What am I doing? Getting married now...when everything's going so perfectly? Don't I know better than this? Lona Rose had never experienced cold feet before. No, she'd tied the knot too fast the first two times to give herself time to question the wisdom of what she was doing. But it's different this time. Because Reece Childs is the most perfect man alive and he's proven that to me over the last few years...during this time everyone believed we were married after a whirlwind courtship. Literally overnight after Reece returned to Amethyst intending to settle down, we let everyone believe we got married in Vegas but really didn't.
Lona had learned to associate the legal commitment of holy matrimony with the beginning of the end of relationships to the point where she'd been terrified about inciting some chain reaction. She didn't want to lose Reece. She'd been in love with the man since she was seventeen. In two years, that love had reached epic proportions as they'd shared everything, including a child.
Even as she gripped the steering wheel harder to keep her hands from shaking uncontrollably and she felt beads of perspiration welling up above her carefully made up lips, her mind and heart were in perfect unison. Reece wouldn't fall out of love with her, the way the other men she'd been with had and almost easily. Reece made her feel like she was the end-all, be-all woman in his life. How often had he insisted he'd never get over her? She'd have to be the one to walk away because he wouldn't leave her, ever. He'd been asking her to marry him nearly every day of the past few years. He said he wanted to take care of 'his ladies' for the rest of his life. A little over two weeks ago, Lona had finally agreed, and they'd gone to the courthouse to apply for their marriage license.
And today's the day, the day the Lona Rose jinx either gets busted to hell or is proven true. When tears stung her eyes, she scolded herself ruthlessly. She'd spent too many hours on her makeup, getting ready for the most important day of her life, to ruin it now. She took a series of deep breaths, reminding herself of the past weekend. They'd had all their friends over for a backyard cookout, despite the lingering winter chill in the air. In Amethyst, spring took a long time to come some years and, even in May, they could get snow. The lawn had been dry enough to warrant a spontaneous game of tag football. Lona had watched her man so often during the gathering, thinking the same thing. He's the most amazing person alive. Everyone loves him, considers him someone to count on in any circumstance. And he's so darn good with all the kids, not just our little Honey. He's every perfect thing I've been telling myself he is since he rolled back into town, saying he was giving up truck driving for good, that he wanted to settle down...with me.
Not surprisingly, she'd fallen hard and fast after he'd tossed her over his shoulder and carried her out of a bar, staking the claim she'd wanted him to bury deep when she was seventeen and his little brother had been in love with her.
"We're not rushing into this," Lona said out loud in the confines of her practical car, traded for her hot convertible when her daughter had been born. In the past, she'd allowed a rush of temporary feelings to guide her in her relationships. Each time, her choice of men had been proven to be short-sighted as they'd abandoned her for someone worthier...or, at the very least, more convenient.
God, don't let Reece ever do that. Don't let him change his mind about me. I couldn't take it if he did. Not Reece, my Prince Charming, everything I ever wanted in the man I gave my heart to so completely. Lord, let his promises last night that nothing can go wrong, that we'll never regret getting married come true. Because my love for him is like a voracious vacuum, sucking in everything I am, everything I'll ever be. When she'd begged him last night never to break her heart, he'd claimed he'd rather die.
When she rolled to a halt behind a stop sign, she closed her eyes, drawing strength from the memory of love in his eyes the evening before, the way he'd made love to her as if she was the only woman in the world, the only one for him.
They'd arranged everything for this day, in hopes that no one in the small town would find out that they hadn't actually been married these past few years. She didn't want to imagine how that would go over, but she was certain everyone would assume the worst of her for the situation, and she couldn't blame them in this case. She had been what was standing behind her and Reece and marriage. No one in this tiny, small-minded town she and Reece had grown up in would believe she was anything but what the rumors flying around her most of her life insisted--a man-eater, incapable of monogamy, who'd been with every available guy in the county.
She pulled into the construction site where Reece and her brother-in-law Scott, owner of Mason Construction, were working on her business venture. She and her father Randall had invested in Rose Rentals, ten cabins on Lake Amethyst that they planned to rent out during the tourist season. Eight of the ten were built and ready for lease. Though it was still early, they'd get a few stragglers before the summer months turned their 75-lifers-in-winter town into a full-on resort with thousands of tourists.
Lona eased out of her car, smoothing the pearl pink, tea-length dress that was perfect for a courtroom wedding and wouldn't cause too many questions about why she was so gussied up, should she be forced to see someone in town before they made it to the courthouse almost an hour away. Stepping carefully in the romantic pumps she wore, she made her way to the one trailer on the construction site that had a shower inside.
She'd taken the day off, easy since she owned Rose Realty, and Reece had worked part of the morning since their wedding wasn't until 11:30. Honey was with her grandmother--Reece's mother, where she'd be for most of the day. They hadn't told anyone specifics about where they were going because they hadn't wanted anyone to ask questions. As far as their friends and family knew, this was just an ordinary day. And I truly hope it is because I don't want anything--not a single thing in my perfect life--to change.
Lona quickly stepped into the trailer to avoid having anyone see her, though she suspected the crew was over working on the ninth cabin. Reece looked up from buttoning his shirt. He'd chosen not to wear a tuxedo or even a suit. Still, he made all other men look inferior. He'd obviously just gotten out of the shower because his brown hair was wet. The crew-cut with a longer, thicker front rarely stayed wet longer than fifteen minutes.
Reece's fingers stopped working on his shirt at the sight of her. "Ahh, darlin', you make my heart stop." He didn't appear to be able to move, let alone talk above the awe-struck murmur.
Lona went to him and instantly she relaxed at being in his muscular arms, held against his strongly beating heart once more. This is right. This is the best thing I've ever done. I won't doubt that again.
He leaned close so his lips were almost touching hers. "Babe, tell me you haven't changed your mind. I love you. I don't wanna wait a second longer to have you."
"You have me."
"I have everything but a ring on your finger, lady. Let's get the hell outta here before you change your mind again."
"I won't," she assured him, reaching for and getting the kiss she needed so badly.
He chuckled afterward. "I ain't takin' a chance you might."
After shoving his feet into his nice cowboy boots, they started out of the trailer. "You dropped Honey off?"
"As soon as you left. It took me all morning to get ready," she said on a laugh.
"Baby, you were gorgeous before you ever rolled outta bed this mornin'."
"Only you would say that." In the past few years, she'd worked hard, day and night, to never give Reece a reason to dismiss her and look elsewhere, even though he seemed to find her "hot" when she did nothing at all to make herself attractive. Her rivals--and there were plenty--also had to admit she looked better at forty-two than she had at twenty-five, and she'd been the catch of the county for most of her life.
"She's fine. She loves her Grandma. And Mona lives for her time with her granddaughters." Reece's brother and his wife had girls as well--two of them, who were already in school.
Reece started to say something when Lona's cell phone played the song she'd associated with her mother-in-law. She glanced at him. "We better answer."
He groaned out loud, clearly anticipating that the call would somehow change her mind about getting married today. When he tried to take her phone away, no doubt believing he'd be more level-headed about anything going on than she would, she darted out of his reach. She answered, saying, "Hey, Mom, is everything okay?"
Mona barely paused. "Lona, is my son anywhere near you?"
Frowning, Lona glanced back at him. "Yes, actually, he is. What's going on?" Mona could handle anything, and she knew better than to call Reece at the job site. What's going on?
"Good. Because he's got some major explainin' to do. There's a woman standing on my doorstep, claiming her boy is Reece's son."