Joyfully His (Sterling Canyon Book 4)

By: Jamie Beck

Chapter One

Andy downed his second martini and set the empty glass on the makeshift bar before he acknowledged Mrs. Mayer’s side-eye.

“You’re not driving tonight, Andy, are you?” She peered down the length of her nose at him, one bushy gray brow arched.

“No.” He braced against the inevitable shame he felt anytime someone reminded him he couldn’t be trusted. Lately, however, the judgment of a neighbor bent on shaming him also provoked his temper.

Yes, he’d gotten drunk at a happy hour two years ago, and, yes, he’d gotten behind the wheel and injured Grey Lowell. A plea bargain had reduced the felony charges to misdemeanors—contingent upon the completion of a lengthy probation. Following his final visit with his parole officer last month, he’d hoped the townsfolk would let him put that chapter behind him, even though, deep down, he probably never would.

And apparently, neither would they. His one shameful mistake had depleted any goodwill he’d built throughout his life, casting doubt on everything everyone knew about him. Now they watched, waiting for him to screw up again.

His criminal record also meant he faced an uphill battle when it came to getting back his old job as a ski instructor. And despite his many regrets about that night, and the fact he’d paid for his crime, his reputation might never recover in this small town. For the first time since the end of his sentence, he was having a drink. Yet people like Mrs. Mayer still looked at him as if he hadn’t learned his lesson.

Mrs. Mayer sniffed. “Glad to hear it.”

He smiled at her, unwilling to say anything that might disrupt Emma’s wedding reception. Emma Duffy, one of the best friends a guy could have. He’d given up his little crush on her once she’d become seriously involved with Wyatt, but he still worked for her here at her inn. He should be grateful that she’d given him this job when so many had turned him away, but, man, he missed his old life on the slopes and the crew of instructors.

Biting his tongue until it bled, he turned his back on Mrs. Mayer and wandered into the crowd in search of his twin sister, Avery. If it weren’t for her, he might’ve left Sterling Canyon as soon as his probation had lifted. Gone somewhere else to start over. Somewhere people didn’t watch his every move and whisper behind his back.

But he loved his twin, and she was pregnant. Anytime he thought about being a long-distance uncle, he decided to tough it out here at home.

He’d nearly made it out of the congested lobby when he bumped into the bride. Sheer joy tinted Emma’s pale skin with a rosy hue tonight, which made him smile.

She hugged him, her veil tickling his nose. “Oh, Andy, thank you. The place looks amazing.”

The temporary transformation of the old B and B had been his wedding gift. Emma and Wyatt weren’t flush, which was one reason they’d held the wedding reception here at her inn. She’d even prepared a lot of the food herself to save money. Personally, that made Andy happy because he’d always loved her cooking.

Still, he wanted some part of her wedding day to look and feel like a fairy tale. Although Andy wasn’t rolling in dough, either, he was handy.

With Christmas less than two weeks away, he went with that theme. Emma had always loved Christmas traditions, so he’d made use of the abundant fir trees in town and hung boughs of evergreen tied with red ribbon all around the first floor. He’d also dug through his family’s extra boxes of white Christmas lights and solicited his few friends for extras.

With hundreds of yards of strands in hand, he’d strung them throughout the lobby, parlor, and dining room. He’d hit the discount store to purchase dozens of white pillar candles, then driven up to Montrose to a wholesale florist. Abundant blooms and soft candlelight hid the defects of the array of mismatched vases he’d collected.

As a final touch, he’d swathed the banisters and decorative columns in shimmering white organza to give the old Victorian a look of bygone elegance. The entire first floor now twinkled, just as Emma deserved.

He kissed her cheek. “You’re welcome. But as nice as this all looks, it’s got nothing on you. I’ve never seen a prettier bride.”

Gorgeous would be the right word. Like the inn, she’d been transformed. She’d traded in her sweats and loose-fitting sweaters for a sleek, vintage-style satin sheath. Exchanged her standard ponytail for loopy red curls framing her face beneath a simple veil. A little extra eyeliner around those emerald eyes gave her a definite femme fatale quality this evening.

She squeezed his hand and smirked. “I won’t tell your sister you said so.”

“Speaking of Avery, have you seen her?”

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