Settings

Every Time We Fall in Love 20


  "It sounds great, Dad." Harry grinned at his father, his heart lighter than he could ever remember. "Really, really great."

  *

  Molly was having a wonderful time at Amelia's after-party. Despite how star struck the other school parents had been when they'd first seen Harry's family, as soon as they all started chatting, it was easy to see that they were just normal people. Apart from Alec's billions, and Suzanne's genius, and Drake's artistic talent, Molly thought with a smile.

  Still, the evening wouldn't feel completely perfect until Harry and his father arrived to celebrate with them. Suzanne had explained to Molly how William had decided to start working on the painting the previous Sunday night, at which point Amelia had confirmed that she and her grandfather had been in cahoots over it as a special birthday surprise ever since.

  Molly couldn't quite wrap her head around owning one of William Sullivan's paintings. It was like having Mick Jagger write a song for her. Or Frank Lloyd Wright building her a house to live in.

  "Miss me?" Strong arms wrapped around her waist from behind.

  She turned to wrap her arms around Harry's neck and press her lips to his. "Not now that you're here."

  "Amelia looks happy."

  She followed his gaze to the dance floor, where their daughter was tearing it up with Suzanne. Roman was standing at the edge of the space watching over them, making it perfectly clear with nothing more than his large, intimidating presence that any boys thinking of hitting on Amelia--or Suzanne--should walk away instead.

  "She sure does." Molly reached up to put her hand on Harry's jaw, studying his face for a few moments. "And so do you."

  "My father and I had a good talk. A great talk."

  "Want to slip away with me for a bit to tell me about it?"

  "I definitely want to slip away with you, and I'll tell you everything soon, I promise. But first, I'd like to give you your birthday present."

  Taking her hand, he led her out of the crowded room and onto the wharf. It was a warm night, and with the moon shining on the water and the stars twinkling in the dark sky above, Molly felt so wonderfully happy. She didn't need Harry's birthday gift to complete her night. All she needed was Harry, holding her hand and looking at her with such love in his eyes.

  "All week," he began, "I tried to figure out what to get you for your birthday. But nothing I thought of was good enough. And nothing I could have bought for you would have meant enough."

  "This has already been the most wonderful day. Between Amelia's new birth certificate, your family making peace with me, our daughter's great performance, your father surprising us with the painting, and the peace I can see in your eyes after your talk with him--I couldn't ask for anything more."

  "Not even this?" He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and pulled out an envelope.

  A love letter.

  Just like the ones George C. Boldt had sent to his wife.

  Molly's hands trembled as she opened the envelope and slid out the paper inside.

  Dear Molly,

  The moment I met you, I knew you were my one true love.

  For the long years that we were apart, there was never a single day when I didn't think of you. When I didn't long for you. When I didn't want to find you and beg you to give me a second chance.

  All the while, you were raising our daughter, helping her grow into an incredible young woman. One brave enough to come and find her father, because you taught her how to be strong. How to take risks. How to be vulnerable against all odds--and hope that love will prevail in the end. No matter what.

  Now it's my turn to be brave like Amelia, like you. I want to share every last piece of my heart with you, no matter how difficult, no matter how much safer it would feel not to take these risks. To bottle up everything I feel the way I always have before.

  But if there's anyone I can risk my heart with, it's you, Molly.

  It's always been you.

  For so long, I used my family as an excuse to stay stuck where I was. But they were never the real reason I pulled back, never the reason I shut you out, never the reason I didn't ask you for help.

  The truth is that I was scared. Scared to face my own feelings. My own grief. My own losses. As long as I focused on my family, as long as I spent all my time helping them, I never had to focus on myself.

  Until you got close. So close that I knew you would want me to share my true feelings with you.

  So I pushed you away. Before you could see what was really going on. Before you realized what a total mess I was.

  I couldn't let you see any of that, because then I would have had to see it myself. Would have had to admit that some days--most days--my sorrow over losing my mother, and my father too, even though he was still alive, felt like it was going to crush me.

  Somewhere in there, I started to believe my own lies: That I was the guy who always held it together no matter what. That I'd made peace with my mother's death. That I could single-handedly shoulder my father's grief. That I didn't need help taking care of my family.

  But I'm not that guy, Molly.

  I never was.

  You knew that all along, didn't you? Knew and loved the real me, through it all.

  You are the most beautiful, strong, brilliant, passionate, loving woman I've ever known. I'll never stop being thankful that somehow, some way, you fell in love with me--a man who gets it wrong nearly as often as he gets it right.

  Before, I would have tried to pretend I wasn't a mess. But I don't have to pretend anymore. I know that you will always love me anyway.

  Exactly the way I will always love you.

  Yours forever,

  Harry

  By the time Molly got to the end of the letter, tears were streaming down her face. She looked up, wanting to tell Harry that she was his forever too--

  When she realized he had gone down on one knee.

  "Turn the letter over, Molly." His deep voice rippled over her, through her. "There's more."

  P.S. Will you marry me?

  P.P.S. I already asked Amelia for your hand. She said yes.

  P.P.P.S. I hope you will too.

