Wedding Night with the Wrong Billionaire
BOOK 2 in the Four Weddings and a Baby Quartet
The man in the runaway bride’s bed? The tycoon she can’t forget!
From jilted bride…
To forbidden fling!
To save her business, Eden Bellamy must marry. When her perfect-on-paper wedding ends in humiliation, she flees…with best man Remy Sylvain! But picking him as her getaway driver might only add fuel to the fire, given that unforgettable kiss they once shared…
Their families’ rivalry makes Remy completely off-limits and Eden always puts her family first. Until it’s impossible for her to bury their red-hot attraction any longer…and, for once, the innocent is tempted to do something just for herself. Would claiming her wedding night with Remy be so very wrong?
USA TODAY bestselling author Dani Collins captivates in this dramatic reunion romance.
Read all the books in Dani’s Four Weddings and a Baby quartet:
Book 1: Cinderella’s Secret Baby
Book 2: Wedding Night with the Wrong Billionaire
Book 3: A Convenient Ring to Claim Her
Book 4: A Baby to Make Her His Bride
Wedding Night with the Wrong Billionaire
BOOK 2 in the
Four Weddings and a Baby Quartet
Was it part of your feud with Micah to ruin my wedding and my company?”
— Eden, Wedding Night with the Wrong Billionaire
I liked the idea of the second one being the jilted bride running away with the best man, but that’s one of those ideas that looks great as a one-line pitch, but when it comes time to execute, I had to ask myself why she runs away with him. How well does she know him? Were they actually involved in the past? Then why did he let her almost marry his best friend? It’s very tricky!
Pretty soon I realized there would have to be a family feud, something that makes it near impossible for them to be together no matter how strongly they’re drawn. It made for all sorts of lovely angst as these two star-crossed lovers (Yep, they became loves the minute they got the chance) as they try to resist what is fated for them. Also, it help me set up the third book, about the bride’s half-brother and the maid-of-honor (Yay!)
Five years ago, Remy kissed Eden in Paris only to have Eden’s brother break them apart. He told her Remy was using her to get at him. She was young, impressionable, heartbroken, and hasn’t felt the same for any man since.
Remy didn’t know Eden was related to the Gould family, but he’s carrying a family secret they can never learn. Five years after their one passionate kiss, he still hasn’t forgotten her. It took all his strength to stand by as she prepares to marry his best friend, but when the wedding falls apart, it’s his one chance to catch her.
I hope you enjoy this series of weddings, secrets, drama, more weddings, and yes, at least one baby!
share this excerpt!
Wedding Night with the Wrong Billionaire
June, Niagara-on-the-Lake, present day…
It was supposed to be the happiest day of her life, but Eden Bellamy wasn’t happy.
She should be. Her groom was a reliable, steady man, exactly like her father. Their marriage would save her father’s company. She’d been stressing over how she would do that since Oscar Bellamy’s death a year ago. She ought to be thrilled to her pedicured toes that she was finally resolving things.
She pretended she was happy. She plastered a smile on her face as her mother dabbed the corners of her eyes and wished Eden’s father was here.
“Me too, Mama. Go take your seat.” I want this over with.
Her mother hurried away. Eden’s heart seemed to follow, stretching out after her the way a child’s might, when their mother left them at preschool for the first time. Wait. Don’t leave me. Save me.
The wedding planner secured the microphone to the sweetheart neckline of her gown and tried to lower Eden’s veil. She stopped her.
“I need to see the stairs.”
Nerves already had her so unsteady, she feared she would tumble down them. Her brother wouldn’t let that happen, of course.
Micah was standing in as Father of the Bride. He wore his habitual stoic expression as he stood at the open doors to the terrace watching Quinn, Eden’s Maid of Honor, coax the bridal party into their positions. She urged the flower girl to take the hand of Eden’s adolescent cousin as they moved to the top of the stairs for the procession down to the lawn.
“Ready?” The wedding planner finished fussing.
“Is it working?” Eden asked of the microphone and heard her own voice come through the speakers outside.
With a pleased smile, the planner melted away. Seconds later, the music paused. The murmur of the crowd silence expectantly.
Eden’s stomach curdled. A dire sense that she was making a colossal mistake condensed around her like a noxious fugue.
He doesn’t want you, she silently screamed at herself, exactly as she had while lying awake last night. As she had every night, in fact, for months. For years.
She tried to recount all the reasons marrying Hunter Waverly made sense, but her thoughts insistently drifted to that other man, the one who barely acknowledged she existed. The one standing beside Hunter right now.
How could seeing him be the only thing about this day that she looked forward to? She would stand near Remy Sylvain while she spoke her vows to another man and he wouldn’t care.
Micah held out a crooked arm.
