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About the author:
Olivia is an editor, book hoarder, cat wrangler, horse whisperer, and professional storyteller. She lives in the beautiful Missouri Ozarks and can often be found outside, enjoying the country life.
Here is a short sample from the book:
“You’re insane, I’m not doing that!” Melody Adams focused on the man standing before her—or at least tried to focus on him. Those last shots she’d downed with her girlfriends wreaked havoc with her equilibrium. “We haven’t seen each other in what? Five years?”
Lucas McKinney teetered on his feet, but a quick wave of his arms kept him upright. Their friends looked on in drunken and amused curiosity.
“Look,” Lucas began a bit slurred, “my buddies and I deploy soon. We’re going to Iraq. Who knows what’ll happen.”
He grabbed her hand, his grip strong, heated. Warmth slithered up her arm, but Melody told herself it was the alcohol. It had to be the alcohol and not some silly attraction. Though Lucas still had the ‘it’ thing that made girls fall all over him. Tall, broad shouldered, athletic, with brown hair and eyes. Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome in the flesh.
Melody licked her lips then blinked several times, cursing those vodka shots. “I’m sure you’ll be okay, Lucas,” she said.
Yet the idea he’d be thrown into a warzone as an Army Ranger did scare her. He’d been so kind to her while she’d been in his home. Biological kids weren’t always great to the foster kids they had to share their space with. She’d chalked it up to the fact he was an only child and he’d always seemed lonely to her. And she knew a thing or two about loneliness.
He squeezed her hand. “Let me try this again.” He dropped down to one knee. “Melody Adams, will you marry me?”
Giggles erupted and Melody looked toward her friends. Mary stepped forward and threw her arms around her.
“You have to marry this poor guy,” she said. “Come on, things are bad there now. He might not come home.”
Meanwhile, Lucas’ Army buddies stared in disbelief. They’d probably expected a night of strippers and gambling, not a spur of the moment wedding.
He might not come home… Mary’s words tiptoed through her mind. Tears sprang to Melody’s eyes, even though she was usually a happy drunk. Lucas remained on bent knee, his brown eyes glassy with too much alcohol as he peered up to her.
He’d been her best friend for the six months she’d spent as a foster kid in his home. He’d protected her from neighborhood bullies and helped her get caught up in school so she’d pass her sophomore year. She might have stayed there until she graduated high school if it hadn’t been for her brother. Regret mixed with the rush of sadness.
“Fine,” she said suddenly, startling herself. “Let’s get married.”
Lucas’ wide smile lit up his face and guffaws broke out amongst his buddies. “Hell, Luke, what’s wrong with you, dude?” one said.
At the same time, her own friends squealed and clapped. While Lucas dealt with disapproval, her friends suffocated her with hugs and sloppy cheek kisses.
“I can’t believe I get to be a bridesmaid this weekend,” her friend, Terri, said.
“We have to find a chapel fast before he changes his mind,” Tricia added.
“We passed one on the way to the casino, it’s next door,” Mary said. She grabbed Melody’s hand and jerked her forward, almost off her feet, snagging Lucas by the shirt sleeve as she passed him on the way to the casino’s front doors. Lucas’ buddies shook their heads and headed into the casino to try their luck at the tables.
As she staggered along behind Mary, Melody knew this was a mistake. But then Lucas took her hand, lacing their fingers together, and he was suddenly the boy who had led her through a crowd of jeering neighborhood kids. He was the boy who’d sworn she’d pass all her classes so she wouldn’t be held back. He was that sweet boy she’d kissed—her first kiss—the night she’d slipped from his home and disappeared into the night. She hadn’t seen him again until tonight.
He might not come home. And Lucas was looking at her with those kind brown eyes, his smile happy and confident. Then they were in a gaudy wedding chapel signing papers. When she’d agreed to come on this girls’ weekend in Las Vegas she’d never imagined she’d be standing before a bad Elvis impersonator, exchanging vows with Lucas McKinney, the only boy she’d ever trusted.
They didn’t have rings so the chapel happily provided some overpriced gold-plated bands with the chapel’s logo on the inside. Her friends wept and called encouragement as Melody and Lucas faced one another, hand in hand as Blue Hawaii played in the background.
“And do you…” Bad Elvis squinted down to a piece of paper he held, “Melody Lynn Adams, take Lucas Michael McKinney to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
Melody swallowed hard then nodded. “Yes. I mean, um, I do.”
Her girlfriends clapped.
“And do you, Lucas Michael McKinney, take Melody Lynn Adams to be your lawfully wedded wife?”
“I do,” he replied without a hint of hesitation.
Her friends squealed, jumping up and down, drowning out Bad Elvis’ next words until she heard, “And now, you may kiss the bride.” Bad Elvis did a dramatic Elvis-like twist of the hips.
“Are you ready?” Lucas asked, cupping her cheek. Everything before this moment had blurred together in a drunken haze. But this was a sobering moment. It all became real. I just married Lucas!
“I guess so,” she said.
Lucas leaned in. The gentle brush of his mouth asked for nothing but promised her everything. A sweet Lucas kiss that made her remember the kiss they’d shared the night she’d run away from his parents’ house.
Melody waited anxiously. Downstairs she heard the television on, Lucas’ parents were watching the evening news. This was her one chance, her only chance. Her pulse raced and she rubbed her sweating palms down her shirt.
Lucas came up the stairs fresh from the shower, dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt with their high school logo on the front. He looked so cute, so Lucas-charming, that her heart tripped over itself.
