Read The Wedding Agreement Online

Authors: Elizabeth Hayley

The Wedding Agreement

PRAISE FOR THE STRICTLY BUSINESS NOVELS

“The vulnerability of both of the lead female and male characters take this to the next level. A definite must read!”

—RT Book Reviews

“A winsome, delicate contemporary romance.”

—
Publishers Weekly

“Scorching . . . Elizabeth Hayley is an author to watch.”

—Tracy Anne Warren,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Mad about the Man

“An easy read with enjoyable characters.”

—The Best Reviews

A
LSO BY
E
LIZABETH
H
AYLEY

The Best Medicine

Just Say Yes

SIGNET ECLIPSE

Published by New American Library,

an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

This book is an original publication of New American Library.

Copyright © Shauna Johnson and Sarah Glasgow, 2016

Excerpt from
The Best Medicine
© Shauna Johnson and Sarah Glasgow, 2015

Penguin Random House supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin Random House to continue to publish books for every reader.

Signet Eclipse and the Signet Eclipse colophon are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

For more information about Penguin Random House, visit
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.

eBook ISBN 9780698194946

PUBLISHER'S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

To Shauna and Sarah
We couldn't have done this without
you

Chapter 1

Case Study

Cass grabbed hold of the bowling ball and strutted confidently up to the line, unfazed by the fact she was sliding a bit as she pulled her arm back and threw it forward, releasing the twelve-pound burden from her hand. Then she spun around quickly toward her group of girlfriends, who were craning their necks to peer around her.

“I thought you said you bowled a couple of months ago,” Lauren said as Cass heard the ball land in the gutter with a loud thud. Quinn's eyebrows raised, and Simone bit her bottom lip.

“I did,” Cass shot back quickly, surprised by the question even though she'd knocked down only a total of six pins in the last three frames. “I just forgot to mention it was on a Wii.” She let her eyes dart quickly to where Alex was seated toward the end of the group. His eyes twinkled with amusement, but he
didn't open his mouth. “Fine, the Wii game wasn't my best performance either.”

This time Alex clearly couldn't resist. “Best performance? My seven-year-old daughter's got more game than you.”

“First of all, I'm pretty sure Nina's got more game than
you
too,” Cass snapped back with a smirk. “You couldn't pick up a chick in a henhouse.” Her comment elicited a roar of laughter from Scott, Xavier, and Tim, and a soft chuckle from Alex, who'd become used to Cass teasing him. “And speaking of games,” Cass said, her eyes darting to Lauren and Scott, “when are you two going to stop playing musical wedding dates? You've been engaged for months. Have you guys decided on a day yet or what?”

Lauren shrugged. “We're between a couple places. Both venues have Saturdays in April open, so it'll probably be then.”

“April? That's, like, over a year away,” Cass protested. “You guys drag your feet doing everything. Scott had the ring for, like, five months before he even proposed, and you didn't have the engagement party until two months later.”

“Whoa, wait a second,” Scott cut in. “I was all set to ask Lauren to marry me, but then my impulsive older brother had to go and propose to someone he wasn't even dating at the time.”

“Well, when you say it like that—” Tim started.

“How else can I say it?” Scott joked. “See what I get for being the polite sibling and not stealing your thunder?” Scott settled back into his seat and slid his arm around Lauren. “Not everyone can make life decisions as easily as they can pick what to order at a drive-through,” he added on a laugh.

“You act like I proposed and we rushed off to have
Elvis marry us in some Vegas chapel or something. I knew what I wanted,” Tim said, giving Quinn a seductive glance that he didn't try to hide. “Besides, we put a lot of thought into the actual wedding. So much thought that we even managed to convince Mom to come. And we all know she couldn't stand the sight of me for the better part of the past decade.” Tim's smile had a way of adding a bit of humor to an otherwise sensitive subject. His struggles with addiction had caused a rift between Tim and his mother that no one thought could be fixed. Not even him.

“Tim's right, Laur,” Cass insisted. “Quinn somehow managed to help repair a severely damaged relationship,
and
they planned an entire wedding . . . all in, like, seven months. It can't be that difficult.”

Tim rose to take his turn, and pushed up the sleeves of his shirt. He released the ball with ease and turned back toward the group as the ball sped toward its targets. “In all fairness,
I
didn't plan much of anything.” Cass rolled her eyes as every pin fell. Tim trotted over to take a seat between Quinn and Scott, who shifted slightly to make room for his brother on the row of beige plastic seats. “Quinn took care of all the logistics, and I just gave my two cents when it came to all of the fun stuff like food tasting and picking the band.”

