How was Chapter One of Finally for you? Here's the continuation. Happy reading!
Sarah grinned as her laptop showed three girls crowding the screen.
“Finally, you two have deigned to come down from the clouds and video-call us!” Gemma Aldwin said.
“I know! After more than three weeks!” Amanda Payne agreed with a scowl.
“You better have a good excuse as to why this is the first call we got,” Brenna Ward said, narrowing her eyes.
“Sorry, we’ve been busy,” Sarah answered, thrilled to be chatting with her and Rebecca’s three other best friends. The five of them had known each other since they were eight years old. Twenty years later, they were still tightly knit and as close as sisters.
“Busy?” Gemma asked accusingly. “You sent us an email saying Magda’s perfectly fine, so the two of you have just been hanging around that ship having a good time. And where’s Bec?”
“Putting on her makeup for dinner.”
“Rebecca!” Brenna yelled.
Sarah laughed. “She can’t hear you. She’s in the en suite bathroom.”
“Just how big is your room that she can’t hear us?”
Sarah grinned. “I’ll show you.” She stood up and carried the laptop. She was in Zach’s suite—well, now Zach and Rebecca’s since Bec had moved her stuff here, leaving Sarah to enjoy the comfy room with the balcony that she and Rebecca had originally shared. She showed her friends the vast living area before walking toward the couple’s bedroom.
“Did Magda give you a suite?” Gemma asked in disbelief.
Sarah laughed. “Unfortunately for me, I don’t stay in here, but Bec does.”
Right that moment, Rebecca came out of the bathroom and waved to the camera. “Hi girls!”
“Something is obviously going on,” Brenna said. “What the hell are you doing in such a massive suite, Rebecca Andrews?”
“Oh. My. God,” Amanda said. “She’s back with Zach Carmichael.”
All at once, questions were fired by the three girls. Sarah walked back out to the living room, followed by a grinning Rebecca. She placed the laptop on the table as she and Bec sat together to face the others.
“I don’t believe this,” Brenna said. “How did it happen?”
Rebecca told them everything, with Sarah filling out interesting details here and there, while the others interjected with their comments and questions.
“And…” Rebecca said, getting to the end of her story, “we’re getting married.”
The stunned look on their best friends’ faces was so precious that Sarah quickly took a screen shot. The three then posed with happy, congratulatory expressions as Sarah captured another shot.
“Well, somebody fulfilled our group New Year’s resolution very quickly,” Gemma drawled.
They all laughed. A couple of months ago, in the fifth New Year’s Eve in a row that all five of them didn’t have someone to pash at the stroke of midnight, Gemma had suggested a group New Year’s resolution. As busy career women who each had their own share of painful pasts, they weren’t proactive when it came to finding a boyfriend. So they’d promised to make time for love. Importantly, they’d vowed to make the first move if a hot, decent, open-to-commitment guy showed up on their radar so they’d have a date for next New Year’s Eve. They were more than slightly tipsy when they’d made the pact, but they’d pinky-promised and there was no backing out.
“What about you, Sarah? You mentioned spending a lot of time with a guy named Ron in your email,” Brenna said.
“Uh, yeah,” Sarah responded hesitantly as Rebecca snickered.
“What?” the three asked curiously.
“She’s interested in someone else, not Ron,” Rebecca said.
“One of my future brothers-in-law—Jeff,” Rebecca supplied.
“I’m interested, as in I find him attractive, which we all know he is,” Sarah explained. “That doesn’t mean he’d be my New Year’s Resolution Guy. He doesn’t fit the bill.”
“What do you mean?” Rebecca asked.
“He’s commitment-phobic. He said he never wants to get married,” Sarah replied, telling them about the conversation with Jeff at the hot tub earlier.
“Really? That’s a shame,” Rebecca said. “It would be nice to have you for a sister-in-law.”
“Hey, aren’t we soul sisters already? Besides, didn’t you say he’s sleeping with Marilyn?”
“Not anymore. Apparently, their fling is over.”
“Oh really?” Sarah asked, pleased with that little piece of news.
“So now he’s free to have a one-night stand with you,” Rebecca joked.
“I wouldn’t mind that,” Sarah quipped.
“What?!” came another round of incredulous cries from the laptop.
“Since when have you become the one-night stand kind of girl?” Gemma demanded.
