Authors: Ember Casey
Their Wicked Wedding
A Cunningham Family Novel
By Ember Casey
Copyright ©2014 Ember Casey
All Rights Reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Cover Image © The Killion Group, Inc., used under license.
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Table of Contents
In seven days, I will be Lily Cunningham.
Even after everything we’ve been through together, even after nearly a year of engagement, it still seems unreal that Calder Cunningham and I will be getting married next Saturday. I’ve looked forward to this day for so long that I’m almost afraid to believe that it’s nearly here. That I’ll finally be his wife.
I look down at my hand, at the engagement ring that still shines as brightly as it did the night Calder gave it to me in this very apartment. In seven days, I’ll have a second ring on this finger, one that symbolizes the promise of a lifetime.
“Are you ready?” Calder says behind me.
I turn to find him coming out of our bedroom, his suitcase in his hand. He’s in a button-down and dark slacks—a casual look for him, but one that’s still undeniably sexy—and his hair is still just the slightest bit damp from his shower. His dark eyes meet mine, and I feel that little thrill that always courses through my blood when we lock gazes. Even after all this time.
“I’m ready,” I say. More than ready. So ready I feel like I might burst. I’ve spent the past week packing and unpacking my suitcase, anxiously reassessing every single thing I might need. And I’m the furthest thing from a bridezilla you can get. I glance down at my ring again.
Calder’s in front of me now, and he brushes his fingers against my cheek. For a minute he says nothing, and his eyes continue to bore into me. I know he can read all of the emotions on my face, see every bit of nervous, joyous excitement in my expression. I close my eyes. Calder’s hand curls around the side of my face, and his fingers thread through my hair.
“We could just elope,” I say. “Hop on a plane tonight. Fly off to somewhere exotic. Forget everything else.”
He chuckles. “That suggestion doesn’t become any less cliché the more you say it.” But his fingers still. “That’s not what you really want, is it?”
There’s the slightest uncertainty in his voice, and I realize I’ve teased him too often about the possibility of running away together. The truth, though, is that I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’d forget about the dress and the flowers and all of the trappings. I never wanted any of it. I only want to be his wife. The rest doesn’t matter.
Except it matters to him.
I open my eyes and look up at him. Though Calder would never admit it out loud, he needs this. This wedding is for him. A special day where all of our friends and family will come together. His life has been in turmoil since his father died two years ago, and he finally has some stability again. He has
again. This wedding isn’t just about our love; it’s about peace and hope and all of the other things he’s found again these past few months.
And I love him too much to take that away from him.
“No, I don’t want to elope,” I tell him. “I want you. And I want to stand up in front of our friends and family and show them how much I love you.”
I reach up and loop my arms around his neck, dragging his face down to mine. My lips find his, and he growls against my mouth, pulling me hard against him.
His mouth does wicked, wicked things to me, and his tongue teases mine until I’m lightheaded. His fingers find their way beneath the back of my shirt and slide against my bare skin, sending tremors up my spine.
“I’m not ready after all,” he murmurs against my lips. “There’s one more thing I need to do before we leave.” And without waiting for my response, he scoops me up in his arms.
I expect him to take me back to our bedroom. Instead, he just carries me to our dining table and deposits me on the edge. He moves his body between my legs, forcing me to spread my thighs. And then he’s kissing me again, so thoroughly that it takes me a moment to realize he’s pushing me back toward the surface of the table. It’s not until my shoulders hit the wood that I start to squirm.
“Calder, we really shouldn’t…”
“Shouldn’t what?” His voice is low and husky. His lips move from my mouth down to my jaw, then my throat. His hands are pushing my shirt up my belly.
“We’re… going to… be late.” I barely manage the words.
“Mm. How unfortunate.”
His fingers have reached my breasts now, and he runs them across the surface of my bra, hunting for my nipples beneath the fabric. It doesn’t take him long to find them, or to roll them into much harder points between his thumb and forefinger. Even through the fabric, his touch is tantalizing.
“What about… what we discussed… last night?” I gasp.
His mouth is at my ear, and he lets his tongue explore for a minute before asking, “Was that before or after I tied you to the bed?”
My heart—which is already racing at his attentions—quickens further at the memory of the things we did last night. “After.”
“Mm. And what was that, then?” He gives one of my nipples a pinch, drawing an involuntary cry from my lips. It takes me a moment to recover and answer him.
“When we said… we’d wait… until the… wedding.”
In an attempt to make this last week before our nuptials a little more special, I’d suggested we keep things “traditional” until the wedding. And by “traditional,” I mean “stay in separate bedrooms and give up sex of any kind.” After all, we’ve been living together for nearly a year now, and this seems like a way to make our wedding night a little more special.
His chest, which is pressed on top of mine, rumbles with a chuckle.
“I don’t remember agreeing to that, little minx,” he says.
“Well, it was certainly only because my mind was addled from certain…
” The way he whispers that word against my neck sends shivers across my skin.
“That’s no excuse. I’m still holding you to it.”
He laughs again, deeper this time, and his eyes flash devilishly.
“I very much doubt that,” he says. “And I have no idea why you’d want to torture yourself so cruelly. Weddings are responsible for a lot of stress and anxiety, and a little physical pleasure works wonders for relieving such things.”
“I wouldn’t be torturing myself,” I retort. “If anyone’s going to be doing any torturing, it’s you.”
I can see I’m not going to get anywhere by arguing with him, which is why I have to be strong. I wiggle out of his grip, squirming my way from beneath him.
