Made for you the best mi.., p.23
Made for You (The Best Mistake), page 23
For a second she thought he might smile. Or at least relax. Instead his jaw tensed. “Fine, twenty-second extension. Go.”
Twenty seconds. It was enough.
Brynn took a deep breath. “I want to do this. For real.”
“Us. You and me. Out in public.”
He started to move past her. “Pass.”
She grabbed his sleeve, panic clutching at her throat at his quick dismissal. “You can’t pass! I came all the way to Chicago to tell you that!”
“So it was a couple hundred bucks out of your savings account. Maybe you can go shopping while you’re here or something so it’s not a total waste. Find something classy and boring for your next hotshot job and statue boyfriend.”
“Please,” she said hoarsely. “Don’t tell me I’m too late. You didn’t give me any time to think before you told me…you know.”
“That I’d loved you? Please. You had plenty of time. You had more than fifteen Goddamn years to figure it out.”
“You’re talking in past tense.” Her voice broke.
“Well, what did you expect, Brynn? That I could keep it up indefinitely? That I’d keep loving someone who saw me as a boy toy she couldn’t stand outside of the bedroom?”
“You’re being unfair—you never once even hinted that it was anything else. I thought we were on the same page.”
He pulled his sleeve away from her grasping fingers. “You’re right, it’s not fair, Brynn. It’s not fair that I had to watch you throw your heart at countless other men while I had to make do with a string of vapid women who would never be you. And now that I’m finally ready to move on…finally ready to get on with my life, you want to drag me back in?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
She was crying for real now, and she folded her hands loosely in front of her before shrugging and saying the only thing there was left to say.
“I love you, Will.”
She saw that it rocked through him. He shuddered and closed his eyes briefly, and her heart nearly broke at the searing emotion on his strong, familiar features.
He turned on his heel and walked away from her.
“William Thatcher, you can’t walk away from this! You didn’t stick this out for half of your life to chicken out now.”
He kept walking.
“Shit,” she muttered. “Shit!”
Tyler gave her a reproving look from the front desk, but she barely noticed as she went tearing back out into the humid Chicago air.
She saw him start to get into the driver’s seat of a car and sprinted full speed toward him, not stopping until she slammed into his side.
He glanced down. “You’re embarrassing yourself.”
“I don’t care,” she said, wiping at her cheeks as she dug through her purse. “I came prepared for you to be a stubborn ass, so I brought something.”
“I can hardly wait to see.”
She shoved a large cylindrical Tupperware at his chest. “Here.”
He stared down at the container in confusion. “You brought a plastic tub full of shredded paper to prove your love.”
Brynn nodded in earnest, shoving it closer to him so he couldn’t give it back. “Not just any paper. My lists.”
His lips parted for a second as his grip tightened on the container. “Your book? It’s all in here?”
“Well, not the cover…it was too thick to shred. But the contents. The thirty before thirty, forty before forty, the ten characteristics of a respectable husband, the ninety-nine rules of leading an exemplary life…all in there.”
“I don’t need them anymore,” she said simply. “I thought they were helping me live my life, but they were actually keeping me from it. I thought that by planning everything, that by doing everything just right, that I could stop being Dumpy Dalton. And I guess I succeeded, but I also turned into…”
“A bitch?” he supplied.
She swallowed and pressed on. “You’re my life, Will.”
Brynn heard an awkward clearing of a throat, and belatedly realized that Dana was in the passenger seat. She didn’t care. She only cared that Will would hear her. Want her. Love her.
Will slowly, deliberately unscrewed the plastic top from the container and turned it upside down. Tiny shreds of paper fell to the ground, not even bothering to flutter in the breezeless air.
Brynn closed her eyes and let the tears fall.
He didn’t want her. She’d offered him everything. Been as bare as she’d ever been before, but it had been too little too late.
Incoherent with pain, she started to drop to her knees to pick up the paper. Needing something, anything to ground herself.
She’d lost him.
Rough hands gripped her shoulders and yanked her forward. Will’s hands slid up to cup her cheeks as he rested his forehead on hers. “Goddamn you, Brynn Dalton.”
She choked out a laugh, hardly daring to hope as her fingers clenched his shirt. “Give me a chance, Will. Let me try to be the woman for you.”
“You idiot.” His fingers clenched in her hair. “You’ve always been the only woman for me.”
“I love you,” she said. “I love you so much. I think somehow I always have.”
“Do you have any idea how long I’ve waited to hear you say that?” His voice sounded suspiciously choked up, and she wiggled closer to him.
“You might have heard it a lot sooner if you hadn’t tried to woo me by running my bra up the flagpole my freshman year.”
“Foreplay, baby. Fifteen really long years of foreplay.”
And then he kissed her, long and hard. It was the first kiss they’d shared in front of other people, and it was all the sweeter because of it.
And when a sudden gust of hot summer air dragged up the scraps of paper at their feet before scattering them in a mess of confetti, that was okay too.