Tears pressed behind her eyes as she came forward to tuck her hand inside his elbow.
Outside, the lyrical notes of the harp invited her to step over the threshold into her new life. Her heart began to pound so forcefully, the microphone should have picked it up. There was a rushing sound in her ears. Her feet tried to glue themselves to the floor.
I can’t do this, she thought with abject panic.
“You!” A man’s angry voice shouted down below.
It was followed by a plaintive tone from a woman. “Daddy, no! Please!”
“What the hell?” Micah muttered. He strode to the edge of the terrace.
Eden followed and peered down at the hundreds of assembled guests, all facing the pergola where Hunter stood with his groomsmen and the wedding officiant.
A gray-haired man in rumpled clothes shook his finger at Hunter while his daughter, presumably, tugged his arm, begging him to leave. She held a baby, one new enough she was protecting its neck as she cuddled it against her shoulder. The senior shook her off and continued berating Hunter.
“Dad!” the woman cried. “He didn’t know, okay? I never told him!”
After a stunned pause and a charged exchange between father and daughter, Hunter’s voice boomed through the speakers.
“Is it true?”
Eden’s turmoiled brain finally caught up and crashed into what was happening. That old man was claiming the woman’s baby was Hunter’s! Her knees nearly unhinged.
Hunter tore off his microphone and handed it to an usher.
That’s when she realized Remy was looking up at her.
He wore the same morning suit as the rest of the groom’s party, but he wore it so much better. His white shirt and burgundy vest with swirls of gold was positively regal on his muscled torso.
If a man was capable of being elegant and beautiful while maintaining every shred of masculinity, that’s what Remy managed to do. Always. His hair was freshly barbered into a mid-fade, his strong jaw shaved clean. His tall, muscled frame was powerful and unmoving, his demeanor more remote and contained than ever.
He wasn’t shocked by what was going on, though. That’s what struck her like a slap. He was watching to see how shereacted.
Had he arranged this? Was Micah right and Remy was willing to ruin her wedding? Her life?
Beside her, Micah muttered a string of curses. “I’ll kill him. This time, I really will.”
Down in the pergola, Remy nudged Hunter. Hunter followed his gaze up to her. So did the woman. Hunter’s grim expression hardened with culpability.
The farcical energy crackled for two or three seconds longer, long enough for Eden’s heart to be twisted and wrenched inside her chest. Humiliation crept like poison from the pit of her stomach to ache in her cheeks.
The woman with the baby looked equally mortified. Her expression crumpled and she hurried away.
Eden’s numb fingers released her bouquet. It fell off the ledge of the terrace. She dragged her gaze from Remy’s unreadable expression and swept herself back into the Honeymoon Suite of the vineyard’s guest house.
Paris, five years ago…
Eden almost let Quinn go to the Louvre alone. She had been to the museum before and it was always a crush, especially around the most famous painting in the world.
Culture wasn’t her priority when she came to Europe. She wanted to visit her brother and enjoy vacation pursuits like sailing, shopping, swimming or snowboarding.
Quinn liked those things, too, but she hadn’t grown up with money. She was building her future on an education obtained through scholarship and maximized every chance to learn.
Eden respected that. In some ways, she envied Quinn her limitless choice. Eden’s life path was set in stone. She would finish her business degree, inherit Bellamy Home and Garden, and keep it flourishing. She was happy to do so, but she needed a break from the pressure sometimes.
She and Quinn were best friends because they were willing to go along with what the other one wanted to do, though. Whether it was homework, browsing boutiques, or craning to catch a glimpse of a painting through a sea of patrons’ screens, they wanted to hang together and crack dumb jokes for the other’s amusement.
“I thought it would be bigger,” Quinn said, swaying on her tip-toes.
“Haven’t you heard? Size doesn’t matter.”
It was a lame phrase they threw at each other more often than twelve-year-old boys declared, ‘That’s what she said.’
A snort of amusement behind her prompted Eden to glance back.
The breath was stolen clean out of her lungs by a man in distressed denim jeans, suede ankle boots, and a mushroom gray linen jacket over a green shirt with sunflowers on it. His collar was open at his throat, revealing a modest gold pendant nestled against the hollow of his brown throat. A protective saint, perhaps.
Confidence radiated off his tall bearing. His wide shoulders spoke of physical power. He wore his jacket sleeves pushed back, exposing the Montblanc on his wrist. Above his high fade, his black curls were natural and short. His goatee framed his full-lipped mouth. The heavy-lidded gaze that lingered on her sent a gorgeous slithery sensation from her abdomen into places she’d never felt come alive so viscerally.
Her cheeks warmed and her breath shortened as she held his rye-whisky gaze.
“Age matters, though,” Quinn mused in her ear.