Cass had a feeling that Tim had had more of a hand in the wedding planning than he'd let on, but she didn't question him. “Well, as a bridesmaid, I think I should have a say in some things, Laur.”

Xavier stood, holding two empty pitchers. “Enough wedding talk for me. I'm going up to get us a refill.”

“Well, as the bride, I think you shouldn't,” Lauren said, ignoring Xavier's departure completely. She kept her expression even, but Cass could tell she was
holding back a laugh. “We're just taking our time to make sure we're both okay with everything. Planning a wedding's a big undertaking. You'll find out if you ever get married.”

Cass stuck out her tongue at her friend. Though Lauren's comment would have offended most twenty-eight-year-old women, Cass understood Lauren's intended meaning. She wasn't saying that Cass couldn't find anyone to marry her. It was
Cass
who had chosen the bachelorette life years ago, opting to put her career in public relations above having a family. And she didn't keep her intentions a secret. She'd had boyfriends in the past, and every one of them was more than comfortable with her choice. After all, how hard is it to convince a twenty-something-year-old guy that you're not looking for anything serious? “Fine, fine,” Cass finally said. “But just for the record, I haven't seen this much thought go into planning a wedding since Kim and Kanye tied the knot.”

Scott shook his head. “Would it make you feel better if we promise not to name any of our future children after one of the cardinal directions?”

“Yes,” Cass said simply.

“That's a shame,” Simone chimed in, “because I always thought South Jacobs had a nice ring to it.”

Alex sat up a little straighter. “If you ask me, marriage isn't isn't worth the hassle. I've done it once, and I don't plan to do it again.”

Cass had been wondering when, if ever, Alex would give his opinion. The tense relationship between him and his ex-wife, Tessa, was no secret to anyone in the group. For that reason alone, Cass couldn't blame him for never wanting to walk down that road again . . . or, in this case, that aisle. That's why, even though Alex was thirty-three, Cass had no reservations about the
casual sex the two would have every so often. She knew it would remain just that.

“Too many people focus on the trivial details like dresses and flowers and cake,” Alex continued. “None of that shit matters—”

“Cake always matters,” Cass interrupted, as an attempt to bring more lightness back to the conversation.

Alex leaned forward, resting his forearms on his thighs as he averted his gaze from the group and focused his attention on the beer he held between his hands. “None of it matters in the long run,” he repeated, this time more to himself than to everyone else listening. “The marriage is what matters, and when you don't give a shit about
that
, who cares if you have roses or”—he gestured wildly with his hand as he looked to everyone for help—“or . . . what's another type of flower?”

Scott answered immediately. “Tulip, gardenia, calla lily, peony, lily of the—”

Tim shook his head and grabbed Scott's arm. “You're not helping.”

“Right, sorry,” Scott said.

*   *   *

The rest of the group had already erupted with laughter, including Alex, who needed it more than anyone. He wasn't sure why he'd gotten onto his soapbox, but he knew he needed to get the fuck off it. “It's fine,” Alex assured Scott before draining the last of his beer. “Now let's just focus on the game. For Christ's sake, the girls are only seventy-four points behind us, and there are only three frames left. I'm worried we might not cover the hundred-point spread.” That earned him a hard punch to the arm, courtesy of Cass. “Ouch. That actually hurt a little,” he said, surprised.
“You know, you'd make a much better professional boxer than you would a bowler.”

“Clearly,” Cass replied, tossing her blond hair over her shoulder with a smirk. “Someone better tell Laila Ali I'm coming for her.”

“She's retired,” everyone said, almost in unison.

Cass glanced around at the group in disbelief. “How did you
all
know that?”

There were some shrugs and some replies of “I don't know.”

“Well, okay, then. I guess Laila's safe from the wrath of Cassidy Mullen.”

“I bet she's thankful for that,” Alex joked as he stood to take his turn.

The guys ended up covering the spread, which caused the girls to demand a rematch. And that was how most of the night continued, with the group of friends doing what they did best: joking, drinking, and talking about nonsense until they were laughing so hard Alex could feel tears forming in the corners of his eyes. Finally, after one more game, the night started to wrap up.

“We should probably get going,” Scott said. “I have some patients I need to check on at the hospital tomorrow morning before I head over to the satellite office, and Lauren has an early appointment coming in too.”

