Sullivans had come from all over the country for Rafe and Brooke’s wedding. Adam’s four siblings from Seattle and his parents, Max and Claudia, were there, of course. Adam’s siblings alone were impressive enough with Rafe, the private investigator, and Brooke, a chocolate-maker extraordinaire; Mia, the Realtor, who was married to Ford, one of the biggest rock stars in the world; Ian, the billionaire businessman, and his movie star fiancée, Tatiana; and Dylan, who was renowned for his hand-built yachts, his writer wife, Grace, and their toddler son, Mason.
But then there was the San Francisco crew—Chase, the famous photographer, his quilter wife, Chloe, their young daughter Emma, and new baby, Julia; Marcus, the winemaker, and his pop star wife, Nicola; firefighter Gabe, his numbers-whiz wife, Megan, and their daughter, Summer, and baby, Logan; Irish pub owner Jake, his librarian wife, Sophie, and their toddler twins, Smith and Jackie, who had been making everyone laugh all day long with their antics; race-car driver and auto mogul Zach and his dog-trainer fiancée, Heather; movie star Smith and his fiancée, Valentina, who co-wrote and produced movies with him; and choreographer and dancer Lori, with her rugged cowboy husband, Grayson. What’s more, their mother, Mary Sullivan, was one of the warmest people Kerry had ever met.
Kerry had already met Adam’s painter cousin, Drake, but today she’d also had a chance to meet the rest of the cousins from New York, all of whom had come without dates. Suzanne was a computer genius, Alec built luxury planes, and Harrison was a professor. Kerry had also enjoyed meeting Adam’s Uncle William and watching Max and William together, brothers who were still obviously close even though they lived on opposite coasts.
Adam’s cousins and his Uncle Edward from Maine had only just arrived before the rehearsal, so she hadn’t had a chance to chat with them yet. Which was probably just as well, because she was already on name overload. Tomorrow morning she’d be fresher and would be able to get to know all of them, too.
Again and again throughout the day, she’d been struck by how close, how solid, the Sullivan family was. None of them seemed to care that they were an extremely famous and successful bunch. The only thing that had mattered to any of them during the day had been who could make the biggest cannonball splash off the docks and who had more hot-dog-roasting skill.
Kerry honestly never thought she’d live to see movie star Smith Sullivan go head-to-head in a paddleboarding contest with rock star Ford Vincent. A contest that ended with both of them trying to dunk the other and everyone else laughing their heads off from rowboats and kayaks before getting in on the fun.
Now, for the family-only dinner, Kerry had strung fairy lights across the beach and placed the tables beneath them. With the moon and stars shining down and the water lapping on the shore, it was one of the most romantic locations she’d ever seen.
Kerry wouldn’t normally have been at the rehearsal dinner, but Brooke and Rafe had insisted on it. Knowing she wouldn’t be working for the next couple of hours meant that she could finally take a few moments to sit back and sip a glass of wine while enjoying the beautiful location.
She had been to the lake once before, right after Rafe and Brooke had hired her, so that she could see what she’d have to work with for the wedding and reception, and had been amazed by its beauty. But now that she’d spent twenty-four hours here in and out of both Rafe and Brooke’s cottage and their parents’ house next door, now that she’d sunk her toes into the warm sand, now that she’d been in the crisp, clear lake—she’d fallen just as much in love with Lake Wenatchee as the rest of Adam’s family. No wonder Rafe and Brooke had decided to settle here full time. And Adam had been right about the private location. They definitely didn’t need any bodyguards here.
Or maybe it just seemed so romantic to her because the previous evening had been pure romance from start to finish as Adam had showered her with love any way he could—with words, with his body, with love radiating from his eyes, with every touch of his hands on her skin, with every single kiss.
Adam didn’t have a plus-one, so it had made sense for Rafe and Brooke to suggest that she sit next to him at dinner. He hadn’t come to the table yet, but she’d seen flashes of him in constant motion all day long. Usually alongside his father, who had clearly meant it when he’d said, “Anything you need.”
Just like Adam. Because he’d always been there for her, hadn’t he? No matter what, right from the start, without question or hesitation. He’d helped her with the gazebo, her sister, the house.
And then last night, she’d desperately needed him, and he’d been there to catch her in his arms and make everything that had felt so wrong when they were apart right again.
But all day long, not being able to actually sit down and talk through everything with him had made it all feel wrong again. Not their lovemaking last night, but the distance that still lay between them. Distance that she’d deliberately put in place a week ago when she’d been so sure that they couldn’t be together.
Only, what if she was wrong? What if her mother was right about first impressions being wrong sometimes? And what if sometimes the most right thing in the world was the most unexpected? Not to mention exhilarating and frustrating and addictive?
With the dinner starting in less than five minutes, Kerry was heading across the beach to take her seat when she heard delighted giggling. She turned to find Adam standing in the middle of the gazebo, holding little Emma and Jackie in his arms, one on each side.
He had showered off the hard, sweaty work of the day and was now wearing a dark suit that made him almost too handsome. Too handsome for Kerry’s heart to figure out how to return to beating normally, anyway.
The girls were singing songs that she was fairly certain were from the movie Frozen in high-pitched, often out-of-tune voices, and Adam was dancing with them. The girls were obviously head over heels in love with him—and he looked just as thrilled with them. From one cheek to the next, he peppered them with kisses that had them giggling even harder.
It was, hands down, the most beautiful thing Kerry had ever seen in her life. Watching Adam shower his family with love was so beautiful, in fact, that she suddenly couldn’t remember a single reason why she’d pushed him away.
Because Adam Sullivan, she now knew with perfect certainty, was an amazing man. A loving son, brother, cousin, and uncle. He never hesitated to give all of himself to his family.
Unlike her father.
Kerry’s father had never given her anything. Not his love. Not his support. Not one dance that she could remember. No kisses on cheeks. No nights helping with homework. No advice about dealing with boys.
She’d thought she’d dealt with it, that she was over it. She’d even told Adam—you just have to move on and try not to let it affect you. But now, for the first time, Kerry realized that the big empty hole in her life where her father should have been had never fully closed, no matter how many years had passed.
Worse still, she could now see that she’d lived with that fear her whole life. Not only that men would leave her behind without a second thought, but that everyone she loved would leave her.
Hadn’t she always worried about disappointing her mother? And hadn’t she walked on eggshells with her sister because she hadn’t wanted Colleen to turn away from her, either?