Eden sent Quinn a side-eye of ‘shut up’ and returned his smile. She was nineteen, definitely old enough to flirt with someone in his mid-twenties. This was Paris. It was kind of required by law.
“You speak English?” she asked, which wasn’t exactly high-level flirting, but dozens of languages were competing in the din around them. It was a logical opener.
“I do. I’m Canadian. Like you.”
“How do you know we’re Canadian?” Eden cocked her head with curiosity.
“Halifax is hitting her r’s harder than a pirate.” He nodded at Quinn. “And you said ‘sorry’ to the guy who crammed his elbow in your ear.”
“P.E.I., thank you,” Quinn corrected him with mock indignance. “I’m going to try to get closer.” Quinn inserted her shoulder into the crowd.
Eden held out her hand. “Eden. Toronto.” She skipped the second T the way most locals did.
“Remy. Montreal.” He gave it the Québécois pronunciation.
They held hands and gazes until Eden was nudged from behind. She took a step into Remy to catch her balance. Her hand pressed a sunflower to his very firm, warm chest. He steadied her with a grip of her elbow.
“Sorry?” she said wryly, trying to cover up how her knees softened at being so close to him. The flutters in her midsection had become waves of heat that pulsed upward into her breasts and throat. Her cheeks were likely turning pink with a blush because she was tingling all over with acute warmth.
“No problem.” The indent at the corner of his mouth was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen, but his indulgent gaze was a teensy bit rueful. She heard the reserve in his voice as he released her. “Are you au pairs? Or is this a graduation trip? You don’t strike me as backpackers.”
He thought she was fresh out of high school? “I come every year to see my brother.” She was going for sophistication, but probably came off as braggy. “He keeps an apartment here.”
It was more of a penthouse and one of several mansions, villas, and top floor suites. And yes, Micah was in residence. He had arranged the flights and a stupidly generous budget, encouraging her to bring Quinn. Micah was sweet as caramel beneath his titanium crust, but he didn’t want to stand around in boutiques debating chartreuse over pistachio green. Take both and decide later, had been his impatient contribution to their one and only shopping trip together.
“We’re heading back to McGill in September,” Eden clarified.
Remy nodded, restless gaze scanning her face with hints of conflict.
Eden could tell he was trying to decide if she was too young for him. She was inexperienced in some ways, but sophisticated in others. She dated regularly, but men her age seemed like juvenile nitwits when her brother set a bar of dynamic intelligence and shouldered far-reaching responsibilities he had inherited too early from his father.
At home, her own father was a big fish in a small pond, but people still acted weird when they found out who he was, sometimes intimidated, other times opportunistic. She sidestepped revealing her male relations until she got to know strangers better.
“You?” she asked. “Are you on vacation with your wife or…?”
His mouth twitched and his gaze delved more deeply into hers from beneath eyelids that grew heavy with interest.
“I’m single,” he assured her. “Here on business, but I have family—” He winced and glanced at his watch. “I’m meeting my cousin, actually. Now I’m late. Are you in Paris long? My friend owns a night club. I promised to drop by on Friday. Shall I ask him to put you on the list?” He took out his phone.
“That sounds fun. Eden and Quinn.” She didn’t give him her last name, not wanting him to look her up. She didn’t ask him to include Micah, either. Her brother was already behaving like a Victorian guardian who watched too many Liam Neeson movies.
“I’ll arrive around eleven. Don’t let me down. I want to see you again.”
His point and wink was a sensual kick in her blood that kept her buzzing for days as she dragged Quinn along the Champs Elysees in search of the perfect dress. She settled on a silver metal chain dress with a snug halter top and a fringe below the short skirt. Her shoes were four-inch, sequined sandals with straps that spiraled halfway up to her knees.
Quinn picked a strapless green minidress that she chose because it had pockets—big surprise from practical Quinn—but it suited her figure. For once, she wore her gorgeous red hair down, but she was radiating tension on their way to the club.
“Is something wrong?” Eden was so excited she could hardly sit still.
“I’m not sure. I—” She hesitated. Conflict and a desire to evade glinted in her eyes.
Eden prickled with apprehension, but she was distracted by the sign that flashed ‘Until Dawn’ in French.
“That’s it. Jusqu’à l’Aube,” Eden said to Micah’s chauffeur and pointed ahead.
“Long line to get in,” Quinn noted.
“That means it’s popular.” Eden had been a teensy bit worried it would be sketchy, but it was in a lively, upscale arrondissement.
The parade of laughing twenty-somethings were dressed in chic miniskirts and shiny suits. They sent a mixture of curious and hostile glances when the car stopped at the end of the covered walkway into the nightclub and Eden and Quinn emerged.
“They hate us. Why didn’t we get let off at the end?” Quinn asked under her breath.
