Read Nick Of Time (Blue Ridge Romance 2) Online

Authors: Allison B. Hanson

Tags: #Contemporary, #Romance, #Fiction, #Family Life, #Domestic Life, #Forever Love, #Adult, #Bachelor, #Single Woman, #Blue Ridge, #Mountains, #Romantic Cabin, #New M.D. License, #Doctor, #Gay Fiancé, #Best Friends, #Straight Façade, #Wedding, #Little Brother, #Encounter, #Famous Rock Star, #Screw-Up, #Fantasies, #Out Of His League, #Charade

Nick Of Time (Blue Ridge Romance 2)

BOOK: Nick Of Time (Blue Ridge Romance 2)
13.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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By Allison B. Hanson
 
When Least Expected
Nick of Time
Nick of Time
A Blue Ridge Romance
Allison B. Hanson
LYRICAL SHINE
Kensington Publishing Corp.
www.kensingtonbooks.com
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
For my friend Michelle, and anyone else who has
chosen a happy life over an easy life.
Prologue
N
ichole dropped her mascara in her bag and looked out the window. It was a perfect October day in Roanoke, Virginia. Not just perfect because the temperature was mild and the sky was a deep, cloudless blue but also because she was getting married in just over an hour.
Her “maid of honor,” Cooper, was doing his duties by trying to keep her calm and hydrated. He was doing a great job, but there was still something bothering her.
Something that had her stomach in knots as she looked out over the grounds of the country club, where the staff was busy setting up.
“Are you okay?” Cooper asked. “If you need a woman, I can get Roslyn.”
Her best friend had found his soul mate. Cooper and Roslyn were engaged and planning their own wedding next summer.
Nichole shook her head. She didn’t think a woman would help. She didn’t think anything was really going to help. It was like trying to stop a hurricane from hitting shore. You could run, or board up the windows, but you couldn’t stop it from striking land and causing damage. No one could help her.
Especially not her mother, who was making her ascension into the room as if she were the queen of a large country. She always made Nichole feel small and insignificant.
Today was no different, despite it being
her
day.
“Why isn’t your hair and makeup done yet?” Mrs. Roth snapped while looking around the room.
“It is done, Mother.” Her hand unconsciously went to her long red locks, pulled back in a loose bun.
Her mother let out a disgusted sigh and rolled her eyes.
“They have styles to tame that hair, Nichole. Why must you let it run amok?”
Nichole had to hide a smirk as Cooper made a face behind her mother’s back.
Her mother shot a look over her shoulder, nearly catching Cooper in the act.
“And do you still insist on having a male maid of honor? It’s highly untraditional.”
“He’s my best friend, Mama.”
“And he’s standing right here,” Cooper added with a grin.
Her mother had always disliked Cooper and the Matthews family in general because she considered them commoners. Mrs. Matthews had raised the boys on her own, working two jobs to do it. Nichole admired Mrs. Matthews and what she was willing to do for her two boys. And the way she encouraged them to do whatever they dreamed.
Her own mother, however, thought it was repulsive that Mrs. Matthews wasn’t able to find a man to take care of her and her children. After all, that was how her mother operated.
After Nichole’s father had died when she was eight, her mother made a list of the richest men in the city and set her sights on the available prey. She’d just divorced husband number four this past spring after sucking him dry, and had invited a few available men to Nichole’s wedding to start the hunt again.
Fortunately, Nichole was marrying Dennis Reynolds. He was the oldest son of a “very nice Christian couple,” as her mother always said. It didn’t hurt that Dennis’s father was also a wealthy land developer who had given them a big house in the nicest part of town.
“Mrs. Roth, I was wondering if you might be able help me with a seating issue,” Cooper said while gesturing toward the door. He was very good at maneuvering people; being a lawyer gave him great skills for dealing with Nichole’s mother.
“I don’t know why you didn’t let me go over it earlier when I asked,” she complained as she headed out the door.
“I guess I thought I could handle it on my own.” He threw Nic a wink as he pulled the door closed, giving her a moment alone with her messy hair—as well as a mess of a different kind.
She wasn’t surprised when she heard a light tap on the door. She didn’t know whether to leap out the window to keep this from happening or find the sharpest item on the dressing table.
“Come in,” she called as she looked in the mirror, tucking a few tendrils back into the bun on her head. It wasn’t that horrible.
Her stomach flipped at the sight of Dennis’s reflection behind her.
“You know you’re not supposed to see me until the wedding. It’s bad luck,” she said flatly. It was too late, though. He’d seen her; and really, bad luck was the least of their worries if he was there for the reason she suspected.
