Marrying Cade(4)

By: Sally Clements

“How are you holding up?”

Cade’s deep rumble vibrated to her core. God, she was as aware of him as ever. She moistened her dry lips with the tip of her tongue, and her hands tightened convulsively on the steering wheel.

“Not too bad.” She drew the words out slowly, carefully. “Although we could have done without Papa’s heart attack in the middle of everything.”

That was putting it mildly. Melo’s mother had taken her husband’s medical crisis as carte blanche to fall to pieces.

Melo still had to see to the caterers, and make sure the musicians had arrived. And her father wanted to talk to her too, before the evening’s festivities got underway. Her shoulders slumped. Getting through the next three days would be a nightmare.

“If there’s anything I can do to help, I’m here.” Cade reinforced the sincerity in his tone by reaching out to pat her shoulder.

The feel of his hand through the thin cotton arced electricity through her.

“Thanks.” She flicked her gaze to his briefly, registering his solemn expression.

“I mean it, you know. I’m just kicking around until the wedding day.” His mouth curved.

Her heart thudded faster. The Cade effect was as powerful as ever. “I know you mean it. You were always helpful.”

Cade threw back his head and laughed. “Yeah, well, I’ll do more than carry the picnic basket this time.”

“You did more than that,” Melo replied. He’d listened to her endless talk about how she’d improve the winery. Had sympathized when she’d moaned about how her parents were indifferent to her ambitions, wanting instead for her to only become a wife and mother.

“I was obnoxious, a lot of the time. We’d just lost the ranch.”

“And your father…” Melo cleared her throat. “You were only sixteen, you were entitled.” She clenched her teeth together and concentrated on the road.

“I must have been a complete pain, moaning about everything.” Cade’s voice deepened intimately. “I meant what I said. I’m happy to help out, just tell me what you want me to do.”

Run your hands through my hair and kiss me senseless? Melo’s lips twitched.

In mere moments they arrived. She drove the car around in a lazy circle and stopped outside the villa. The crazy thing was he’d never realized she’d fallen in love with him. Had dreamed of one day making him hers. When she heard of his engagement, her heart had almost broken, and she’d been disgustingly happy to hear the news it was all off.

She’d let her fear of rejection stop her from contacting him after he’d left twelve years ago, and had almost missed her chance. In the years since, she’d kissed a few frogs, had a couple of flings, but nothing to write home about. The fact of the matter was Melo’d fantasized about kissing Cade since she was a teenager. Maybe it was just a fantasy. Maybe when they finally kissed, it’d be nothing special. Maybe it’d be everything she’d dreamed it’d be—there was only one way to find out.

Melo squared her shoulders, and turned to flash Cade a look-at-me smile. Before the wedding festivities were over, Cade West would know her true feelings. She pushed open the door and stepped out. It was time for a cold drink, before she combusted.

Chapter Two

Melo’s back prickled and she felt sure Cade must be watching her as she sashayed into the sitting room where her mother held court with some of the wedding guests.

“Adam. Cade.” With warm, welcoming tones, Mary Bellucci opened her arms wide. She embraced Adam, then proffered her cheek to Cade.

“I’ll go and check on Rosa.” Melo strode away from the little group, stopping in her room on the way to strap her tan suede “wedding tool belt” onto her hips, knowing from experience she would need it.

The bride was crying.

It wasn’t a pretty sight. Fat tears rolled down her porcelain cheeks, bleeding an inky mascara trail in their wake. Melo pulled a packet of tissues out of her tool belt, shook one out, and passed it over quickly, before her sister’s tears reached the ivory silk of her bodice.

“Where have you been, Melo! I needed you. I’m so worried about Papa,” Rosa wailed accusingly, sobbing into the tissue.

Melo pulled in a steadying breath, led her sister toward a red velvet sofa, and eased her down onto it. Nearby, the worried designer hovered, pins sticking out of the corner of her mouth.

“Just give us a couple of minutes please, Eliza,” Melo calmly reassured, and Eliza slipped behind the curtain, giving them some privacy.

Rosa’s eyes were red and puffy, and her nose watered. It wasn’t the best look for a blushing bride.