She smiled so big her cheeks hurt. “I can’t wait.” And when he smiled back, just as big, she said, “I missed you this week.” Her week would have been perfect if only he’d been a part of it.

“I wanted to cancel all of my meetings this week,” he told her. “But I knew you didn’t want me to be sitting in on all of yours.”

She laughed, enjoying the picture of Adam crashing her client meetings, her weddings. He would be the very definition of a bull in a china shop. Despite that, she knew she would love every minute of having him there.

“Actually, it was really fun having you at the wedding on Sunday. Even if,” she added, “my mother wasn’t too pleased with me for kicking up my heels with one of the guests for a few minutes. I’m sorry if she made you feel at all uncomfortable. I’m sure she didn’t mean to be quite so...” Judgmental was the right word, but she hated even saying it out loud to Adam now that she knew the real man behind the gorgeous face and charming grin. “So protective of me. She’s always been like that with me and Colleen.”

“Trust me,” he said, “with a little sister and a zillion female cousins who are too pretty for their own good, if there’s one thing I get, it’s being overprotective. The only thing that would have upset me about my conversation with your mother would have been if she wasn’t worried about you. Of course she wants the best for you.”

“It’s just...” Kerry had never told Adam about her father. She’d never really spoken to anyone about him, actually, not even close friends. Somehow, everyone had understood that the topic was off-limits. But when she was with Adam, all those usual limits just seemed to disappear. “My father walked out on us when I was a little girl. Just up and left. I don’t know why. I don’t even know if my mother knows exactly why. I guess he was just bored with having a family. And we never heard from him again. That’s why my mom built her business—to save us. And that’s also why she’s always been so adamant about me and Colleen not getting involved with the wrong guy, because it’s exactly what she did.”

Adam gently stroked her cheek. “All parents should want their kids to have everything—especially the things they were never able to have themselves. Since love betrayed her, I can see why she wouldn’t want it to do a number on you, too.”

Relief washed over her that he understood so well. “It may also have been the first time she’s ever seen me dancing with a man anywhere near as good-looking as you.”

“Were those her exact words,” he asked with a grin, “or just your take on things?”

“Sometimes I forget that your head is already big enough.” But she couldn’t help laughing with him.

“Speaking of your mom,” he said a moment later, “do the two of you co-own the business?”

“No. Why do you ask?”

“You said something at the wedding that made it sound as if you were still running it with her.”

“My mother loved running the business, but being responsible for creating—and executing—one of the best days of people’s lives isn’t exactly the least stressful career in the world. Colleen was never interested, but since I clearly was, when I graduated from business school, my mother tried to give it to me.”

“You and all those sexy-as-hell biz school brains. No wonder I love scrambling them up so much,” he teased. “But you wouldn’t just take the business from her, would you?”

“How could I? I wanted to make sure she’d be able to live comfortably in her retirement. And even though she’d always been a good saver, I knew that plenty of wedding planners would have jumped at the chance to buy the business from her just to get their hands on her contacts list. I’d had a couple of jobs that paid pretty well through college, so I was able to give her a down payment on what the company was worth along with a percentage of profits. Profits she’ll always deserve for building something so wonderful.”

Kerry had never told anyone so many of the details of how she’d come to acquire the business from her mother. Not even her sister. But it was always so easy to talk to Adam. She knew he wouldn’t judge her. Not when he’d had plenty of reasons to so far, but never had.

He brushed a lock of hair away from her cheek, and just that faint touch of his fingertips sent thrill bumps rising across the surface of her skin. “You talk a good game,” he said softly, “but we both know you didn’t pay her for the business and cut her in on the future profits just to make sure she’d have a comfortable retirement. You keep her as a part of the business because you love her.”

“The business was so much of her life—her whole life, really—for so many years that I didn’t want her to feel like she had nothing once I took over. I want her to feel that if she ever wants to come back and work on a wedding, she doesn’t have to ask, that everything is just as much hers as it’s ever been. And I want to make sure that my standards of excellence are just as high as hers, so that she’ll never be disappointed in the choice she made to turn her blood, sweat, and tears over to me.”

“She’d love you just as much, even if the business went south. You know that, don’t you?”

Kerry wanted to say, Of course. Wanted to believe that it was true. But though she nodded, Adam noticed her pause. Because he noticed everything.

“I’m not going to deny that I’ve met plenty of people who give out love tied to strings,” he said, “but though I’ve only met your mother once, I’m positive hers doesn’t come with any. How could it when you’re the kind of daughter every parent dreams of having?”

The spot in her chest that had been tight and achy ever since her mother had shown up at the wedding suddenly loosened.

“How do you do it?” She struggled with the emotion rising within her—a mix of gratitude and breathlessness, leaving her feeling touched and overwhelmed. “How do you always know just what to say to make me feel better when I’m all twisted up in knots?”

“I’m usually the one saying all the wrong things, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident. But with you—” His dark eyes burned into her with deep emotion that seemed to equal hers. “With you, everything is easier. Better, too. So much better, Kerry, than with anyone else.”

She’d never needed a kiss more, never wanted to lose herself in one the way she wanted to lose herself in his tonight. But when she heard male laughter coming from behind one wall—a wall that was only barely standing, according to Adam—she made herself draw back.

“I shouldn’t keep you from your work any longer, especially not when I’m sure your guys will be wanting to head home as soon as they can. Text me when you think you might be free again, and we can—”

“Tonight. I can be free tonight in two hours. Three max.”

Her heart leapt in her chest. “Are you sure? Because you—”

“Can’t work these guys too much longer without all of us getting sloppy. And I don’t want another night to go by without you.”

“I’ll be working, too, and I have plenty to keep me busy on my computer at the hotel, so promise me you won’t rush and get hurt.”

Tags: Bella Andre The Sullivans Romance