Title: Broken Wide Open
Author: Susan Griscom
Genre: Contemporary Romanic Suspense
Editor: Chelle Olson from Literally Addicted to Detail
At an exotic resort, miles from home…
He was just a man she met while enjoying a little un-honeymoon revenge on her husband of all of three hours.
They became friends. No last names, no promises, commitments, or ties.
He becomes her boss.
But is he the man she believes him to be?
She thought so, until everything becomes broken wide open.
Including her heart.
Susan Griscom writes paranormal and contemporary romance. She’s hooked on sexy romances and is a huge fan of superheroes and bad boys confronted with extraordinary forces of nature, powers, and abilities beyond the norm mixed with steamy romance, of course.
She loves those days when she gets to sit around in her sweat pants, doing nothing but writing emotionally charged stories about love and violence.
She lives in Northern California in wine country and one of her favorite weekend excursions is wine tasting with the love of her life. Together, she and her romantic husband have five great superhero kids and eight mini-superhero grand kids, so far.
**Unedited and subject to change**
How many times can a heart be broken?
Mine has been broken twice.
My mother, Sofie Davidson, formally Sofie Brighton, always said that losing a spouse from death was easier than going through a divorce. She ought to know, she’d been through both. The divorce from my stepfather two years ago had been devastating to my mother. Oliver Davidson had raised me from the time I was six as if I’d been his own daughter. But their divorce didn’t break my heart. To my mother’s dismay, Oliver was still in my life, still playing the role of doting father. He even walked me down the aisle today when I got married with my mother flanking my other arm.
My father, Pierce Brighton, had died when I was four. Some freak accident that my mother never wanted to talk about. That was a dark day. My mother stood at the front door crying while two policemen politely tipped their hats, saying how sorry they were for her loss. The rest of the conversation is jumbled in my head. All I remember or understood at the time was that my daddy wasn’t coming home anymore. That was the first time my heart had been broken wide open.
I squeezed my eyes shut as I thought back to that day wishing he could have been here with me now. But in truth, I couldn’t have asked for a better father than Oliver has been. That was in the past. Today was my future. Then I took a deep cleansing breath, embracing the new life I was about to partake. The ceremony had turned out perfectly. Sprinkles of rose pedals flanked each side of the aisle as we approached the archway where Craig stood with all his entourage of best friends. Along with his best man, Joel, there were five groomsmen standing by, which meant I had five bridesmaids in addition to my maid of honor, Lissa. I didn’t really have that many best friends. Two would have been my choice, Kristen and Lissa, but Craig had insisted we have his six good buddies in the wedding. I’d asked a couple of the girls from the restaurant I’d managed along with his two sisters. It turned out to be just right. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect ceremony. Craig looked gorgeous in his dark tux. He wore a white rose on his lapel and his light brown hair was combed back away from his face instead of hanging down over his forehead like it normally did, partially shielding his beautiful blue eyes, which sparkled with love today. Or maybe it was lust. I had t admit I’d been feeling a little lusty myself when I’d seen him standing there as I walked down the aisle and the way he’d grinned during the ceremony I had to hope he was thinking of what he’d be doing later. He looked amazing.
The reception hall exploded with music, food, and laughter. Twenty tables, each graced with white rose bouquet center pieces, circled the dance floor where Craig and I’d just finished all the customary dances. I’d danced with Oliver, while Craig had danced with his mother. Shortly after that, Craig excused himself, kissed me on the cheek and took off toward a group of his buddies he’d gone to college with. I watched him walk. His cool swagger ignited a heat within my core. He was gorgeous. He was mine. All six-foot two inches of taut muscle and smooth flesh. All mine. Lust aroused as I thought about what the evening had in store for us. When he reached the guys, he took the shot glass one of them held out, filled with something I assumed was Jack Daniels.
A fast tune blared from the speakers as the D-Jay stood behind a large black console pushing buttons on his equipment. Couples danced, mostly women bopping to the beat with each other as their husbands, boyfriends, or dates stood around drinking beer or cocktails solving all the problems of the world.
“Grace! Come on. You can’t miss this. It’s your wedding.” Kristen grabbed my arm and tugged me into the line dance that had quickly formed in the middle of the room. Her soft green gown flowed over the floor along with her and I giggled trying my best to keep up. Line dancing wasn’t exactly my strong suit. I managed a restaurant and bar, or had until I’d met Craig. I’d always been the one standing back watching all the fun from the other side of the bar. Until that night he walked through the room. His eyes caught mine. He smirked then proceeded to ignore me for an hour. I only knew he was ignoring me because I couldn’t stop glancing over at the table where he sat with his back to me while he laughed and joked with his friends. It was almost an hour to the minute before he came up to the bar and asked what time I got off work. I’d been completely taken by surprise. Here was this gorgeous man who could probably have had any woman in the entire bar—of which there were at least half a dozen beautiful ladies milling about—and he was asking me what time I finished. I’d taken a step back, unsure he was even speaking to me. To this day, I still wonder what it was about me that attracted him to me that night. I hadn’t exactly been dressed with the intention of attracting a guy, especially someone like Craig. I had very little make-up on and my hair hadn’t been washed for three days. In fact, I’d had to pull it back into a pony tail just to make it through another day before shampooing again. My hair was waist long and took forever to dry and style.
When I didn’t answer Craig right away, he’d asked again. I stammered a bit, but then found my voice and told him seven-thirty. He then informed me that he’d be waiting for me at the front door because he was taking me to dinner. I thought for sure he’d just been kidding around, but there he was standing at the door at seven-thirty. I hadn’t been in the habit of dating customers, but there was something about Craig that I couldn’t resist.
