Thursday, August 28, 2014

Double Major - Sneak Peek #2

While you're waiting for Double Major to release, how about another look inside? By the way, you can preorder it now at Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, and you can add it to your Goodreads bookshelf now. This is the second scene of the book. The first can be found here.


“Happy” by Pharrell Williams started blaring from behind us while we were in the middle of the wedding rehearsal, causing everyone to jump. Me, especially, because that was what my boyfriend, Liam, had set as the ringtone on my phone—he said it suited me—which meant I’d neglected to turn my cell off like I’d intended to before we got started with all of this.
“So sorry,” I said, rushing away from the stage to the front row of seats where I’d stashed my purse. The song continued playing loudly the whole time I dug through the depths to reach it. Before I could find the silly thing and answer it, Rachel’s son, Tuck, broke into a song-and-dance routine as the music played, and everyone started laughing. He’d been getting as antsy to be done as I had, so at least this gave him a diversion, however small.
I finally fished the phone out of the bottom of my bag, but only in time to see that I’d missed the call. It had been Chris, my brother. He and our other brother, Ethan, were back in Portland right now, trying to get all of our belongings moved from Babs’s apartment into the house Liam and I had just bought.
We weren’t supposed to be moving right now. We should have already been done with the move, honestly, but there had been problems with the closing, and it had been pushed back and pushed back, and we’d just finally sorted it all out two days ago—right before Liam and I had to fly to Providence for the wedding. We’d barely been handed the keys and been able to see the place while knowing it was ours before we’d had to leave.
If I hadn’t agreed to be one of Dana and Rachel’s bridesmaids, I would have tried to convince Liam we should just skip the wedding. I couldn’t exactly back out of it that late, though, so Chris and Ethan had stepped up and insisted they could handle the move.
Let’s let them do it, Liam had said to me when I’d voiced my concerns. They’re grown men. I’m sure they’re perfectly capable of handling this on their own.
I wouldn’t have been so worried about it if not for the fact that we were flying straight to Sweden when we left here. We wouldn’t be going back to Portland for weeks, and I’d had to leave my puppy, Puck, behind in my brothers’ care until we returned. If anything went wrong, if they ran into problems… Maybe I was too used to being the oldest sibling and taking all of the adult responsibilities onto my own shoulders. The idea of sharing the load hadn’t been easy to adjust to. I was having a hard time letting go.
That was why, once I saw who’d called, I rushed out of the little chapel and into the hallway to return Chris’s call. “What’s wrong?” I said as soon as he picked up the line.
“Why do you automatically assume something’s wrong?”
Probably because the combined stress of buying a home, being a bridesmaid, leaving my puppy behind, and preparing to meet Liam’s family in Sweden had all ganged up on me and stolen my sanity. But I didn’t want to tell him that. He’d just tell me to relax, which I was trying to do. I just wasn’t managing it very well. It was weird; I didn’t usually let things get to me. Normally, stress just rolled off my back. But not this time.
I could only attribute that to the fact that meeting Liam’s family meant a lot to me—because it meant a lot to him—and I didn’t want anything to go wrong. At the moment, it felt like everything was set to go wrong.
“I’m just…” I searched my brain for something I could use to put him off. “There’s just a lot going on here right now with the rehearsal and the dinner tonight.”
“And the bachelorette party later,” he added. “Don’t try to pretend you’re not going to have fun while you’re there. This is supposed to be a vacation for you, Noelle.”
“It is. And I’m having fun. I promise.”
“Good. You should.”
“Nothing’s wrong with Puck?”
My puppy barked in the background, as though he’d heard me say his name. At least that let me know he was alive.
Chris sighed. “Puck is fine. Stop being a worrywart. I was just calling to ask if you wanted the downstairs bedroom set up as a bedroom or if you wanted it to be more like an office.”
Oh. Yeah, so that meant it wasn’t a “something’s wrong” sort of call. It was a “my brothers are growing up before I’m ready for them to do anything remotely like that” sort of call. Before I could wrap my head around what he’d asked, Liam came up behind me and put one arm around my waist, taking the phone with the other.
“Noelle’s supposed to be in the rehearsal right now, so I can answer any questions you have,” he said smoothly into the phone. He kissed the back of my head and spun me around, nudging me back into the chapel with a swat to my backside.
I scowled at him because I was sure I was as red-faced as I’d ever been, but I hurried back down the aisle and got into my original position. At least none of them were staring at me when I returned, and Rachel’s daughter, Maddie, gave me a big grin when I slid back into my spot. The wedding coordinator was still trying to put all members of the wedding party where she wanted us, but at the moment she was working with the groomsmen, so I was in the clear for now. She had her hands on both Babs’s arms and was bodily shifting him into position, and he was blushing as profusely as I’d come to expect from him more often than not.