“Since I boarded this damned ship! I tell you, it does something to your libido. So, I’m thinking, why not forget my personal rules on land and enjoy myself while I’m here? I have to hurry though, as we only have three nights left at sea.”
“Isn’t that telling?” Rebecca mused. “You’ve been saying you wanted some casual sex since week one of this trip. The cruise is almost over and you still haven’t done anything about it. I’d say that’s proof you don’t really mean it.”
“Hmm. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just been waiting for Jeff…”
Rebecca frowned at her. “That doesn’t sound like wanting something casual, Sarah.”
“It is!” she insisted. “Just because I’m only looking for a one-off experience doesn’t mean I’ll settle for someone I’m not highly attracted to.”
“Or is this just another excuse to get yourself out of finding your New Year’s Resolution Guy?” Gemma asked.
“No. I’m still going to look for him. But what’s wrong with not wanting a serious relationship at this point? We have plenty of time before next New Year’s Eve.”
Rebecca put an arm around her and squeezed her tight. “Nothing at all, honey. Except that you said you really want to break the shackles of the past this year, and begged us to help you. You even said you’re sick and tired of being afraid to fall in love again.”
She sighed. “I am sick and tired of being afraid to fall in love again, and I am eager to meet my soulmate—whoever and wherever he is. I just hope I won’t be stupid enough to fall for a heartless, lying jerk again.”
“That was five years ago, Sarah. You’ve grown up since then,” Amanda said teasingly.
“Oh God, I certainly hope so,” she answered, theatrically posing in prayer.
“Getting back to Jeffrey Carmichael,” Brenna interjected. “You said you’re highly attracted to him. If he doesn’t do serious, doesn’t that make him dangerous then? Wouldn’t you be setting yourself up for hurt and disappointment?”
“I don’t think so,” Sarah replied. “Like I said, I’m only interested on a one-night stand with him. And why shouldn’t I go for someone I’m really in lust with?”
“But if you’re so into the guy, wouldn’t you find yourself wanting more than one night?” Brenna pressed.
“How would you choose a one-night stand guy then?” Sarah asked.
“I don’t know. I’m too shy to have one. I imagine I’d have to be real drunk and real horny to have the guts to go through with it.”
“Sarah’s making this decision when she’s completely sober and… well, we don’t know if she’s feeling horny right now thinking of Jeff,” Gemma quipped.
Sarah flushed. “Thinking about him does kind of make me hot and bothered.”
“Oh God,” Gemma said with an eyeroll. “I do think Jeff is dangerous for you. Plus, like you said, he doesn’t fit the bill for your New Year’s Resolution Guy. So why bother with him?”
“But I don’t plan to find my New Year’s Resolution Guy on this ship,” Sarah said. “Look, I can’t remember the last time I’ve done something adventurous and out of the ordinary since that heartless jerk proposed to me, then had the hide to call me by his ex-girlfriend’s name in the middle of sex. For the first time in a long time, I just really want to let my hair down and experience something I’ve never done before. For whatever reason, that includes enjoying no-strings-attached sex—and it’s Jeff I want to do that with. I know it’s weird that I’m so stuck with this idea, but… it’s just there, taunting me.”
“I suppose out of the five of us, you’ve had the longest sex drought,” Gemma said. “Maybe you’re drunk with horniness.”
They all chuckled, then Sarah let out a big sigh. “You know what? Just because I want to do it doesn’t mean I’ll have the guts to ask for it. I might end this trip with my sex drought still unbroken.”
“If you really want to break the drought, is there anything you want me to do?” Rebecca asked. “Like give Jeff some hints that you’re interested in some casual sex with him?”
A picture of Rebecca whispering into Jeff’s ear popped into Sarah’s head. Her mind followed the scene her imagination created, and she watched Jeff’s eyes register surprise. Then his lips started to twist—into a… smirk. A smirk?!
She felt herself go red. The thought of Jeff rejecting her for a no-strings-attached romp proved way too uncomfortable and embarrassing. Hurtful, even.
“No, thanks, Bec. I want to be as subtle as I can about it. I’ll play it by ear and see what happens.” What she really wanted was for Jeff to suggest it. That way, she could avoid being rejected if he wasn’t interested.
