Wedding the Bad Boy Excerpt

“My ass looks huge!” Lucy Conrad, one of Grace Sinclair’s best friends, declared as she studied her reflection in the floor-length mirror. She’d flown to Las Vegas from California for some girl time with Grace and their friend, Melina Parker. After enjoying lunch and a movie, the three of them were now shopping for dresses at Bliss, an upscale wedding boutique in downtown Las Vegas. Lucy had taken one look at the plum halter-style gown in the window and insisted on trying it on in case it could be a contender for Maid of Honor dresses.

Obviously, she was less thrilled now that it was off the hanger and draped over her body. Ridiculous, since she looked amazing. Grace was about to tell her so when Melina stepped out of her dressing room.

“Wide load here,” Melina said, even though she looked breathtaking in a champagne-colored mermaid dress.

Grace rolled her eyes. “Both of you need to stop. Neither of you could possibly be more gorgeous.”

“The dress is beautiful,” Melina said, turning in front of the mirror. “But obviously the designer didn’t consider the hips of a mother of two-year-old twins when he made it.”

“And this one isn’t quite right for the booty of a fourteen-month-old daughter’s mommy either. Oh wait, we’re adopting her. No one to blame but Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream,” Lucy said with a remorseless grin.

Lucy had been married just eight months ago to Jamie Whitcomb, and while she and Jamie were in the process of adopting Milly, the niece Lucy had been granted guardianship over when Lucy’s sister died, it didn’t matter that the relationship hadn’t yet been made official—Milly was Lucy and Jamie’s daughter now.

Lucy wiggled her brows. “Big booty aside, it’s a good thing I have such a heathy body image. And Jamie prefers me sans clothes anyway. If the man had his way, we’d open our own nudist colony, me and him as the only members. He’s developed an affinity for role playing and let’s just say the roles are of the do-as-your-master-says-and-that-includes-showing-me-your-ta-tas variety.”

Melina and Grace groaned. “TMI,” Melina said.

Lucy snorted. “This coming from the woman who told us all about her handcuff collection—the one not for Rhys’s magic acts.”

“Well, he did just gift me with a pretty interesting pair. A little more industrial than the ones we’ve used in the past and quite a nice change of pace.”

Grace covered her ears. “Please, no more! You’re talking about Max’s brother—my soon-to-be brother-in-law. And you…” She turned to Lucy. “I’m surprised Jamie could bear to be away from you for a few days while you’re here. The way you two go ga-ga over each other is…” Grace laughed. “Oh, who am I kidding? It’s fabulous, Luce. I’m glad the honeymoon continues.”

“Hey, we’ve got to stay on our toes to keep up with you girls and the Dalton brothers. Rhys looked like he was going to cry when Melina and I left the house, and it had nothing to do with leaving him with Charlie and Tabitha. He still looks at Melina like he wants to peel back her clothes at any given moment…with his teeth.”

Melina blushed. “Max gets the same look around Grace. Right, Grace?”

Grace gave Melina a knowing glance.

Lucy shrugged. “Yep, we are three very lucky women, indeed. Now, let’s see if we can transfer some of that luck to finding dresses that are a little more flattering. Your special day can’t be anything less than perfect, Grace. Max won’t stand for it.”

Grace couldn’t disagree with Lucy on that point. When it came to making her happy, Max pulled out all the stops. Part of her still couldn’t believe that of all the women in the world, he’d chosen her, a woman who hadn’t even been able to have an orgasm with a man until he’d come along. “I think you both look great, but we have plenty of time to find the perfect dress. The wedding isn’t for another four months.”

“Will Max be able to wait that long?” Melina asked. “He’s so anxious to make you his wife.”

Grace smiled at the happy thought. “I’m just as anxious. And I can’t wait for you to be my sister-in-law. But Max and I agreed to a year-long engagement so he could focus his attention on the new show. Obviously, it was the right decision given how well it’s doing.”

Max was the headliner of his very own magic theater, which he ran with his twin brother Rhys. Together, the Dalton brothers invented new magic tricks and choreographed every aspect of the show. Recently, they’d revamped the act to include acrobatics and dancing à la Cirque du Soleil. It had involved a lot of work and financial risk, but it’d paid off. The show was a huge success, with standing room only audiences. Grace couldn’t be more proud of her fiancé and future brother-in-law. Putting off the wedding had been a small price to pay for their success.

“Lucy, what about that off-the-shoulder one over there?” Grace pointed across the room.