“We’re on The List.” At least, they had better be. Eden did not want to believe she had fallen for a scam to boost numbers at a club. Remy’s interest in her had felt as immediate and strong as hers in him. If he wasn’t here, well, she would be more devastated than she was prepared to admit.
She nervously gave their names to the greeter and were escorted into the club. Inside, the crowd bounced to the DJ’s pulsing music beneath flashing colored lights. Their hostess showed them to the VIP section where Remy held court on a U-shaped sofa.
He truly was the most gorgeous man, rising and flashing a smile, kissing each of her cheeks as if he was genuinely glad to see her. As if they were longtime friends. Or something more. He wore black trousers over neon pink sneakers and a black T-shirt beneath a blue silk blazer embossed with a pink paisley pattern.
He tried to introduce her and Quinn to his friends, but all Eden heard was that one was his cousin from the museum. The woman wearing long braids and glowing-white nail polish smiled and waved. A couple rose and motioned that they were headed to the dance floor. Two men joined them, making room on the sofa for Eden and Quinn to settle beside Remy.
“Champagne?” Remy reached for one of the open bottles. “Or rum? Something else?”
They chose champagne and he poured. Eden leaned toward Quinn as she accepted hers. “This must be what it feels like to be rich and famous.”
“You are rich and famous,” Quinn teased.
“Not like this.” This was Micah rich.
Quinn smiled her thanks as she took the glass Remy offered. They waited until Remy had topped up his own and clinked, then sipped.
Eden could hardly keep her glass steady. Her senses were on overload as the crush on the sofa had her pressed tightly against Remy, feeling his every shift and move. As he settled back and set his arm on the back of the sofa, his weight tilted her into him. He smelled as good as he looked, like summer and spice and maybe lust, but that might be her.
Their gazes tangled. She wanted to hear everything he might have to say, but she also wanted to stay exactly like this, simmering in sexual excitement. It was far more intoxicating than any bubbly.
His lips grazed her ear as he dipped his head to ask, “Do you want to dance?”
She nodded and glanced at Quinn. She waved at them to go without her, her mouth pursed in rueful acknowledgment that she was in the way. One of Remy’s companions glanced hopefully toward her, but Quinn was already frowning at her phone.
Something was bothering her, but Eden’s hand was in Remy’s and she was too eager to dance. She would question her later.
Remy was so sexy! Being well-dressed, confident, and wealthy wasn’t enough for him. He danced well, too, sinking into the groove while his hands shaped the air around her. He rolled his body and kept his gaze fixed on her, making her feel like the most desirable woman alive.
She loved dancing. Nothing made her feel more beautiful than becoming one with the music—except possibly brushing up against Remy’s chest and thigh, feeling his hand graze her arm and lower back and hip. He brought her hand up over her head and twirled her, then she backed into him, thrilling when he slid his hands down her sides.
This wasn’t dancing. It was foreplay. She had kissed and messed around a little, but always in an experimental way, never feeling this level of potent attraction. Her desire to be closer and touch more of him, to press herself into him, was such a force she thought she would burst from it.
When someone stumbled into her, the spell was nearly broken. Remy quickly drew her off the dancefloor into a shadowed corner at the end of the bar, brow furrowed in concern. His touch skimmed down her arm as he leaned close.
“Are you okay?”
Now she was entranced by how their heads were tilted close, their lips so close.
Acting purely on instinct, she slid her hand up his shoulder and pressed lightly in invitation. His hand splayed on her waist, drawing her in.
She held her breath as the press of their bodies clicked like magnets connecting. A sensation of rightness, of completion, encompassed her as their lips met and slid, parted and sealed.
Joy blossomed within her. He was The One. She knew it from the way his arms closed around her in a way that was both gentle, yet powerful, crushing her into him in the most tender way. Claiming, but telling her she was precious and important.
With the colored lights glinting behind her closed eyelids and the thumping music amplifying her heartbeat, she transcended her human self. For a few seconds, they occupied one common dimension of time and space. There was nothing between them but sparking electricity and acute pleasure. It was perfect. Utterly perfect.
And so hot. She leaned into him a little more. His hand splayed over her bottom and his tongue tagged hers. She twined her arms around his neck and—
He jerked back a step, releasing her so abruptly she staggered to regain her balance. In the same second, he swung around to confront someone.
No. He’d been pulled, she realized. Dragged into a confrontation that quickly turned into a shoving match, one that might have turned to blows, but she suddenly recognized who had attacked him.
“Micah!” she cried in horror. “Stop!”
Tonight was their coming-out as a couple.
Hunter’s sister, Vienna, had introduced Eden to Hunter Waverly last month. They’d begun dating very casually. He was preoccupied by a court case that had threatened his national telecom business, Wave-Com, but the final judgment had come down a few days ago. Hunter was throwing a splashy soiree to celebrate his win and he wanted Eden by his side.
