Yes! It's here...your very own little tease from Reckless Hearts!
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THE LAST THING Jami Barrett expected was a wedding crasher. Seriously, who infiltrated a private party on an exclusive island resort? But there he was, Beck Kavanagh, sucking up to the bartender.
Jami glared at the back of the dark-haired, broad-shouldered man. She knew that stupid, swirling cowlick in the middle of his lush, brown curls like the back of her hand. She’d stared at it for seventy minutes straight at the county commissioner’s hearing last month. It was definitely Beck Kavanagh, the CEO of BK Industries. Fabulous. What was he doing in the middle of the Caribbean at her sister’s wedding?
He was the one thing standing between her and a successful real estate purchase for her family’s business expansion plans. During the land use committee meeting, he and his lawyer had matched her every argument and outflanked the strategies employed by her and the family attorney.
Jami glanced around to see if her father had noticed what was going on. Nope. Teddy Barrett was nowhere in sight yet. Thank goodness. The last thing he needed was more stress, not after finally healing from open heart surgery.
Jami narrowed her gaze, and without conscious volition, marched across the pool deck toward her enemy malingering by the bar. Okay. It was an all-inclusive resort, so he had every right to drink, but really!
“Mr. Kavanagh?” Beck turned toward her with a friendly expression in his gray eyes, but it faded as he seemed to recognize her. “I’m sorry, you’re going to have to leave.” Jami pointed toward the stairs leading down to the main public pool area. “This is a private gathering. No outsiders allowed.”
“Aren’t you a long way from home?” Beck Kavanagh stared coldly at Jami. He straightened his back, and his broad shoulders, encased in a sleek white shirt, suddenly seemed even more imposing. “What are you doing here?” Beck flicked a dismissive glance at her.
Jami bridled at his condescending tone. “Once again, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“You seem to have me confused with someone else.” He looked away with disinterest as he picked up his drink. “I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”
“Are you spying on us, Mr. Kavanagh?” Jami couldn’t believe his insistence on remaining. What was his game?
“Get over yourself.” Beck scowled. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Jami! Beck!” A woman with shoulder-length blond hair patted Jami on the arm.
It was Anna, the bride-to-be, and she appeared to be chummy with public enemy number one, Beck Kavanagh. Jami swallowed against the knot forming in the pit of her belly. Something wasn’t right here. Beck’s eyebrow shot up as he gave Jami a flinty, hard look.
“Oh, Jami, it looks like you’ve already met Beck.” Anna touched Beck’s arm. “He’s one of my new in-laws.
“That’s way too complicated.” Anna laughed. “Either you’re family, or you’re not. Rob says nothing but wonderful things about you.” Anna tilted her head and smiled at Jami. “We’re siblings now. One nice, big family.”
Beck shot Jami a so-there look. She bit her lip and wondered why she was always rushing into things headlong without first considering the consequences. But then she thought about her father’s stress levels at seeing the main competitor to their business expansion plans, and Jami knew she’d go to battle any day for her father. She lifted her chin and stared back at Beck.
Beck broke eye contact and smiled graciously at Anna. “What would you like to drink?”
“That’s a lovely idea.” Anna turned to the bartender and discussed the merits of a chardonnay versus a mango rum slushy. Beck looked over Jami’s head with a bland expression. Jami smiled serenely although she was steaming on the inside.
“Where’s your handsome groom?” Jami accepted the fruity adult smoothie and clicked Anna’s identical glass with a grin.
“Rob’s checking on his mother.” Anna glanced at Beck. “She seemed to have some kind of problem with her luggage at the airport.”
Beck’s eyebrows drew together in a crease, and Jami filed away his pained expression for future reference.
“There’s Rob now.” Anna waved and made a beeline to her beloved.
As if the Red Sea had parted, a steady file of chattering adults and kids strolled through the leafy-framed opening to the private pool patio. Jami sighed with relief. At least she would have reinforcements in her battle. All of her family, and now the delight of meeting Anna’s future in-laws, and unfortunately, one Beckham Kavanagh.
With laughter and teasing, the introductions proceeded. Jami exchanged greetings with Anna’s fiancé, Rob and then met Rob’s preteen sons, Carl and Ryan. Her oldest brother, Austin, gave her a big hug, and she exchanged squeezes with Jo and Sam, her two sisters. As Anna continued the introductions, Jami noted that Rob and Beck looked little alike, and only seemed to share a similar hairline and square jaw. She shrugged. They were only half-brothers according to Beck.
A few minutes later, Teddy Barrett and his wife, Caitlynne, appeared at the top of the stairs with Daphne and Mae, their twin six-year-old daughters, in tow. Jami was relieved to see her father was in good spirits and didn’t seem too fatigued by the long flight from Oregon.
Her stepmother, Caitlynne, looked as if she’d stepped out of a fashion magazine with her blue and white striped maxi dress, delicately bejeweled sandals, and artfully tousled hair. Her eyes were perfectly lined in black, and her fake eyelashes surely must be extensions. She was high-maintenance and looked like a candidate from The Bachelor. Although she and Jami were the same age, Jami had little in common with her stepmother.
Within a short time, the twins were splashing in the pool with Rob’s boys, and then Jami’s youngest brother, Kyle, strolled in with a beer in hand and an easy greeting for all.
Jami stood out of Caitlynne’s line of sight and waited for the onslaught to start. She wondered idly who would be victim number one? Because, of course, no gathering was complete without Caitlynne proving to her husband that his daughters were deficient and clearly not as perfect as their own two progeny.
“Of course, we thought this would be your wedding, didn’t we?” Jami’s stepmother looked all innocent. Oh goody. She was first on Caitlynne’s hotlist tonight. “What is your old fiancé doing now? Didn’t Eric get that promotion?”
“I didn’t hear anything about a new job,” Teddy Barrett said, “but Evelyn Greenwood told me his new wife is having a baby in the fall.” Jami’s dad looked supremely unaware of the spear he’d casually harpooned into Jami’s heart.
Lovely. Caitlynne was a fluffy Labradoodle on the outside, but a bitchy barracuda on the inside. There was nothing she liked better than to lob bunker-buster bombs at her stepchildren. How charming of her to bring up her ass-hat of an ex who’d jilted her during his bachelor party the month before their wedding. The wound was six months old, but Caitlynne just had to pour some pickle juice on this papercut.
Jami swizzled the straw around the pale golden party drink and wished her glass wasn’t half-empty. Ha! Her glass was always full. No self-pity allowed. She peeked up at Beck, and his expression was speculative but sympathetic. Dammit. The last thing she wanted was sympathy from the black-hearted Beck. It was best to appear above the fray and supremely indifferent.
“I heard that his wife is expecting twins. Boys, I believe.” Jami schooled her features into impassivity as if she was merely sharing details of the of a half-inch of rainfall in the middle of winter instead of the hurricane of destruction that had leveled her personal life last fall.
“Eric’s wife looks like she’s having quadruplets,” Sam chimed in as she took Jami’s old drink and exchanged it for a fresh one. “And she’s only four months along.” She winked at Jami and took her place in their circle.