  Molly sank to her knees on the planks of the wharf, put her hands on his face, and kissed him with all the love she possessed.

  "Dear Harry," she began, her voice shaky, but her heart sure. "You weren't the only one who fell in love the moment we met...and who never stopped loving, even after so many years apart. And you're not the only one who was scared to be vulnerable, who used their family as an excuse not to leap, or risk, or trust. But my heart always knew best. Always knew that loving you was the best thing I could ever do. Your strength, your gentleness. Your brains, your brawn. Your laughter, your tears. Your hope, your grief. I love every single thing that makes you who you are. I'm yours forever too."

  She kissed him again, then smiled before saying one more thing.

  "P.S. Yes."

  EPILOGUE

  Cassie Sullivan had thought this day would never come.

  Growing up in Maine, Cassie and her six siblings had heard countless stories over the years about their Uncle William. How he'd once been one of the world's most famous painters until his wife died and he put down his brushes forever.

  Standing in William's gallery in Alexandria Bay, surrounded by a dozen of his new paintings--many of his granddaughter and her big wolfhound, several of his children, plus a few Thousand Islands waterscapes--seemed like a miracle.

  Cassie's father, Ethan, was standing with William. The two brothers were still catching the eyes of the women around them, even those at least thirty years younger.

  All of the Sullivan men shared that same charisma, Cassie thought as a pretty redhead flirted like crazy with her brother Rory.

  There were some cute guys here. Maybe she should try some flirting and see what happened. But before she could give it any serious consideration, she looked down and realized her dress had a big chocolate smear across the front.

  At the last se
cond, she'd decided to whip up a batch of extra treats in the house she and her siblings had rented for a few days for the gallery opening. She'd been so sure she'd cleaned up.

  Oh well, she thought with a shrug. She'd never be as slinky and sexy and fabulous as her cousins Lori, Sophie, Mia, and Suzanne. Or a bombshell like her sister, Lola. Or as naturally elegant as her mother, Beth. Cassie was okay with that. Really, she was. Even if every guy she dated seemed to wish she was a sexy, elegant bombshell like the other women in her family.

  She supposed she shouldn't give up on her love life just yet, though. How could she, after seeing what miracles love had brought about for so many of her cousins? Especially Harry, who was the happiest man alive now that he was Amelia's proud father--and also newly engaged to her mother, Molly.

  Rory walked up to her, looking rugged even in his suit. "Couldn't resist making candy hearts, could you, Cass?" He licked some dark chocolate off his fingers, and she thought she heard a couple of nearby women gasp out loud. "All our lovey-dovey cousins are really rubbing off on you, aren't they?"

  "You know me. I've always been a sucker for a happy ending." Even if it wasn't her own. "More now than ever after how well everything has turned out for Uncle William."

  "It's pretty cool that he started painting again. They're great paintings."

  She had to laugh. Rory was a master of understatement. "It's like having Leonardo da Vinci in the family."

  He nodded. "Seeing his work up close like this makes me want to be back in my studio. I'll never make anything this good, but it'd be a rush just to try."

  "I know exactly how you feel." Her brother made beautiful bespoke furniture, and Cassie concocted all kinds of treats out of sugar, but their drive to create was the same regardless of the medium. "Lola has been sketching madly in her notebook all night." Their sister was a textile designer whose bold fabrics had become her signature. Clearly, creativity ran in their family's blood.

  Just then, Harry clinked a spoon on his glass to get everyone's attention. "Thank you, everyone, for coming to celebrate with us on Dad's big night." He turned to smile at his father. "We're all so proud of you, Dad."

  Everyone raised their glasses to toast William--not only to celebrate his magnificent paintings, but also because he had finally found peace with himself and his family.

  Cassie didn't know what she would have done without her family. As long as she had them, she would always be just fine. Besides, until she could have a love story like that of her mother and father--or Harry and Molly, who had held each other's hearts for so many years against all odds--Cassie was determined to hold out for true love.

  Even if it meant that the heart-shaped chocolates she made for her happy customers was as close as she was going to get to romance for the foreseeable future...

  *

  For news on Bella Andre's upcoming books, click BellaAndre.com/Newsletter to sign up for Bella Andre's New Release Newsletter.

  *

  I hope you absolutely loved Harry and Molly's story! Please be sure to sign up for my newsletter (bellaandre.com/newsletter) so that I can let you know the release dates for all upcoming books, including Cassie Sullivan's book--the first Maine Sullivan--coming Spring 2019!

  *

  Please also enjoy the following excerpt from the first San Francisco Sullivan book, THE LOOK OF LOVE

  Chloe Peterson is having a bad night. A really bad night. The large bruise on her cheek can attest to that. And when her car skids off the side of a wet country road straight into a ditch, she's convinced even the gorgeous guy who rescues her in the middle of the rain storm must be too good to be true. Or is he?

