Her Best Friend's Wedding
Could she possibly fall…
For her best friend’s ex?
Since they were kids, Sadie McBride and Ty Bravo had squared off. When Ty dated—then married!—Sadie’s best friend, Nicole, the battle lines were firmly drawn. Now happily newly single, Ty’s sworn off love while Sadie’s searching for it. But when they’re thrown together at Nicole’s second wedding, the pair discover there may have always been a fine line between their love and hate…and their forbidden feelings might just cross it!
“Wait. Don’t tell me,” Ty Bravo teased as Sadie McBride set his usual breakfast in front of him. “You like him.” Ty tipped his head at the big guy just going out the door. “He gets a date.”
“I do like him,” she replied. “He’s really nice.”
“Nice.” Ty made the word sound boring in the extreme.
“Yeah. Nice is a good thing. And some of us still believe in love and won’t quit till we find it, so you can wipe that know-it-all grin off your face.”
Ty scoffed. “Never seen him before.” He stared out the front window as the big guy passed under the Henry’s Diner sign and disappeared down Main Street. “Who is he?”
“He’s Mrs. Lamont’s nephew.” Martha Lamont had been teaching third grade at Medicine Creek Elementary for more than thirty years. Twenty years ago, she’d taught both Ty and Sadie—as well as Sadie’s best friend, Nicole, who was also Ty’s ex-wife.
Ty turned his piercing blue eyes directly on Sadie. “Mrs. Lamont’s nephew got a name?”
“Deacon Lamont. He’s just moved to town from Billings and he’s planning on opening a landscaping business here. Friday night we’re having dinner at Arlington’s.” Arlington’s Steakhouse had been a Medicine Creek, Wyoming, landmark for as long as Sadie could remember.
“You’re meeting him at the restaurant, right?”
“Of course.” Sadie refilled his coffee cup and the cups of Lester Biggs and Bob Early, who sat on either side of him.
Annoyed at his domineering attitude, she turned and set the coffeepot back on the warming ring. “I’ll say it again, he’s nice and he’s Mrs. Lamont’s nephew.”
“Nice or not, you can never be too safe.”
“That’s true. And I’ve been doing this for a while now, you know.” Sadie always set up a coffee date to start, or she had the guy drop by the diner while she was working. Then, if she liked him, they met somewhere for lunch or dinner. And for the first actual date, she drove her own car.
“Hey. I just want you to be safe,” Ty said almost gently.
Her heart kind of melted. She and Ty had a lot of history, much of it rocky. But all in all, she considered him a true friend, someone she could count on, someone she trusted. “And I am safe, Ty, I promise you.”
He sipped his coffee, a thoughtful look on his chiseled face. “How many guys you been through now?”
That melty feeling? Poof. She glared at him. “Been through? Like I chew them up and spit them out?”
“Oh, come on, Sadie. You’ve been on a lot of dates in the past few years. I can’t ask how many?”
She refused to dignify that with an answer. Instead, she threw him a withering look and headed off to take breakfast orders from a table full of ranch hands.
As she left the counter behind, she heard Lester Biggs mutter, “Damn, bro. Death wish, much?”
Once she’d taken the orders, she made the rounds with the coffeepot.
When she finally circled back to Ty, she picked up their conversation right up where they’d left off. “Yes, I have been on a lot of dates with a lot of guys. That’s kind of the point when you’re looking for someone special, which means that the exact number of guys I’ve been out with is not the issue. It only matters that I don’t give up—and what’s it to you, anyway?”
“Well, Sadie Jane, have you noticed that your prince is taking a long-ass time to come riding in on his big white charger?”
The look she gave him then should have seared him to a cinder, leaving nothing but a tiny pile of ash in the middle of his stool. Too bad he only kept on smirking at her.
She seriously considered giving him a large piece of her mind. Instead, she spoke to him sweetly. “Yes, Tyler Ross, I have kissed a lot of frogs and I will keep right on kissing them until my prince appears, thank you very much.” And then she couldn’t resist a little dig at Mr. Cold, Hard and Cynical. “So, what about your plans for the weekend? Wait. Let me guess. You’ll be off somewhere doing your hound dog thing, am I right?”