“I want people to know we’re serious. You’ve stuck beside me through a rough time. That bodes well for our future.”
Did he think she had so many prospects that dating him had been an act of loyalty? Given the jeopardy at her own family company, she was actually a liability. She had to come clean before things went any further.
“I don’t want to misrepresent myself,” she told him haltingly. “I need you to understand what you’re getting into before you we talk about whether we have a future.”
Eden had studied hard to prepare herself to take the reins at Bellamy Home and Garden. She had worked in the store front at fourteen and moved to entry level positions at head office when she turned sixteen. Through university, she had taken on greater responsibilities, running marketing campaigns and negotiating buyer agreements and working on inclusion policies with HR.
She had believed she was earning the respect of the board along the way. When her father had passed, she had thought she had everyone’s support as the next president of BH&G.
Knives had promptly come out, however. She discovered that movements toward a coup had begun when her father’s health had declined. As economic storms had battered the company, a handful of acquisitive shareholders had injected capital with a ticking time-bomb sort of clause. If they didn’t earn a guaranteed return by the end of next year, they would assume controlling interest.
They were already trying to oust Eden. If she didn’t fight with every cell of her being, her family’s legacy would be a pitiful headline bemoaning the demise of ‘another’ Canadian institution. All options were on the table, including an arranged marriage.
“That’s why I let Vienna introduce us. I didn’t want to bring it up when you were battling your own dragons, but I can’t keep quiet about it any longer.”
Hunter listened with equanimity. “I do have experience with dragons,” he said dryly, having just triumphed over one. “I’m sure we can work out a win-win.”
For the first time in a long time, Eden allowed herself a shred of optimism. Her smile natural as she stood next to Hunter, greeting his guests. Maybe she wasn’t in love with him, but she had every reason to believe she could love him. Eventually.
Not a frothy, heart-twisting infatuation, either. She didn’t want that awful thing that continued to strike a pang of yearning through her soul. Whatever she had thought she had felt that long-ago night in Paris had been a deliberate play by a scoundrel on her youthful pheromones. It hadn’t been real so it shouldn’t haunt her.
It did, though. He did. Every man was measured against that illusion, even Hunter. He was the first to come close, but even he was found wanting for the crime of not being him. Worse, even the times she did feel a smidge of curiosity about a man, she felt so humiliated by her gullibility, she didn’t trust her own judgment.
If Vienna hadn’t set them up, she wouldn’t have trusted Hunter. Even then, she had made it clear she wanted to take things slow. They hadn’t had sex and probably wouldn’t until they were married. Hunter said he was fine with that.
Maybe if he had lit her fire the way Remy had, she might have lost her virginity by now, but the only man who had ever made her crave sex was her brother’s mortal enemy.
It was confusing and made her wonder if she possessed some hidden kink that yearned for the forbidden.
“There he is,” Hunter said with warm affection, excusing them from their conversation with a couple from New York and drawing her toward a man that made her entire body feel as though it iced over, becoming heavy and unwieldly.
“Eden, this is Remy Sylvain. Eden Bellamy,” Hunter introduced, adding to Remy, “You’ll remember I said Vi was setting me up? Turns out she has a talent for match-making.”
Somehow, Remy had become even more freaking handsome. More mesmerizing. His beard was a narrow chinstrap, his hair shorter, his face matured by the nearly five years since she’d met him so briefly in Paris. He still had obscenely great fashion sense, wearing a closely-tailored suit in dark merlot over a black shirt and tie.
The flash of his dark-gold gaze cut across her like a scythe, practically taking her knees out from beneath her. “It’s nice to meet you.” His voice was cool. He offered his hand.
As it penetrated that he was pretending they had never met, she placed her limp hand in his, clammy skin burning on contact with his hot palm.
A lifetime of cultivated manners had the words, “It’s nice to meet you, too,” slipping from her lips. It wasn’t nice. It was a deadly shock. How was no one noticing that her jaw had fallen onto the floor?
He shook her hand in a perfunctory way. Not hard or hurtful, but she felt his hardness toward her before he released her, as though she had burned him.
She felt hurt, which was so stupid! She didn’t want to feel anything for him or about him, least of all rejected. He hadn’t truly wanted her in the first place.
Her mind raced, trying to work out whether he would blurt something out in front of Hunter. Should she say something? She had only just got her life back on track!
She couldn’t speak anyway. Her heart was in her throat, cutting off her voice. Her breasts tightened and her cheeks were on fire.
The memory of Paris was detonating in her mind, but so was Micah’s insistence afterward that she, Forget it happened.
Also, Hunter hated scenes. His stepmother was notorious for them. He would dump her if he knew what a drama had unfolded back then. She would be back to square one, looking for a husband who possessed enough scratch—and enough courage—to save her company.