Lucy’s gaze focused on the dress, and she nodded. “Good eye.” She grabbed two—one for her and one for Melina—and went back into the dressing room. “Weren’t we promised champagne?” she called out.

“The clerk said she’d be right back with it,” Grace said. “I’ll make sure and grab you a glass if she comes over while you’re changing.”

Still holding the dress Lucy had handed her, Melina walked over and gingerly sat down in the chair next to Grace. “Wow, no wonder mermaids keep swimming. These things aren’t easy to sit down in. Don’t you want to try something on?”

“Lord, no,” Grace said. It sounded like, “Lawd, no,” her southern accent prominent even to her own ears. “I promised myself a four-week hiatus from trying on wedding dresses. Unless the perfect dress leaps out and tackles me, I’m focusing on other wedding details for now. Not that there’s that many details given the wedding is going to be so small, but Max is always asking for progress reports.”

Melina nodded. “That’s because he wants you to have the very best. He wants your wedding to fulfill all your dreams even if it’s going to be an intimate ceremony.”

“He’s already fulfilled all my dreams by asking me to be his wife.”

“Aww, that’s sweet, Grace. He’s the lucky one. And now that school is over for the summer, you and I will be able to knock out the rest of the wedding planning in no time.”

Grace hummed a few bars of “School’s Out For Summer,” and she and Melina danced in place while exchanging high fives. Grace loved her job at the University of Las Vegas, but the school didn’t keep career counselors on during summer semester due to lower attendance. It would be her first summer living in Vegas with so much free time, but like Melina said, there would be plenty to keep her busy.

“Speaking of wedding planning…” Melina’s voice interrupted Grace’s thoughts. “Are you sure you’re okay with not going on a long honeymoon after the ceremony?”

“Max has the show, so…”

“Yes, but he offered to shut the theater down for a couple of weeks. And you’ve always wanted to go to Europe—”

Grace shook her head. “I can’t. We’ll have plenty of time to travel later. I agreed to marry Max knowing what I was getting into. He’s a celebrity magician on the rise, and I can’t jeopardize that. I don’t ever want him to regret marrying me.” As soon as the words left her mouth, Grace mentally cringed, wanting to kick herself for what she’d said. “I mean—”

Too late. Melina’s deep sigh said it all. “You did not just say that, Grace Sinclair! Max would never regret marrying you, even if it meant giving up his show altogether. That’s not why you wanted such a long engagement, is it? Because you think you’re going to do something to mess things up between you?”

“No!” Grace said, even though part of her feared exactly that. She thought she’d gotten over that insecurity a long time ago, but the worry that she might not be enough for Max had recently resurfaced. “I don’t know why I said that. It was silly.”

But Melina kept frowning, and Grace was afraid she was going to keep digging, so she jumped to her feet. “You know what? I think I’ll try on a few dresses, after all. Hard to resist with all these gorgeous gowns!” She grabbed a few dresses at random. She was about to head into a dressing room when Lucy stepped out in her bridesmaid gown.

“Now this dress I can get on board with.”

Melina gasped. “Sexy princess!”

“You’re stunning,” Grace agreed. “Absolutely, that’s the one.”

Melina struggled back to her feet in the mermaid dress. “Wait! Let me put mine on before you decide. Maybe it only looks gorgeous on her.”

“That’s highly possible,” Lucy said, unable to tear her gaze away from her reflection in the mirror.

Melina snorted and tossed the sash from the dress she was wearing at Lucy. Lucy caught it in mid-air and tied it in her hair. Grace laughed, as the young girl helping them finally showed up with the champagne.

“Looks like you’re having fun,” she said.

Grace grabbed a glass off of the tray and handed it Lucy. “I always have fun with these two.” She grabbed her own champagne and clinked glasses with Lucy who focused on something on Grace’s arm, turning her around to look.

“What’s that you got there? A little rough tussle in the bedroom?” she giggled.

Grace had no idea what Lucy was talking about and spun to look in the mirror at the back of her arm. She was shocked to see a wide, faded bruise spread across her skin. “That’s weird. I don’t remember getting that.” Though Lucy could’ve been right. It was very possible that it had happened while in bed with Max, with the way he’d been deliciously rough with her lately.

A minute later, Melina rejoined them. As beautiful as the dress had been on Lucy, it looked like it had been made for Melina’s dark hair and skin tone.

“Gorgeous!” Grace and Lucy both said at once.

“You think so?” Melina bit her lip.

“Don’t tell me you can’t see it,” Grace said.

Melina giggled. “No, I can see it. I’m hot. I just wanted to hear you say it.”

