Authors: Sarah Mayberry
Almost A Bride
montana born brides novel
© Copyright 2014 Sarah Mayberry
The Tule Publishing Group, LLC
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A huge thanks to the lovely Lilian Darcy and Jane Porter for thinking of me for Tule, and to the rest of the talented ladies who are contributing to the Brides series. Special, super-duper thanks to Trish Morey, for making me laugh and hanging with me in the writing trench. And, as always, I couldn't do what I do without Chris and Max by my side. You boys are my salvation.
There was so many things I enjoyed about writing this book. I loved writing for Tule Publishing’s Montana Born imprint, loved all the amazing women who were working alongside me in this Spring Brides series, loved having Jane Porter cheering me on from the sidelines, and particularly loved having the hilarious and so clever Trish Morey as my wing-woman as we worked together to create a family and history for our twins, Tara and Scarlett Buck.
I can’t remember who suggested our heroines be twins, but once the idea took root Trish and I were off and running. The emails flew back and forth as we discussed who our twins were and how they saw the world and how they were different from each other. It was Trish’s idea that her heroine be named after Scarlett from
Gone with The Wind
, so of course my heroine had to have a
I’m not sure if it was the fact that Tara is named after a house, not a person, that gave me the idea that she was the sensible sister. Capable and practical and dependable. Deep down inside, though, Tara is just as scared, impulsive and spontaneous as the next woman - especially if the next woman is her twin. I loved helping Tara understand herself, and I especially loved helping her and her man, Reid, work out what was good and right and amazing for both of them.
If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, don’t forget to grab Scarlett’s story,
Second Chance Bride
! That Trish Morey is a funny lady, and I’m sure it will leave you smiling. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Tara and Reid’s story.
Reid Dalton pumped gas into his GMC pickup, one ear tuned to the conversation going on between his friends inside the truck. Grant was giving Brett a hard time for missing an easy layup during the basketball game they’d just finished, and Brett was serving it straight back at him with both barrels.
Reid grinned to himself, feeling pleasantly tired after an hour of
charging up and down the court, trouncing the Bozeman Fire Department team. The informal competition between the police department and the firefighters had become a regular thing over the past few months. Reid wasn’t sure which part of their weekly matchups he enjoyed the most—the rapid-fire pace of the game itself, or the inevitable shit giving and taking that occurred afterward.
You want to know my opinion?” he asked as the pump clicked off, signaling the tank was full.
Not particularly,” Brett said, which earned him a guffaw from Grant.
You both need to lift your games. Drink less beer, run a few more miles,” Reid said.
Grant made a rude noise, while Brett gave him a one-fingered salute. Reid was still laughing as he headed into the gas station to pay the cashier.
Then he saw the couple exiting the motel next door to the Gas-And-Go Mart and his step faltered.
The girl he didn
’t recognize, but she was young and blonde and clinging to her man as though her very life depended on it. Reid watched as Simon Garfield said something before kissing her in a way that left no doubt whatsoever as to the nature of their relationship.
Tara would be devastated.
For a moment he was frozen as he absorbed all the implications of what he’d just witnessed. Tara had been planning the wedding for the past few months and as her patrol partner, there was precious little Reid wasn’t privy to. Like the fact that Tara and Simon planned on having the reception at Le Petit Chateau in Bozeman, and that Tara was limiting her attendants to just her twin, Scarlett, and that today she had an appointment at Marietta’s one and only bridal salon to pick out her wedding dress...
Belatedly he glanced back at the car, hoping the other guys hadn
’t seen, but they were both frowning, staring out the windshield at the sordid little drama unfolding in the parking lot next door. There wasn’t a doubt in Reid’s mind that they recognized Tara’s fiancé. They’d all attended the engagement party Tara and Simon held back in February.
Reid mouthed a four
What a nightmare.
Simon and the blonde were climbing into separate cars. Reid automatically noted the blonde’s license plate before she turned onto the highway, heading toward Marietta.
She was a local, then.
Simon waited until a few cars blew past before following suit.
Reid shook his head in disgust before heading inside to pay for the gas.
Both the guys were silent when he returned to the truck. Brett waited until they were heading for Marietta themselves before speaking up.
What are you going to tell her?”
’t take his eyes off the road. “The truth.”
Because no way was he sitting on this. The last thing he would ever want to do is hurt Tara
—the thought literally made his gut ache— but there was no way he was going to look the other way and tell himself it was none of his business.
’d want to know. Even if the truth was going to tear her world apart.
When is the wedding?” Grant asked.
Four months,” Reid said.
There was a profound silence in the car as they all processed that particular piece of information.
“You think she has any idea...?” Brett asked.
Reid shot him a hard look. Tara was the most straight-up, no
-bull person he knew. She wouldn’t live with that kind of deceit. Wouldn’t tolerate it for a second.
Yeah. You’re right,” Brett said. “Stupid question. Forget I said anything.”
Silence reigned for the remainder of the twenty
-minute drive into town. Reid dropped both guys off at Brett’s place, where Grant had left his car.
Listen... give me a chance to talk to Tara, okay?” he said after the guys had hauled their gear out of the back of the truck.
Grant looked offended.
“Like we’re going to be running around telling anyone what we saw. Give us a little credit.”
Brett simply nodded. They all knew that Grant told his wife, Sally, everything sooner or later, something that was only underlined by the dull red flush coloring the other man
’s face. Once Sally knew, it would simply be a matter of time before the story spread like wildfire.
