In a little town in the heart of Texas, the same old story can turn into happily ever after

On any given day, Maggie Roby has cake batter on her sleeve, flour where the blush supposedly goes, and sore feet from standing since dawn. For her sister’s wedding day, she’s added a side of heartache. Maggie’s failed marriage taught her that love is a lie and commitment a mistake, and it was an expensive lesson. But with her bakery thriving and her life simplified to work, family, and knitting for her pug, Maggie thinks she's bought some peace. Until Jake Sutton walks in and she realizes she isn't safe from desire at all . . .

Jake has model-perfect looks and about a billion dollars to throw around, but Maggie also sees the same never-say-die grit she prizes in herself. The attraction between them is hotter than her oven in July. But when Jake decides to restore the old Art Deco movie theater right around the corner from her bakery, she worries that temptation is a little too close for comfort. And the added ingredient of a man from her past only complicates the mix. This time nothing less than true love will do. If she can learn to listen to her heart, she just may be able to have her cake and eat it too. 

He looked amazing in that tux. The boutonniere, made of eucalyptus and tallow berries, she’d put together herself with her own two hands. His blue gaze fell from her eyes to her lips and then back again. “I haven’t been to church in a while,” he said in the devil’s own voice. “I wonder if the walls will crumble.”
“It’s not a church,” she snapped. “It’s a barn.”
“You can’t really expect a barbarian like me to know the difference, can you?”
Suppressing an eye roll, she fell in beside him and did the step-together, step-together walk down the aisle. People craned their necks to look at them. She forced herself to smile. The smile didn’t fit right, like maybe she’d put it on at the last minute.
Reverend Macauley stood beaming, one hand cradling an open, gilt-edged Bible, his robes immaculately pressed. They were all like a bunch of well-dressed cattle in here, she thought. The barn seemed deathly hot. Her hands holding the bouquet were practically dripping. The candles, maybe? There must have been a thousand of them, glowing like fireflies against the old dark wood of the barn.
Cassidy started down the aisle, head held high, luminous and unearthly beautiful. Her long train trailed behind her, gathering rose petals as she went. When Cassidy reached the altar, Maggie hurried to take the spilling cascade of white orchids. She returned to her post, still smiling, still perspiring, and now suffocating under an armful of flowers.
Her heart was racing. She felt a little faint. Her vision went fuzzy around the sides.
My God, she thought, am I having a panic attack?
Maggie locked her knees but even that couldn’t keep her from weaving on her feet. The heat, the lack of space, the crazy amount of perfume and aftershave and flowers and candles and Reverend Macauley droning on and on, his voice becoming dimmer as the roaring in her ears grew deafening.
Maggie forced herself to breathe. It felt as though something dark and terrifying had crawled inside her. She shoved the panic back. She was not going to faint. Not at her sister’s wedding. She was going to stand here and hold these damn flowers if it was the last thing she ever did.
Yet memories kept flooding back of her own wedding, of finding her ex-best friend Avery sobbing in the ladies’ room and not understanding why. So many clues, yet she’d managed to miss them all because Todd Banister had stood beside her in a place a lot like this one and said I do while pretending to mean it.
That was the problem with good-looking men like Todd and Mason and Jake—women threw themselves at them all day long. Who had the willpower to say no forever?
She drew a deep breath. This was better. Faces came into focus again. Her heart slowed down to legal limits. Wow. All that because … what? A wedding? Who on earth had panic attacks at a wedding?
She still felt shaky during the vows and the ring ceremony, but then, thank God, the worst part was over and they were all heading out, first Cassidy and Mason, then the children, and now she and Jake. The triumphant wedding music crashed around her ears.
“You look a little stressed,” Jake said to her under his breath while they were waving to the guests. “That high-powered guest list getting to you?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Maggie muttered through a brittle smile, “Which is why I’m ignoring you.”
“Hard to step out from behind the counter, isn’t it? All these people staring. Only thing on your mind right now is how fast you can get the hell out of here.”
How did he know this stuff? Was she that transparent? She tried glaring at him but got distracted waving to Mason’s parents. They’d been divorced recently and seemed a little forlorn standing there next to one another. It was hard not to feel bad for them.
Yet every time Jake moved, Maggie found herself gulping the delicious scent of him, that now-familiar mix of sandalwood and man. “It must be great thinking you know everything,” she said airily, “Even when you’re dead wrong.”
“Oh, I’m not wrong. I make it my business to know things.”
“Well, you know how to bug the crap out of me. I’ll give you that.”
“Know what else I am absolutely certain of?” Jake turned toward her now that they were out of the barn. The late afternoon sun slanted across his face and lightened the blue of his eyes. “I know that before the night is done, you’re going to kiss me. You’re going to like it, too.”
Of all the things Jake could have said, she was least prepared for this one. The words just sort of hung there in mid-air. She didn’t know what to do with them.
“Are you drunk?” she sputtered, “Or are you that in love with yourself?”
The smile he gave her was indulgent, as though gently chiding her for her silly reluctance. “Oh, I’m much too controlling to drink.”
“Well, news flash, buddy. I would French kiss a water buffalo before—”

“Tonight,” he said, his voice making the hair on the back of her arms stand up. “You may hate weddings, but you’re going to like the way this one ends.”