Her stomach knotted in anticipation of Remy saying something, but he kept his expression neutral and polite.
“Congratulations on the win,” he was saying to Hunter, exchanging a more heartfelt handshake and shoulder-squeeze with him. “You deserve it.”
“Thanks. How’s your family? Is Yasmine still in New York?”
Eden stood there in a fog, waiting for Remy to look her in the eye again while he and Hunter briefly caught up. Remy turned his head her way a couple of times, appearing to include her in the conversation, but he looked past her and through her every time.
He was really pretending they were strangers! Even though his lips had been on hers. His hands had fondled her backside. She had felt his erection against her stomach.
The backs of her eyes stung and her heart pounded so hard she nearly swayed under the impact. It was Hunter’s night, though. This wasn’t the time or place to confront Remy about old wounds.
Why did those wounds feel so fresh?
“I hate to be the guy who fails to stick around for the toasts, but I have commitments elsewhere. I’ll say hello to Vienna before I go, though.” Remy scanned the room. “I’m happy you’re finally able to put this behind you.”
“Thank you. Us, too. Let’s get a beer soon. I’ll put Vienna on the hunt. We can double-date.” It was pure facetiousness on Hunter’s part and spoke to how close the men were that he would make a joke like that.
“Sure.” Remy made a tight noise that held no actual humor.
Was she the only one who noticed? That cynical scrape of sound made her heart shrink in her chest.
“I’ll text you,” Remy said to Hunter, sending another streak of apprehension through Eden. He added an absent nod in Eden’s direction before he slipped through the crowd to the other side of the room.
They were quickly approached by someone else, but Eden was distracted. She couldn’t imagine a more hurtful way for Remy to behave toward her. At least if he were angry or hurled accusations, she would have known he felt something toward her, even if it was hatred. His cool disinterest only confirmed what Micah had told her, that Remy had been using her as a tool of spite.
“Okay?” Hunter asked, perhaps noticing her silence.
“Tiny headache. I’ll be fine,” she assured him with a wan smile.
She felt sick, though. Her inner radar tracked Remy for the next half hour before he waved at Hunter on his way to the exit.
Hunter nodded and Remy melted away.
As much as his presence here had turned this party into a pressure cooker of anticipating disaster, now she felt bereft. Why? Why did she have to feel this way about someone she had only met three times? Someone who had cared absolutely nothing about her?
She lurched her way through the rest of the evening, mind churning with trying to work out whether she should tell Hunter that she had once kissed Remy in Paris.
At face value, it sounded laughably innocent. A kiss stopped by a protective older brother. The night was more embarrassing than anything. It wasn’t as if she’d given him her virginity or shared her deepest held secrets.
Micah had acted as though Remy had attacked her, though. He had shoved him and Remy had shoved back. Micah had made threats. Not the, “Ha-ha I’ll kill you if you touch my sister” kind. No. Micah had been dead serious and things might have become truly violent if Eden hadn’t thrown herself between them. Quinn had rushed up to grab Micah’s arm. It had been awful.
Micah had never fully explained what had happened, only insisting that Remy had targeted her to strike at him. We have history. It’s not your fault. Forget this ever happened. When Eden got home to Toronto and brought it up with her mother, Lucille had been distraught, but also very cryptic. Just leave it, pet.
Eden had spent years trying to forget. She had concentrated on finishing school, worked alongside her father, cared for him and buried him, taking over at Bellamy Home and Garden after he was gone.
Now BH&G was hanging by a thread. As Hunter drove her home after the party, she tentatively asked, “How do you know Remy?”
“University. We shared some classes and a similar life experience, I guess. We were both taking over our respective empires. We don’t have time to see much of each other these days, but it’s one of those friendships where we pick up where we left off. I expect he’ll be the best man at our wedding.”
Her stomach tensed as if receiving a blow. His words sent her mind tilting off-kilter while the streetlamps flickered in her eyes.
Say something, she urged herself. Say something now. But she didn’t want to malign his best friend. Was that why Remy had pretended he didn’t know her? To protect Hunter finding out how low he could sink?
What if Remy turned it around and made it about her and Micah? Would he see this relationship as another chance to take a swipe at her brother?
“Am I rushing you?” Hunter asked with quiet caution. “I thought that’s what we meant when we said we were serious.”
“No. Um, I mean, a little. You caught me by surprise.” She tried to brush away her misgivings and not ruin the opportunity before her. With a tremulous smile that was equal parts hope and trepidation, she said, “I would love to hear what you’re proposing.”
His mouth quirked at her pun. A few days later, he presented a detailed business proposal that included a prenuptial agreement.
That brought Micah flying into town, which worked for Eden. She cornered him before they left to meet Hunter for dinner.
