Copyright © 2013 Kelly Jamieson
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Josh Brewster’s head pounded, but he tried to focus on the minister standing at the front of St. Mark’s Methodist Church. Allie stood beside him, holding his arm in a death grip, looking pale and shaky.
“You okay?” he whispered, looking down at her. Hell, she’d lost even more weight lately. She looked like she was drowning in that fluffy white dress, and the makeup she’d applied didn’t hide how pale her cheeks were or the dark circles beneath her eyes. When he’d watched her walk down the aisle on her father’s arm, he’d been…dismayed. Worried. He patted her hand on his forearm.
She swayed yet again and nodded. “Sure. Why not?”
“You look…funny.” He closed his eyes briefly. Damn. That wasn’t exactly how a groom was supposed to react to seeing his bride on their wedding day. But she really did not look great. She still hadn’t gotten over the death of her mom and all the stress of looking after her family. He knew what that was like. Hopefully this wedding would be a new start for everyone.
Mrs. Gurney continued playing the piano, the song that had accompanied Allie and her father down the aisle.
“I worked for two hours this morning to look like this,” she whispered back.
The smell of alcohol reached his nose. Was that fumes from his hangover? Or Allie’s? Or… “Are you drunk?” he asked with a frown. Was that why she looked so awful?
“It’s Bernie’s fault.”
“You’re drunk?” he repeated. “Jesus, Allie.”
“You’re not supposed to say ‘Jesus’ in church.” She frowned. “You’re not supposed to say ‘Jesus’ like that in church.”
Josh’s jaw locked. He couldn’t blame her for drinking the night before the wedding. Hell, he’d done the same thing. But the day of the wedding…good Christ.
“Josh?” she asked as the song finally came to an end.
”It’s okay, Allie,” he whispered. “Let’s…just do this.”
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to unite this man and this woman in holy matrimony.”
Then a loud voice at the back of the church said, “Oh, hell no.”
Josh’s head snapped around. He winced at the stab of pain behind his eyes, and stared at the man striding down the center aisle toward them. The guy wasn’t exactly dressed for a wedding, wearing jeans and boots and a faded hoodie. What the hell was going on? Was there some kind of emergency outside the church?
“Gavin?” Allie squeaked.
What the hell? Gavin? “This is Gavin?” he asked Allie. She was staring wide-eyed at the guy.
What the hell was he doing there? Josh’s head throbbed even more as he gave it a shake.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Josh demanded, frowning at him. Christ, the guy looked rough—unshaven, wrinkled clothes, bloodshot eyes—
“I’m here to talk to Allie.”
Josh kept himself between Gavin and Allie. This lunatic busting into their wedding wasn’t laying a hand on her. “We’re kind of in the middle of something.” Asshole.
“Yeah, this can’t wait.” Gavin looked past Josh to Allie. “I need to talk to you. Now.”
Josh glanced at Allie, who was as white as her wedding dress, her eyes round. When Gavin made a move toward her, Josh blocked him. He wanted to punch him but kept his fists at his side. “I don’t think so, Gavin.”
Gavin sighed and they locked eyes. Josh glared at him. Silence filled the church, and out of the corner of his eye Josh caught the flash of a camera. Hell, people were taking pictures of this!
“Listen,” Gavin said. “I can do this here in front of the whole town. I don’t mind. I’m leaving here with Allie one way or another. But I think keeping some of this private might be appropriate.” He leaned around Josh to look at Allie. “I have some things I need to say before you say I do to another man, Al.”
Now? He wanted to say things to her now? After he’d dumped her, disappeared and broken her heart? Josh narrowed his eyes, stepped closer and lowered his voice. “Don’t do this, Gavin. Haven’t you messed with her enough? Just let her be happy.”
“That’s exactly what I want to do.” Gavin lifted his chin, his mouth tight. “Is that what you want?”
Was he freaking kidding? “I’m standing next to her in a tux in front of a minister,” Josh said incredulously. “What do you think?”
“I think that if you don’t let her talk to me, you know that she’ll always wonder. You don’t want that, do you? To have your wife wondering about another man?”
Josh blew out a long breath and shoved his hand through his hair. Hell. Allie had been crazy in love with Gavin. But they’d broken up over a year ago. She was over him. Wasn’t she? She was marrying him, for Chrissake. They cared about each other. This wedding was going to turn things around for both their families, and especially for Allie. He half turned to his bride, ready to ask if she wanted him to kick this guy’s ass out of there. “Allie?”
But her gaze was focused on Gavin. “What would I wonder?” she asked.
“You’d wonder what I had to say to you so badly that I would fly over four thousand miles so I could rush in here to stop your wedding.”
Allie stared at Gavin for what seemed like forever. Josh got a sinking feeling in his stomach as he stood there, on the outside, watching them joined in an intense eye lock. Silence filled the church all the way to the high ceiling. Allie looked out at the congregation, then back at Gavin. What was going through her head?
“Allie?” Gavin said again.
She pressed her lips together and shook her head. “You’re too late,” she whispered.
But Josh caught the glint of tears in her eyes. Aw, hell.
“Bullshit,” Gavin said. He stepped forward, bent and hauled her up into his arms, the skirt of her dress trailing to the floor, and headed for the side door.
“Gavin!” She gave a feeble kick.
Josh stepped forward. “Just a damn minute—” he began, adrenaline flashing through his veins as Gavin manhandled Allie.
Gavin turned. “Give me a chance,” he said. “Let me talk to her. Let me tell her what I came here to say. Then if she wants to come back, I’ll walk her down the aisle myself.”
Without waiting for an answer Gavin turned back to the door. He said something to Allie in a low voice, something Josh couldn’t hear. Arms linked around his neck, Allie gazed up at him raptly and whispered something back.
Whoa. The look on Allie’s face…
Mrs. Gurney sprang to open the door, and Gavin stepped out into the June sunshine with Josh’s bride in his arms.
Josh looked at the crowd of stunned faces, and a wave of heat swept over him. Jesus. Was he seriously being left at the altar? Unbelievable! Talk about humiliating.
Then his gaze caught on Devon. His ex-girlfriend, sitting there between Ben Hancock and Hayley Stone, looking just as flabbergasted as everyone else. For a split second, their eyes met and something passed between them, but he dragged his gaze away from her.
Allie had just been abducted by some crazed mountain man. She was fragile and stressed out and…and possibly drunk. He could not let this happen.
He strode to the door to follow them outside.