“Maybe I need to go brunette for the wedding,” Lucy mused. “We’d be brunette hotties together.” Lucy had a penchant for changing her look to suit her mood. She was naturally a brunette, but for the most part she kept her hair a stunning red these days.

“You’re beautiful whatever your hair color,” Grace said. “So, are we decided on the dress? Is this the one?”

“Yes,” Melina said.

“Absolutely,” Lucy agreed.

“Yay! One more thing to check off the list.” Grace lifted her champagne glass for a toast.

After ordering the dresses, they gathered their things. The whole time, Grace could feel Melina’s eyes on her. She knew Melina was still worried about what she’d said, and Grace wanted to kick herself for opening her mouth and worrying her friend. She smiled reassuringly. “One more step closer to being Mrs. Max Dalton. I can’t wait!”

At her words, Melina seemed to relax. “Being married to a Dalton is pretty damn terrific. And I know Max will do everything in his power to make sure you agree, Grace.”

Grace left the shop on a smiley, happy high with her friends, but for some reason, she couldn’t stop the voice in her head, the one that’d been plaguing her for months now, whispering, “Max Dalton could have anyone, but he chose you. Make sure he never regrets it.”

Her fiancé was one half of a hot duo, a sexy man who was the target of single—and some not so single—women everywhere. It was hard not to feel insecure, but this time, Grace was careful not to give away how she was feeling.

By the time she dropped Melina and Lucy off, Grace could feel the beginnings of a headache coming on, something that had been plaguing her recently, along with unusually bad cramps. And now the bruising, she thought. A quiet alarm went off in her head. Were they all interconnected?

She hadn’t mentioned any of it to her friends or Max, not wanting to worry them over nothing. She’d been meaning to make a doctor’s appointment, but since her symptoms came and went, she’d put it off. Now, idling at the curb outside Melina’s house, she pulled out her phone and made an appointment, feeling fortunate to get one for the next day. It was probably nothing, but perhaps she needed to switch her birth control or start taking vitamins, which was a great precursor for having kids with Max one day anyway.

Jitters aside, she couldn’t wait to start a family with Max. Would their kids be blond like Max was as a little boy? Would they inherit Grace’s big, blue eyes? Or maybe Max’s strong chin?

Still, she wasn’t in the habit of ignoring her body’s signs, and maybe the reason she’d been feeling off lately, having cramps, and bruising was because her body was trying to tell her something. Wasn’t that what women’s doctors were always saying, to listen to your body? The pill wasn’t one hundred percent effective, so here was another thought…could she be pregnant?

It was highly unlikely, but it wasn’t entirely impossible, and she was experiencing symptoms similar to pregnancy.

Grace thought of the baby blanket she’d made many months ago, the one with her and Max’s names on it, as well as a large blank heart for their future baby’s name. She’d made it as a symbol of her commitment to Max, to show him that she’d overcome her fears about wanting a “normal” life, i.e., not one with a celebrity playboy who had women fantasizing about him day in and day out, a man who brought out Grace’s kinky side, something that used to scare her.

How would Max react to the news if she was pregnant? The answer came instantly: Max would be overjoyed. And so would she. Yes, it would throw a tiny monkey wrench into their wedding plans, but the best things in life were unexpected, right?

Part of the reason she and Max had gotten together in the first place was because he’d overheard her plan to have a baby despite not having a man in her life. Of course, he’d shown her time and again since then that she’d deserved more. She’d deserved to wait for the right man, the man that could make all her dreams come true.

They loved each other. They wanted a big family. Even if they had a baby sooner than expected, they’d adore their child, and life would be great.

There was no reason to be worried about letting Max down. Their bond was stronger than any insecurities she might have, and she had to remember that, even if she had to hammer the thought into her brain every day.

As she pulled onto the road again, Grace grinned, her confidence and joy renewed.

She thought back to the words Lucy and Melina had spoken earlier.

Lucy had been right. She was a lucky woman because Max loved her.

But Melina had been right, as well. Max was a lucky man, too.

Together, they were better. More fulfilled.

And she couldn’t ever forget that.

 

* * *

 

When Grace stepped inside the home she shared with Max, she immediately spotted a trail of rose petals leading from the front door into the living room. Smiling, she put down her purse and followed the rose petals. In the living room, all the curtains had been pulled tight, and flickering light danced on the walls and floors. Thick pillars sat atop tall, metal candleholders that looked like they’d come straight from a monastery in the Carpathians. Intrigued, Grace continued to follow the rose petals into the dining room. Candles sat along the table, as well, providing just enough light to see a veritable smorgasbord of different breads and soups, unique pastries, and a few meat dishes.