They’d been engaged for more than five years after dating for two. That in itself should have told her something. Unfortunately, she’d fallen head over heels in love with the idea of someone loving her and hadn’t really given any thought to whether she actually loved Dennis. It didn’t matter. On paper, they looked like the perfect couple. They never argued or had a rude thing to say to each other. That had to mean something. Right?
Except he was standing there in her bridal suite looking at her like he’d just heard the worst news of his life. She took a moment to really look at him. He was a stranger, despite the fact they’d been living together for years.
“We need to talk,” Dennis said. Strange that the knots in her stomach released at those dreaded words. She smiled weakly and shook her head.
“I can’t believe you just used those words. This is going to be hard enough. Do you have to make it into a cliché, too?”
“You knew I couldn’t do this?” He seemed almost annoyed. He’d probably been worried sick about calling it off.
“Yes.”
“Do you know why?” he asked with a wince.
“Because you’re gay?” It sounded absurd out loud. Her Dennis couldn’t be gay. She’d had sex with him. Many times.
“How long have you known?” He looked bewildered.
“Consciously? Not until last night.” She rubbed her forehead, wishing she could fast-forward through this conversation and go straight to the passed-out-drunk stage of the evening.
“What happened last night?” His brow creased.
“I saw you checking out one of the servers at the rehearsal dinner.”
Dennis nodded and looked at the floor.
“How long have
you
known?” she whispered, not sure if she wanted to hear the answer.
“A long time. But I was hoping I could live a normal life.”
“A normal,
unhappy
life?” she said with a frown.
“You know my family isn’t going to approve. It’s going to complicate things with my friends. I was trying to take the easy way out because I didn’t know if I could come out. And now I’ve hurt you, and that’s the last thing I ever wanted. Being with you was the biggest reason I didn’t say anything. I really do love you, Nic. It’s just in a different way than you need me to love you.”
How could she be mad at him? She couldn’t, and she didn’t want to be.
“Did you ever cheat on me?”
“No.” He frowned. “Not in the physical sense, anyway. I thought about guys when we were together. I’m sorry. That sounds awful.”
“Hell, Den. I thought about other guys when we were together, too. Everyone does that.” She laughed, once.
“Okay.” He smiled his beautiful smile.
“You know, we could still live together. There’s nothing saying we couldn’t be roommates. It’s very classy for a girl to have a gay male friend these days.”
“I think it would only be hip if I had a stellar fashion sense,” he pointed out.
“Yeah. What’s up with that?” She smacked his arm lightly. “Maybe I would have known sooner if you’d exhibited all the stereotypical gay signs.”
“So it’s my fault I’m not gay
enough
?”
She nudged his arm and he wrapped an arm around her shoulder. It felt different. Friendly, instead of romantic. Or maybe it had always felt that way and she was only just noticing.
“I don’t think it’s going to work out for us to live together,” he finally said.
“Why not? I don’t care what people think.”
“You always say that, but I know it’s not true.”
“Maybe I’m sick of doing things because other people expect it.”
“Good. But that’s not why I don’t want to live with you. I need to go.” He sighed. “I need a fresh start. I want to move somewhere away from here, so I can figure out who I am before I have to explain things to my family.”
“That makes sense, I guess. Just don’t bring a guy home at Christmas and shock them into comas.”
“I won’t. I’m not one for drama.”
“Are you
sure
you’re gay? I thought gay guys looooved drama,” she said.
“Do you have some kind of gay stereotype handbook or something?”
“No.” She shook her head and then looked at their reflection in the mirror. They looked like the perfect couple. “I want you to be happy, Den.”
“I want that for you, too. You have no idea how much I wanted to be the one to make you happy.”
“I can’t doubt you. You’ve done a great job.”
“I’d still like to be friends, unless it’s uncomfortable for you.” He’d whispered the last part.
“We’re always going to be friends.”
He hugged her tightly and laughed at the few tears that escaped down his cheek.
“I’m crying. Is that gay enough for you?”
“You’re getting there.” She brushed his cheek before she leaned up to kiss it.
“Gay or not, I can honestly say you look beautiful today.” He touched her shoulder and smiled. “You would have made me a proud groom.”
“How do you want to handle this?” she asked, getting a little choked up herself.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, if you need time to figure out who you are, we can’t very well walk out there and say, ‘the show’s over because the groom is gay.’ So what do we do?”
“Oh. Right. I hadn’t thought that far ahead.” He frowned. “How do
you
want to handle it? Do you want to dump me?”
“No, I don’t.”
His frown grew as he nodded. “You’re right. I should be the one who looks like the asshole.”
“Or . . . we could go in there together and say we realized it didn’t feel right and we’re just going to be friends.”
“Won’t they ask questions?” he asked.
“Maybe. But we don’t have to answer.”
“I like it. It’s the truth.”
“Yeah. It’s always better to go with the truth whenever possible,” she said.
“I’ll remember that from now on.” He squeezed her hand.
 
