But Hank immediately zeroed in on Clara and Edward, and headed their way. Thomas walked after him.

Amber quickly followed in an attempt to head off a confrontation that would ruin the family gathering. She hadn’t forgotten Thomas’s interest in Clara or how fragile Edward still was.

She intercepted them before they reached the couple. “Hi, Hank, Thomas. I’m so glad you could make it,” Amber said, greeting them each with a kiss.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” Hank said. “We’re all still praying the curse won’t touch you and Mike, or Derek and Gabrielle-”

Amber cleared her throat. “We don’t discuss the curse here. House rules,” she reminded him, as she had each time she’d seen him since her return.

A quick glance at Edward told Amber he wasn’t paying attention to his brothers. He was looking out toward the lake. He still tended to withdraw into himself. The doctor explained his behavior as being a combination of fear, anxiety and embarrassment. And they were still trying to get the right medication for his conditions. Therapy and medication could take a long time to work correctly and in sync.

“Is everything okay here?” Mike walked over to his family. He placed an arm around Amber’s waist.

“We’re all great!” Amber said. “Isn’t that right?”

Hank nodded. “Where’s the beer?” he asked.

Mike gestured to the bar area they’d set up, and Hank ambled over. “Uncle Thomas, thank you for coming.”

“I couldn’t be happier for you two,” he said sincerely. “How’s your father doing?”

“It’s a slow process, but he’s coming along.”

“Would it be all right with you if I said hello to them?” Thomas tipped his head toward Edward and Clara who sat a few feet away.

“As long as you behave,” Amber warned him in her sternest voice.

Thomas gave her a salute and a kiss on the cheek. “I do like this lady,” he said to Mike.

“Me, too.” Mike squeezed her tighter.

Thomas turned and walked away. “Edward, Clara, it’s so nice to see you!” He headed straight for Clara first, kissing her on the cheek a bit too long.

Amber took a step toward them, but Mike held her back. “It’ll be okay. Let it play out,” he said.

She narrowed her gaze. “I don’t like how Thomas gets around Clara. It’s as if some kind of spell or something comes over him and he can’t resist her.”

“Like I can’t resist you?” Mike asked, nuzzling her cheek with his lips.

“Mmm,” she murmured, loving the feel of his warm touch. Her body tingled in anticipation. “Stop trying to distract me or I’ll have to lure you to the boathouse so I can have my way with you,” she said, only half- kidding.

“Promise?” He slipped his hand beneath her shirt, easing his fingers into the waistband of her jeans.

Like newlyweds, they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. Amber hoped the honeymoon period never ended.

“No! I’m kidding. We’re surrounded by family.”

“I forgot what a prude you are when there are people around.” He often teased her about the way she’d acted the first time she stayed in this house. Because now that they were happy and officially together, he knew she’d have her way with him anywhere, anytime, as long as they were discreet.

She turned into his arms and a feeling of pure happiness and contentment washed over her. Surrounded by their family, the people who meant the most to them, and secure in each other, Amber’s lucky streak had indeed continued.

“I love you, Detective Corwin.”

He grinned. “I love you, too, Amber Rose.”

Her entire body melted at his words.

Until a loud shout interrupted them. When they turned to look, they saw Edward standing on a chair, shouting at Thomas. “You want her so badly, take her. She’s yours. Maybe then the damn curse will leave me alone and start working on you!

“Eddie, you get down at once before you fall and break your hard head,” Clara yelled up at him.

Amber grabbed Mike’s hand and they ran toward the ruckus.

“Dad, I warned you not to go near Clara,” Jason said, approaching his father.

“I didn’t do anything except compliment the lovely orange color of her dress, dammit,” Thomas exploded.

Mike rolled his eyes and glanced at Amber. “Are you sure this is what you want to deal with for the rest of your life?” he asked his wife.

The woman he’d traveled across the country to reclaim.

A female shriek reverberated around them.

Amber and Mike turned fast.

“Daddy, that’s a skunk!” Holly shouted as she leaped onto the rectangular buffet table. The extremely portable, unstable table came crashing to the ground, the food along with it. Holly got up, fine but embarrassed.

Mike winced.

Amber laughed.

“Just what is so funny?” he asked, tension mounting.

Amber placed her hand on his shoulder to calm him. “Your question? You wanted to know if I wanted to deal with this for the rest of my life.”

Mike clenched his jaw. “Maybe I shouldn’t have asked.”

She shook her head. “I’m glad you did. Because you need to know, I love our loud, crazy family and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My old life was sad and lonely.” She met his gaze with a warm, reassuring one. “I’m lucky to have you.”

Relieved, Mike shook his head and tipped his head toward hers. “I’m the lucky one.”

And that was something he never intended to forget.


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