“God, you guys are so old,” Tim joked. He was actually six years Scott's senior. But as a chef, Tim rarely had to get up early, so he seemed to take every opportunity to poke fun at his little brother when he'd skip out before the rest of the group. “Anyone want to go to that place up the street that lets you cook s'mores at your table? They're open until midnight,”
Tim asked the rest of the crew after Scott and Lauren had left.

Quinn didn't give anyone a chance to respond before she grabbed Tim by the arm. “We're going to take off too. And don't worry,” she added. “Someday I'll fill you in on what it's like to be married to a fourteen-year-old.”

Alex chuckled. “You might not want to say that too loudly in a public place.”

“Oh right,” she said, her face reddening.

After a few minutes, the rest of the group headed out to the parking lot.

“So, how about you?” Cass asked Alex once Simone and Xavier were in their cars. “You have an early morning too?”

Alex didn't have to try hard to interpret Cass' meaning. They'd gone home together enough times over the past year or so for him to know exactly what she was asking. “Not early enough that I can't have a late night.”

“Good answer,” Cass said as she climbed in her car.

Alex grinned as he unlocked his door and hopped in to follow her. Cass' apartment was closer, so that's where they headed. And within fifteen minutes of leaving the bowling alley, they were fumbling up the stairs to her apartment. Though her door was only steps away, Alex couldn't stop himself from backing her up against the wall when they reached the landing outside her apartment. He used his hips to pin her to the hard surface as his lips found hers, moving slowly but with a need he knew Cass would recognize immediately. His hands roamed her body, his fingertips lightly grazing the soft skin under her shirt. Already he ached for her, so he finally released
her long enough to let her move toward the door. But Alex couldn't break contact for long. He nestled his cock against her denim-clad ass as she searched for her keys. Just as she found them and slid the correct one into the lock, Alex abruptly stopped trailing his lips up the back of her neck, and his body tensed.

“What's wrong?” she asked.

“Are your neighbors always that loud?”

Cass acted like she hadn't even registered the heavy metal music and raucous laughing rumbling from next door. “Sometimes.”

“That's bullshit. Want me to say something?”

“Now? Are you kidding me? Right now I want to be making our own noise.”

That was all Alex needed to hear. About a minute later, after removing his jacket and unstrapping his service weapon, he was rocking his hips against her as he tasted the cool mint of the gum that still lingered on her mouth. He stayed there, letting his tongue move softly over hers for a bit longer while he ground against her. He allowed himself to enjoy the taste of her before his tongue left her mouth and worked its way down her neck with quick nibbles.

She laughed, the vibration of her throat humming against his lips.

“Suddenly ticklish?”

She squirmed below him. “A little.”

Alex slid his hand under Cass' shirt and toward her back to undo her bra. She arched in response. “Mmm, sexy
and
helpful,” he said, popping the clasp and moving his hand back toward her chest so his fingers could toy with her nipples.

Cass let out a breathy sigh. He stayed there for a few moments, letting her enjoy his touch. He loved how
hard her nipples got between his fingers and how her soft moans increased in intensity as his hands moved over her skin. Cass gripped his back through his T-shirt, which she then pulled over his head in one quick jerk and tossed to the floor beside them. “Pants off. Now,” Cass said, catching Alex by surprise.

He gave her an amused grin as he stood up, his cock noticeably tenting the fabric of his pants. “You're bossy when you're horny.” She didn't answer, though he could tell she was biting back an insult. Slowly he kicked off his shoes and socks before moving his hands to the button of his jeans and letting them hover there unmoving, curious about how Cass would respond.

She squirmed on the couch for a moment or two as Alex brushed a hand over himself to grip his cock through his pants. “Let me show you how this works,” she finally said, sitting up to pull her shirt over her head and let her bra fall down her arms to the floor. Then she leaned back onto the couch, popped the button of her jeans, and shimmied them down her legs until she could kick them off completely. “You show me yours; I'll show you mine,” she said, letting her hand skate down her torso until her fingers slid under the sheer fabric of her thong just far enough to give the elastic a sharp tug until it snapped back into place.

But Alex had gotten a glimpse of what was beneath. And what he saw made him grow even harder. It's not like he hadn't seen it before—her smooth skin just begging to be stroked—but it made him ache to be inside her, feel her stretch around him. This time when his finger touched the button of his jeans he didn't hesitate. He removed them immediately and stood over Cass, his cock pushing out the fabric of his
black boxer briefs. He knelt down to get a condom from his wallet and ripped the foil with his teeth. Then he reached down to remove his boxers and slide the latex over himself. He was so fucking ready. “Your turn,” he said, gesturing to the small piece of material covering the area on Cass that Alex wanted most.

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