He had the nerve to look hurt. “Come on, Sadie. You don’t have to put it like that.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Because ‘So will you be flying off to LA or Dallas, where you’ll meet a woman, romance her and have sex with her for the weekend?’ is too long to say.” She slapped down his check as Lester and Bob snorted with laughter and Ty shook his head.
Adding a giant tip as always, he paid in cash. “See you tonight.” His voice was fond.
She gave him a real smile in return. “I’ll be there.”
Ty resettled his buckskin felt hat on his head, slid off his stool and headed for the door, where he grabbed his shearling jacket off the coat tree and shrugged it on.
Outside, the sky was overcast, the temperature in the midforties. He went on down the street, waving and nodding at friends and neighbors as he passed them. Rounding the first corner, he entered the two-story brick building that housed Cash Enterprises on the ground floor, with Bravo Real Estate above. Cash was Ty’s dad’s name—well, technically it was a nickname. Cash’s given name was John, but he’d always had a knack for making money. He’d acquired the nickname early and it had stuck.
In the open reception area seated behind her tidy desk, Ramona Teague, their longtime secretary, greeted Ty with a prim smile and a reminder that he and his dad had lunch scheduled for noon at the Stagecoach Grill with a couple of land speculators from Idaho Falls.
His phone rang as he entered his office. He took it from his pocket and checked the display.
Sadie liked to give him a bad time about being a player. He wasn’t, not really. Not currently, anyway. He just had zero interest in falling in love with anyone. His seven-year marriage had taught him one great lesson: a committed relationship was a lot more trouble than it was worth.
So no, he never got serious with anyone. And he always made himself clear from the start. If a woman wanted love and a ring on her finger, he was not her man. Ty kept his dealings with women simple and straightforward. A few drinks, a few laughs, a night or two in bed together.
And yeah. Now he thought it through, maybe that made him exactly the hound dog Sadie had called him.
Just not so much lately.
He and Nicole had not been happy together. Still, he’d honored his vows and never cheated on her—though he’d wanted to. After the divorce, he’d gone a little wild.
But in the past year, there’d been exactly three women. Madeline Leroy was the most recent of the three. Back at the first of August, he’d spent a weekend in Denver with her. He hadn’t seen Madeline since.
Did that make him cold, hard and cynical, just like Sadie had said? Maybe. But the way he saw it, he had two kids, an ex-wife he tried hard to get along with and a job he enjoyed. He and his dad were mostly in property and land development now. The work was both satisfying and demanding. Not only did sleeping with strangers get old after a while, he didn’t have a lot of time for it. Work and the kids kept him plenty busy.
The phone was still ringing.
He gave in and answered it. “Hello, Madeline.”
“You’re not dead.”
“Nope. Still breathing.”
“It’s good to hear your voice. How’ve you been?”
She made a small, thoughtful sound. “Not happening, huh?”
He winced. “I guess that’s the simplest way to put it.”
“I was just going through my contacts, cleaning things up.”
“I hear you.”
She said nothing for several seconds. “I’ll delete your number, then.”
“Fair enough.” What else was there to say? “You take care.”
She disconnected the call. He tossed the phone on his desk and dropped into his chair. Leaning back, he laced his fingers behind his head, stretching a little, thinking of Sadie again.
The woman had one gear—full speed ahead. He knew her so well. Today, she would work until the very last minute and be late to the family meeting at Nicole’s. She loved her job as much as he loved his.
He frowned as he thought of the curly haired landscaper she was meeting for dinner Friday night. The guy wasn’t the one for her. Ty could tell just by looking at him. Too…unsurprising. Too nice.
Sadie needed someone sharper, a guy who could take it when she got sassy. A guy who could give it right back—but with respect and a decent sense of humor.
He made a mental note to check in with her Friday night, just to make sure Mrs. Lamont’s nephew was as nice as she’d made him out to be.
For Sadie, the day flew by—but then, it always did. Her mom, Mona, came in at ten to manage the counter and tables. That freed Sadie up to stay on top of ordering, inventory, bookkeeping and payroll—and, weather permitting, to pay visits to their other two Henry’s locations.
Her dad had opened the original Medicine Creek Henry’s back in the eighties. It had provided a comfortable living for their small family. Her dad and mom never planned to expand. It was Sadie who’d wanted that.
