Dedicated to my favorite avid reader, Rachel.
COREY SPENT THE REST of the morning getting things ready for Megan’s arrival. Dex offered to bring her by, and that freed up time for him to accomplish a few things he needed in place before she showed up. He still couldn’t believe it, that he was married, and to Megan. The happiness of that knowledge swamped him from head to toe, almost vibrating right through his entire being. Nolan waited for him at the jeweler's, ready to help him pick out rings as a surprise for his new bride. He hated that he didn’t have one at the ready last night, but as spur of the moments went, it turned out well so far.
Nolan stood outside, talking on his cell phone, pacing back and forth, not even aware of his approach. Corey stopped just outside the door, wondering when his brother was going to get off the phone, so they could get things moving. He had to be back at the ranch before Megan got there and he still had one more important stop to make before getting home. Nolan saw him and then turned around facing away, creating more distance between them. Corey shook his head, unable to wait any longer and headed inside the store.
He made a beeline right to the glass cabinet, which sat in the center of the shop that contained the wedding bands and engagement rings, his heart pounding wildly. He had to laugh for a moment for doing things completely backward, but honestly, he didn’t care. Megan Evans married him without a fancy gown, or her family beside her, without even a proper ring and that meant everything to him. With any luck, he’d find the perfect ring for her to wear and start making that up to her.
“Hello, Corey,” Mr. Kaye said coming from the back room. “Nolan called and told me you’d both be by early this morning.”
Corey extended his hand and the men shook. “I appreciate you opening up a little early for me.”
“It’s my pleasure. I hear congratulations are in order. Who’s the lucky bride?” Mr. Kaye asked, leaning against the counter.
Mr. Kaye was in his mid-forties, inheriting the family store from his father. He looked a lot like his father with an oval face that always adorned a welcoming smile. He wore wire-rimmed glasses that sat close to the edge of his nose.
“Megan Evans.” Corey waited, not sure what kind of reaction he expected, but he certainly thought the man would be a little shocked.
A bright smile rose to his face and his pale blue eyes lit up. “That’s wonderful. She’s had such a rough life,” he said shaking his head. “If anyone deserves a little happiness, it’s your wife.”
That word resonated through his entire being leaving his body pulsating with delight. Wife. He had a wife! Corey found just the thought of it incredible.
“Congratulations to the both of you. Now, what do you think she would like?”
Corey stared down at the array of rings, overwhelmed by the choices, and realized that he didn’t really have a clue what kind of jewelry suited her, or what she preferred for that matter. As if on cue, the little bell rang above the door and Corey turned around to see Anna and Nolan coming to his rescue.
“I thought you could use a little help,” Anna said. She stepped up beside him and kissed his cheek. “Though Nolan didn’t do too bad picking mine out on his own.” Anna extended her left hand, gazing down at her rings as if they were the most beautiful jewelry she had ever seen, her face aglow.
“Nice to you see you again, Mr. Kaye,” Nolan said.
“And you as well. Hello again, Anna.”
“Hello. I do love my rings, and of course, you’ve been a lifesaver letting us borrow items for every launch party. I’m sure whatever Corey chooses for Megan she will love it!”
Mr. Kaye pulled out four different wedding sets and set them on the counter. Anna tried them on so Corey could see what they’d look like on Megan’s hand, and finally settled on one, as well as choosing a wedding band for himself.
“Give me two hours and they will be all ready for you,” Mr. Kaye said.
Corey reached forward and shook his hand again. “Thank you again.”
“You’re very welcome.”
The three left the store and headed outside.
Anna pulled Nolan close and held him tight before kissing him hard on the mouth. “Well, I have a few things to take care of. I’ll see you both back at the ranch in a bit.” She winked at Corey and rushed off.
Before Corey could say anything, she had already made it to her car, and thinking about her exact words his head began to spin. Nolan smiled after his wife, and that confirmed his suspicion. “What is she up to now?”
Nolan laughed. “You know my wife. One can never tell.”