The petals didn’t stop in the dining room, however. With an ever-growing smile, she followed the petals down the hallway until…

Max stood at the other end of the hallway in a loose, white button-down shirt and blue jeans. He ran a hand through his brown hair when he saw her enter the hallway, and the slight arousal she had felt when she saw the petals and candlelight now spiked at the sight of his delicious body. Knowing he was hers was enough to set her off every time she saw him, but to find him waiting for her by candlelight and surrounded by rose petals was just divine.

As a magician, Max had a flare for the dramatic, and that often spilled into their daily lives, but it didn’t make his efforts any less ordinary. He loved surprising her with romance and adventure and mystery, and she loved receiving it. When she reached him, he silently took her into his arms and kissed her.

She was unprepared when he pulled away and knelt on one knee, taking her hand in his.

“What are you doing, Max? You already proposed to me, darlin’—on stage, I might add. Or are you thinking about someone else?” Grace teased, unable to hold back the rush of emotion and desire that filled her at the sight of her perfect man kneeling before her once more, as if asking for her hand in marriage all over again.

“There’s no chance of that, Dixie.” His green eyes stared deeply into hers. “You are all I see. You are all I think about. Will you marry me?”

“Of course, Max! I already said yes. I can’t wait to be your wife.” Grace pulled on his hand, encouraging him to stand. “Four months will pass in no time.”

“Not soon enough for me. And we’re going to do something about that. But first…” He cupped her face and kissed her again, and her body melted into his. When he scooped her into his arms, she squealed and threw her arms around his shoulders. She felt light as a feather as he whisked her away into their bedroom, where he placed her gently on their bed and began undressing her.

Pleasure rippled through her, as she arched her back in anticipation of what was to come. Max knew how to work her body in ways no one else had before, and she felt her desire growing for him with every touch. He stripped her until she was bare, then took off his own clothes.

Grace reached for him, but Max stepped back to admire her. His eyes trailed from her feet up to her hips, over her belly to her breasts. His gaze was like his hand trailing over her body. She arched slightly and threw an arm up over her head, her earlier insecurities completely gone.

This was real. His desire for her. Her need for him. There was no fighting it.

He ran a hand over his eyes, like he couldn’t quite believe she was there. Like he couldn’t believe that she was his. Then, as she watched him, his expression hardened. An intensity rippled through him, transforming him. When his hands fell back at his sides, he wasn’t the sweet, loving fiancé who’d just fallen on one knee for her.

He was something else. Something that made the muscles in her belly clench and quiver. Something masculine and primal and feral all rolled together. Max stepped up to the edge of the bed, his eyes still caressing her body like a physical touch.

“Do you know what you do to me, Grace?” His voice was quiet, but the command in his tone had her snapping to attention. She knew better than to let her guard down when he was quiet. It was when he was most dangerous.

Her eyes automatically dropped to his hardness, straining for her inside his jeans. The candlelight touched his gorgeous body, shadowing the dips and planes of his muscles.

Max smirked but shook his head. “I want you, yes. But that’s not what you do to me.”

Grace cocked her head, unsure what he was getting at.

“Touch your stomach, Grace.” When she hesitated, his voice became harder and sharper. “Take your hand and stroke it across your stomach.”

She did as he said and the touch, even from her own hand, was electric because it’d been instigated by his command. His eyes followed the path of her fingers like he couldn’t look away even if he wanted to.

“Touch your breasts. Now.”

His green eyes were fiery yet as clear as a glass bottle. He was in control, completely, and all she had to do was follow directions. He would never lead her astray. There was a freedom in that.

All she had to do was take what he was giving her right now.

Her hand trailed upward and found the soft weight of one of her breasts.

“The other hand too.”

Immediately, her other hand came up to join the first. She stroked over the soft skin of her breasts, gasping when she skimmed her nipples. She tugged at one, the way Max might do with his mouth if he were over her right now.

Max groaned, his face tight with lust, his eyes glued to the path of her hands. She stroked one hand up her neck and then back down to her chest. She kneaded and tugged at her breasts again and this time she had to press her legs together against the ache that was quickly growing there.

Max’s eyes caught the small movement. “One hand on your pussy, Grace.”

Every muscle in her belly tightened. Dragging one hand down the soft skin of her belly, she pressed her fingers between her legs and moaned softly.

