into the mountains to keep an eye on her, she might not be alive today. And just as important… she wouldn’t have found what she’d found with Dare: both love and a partner in all ways. And he’d been right under her stubborn nose the entire time; if it hadn’t been for Harlan, who knows what might have happened? Anything was possible, but she doubted she’d be as happy as she was at this moment.

“I thought you might be mad at me for, you know, worrying that you couldn’t handle things on your own,” Harlan confessed, as if he hadn’t already told her the same thing every time she thanked him.

“Some things aren’t supposed to be handled alone.” She resumed her dignified stance, with her head held high and her smile in place, her gaze locked on Dare. “You saved my life as surely as he did, and I won’t forget that. Not ever.”

Harlan pressed his lips together, lifted his chin. “Don’t you make me cry, young lady. This is an important duty, filling in for your father, and I won’t do it blubbering like an old man.”

The music changed, swelled. Wedding guests rose to their feet and turned to watch her. There were wide smiles all along the aisle. The time had come, and Angie took her first step toward Dare.

It was all she could do not to run down the aisle into his arms.

Afterward, the reception was held in the church’s fellowship hall. It wasn’t big, but then neither was the community. The fellowship hall was roomy enough to accommodate damn near everyone in town, as well as the handful of out-of-town guests. Nothing and no one could turn it into a fancy place, but Dare didn’t care about fancy and neither did Angie. With flowers and candles and a big-ass cake, the fellowship hall sufficed.

Dare grinned like a jackass every time he looked at the ring on his finger, or the matching one on her hand. They were married. Six months ago he couldn’t get her to even go on a date with him, or look at him without pure fire shooting out of her dark eyes, and now here they were: married.

From now on she was going to do all the paperwork. And that wasn’t anywhere near the best benefit he was getting out of this deal.

There was music, food, and dancing. Dare wasn’t much of a dancer, but he could pull off a slow dance with his new wife. He’d made arrangements with a neighbor to look after their horses while he took her on a Caribbean cruise, where he planned to do nothing except eat and have the occasional adult beverage, lie around, and have sex. He still had some fantasies that hadn’t been fulfilled. Wasn’t that what honeymoons were for?

When the time came to cut the cake, he wondered if Angie was having flashbacks. She damn well better not be. On their wedding day she shouldn’t be thinking about any other man but him.

And she didn’t seem to be; her face was glowing, her eyes sparkling, as they stood at the table where the big- ass cake-four tiers tall, with cream and white roses all along the sides and a traditional bride and groom on top-sat. Dare looked down at her and she looked up at him, her face both relaxed and radiant. There were no shadows at all in her expression, no hesitation or doubt or even what looked like a distant memory showing. That other wedding didn’t exist for her, not now.

All the guests had gathered around to watch, and he wondered for a split second if any of them had been at Angie’s other wedding and had witnessed her embarrassment. Yeah, sure, her friends from Billings had, but they didn’t seem to be thinking about that, either.

This was the only wedding that mattered.

She hadn’t asked him not to shove cake in her face, but she hadn’t had to. He knew what she wanted. More important, he knew what she didn’t want. Even though she hadn’t wasted her time hiring someone else to fix her hair and do her makeup-thank goodness because she looked damn good just as she was-he knew better.

He wasn’t a complete idiot.

They cut the cake together, his hand over hers. Then he dipped his finger into the fancy icing and lifted it to her lips, offering it to her. She smiled, her expression luminous, as she took the tip of his finger into her mouth and quickly licked the icing off, with her tongue dancing around his fingertip and her lips applying gentle suction.

His eyes almost rolled back in his head. Fuck. Shit. Yeah, she could still do that to him, blow the top of his head off with pleasure. His entire body twitched with anticipation; he enjoyed the anticipation, but he’d rather save the twitching for when they were alone.

Then she broke off a very small piece of the slice of cake they’d carved together, and popped it into his mouth. It was all very neat, very dignified. Dare made a rough sound in his throat. Angie Callahan could feed him any time.

Angie Callahan. Damn, that sounded good.

He leaned down and whispered in her ear. “You look good enough to eat. Later.”

“Back at you,” she said smiling, and damn if he didn’t start twitching again.

About the Author

LINDA HOWARD is the award-winning author of many New York Times bestsellers, including Veil of Night, Ice, Burn, Death Angel, Up Close and Dangerous, and Drop Dead Gorgeous. She also writes a paranormal romance series with Linda Jones. They have recently published Blood Born. She lives in Alabama with her husband and a golden retriever.

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