“When we were kids, my cousins planned for their weddings like they were coronations. Sleepovers revolved around notebooks stuffed with clippings from bridal magazines and elaborate plans scrawled in purple ink. Horse drawn carriages, twenty tiered cakes, groomsmen in tails, and scads of bridesmaids, none of whom were nearly as pretty as the bride. Me? I’d just yawn and wander off to the backyard and play fetch with their dog. I never cared about any of that crap, at least not until I met Joe.”
With her wedding rapidly approaching, Molly’s days consist of herding Joe off to tux fittings and diaper changings times two. She misses life on the food truck, but she isn’t quite ready to leave the twins. Planning for every detail to be as perfect as her groom, she hopes her instincts are wrong that it’s all too good to be true.
Knowing Molly like he does, Joe can plainly see that his girl needs to decompress. She’s as stubborn as always, and talking her into a honeymoon without the babies proves easier said than done. Molly’s on edge about every little thing, from the nosey next door neighbor to cars speeding down their quiet street. While Joe revels in their otherwise blissful existence, he worries that Molly’s paranoia may be a symptom of something bigger.
Come back to Austin one last time for the wedding of Molly Elizabeth Hildebrandt and Joseph Samuel Jensen. Raise a glass in celebration alongside their family and closest friends. Wave goodbye as they ride off into the sunset toward a dark fork in the road that could destroy their happily ever after. Will they finally get their fairytale ending? Find out in Heartwood, the explosive conclusion to the Carved Hearts series.
I was blocks away from the restaurant when traffic came to a crawl. Anxiously tapping the steering wheel, I finally passed the scene of the accident which had tied up both lanes. It seemed some tourist had slammed their Winnebago into a Smart Car, and Austin’s rubberneckers needed an eyeful. The gridlock continued, and growing ever more frustrated, I pulled out my phone and texted my date.
Traffic. I’m a mile away.
She didn’t respond. I was about to call her, when my phone chimed.
I glanced down at the picture message. No accompanying words, but I didn’t need any. The top of her garter belt jutted out from her skirt. It was visibly pinned to black stockings. I licked my lips, ready to park and sprint the remaining blocks to the restaurant. Taking a deep breath, I soldiered on.
When I finally entered Bess Bistro, I scanned the place eagerly. It didn’t take me long to find her in the dimly lit restaurant. She sat at the bar facing away from me sipping a martini. I watched as she placed her glass carefully on the surface in front of her. Her upswept hair accentuated her long, lovely neck which begged to be tasted. Seeing those stockings in the flesh made my temperature rise, and the way her midnight blue dress hugged her heart-shaped ass had me salivating.
Some old dude with greying temples and a droopy porn mustache was giving her the full court press. He was turned sideways on his stool, leaning into her personal space and talking to her cleavage. She nodded politely in response to whatever nonsense he was spewing, as his lustful eyes continued to violate every inch of her exposed skin.
A couple of years back, I might have punched him right in the ‘stache, but this was the new and improved me. The guy that didn’t fly into jealous rages or break irritating people into itty bitty bits. However, when he reached out and stroked her dangling earring, ‘Old Joe’ reared his ugly head. I was tempted to rip him off of his stool and toss him out the front door by the seat of his Depends. Instead, I took a moment and another deep breath. I had kids to think about now. Everything I did (or didn’t do) set an example for them. True, they were far too little to know what I might do here, but their blabbermouth aunts would be more than happy to fill them in later in life. As I stood contemplating the pros and cons of my next action, a far more civilized strategy occurred to me. I felt a devilish grin bloom on my face and I sauntered to the bar.
I slid onto the empty barstool next to her. Reaching out, I picked up her drink and took a sip. “Is this martini dirty?”
“Well if it wasn’t before, it certainly is now.” Her stunning eyes took in my tailored suit, and the corners of her mouth curled coyly as she reached out and reclaimed her drink from me. Her full sleeve of tattoos somehow meshed perfectly with the silky dark material she wore. She was dazzling, and I was glad I’d decided to wear her favorite tie.
“What’s a woman like you doing sitting at a bar alone?” My greedy eyes devoured her plunging neckline and her glossy, full lips. She giggled quietly, and the way her fingertips trailed along the stem of her glass made me heady with anticipation. Mustache Rides shot me a dirty look and turned reluctantly back to his scotch.
“Waiting on my fiancé.” She looked up at me from under her sultry lashes.
“He made you wait?” I asked. She nodded, and the bartender who’d been hovering nearby approached. “Johnnie Blue. Make it a double.”
“He’s a busy man.” Molly sighed dramatically, lifting her speared olives to her lips. She tugged one off showily with her teeth, her eyes fixed on mine.
Oh…it was definitely on now.
“He’s a fool,” I shot back.
The bartender barely stifled a chuckle as he poured my whiskey. It was clear he thought I was trying to pick her up, and of course, I was. Though we owned a house and had children together, and it was my ring on that pretty finger of hers, these facts were all irrelevant.
Tonight Molly planned to make me work for it.
She glanced at the bartender, and then back at me. She was well aware we had an audience. Her amusement was thinly veiled, but she kept a straight face and stayed in character.
“How late is he?” I continued, my voice sounding wanton and thick.
“Very.” Her decisive response reeked of promiscuity and I could feel the bartender assessing us curiously.
“I can keep you company while you wait if you like.” I leaned my elbows onto the bar and looked her over casually. She turned toward me and crossed her long legs. She was purposely drawing my attention to one of her best features, and I allowed my eyes to drop. My gaze trailed from the black straps at her ankles all the way up to her risqué hemline that ended far above the knee.
“Buy me another drink and maybe I’ll let you buy me dinner.” With that, she downed the last swallow of her martini. With a wicked smile, I turned back to the bartender who shook his head in blatant admiration.
“Oh, she definitely needs another one of those.” I stated. Mustache Man muttered something and abandoned his drink on the bar. The bartender glanced at Molly, and the gentle curl of her lips made him blush so profusely that his bald head looked sunburnt.
He dwells in the great state of Texas with his wife, novelist Michelle Pace and their children.
Michelle Pace lives in north Texas with her husband, Les, who is also a novelist. An Iowan native, she is the mother of two lovely daughters, Holly and Bridgette, and one uber-charismatic son, Kai. A former singer and actress, Michelle has always enjoyed entertaining people and is excited to continue to do so as a writer.