And she’d made it happen, too. After high school, she’d gotten a two-year business degree and set out to open more diners. Now they had a Henry’s in nearby Sheridan and another in Buffalo twenty miles to the south. Overseeing three restaurants kept her busy.
Sadie loved Henry’s. She felt great pride that the family diner was a home away from home for a lot of folks in Medicine Creek. And it was doing fine in the newer locations as well.
That day, the cook up in Sheridan had to clock out early. Sadie took over for him. She didn’t get back to Medicine Creek until almost six and ended up fifteen minutes late for the family meeting at Nicole’s.
Her best friend answered the door. “You’re late,” Nicole accused with a pout.
Sadie gave a regretful shrug. “Sorry. Work.”
Nicole looked gorgeous as always, all that pale blond hair flowing like a silvery waterfall down her back, her blue eyes enormous in her delicate face. Nicole was one of those women men stared at on the street.
Back in school, she and Ty had been the two best-looking people at Medicine Creek High. They were prom king and queen and shared a passionate, volatile relationship.
Sadie had always found the two of them exhausting as a couple. In high school, they were constantly breaking up and then inevitably getting back together.
And then they got married the summer right after senior year. When their stormy marriage finally ended, the whole family was relieved. Ty was happier on his own. Surprisingly, so was Nicole. As a rule nowadays, the two of them got along just fine.
Even their kids, Emily and Drew, had quickly adjusted to going back and forth between the big house where they’d lived when their parents were together and the roomy place around the block that Ty had bought when he moved out.
Best of all, now Nicole had Gavin. A lawyer from San Antonio, Gavin Stahl was a calm, easygoing man. He adored Nicole. Everyone agreed that Nicole had finally found the worshipful, unwavering love she craved.
Nicole pulled Sadie into a hug right there at the door. “Get some food so we can start.”
Sadie greeted them all, including her parents and Ty’s mom and dad. No, they were not all related by blood. But they were a family at heart. They loved and counted on each other.
Nicole’s mom, Brenda, had been Sadie’s mom’s lifelong best friend. The two besties made sure their daughters were like sisters, too. When Brenda died suddenly, she’d left custody of her only child to Sadie’s parents. Thirteen-year-old Nicole had moved in with the McBrides. She and Sadie had shared a room until the summer after high school when Nicole married Ty.
Sadie filled a plate with lasagna and Caesar salad, and the meeting got under way. There was a lot of ground to cover. They all needed to agree on who would do what for November and December.
Both months were jam-packed. Sadie was handling all the arrangements for Nicole’s weekend-in-Vegas bachelorette party coming up a week from Saturday. Ty, the best man, who’d met Gavin in college at Texas A&M, was in charge of the bachelor party, which wouldn’t be a big deal. Probably just him and Gavin on a guys’ night out.
Both Nicole and nine-year-old Emily were bouncing off the walls with excitement—Nicole, because she would have the perfect wedding this time. Back when she’d married Ty, the whole thing had been rushed what with Emily on the way.
This time, Nicole intended for her big day to be perfect. And the family supported her in that. They all wanted Nic to have the wedding of her dreams.
As for Emily, she’d insisted on being a junior bridesmaid. Not a flower girl, no way. She’d also begged to go to Vegas with her mom and Sadie and the three other bridesmaids, but Nicole had held the line on that. Almost ten was far too young to join in on a bachelorette weekend in Sin City.
Instead, Grandma Abby, Ty’s mom, would take Emily and Drew out to the Bravo family ranch, the Rising Sun, for the weekend. When Emily whined that a visit to the ranch just didn’t stack up to a trip to Las Vegas, everyone reminded her that the next weekend she would be the birthday girl.
Emily clapped her hands when they ran through her birthday-party plans. “It is all going to be perfect,” she declared, looking so much like her mom with her cornflower blue eyes and Alice in Wonderland hair. “I just can’t wait!” Emily and five of her closest friends would be treated to mani-pedis and facials at the best salon in town, followed by a princess party complete with a sleepover in a pink-and-gold princess tent.
Next up on the packed agenda was Thanksgiving. It would be happening out at the Rising Sun.
