Wildflower Wedding by LuAnn McLane
Cricket Creek, Kentucky, is a sweet river town known for its baseball, shopping, and weddings. After the recession, business is finally bouncing back, but old insecurities—and heartaches—are slower to heal…
Growing up on the wrong side of the tracks, Gabby Goodwin had more to prove than the rest of Cricket Creek. Even now, as the successful owner of the local flower shop, she hasn’t forgotten her humble beginnings. So when her high school crush, the former class bad boy, walks back into her life, she keeps him at arm’s length, protecting her heart—and her pride.
Reese Marino gave up most of his wild ways years ago, graduating from college and becoming part owner of his uncle’s pizza parlor. The fact that Gabby still treats him like a troubled teenager drives him mad, but that’s not the only thing about the sassy florist driving him to distraction. Despite Gabby’s reluctant attitude, Reese is determined to win her over and show her that love often blooms right where you least expect it.
“Nice moves, Gabby.”
Gabby froze and then looked over at Reese standing in the doorway. “Thanks.” She hoped her light response hid her embarrassment. “I try.”
“So, you’re bringing sexy back?” he asked, referring to the song that just had to be playing.
“Did it ever leave?” Gabby responded nonchalantly but felt heat creep into her cheeks and silently cursed her fair skin. She hoped he didn’t notice.
“Yeah, it did.” When Reese walked toward her Gabby wondered how he could make merely walking somehow look sexy. “About eight years ago,” he added.
“You wish.” Gabby tried not to grin but failed. She really needed to stop cranking the music up so she could hear the bell ding over the front door. She shrugged as if Reese’s appearance didn’t send a flutter in her stomach. Although she often had to wear sweaters she was suddenly grateful that she had to keep the store pretty cold for the health of the flowers because she could certainly use a cool down just from looking at him. She barely refrained from fanning her face. Was it possible that Reece had gotten even hotter in just a couple of days?
Apparently it was…
Maybe her stomach fluttered because Reese looked so darned masculine in the midst of all of the flowers Gabby reasoned, but then had to go and compare her reaction to that of seeing Drew.
“So what are you working on?” Reese walked closer and nodded toward the long table littered with snips of colorful ribbons, discarded leaves and stem wire.
“Senior’s prom,” Gabby replied. When her music shuffled to Bruno Mars crooning Locked out of Heaven she hurried over and clicked Pandora off.
“Ah… senior prom?” Reese leaned a jean clad hip against the front counter. “It still stings that you turned me down.”
“Going to the prom?” Gabby sputtered. “Are you serious?”
“I didn’t have a date. You were poking simply fun. Joking.”
“What? I wouldn’t make fun of you, Gabby.” Reese pulled a frown. “Why would you think that?”
Gabby raised her hands skyward. “Because you were super cool and I was a nerd.” She hadn’t fit in with the rougher crowd or the middle class students either. Instead, she sat at the lunch table full of misfits who became her friends. Gabby didn’t care about clothes she couldn’t afford or meaningless trends. Well, most of the time, anyway.
Reese arched a dark eyebrow. “More like I was super bad ass and you didn’t want anything to do with me.” His tone remained teasing but something flashed in Reese’s eyes that gave Gabby pause making her wonder if there might be more than what he was saying.
“Oh well, thank God that high school is over, right? Would we really want to do that over again?”
Reese shrugged slightly. “I might have done a thing or two differently.”
Gabby wasn’t sure what Reese meant by his comment but he didn’t seem to want to elaborate. “Well, by seniors, I was referring to the senior citizens at Whisper’s Edge. It’s a dance where they raise money for charity.” She grinned. “I was actually invited.”
“Sounds like a blast.” Reese rolled of his eyes.
“Hey, don’t be fooled. I recently provided flowers for a birthday bash. Trust me, the Whisper’s Edge residents know how to throw a party. All I can say is beware of the punch.”
Reese chuckled. “So are you going?”
“I don’t have a date,” Gabby answered without thinking.
Reese arched an eyebrow. “Does that mean I have a second chance to take you to the prom?”
Caution warred with attraction and when he gave her a crooked grin attraction won hands down. “It’s this Saturday night. Don’t you have to work?”
“I’m pretty sure that Mom and Uncle Tony will be able to cover for me.” He paused and then said. “In fact, I know they will. Until the grand opening of the actual restaurant we’ll be pretty slow but we planned it that way. We wanted to get all of the kinks out with a soft opening. And you know, hopefully get a little buzz going with how good the pizza is. Restaurants rely on word or mouth and can also go under pretty quickly with some bad press.”
“Well, if all of the pizza is as good as the one I had you don’t have a thing to worry about.”
“Thanks, I hope you’re right.”
“So… so what brings you here?”
“I wanted to know if you liked the cannoli?” he asked.
“I… I did,” she replied but it was the kiss not the cannoli that suddenly popped into her mind. She looked at that amazing mouth of his and swallowed hard. Was he going to ask that next? “It was really delicious.”
His gaze met hers. “The best you’ve ever had?”
Gabby nodded slowly and her heart thudded. “I have to say… yes.”
“Good. I was hoping you’d say that.” He walked closer until he stood right in front of her.
Gabby wanted to back up but her feet would not budge. She tried to look away but her eyes refused to as much as blink. She could feel the warmth of his body so close to hers and she remembered how intoxicating it felt to be wrapped in his strong arms. When he reached forward her heart hammered in her chest. He leaned even closer and caressed her hair with his fingers. If he kissed her again she was afraid she’d be powerless to resist but she stood there motionless. Waiting… hoping.
Gabby blinked at Reese. “What?”
“This was tangled in your hair.” He took a small step back and handed her a sprig of baby’s breath.
Gabby’s emotions bounced around like a pin ball. Was he toying with her? Flirting? “Reese, why are you really here?”
“Isn’t this a flower shop?”
“Um… yeah.” Trying to be flippant, Gabby responded by giving him a shove. But the moment her palms met his rock hard chest she wanted to fist her hands in the cotton of his shirt and yank him forward… and kiss him like there was no tomorrow. Instead she took a big step backwards and came up against the craft table. For a moment she thought he was going to step forward. She imagined him putting a palm on either side of the table, trapping her… leaning in for another hot kiss. For another long, heated moment she wanted him to.
Reese licked his bottom lip and his chest rose and fell more than simply standing there warranted. Gabby wished she could read his mind. She studied his face, noticing a small scar on his chin, a tiny mole on his cheek, and flecks of gold in his eyes. “Well?” The deep timbre of his voice felt like a caress, causing her breath to catch.
“Well… what?” Gabby had the urge to reach over, tug his shirt from his jeans and feel her hands on his skin. A hot shiver ran down her spin at the thought. When had merely standing in the presence of a man affected her in this way?
The answer was easy: never.
LuAnn McLane writes southern bent romantic comedy for NAL/Signet Eclipse and is currently penning her eighth novel in her popular Cricket Creek series. Her books have appeared on best selling lists including USA Today, Nielsen BookScan, Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Her books have been featured selections for Rhapsody and Doubleday Book clubs. Her love of country music led her to collaboration with superstar Wynonna Judd with the novel Restless Heart. She lives in Naples, Florida and when she isn’t writing… she enjoys entertaining family and friends, cooking, reading, music, travel and University of Kentucky basketball.
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