Out of Her League

By: Samantha Wayland

Dedication




For Lauren.



Welcome to the family. We're not exactly the Morrisons, but I promise we will love and look after you as well as they love and look after their own.





Acknowledgements




I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to be able to work with the same editor for all my books, and from that professional relationship has come a friendship I cherish. I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to Meghan Miller for all she’s done, and does, and probably will do to not only make each of my books possible, but keep my life in some semblance of order. I swore in a previous book that I just needed to find a way to get her to move to Massachusetts and install her on the couch in my office so that all would be perfect.

Having done so, I can attest it’s better than that.

I also must thank my patient cover artist, Caitlin Fry, for putting up with me on this book. As a rule, I defer to her in all things cover-design related, but for some damn reason I had ideas I just couldn’t let go of on this one. Fortunately, she’s still speaking to me.

A huge welcome and so much gratitude to the newest member of Team Wayland — my copyeditor, Cindy. She jumped in on this at the very end and made it infinitely better by catching all the little things my eyes could no longer see.

Many thanks to Stephanie Kay, for being the best cheerleader/ass-kicker a writer could ask for. And to my generous and thorough critique partner, Victoria Morgan, who has been on this journey with me the whole way and hasn’t given up on me yet. To Darth, for giving me access to all the inspiration a girl could ask for. And Rosie, for talking me off more than one ledge.

Finally, of course, I thank my family. If I listed all the ways they make this possible and bring me joy, it would cost too much to print this book.





Chapter One




“Holy shit, I just met the Queen of England.”

Michaela burst into laughter at the wild look in Callum’s eyes. In all the years they’d been friends, she didn’t think she’d ever seen him look more freaked out.

“She’s nice,” Michaela offered, having met the Queen before with her parents. Granted, the first time Michaela had been too young to remember it, but the second, she’d been eighteen and far too clueless about, well, everything, to appreciate what a great and rare gift it had been.

She didn’t expect to ever have the honor again—the price of a misspent youth.

“You met her yesterday, Cal,” Michaela said with another chuckle. “Why are you freaking out now?”

“Because it’s easier than freaking out about the fact that I’m going to walk down the aisle in ten minutes?”

Well, that was honest, anyway. Michaela was more surprised Callum wasn’t standing at the door, trying to barrel through it to get to Rupert and the boys.

“You getting cold feet?”

Callum shot out of his chair. “Of course not!”

Michaela smirked. She hadn’t really thought so, but at least Callum didn’t look nervous anymore. He looked pissed.

“Put it away, Grumpy,” she said unsympathetically. “Yelling at your best man-lady-person won’t help.”

He grinned at Michaela. “You’re my best woman. Accept it.”

“Maybe. It’s not like we all get to choose what people call us, do we, Countess?”

“Don’t call me that,” Callum grumbled, his cheeks turning pink.

“Why not? You’re marrying an earl in” —she checked her watch— “seven minutes.”

Callum gulped audibly. “Holy crap.”

The thing was, that while Callum might have been a mess of nerves, Michaela didn’t have a single worry about today. Planning the bachelor party had been way more stressful than having to get Callum to the back of the chapel in a few minutes. She looked out the windows at the clear blue skies above Woodcock—the seat of the Weckfordham earldom and Rupert’s childhood home—and thought how very far they’d come.

A year ago, Callum and Michaela had been pretending to be in love, letting the world—and more specifically, the press—wonder how long it would be before they married. It had seemed like an ideal setup, allowing her to finally quash the rumors that no man would have her, while also easing the scrutiny from Callum, who was exhausted after a decade of pretending to be straight for the benefit of his NHL career.

In hindsight, she should have known that when they stopped “dating” it would probably be a shit storm. But Callum was in love. Stupidly, head-over-heels, sappy in love.

And for that reason alone, Michaela wouldn’t change any of it.

She squinted at a black dot hovering in the sky, her ears straining to hear the rhythmic whump of helicopter blades, her heart not beating right until the bird dipped to the left and disappeared into the trees.

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