When Caleb McGraw sweeps Snow Cameron off her feet, she never expects their whirlwind romance to lead to a Vegas wedding chapel. Before she can catch her breath, Caleb starts talking kids and college funds while his wealthy parents make their disapproval painfully clear. Convinced she was blinded by lust, not love, Snow takes off for Ardent Springs, Tennessee, two months into the marriage.
Heir to a media conglomerate, Caleb never experienced struggle or rejection, until Snow sends him on a wild hunt for his runaway bride. When he finally finds her—managing a curiosity shop beloved by the quirky locals—she agrees to give the marriage another chance, but on one condition: no sex for a month. Can their love stand the test, or will they give in to their attraction?
In this humorous and heartwarming Ardent Springs romance, two lost hearts start over in a town where everyone deserves a second chance and love always wins in the end.
“You’re a hard woman to find,” Caleb McGraw said with the soft drawl of a Louisiana native.
Snow Cameron looked up into the face she’d been avoiding for nearly eighteen months and swallowed hard. The moment of reckoning had come.
Glancing around to gauge their audience, Snow was relieved to see few customers present, and none of those even seemed to notice the handsome stranger in their midst. At least not yet. She evoked every ounce of control she had to remain calm, hoping the panic shooting up her spine didn’t show on her face.
Caleb McGraw, his jawline made for marble, and his eyes the shade of a clear blue sky, was the perfect combination of Greek god and good-ol’-boy. She’d like to say his eyes were the first thing she’d noticed when she’d almost tripped over him at a New Year’s Eve party nearly two years ago, but his shoulders had been the first draw. Perfect for holding onto during . . .
Sex is what got you into this mess, young lady. Do not go there.
“Well,” she said, “my name is over the door. What are you doing here?” she asked, which may have been the most idiotic question ever, but Snow couldn’t think of anything else to say.
Except maybe, How did you find me? Or, Why didn’t you love me?
Though Snow had spent endless hours contemplating exactly what she’d do were this unwelcome reunion to occur, she hadn’t expected both fear and joy to light through her system like lightning slicing through an ancient oak. The fear was no surprise, but the joy was so unexpected she was forced to grip the edges of the cash register on the counter in front of her to keep her balance. Thankful to have the counter between them, she waited for his answer with growing dread.
Crossing his arms, Caleb smirked. “I’d think that was obvious.”
Snow studied his face, struggling to read his thoughts. Neither anger nor pleasure shown in his features. Though he loomed above her—six feet three inches of solid muscle, as she knew all too well—his stance didn’t feel threatening. If she’d spent as much time learning his mind as she’d devoted to studying his body, maybe interpreting his expression wouldn’t be so difficult.
With shaking fingers, Snow swiped a wayward curl off her forehead and was reminded that she was wearing a hat. A very pointy hat, along with a tight black dress, red and white striped knee socks, and platform Mary Janes.
Why did he have to find me on Halloween? she thought.
The downtown vendors of Ardent Springs held a trick-or-treating event for area children every year, which would start in less than an hour. Snow had donned the witch costume to show her town spirit, as there were still several locals who never let her forget that she was a newcomer, regardless of being a resident for more than a year now.
From her left, Snow spotted Lorelei Pratchett hustling toward them from the back of the store, looking intent on learning the identity of the man staring at Snow with unblinking blue eyes.
“I’m really busy right now,” she said, hoping Caleb would agree to continue this conversation at a later time, preferably in private. Not that she wanted to be alone with him, but if anyone learned exactly who he was . . .
“Who do we have here?” Lorelei asked once she reached the end of the counter.
“Nobody,” Snow said, at the same time Caleb introduced himself.
“Caleb McGraw,” he offered, repeating his name for a second time, as Snow had spoken over him the first. “I’m here to see Snow.”
Giving her friend a you-lucky-girl look, Lorelei said, “You two know each other?”
“It’s been a while,” Snow answered, determined to keep the details slight.
“Seventeen months, three weeks, and four days,” Caleb said, shocking Snow into silence.