Max’s breath became ragged as he watched Grace’s fingers disappear inside herself. “Tell me what it feels like, Grace.”

She moaned again, whipping her head from one side to the other. “Wet. And so hot. For you.”

She gazed through the haze of pleasure at his lustful eyes. So concentrated. It made everything inside of her quicken and pull tight. Grace planted her feet and spread her legs. She wanted him to have a good view.

She was rewarded when the lines of his mouth tightened and a groan rumbled out from his chest. Grace pressed her fingers further inside herself, her thumb tracing a seductive circle around her needy clit. Her hips pressed upward into the air at the sensation, searching for more. Her body rose up, raced toward pleasure, but she wanted him to finish her. She wanted his weight on her, pinning her to earth as she spun away.

“I’m going to… Oh God, Max, I’m going to…” Grace’s hips rose in the air as pleasure held her hostage.

Suddenly, Max dove toward her. Her eyes flew open as her fingers were immediately replaced with his hot, greedy mouth. His broad shoulders spread her legs even wider and he threw an arm over her hips, pinning her to the bed just the way she’d wanted.

His tongue was unforgiving, brutal, as he ripped her toward orgasm. He circled her clit, suckled and then dove deep inside her in a punishing pattern that had her gripping the sheets, seeing stars, screaming his name.

Grace exploded over the edge as her heart pin-wheeled in her chest, everything else a tense, vibrating state of pleasure. Her throat was raw and her muscles trembled when she fell back, limp and completely satisfied.

Max lifted his head and he crawled up her body until he was braced above her. Grace half expected a triumphant smile to play across his face. Instead, his expression remained serious and intense with desire. His need lined his face as he loomed over her.

“Now do you see? What you do to me?”

But Grace couldn’t even speak after coming like a freight train. She tossed her head to one side, and tangled her hands in her hair. “I… Max… God.”

She knew she was stuttering but couldn’t help it. Words couldn’t form when he was crouched over her, his cock straining toward her and every muscle standing out in sharp relief.

“If you still don’t know, I’ll have to show you,” he said, dropping his mouth to her neck. He clamped down on the spot where her neck met her shoulder. Not biting so much as gripping her tightly. Holding her down. One of his hands tangled with hers, but the other slid around her waist, lifted her hips up to meet him.

Grace felt the tip of his cock slide through her slick folds, but that was all the warning she got before he slammed it home, bottoming out inside of her. Even with most of his weight on top of her, Grace came up off the bed, her muscles straining with the brilliant ecstasy of feeling him drill her. Inside of her, on top of her. Everywhere. He pulled out almost all the way before slamming back into her.

The headboard thumped against the wall.

“Yes. Max,” she moaned. She turned her head, breaking his bite on her neck so her teeth could graze the same sensitive spot on his neck where he’d bitten her. He groaned and slammed into her again.

“This is what you do to me,” he breathed, his arm tightening around her waist while his other hand tangled in her hair and tightened, just enough for the kiss of pain to send lightning streaking through her body. “You destroy me, Grace.” With every word, every assurance that he was falling apart under her spell, Grace rode his body’s onslaught toward ecstasy. She loved that Max could make her come twice where everyone before him failed.

He tugged her hair again, and she flew over the edge, gripping him and screaming and coming hard. She rode out her orgasm, pushing against him, fucking him from below.

But he wasn’t finished. His pace quickened and the sound of flesh on flesh echoed in the room. He rode her, plunging into her, ravaging her.

“You consume me,” he growled in her ear.

Max reared back and pulled out of her. Grace whimpered at the loss of him, then whimpered again when he took her by the hips and flipped her over. Her sensitive breasts raked against the blanket and it was all she could do to grip the sheets and brace before he was thrusting into her again. His weight came over her and his mouth was at her ear again. She tried to push up onto her knees, but he pushed back, wanting her down, pressed flat underneath him.

He drove into her, his chest to her back, his arms over hers, pinning her to the bed. She cried out his name over and over, her words muffled by the mattress. She felt him racing toward his pleasure now, his strokes rougher and faster.

He hit some special place inside, made possible by the angle, and Grace cried out as her body tightened yet again. She felt him go even deeper before he stilled in pleasure, forcing her down on the mattress.

“You rule me, Grace,” he gritted out. “That’s what you do to me.”

They strained against one another, milking every last ounce of pleasure out of their encounter. He kept his full weight on her for only a second before rolling off of her and stroking a hand over her hair, as he lay panting in silence, their breaths kicking back to even after a long while.