“It doesn’t matter if you agree or not,” I say. “
am sleeping alone until the wedding.”
“I’m not talking about sleeping.”
I ignore the suggestiveness of his tone, even though it makes even more blood rush to the part of me I’m doing my best to ignore right now.
“It still doesn’t change the fact that we’re already late. We told Lou we’d be there by three.”
His eyes burn into mine. “Louisa is the last person on my mind right now.”
The heat in his gaze almost undoes me, but I force myself to look away. “Do you really want to explain to your sister that you couldn’t keep your hands off of me? I’m sure she’s interested in knowing all about her big brother’s sex life.”
That does it. He pulls away from me, and I suspect some of the darkness in his cheeks is no longer from desire but from embarrassment. It’s a small victory—and only a temporary one, if I know him—but it’s enough for now.
“Come on,” I say, sliding off of the table and tugging my shirt back down. “Let’s go.”
He doesn’t say anything as we gather our suitcases. For a moment, I think he might be upset with me. But then I catch the wicked gleam in his eyes when our gazes meet, and I know this isn’t over, that my insistence on this little game has only challenged and excited him. It’s not until we’re walking through the door that he speaks.
“You know,” he says, “the next time we step through this door, we’ll be man and wife.”
I feel that word all the way down to my toes. I’m going to be Calder’s wife. In seven days.
And I have a feeling, if I’m going to resist his advances for that long, those are going to be the longest seven days of my life.
* * *
The Cunningham estate looks different.
Or maybe it’s just that this is the first time I’m coming here for a decidedly happy occasion, and not on a mission to win the money to save the Center. Or to help Calder discover the lost pieces of himself. Or to reclaim Lou.
When it comes down to it, though, there’s no place I’d rather get married. For every distressing memory I have of this place, there’s a good memory, too. This estate brought us together. And there’s no better place to pledge our love to each other. At the invitation of Lou and Ward, we decided to spend the whole week up here. We’ll be forgoing a traditional honeymoon, at least for the time being, but the place feels so far removed from the “real” world that I’m not sure I’ll even notice.
I peer out the window as Calder pulls the car down the long driveway. I haven’t spent much time at the estate since Edward Carolson tried to convert this place into a luxury resort, and I suppose, at first glance, not
much has changed. As I study the grounds outside my window, I can’t quite put my finger on what’s different, but I sense that difference all the same. They’re missing something of that enchanted, overgrown quality I used to love about this place—but I tell myself that’s just because it’s only March. Maybe later in the year, when the gardens are in full bloom, they’ll look the way they do in my memory.
But the house looks different, too. I know that Carolson had several of the wings converted—the stables are now supposedly a spa—but even ignoring the major structural differences, something just seems
Things look too new, too
The house has lost some of its dark charm.
I glance over at Calder. We haven’t talked much about the changes to the estate, and I wonder if he senses the differences as acutely as I do. How could he not, when this place was once his home? But his face reveals nothing.
He must sense my stare because he suddenly looks over at me. “Are you okay?”
I smile. “Of course. I was just thinking about how different this place looks.”
He doesn’t say anything as he pulls around the house. But he doesn’t need to. So much has changed since that stormy night when I broke onto the estate, and I’m not just referring to the house or the grounds. Calder and I are different people now, too.
“It’s still beautiful,” I say softly, pressing my fingers against the window. All of the gorgeous Gothic-inspired architecture is still there. You can still see the charmingly creepy little gargoyles peering over the edge of the roof. The arched windows with their dark glass still seem to suggest that all manner of secrets are hidden inside.
“It might look a little different,” Calder says, “but it’s still the same. And it will feel even more like home now that we’re all here again.”
And he’s right. This is our chance to reclaim this place, to make it
again. To make it a place of love and family, instead of a shiny resort.
I reach over and place my hand on his thigh as he parks the car. He seems to appreciate the gesture, and as soon as the car has stopped, he closes his fingers over mine and gives me a smile that melts me from the inside out.
Yes, we’re going to restore this place to what it was. Give it a heart again. This is the Cunningham estate. And no matter what it looks like, no matter what changes, it will always be the Cunningham estate.
He raises my hand to his lips and kisses my fingers one by one. His eyes darken a little with every brush of his lips, and I know I’m in trouble—until his cell phone goes off, saving me.
“It’s probably Lou wondering where we are,” I say, tugging my hand back to safety.
Calder fishes his phone out of his pocket, glances down at the screen, and shakes his head. “No. It’s not a number I recognize.”
“Are you going to answer it?” This isn’t the first time he and I have been interrupted by an unknown number—and the last time, the caller turned out to be his sister Louisa, who then proceeded to show up at our apartment on the night of our engagement. Not that he has any other siblings who might suddenly pop into our lives. But it might be a client trying to reach him.
Calder, though, shakes his head. “If it’s important, they can leave a message. As you said, I suspect my sister is getting impatient.”
And indeed, we’re not even out of the car before I see Lou barrel out the front door and down the wide stone steps.
isn’t the right word. Lou is currently about eight months pregnant, and her gait is really more of a quick waddle, though there’s no mistaking the excitement in her steps as she comes toward us. But she also moves with the grace of someone who’s fully embraced the changes to her body. Sometimes it shocks me how quickly everything has happened these past few months.
Lou gets to me first, and I drop my bag so that I can hug her—taking care to bend around her growing belly, of course.
“You’re late,” she says. “But I’m guessing my brother is to blame for that.”