And after that, on the second Saturday in December, Nicole and Gavin would share their vows at a beautiful resort in Breckenridge, Colorado. Then the newlyweds were off for a two-week honeymoon, returning home just in time for Christmas.
Emily sighed and flicked a lock of hair back over her slim shoulder. “I wish there could be a wedding every week—or at least, every month. I can’t wait to walk down the aisle in my beautiful dress.” She gasped and her eyes lit up. “I know! Sadie, why don’t you marry Daddy? We could give you a really good wedding, as good as Mom’s! I could be a bridesmaid, just like for Mom, but when you and Daddy get married, I could go to the bachelorette party, too.”
Sadie almost choked on her lasagna at that suggestion. She knocked back a gulp of water to get the bite of pasta to go down as Nicole let out a disbelieving trill of laughter.
“Sweetheart,” Nic said to her daughter, “there is no way your father will ever get married again—and if, somehow, the stars aligned and he did, it would not be to Sadie.”
“Yes, it could be to Sadie,” argued Emily. “Daddy and Sadie are friends. Friends can get married.”
Ty’s dad and mom were sitting directly across from Sadie. They exchanged the strangest glance right then—a knowing sort of glance, a glance full of mutual understanding.
About what, Sadie had no clue.
Nicole scoffed. “Honey. Really. Sadie and your dad? Please. They just aren’t couple material. Back when we were your age, your dad and Sadie were always in competition. They both wanted to be the best—at math, at science. Then in high school, they ran against each other for student body president.”
“I won,” Ty announced way too smugly.
“Just barely,” Sadie reminded him.
“Even now,” Nicole added, “they sometimes get on each other’s last nerve.” Nicole had it right on all counts. The chance of Ty Bravo ever remarrying was slim to none. And if by some impossible miracle, he did, it wouldn’t be to Sadie.
Sadie slid a glance in Ty’s direction and found him staring right at her. He winked. And then he clapped a fist to his heart. “Sadie Jane, should we break the big news now?”
She looked at him sideways. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
He was grinning. “Don’t be shy. It’s okay. I’ll tell them. It just so happens that Sadie and I are already together.” Nicole groaned at that one as Ty went on, “God’s honest truth. It’s real love for Sadie and me. As soon as the holidays are over, I’m sweeping her off to Bali for a long, romantic weekend.”
Now everyone looked confused—except for seven-year-old Drew. Stretched out on the floor playing with his Halo soldiers, Drew was oblivious.
Sadie had no idea what Ty thought he was up to. Probably just yanking a few chains, as usual. Well, two could play that game.
“You can’t just zip off for a weekend in Bali,” she argued. “It takes days to get there. And days more to fly back. Even if you chartered a private jet for the trip, you couldn’t fly direct. You’d have to stop to refuel. Uh-uh. No way. You just can’t take off for a quick trip to Bali.”
“Hear that? Ty raked his fingers through his blond hair and heaved a heavy sigh. “Sorry, Em. Sadie and me, we’re not going to happen. If I tried to sweep her off her feet, she’d order me to put her right back down on solid ground.”
“Yes, I would,” Sadie agreed, suddenly feeling sad—and for no reason she could put her finger on. A little for herself maybe. All she’d ever wanted was the right man to build a life with. And she kept trying, kept looking, but so far, no luck.
As for Ty, she did honestly hope that the strangers he spent his weekends with were good to him. He could smirk and talk trash all he wanted. But deep down, she believed that Ty’s bad attitude toward love and marriage would forever stand in the way of him going after someone who could make his life richer, someone who would change his world for the better.
Emily pouted. “Well. If Sadie doesn’t marry Daddy, who else is going to do it?”
They all laughed at that.
Sadie said, “You never know, Em. One of these days, the exact right woman for your dad might come along.” Okay, that seemed highly unlikely. Ty was so entrenched in his love of the single life. But why shatter all of Emily’s illusions? “However, the right woman for your father isn’t me. We aren’t suited to each other, your dad and me. I’m a practical person. Your dad is adventurous. He’s always ready to try something…new and different.”
“Got that right,” Ty agreed with a wicked gleam in his eye.
Sadie didn’t know whether to smack him or hug him, so she simply moved on. “All right, then. Let’s finish up here. Christmas and New Year’s. We still need to agree on who’s doing what…”