It’s August at last! Apart from meaning I’m only two weeks away from a truly epic family holiday (10 people, 2 under sixes, 7 days, 1 flat…) it also means it’s release day for my latest Harlequin Mills and Boon Romance – A Groom Worth Waiting For.
This was such a perfectly summery book to write. Set in Tuscany in the height of summer, it’s the story of Thea Morrison, who is about to get married for security, business and other sensible reasons – until her groom’s brother, Zeke, walks back into her life, eight years after she refused to elope with him.
Here’s a snippet from the first meeting in eight years:
‘What do you mean, he’s coming here?’ Thea Morrison clasped her arms around her body, as if the action could somehow hide the fact that she was wearing a ridiculously expensive, pearl-encrusted, embroidered ivory wedding dress, complete with six-foot train. ‘He can’t!’
Her sister rolled her big blue eyes. ‘Oh, calm down. He just told me to tell you that you’re late to meet with the wedding planner and if you aren’t there in five minutes he’ll come and get you,’ Helena said.
‘Well, stop him!’
No, that wouldn’t work. Nothing stopped Flynn Ashton when he really wanted something. He was always polite, but utterly tenacious. That was why his father had appointed him his right-hand man at Morrison-Ashton media. And why she was marrying him in the first place.
‘Get me out of this dress before he gets here!’
‘I don’t know why you care so much,’ Helena said, fumbling with the zip at the back of the dress. ‘It’s not like this is a real wedding anyway.’
‘In two days there’ll be a priest, a cake, some flowers, and a legally binding pre-nup saying otherwise.’ Thea wriggled to try and get the strapless dress down over her hips. ‘And everyone knows it’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride in the wedding dress before the big day.’
It was more than a superstition, it was a rule. Standard Operating Procedure for weddings. Flynn was not seeing this dress a single moment before she walked down the aisle of the tiny Tuscan church at the bottom of the hill from the villa. Not one second.
‘Which is why he sent me instead.’
Thea froze, her blood suddenly solid in her veins. She knew that voice. It might have been eight years since she’d heard it, but she hadn’t forgotten. Any of it.
The owner of that voice really shouldn’t be seeing her in nothing but her wedding lingerie. Especially since she was marrying his brother in two days.
Yanking the dress back up over her ivory corset, Thea held it tight against her chest and stared at him. ‘I thought you weren’t coming.’ But there he was. Large as life and twice as… Hell, she couldn’t even lie in her brain and finish that with ugly. He looked…grown up. Not twenty-one and angry at everything any more. More relaxed, more in control.
And every inch as gorgeous as he’d always been. Curse him.
Helena laughed. ‘Eight years and that’s all you have to say to him?’ Skipping across the room, blonde hair bouncing, she wrapped her arms around him and pressed a kiss against his cheek. ‘It’s good to see you, Zeke.’
‘Little Helena, all grown up.’ Zeke returned the hug, but his gaze never left Thea’s. ‘It’s good to see you too. And rather more of your sister than I’d bargained on.’
There was a mocking edge in his voice. As if she’d planned for him to walk in on her in her underwear. He wasn’t even supposed to be in the country! Flynn had told her he wouldn’t come and she’d been flooded with relief—even if she could never explain why to her husband-to-be. But now here Zeke was, staring at her, and Thea had never felt so exposed.
She clutched the dress tighter—a barrier between them. ‘Well, I was expecting your brother.’
‘Your fiancé,’ Zeke said. ‘Of course. Sorry. Seems he thought I should get started with my best man duties a few days early.’
Thea blinked. ‘You’re Flynn’s best man?’
‘Who else would he choose?’ He said it as if he hadn’t been gone for eight years. As if he’d never taunted Flynn about not being a real Ashton, only an adopted one, a fall-back plan. As if he hadn’t sworn that he was never coming back.
‘Anyone in the world.’ Quite literally. Flynn could have appointed the Russian Prime Minister as his best man and Thea would have been less surprised.
The second part of this duet, which is Helena’s story, has just been signed off – and been given a title! His Very Convenient Bride will be out in January, for a sunny, post Christmas pick-me-up.
And now, back to work on what will be my FIFTH novel for Harlequin M&B… it’s going well!
A Groom Worth Waiting For