He’d kept track down to the day. Had he been looking for her all that time? She knew he’d eventually seek her out, as they had business that would someday need to be resolved, but since she’d mattered so little to him, Snow assumed there’d be no rush.
Unless . . .
“If you don’t mind,” she said to Lorelei as she rounded the counter, “Caleb and I need to discuss something. Could you watch the register for a few minutes?”
Lorelei’s brows shot up, but she didn’t ask any more questions. “Happy to.” Making a shooing motion, she added, “You two take all the time you need.”
“Follow me,” Snow said to Caleb, then hurried through the store to the back room. Once inside, she spun and asked, “What do you want?”
“You know the answer to that,” he said, pinning her to the spot with an unrelenting glare.
“No, actually, I don’t.” She had a guess, and the thought made her nauseated. Another unexpected reaction.
Instead of pulling out the divorce papers she assumed he’d want her to sign, he said, “You left.” Two words that felt like a one-two punch.
“Yes,” she said, her voice weak. There was no reason to deny the truth.
Tapping into unknown depths of bravado, Snow answered. “Mistakes were made. I didn’t see any reason to keep making them.”
“After all this time, you think that’s a good enough answer?” He straightened up off the wall with his words.
What did he want from her? Some tearful explanation of how he’d hurt her? A philosophical discussion about the negative effects of making spontaneous, emotional decisions and why there’s a reason the brain should have more sway than the libido?
Snow had some pride left. Even if she was having this conversation looking like she belonged behind a cauldron, minus the green skin. There was only so far she was willing to go for town acceptance, and goopy green makeup went beyond that.
“I have a business to run here, and trick-or-treating kids will be arriving soon.” He didn’t need to know the fun didn’t start for another forty minutes. “If you have more to say, you’ll have to come back at closing time when I’m free.”
“When is that?” he asked.
She’d hoped her lack of cooperation would result in him storming out and never coming back. The idea of having a second round set up a pounding in her temples.
She considered lying, but something told her to stick with the truth. “Seven.”
“I’ll be here at six forty-five.” With a nod, he strolled back into the store as if they’d done little more than chat about the weather. Caleb should have been fighting mad. He should have been making demands and refusing to be tossed into the street after eighteen months of nothing.
If he had ever loved her, he’d be doing all of those things. His lack of feeling wasn’t a revelation, but having the reality confirmed so clearly felt as if the betrayal had happened all over again.
Worried that Lorelei might stop him on his way through the store, Snow hastened to catch up and intercept any further interrogation. Though she’d been back in her small Tennessee hometown for less than six months, Lorelei Pratchett had regained the local tendency to grill strangers who dared step inside the Ardent Springs city limits.
As Caleb approached the exit, Lorelei paused her straightening of a perfectly organized china display to ask, “So how long will you be with us?”
Cutting his blue eyes toward Snow, he said, “That depends on my wife.”
Another subtle nod and Caleb exited the store, leaving bells jingling in his wake and a gaping Lorelei shocked speechless for what Snow guessed to be the first time in her life.
“Did he say—”
Snow held up her palm to cut off the question, and dropped into the yellow brocade chair behind her.
Stepping up beside her, Lorelei leaned down and whispered, “Vegas?”
Snow’s head jerked up. “How do you know about Vegas?”
“You pretty much gave yourself away earlier this month, at the Ruby festival,” said Lorelei. “Spencer and I were talking about setting a wedding date, and you vehemently preached against the evils of getting married in Las Vegas.”
Pulling off her hat and twisting the wire-trimmed brim in her hands, Snow asked, “Was I that obvious?” At Lorelei’s nod of affirmation, she sighed. “Then, yes. That’s Vegas.”
Author of the bestselling Anchor Island Series, Terri Osburn writes small town contemporary romance with heart, hope, and lots of humor. Her new Ardent Springs Series launched in April with HIS FIRST AND LAST, and this month she’s celebrating the release of OUR NOW AND FOREVER, the second book in the series. Terri lives on the coast of Virginia with her teenage daughter, three frisky felines, and two high-maintenance terrier mixes. To learn more about Terri, check out her website at www.terriosburn.com.