The new Brynn—the real Brynn—had all she needed.
It’s a lovely housewarming party, Brynn, honey.”
Brynn smiled in satisfaction. It really was a perfect party. The night was unseasonably warm for fall in Seattle, but there were a couple of those fancy heat lamps scattered around for when the sun went down. She’d even put out a couple of warm blankets for anyone who wanted to stay late and cuddle up under the stars.
Emphasis on the cuddle.
On second thought, she hoped nobody else would stay around for that part.
Brynn set out the last of the condiments on the table. “I’ve lived here a year and a half, Mom. I don’t think you can call it a ‘housewarming’ anymore.”
Marnie Dalton linked arms with her eldest daughter and gave her a secret smile. “Yes, but I suspect it’s just now starting to feel like a home, yes?”
Brynn’s eyes involuntarily went across the deck to where Will was manning the grill and drinking a beer with her dad. It was a scene she’d envisioned a dozen times before—outdoor barbecues, friends and family, and a partner that helped her do it all.
Oddly, she’d also been seeing this scene for years—Will talking to her dad, Will as part of the family. She just hadn’t been able to reconcile her dream vision with the reality.
She had now. And it was wonderful.
“It’s not like we’re living together, Mom. He has his own apartment in Seattle.”
Marnie sniffed. “I still don’t understand why he sold his house. A perfectly good piece of real estate…”
Brynn only gave her mom half an ear. Will hadn’t bothered to try and buy back his house when he’d returned to Seattle. It seemed silly for both of them to have big houses right next door to each other when they were spending their nights in the same bed.
Will had, however, insisted on getting his own apartment so as not to rush her. But she suspected there was another reason…Despite all his live-on-the-wild-side lectures, Wil
But she was wearing him down.
“Brynny, do you have a Taser? Trish’s kids are awful,” Sophie said, appearing at her side, slightly out of breath.
“No, but you can bribe them with marshmallows,” Brynn said, gesturing at the s’mores table for later.
“Yeah, because that’s what they need. More sugar,” Sophie said, her own cheeks now full of said marshmallow.
“I think they’re cute,” Brynn said, looking over to where her cousin’s twin daughters ran frantic circles on the lawn.
“The chubby one bit me.”
“You’re an elementary schoolteacher, you’re supposed to love kids.”
Sophie stuffed another marshmallow in her mouth. “I like them between the hours of seven and three p.m. Not so much on weekends when I want my wine.”
Brynn gestured toward the large silver bucket where several bottles of white wine were nestled amid the ice, but Gray was already on it, pouring a hefty glass for his wife.
“Can I help you with anything, Brynn?” Gray said, neatly popping the cap off a beer bottle and walking it over to the trash can.
The tidy action made Brynn smile. It was exactly what she would have done, whereas Sophie and Will would have flopped the cap on the table to be picked up later. By somebody else.
She met her brother-in-law’s eyes and they seemed to smile back at her, as though to say opposites attract, and all that.
“How’s Jenna?” Brynn asked Gray, after moving the flower arrangement just a few inches to the left and deciding that it was good enough. And that was another thing Will had taught her in the past few months since she’d coaxed him back from Chicago. When it came to the little stuff, sometimes, good enough was just right.
“Jenna’s on an absolute tear,” Gray said.
“Yeah, she mentioned that the guy she’s moving in with is trying to break up with her.”
Sophie snorted. “‘Trying’ is the operative word there. Nobody’s going to break up with that girl unless she wants it.”
“Seriously,” Brynn muttered. “I hope that guy’s ready to part with his testicles.”
After she and Will became official, Jenna had sent a succinct e-mail that read “Finally.” The two women had become pen pals of sorts since then. The most recent e-mail had been a scathing note about how the love of her life was having an existential crisis and could no longer handle Jenna’s fabulousness.
Jenna had mentioned a plan, and Brynn had silently said a prayer for the sake of the poor guy. She knew exactly how plans could blow up in your face.
“Grill’s preheated,” Will said, coming up behind her and tugging on her ponytail. She was growing her hair back out to its original length, and the blonde was here to stay. But no longer was she painstakingly straightening it with a flat-iron every day.
It was a little bit looser nowadays.
Just like her.
“I’ll get the plates,” she said, turning to head toward the kitchen after sneaking a quick kiss.
He snagged her elbow before she could go back inside. “I want to say something first.”
Brynn sent him an alarmed look. “If you tell anyone that we have matching tattoos,” she hissed.
“Not that,” he said, kissing her temple. “That’s just for us.”
“Well, and my parents, seeing as you told them—”
Will ignored her. “Hey, can I get everyone’s attention for a few minutes?”
The chatter abruptly stopped, and friends and neighbors who’d been standing in various clusters around the backyard turned to face them.
“What are you doing?” she hissed. “I’m not singing another duet with you; that was a one-time drunken thing…”
Will continued to ignore her as he addressed the group. “As you all know, my Brynny here has made some recent changes in the past couple months.”
