Wanted by Her Lost Love

By: Maya Banks

One




“Almost enough to make you believe in the fine institution of marriage, isn’t it?” Ryan Beardsley said as he watched his friend, Raphael de Luca, dance with his radiant new bride, Bryony.

The reception was taking place inside Moon Island’s small, nondescript municipal building. It wasn’t exactly where Ryan imagined any of his friends would host a wedding reception, but he supposed it was fitting that Rafe and Bryony would marry here on the island where so much of their relationship had been forged.

The bride positively glowed, and the swell of her belly added to her beauty. They stood in the middle of the makeshift dance floor, Bryony tucked into Rafe’s protective hold, and they were so focused on each other that Ryan doubted the world around them existed. Rafe looked like he’d been handed the universe, and maybe he had.

“They look disgustingly happy,” Devon Carter said next to him.

Ryan chuckled and looked up to see Dev holding a glass of wine in one hand, his other shoved into the pocket of his slacks.

“Yeah, they do.”

Dev’s mouth twisted in annoyance and Ryan chuckled again. Devon himself wasn’t very far away from a trip down the aisle, and he wasn’t taking it with good grace. Still, he couldn’t resist needling his friend.

“Copeland still putting the screws to you?”

“And how,” Devon muttered. “He’s determined for me to marry Ashley. He won’t budge on the deal unless I agree. And now that we’ve relocated the resort and begun construction, I’m ready to get on with the next step. I don’t want him to lose confidence over this blown deal. Problem is, he’s insisted on a dating period. He wants Ashley to be comfortable around me. I swear I think the man believes he lives in the eighteen hundreds. Who the hell arranges a marriage for their daughter anymore? And why the hell would you make marriage a condition of business? I can’t wrap my head around it.”

“There are worse women to marry, I’m sure,” Ryan said, thinking of his own narrow escape.

Devon winced in sympathy. “Still no word on Kelly?”

Ryan frowned and shook his head. “No. But I only just started looking. She’ll turn up.”

“Why are you looking for her, man? Why would you even want to go back down that road? Forget about her. Move on. You’re better off without her. You’re out of your mind for pursuing this.”

Ryan curled his lip and turned to look at his friend. “I have no doubt I’m better off. I’m not looking for her so I can welcome her back into my life.”

“Then why did you hire an investigator to find her, for God’s sake? You’d be better off letting the past stay in the past. Get over her. Move on.”

Ryan was silent for a long moment. It wasn’t a question he could entirely answer. How could he explain the burning desire to know where she was? What she was doing. If she was all right. He shouldn’t care, damn it. He should forget all about her, but he couldn’t.

“I want some answers,” he finally muttered. “She never cashed the check I gave her. I’d just like to know that nothing has happened to her.”

The excuse sounded lame even to him.

Devon raised an eyebrow and sipped at the expensive wine. “After what she pulled, I’d imagine she’s feeling pretty damn stupid. I wouldn’t want to show my face either.”

Ryan shrugged. “Maybe.” But he couldn’t shake the feeling that it was something more. Why was he even worried? Why should he care?

Why hadn’t she cashed the check?

Why couldn’t he get her out of his mind? She haunted him. For six months, he had cursed her, lain awake at night wondering where she was and if she was safe. And he hated that he cared, even though he convinced himself he’d worry about any woman under the same circumstances.

Devon shrugged. “Your time and your dime. Oh, look, there’s Cam. Wasn’t sure Mr. Reclusive would actually crawl out of that fortress of his for the event.”

Cameron Hollingsworth shouldered his way through the crowd, and people instinctively moved to get out of his way. He was tall and broad chested, and he wore power and refinement like most other people wore clothing. The stone set of his demeanor made him unapproachable by most. He could be a mean son of a bitch, but he could usually be counted on to relax around his friends.

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