Corey shook his head. “Yeah right. Whatever it is, I hope to God it’s not going to be something I’ll have to strangle her for.”
“Like I’d let you,” Nolan proclaimed.
Corey laughed. “Probably not, but you’d have to catch me beforehand.”
“True. Where to now?” Nolan asked.
“Give me a ride? You can help me pick out surprise number two.”
Nolan’s dark eyes beaded together as he stared at him, but he smiled anyway. “You got it, little brother.”
They headed to Nolan’s truck and drove to the outskirts of town.
“How did Mom take the news?” Nolan inquired.
“Pretty well actually. I admit I was worried how she would react, and I hated the way she found out, but she was genuinely happy about it.”
“Anna mentioned Dex showed up and clocked you pretty good.” Nolan speared him a glance and reached out, pointing to his jaw. “That’s going to look ugly for a few days.”
Corey sighed. “I know. Can’t wait to see Megan’s reaction when she sees me. I hope Dex at least told her about it, so I don’t have to explain.” He figured she would be upset about it, maybe even enough to pamper him a little bit. The surprises he had in store for her should garner him some brownie points to last him a few weeks at least, and if last night was any indication, she would love him good.
“What did Dad have to say?”
“I haven’t seen him yet.”
Nolan jerked the wheel. “What? You didn’t tell him yet?
Corey laughed. “Chicken. I know.” He did mean to tell his father, but after Dex left and explaining things to Anna and his mother, he totally forgot. He found it necessary to make sure everything was perfect for when Megan arrived and that’s where his focus remained. “I’m sure he knows by now,” Corey muttered.
“No doubt. Can’t wait to be there when you get home and watch it all go down.”
Corey cringed. He didn’t want to think that his father would be upset by the news, but the way Nolan reacted he now wondered how wrong he could be about this. “Crap,” Corey uttered.
“You might have asked first if you two could live there. Newlyweds need their privacy,” Nolan said, then laughed and shook his head.
“I know, but it all happened so damn fast I didn’t have a chance to.”
Nolan glanced at him before turning his eyes back on the road. “Yes, it was pretty sudden, which has me wondering why.”
Corey didn’t really want to get into the details of all that—with anyone, even his brother, though Anna pretty much fig
ured it all out on her own. His best friend could be such a pain that way, making it next to impossible to keep any secrets from her.
“It just did,” Corey uttered.
“Well,” Nolan began, “I heard she’s not pregnant, so that must mean she was worried about getting in the family way with you two carrying on.”
Corey groaned. “That wasn’t what prompted the wedding.”
Corey didn’t see any other way out of this conversation. They were still a good ten minutes from their destination and he knew his brother well enough to know the man wouldn’t let up until he got a satisfactory explanation.
“Fine, I’ll tell you, but this stays between us.”
Nolan glanced at him again. “Are you telling me my beautiful and conniving wife doesn’t know?”
Corey laughed, “She suspects, but I wouldn’t confirm her suspicions.”
Nolan roared, the sound of his laughter filling the truck and grating on his nerves. “Well go on. I’m listening.”
“I asked her to marry me, she turned me down. I just couldn’t sleep with her until we got married.”
“Whoa,” Nolan muttered. “And knowing your history I take it that didn’t play out well for you.”
Corey shook his head. “Not at first. It took a lot of convincing on my part. I love her, Nolan. She’s special and deserves the best. I know waking the preacher in the middle of the night and doing things the way we did was a little rash, even inconsiderate to the rest of you, but it was the only way we both got what we wanted.”
“Well, I’m happy for you and I don’t really care about missing the wedding. It’s just a formality anyway. If you’re happy, I support you,” Nolan assured him.
Corey relaxed in the seat, watching as the greenery flew by. Just a few more minutes and he could pick out the next gift for his wife, something so unexpected he knew for sure it would blow her away. Something Nolan said niggled the back of his neck and started to replay on a loop in his head. Maybe living with his parents wasn’t such a good idea after all, and since he’d done nothing with his little hideaway, it was probably a good idea to get started.
