They’d both made several, and it was more than a few rapid heartbeats that passed before she was able to respond. When she did, the word came out soft. “Coward.”

His lips twisted grimly. “In some things, yes.”

Put an innocent in harm’s way and he would bravely confront the most fearsome of opponents. But when faced with an emotional risk he cut and ran. It was a truth she needed to remember, despite the fact he was here now...looking wonderful...and her body was remembering the advantage of making love to a man with a fighter’s muscles...her heart was remembering how the action-hero defender made her feel.

Protected. Loved.

Gathering her wits, she shifted her gaze away, blinking hard to maintain her composure. The guests were lining up at the unusual wedding cake: a six-tiered confection of white icing thick with a thorny trimming done in black. Carly tried to imagine taking the marital leap with Hunter, waiting for him to walk out...

“I can’t marry you,” she said. And with as much grace as she could muster, she headed for the bar and her father.

Halfway there her cellphone chirped, and she pulled it from her purse and opened the message. The soulful sounds of the song “Share My Life” crooned from her phone, and the screen filled with the words “Marry Me.”

She gripped her cellular, her stomach settling on top of her toes. She hadn’t recovered from the first proposal, and now he was sending a second. Another proposal that left her confused, doubting her resolve to be strong. Fingers shaky, she selected “No” and scrolled through the list of rejection songs to accompany her response. There were only ten. With feeling, she firmly jabbed the button next to “Love Stinks.”

From behind her, the reedy sound of the song filled the air.

Carly whirled around to face Hunter, and his gaze held hers as he crossed closer, coming to a stop in front of her.

Now that she knew his plan, her whole body was filled with caution. “You have been busy.”

“Designing the app is the easy part. Finding the right songs is hard.” He eyed her levelly as he said, “I also discontinued The Ditchinator.”

She gave him no leeway with her expression and she forced herself to maintain eye contact, desperately trying to calm her nerves. But she tipped her head, her voice reflecting her curiosity. “Why?”

His eyes held hers with conviction. “Because you wanted me to.”

Feeling raw, Carly fought the urge to get misty-eyed. He’d done it to make her happy.

“I also decided you’d prefer something more positive,” he said. “So I replaced The Ditchinator with The Hitchinator.”

At the name, humor briefly overrode the angst, and her mouth worked, biting back a smile. “Your new app needs a lot of work,” she said, as lightly as she could, but all her doubts made it a tough sell. “The Hitchinator is a bit of a retreaded name, and the selection of music to accompany a refusal is pretty limited.”

He tipped his head meaningfully. “But there are thirty ways to say yes.”

“Do you think it will sell well?”

“I’m only worried about winning over one customer.” His voice dropped a notch. “You.”

Her heart pounded out its approval even as she struggled to remain strong.

“I didn’t expect you to say yes...the first time,” he said, taking a half-step closer.

She ignored the chaotic pumping in her chest, the surge of heat in her veins. The longing that went beyond the physical and traveled all the way to her soul. She forced herself to maintain his gaze, though her heart and her heated blood screamed retreat. To end the torture of continuing to tell him no.

“I should go find my father,” she said, and turned and headed in the direction of her dad at the bar.

Ten feet from her intended destination, her safe haven, another chirp came from her cellphone. She stopped mid-step and glanced at her cellular with a powerful blend of dread...and hope. She pressed the button and the words “Marry Me” reappeared. The phone vibrated to the tune of Billy Idol’s “White Wedding.” Carly couldn’t restrain the small bark of laughter. When the humor passed, again she pushed “No” and scrolled through the rejection choices, choosing one. But this time her fingers hovered hesitantly for several seconds. Biting her lip, she pushed “send.”

Her selection of “Bad Romance” filled the air, coming from directly behind her, and Carly closed her eyes.

Don’t let him charm you, Carly.

But her heart felt more vulnerable when she turned to face Hunter, standing just three feet from her. She gripped the strap of her purse. How could she survive this encounter when he was so close, looking and smelling wonderful and depriving her of her ability to breathe?