“I should tell you something before we go. Hunter knows Remy Sylvain.”
“I know.” Micah slipped his phone into his pocket, giving her his full attention. His expression had hardened to granite.
“Did you have Hunter investigated?” she hissed with outrage.
“The Waverlys have skeletons falling out of every second closet. Of course, I peeked in the open ones.” He shrugged, not the least bit remorseful. “Waverly and Sylvain are school friends. Aside from a weekend golfing last summer, they rarely see one another. They don’t have financial ties. I don’t think Sylvain is conspiring with Waverly to use you to get at me, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
It had crossed her mind and she hated that she had become so mistrustful.
“There’s nothing for Waverly to gain by that,” Micah continued in his detached tone. “He needs the appearance of stability and wholesomeness that you bring to this union as much as you need his cash. A fresh scandal is the very last thing he wants. I’m confident he’s acting in good faith, but I’ll say again, you don’t have to marry him.”
She held up her hand, forestalling that heavily belabored argument.
“Just tell me one thing. Does Mama’s refusal to let me accept your money have anything to do with the feud between you and Remy?”
“Look.” His brows settled into a line of frustrated concern. “I knew your father was having money trouble a few years ago. I offered to help. Mama asked me to stay out of it. I understand her aversion to taking my father’s money. His parents always believed she got pregnant on purpose and married him for his wealth. She refuses to fuel that misconception. I respect that, but you’re in charge of BG&H now. You can make a different decision.”
She sighed, wishing she could, but their mother had already told her she would rather lose the company than save it with Micah’s father’s money. Eden thought Lucille was taking pride a little too far, but she also wanted to respect their mother’s wishes.
“And Remy? Why does he hate you?”
Micah hissed out a sigh. “Remy’s father worked for mine. He stole proprietary information for our competitor.”
“Industrial espionage?” Eden thought that was something that only happened in films.
“There was gossip that he was retaliating for an affair between my father and Remy’s mother. All sides denied that and Remy’s father has always claimed he was robbed. My father was never able to prove that he was paid to steal the schematics, but he moved his family to Canada and started an airline. You do the math.”
“Okay.” She took that in and saw the bad blood it would create. “But that’s history between your father and his. Why do you hate him?”
“He went after you.”
Her heart lurched in remembered anguish.
“Don’t you think…” She felt credulous even saying it. “Isn’t it possible we met by accident and he actually liked me?”
“No, Eden, I don’t.” Micah’s voice was gentle, but heavy with reluctant truth, which made it all the more awful to hear. With another sigh, he hung his hands on his hips. “You remember when I was supposed to come live here? I started school and all the rest?”
“There was an incident with Remy back then. I don’t want to get into it. It was kid stuff, but my father overreacted. As he was wont to do.” His expression darkened. “The bottom line is, I knew it was between the two of them and let it go. Remy hasn’t. Years have gone by and we have both taken over our respective companies, but do you think his will entertain a bid from us for any of their projects? Never.” He sliced his hand through the air. “And that’s fine. I don’t care if he wants to be petty. I don’t need work that badly, but a few weeks before that night in Paris, I bought a vineyard his family had been trying to purchase. I didn’t know that. I was in the right place at the right time with the right price. He was obviously annoyed and that’s why he went after you.”
She hugged herself, stung afresh by the thought of being used.
“Should I tell Hunter all of that?”
“I’ll tell him what he needs to know, which is that if he wants to marry you, he needs to find a different best man.”
“Oh, don’t.” Panic stung her veins. She wasn’t sure why. She told herself it was anxiety that the feud would only escalate, but it was more insidious than that. She didn’t want to push Remy away. Deep down where she barely wanted to acknowledge her desires, she wanted to see him again.
“Let’s be adults,” she urged. “If Remy is prepared to act as if he doesn’t know me—”
“You’ve seen him?”
“Briefly. And I don’t want to sabotage what I have with Hunter by making him choose between me and his friend.”
“You’re determined to marry him, then?”
“Hunter?” Of course, Hunter. “Yes.” She lifted her chin, trying to sound confident when she was still a scattered mess. “If he’ll have me.”
“Do you love him?”
“Not yet.” She bit her lip. “Do you think that’s bad?”
Micah snorted. “Romantic love is a pretty bow people put on things like desire for sex and fear of death. This kind of caring is what matters.” He pointed between them and tucked his chin to send her a look of exasperated affection. “I will always look out for your best interest. I want you to be comfortable and content. I believe this marriage—not Hunter, per se, but the marriage he’s proposing—will meet your needs. I’m glad you’re going into it with a practical mindset rather than telling me you can’t live without him. In that respect, it’s good that you’re not in love with him.”
“Thanks, I guess,” she said dryly.