Kristen grabbed my hand, pulling me out of my reverie. She gave me a, what’s-wrong-with-you look and I realized I’d been so engrossed in my thoughts of Craig that I’d been standing there beside her without moving. “Sorry.” I smiled and began to copy what the other dancers were doing, but as hard as I tried to follow the gal’s steps in front of me, I still messed up. Just as I was beginning to get the turns down, the confusing and exhausting line dance ended. I wrapped my arms around Kristen as we laughed and hugged each other.
“That was nuts,” I proclaimed, holding my hand over my chest trying desperately to catch my breath.
“It would have been easier if you’d moved your feet more in the beginning.” She laughed. “I bet you were daydreaming about Craig, right? I know I would have been. Grace, you just married the most eligible and richest bachelor in this county. You must be ecstatic!”
Not to mention maybe a little overwhelmed, I thought to myself. Then I ran my fingertips down the delicate white lace and pearl gown I wore to smooth it out. I’d found the dress online. At first, my mother had squawked at the idea of purchasing a wedding dress online. She couldn’t imagine not being able to try it on first and she was a little disappointed not to be able to go out shopping for it. She’d always told me that was something she’d been looking forward to since the day I was born. I had assured her though, that no matter what, it could always be altered. When it arrived, all her doubts were forgotten as soon as I lifted it out of the package. It was the most gorgeous gown we’d ever set eyes on. It was sleeveless with scalloped bodice and fell low in the back followed by a line of tiny pearl buttons. The delicate material hugged my rear end, then draped to the floor, fanning out behind me.
“The wedding was beautiful. And you make the most beautiful bride, Grace. I know Craig has been so utterly enamored by you today,” Kristin said. “He couldn’t keep his eyes off of you during the ceremony.”
And I hadn’t been able to tear mine away from his either. This had been a fairy tale day to be sure. Kristen embraced me then bounced her way back onto the dance floor to join a small group of ladies bopping to the tune of ACDC’s, “You Shook Me All Night Long.” The giddiness building up inside of me, made me want to shout with glee and I couldn’t contain the smile on my face as I went in search of my new husband. New as of about three hours ago. I believed it was time to cut the cake.
Glancing around the large ballroom of the Terra d’Oro for my husband, elated about referring to Craig as my husband, I didn’t spot him anywhere. I strolled across the wooden dance floor and headed for the door to the outside patio, passing decorated tables cluttered with empty and half full glasses of champagne, sidestepping guests with a polite apologetic, I’ll-be-right-back-gesture with my finger, in search of the man I’d be sleeping with every night for the rest of my life. The patio was much like the inside with partially filled glasses of champagne and other mixed cocktails. Oliver hadn’t skimped on the amenities; that was for certain. He hadn’t even made a remark when my mother announced that there had to be an open bar at her only daughter’s wedding. I never had any doubts about Oliver’s love for me. He’d adopted me as his own shortly after he’d married my mom. When they divorced two years ago, he made it quite clear that he would always be a part of my life. That, I was, for all intents and purposes, still his daughter and would always be. So of course, when it came to funding the wedding, he was all in, even though I had assured him that it wasn’t necessary since Craig’s family was essentially wealthy and had offered to fund the event, but Oliver would hear of it.
At least Craig’s parents were pleased with the way the wedding turned out. His parents lived on the Tiburon Peninsula, a ritzy neighborhood in the hills across the bay from San Francisco where the average priced home ranged from one point five million to fifteen million dollars.
I searched around the small gatherings of various guests for Craig, but didn’t see him anywhere. Where was he?
“Gracie,” Joel, Craig’s best man sang my name as he sidled up close to me and draped his arm around my shoulders.
I laughed. “Joel, are you drunk?”
“Nope. But I’m on my way. It’s not every day one of the four Kemosabes gets hitched.” The endearing term used by the four grown men since—I was told—the fourth grade, came out a bit slurred, but most definitely understood. “You’ve stolen him away with your charm and our little private club will never be the same.”
I laughed again. “Trust me; I’ll do my best to make sure Craig always stays close friends with all of you.”
“You better, or I’ll just have to steal you away from him. You’re too good for him anyway.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, but… have you seen Craig? I haven’t been able to find him.”
He pursed his lips together making tiny wrinkles on his lips as he peered over me, his eyes narrowing as he searched the area. “He’s not out here. Last time I saw him he was at the bar with Clancy.”
“Okay thanks,” I said and slipped away before he had a chance to stop me and searched for Clancy, aka Les Clancy, another member of said Kemosabes. Clancy was right where I thought he’d be. Still standing at the bar where I’d seen him last having a shot of something with Craig. But no Craig anywhere in sight. I sighed. I didn’t want to talk to Les, I just wanted my husband.
“Grace!” Kristen caught my arm again. “Come dance.”
“Later. I need to find Craig. Have you seen him?”
She shook her head. “I’m sure he’s around here somewhere. It’s his wedding.” She gave me that silly grin she had when ever she’d been drinking and twirled back onto the dance floor, ignoring me. God, was everyone drunk at this wedding except me? I just hoped Oliver was still okay with having to pay for all the booze that seemed to be slipping way too easily down everyone’s throats. I walked out into the hallway. I might as well take advantage of the time and visit the ladies room, which was all the way down at the other end of the hallway. I passed a couple a closed doors on the way and strolled by one left slightly ajar. I back-stepped as I heard someone moaning. I stopped and heard it again. Thinking someone was ill, I pushed the door all the way open and stared at the two bodies entangled in a frenzied heat.