See you guys tomorrow,” Reid said before pulling away from the curb.
His jaw set, he drove straight into the heart of town. The pink and white facade of Married in Marietta came up on his left and he pulled into the nearest empty parking spot. Then he sat and stared out the windshield and tried to work out how he was going to do this. What he was going to say.
Because he needed to do and say something pretty quick—he figured he had a couple of hours max before Grant blabbed to his wife and the phone lines of Marietta began burning up with the news that Simon Garfield was cheating on Tara Buck. Tara needed to know so she could brace herself for the oncoming storm.
First things first, though. Pulling out his phone, he
called the station and had a quick chat with Dave on the desk. Sixty seconds later, he had the registration details for the car the blonde had been driving. Paige Donovan. One mystery solved.
It was Saturday afternoon, and there were plenty of people out and about, but Reid didn
’t register any of them as he stared into the distance. He was too busy remembering the look on Tara’s face when she’d told him Simon had asked her to marry him. Her smile had been shy as she’d shown Reid the modest solitaire diamond her fiancé had bought to seal the deal. Reid had said all the right things, asked all the right questions, but there had been a hot feeling in his chest and it had taken him a few minutes to own it for what it was—jealousy. A fruitless and useless emotion, given who Tara was and what they were to each other: partners and friends, nothing more, nothing less. He had no right to be jealous of the man in her life.
And yet he had been, and sitting here now, he couldn
’t deny that even though he dreaded the upcoming conversation, there was a part of him that was relieved because he wouldn’t have to stand in a church in four months’ time and watch Tara marry someone else.
Which pretty much made him a selfish bastard of the highest order, he figured.
He shoved the car door open, walking away from his own thoughts.
His heart started to
pound as he approached the salon. He wiped his hands down the sides of his shorts. Man, this was going to be hard. How on earth was he going to deliver such a painful blow to someone who deserved only happiness?
Gritting his teeth, he pushed open the door to the salon, entering a plush-carpeted world painted in soft neutrals. Fragile-looking velvet upholstered chairs dotted the space, along with tall vases filled with flowers. The walls were lined with racks bursting with white frothy dresses, a veritable sea of satin and tulle and silk, and a crystal chandelier fractured the light from half a dozen globes overhead.
A couple of women were browsing the racks, and they turned to stare at him in much the same way he imagined they might if he’d wandered into the women’s restroom. A slim, middle-aged woman dressed entirely in black bustled out from behind the counter, an alarmed expression on her face.
Hello. Can I help you?” she asked.
I’m looking for Tara Buck. She was supposed to be here today, trying on dresses,” Reid said.
He was suddenly very aware of his mussed hair, sweat-dampened T-shirt and shorts. Probably he
should have taken the time to change into something more appropriate before coming here.
And you are...?”
It occurred to him belatedly that she was worried he was the groom.
“I’m a friend. We work together.”
I’ll just check and see what I can do for you,” she said, giving him a dubious head to toe.
He turned toward the familiar voice
—and forgot to breathe.
Tara wore a flowing white gown that hugged her body in all the right places
—breasts, waist, hips. The way the lustrous fabric wrapped around her mid-section emphasized how slender she was, while a neckline with a little dip in the middle drew his attention to her breasts and the bare expanse of her shoulders. A froth of lace was pinned to her upswept blond hair, completing the bridal ensemble.
She was beautiful, absolutely heart-
stoppingly gorgeous, and for a moment he could do nothing but stare.
What on earth are you doing here?” Tara asked, laughing uncertainly. “I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to see the bride before the wedding. Isn’t it supposed to be bad luck or something?”
’s non-identical twin, joined them, dressed more conventionally in jeans and a T-shirt, her crazy red hair pulled back in a ponytail.
That’s the groom, doofus,” she said. “You are the worst bride ever. How can you be getting married and know so little about weddings? Lucky Mitch made an honest woman of me in April or you wouldn’t have a seasoned pro around to show you the ropes.” Her gaze was curious as she glanced at Reid. “Hey, Dalton. What are you doing here?”
I need to speak to Tara.”
’s smile faded. “Why do you have that look in your eye?”
What look?” Scarlett asked, frowning.
His cop look. Has something happened? Oh, God, don’t tell me something’s happened to Simon?” Tara’s eyes were wide now, and she pressed a hand to her stomach as though bracing herself for bad news.
Reid glanced around, aware that everyone in the salon had stopped to stare at them.
“Simon is fine.” For now, anyway. Reid wasn’t prepared to guarantee his future good health, however. “Is there somewhere private we can talk?”
What’s going on?” Tara asked, taking a step toward him.
No way was he doing this out here, with all these people watching. He turned to the sales assistant.
“Do you have an office?”
Yes. It’s out the back... “
Reid was already moving, reaching for Tara
’s elbow as he hustled her toward the rear of the store.
You’re freaking me out, Reid,” Tara said.
She came with him willingly enough, though, because she trusted him. Trusted the hours they
’d spent in the patrol car together and the confidences they’d shared and the deep knowledge they had of one another.
And he was about to break her heart.
“I’ll just wait out here, then,” Scarlett called after them, clearly miffed to be excluded from whatever was going on.
Reid spotted an open door, ducking his head in to find a desk, along with a filing cabinet and bookcase. He pulled Tara in after him and kicked the door shut.
They stood there eyeing each other for a long beat. Then he took a deep breath and did what needed to be done.
I just saw Simon leaving the motel out on 98 with another woman.”