“His poor taste in friends concerns me, though. I’ll keep a close eye on Sylvain. If he steps one millimeter out of line…” He left the threat hanging.
* * *
In the end, she told Hunter a pale version of the truth.
“I met Remy years ago at a night club. It was one dance so I’m not surprised he didn’t recognize me. He and Micah aren’t on the friendliest of terms, though. I didn’t want to make anything of it, especially at your party.”
“I appreciate that,” Hunter said solemnly. “I’ve had enough scenes in my life.”
He seemed to let it go, but a few days later, Hunter said, “I spoke with Remy. He said his beef with Micah is firmly in the past. He doesn’t want to revisit it, which is why he acted as though he didn’t know you. He offered to drop out of the wedding if there’s a conflict.”
“Don’t be silly. It’s your wedding, too! You should have the best man you want.” What was wrong with her? She didn’t want to see Remy again. Did she?
If that was her motive, she was disappointed. He only appeared once before the wedding, at the engagement party.
Eden thought she had adequately braced herself to see him again, but the second he came into the room—before she even saw him with her eyes—a tingling sensation prickled across her skin.
She looked up and he was looking right at her.
The ground fell away. She was both soaring and plummeting, hot and cold, happy and aching with loss.
Once again, he was devilishly handsome and painfully indifferent. Once again, he made his excuses as he arrived.
“I’m flying to Martinique tonight, but I wanted to extend my well wishes.” He didn’t kiss her cheek the way everyone else had, only shook her hand very briefly.
She closed her fist around the sensation to keep it lingering on her palm.
“We should honeymoon in Martinique,” Hunter said, glancing at her.
Did Remy flinch? “Rainy season starts in June.”
“Right. Forgot about that. Niagara Falls, then, since we’ll be in the neighborhood.” Hunter winked. It was a joke. Micah had already offered his island villa in Greece. “We’re marrying at Niagara-on-the-Lake,” Hunter explained to Remy.
“Oh?” Remy’s tone was impossible to decipher, but it was weighted with…something. Remy held Hunter’s gaze and Remy’s eyes narrowed with— Eden couldn’t tell what that was. Significance. A question?
Hunter’s face went oddly blank. Something in the exchange made the back of Eden’s neck prickle, but Hunter glanced at her.
“It was Eden’s decision.” Hunter was inviting her to fill in the blanks.
“Oh. Um, my aunt has a vineyard there.” Eden’s voice was thin and unsteady. Hopefully, the men attributed it to bridal nerves. “Weddings are her specialty.” And it was the Bellamy family brand that they support Canadian merchants whenever possible.
“Do you have a lot of family attending?” Remy’s hammered-gold irises flashed a spark into her eyes that left them stinging. A hot sensation filled her chest and swam up to her throat, suffocating her words.
“Most of my relations live in the GTA. My brother bases himself in Berlin these days.” She fought to steady her tone. “He’ll step in as Father of the Bride.”
She waited, ears straining for Remy’s reaction.
The silence went on a pulsebeat too long.
Hunter must have misread the thinness in her tone. His warm hand squeezed her shoulder. “I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t call you right after Vienna suggested setting us up. Maybe I could have met him. Oscar Bellamy sounds like he was a good man.”
It was her cue to say her father would have liked him, but she could only manage a weak smile. Her father never would have asked her to marry to save the company. He had fallen for her mother the minute he met her and waited as long as he had to.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Remy said distantly. His gaze flicked to Hunter’s hand on her shoulder then slipped past her. His cheek ticked. “I should say hello to Vienna.”
Vienna is married, Eden wanted to scream for no particular reason at all.
“I’m arranging my own bachelor party. My PA is,” Hunter corrected with a wry cant of his head. “Golf in the Okanagan. I’ll have her send you the dates.”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Remy said with a tight smile. One final, flashing glance landed on her before he nodded and walked away.
Her brother had already said he wouldn’t be back until the wedding, but Eden could have wept at the strain that continued to hold her taut. This felt like a twisted game of chicken where Remy was calling her bluff, waiting to see if she would go through with marrying Hunter while she waited to see if he would interfere and disrupt it.
As the weeks toward the wedding counted down, she began to believe that Remy would let the wedding happen. She needed this marriage so she ought to have been relieved. She only grew more anxious.
When Remy missed the wedding rehearsal at the vineyard, the night before the wedding, she asked Hunter with as much levity as she could muster, “Are you sure the rings will arrive on time?”
“I have them. Remy texted. He’s running late, but he’s on the road. He’ll arrive tonight. Everything will go smoothly tomorrow. I promise.”
She smiled as if she believed him, but a jagged lump sat in her chest.
The lump stayed there, abrading behind her breastbone, right up until the wedding planner said, “Ready?”