Our Last First Kiss

By: Christie Ridgway

Heartbreak Hotel Book 1

Chapter 1

“Maybe we should check into a nunnery instead,” Lilly Durand murmured, taking in the tropical-hued walls, lush greenery, and colorful Moorish-tiled floor of the resort’s indoor/outdoor reception area. Where nuns are dressed in somber black and speak in papery whispers to match our bleak moods.

“What’s that?” her best friend Audra Montgomery asked dully, her gaze vague. She seemed unaware of their surroundings as her fingers plucked idly at the hem of the yoga hoodie half-covering the white lace of the wedding dress she wore. The edges of its short train already appeared tattered.

Lilly placed her fingertips at her temples and contemplated the short check-in line for the famed Santa Barbara hotel, The Hathaway at Dragonfly Beach. Rather than taking her place behind other would-be guests, she continued to hesitate, now yanking on the sleeves of the sweatshirt she wore over her silk organza maid-of-honor gown. Pretty sequined shoes pinched her toes and she decided perhaps one good thing had come out of this disaster—there wasn’t a night of dancing ahead of her in the misery-making heels.

Suddenly, a frisson of awareness feathered down her spine. Her back shot straight and then a wash of heat cascaded over her flesh, prickling all the tiny hairs. It was an unwelcome sensation she’d become familiar with over the past few days, but surely there wasn’t the same cause of it. Not now. Not here.

Pulse tripping, she took a cautious glance around the lobby. Through an archway she could see an elegant lagoon-styled pool in the distance, surrounded by lounge chairs and gently waving palm trees. Over her other shoulder, she caught a glimpse of a courtyard with tables and chairs surrounding a bubbling fountain. Visitors dressed in expensive resort-wear. Employees in starched white shirts and dark slacks bustling about. No tall, athletic figure lurked nearby, upsetting her equilibrium with his confident charm and roguish grin.

Another positive outcome of the disaster, she thought, briskly rubbing her arms to dissipate the goose bumps that invariably followed that rush of heat—she’d put distance between herself and that man.

The assertion didn’t ease the sense of foreboding that seemed to hover over her, though. Lilly decided to chalk it up to the emotional rollercoaster they’d been through that day, but it didn’t stop her from taking an additional wary look about. Across the space, in a huge mirror in an ornately carved frame on the opposite side of the room, she saw her and Audra’s reflections. Even with her face paler than usual, the other woman’s delicate beauty was undeniable. Her champagne-blonde up-do and the pale blue of her eyes gave her the look of a graceful flower in a meticulously planned and very well-tended garden—an iris, perhaps.

On the other hand, Lilly, with her unruly dark hair, blue-black eyes, and pink-cheeked complexion was the brash, stubborn weed that managed to grow between the cracks in a neglected sidewalk.

Despite their contrasting appearances—and all their other differences—they’d been fast friends since their first week in college. Audra was soft-spoken, generous, and prone to seeing the very best in people. Lilly talked fast, trusted few, and expected little from her fellow man. But Audra and the entire Montgomery family had always been exceptionally kind and welcoming to Lilly and in return she had given them her undying loyalty.

Which is why she’d do whatever she could to take this bad situation and make it better.

As if she had any certain idea on how to go about that successfully.

Taking a deliberate deep breath, she linked her arm with Audra’s. The idea of spending some recovery time at this resort had come to Lilly in the aftermath of the disaster. Audra’s dad had opined it an excellent idea and instantly offered up his credit card. The shattered expressions on the faces of both parents of the bride had underscored that they were as devastated as their daughter.

Audra’s mother hadn’t been able to stop crying and Mr. Montgomery declared he was going to take a cue from Lilly and go ahead with his and his wife’s already planned R & R trip to London for two weeks—as long as Lilly felt capable of supporting Audra on her own.

Knowing that hovering and noticeably upset parents would only make her friend more distraught, Lilly had promised she could handle it…and hoped like hell she wouldn’t make a liar of herself.

“Let’s go,” Lilly urged Audra now, stepping toward the check-in line.

The other woman didn’t move.

Turning to her, Lilly swallowed hard. There was so much pain in Audra’s eyes. “What is it, Audie?”

“Jacob,” she said in a near-whisper. “Maybe I should go back to the beach. Maybe he’ll show up there after all.”