In one little town in Texas, even toeing the straight and narrow might lead you to a joyride…

April Roby believes in education—and her beloved sisters have given her a master class in what heartbreak looks like. So no matter who tries to fix her up, April is sticking to her thick manila folders and her frumpy beige skirts and putting her time and energy toward helping the kids of Cuervo, Texas as a social worker. Her latest client, foul-mouthed fourteen-year-old Matthew McBride, would be enough on his own to keep two of her busy. And his big brother Brandon is a whole different type of problem.

Brandon is the kind of muscle-bound, motorcycle-riding bad boy that no well-meaning relative would ever try to shove in April's path. He's prickly, he's rude, and he's downright obstructive. But there’s something about him that makes her want to take the smirk off his face the fun way. Neither one of them is looking for a fairy-tale ending.

But in Cuervo, Texas, they just might get one anyway…

She rounded a corner of the garage and found a man on his back, stripped to the waist, working on a Harley. The motorcycle was a beast, all black leather, and gleaming chrome. But the man lying beneath it using a torque wrench made her halt in her tracks. She was suddenly aware of how bad she looked in khaki. She could feel the blood quicken in her veins.
He turned his head and saw her.
Dimly, she realized he was taking her in, slowly, starting at the bottom and working his way up. By the time his cool assessing gaze got to her face, her cheeks were on fire.
The men she knew didn’t look at a woman like that. It felt as though she didn’t have any clothes on.
“Who’re you?” he asked in a surprisingly low voice.
“April Roby. I’m with Raymond County Child Protective Services.” Ordinarily, she would show her identification, but she had a feeling it wouldn’t hold any water here. “Are you Brandon McBride?”
He didn’t say yes, but he didn’t deny it either. Brandon ducked his head under the bike again. Muscle rippled beneath his smooth tanned skin as he reapplied the torque wrench to a rear axle nut. April knew all about cars and motorcycles because she was practically raised in her dad’s garage.
She realized she was staring and hastily averted her eyes. This was crazy. She was supposed to be advocating for Matthew Barrett, not standing here like a dummy. What was wrong with her?
“If you’re here about Matthew, I don’t know what to tell you,” Brandon said.
“He’s been absent thirty-six days in the last seven months,” she replied, baffled by his lack of concern. “If you can’t make him go to school, Mr. McBride, this could become a legal matter.”
Usually, she didn’t have to threaten legal action on a truancy call. What kind of man didn’t want his brother going to school? Despite her shyness, she lifted her chin to show she meant business.
Brandon got to his feet and slowly walked over to her. He moved with the lazy dangerous grace of a jungle cat. His eyes were the same clear green as a bottle filled with ocean water. They studied her with a curious mixture of coldness and suspicion, which made her muscles tense. She liked it better when he was ten feet away.
Besides, she was the one who had a million reasons to be suspicious. He’d put some kind of spell on her. He was a terrible role model who was setting his brother up for a lifetime of failure.
“Was that a sad attempt to play hardball with me, April?” he asked softly.
“It’s not a sad anything,” she replied. “Where’s Matthew? I want to talk to him.”
Brandon went to a tool chest that stood in one corner of the garage, examining and then discarding tools. April tried not to keep darting glances at him, but it was impossible. She’d never met a man like him before. The smallest movement made the muscles bulge in his broad shoulders. His dark hair was just long enough for him to tie it back with a leather string. His jeans hung so low on his narrow hips, when he turned around she could see the deep V-cut of his chiseled abs.
She was burning up out here in the hot sun. Her purse was an anvil hanging off her shoulder.
“I don’t know where Matthew is,” he said. “But if I did, I sure as hell wouldn’t tell you.”
Your attitude isn’t helping, Mr. McBride,” she shot back. “If you want to continue in the capacity of his guardian, I suggest—”
“You suggest what?” He strolled toward her again, not angry, but with a look in his eyes that she would never describe as friendly. “Go home, Princess. You’re wasting my time.”

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Stacey Keith is the award-winning author of the Dreams Come True series (Kensington Books), DREAM ON, SWEET DREAMS and DREAM LOVER, in addition to A WEDDING ON BLUEBIRD WAY with New York Times Bestseller authors Janet Dailey, Lori Wilde and the talented Allyson Charles.

Twice a Golden Heart finalist, Stacey has won a Maggie, two Silver Quills, a Jasmine, a Heart of the Rockies, and over fifteen other first-place finishes in Romance Writers of America contests. 

An avid writer of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and short stories, Stacey doesn’t own a television, but reads compulsively—and would, in fact, go stark raving bonkers without books, which are crammed into all corners of the house. She now lives in Civita Castellana, a medieval village in Italy that sits atop a cliff, and spends her days writing in a nearby abandoned 12th-century church. 
The two things she is most proud of are her ability to cook pasta alla Genovese without burning down the kitchen and swearing volubly in Italian with all the appropriate hand gestures.

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