The announcement was as horrid as they’d both expected.
His parents glared at her, assuming she was to blame. Her mother stormed over to Dennis and told him she’d never thought he was good enough to marry her daughter because he was only a chef. Then she waltzed out of the banquet room as if she were the injured party in all this.
As the guests dispersed, Nichole hugged Dennis good-bye. Then she grabbed two bottles of champagne and looked around at the people who were still there.
“I have a big favor to ask,” Nichole said as she walked up to Cooper and Roslyn.
“Sure, anything,” Roslyn offered. Nichole couldn’t have picked a better person for her best friend. Roslyn was very accepting of her friendship with Cooper. There never seemed to be any doubts or worries. No accusations that Nic and Cooper were having an affair. Not like some of Cooper’s other girlfriends, who’d never understood why his best friend was a girl.
“I was wondering if I could stay at one of your extra homes until I get a place of my own. The house belongs to Dennis’s family, so I can’t stay there.”
Since they’d got engaged, Roslyn and Cooper had three homes between them. Cooper’s condo, which he would get rid of at the end of his lease in April, Roslyn’s townhome, which they planned to sell after they got married next summer, and their new home, which they’d bought with plans to fill every one of the four extra bedrooms with kids.
“Of course. You can have my condo. I pretty much stay with Roslyn or at the new house. It will be quiet.”
“Thanks. I appreciate it.” She glanced around at the people leaving the country club. “Could I also get a ride?”
“Sure. I’m still the maid of honor, right?” Cooper laughed.
They got in the car after he threw her honeymoon luggage in the trunk.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” he asked as he pulled out.
“Yeah. It was for the best, but it’s still kind of a shock.”
“Because he’s gay?” Cooper asked. Roslyn gave a sympathetic wince.
“You guys knew he was gay?” Nichole said in shock.
“We had our suspicions,” Roslyn admitted.
“Why didn’t you give me a heads-up?”
“What if we were wrong?” he asked. She wondered if she would even have believed him if he had told her.
“You weren’t. I’m not sure how I missed it all this time.”
“You loved him. You saw what you wanted to see.” The way Roslyn said it, and the way Cooper squeezed her hand, made Nichole think Roz was speaking more about her own situation.
Roslyn had had a lot of bad relationships before she met Cooper.
Fortunately for Cooper, none of the other guys ever worked out.
Now, they could be happy together. Cooper had wisely asked Nichole to be his best man over his loser hoodlum of a younger brother, Tucker. She had every intention of making that day perfect for them. Luckily, she had until next summer. Plenty of time to put the pain of her own canceled wedding behind her.
When they got to the condo, Cooper unloaded her rolling suitcase and followed her to the door.
“I’ve already taken some of the furniture to the new house, but there’s a bed and a sofa. Roz and I decided both of our beds had memories we didn’t want to bring into our new home.”
“Thanks for sharing that.”
“There are clean sheets in the linen closet,” he said with a wink.
“I really appreciate this.”
“Not a problem. It’s what friends do.” He paused by the door. “If you want, I could come back to stay after I drop Roslyn off. She would understand.”
“No, I’ll be fine. I think I need to be alone.”
BOOK: Nick Of Time (Blue Ridge Romance 2)
13.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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