Grace rolled over and ran a hand gently down his chest and stomach for several quiet moments. Her mind spun with what had just happened. The intensity and spontaneity of it. All the ways he’d just showed her how he felt about her. She’d been such a fool for ever doubting his feelings for her. “So, what was all the Gothic romanticism about when I walked in?”

Max rolled up to look her in the eye. “That was my way of asking if you’ll marry me.”

“But you already have.”

“I wanted to ask you twice because I want to marry you twice,” he said, his expression somehow both playful and earnest. “Once in four months, with the whole shebang, just like we planned. But I want to marry you before that, too, in one week. At city hall, with a justice of the peace. That way, when I take you to Europe, it’ll be for our honeymoon.”

“Whoa…what?” Her mind was spinning. She propped herself up on one elbow. “What are you talking about? Europe?”

“I didn’t want to say anything until everything came through, but I’ve been trying to set up a European tour,” he confessed, stroking her hair. “All of the details have been worked out, and we leave in a week.”

Her brows furrowed as she weighed her excitement with disappointment. Touring wasn’t vacation. It was mostly work. Any sightseeing she might want to do would have to be done on her own while Max was either rehearsing or performing. Then, there was the little issue of figuring out what, if anything, was wrong with her body. She’d know more at her doctor’s appointment tomorrow but…

Her fiancé placed a hand under her chin to tilt her face up. “It’s going to be a fast-paced, busy tour, and each show is going to be incredible. Complicated and involved.”

Grace’s eyes dropped to her hand on the bed. She wanted to be supportive, especially since he seemed excited about the whole thing, but he was also confirming her worst fear about the trip.

Max continued on, dipping his head to look her in the eyes. “But I’m only doing one show a week.”

Her eyes snapped back to his, hope blooming in her chest.

“So while there’s going to be a lot of work involved, we will also have a lot of downtime to explore the places we’ll be visiting and a lot of time to sit back and enjoy our summer,” he assured her.

She let out a little squeak of excitement and flung herself at him. “Well, doesn’t that just fry my chicken!” she said, though part of her worried over leaving the country at a time when she wasn’t feeling her best.

He let out another hearty laugh as he squeezed her right back. “I take that to mean that you’re excited.”

Grace nuzzled into his neck, pushing whatever worries she’d been harboring away. “You have no idea. Oh! I have to call the girls. They’re not going to believe this!”

“I’ve already filled in Lucy and Melina. Lucy’s extending her stay, and Jamie and Milly are flying down so they can be here when we get married.”

“They knew about this?”

“Melina knew it was in the works. I just told Lucy yesterday. And Jamie and Milly arrive tomorrow so Lucy can be here with you until the ceremony.”

“Oh, that’s so awesome. I can’t wait to see Jamie and Milly. And just wait until Jamie sees Lucy in the dress we picked out.” She giggled, imagining Lucy and Melina wearing their new super hot dresses in front of a justice of the peace. No, she decided, they’d wait until the formal ceremony to wear those dresses, but that meant they could go shopping again for dresses that were a little more casual. Grace sat up, knowing her hair must look like a sexed-up haystack but not even caring. “Oh, my God, I’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re going to pull this off.” She turned to Max in half-panic half-excitement. “I’m going to be busier than a cat burying shit on a marble floor.”

Max burst out laughing again and hugged her like she was the most precious thing in the world. “I’m sorry for the rush. I wanted to marry you before we left, but I also wanted to wait to tell you until I knew the tour was a sure thing.”

Tears of overwhelming joy filled her eyes, threatening to spill down her cheeks. She couldn’t believe he’d been planning such a momentous surprise.

“Have I ever told you how lucky I am that you chose me?” she asked, taking his face into her hands. She kissed his lips, basking in the connection between them.

“There was never a chance I wouldn’t have chosen you,” Max reminded her. “You’re in my blood, Dixie. You’re a part of me. I can’t live without you.”

She melted at his words. She kissed him again, pressing her naked body against his. His hands touched her gently but surely, running up and down her back while they kissed.

“Now, about this food you’ve got out there in the dining room,” she said with a little grin spreading across her face.

“It’s all made from authentic European recipes. I’ve got at least one dish from every country we’ll be visiting. Are you hungry?”

“Are you kidding? I’ve worked up quite an appetite thanks to my magnificent magician. Besides, we need to blow out all of these candles before we start a fire in here.”

He slid off the bed, pulled her up beside him, then rested his forehead against hers. “Too late. You light me up, Grace. Every damn day. And I promise you this—that flame will never die.”

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