“Think you could get me in touch with your architect?” Corey asked.
“Sure, Taylor’s busy but he’s a really great guy. What do you have in mind?”
“Building a house for Megan at the top of the ridge.”
Nolan smiled. “That is a good plot of land. Far enough away from the house that affords you privacy, yet close enough if something were to happen and they needed you right away.”
“I know things are busy for you right now, but if we could get some plans together and approved, how fast could you get your crew on it?” Corey knew his brother's schedule could be hectic, and he didn’t know if he had any new projects on the horizon.
“Don’t worry. The second you and Taylor agree on the plans, we’ll be out here to build your home.”
MEGAN PULSED WITH EXCITEMENT her body filled with anticipation as they pulled up to the ranch. She assumed Dex would be the only one to drive her over, but Karen and the kids came as well, turning it into a family event. The stables came into view, and then the Brady house appeared, bright lights shining from every window. Megan noticed Anna and Nolan’s vehicles, along with a few others, realizing in an instant that this wasn’t going to be a private homecoming. She prayed they didn’t have anything major planned for her, especially not knowing how his parents took the news. All she desired and needed more than anything was to see her new husband and find a quiet spot to be alone with him. The excitement mingled with nervousness as they drew closer, and a part of her wanted to turn around and head for the comforts of her bedroom. She took a deep breath as Dex brought the truck to a stop, hoping to calm her nerves.
She opened the car door, sliding out and standing, her legs wobbly, and looking up she saw Corey heading outside to greet them. Her heart filled with tremendous joy seeing his welcoming smile, and that was enough to forget her worries. Elation danced through her body as she raced forward and launched herself into his awaiting arms, oblivious to anyone watching them. She clung to him, planting tiny kisses all over his handsome face, while thoughts of waking up beside him entered her mind.
“I missed you,” Megan said, her heart pounding wildly in her chest.
Corey held her tight, their bodies molding together before setting her back down on the ground. His thumb brushed over her bottom lip and she trembled from that innocent touch, wanting nothing more than to kiss him. “I missed you too.”
Megan couldn’t contain the smile that burst on her face, nor did she want to. He missed her! Her eyes saw the bruise on his jaw and she couldn’t help reaching forward to touch it. It wasn’t the first time she observed him this way, hoped it would be the last, but knowing her brother hit him made her blanch.
Corey rested his hand over hers. “It’s fine. I promise, no worries.” Corey grabbed her hand and pulled her along towards the house.
“Dex,” he called back over his shoulder, “leave everything and come inside.”
When they reached the porch, Corey squeezed her hand, staring down at her with a twinkle in his dark eyes.
Megan stared at him, knowing he was up to something, but not one clue as to what that could be since they hadn’t spoken since he dropped her off at dawn. “What’s going on? What are you up to?” she asked.
Corey laughed, “You’ll see. Come on.”
He held the door for her and Megan stepped inside the Brady kitchen where her mother-in-law made all her famous baked creations. The house seemed curiously quiet and a chill raced up her spine. With the number of vehicles in the yard, she knew people had to be somewhere, and the thought of them jumping out screaming ‘surprise’ made her stomach do flip-flops. Corey led her to the dining room, and Dex and his family weren’t far behind. Once they crossed the threshold, Megan gasped, astonished to see the spread on the table with everyone already seated waiting for them.
“Let’s eat!” Anna said, reaching for a piping hot biscuit, the steam rising as she pulled it in half.
Megan took a seat beside Corey and settled in, with the rest of her family gathering around the dinner table. “I see you’ve been waiting for us.” She nudged Corey in the side. “Wish someone would’ve mentioned that.”
“You’re right on time,” Abby Brady said, a bright smile on her face. “Hello, Dex. Karen. It’s nice to see you again. Your children are beautiful.”
Karen smiled down at the kids. “Thank you.”
“Let’s eat,” Tom Brady interjected.