“Cheers to that,” Sophie added.
“…she no longer has to consult a chart to decide what to wear each Monday, she’s no longer collecting brochures for her post-sixty Alaskan retirement cruise…”
“Only ’cause you made me,” Brynn hissed. “That cruise is supposed to be a spectacular treat for the elderly…”
Will put a hand over her face, playfully stifling her. “Anyway, point being, our little planner has taken great strides in embracing spontaneity.”
Brynn rolled her eyes, even as she flushed with pleasure at the pride in Will’s voice.
“But…” Will said, holding up a finger.
Brynn’s smile slipped.
“…our girl’s been hiding a dirty little secret under the mattress in the guest bedroom.”
Her face went hot as she grabbed his arm. “Wait, I can explain…”
“No need, honey, I think most of the women here will be able to relate…”
He moved toward one of the side tables, pulled a thick notebook out from under a bowl of chips, and held it up for everyone to see.
Sophie cried out in glee. “Oh, Brynny, it’s your wedding notebook.”
Marnie turned to her husband. “I have about six of those for each girl…of course, Sophie had to go and elope…”
Brynn’s dad and Gray each put a hand on Marnie’s shoulder and pressed. Hard.
“I thought we said no planning,” Will said with a teasing smile as he dangled the book in front of Brynn’s face. “But flipping through this, it looks like you’ve got quite a few things figured out.”
Only since I was six, she thought.
“Oh, that thing’s still around?” Brynn asked, her voice too high. “It must have escaped the shredder. Here, give it to me, and I’ll get rid—”
Will lifted the book higher and out of her reach before handing it to Sophie for safekeeping.
“I think maybe this is one of your planning notebooks that we’ll keep,” Will said, hooking a hand behind her neck and tilting her face up to him.
A few months ago, Brynn would have been mortified at such a blatant show of affection in front of so many people.
But now? Now she couldn’t care less who saw them together.
“I’ll get rid of it, really. It’s silly, and I don’t care about any of that—”
He stamped a hard kiss on her lips. “Yes, you do. And so do I. I may not have a wedding notebook, but I’ve been carrying something around with me since I was old enough to afford it.”
“So he was like twelve,” she heard Gray mutter.
All of the chattering around her turned to a dull hum as she watched Will drop to his knee.
“Will…” she said in a warning voice.
He shook his head. “We’re doing this the old-fashioned way. You’re not the only one who’s had a few dreams tucked away for future use. This is mine.”
Her eyes watered when he pulled out a perfect small, unmistakably sized jewelry box.
She opened it with shaking hands, her hand covering her wobbling lips at the perfect ring.
“See, Princess, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen your wedding notebook. That night after prom when I drove you home after your date ditched you…it was lying on your desk. You’d circled a picture of a ring, with a sticky note saying the one.”
She couldn’t speak. Couldn’t breathe.
His eyes clouded slightly as he clenched her fingers a little harder. “It is still the one, right? Your taste hasn’t changed?”
“It hasn’t changed,” she whispered, sliding the ring onto her finger. “It’s still the one.” Just like you are.
He chin dipped slightly in relief. “So that’s a yes?”
“That’s a hell yes.”
Brynn heard her sister give a little yelp of excitement, and her mom gave a definite sniffle as Will climbed to his feet and looked down at her newly adorned left hand.
“It doesn’t stop here, you know,” he said, rubbing a thumb along her fourth fing
Brynn laid her palms on his cheeks, her fingers tracing his familiar features. “I want that too. But you know what? I’m more excited for the day when our kids see the light and get rid of the lists.”
Will smiled into her eyes. “Yeah?”
“Of course,” she said, pulling his head down for a kiss. “Because that’s when life really begins.”
About the Author
A longtime romance reader, Lauren Layne thinks the only thing better than reading about happy endings is writing them. She now pursues a full-time career in Happily Ever After, a job she’s naturally suited for after marrying her high school sweetheart. A bit of a nomad, Lauren has lived everywhere from Orange County to Manhattan and currently lives in the Seattle area. Her hobbies include coffee by day, wine by night, and lots of writing in between. She’s also a total website nerd and insists you check out LaurenLayne.com!
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Party girl Sophie is enjoying her Las Vegas trip—
until an uptight businessman mistakes her
for a prostitute.
But when that gorgeous man turns
out to be her new boss, they soon realize
their Vegas misunderstanding might lead
to the real thing…
Please see the next page for an excerpt from
ONLY WITH YOU.
If only the boots had come with some sort of warning label.
Perhaps a succinct sticker reading, HOOKER.
Or even a tasteful note card indicating, “These shoes will change your life.”
But the knee-high, rhinestone-covered boots said neither of these things, and so Sophie Claire Dalton made the most crucial decision of her life without having all the information.
by Lauren Layne / Romance have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes