“I want a hoedown wedding.”
Callie Sharpe, wedding site designer and planner, was professional enough to not blink at this news. “A hoedown wedding.”
“Yes,” her client said via Skype. “The bridesmaids want to wear cowboy boots and Jimmy wants to eat pigs in a blanket at the reception. You okay with that?”
“Sure,” Callie said to her laptop. After all, she loved pigs in a blanket so who was she to judge? “It’s your day, whatever you want.”
Her bride-to-be smiled. “You really know your wedding stuff. And you always look so wonderful. I love your clothes. Can I see what shoes you’re wearing? I bet they’re fab too.”
Callie didn’t let her easy smile slip. “Oh, but this is about your wedding, not my shoes. Let’s talk about your invitations—”
Callie sighed. For the camera, she wore a silky cami and blazer. Out of camera range, she wore capri yoga pants that doubled as PJs and…bunny slippers. “Whoops,” she said. “I’ve got another call. I’ll get back to you.”
She disconnected and grimaced. “Sorry,” she said to the client who could no longer hear her. She went back to work, clicking through page after page of the season’s new wedding dresses, uploading the ones she liked best. She switched to the latest invitation designs next. And then unique party favors and stylish accessories.
You really know your wedding stuff.
Unfortunately this was true. She’d been a bride once, the most silly, hopeful, eager bride ever. Well, an almost bride. She’d gotten all the way to the church before getting stood up, and since that memory still stung, she shoved it aside. She’d married something else instead—she’d united her strong IT skills with her secret, deeply buried love of all things romantic—and had created TyingTheKnot.com. On a daily basis, she dealt with demanding, temperamental, and in lots of cases, batshit-crazy brides, all looking for their happily-ever-after. She’d made it her job to give them the dream.
It was exhausting. Standing, Callie stretched and moved to the wall of windows. Her apartment was one of three in a battered old warehouse that had once been a cannery, then a salt water taffy manufacturer, and then, in the fifties, a carnival boardinghouse. The building wasn’t much to write home about, but the view made the lack of insulation and insufficient heat worth it.
Today the waters of Lucky Harbor were a gorgeous azure blue, dotted with whitecaps thanks to a brutal mid-November wind that was whistling through the tangle of steel rafters, metal joists, and worthless heating ducts above her.
Callie had grown up in this small, quirky Washington coastal town sandwiched between the Pacific and the Olympic Mountains, and once upon a time, she hadn’t been able to get out of here fast enough. There’d been more than one reason for that but she was back now, and not exactly because she wanted to be.
There was a man in the water swimming parallel to the shore. Passing the pier, he moved toward the north end and the row of warehouses, including the one she stood in.
Transfixed, she watched the steady strokes and marveled at his speed. He might as well have been a machine given how efficiently and effectively he cut through the water.
Callie had been in those waters, although only in the summertime. She couldn’t even swim to the end of the pier and back without needing life support.
But the man kept going.
After a long time, he finally turned and headed in, standing up in the water when he got close enough. After the incredible strength he’d shown swimming in the choppy surf, she was surprised when he limped to the sand. Especially since she couldn’t see anything wrong with him, at least from this distance.
He was in a full wetsuit, including something covering his head and most of his face. He peeled this off as he dropped to his knees, and she gasped.
Military-short, dark hair and dark eyes. And a hardness to his jaw that said he’d had the dark life to go with.
He looked just like…oh God, it was.
While she was standing there staring, her cell phone started ringing with the I Love Lucy theme song, signaling her grandma was calling. Eyes still glued to the beach—and the very hot man now unzipping his wetsuit—she reached for her phone. “Did you know Tanner Riggs was home?” she asked in lieu of a greeting.
“Well, hello to you too, my favorite nerd-techie granddaughter.”
“I’m your only granddaughter,” Callie said.
“Well, you’re still my favorite,” Lucille said. “And yes, of course I know Tanner’s in town. He lives here now. Honey, you’re not reading my Instagram or you’d already know this and much, much more.”
She didn’t touch that one. The sole reason she was back in Lucky Harbor and not in San Francisco was because of her grandma.
Callie’s dad—Lucille’s only son—had been an attorney. Actually both of her parents had been, and even retired, they still liked things neat and logical.
Grandma Lucille was neither, and Callie’s parents were pretty sure her grandma was no longer playing with a full set of marbles. Callie had drawn the short stick to come back and find out what needed to be done. She’d been here two weeks, staying in the rental because she needed to be able to work in peace. Her grandma had loaned her the car since she’d been soundly rejected by the DMV for a license renewal. The two of them had daily meals—mostly lunches, as Lucille’s social calendar made the queen of England look like a slacker. But there’d been no sign of crazy yet.