“My granddaughter’s pretty, isn’t she?” he asked, handing over another card and a piece of paper to sign. “Last week I showed off the picture she drew for me to all the bank board members. Said I had a Georgia O’Keefe in the making.”
How grandfatherly he relayed this information. How totally hypocritical. “Lorelei loosen your leash?” She flung the card into her purse, uncaring where it landed.
“My wife has accepted my choice.”
“Ivy’s not yours, not by blood,” she pointed out, wanting to wipe that proud look off his face.
“It doesn’t matter to me.” He took off his glasses, polishing the lenses with a soft cloth. “I’m trying to be a better man.”
Summer made a noise of disbelief. The world was short of good men, much less better ones.
“You haven’t been treated right, and neither has Rose…and in some instances Skye, but things are different. The old guard is passing and with the influx of new people, things are changing. For the better.” Harrison had always had a way with words. He could also read people, like Rose. Maybe she’d inherited that from him, and not some supposedly witchy ancestress.
“Good, because I plan on staying here for a very long time, whether the old guard likes it or not.” She stood. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have another appointment.”
“It’s really none of your business.” Besides, if he knew, then he’d find a way to tell Rose, then she would come back, and Summer would lose her nerve.
Her sisters’ happiness had always been her biggest weakness.
Summer stood at the edge of the party, near the white tent in the middle of the expansive gardens at The Chesson House Bed and Breakfast. Out of habit, she tipped up her chin, and fisted her hands on her hips, daring anyone to take a jab at her, but no one did.
She shivered in the shade of a great oak tree.
No one noticed her at all, just like Jemma Leigh said when Summer had shown her the invitation Rose had received to the Montoya-Wilson rehearsal party.
Except one man.
He stood apart. Tall and broad shouldered, with hair black as a midnight sky. Despite being too far away to actually see the color of his eyes, she knew they were deepest blue and framed with heavy, long lashes.
Gabriel Edwards had a beautiful face to match those eyes, but unlike some men, he didn’t use it against women. No, he saw through a woman, made her feel guilty about her past deeds (true or fabricated)—and crimes she hadn’t yet committed.
Gabriel’s eyes narrowed.
Elise moved closer to him, her brows so tight Summer was sure she was furious. Yet he kept staring, lips full and lush enough to tempt a saint. A wave of heat passed through her, and she couldn’t stop the shiver following in its wake.
Elise whispered in his ear, making him smile, but then his attention turned back to Summer and a frown appeared. Of course he wouldn’t smile at her. Why would he ever smile at her?
Why did she still want him to smile at her?
She gritted her teeth to keep the scream from breaking free.
He started in her direction, and try as she might, Summer couldn’t stop her heart from racing.
Finally, he was coming to her. Though she had to acknowledge that she came to him, first, by showing up to a party that Rose had been invited to because she’d been the one to introduce the couple to one another.
His gaze flickered over her. She shivered again. “Did you bring a sweater?”
“Too much skin for you, angel?” she cooed, fully aware her dress showed nothing at all. It barely dipped in the front.
His lips thinned, but his voice and demeanor remained the same. Calm, helpful, and exasperating. “You looked cold, standing in the shade, and with that dress—”
“Noticed it, did you?” She smoothed her hand down the front. “Lustful thoughts are a big sin, angel, even for someone as pure as you.”
He frowned. “Can’t we ever have a normal conversation?”
“What do you think?”
“I think you need to leave. Crashing a rehearsal dinner is a little much, don’t you think?”
Heat flooded her cheeks. “I think I have an invitation, and your name wasn’t on the RSVP.”
He gently grabbed her arm, and a thrill of awareness passed through her. “Don’t do this, Summer. Carlos and Shelia are nice people. They don’t deserve whatever you have planned tonight.”
“So no lap dances for the groom-to-be. Got it,” she said with a smile. Inside though, everything hurt. Everything was wrong.
“Summer Jean Holland,” he growled. “Stop it, right now.”
She managed to blink up at him. “Did you want one instead?” Tilting her head to one side, she peered at him through her lashes. “I suppose I could work you in.”
His eyes closed, briefly. “Come with me.”
“Like I have a choice,” she muttered as he practically dragged her by the arm across the yard.
He led her to the other side of the tent, where the sound of voices and music were drowned out by distance and generators.
“So how did you meet Mary Sue Perfect?” she asked, and then cursed herself for sounding like a jealous witch. Forget sounding like one—she was one.
“Elise and I met at The Sweet Spot, before Daisy closed shop and moved.”
“Isn’t that special?” she sneered.
His gaze sliced across the way. “At the time, I thought it was very special.”
She followed his gaze and frowned. The bridal party sat at their tables, laughing, eating, and toasting. He probably wished he were with them, with people who knew what fork to use, exactly what to wear for every occasion, and how to make small talk.
She fixed her attention back to Gabriel. “Don’t let me keep you from the future Mrs. Edwards. I’m sure you two will have plenty to keep you busy on your honeymoon. Lots of Bible reading and speaking in tongues. Although, the laying on of hands is probably a no-no. I’m sure Elise can find tons for you to read on making love, though application is necessary—not just single-handed experimentation.”
His head whipped around so fast she was sure if it hadn’t been attached, it would have frisbeed across the garden. He blinked at her, and then a smile covered his face, victorious.
Running away would be really good right about now, but her feet wouldn’t move. Heat crept up her chest, then neck and cheeks. “What?”
An annoyingly adorable dimple appeared in his left cheek. “You’re jealous,” he said with an incredulous laugh. “Summer Holland is actually jealous over me.”