Picture Perfect Wedding
Magnolia Brides, #3
Author: Lynnette Austin
Pub Date: November 1, 2016
Third in the heartfelt and charming Magnolia Brides series from Lynnette Austin
One mistake can change everything…forever
Beck Elliot and Tansy Calhoun were inseparable—until Tansy left Misty Bottoms, Georgia, promising to come back after she finished school. Beck stayed behind to save the family business, dreaming of the day when Tansy would return. Instead, his trust and his heart were broken when she inexplicably married another man and bore his child.
Five years later, Tansy comes home, a sadder and wiser woman. Despite his anger, Beck finds it hard to avoid her and her adorable little daughter—especially with all the busybodies of Misty Bottoms going out of their way to throw him and Tansy together, hoping a lingering spark will reignite their enduring flame…
Halfway through dinner, popping and snapping exploded, sharp as a round of gunshots.
Tansy let out an involuntary little squeak.
A gruff male voice cut through the darkness. “What the hell?”
More popping and snapping.
“It’s the bad man. He’s here.” Gracie scampered from her chair and all but crawled up Tansy’s leg to get to her lap. Her dark-brown eyes huge, she wrapped her arms around her mother’s neck.
More movement outside was followed by more sharp pops.
Making soothing noises and bouncing a scared little girl on her hip, Tansy moved toward the door.
“Don’t go, Mommy! He’ll hurt us!” Gracie buried her head in her mom’s neck.
“Where do you get these ideas, Gracie Bella? Nobody’s going to hurt us.”
“I saw it on TV.”
“With Daddy. The bad man had a knife.”
“Oh for—” One more black mark in Emerson’s column.
“Tansy!” Beck banged on the back door. “Everything okay?”
“Yes,” she called. “I’m comin’.”
She threw open the door, Gracie cowering against her.
“Why in the hell do you have bubble wrap taped all over the porch floor? ’Bout gave me a heart attack.” Then he noticed Gracie curled into Tansy. “What’s wrong? Is she sick? Can I help?”
She shook her head. “No. Gracie put the bubble wrap there. To protect us from the bad man.”
“The—” He frowned. “I’m not a bad man.”
“She doesn’t know that. After all, you did breach the perimeter and—” She pointed at the green plastic. “You set off the early warnin’ system.”
His chin drooped to his chest. “I scared her.”
Gracie opened her eyes. “Beck?”
“Hey, sweet Gracie. I’m sorry I scared you.”
“That’s okay. Wanna color?”
“We’re eating, sweetheart,” Tansy reminded her.
Beck held up a casserole dish. “My mom sent this and insisted I bring it over. Tonight. She’s a meddler, Tansy. What can I say?”
“Why don’t you set it on the counter?”
She held the door open wider for him and was instantly sorry. The moment he stepped inside, the kitchen grew smaller, and she found it hard to breathe. This man did things to her system. He always had and, God help her, he probably always would.
He stepped closer.
“How come you know my mama?”
Beck caught Tansy’s eyes. “Your mama and I used to be good friends. We went to school together.”
“Did you fight with her?”
Tansy read the indecision in his eyes, saw a flicker of—what? Pain?
“I gotta be real truthful with you here, Gracie Bella, ’cause that’s what my mama taught me to do. Your mama can be really stubborn, so, yeah, we got in a few arguments. She likes to have her way.”
“She does!” Gracie nodded. “Like when I want soda? She says, ‘Milk today. Maybe you can have soda tomorrow.’ But then tomorrow?” The little girl shook her head sadly. “She says milk today—”
“Maybe you can have soda tomorrow?” Beck added.
“Yeah. How’d you know that?”
“She used to tell me that a lot, too. Maybe tomorrow.” His gaze locked on Tansy again, and she felt heat flood her face. They were absolutely not talking about soda anymore.
Gracie pulled away from her mother and scrambled to her feet. “You like soda, too?”
Beck laughed. “Yeah, I do.”
She released a long, pity-me sigh. “I have to drink milk.”
“Milk is actually good for pretty little girls.”
“Want some mac and cheese? Mommy made lots. We’ve got more chairs, too.” She slid one out and patted it.
Tansy felt like she’d hopped a runaway freight train. How had this gone from Beck being the bad man to her daughter inviting him to dinner?
Before he could answer, Gracie walked to the counter and stood on tiptoe to look in the dish Beck brought. “What’s in here?”
“That’s the best banana puddin’ you’ll ever taste.”
“My grandma’s banana puddin’ is the bestest.”
He rolled his eyes. “Then this is the second best.”
“’Kay.” She turned to her mom. “Can we have banana puddin’ for dessert, Mama?”
“Sure.” Tansy’s manners got the better of her. “Would you like some mac and cheese, Beck?”
She knew that he knew she’d rather have bitten off her tongue than ask. It had to be pretty clear, even to him, that she didn’t want him there tonight.
Still—and maybe because of that—he said, “I’d love some. I haven’t had dinner yet, and I have it on great authority that you make a mean mac and cheese.”
He winked at Gracie, and she giggled.
“Does he have to drink milk, too, Mama?”
When she opened her mouth, more than a little flustered, Beck piped up. “You know what? I’d love a glass of ice-cold milk.”
LYNNETTE AUSTIN gave up the classroom to write full time. An author of eight novels, she has been a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart Contest, PASIC’s Book of Your Heart Contest, and Georgia Romance Writers’ Maggie Contest. She and her husband divide their time between Southwest Florida’s beaches and Blairsville, GA.
1 print copy of Picture Perfect Wedding by Lynnette Austin! (US only)
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Giveaway ends midnight November 8, 2016.