Stealing the Groom

By: Sonya Weiss

Chad forced himself not to dwell on Amelia’s lips—lips he knew were glazed with a berry-scented gloss. Her sister Abby put some in her Christmas stocking every year.

Berry-scented, kissable lips. Kissable? What the hell?

Pull it together.

He put some space between them and crumpled his can with one hand, tossing it toward the trash can. It sailed smoothly in. “Nothing but net. So what do you say, Amelia? Shall we continue on? We’ve got nothing but open road and time right now.”

“Now that sounds like a plan.”

Almost five hours later, Amelia saw Chad rub his eyes and squint through the rain-splattered windshield. The weather had been sunny and hot in Sweet Creek, but in the mountains, they’d faced a torrential rainstorm, slowing their progress. The headlights barely cut a path through the thick darkness. Everywhere they looked, they saw nothing but trees and gravel road with muddy ruts.

It was almost like driving through a waterfall.

Speaking of which, Amelia was sure Chad had dealt with a waterfall of screeching from Claire when he’d called her earlier.

She hadn’t heard the conversation—she’d waited outside at the rest stop while he placed the call—but according to Chad, he’d told Claire there was an emergency, and missing the wedding was unavoidable. Although Amelia knew more had been said given the occasional boom of his voice, she didn’t ask for more detail.

He was with Amelia, after all. Which meant he was not getting married to the Mean Queen. At least for the time being.

The car dropped into a deep rut and Chad cursed under his breath. The limo wasn’t made for this kind of terrain.

Outside, the storm continued to rage and fat raindrops pounded on the roof with a roaring fury. “You call this a little way up the road? We’re now well over the time you said it’d take to get here.” He had raised his voice slightly to be heard above the fierceness of the storm. He grimaced while Amelia eased the car cautiously forward around another line of ruts and parked the limousine at the top of the steep, winding dirt road.

With the engine off, the storm’s roar was even louder.

Chad reached for the tuxedo jacket and thrust his arms into it, then shoved open the car door, stepping out into the dark. His only shelter was the large oak tree she’d parked by.

“I can’t help it if I got lost and went the wrong direction. All the roads became identical once we left the interstate, and that deer jumping out at me didn’t help either. Not to mention the thunderstorm.”

Her hand on the small of her back, Amelia grabbed her purse and climbed from the car with a barely suppressed groan at the stiffness, and quickly assessed the cabin through the pouring rain.

“Romantic Tennessee Hideaway,” Grandpa had called it when he’d told her about it. “Shack” would be closer to the truth. Obviously the seller had exaggerated the cabin, but her grandfather had still fallen in love with its rustic charm.

And it didn’t have a phone. Which was one of the main reasons she’d chosen it.

No phone meant no phone calls. Chad was all hers for the whole night.

She was determined to make him see how bad marrying Claire would be for him.

“I hope there’s food,” Chad said over his shoulder as he dashed up the steps, taking them two at a time. On the small wooden porch, he stomped his feet, kicking the mud off his expensive dress shoes. “I didn’t get a chance to eat this morning and I’m starving.”

Amelia rushed around the front bumper of the car to join him. She wiped the muck from her tennis shoes onto the faded sunflowers on the welcome mat.

Unable to stop her teeth from chattering, she stammered, “Mrs. Foster, the caretaker, said she’d g-g-get here by this morning and stock the pantry for me.” She wiped wet strands of hair away from her eyes and fished the key from her purse.

Chad removed his tuxedo jacket and draped it over Amelia’s shoulders. “Here. This is drier than your shirt.”

“I didn’t realize the temperature at night dropped so much here in the mountains this time of year.”

“It’s May, Ame. The temperature can drop fifteen to twenty degrees depending how far you go into the region.” He tucked the jacket around her and rubbed his hands up and down the sides of her arms briskly. “You said stock the pantry. Just how long did you plan to keep me here?” he asked, impatient as he grabbed the key from her shaking fingers.

He inserted the key into the lock and pushed hard. The sun-faded wood door swung open with a loud, squeaking protest.

Stale air whooshed free to greet them and dust particles swirled in the air.

Amelia sneezed.

“Well, it’s not the Hilton, but at least we’ll be warm and dry.” Chad fumbled along the wall for the light switch.

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