Imagine you’re a matchmaker and you realize too late you’re in love with your childhood best friend. You only have yourself to blame—you’re the one who matched him and now he’s engaged to be married. When you find yourself in this position there’s a few secrets you’re going to need to keep…
Secret #1 – Smile when he tells you the happy news, even if your heart cracks in half.
Secret #2 – Don’t compare yourself to his beautiful French fiancée. You’re just as beautiful.
Secret #3 – Don’t tag along to the tux fitting with him alone. Just no.
Secret #4 – Don’t help him learn to dance to his wedding song.
Secret #5 – Erase all memories of the two of you through the years when lines blurred for even the briefest of moments.
And the one you never saw coming…
Secret #6 – Definitely, don’t stand and object—someone else might just do it for you.
Book 7 in the Baileys Series
I’m at the bar, waiting for my strawberry lemonade with vodka, when the guests at the Bailey baby shower start yelling about cars and hospitals and kids.
I look over my shoulder and Colton’s weaving through chairs and tables with a concerned expression. I roll my eyes and turn back around.
Thankfully, before Colton reaches me, the bartender hands over my drink. I’m only three sips in before Colton snatches it out of my grasp and tosses the plastic cup in the trash.
“Hey, I paid for that,” I say.
“It’s open bar. Savannah just went into labor.”
“Good to know.” His hand grips my upper arm and I attempt to wrench it back with no success. “Shouldn’t you be with your fiancée?” My tone holds more of a sneer to it than usual.
“She had to go into the office. Mr. Beecher’s dog is in labor.”
I narrow my eyes. “You’re more qualified than her.”
He huffs and leads me out of Denver and Cleo’s airplane hangar, where the triple baby shower is being held because my two sisters and sister-in-law all got pregnant at the same time.
And my brother Denver is now engaged, so I have another soon-to-be sister-in-law. Harley, my other sister-in-law, is now pregnant for her fourth time.
“I have a lot of sisters-in-law,” I say. “They can handle it.”
Colton looks at me. “You’ve had more than I thought. I have no idea why you hang around that Trey Galger.” He shakes his head and scowls. Colton rarely scowls.
My heels push into the gravel, my balance wobbly for a minute before I can really anchor down. “Don’t scowl. You smile. That’s why all the ladies love you.” I pat his cheek.
His scowl turns into a smile, but his grip on my arm loosens at the same time.
I feel myself pitch over, my mind spinning. “Oh God, I’m going to be sick.”
Colton has seen me through a lot, and unfortunately, he’s held my hair back so many times that he’s like the MacGyver of keeping me from getting puke in my hair.
“Hold on.” He moves us off the path.
When I see green, all the acid from the lemonade erupts up my throat and I throw up all over a bush.
“You should thank your buddy Trey for all the vodka he fed you today,” he says, his fist holding back my hair.
“Please, just take me home,” I mumble.
My cheek slides and grinds against the glass from the window being raised and lowered. I blink a few times and glance around. Colton’s truck is parked at the curb on Spring Street.
It was touch and go there for a while—I had my head out the window like a panting dog.
“You could have just nudged me awake,” I grumble.
Colton chuckles. “What fun would that be?”
I sigh. I don’t have the energy to roll my eyes.
“Don’t breathe in my direction. Your breath is noxious.” He waves his hand in front of his face, laughs at his own damn joke, and leaves me alone in his truck.
I sit in solitude for ten seconds before he springs my door open. “Let’s go, you’re home.”
I step down onto the running board and grab a hold of the stability bar to climb out. “Stop holding me back,” I tell Colton, swatting my arms in the air.
“Jesus, Juno, your seat belt is on.”
I look down and see that he’s right. “Anyone can make that mistake.”
He bends down into the cab of the truck, his neck dangerously close to my lips. I inhale the scent of his soap and a smell that is just Colton.
He’s never been big on cologne except that short phase of junior high when he discovered girls. Unfortunately, the smell of men’s Polo cologne will remind me of my first kiss forever.
“Did you just sniff me?” he asks, unclicking the seat belt and releasing the pressure on my chest.
“No.” I shake my head, dodging eye contact. “Come on, Colton, unless you want me to puke in your truck.”
He moves out of my space and I step out. My heel catches something on the sidewalk and my face meets the concrete.
“Oh, you are in rare form tonight.” Colton swoops me up into his arms as though I’m his bride, but I’m not. He has a bride now. Or a bride-to-be at least.
“I always knew you’d make a good husband,” I say, touching his stubbly five o’clock shadow. He leaves the house clean-shaven and returns hours later with scruff most guys try for nowadays.
That’s just one of the many things I know about my best friend.
He props me up higher in his arms. “Juno, get your keys out of your purse.”
I open my purse, a little disappointed that he rudely disregarded my compliment. “I don’t see them.” My fingers dig and dig. “Hmm.” I turn the purse upside down and the contents fall all over me.
Colton groans. “Seriously, Juno?”
“How else are we going to know if they’re in there?” I look on my stomach for anything that didn’t fall to the sidewalk and there they are.
“Ah ha!” I pick them up as if I found a hundred-dollar bill on the street.
“Now let’s see if you can get it into the lock.”