  As a successful photographer who frequently travels around the world, Chase Sullivan has his pick of beautiful women, and whenever he's home in San Francisco, one of his seven siblings is usually up for causing a little fun trouble. Chase thinks his life is great just as it is--until the night he finds Chloe and her totaled car on the side of the road in Napa Valley. Not only has Chase never met anyone so lovely, both inside and out, but he quickly realizes Chloe has much bigger problems than her damaged car. Soon, Chase is willing to move mountains to love--and protect--her, but will Chloe let him?

  Enjoy the following excerpt from THE LOOK OF LOVE...

  Chase almost missed the flickering light off on the right side of the two-lane country road. In the past thirty minutes, he hadn't passed a single car, because on a night like this, most sane Californians--who didn't know the first thing about driving safely in inclement weather--stayed home.

  Knowing better than to slam on the brakes--he wouldn't be able to help whomever was stranded on the side of the road if he ended up stuck in the muddy ditch right next to them--Chase slowed down enough to see that there was definitely a vehicle stuck in the ditch.

  He turned his brights on to see better in the pouring rain and realized there was a person walking along the edge of the road about a hundred yards up ahead. Obviously hearing his car approach, she turned to face him, and he could see her long wet hair whipping around her shoulders in his headlights.

  Wondering why she wasn't just sitting in her car, dry and warm, calling Triple A and waiting for them to come save her, he pulled over to the edge of his lane and got out to try to help her. She was shivering as she watched him approach.

  "Are you hurt?"

  She covered her cheek with one hand, but shook her head. "No."

  He had to move closer to hear her over the sound of the water hitting the pavement in what were rapidly becoming hailstones. Even though he'd turned his headlights off, as his eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness, he was able to get a better look at her face.

  Something inside of Chase's chest clenched tight.

  Despite the long, dark hair plastered to her head and chest, regardless of the fact that looking like a drowned rat wasn't too far off the descriptive mark, her beauty stunned him.

  In an instant, his photographer's eye cataloged her features. Her mouth was a little too big, her eyes a little too wide-set on her face. She wasn't even close to model thin, but given the way her T-shirt and jeans stuck to her skin, he could see that she wore her lush curves well. In the dark he couldn't judge the exact color of her hair, but it looked like silk, perfectly smooth and straight where it lay over her breasts.

  It wasn't until Chase heard her say, "My car is definitely hurt, though," that he realized he had completely lost the thread of what he'd come out here to do.

  Knowing he'd been drinking her in like he was dying of thirst, he worked to recover his balance. He could already see he'd been right about her car. It didn't take a mechanic like his brother Zach, who owned an auto shop--more like forty, but Chase had stopped counting years ago--to see that her shitty hatchback was borderline totaled. Even if the front bumper wasn't half-smashed to pieces by the white farm fence she'd slid into, her bald tires weren't going to get any traction on the mud. Not tonight, anyway.

  If her car had been in a less precarious situation, he probably would have sent her to hang out in her car while he took care of getting it unstuck. But one of her back tires was hanging precariously over the edge of the ditch.

  He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "Get in my car. We can wait there for a tow truck." He was vaguely aware of his words coming out like an order, but the hail was starting to sting, damn it. Both of them needed to get out of the rain before they froze.

  But the woman didn't move. Instead, she gave him a look that said he was a complete and utter nut-job.

  "I'm not getting into your car."

  Realizing just how frightening it must be for a lone woman to end up stuck and alone in the middle of a dark road, Chase took a step back from her. He had to speak loudly enough for her to hear him over the hail.

  "I'm not going to attack you. I swear I won't do anything to hurt you."

  She all but flinched at the word attack, and Chase's radar started buzzing. He'd never been a magnet for troubled women, wasn't the kind of guy who thrived on
fixing wounded birds. But living with two sisters for so many years meant he could always tell when something was up.

  And something was definitely up with this woman, beyond the fact that her car was half-stuck in a muddy ditch.

  Wanting to make her feel safe, he held his hands up. "I swear on my father's grave, I'm not going to hurt you. It's okay to get into my car." When she didn't immediately say no again, he pressed his advantage with, "I just want to help you." And he did. More than it made sense to want to help a stranger. "Please," he said. "Let me help you."

  She stared at him for a long moment, hail hammering between them, around them, onto them. Chase found himself holding his breath, waiting for her decision. It shouldn't matter to him what she decided.

  But, for some strange reason, it did.

  ...Excerpt from THE LOOK OF LOVE by Bella Andre (c) 2015

  Buy THE LOOK OF LOVE

  *

  Please enjoy the following excerpt from THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT (Rafe Sullivan's story), the first Seattle Sullivan book...

  As a very successful private investigator who has caught most of the cheaters in Seattle with their pants down, Rafe Sullivan believes true, lasting love only happens once in a blue moon. Needing to get away from the city to clear his head, he finds the lake house where he spent the best summers of his life is now a wreck...but the sweet girl next door is all grown up and prettier than anything he's ever seen.

  While Brooke Jansen is happy making and selling chocolate truffles in her small Pacific Northwest lake town, she secretly longs to experience something wild. So when her favorite "Wild Sullivan" moves in again next door after more than a decade away, and sparks fly between them, she can't stop wondering if being bad is really as good as it always seemed...and just how long it will be before she can find out.