Thursday, June 16th, 2011 • 2 Comments on Just In Time for a June Wedding
With This Ring I Thee Bed is the lovely Alison Tyler’s wedding anthology from Harlequin Spice. I have been intending to post an excerpt from my story “Taking Vows” for… um… awhile now, but I kept forgetting with all the other stuff that I’m supposed to remember. So here, at long last and just in time for a June wedding, is a snippet of my contribution:
Charlotte ran down the dock toward the boathouse with her arms full of white fluff. She was drenched in seconds, her blouse clinging to her and her skirt flapping wetly around her knees. It dawned on her that the boathouse might be locked, but no, the padlock hung open on the door. She slipped inside and slammed the door behind her, piling the bows on a decrepit iron table by the door. The boathouse smelled of decaying wood and motor oil and the musty scent of neglect.
A crack of thunder shook the small wood building and she let out a shriek.
“It’s only thunder.”
A second shriek followed the first as she whirled around toward Oliver, sitting in the rowboat they used to take out on the lake when the kids were off with their friends. He sat propped against some patio cushions that had been relegated to the boathouse, along with a lot of other junk. Sitting there like that, in his golf shirt and khakis with his sandy blond hair falling over his forehead, he looked so much like the frat boy she fell in love with that she shook her head to dispel the image.
“What are you doing in here?”
He shrugged. “I needed to be alone.”
She saw the bottle propped between his legs. “You’re drinking?”
“Sure, why not? Seems like a good occasion to get drunk,” he said, taking a slug from the bottle. “A mighty fine occasion to tie one on.”
“But… you don’t drink.”
He gestured at her. “And you don’t go barefoot, but here you are. We’re two peas in a pod.”
“One has nothing to do with the other,” she said, wringing out her wet hair and pushing it over her shoulder. “I’m not sitting in a dark boathouse getting loaded. I just didn’t have time to put on shoes.”
“You always make time to put on shoes before you go outside.”
“What, exactly, is your point?” she asked, wondering just how drunk he was and whether it was worth having this argument.
He seemed to consider her question for a long time. “I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me what my point is? You’ve always been good at that.”
Charlotte considered going back out into the rain, but another ground-quaking roll of thunder followed by a crack of lightning that lit up the entire boathouse made her change her mind. She wasn’t afraid of much, but she’d always been afraid of thunderstorms.
She expected a retort. The beginnings of yet another fight. Once the divorce was final, there would be no reason to fight anymore. Maybe that’s why they seemed to be fighting even more often lately. Time was running out.
But instead of another poke at her flaws, Oliver asked, “What happened to us?”
She rested her head wearily against the door. He had no idea how many times she’d asked herself the same question. With a resigned shrug, she said, “We just fell out of love.”
Oliver surged up out of the canoe quicker than she could have though possible. He was standing in front of her in a heartbeat, one hand braced on the door behind her head, the other still gripping the liquor bottle. He leaned in close enough so that she could smell the whiskey on his breath and see his green eyes dilated in the gloom.
“Do not speak for me,” he growled at her. “Maybe you fell out of love with me, but I never stopped loving you.”
Her heart felt like it was ricocheting around in her chest. She had never seen Oliver like this before. She knew it was just the alcohol talking, but it made her stomach do a little flip-flop to hear him say he still loved her.
She’d been hurt enough and wouldn’t fall for it again. “Whatever, Oliver. I didn’t have to twist your arm to visit the mediator for the divorce.”
“The divorce was your idea.”
“And you seconded that emotion, remember?”
He took another pull off the whiskey before setting the bottle on the table covered in bows. “I’m not going to keep you tied to me when you don’t love me.”
Despite her intentions to not engage him in a fight, she was getting angry. “You don’t love me, either.”
He leaned into her then, his erection pressing against her lower belly. It was a shock to feel his body against her, at once familiar and strange. It had been so long. She could feel her body responding, softening. She put her hand against his chest, tangling her fingers in the nubby fabric of his golf shirt and feeling the steady, comforting thud of his heart beneath her hand. She wanted to fall into his arms and forget the real world just outside the door; forget the divorce papers upstairs in Oliver’s briefcase, just waiting for their signatures.
“Feel that?” he whispered in her ear, his breath tickling the hairs at the nape of her neck. “Don’t tell me I don’t love you.”
Shiver… I rarely am still in love with a story this long after I’ve written it, but Charlotte and Oliver’s story is one of my favorite. I love a good reconciliation between two people who are meant to be together. With This Ring I Thee Bed is a sexy, romantic collection of stories about all kinds of couples at different stages in their relationship, but all of the stories are linked to a wedding. Perfect beach reading, perfect bridal shower gift!