I lean in close to him. “Are you challenging me, Colton Stone?”
“If it gets the key in the lock and you out of my arms quicker, then yes.”
I frown and turn my attention to the lock. Colton tries to move me when I miss by a millimeter to the right or the left.
Eventually the key goes in, I unlock it, and voila, we’re in my apartment building.
He walks up the stairs and he sighs at the second door. “Let’s hope you can go two for two.”
I get the key in the lock on the first try and raise my hands with a smile.
Colton walks into my apartment and immediately disposes of me on the couch. “Sit tight. I’ll be right back.”
He jogs back down the stairs. I kick off my heels and walk into my bedroom to change.
I have my dress half off when Colton walks in. “I told you to sit tight.”
His eyes flare at the sight of my lacy bra. I’m not sure why I wore a nice bra and panty set today, but right now, I’m happy I did.
Although over the years, Colton’s seen my much less stellar undergarments.
I struggle for another second with my dress, but the zipper won’t cooperate.
“Come here.” He relents and breaks the distance between us when I continue to get the fabric caught in the zipper.
He’s showing little patience for my antics tonight, and I’m about to remind him of all the times I’ve nursed him back to health.
Like that time he decided we should do a bar crawl in Anchorage with his buddy from college. That was a record two-day hangover.
Then his fingers are on my skin and my mind blurs. The softness of his touch and the smell of him so near calms my jittery body. It always does.
It’s one of the reasons I swore we’d never cross that line into a romantic relationship. Why I need him to be in my life forever and not for a brief affair that, if it ends badly, I’ll lose him.
But all of that seems so senseless right now. My jealousy of his fiancée feels like a living, breathing thing inside me. I watch him work the zipper, the fabric releases, and I catch his eyes.
He holds our eye contact.
I want him. I want him to promise me I won’t die alone. But I don’t want his words—I want his body weighing mine down on the bed. The slow roam of his hands along my body.
His smoldering eyes says he’s thinking the same thing. He wants me too.
I rise on my tiptoes and my dress pools around my ankles. His gaze dips down, and the fire in his eyes suggests I’ve sparked his interest.
“Juno,” he whispers.
I put my finger to his mouth and press my lips to the hollow of his neck. I continue to place light kisses up his neck and across his jaw. His stubble only spurs thoughts of his face between my legs.
If only for tonight, I need him.
Abruptly his hands grip my upper arms and he pushes me away. “You know we can’t.”
As if someone snapped me out of a hypnosis, my eyes pop open.
“Thanks for the ride home,” I say and step away from him.
“Juno, let’s talk. I mean…” He stops when I turn my back to him and crawl under the covers of my bed.
“I’m sorry. I should’ve never done that. You can go home to Brigette now.” And I do mean my apology, but the embarrassment flooding every cell in my body is controlling me right now.
I threw myself at an engaged man. What the hell is wrong with me?
The bed dips by my feet. “I’ll stay. Make sure you don’t get sick again.”
I tighten the covers over me. “Go home.”
The next day, with a pounding head and blurry vision, I pick up my phone to find a million voicemails and text messages from my family.
“Oh my God!” I scream, and a loud thump sounds outside my bedroom door.
What the hell was that?
I grab my shoes from my closet and slowly open up my bedroom door.
“Fucking hell.” Colton is on all fours on the floor, getting up. He’s only in his boxers.
“You stayed?” I ask, wincing as my voice causes my brain to vibrate in my skull. My gaze travels the length of his chest, bouncing down his rippled stomach.
“I wasn’t going to leave you alone in your condition,” he says, grabbing his pants and putting them on.
“I gotta go. They’ve all had their babies.” I leave him in the living room and head back into my room, pulling out a pair of yoga pants and a sweatshirt.
“Don’t you think you should shower first?” He looks me over when I step out and grab my purse. “You look like you got run over by a semi.”
I narrow my eyes. “Aren’t you a sweet-talker. Is this how you got Brigette to marry you?”
He says nothing and his eyes cast down to the floor. I head to the bathroom to brush my teeth. He comes in and grabs the mouthwash from me.
We both spit in the sink at the same time, our eyes catching for the briefest of seconds, but it’s like releasing the plug in a bathtub full of water. Memories of last night flood my brain.
They’re only pieces as I put them back together in chronological order. The drinks. The acid of the lemonade still raw in my throat. The drinks. The acid of the lemonade still raw in my throat. He walks out of the bathroom and I try to remember more.
His hands on my skin while he helped with my dress. My lips on his skin. Oh shit.
I walk out of the bathroom to find him texting on his phone. No doubt to Brigette, explaining why he had to stay at my apartment last night.
She probably thinks nothing of it because she feels no threat with me being Colton’s best friend. She trusts me. And I betrayed that trust and Colton’s last night.
Fuck, Juno, get your shit together.
He pockets his cell phone. “I’ll drive you to the hospital.”
“I can drive myself.” I want to ignore the confusing feelings where he’s concerned and being away from him will make it a lot easier.
“They’re like my siblings too. I want to see the babies.” He opens the door for me.
I file out with zero intention of acting as if I remember last night at all. But at some point, Colton will corner me about it—hopefully after I arm myself with an excellent excuse.