegant, but not intended to draw a man’s eyes. Neither were her shoes, low-heeled and silver. He got the sense she wasn’t the kind of woman who would ever try to draw attention to herself.
Even though she had every ounce of his.
By now, everyone had followed Sarah and Calvin out of the room through the opposite door, but the woman hung behind, bending over to pick up stray flower petals strewn around her seat. Something jogged his brain, a prickle that was more than just awareness of a beautiful woman. A warning that he knew her from somewhere. But where?
She was picking up another handful of flower petals off the floor when she suddenly looked over and saw him standing at the side door. She was closer now, near enough that he could see just how delicate her features were, from her high cheekbones to her slightly pointed chin and the tiny indentations in each cheek as she smiled.
“Oh, hello.” A bunch of the rose petals fell out of her hands and fluttered to the floor. She gave him a wry smile as she bent down to pick them back up. “These smell good, but they’re so messy.”
Liam knew she was expecting him to say something, to tell her who he was or what he was doing standing there staring at her. But he hadn’t yet found his voice.
She was the first woman to ever leave him speechless.
“With the wedding taking place, I haven’t been monitoring the front desk,” she continued, her welcoming smile still in place. “Can I help you with something? Are you visiting a guest at the inn, perhaps?”
Finally, he told her, “I’m Liam Kane.”
In an instant, her smile disappeared. Her mouth opened slightly, and her cheeks grew flushed. She took a quick step backward and bumped into one of the covered folding chairs. “Oh my gosh. Of course you’re Liam.” She bit her lip, drawing his attention to their full, soft shape. Despite the conservative nature of her dress and shoes and jewelry, her lush mouth and the deep green of her eyes seemed to show a deeper truth about her. A sensuality she couldn’t hide. Sensuality that wrapped around him from nothing more than his name on her lips. “I knew something about you looked familiar. I should have realized it earlier, but the wedding must have scrambled my brain. Sarah was wondering why you didn’t respond to her wedding invitation, but you ended up making it after all!”
As she spoke, her big green eyes were stealing his brain cells away one at a time. It felt like a hammer was pounding away in his brain. How did she know exactly who he was when he couldn’t for the life of him think of who she was? “I’ve been on the road for the past month,” he explained, “and I’m guessing that their wedding invite must have been misplaced in my pile of unopened mail. I actually had no idea they were even getting married. I’m here for my brother Wesley’s wedding.”
Her eyes grew even bigger. And, if he wasn’t mistaken, more than a little horrified. “You don’t know what happened?”
The hammer pounded harder, joined by a warning bell inside his brain that told him something was definitely wrong. Hadn’t he known it from the minute he’d walked into the inn and realized there was another wedding taking place?
Immediately worrying that something bad must have happened to his younger brother, who he’d always looked after when they were kids, but hadn’t been around to check on much over the past few years, he said, “Like I said, I’ve been on the road continuously and my cell phone doesn’t always work reliably in some of the countries I’ve been in. And if Wesley tried to get a hold of me through my staff, I certainly didn’t hear about it.” Concern for his brother had him putting his hands on her shoulders to make sure he had her full attention. “What happened? Where’s Wesley?”
Her eyes were wide enough now that he couldn’t help but memorize the exact color of green, like fresh growth on bare trees in spring as she said, “I don’t know where he is.”
Suddenly, he could feel her tremble beneath his hands. What the hell was he doing manhandling her? “I shouldn’t have grabbed you like that.” He was lifting his hands off her when he finally realized why she looked familiar. He blamed the red-eye on making it take this long for him to put two and two together. “You’re Wesley’s fiancée.”
Wesley had sent a picture of her back when they’d announced their engagement, and Liam’s secretary had laid it on top of the rest of his business correspondence. He’d been late to a meeting and had barely had time to look at the picture before it was filed away—and then he’d been in Asia when they’d had their engagement party, so he hadn’t had a chance to meet his brother’s fiancée before now. But from what he recalled, while she had seemed pretty in the picture, nothing about her had drawn any special notice.
He could hardly believe this woman before him was the one beside Wesley in the staged photo. Same hair, same eyes, same face, same features—but totally different. As if she’d somehow come into focus since that photo was taken.
“Yes,” she said. “I’m Christie. I was his fiancée.”
He couldn’t miss the was. She hadn’t intended for him to. “You’re supposed to be getting married tomorrow.”
“Yes,” she said again, but she was shaking her head even as she agreed with him. “We were, but—”
A door was flung open, and Liam heard his mother’s voice. “Christie, have you seen my wrap? I think I left it at my sea—” The words fell away as she realized her oldest son was standing there.
Christie moved away so fast he swore he felt a blast of cold air in the spot she’d been standing.
“Liam?” His mother moved toward him, her gaze immediately going to his scar and holding there for several seconds. “Oh, honey, I’m so glad you’re finally home. It’s all been such a mess. For all of us. Your father and I kept trying to reach you, but your secretary always said you were in a meeting or on a plane somewhere.” She lowered her voice. “I didn’t want to leave such a personal message with a stranger.”
“So there’s no wedding?” He directed the question to Christie rather than his mother.
“No,” she said softly, “Wesley and I are definitely not getting married.”
Excerpt from Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You: New York Sullivans Spinoff (Summer Lake #2), copyright 2017, Bella Andre