Note to Readers: These scenes take place after the end of Fully Engaged . If you haven’t read the book, they won’t make a lot of sense, and may detract from your enjoyment of the book later – please don’t read them now! You can find out more about the book and read an excerpt from the first chapter here.
Fully Engaged – After the End
Her wedding day.
Sandra had been so busy since the moment she awoke that only now, as her mother helped fasten the last buttons on her dress and she looked at herself in the suite’s full-length mirror, did it sink in that she was about to marry Gideon.
Instantly, the frustrations of a florist who’d used yellow roses instead of pink, of a hotel wedding planner who’d assigned two NASCAR drivers who were arch-enemies seats at the same table, and of her own rebellious feet, which seemed to have grown in the last month and were now uncomfortably tight in her satin-covered shoes, evaporated.
Not even her mother’s, “I told you your feet were bigger than a size eight,” murmured earlier, could quash the surge of joy. I’m about to marry Gideon. I’ll be Mrs. Gideon Taney.
A shockingly old-fashioned notion for a woman as independent as she was, but she reveled in it.
“You look gorgeous,” her mom said, her voice catching. “So beautiful.”
“I look as good as I ever have,” Sandra agreed, knowing she always looked gorgeous in Gideon’s eyes but pleased she’d gone all out and had this stunning dress made.
The square neckline emphasized her generous curves but kept things modest, and the half-length sleeves flattered her arms. The intricately beaded bodice above the stiff silk skirt gave the dress an almost medieval look. Sandra smiled as she imagined it bringing out the feudal lord in Gideon later tonight.
Her mother said worriedly, “The ceremony starts in five minutes, dear, I think we should go.”
“We can’t leave until our ride turns up.” The church was only a block away from the hotel, but they still needed an appropriate vehicle to get there. “Besides, the bride is meant to be late.” Gideon would be astonished if she turned up on time, for the first time ever, on their wedding day.
A knock sounded on the door.
“That’ll be Will,” Sandra said, relieved despite the assurance she’d offered her mom.
Will Branch had begged for, and been granted, the privilege of giving Sandra away. But—she glanced at the digital display on the radio alarm clock next to the bed—some things never changed.
She opened the door. “You’re late.”
Will propped himself against the doorjamb, blond hair charmingly tousled, carefree grin showing perfect teeth. “Keep your hair on, Sandy.”
Memory washed over Sandra, no less horrible for being distant, as she registered the sibilance in his voice, his slight sway.
“You’re drunk?” she said, incredulous. “Again?”
Will burst into laughter. He straightened away from the doorframe and said, “Gotcha.”
Okay, she was going to kill him. Smash a vase of yellow roses over his head and stab him with a shard of broken glass.
Will’s eyes widened as he caught her murderous intent. “It was a joke, Sandra. The last time Bart and I pulled this stunt was what got you and Taney working together. I thought you’d appreciate the irony.”
“Try that again and you can find yourself another PR rep,” she snapped. Then, because she was so darned happy, she laughed and forgot all about killing Will. She grabbed his arm, extended a hand to her mother. “Let’s go.”
Gideon had never seen a woman as beautiful as his bride. He took Sandra’s hands as they faced each other at the front of the church, and knew he’d been blessed way beyond anything he deserved.
As the minister uttered the time-honored words, Gideon’s glance slid to the front pew where Steve and Lisa and the kids watched, all of them beaming a mile wide. He realized he wore the exact same smile on his own face.
It was time to say his vows. He and Sandra had learned them by heart—he just hoped like heck he could remember them. He cleared his throat.
“I, Gideon, take you, Sandra, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse—” she smiled and he wondered if she was remembering the time he’d fired her “—for richer, for poorer…” At one stage he’d have offered her his entire fortune, as long as he didn’t have to give her his heart and soul. Now, she had it all. “In sickness and in health,” he continued soberly, aware just how much that particular promise meant to her. Sandra’s smile turned tremulous, and he squeezed her fingers. “To love and to cherish,” he vowed, “until we are parted by death.”
Sandra repeated the vow, her voice shaky, but her love for Gideon shining in her eyes.
Then they exchanged rings and the minister pronounced them husband and wife. Applause rang out in the church, so that when Sandra spoke, Gideon had to lean close to hear.
“Now that we’re married,” she said, “I guess I don’t need to be embarrassed about sharing a fantasy with you.”
“Another one?” he said, delighted that he’d married a woman of such imagination.
Her cheeks turned a telltale pink. “This one involves us sneaking away to our suite just as soon as we can decently leave our guests…”
“I’m liking it so far,” he said.
She grimaced, “That’s the exciting part, it gets a whole lot tamer.”
“I’ll be the judge of that.”
She grinned at his authoritative tone. “When we make love—” oh, man, Gideon couldn’t wait! “—I want you to call me Mrs. Taney.”
The Wedding March struck up, and it was time to walk back down the aisle. Before they moved, Gideon bent his head and dropped a swift, hard kiss on Sandra’s mouth. “Anything you say, Mrs. Taney.”
If you’d like to comment about this book or the extra scenes, please contact Abby.
(The Natural, Abby Gaines’ novella about driver Danny Cruise, whose wedding takes place in Fully Engaged, is now available as a standalone e-book from eHarlequin eBooks for just $1.34. Also available from other e-book retailers. The Natural first appeared in the Christmas anthology A NASCAR Holiday 2 in November 2007)