Katie leaned over so she could whisper in my ear. “Kally seemed really jealous when this chick paired you up with Burnzie for all the wedding stuff.” Kally was what everyone involved with the team called Liam. They all had nicknames for each other. It could be a little confusing at times, but it didn’t take too long to sort it out usually…especially since I knew most of them by their nicknames and not by their real names, anyhow.
Had he really seemed jealous? Liam knew there was no need for anything like that. I didn’t want to be with anyone but him, and the wedding events would only last for a weekend. Besides, it wasn’t as though I was going to be doing much at all with Keith Burns. He was going to escort me out, and we’d stand next to each other at a few points, and I was pretty sure she’d said that we would have to dance together for one dance. That was all. But out of all the members of the wedding party, Burnzie and I were the only two who weren’t already part of a couple that had both halves involved in the wedding. It only made sense to pair us up together.
I tried to brush Katie’s comment away, but it kept niggling at the back of my mind while we went through the rehearsal, which proved to be a whole lot of standing around and waiting for instructions.
A few minutes later, Liam returned to the chapel and took a seat in the back row, next to the Storm’s goaltender Nicklas Ericsson. My focus landed squarely on Liam instead of all the things the wedding coordinator was telling us. Sure enough, when we ran through the way we would be exiting, with me holding onto Burnzie’s arm as we walked down the aisle, I felt Liam’s eyes boring into the pair of us. Katie had been right, even if I didn’t understand why any of this would make Liam jealous.
Not long after that, we finished up with the rehearsal, and we all went to a nearby steak-and-seafood restaurant for the rehearsal dinner. Liam handed my phone back to me as we walked out to our rental car. I dropped it into my purse before reaching for his hand.
“Katie thinks you’re jealous of Burnzie.”
He flashed me an earth-stopping, heart-shattering sort of smile. “Katie’s very perceptive.”
We arrived at the car, and he opened the door for me.
“You know there’s no reason for that.”
He waited for me to sit, then closed my door and went around to the driver’s side. Once he was in his seat, he said, “It’s just that he’s getting all your attention for a couple of days.”
“I wouldn’t say he’s getting all my attention.”
“More of it than I want him to get.” He put the car in reverse and draped his arm over the back of my seat, looking over his shoulder to back out.
“But you’re the only one getting my kisses.”
Liam gave me a heated look and kissed the tip of my nose before shifting into drive.
“What did you tell Chris about the downstairs bedroom?”
“That,” he said silkily, “is a surprise.”
“A surprise, as in they burned the house down and we have to start this whole process all over again? Or a surprise, as in they made it into a shrine to Puck?”
Liam burst out laughing, which brought a smile to my lips, too. “Is that what you want it to be?” he asked. “A room for your dog?”
“Not necessarily.” But now that I thought about it, it wasn’t a horrible idea. Puck was getting bigger every day, quickly outgrowing all the dog beds and other things we’d gotten for him. I was starting to think he might outgrow the backyard of this new house sooner rather than later, and then I didn’t know what we’d do. I might have to take him to the park a lot more than I’d initially expected to. Of course, then maybe I could plan doggie dates with Sara and Jonny’s dog, Buster. That would be nice. “Just tell me. Please,” I begged.
Liam pulled into the restaurant lot and found a spot to park. “If you insist on ruining my surprise, I was thinking it could be more like a room to honor your parents. A place we could fill with as many memories of them as we could. Your brothers still have some pictures and a few other things that came from your parents. And Ethan said he had a phone number for a cousin—someone who might have some pictures from your parents’ wedding and other stuff like that. They’re going to make some calls and see what they can scare up.”
My heart and lungs had apparently decided to reposition themselves somewhere in the vicinity of my throat. I couldn’t swallow past the huge lumps there. My parents had been killed in a convenience store robbery several years before, and in the time since, the house had been repossessed and then the car I’d been living out of—that housed all of my memorabilia from my parents—had gone up in flames.
The thoughtfulness behind Liam’s idea was stunning. I clutched his hand, drawing it up to my lips so I could kiss his knuckles. “Really?” I finally squeezed out despite my tears.
“Unless you don’t want it.”
“I do. I want it more than I could ever say.” I couldn’t imagine anything more perfect. Except… “Just my family, though? Couldn’t it be about your family, too?”
“And mine, too, if you want it to be.”
“I do.” I threaded my fingers with his, tugging his hand closer to my body. “Do you still have any of Liv’s wind chimes?” Liv had been Liam’s wife, but she’d died in a car accident a couple of years ago. She needed to have a place in this room, too. She would always be part of Liam, and I wanted to honor that. I wanted to honor her as much as he was trying to honor my parents.
“I still have some,” he said cautiously.
“Some that we could bring to Portland? She should be represented.”
He swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat, and a rush of peace washed through me.

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