“Hey,” he said. “Did you need something?”
He stopped at her door. She couldn’t look him in the eye so she stared at his chest.
“I, um…” Fear stole the rest of her words.
He lowered down and stared into her face.
“What’s wrong, Mels?” he said. “Is it school?”
Melody shrugged. She wanted so much to tell him the truth—that her little brother, Mike, had run away from his foster home. She’d heard it at school from his foster brother who was a freshman. When the family had taken Mike in, they hadn’t wanted a teenage girl, too, so she and Mike had been separated. Mike was somewhere out on the streets, all alone, and Melody had to go find him. And she had to give up the best foster home she’d ever had to do it. She’d have to give up Lucas to do it.
She wanted to tell Lucas goodbye, but she couldn’t say the word. He would tell his parents, and they’d keep her from looking for Mike. She had to go after her brother, even if she hated leaving this wonderful home. So instead, she grabbed Lucas by the arm, pulled him inside her bedroom, stood on tiptoe and planted her lips on his.
His mouth was warm and soft as he cupped her face between his hands. No gross tongue kissing like she’d heard girls talk about in the bathrooms at school, he simply held her in place as their lips lightly brushed together. It was like they were somehow absorbing one another’s energy through this fragile connection.
Then he stepped back, gave her the most amazing smile, and said goodnight, before retreating to his bedroom down the hall.
Her friends dragged her back to the present, hugging her. Overwhelming affection for Lucas welled up inside of Melody. He was staring at her with the same amazing smile she remembered after their chaste teenage kiss. She choked on sobs as confetti rained down on them.
Afterward a cab took them back to his hotel. Lucas scooped her up and carried her over the threshold into his room. She laughed, wrapping her arms around his neck, enjoying this strange, carefree feeling she’d never had before. He set her on her feet, dropped a kiss on the end of her nose and walked over to the bed.
When she saw the bed, she froze as he plopped down on the mattress.
“You’re so beautiful, Mels,” he said, his voice a low, husky drawl. “You always have been so beautiful and perfect.”
She caught her reflection in the dresser mirror and frowned. Mascara streaked her flushed cheeks and her eyes were bloodshot. He was watching her, waiting for her to come to him. Join him on the bed to consummate their marriage. She hadn’t thought this far ahead. If she had…
Cold washed through her and she squeezed her eyes shut. Monsters howled in her memories. The same howling monsters that had terrified her and her brother as children. It was those monsters that drove her away from any kind of romantic relationships.
She swayed on her feet.
“Mels, what’s wrong?” Lucas was there, his hands on her shoulders.
Her stomach soured. “No, don’t touch me.”
She shoved away from him, and staggered to the bathroom, locking the door behind her, before dropping to her knees by the toilet. Then she heaved, her body ridding itself of both the foul vodka and even fouler memories.
“Melody,” Lucas called through the door, “are you okay?” The door handle rattled. “Let me in.”
She ignored him, hugging the rim of the toilet seat.
“Damn it, Mels, let me in.”
Pushy Lucas, sometimes she hated that about him. “I’m fine,” she called back. “I had too much to drink. Please, leave me alone.”
She heard a scraping noise then all fell silent outside. She finally made it back to her feet, splashed cold water on her face, and staggered to the door. When she walked out, she found Lucas on the floor, propped up against the wall next to the bathroom door. His head drooped, he’d passed out while waiting for her to come out.
“Oh, Lucas,” she whispered.
Lucas awoke and immediately wished for death. His head throbbed and nausea battled with dehydration as he pushed to a seated position from the hotel room floor. The hotel comforter was tangled around his legs and a pillow lay several feet away. It took several long seconds for him to figure out what the hell had happened. His buddies, the casino, too much beer and tequila then he’d…
He groaned and peered around the room. The bed was empty. Where was Melody? The silent space told him she was long gone. He grabbed his pounding skull between both hands and squeezed his gritty eyes shut. God, he’d married Melody then passed out cold on his wedding night.
He got to his feet, and braced against the cool wall. He wanted to be angry with Melody for ditching him. They really needed to talk about the wedding, and when he did a circuit of the room, she certainly hadn’t left information on how to get ahold of her.
The same damned disappearing act she’d pulled when they were teens. So, he worked really hard at being mad at her. At Melody. At his new wife whom he wanted to turn over his knee at the moment.
But the anger wouldn’t stick. At least not on Melody.
“I’m an idiot. A damned idiot.”
He sat on the bed, leaned over and buried his face in his hands. They’d both been drunk, but Lucas knew he should’ve been responsible. From the moment he’d met Melody he’d felt responsible for her. She’d had a rough start in life. She needed guidance. She didn’t need him making foolish decisions that affected them both.
When he’d gotten his deployment orders, his own mortality had slapped him in the face. He’d thought of all the things he might miss out on if the worst should happen. He’d always planned on getting married and having kids. It wasn’t so much the idea of dying that scared him, but the idea he had no one to carry on his name.
When he’d run into Melody at the casino, all that worry collided with the feelings he’d always held for her. Feelings he didn’t understand, and couldn’t shake, even after five years.
He blew out a hard breath.
His cellphone chimed and he grabbed it up, noticing several missed texts and calls. His friends wanted to know what the hell had happened to him. Unfortunately, he didn’t have an answer. A gold glimmer caught his eye next to the lamp on the nightstand. He reached out and picked up the ring he’d placed on Melody’s finger the night before. He stared at the cheap gold-plated wedding band.
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