Actually, he'd never really cared about the scar, but what was the point in clarifying things twenty years after the accident that had sliced up his face?
Before he could respond, his father poked his head into the room, obviously looking for his wife. "Liam!" Henry Kane pulled him in for a bear hug. "Welcome home. I'm glad you were able to make it after all."
His grandmother Jean was there a moment later, giving him a kiss on the cheek, then holding him still so that her wise eyes could take in far more than he'd planned to give away. Just like she always did.
"I found Liam talking with Christie a few minutes ago," Susan explained.
"Christie is a lovely girl," his grandmother said with a smile. Something about her expression shook him. The glint in her eyes looked far too much like matchmaking for his peace of mind.
"You've heard about Wesley and the wedding, I take it?" his father asked.
Liam nodded. "I was planning to head upstairs right now to start making some calls to see what I can find out."
"You can't stay at the reception a little longer?" his mother suggested, a hint of desperation pulling at her words. "Sarah and Calvin would love to have you here."
Knowing she was right, he pulled out his phone to send a quick text to his secretary to see if there was a note from Wesley waiting for him at his house or in his email spam folder, then went to congratulate Calvin on his new marriage.
Liam hoped his friend and his cousin could pull off the impossible--and actually make love stick.
"Was it kind of tense down there, or was it just me?" Sarah asked as Christie carefully sewed the hole closed on her wedding dress.
"It wasn't just you," Christie agreed. "Especially since Liam didn't know that Wesley and I split up. He came here expecting us to get married tomorrow."
Sarah whistled softly. "And of course Susan had to get right in the middle of it all, didn't she?"
Christie bit her tongue. She might not be marrying into the Kane family now, but she still didn't feel right saying anything about how uncomfortable Susan made her feel. She had never been particularly warm and embracing. "Susan is just concerned about Wesley."
"I know she is. We all are. But I still don't get it," Sarah said. "You're every mother's dream daughter-in-law. She should have been thrilled that you and Wesley were engaged, instead of always acting so weird and stilted around you."
The thing was, Christie had noticed Susan acting strangely around Liam too. Completely different from the way she behaved around Wesley. Susan had always taken care of Wesley, almost to the point of being suffocatingly nurturing. With Liam, on the other hand, she'd seemed tense. Worried.
Not knowing how to fake either a smile or an easy response, Christie pretended to be busy tying off the thread on Sarah's silk gown.
"Even though we're related, I haven't seen Liam in years," Sarah mused as Christie finished up. "But Wesley and Liam were always close. I'm really surprised he didn't know about the wedding being off."
That was all Christie was going to admit. Definitely not that her reaction to finding Liam standing there staring at her had been more powerful than any reaction she'd had to another man.
Even realizing he was Wesley's older brother hadn't been enough for her to stop feeling like fireworks were shooting off inside her stomach just from being in the same room with him. One look at him and she'd dropped the entire handful of rose petals she'd been holding. And when he'd put his hands on her...
Thrill bumps moved across her skin again, just from remembering how electric his touch had been.
"He sure hasn't gotten any worse looking," Sarah said. "Back in high school, pretty much everyone had a crush on him. All the girls in town wanted to be my friend in the hopes that they'd get invited to a family gathering, even though he rarely came to any of them." Sarah smoothed her hand over the fix-it job Christie had done to her dress. "I swear the scar from the car accident only made the girls want him more. Probably because of all the danger and mystery swirling around him."
"I didn't notice a scar. Where is it?"
Sarah shot her a surprised look. "It's on his left cheek. Lower down. It's hard to miss."
Christie tried to think back to those moments when he'd been holding her close, questioning her about Wesley. But all she could see in her mind were his intense eyes staring into hers. And all she could feel were butterflies. In as light a voice as she could manage, Christie asked, "Was he a total heartbreaker in high school?"
"Nope. They all wanted him, but he never dated anybody in town." Sarah shrugged. "Honestly, Liam's always been hard to read. Which only ever seemed to make women want to try to uncover his heart. It's the same old story we've all heard a million times--some poor, delusional girl out there thinks she's going to be the one to make him fall. The reformed rake brought to his knees by love."
"Definitely delusional," Christie agreed. She knew firsthand all about girls like that.
Because she'd been one of them her entire life.
Heck, she'd wanted so badly for things to work out with Wesley that she'd actually accepted his proposal of marriage. And before Wesley...well, she'd been even more delusional with her previous boyfriends. She'd seen only what she wanted to see--and ignored all of the warning signs.
Never again. Especially given that warning signs had started flashing bigger and brighter than ever before when she'd been talking with Liam. He was just Christie's type, in fact.
The very type that always ripped her heart out of her chest and stomped all over it.
Six hours later, Christie had seen the bride and groom off on their way to the airport for their honeymoon and was saying good-bye to the final wedding guests--many of whom couldn't resist addressing the huge white elephant in the room.
"Such a lovely wedding, Christie. We're just all so sorry you won't be up there tomorrow marrying Wesley."
"Oh, honey, it must be so hard at your age to have to start over. We're all trying to think of any single men we can introduce you to."
"You must be so overwhelmed running the inn without Wesley. I heard Liam was back home to help."
Liam hadn't come home to help her with the inn. Ten minutes in the same room with him was enough to send her head spinning and her heart racing. Working together would surely do her in completely.
Only William Sullivan had known the right thing to say. "It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. All that matters is that you're happy. Let me know if you need to get away in my rowboat for a little while. Sometimes there's nothing better than sitting in the middle of a quiet lake with the water and the birds and the mountains for company."
She'd hugged him so hard that he had to have been more than a little surprised by it. But he had no idea how much his words of support helped.
Finally, she was back in her room, where she was desperate to take a long, hot bath.
She reached for the zipper of her dress, knee-length green satin that played up the best of her figure and hid the worst. She hadn't told anyone that it was supposed to have been her rehearsal-dinner dress. Figuring it was better to get some use out of it after the amount of money she'd spent on it, she'd decided to wear it today.
Still, after ten-plus hours running around in it, she couldn't wait to get into a pair of leggings and a T-shirt. But when she tried to pull the zipper down, it wouldn't go. She tugged and pulled at it until her index finger was scraped sore by the small metal tab.
Was this dress cursed?
Just as she had the thought, the window in her bedroom that looked out on Main Street began to shake. She hadn't noticed the wind earlier in the afternoon--in fact, it had been unusually still out on the water--but the weather changed so fast in the Adirondacks that the sky could go from bright blue to pelting hail in seconds.
With some help from the moonlight, she
could see that the treetops weren't blowing. And the flag on the town hall was limp. But, strangely, the window was still shaking.
Wesley had fixed up this suite of rooms high under the inn's roof especially for the two of them to move into after their wedding. Sixty years ago, this bedroom had been the honeymoon suite. But only a few years later, for some reason that no one seemed to know, it had been converted to storage.
Wesley had insisted she move in a month ago, and she'd agreed, glad to have the chance to make the rooms feel like home before the wedding, rather than returning from their honeymoon to an impersonal space. But as she stood in the middle of the bedroom, she felt cold, despite having turned on the heat earlier. The small hairs on the back of her neck prickled, and a rush of air moved over her, almost as if someone had walked by.
Spinning around, she saw that she was still completely alone.
Or was she?
She'd always had a vague sense that something wasn't right about the bedroom. She'd even heard rumors during the months she'd worked at the inn that it was haunted. And though she'd laughed it off, over the past few weeks since she and Wesley had called off their wedding, she wasn't sure it was completely ridiculous anymore.