By: Laura Florand

And to Mia

who, when she heard that Snow-Kissed was the #1 short on Amazon, got huge eyes and said: “Mommy, you should write more of those! What about Sun-Kissed?”

(Next on her list of brainstorming are Rain-Kissed, Storm-Kissed, and Candy-Kissed, but, alas, no inspiration for those has struck yet.)

May you have twice fifty years of love, strength, and happiness, sweetheart.

Chapter 1

Her isolation itched at him. Mack wanted to reach out and break it, like one of those damn sugar sculptures over on the bridal table, break the translucent pieces of that isolation, say, Hey, did you notice all this world here you’re missing? He and Anne Winters had been friends—vacation house neighbors, beach walking partners—for close to twenty years, and yet she stood apart at his daughter’s wedding reception, a flute of champagne in one hand, cool and distant as a queen surveying her realm.

Granted, the East Hampton beach house pretty much was her realm for the moment. Anne Winters had laid her stamp over the Corey property, turning Mack’s youngest daughter’s wedding into something so exquisite and protected that it made him want nothing so much as to kiss Anne’s hand. Thank you.

Thank you for giving Jaime this, me this. This moment when we can believe nothing bad will ever touch her.

And unlike his damn French sons-in-law, he was not a hand-kisser.

He was, however, a man who had never had any qualms about treading on someone else’s kingdom, taking it over, making it his. He’d gotten into such a habit of respecting Anne’s, though. His most trusted ally.

As any man who ruled the world knew, trusted allies were few and far between, and a powerful trusted ally—well, you didn’t mess with that. You were glad you had it and tried to make sure it trusted you back.

When it was attacked, you defended it, and if your defense failed—

His fist clenched by his side. Yeah, damn God. And damn the whole vicious world, for how helpless all his power had been to protect those he wanted to shield.

But that wasn’t a thought for this wedding. Anne Winters had smoothed that all away, left them a space of perfect flowers, perfect tables, clever and elegant decorations, where everything was entirely beautiful. His new son-in-law’s chef friends—if Dom Richard even had friends, whatever he wanted to call them—had poured into the kitchens as they got restless the day before, resulting in a rivalry to produce an ever-better tribute to the bridal couple that had been pretty damn funny and helped transform everyone’s nerves into good cheer.

Even Mack’s, there for a while.

There were now tables filled with their exotic and fantastical confections and chocolate sculptures on either side of the bride’s head table, which had completely disturbed Anne’s arrangements of classic American-style wedding cakes. Driving her crazy, of course, but she had handled it smoothly.

For them. For Jaime’s sake. For his own sake, really.

He knew it was for their sake, for his, and yet there Anne stood, alone over there by an arch of pale roses, all slim elegance, with that new elf-queen cut of hers, a perfectly coiffed cap of frost blond hair, in that pale sheath dress with its delicate, shimmering hint of twilight blue. She’d only been out of prison three months—just long enough to take over Jaime’s wedding and make sure it came off perfectly—and pleasure still kicked through him so intensely it was erotic to see her unbeaten, unbowed, a queen.

She was as elegant and slim and luminescent as that flute of champagne she held while she watched his oldest daughter Cade give the speech that choked herself and Jaime up and, God, him. He’d thought for a long time there that he had failed at raising two daughters who got along, but apparently that had just been teenagers. They loved each other somewhere deeper and richer than their rivalry.

Shit, Cade had been the first one to reach Jaime when she—

Yeah, fuck, let’s not think about that now. Think about this beautiful wedding. Think about my newest damn son-in-law.

He walked over to Anne, and his skin settled on him like it fit again. He’d started noticing that a long time ago—how much those beach walks beside her early in the morning settled his skin. Those six months she’d been in prison, he’d only been able to get his skin to calm down again on visiting days, even though he’d wanted, every single visit, to punch his fists against the acrylic glass that separated them until the damn unbreakable thing shattered.

She looked over at him as he reached her and gave him that friendly, cool, don’t-touch-me smile of hers. Shit, it got to him when she went on auto-pilot like that and included him in that smile.

“It looks beautiful,” he told her, because she liked that kind of thing—courtesy. The entire foundation on which their twenty-year friendship had been constructed was just that—neighborly courtesy.

Hot Read

Last Updated


Top Books