When You Are MineBy: Kennedy Ryan
I could probably fill every page of this book with thanks for so many people. That is impractical, so I’ll narrow it down to just a few, and hope that I’ve told everyone else at some point how very grateful I am. I have to thank my parents. My father for planting a love for words and excellence in my heart, and even when he was busy, finding ways to water them. My mother, who passed along a voracious appetite for reading, always reminded me I was a writer and always whispered destiny to me. To my first beta readers, my family Shelly and Rukel, who read this piece by piece, chapter by chapter, and encouraged me to continue when I assumed it was crap. To my agent, Nikki Terpilowski, for taking a chance on me. To so many awesome writers I’ve met so far, but especially to Kimberly Belle, Sofia Tate, and Katie Oliver, all strong, emerging voices in this industry I’m pleased as punch to call friends.
To my son, Myles, who, though he speaks very little, has taught me more than I could have imagined about perseverance and unconditional love living with autism every day. Your life speaks to me and to so many others.
And finally, to my best friend, champion, and the absolute love of my life, my husband, Sam. It has always been you. It will always be you.
All eyes were on him, except the bride’s. Walsh hadn’t looked at Kerris Moreton, his best friend’s wife-to-be, for weeks. As two hundred wedding guests waited, Walsh contemplated his glass of champagne and the toast they expected from the best man.
“I met this scrawny, mean punk of a kid at camp thirteen years ago.” Walsh pieced together his most charming smile around the words. “We pretty much hated each other on sight.”
He paused for a ripple of polite laughter before focusing his attention on his best friend, Cam.
“But by the end of the summer, I had a best friend. I had a brother, and that’s never changed. We’ve been through a lot together, and you deserve every happiness. I love you, man.”
With a look, Walsh and Cam exchanged years of memories and emotions in a silent moment between them.
And then Walsh did what he had deliberately denied himself all day. He looked at the bride. Really looked at her, full on, and every word he had scripted fled his mind. His breath caught up in his throat at her beauty, illuminated by the kindness and compassion he knew lay beneath that gorgeous face. His tongue clung to the roof of his mouth for an extra second before he wrenched himself from drowning in her amber eyes.
Kerris met his stare, her expression not guarded enough to disguise the fear, the near-panic. He read the question in her eyes as if she had spoken aloud.
What are you about to say?
“And what a girl you’ve found,” he said, unable to look away from her solemn gaze.
“I saw her before I knew she was the girl you’d been telling me all about. She was going out of her way to help someone. I knew then that she was different, and that she deserved a special man.”
He raised his glass to toast the bride, swishing champagne and disappointment in his mouth.
He’d wanted to be that man.
* * *
Eighteen Months Earlier
Walsh couldn’t stop watching her. She stood too far away for him to see her face clearly in the dim light, but he suspected it would take his breath away. She peered up at the bus schedule, speaking with an elderly woman. Her bright red dress in the almost empty parking lot drew his eye like a silver lining in a dark cloud.
“Does it say when the B is coming?” The older woman’s question carried across the space separating them, her white hair gleaming in the light from the street lamp.
“Oh, no. You just missed the last bus.” The girl’s voice was husky-hot and sweet. Honey burned to a crisp.
“Well, I only live a few blocks away. I’ll walk.”
“My car’s over here. I’ll take you.”
“No, I couldn’t put you out like that.” It sounded like only half the lady’s heart was in the protest, and the other half didn’t want to walk in the dark. “You don’t even know me.”
“I know it’s too dark for you to walk the streets alone. I won’t sleep tonight wondering if you made it home. Come on.”