Sarah took her seat next to Rebecca at the table for six in one of the ship’s specialty restaurants. She, Bec and Zach were the first to arrive for a family dinner to celebrate Zach and Rebecca’s engagement. She felt both out of place and grateful. She wasn’t family, yet she was invited. Even Magda’s younger sister and friends who were with them on this cruise weren’t there. Magda had requested a dinner with only her grandsons, her future granddaughter-in-law and Sarah. Well, she supposed she was Rebecca’s “sister” for all intents and purposes.
“Hello, darlings,” Magda said as she arrived with Greg.
Sarah couldn’t help but be secretly pleased that Magda sat next to Zach while Greg took the other seat next to Magda. That meant Jeff would have to sit next to her when he arrived. Good.
She made small talk with Greg, who was just as utterly good-looking as his two brothers. Funny, though, that even with similar levels of hunkiness, only one brother could raise her body temperature. Speaking of that particular brother, where was he?
“I wonder what’s keeping Jeffrey,” Magda murmured. “I hope he hasn’t forgotten we were all going to have dinner tonight.”
“I’ll give him a call,” Greg said, pulling out his phone.
“No need. Here he comes,” Zach said.
“Hey, all. Sorry to keep you waiting.” Jeff took his seat, grinning at Sarah as he did so.
“I was worried you’d forgotten about dinner with us, Jeffrey,” Magda said.
“Of course not, Gran. But I bumped into Grand-Auntie Miriam and your friends, and I had to engage in some chit-chat.” He turned to Zach and Rebecca. “I didn’t mention your engagement to them. I thought you might want to make the announcement yourselves.”
The couple nodded their thanks.
“There’ll be another opportunity for them to celebrate with us when Zach and Rebecca have their engagement party,” Magda said. “That is, if they’re having one. Are you?” she asked the two.
“Engagement party?” Rebecca asked with a hint of trepidation. “Do we want one?” she added to Zach.
“Oh, I hope you consider having one,” Magda said pleadingly, hopeful excitement written all over her face. “Wouldn’t you want to share the good news with all your family and friends?”
Rebecca laughed and smiled fondly at Magda. “Okay, we’ll have one.”
“I actually have something in mind, but I haven’t discussed it with Bec yet,” Zach said.
“What’s that?” Rebecca asked.
“How big do you want our engagement party to be?”
“I’d prefer just family and friends,” Rebecca said shyly.
“Well, then, I have a great idea. The extension and refurbishment of our small country hotel in the Hunter Valley are in their final stages. Before we reopen it to the public in a month and a half, we could put the services through a dry run. Holding our engagement party there would be perfect. Our guests could stay overnight. There are now thirty rooms and five suites in total, so if we’re only having a few people, we should be able to accommodate them all at Magda’s Place.”
Sarah noticed that Magda was holding her breath, trying valiantly to contain her excitement while waiting for Rebecca’s answer. Sarah bit her tongue to keep from chuckling out loud at Magda’s childlike delight.
“That sounds wonderful,” Rebecca answered with a bright smile. “I can’t wait.”
“Me neither,” Magda quipped, making them all laugh out loud.
While Sarah and Rebecca were looking after Magda while she recovered from her hip replacement surgery, Magda had told them about their boutique country hotel that her late husband had named in her honour. Magda’s Place, situated in the grounds of the Carmichael vineyard and winery, was the part of their business that Magda was most interested in. Apparently, Magda had played a big part in designing the interior of the building, and had chosen the decor herself. She’d have a ball if her grandson’s engagement party would be held there.
Sarah was looking forward to it too. She’d love to check out their vineyard and winery.
“I love your shiraz,” she said with a sigh. “Now I’ll get to see how it ends up in the bottle. That is, if it’s allowed,” she added hurriedly.
“I’ll take you behind the scenes in the winery,” Jeff offered.
“Oh, will you?” Sarah asked excitedly. “That would be great!”
“You can even try everything we produce,” Jeff said.
“Everything? I might get drunk during your wine tasting tour,” she joked.
“Are you a happy drunk or a sad drunk?”
She chuckled. “A happy drunk. When I start giggling uncontrollably for no reason, that’s when you know I’m at my limit.”
“Well then, you definitely must try everything we produce.”
Sarah giggled, inexplicably happy. Geez, she wasn’t even drunk yet and she was already acting like it. It must be the effect Jeffrey Carmichael had on her.
Oh darn. He was dangerous. But the realisation only served to excite her more.
Finally–available from May 27th.
I'll be back shortly with the links to the stores :-).