After This Night (Seductive Nights #2)(13)


by Lauren Blakely

Chris couldn’t take his eyes off his bride as he waited at the edge of the bluff, watching her every step as she walked closer. The last words of the Elvis song faded out as she stepped next to him. Take my hand, take my whole life too. He whispered something to her, and she whispered back, and Julia was no longer jam-packed with worries over Charlie and Skunk. It had all been replaced by this torrent of happiness she felt for the two of them.

As the justice of the peace cleared his throat, Julia quickly peeked at the crowd, spotting familiar faces–Chris’s family, McKenna’s videographer, her dog trainer, her friends from the fashion world, along with Chris’s brother who stood next to him, some of his surfing buddies in the seats, and people he worked with on his TV show. Then her eyes landed on the profile of a handsome man in the back row who was taking a seat. A latecomer, he’d just arrived. The man raised his face and Julia’s heart stopped with a quick shudder.

Then it started again when, somehow, across the crowd of people, the sea of suited men and elegantly-dressed women, of family and friends and new faces, he made eye contact with her, locking his gaze on hers. The sounds of the ceremony, of the vows being exchanged turned to white noise, and all she could see, hear, and feel was him. No longer separated by a continent. No longer connected only by the tether of email. He was one hundred feet away, and he never once stopped looking at her.

Her skin was hot, and her heart was beating loudly, and as soon as the groom kissed the bride and walked back down the aisle, she was damn near ready to launch herself into his arms.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Sometime in the last few weeks he’d decided several things.

That she might be lying. That she might be trouble. That he might be about to become the poster child for fool me twice, shame on me.

But most of all, he’d decided that his gut told him she’d meant what she said. Even though she hadn’t given him the details of why there’d been a man with a gun demanding her presence, he’d made the choice to believe her.

Blind trust, maybe. Or possibly blind something else. Either way, his instincts said she was telling the truth. His gut had served him throughout his career, so he’d decided to listen to it.

Now that he was here with her, he wasn’t thinking with his gut. He wasn’t thinking at all. He was feeling.

His whole body was humming, vibrating at a frequency only she could sense. His skin sizzled, and blood rushed hot through his veins. Nearness to her was an aphrodisiac.

“I like your suit,” she said, going first.

“I like your dress.”

“You’re here,” she said with wonder in her voice as she eyed him up and down. He didn’t think he’d ever tire of the way she looked at him with hunger, need, and passion.

“I’m here,” he said, quirking up his lips. They stood gazing at each other, but they hadn’t touched yet. They were inches apart, and there was something almost fragile about this moment. As if they might break if one of them moved. He didn’t know who would make the first move, but he hoped it would be her since he’d made the effort to show up.

“How?” she asked, still breathless.

“Your sister and her husband.”

“They invited you?” she asked, her lips curving into a wide, gorgeous smile.

“Invited. Or insisted. Take your pick.”

“Really?” she asked, and a breeze blew by, making the soft little tendrils of her hair flutter against her neck. He wanted to bend his head to her neck, layer her skin in kisses that made her shiver in his arms and melt into him, that turned her so hot inside her knees went weak and she nearly buckled with desire. He’d catch her, hold her, make sure she didn’t fall, except into him.

He did none of that. His hands were stuffed in his pockets, or else he’d be touching her, wrapping his arms around her, running his fingertips along her hipbone, covered in the fabric of her black dress.

“Yes. Really. Chris invited me a week ago, and said he needed his lawyer here. Which was about the worst case of acting I’d ever heard, since no one needs his entertainment lawyer at his wedding, so McKenna grabbed the phone, reprimanding him, and then laid it out.”

“What did she say?”

“She said she thought it would make you happy if I were here, and that you being happy was the greatest gift she could have on her wedding day. Well, besides marrying Chris,” he said with a happy shrug. “Far be it from me to deny the bride of my newest client her greatest wish.”

He watched Julia process his words. She swallowed, drew in a sharp breath, and clasped her hand over her mouth, covering a sob. A tear slipped down her cheek.

Instantly, he reached for her, swiping the tear away and leaning in close. “You okay?”

She nodded. “I just love my sister so much,” she said in a broken voice. “But she’s wrong.”

Clay stiffened. No. Not now. Not after he’d taken this big chance. This big leap. Not after all their emails and calls. “Why is she wrong?”

Julia shook her head. “Because I’m not just happy. I’m unbelievably happy that you’re here.”

The darkness lifted, and his entire body felt light and full of hope. She wrapped her arms around his neck, threading her fingers in his hair, and tilting her chin up to him. He ached all over just being near to her. She licked her lips, kept her eyes on him, and he’d never seen a more beautiful woman, nor had he ever wanted to kiss someone as much as he wanted to this very second.

He ran the backs of his fingers softly against her cheek, watching as she leaned into him, her eyes floating closed for a brief second as she whispered, “You may kiss the maid-of-honor.”

“Now that makes me unbelievably happy,” he said, gathering her in his arms, tugging her beautiful body close to his, and brushing his lips gently across hers. She gasped lightly when he made contact, that involuntary sound the most perfect reminder of why he’d listened to Chris and McKenna, snapped up a ticket, and flew across the country. Why he took the chance once again with Julia. He could pretend he was doing this for a client, simply responding properly to an invitation for a social occasion. He knew better than to lie to himself. He was doing this because he’d made the choice to trust her. The alternative—being without her—was too much to bear.

But he was also choosing to let go of the past. He wasn’t going to blame Julia for Sabrina’s problems, nor punish himself either by reassigning them to her. The month apart from her—all talk and no contact—had reset his head in some unexpected way, reassuring him that he could try again.