Varsity coach Mitch Holden thinks he's seen everything until Scotswoman Emma McGregor steps out of her car, in a bridal dress and veil, and asks him where she can find a job. Mitch is stunned but directs her somewhere to stay... and finds himself unable to keep from checking up on her.
Emma McGregor has had the worst day of her life. Finding out her groom didn't really want to marry her was a devastating blow, but Mitch and the town of Marietta reach out to her in a way she couldn't have imagined. Nowhere seems to do Christmas like Marietta does.
But Mitch has secrets of his own. Everyone knows about the injury that tragically ended his promising football career, but there's more to the story... Will the magic of Marietta sprinkle some Christmas dust on their broken hearts and help them find their happy ever after?
The Runaway Christmas Bride
This wasn’t how a wedding was supposed to begin.
“Where is he, Corrine?”
Corrine shifted nervously on her feet, wrinkling her coral dress between her fingers. Her groom’s sister couldn’t look her in the eye.
“I think he might just be a little nervous. I’m sure he’ll be here in a second.”
Emma’s stomach gave a little flip. The groom was supposed to be standing at the top of aisle waiting for her entrance. He wasn’t supposed to be nervous. He wasn’t supposed to be anywhere but here.
She gathered up her skirts in her hand. “Is he in the vestry?
Corrine blinked and looked confused, so Emma just strode forward, her voluptuous skirts pushing Corrine to the side.
This couldn’t be happening. Bryce had told her everything was fine. He’d told her he loved her forever. Losing the baby didn’t matter. Finding out it was extremely likely she could never have another child didn’t matter. He loved her. He would be there for her.
So, where was he?
Her footsteps slowed as she approached the vestry. The door wasn’t quite closed and she could hear low voices.
“Bryce, she’ll be here any minute. You need to make up your mind.”
It was Reuben, his best friend and best man. He’d never really approved of his friend marrying a Scottish girl.
She could hear pacing. “I know. I know. It’s just…”
“Just what?” Reuben was frustrated and probably annoyed. He was a planner. He didn’t like it when things didn’t go to plan. The wedding planned in the space of a few months had driven him crazy.
She heard Bryce suck in a breath. “It’s just that, no matter how much I try to push it away, I really, really want a family.” She caught a glimpse of him through the tiny gap in the door. He was running his hand through his hair. Her heart squeezed. He looked…torn.
“Well, it’s a bit late to decide that now,” snapped Reuben.
Bryce shook his head. “I know. I know. But Emma was devastated by the miscarriage – devastated by the news. How on earth could I walk away? I love her. I do. She was so hurt. I couldn’t hurt her anymore.”
Emma looked down at the floor. Past the mounds of pale cream skirt. Past the satin shoes with tiny tartan bows. She fixated on the grey stone floor, staring at a tiny crack snaking across it. Any second now she would vomit all over it.
“And you decide this now? What on earth are you going to do?”
Bryce started pacing again. She could hear his Italian shoes clicking on the stone floor of the vestry.
“I don’t know. Marry her I guess. Then wait some time and break up. It will be easier then. She’ll be over the surgery and she’ll have had some time to adjust.”
“You’re all heart.” Her head shot up. Reuben sounded disgusted. She would never have expected him to be on her side.
“I can’t break her heart. I just can’t. Emma’s a good person. She is. She wanted this wedding. I have to give it to her.”
A tear slid down her cheek and she brushed it away, straightening her shoulders and dropping her skirts.
Bryce wasn’t brave enough to walk away – not yet, at least – but she was. This was wrong. The guy she thought loved her with his whole heart obviously didn’t. The guy who’d held her hand and swore to her that she would be enough for him had lied. The guy who said he could do without kids secretly wanted a whole house full.
And she’d let him have it.
She pushed open the door. Bryce and Reuben turned around, shock on both their faces.
“Emma! I’m sorry, I was just coming.”
She kept her face straight. “Reuben, can you give us a minute please?”
Reuben’s eyes darted from Bryce then back to Emma. Mr Planner had no idea what was going on. “Well, I, I…”
She pointed to the door. “Beat it, pal.” Her Scottish accent was becoming stronger by the second. She wasn’t about to be messed with.
He blinked and headed to the door. “If you need me, I’ll be outside.” He took a few steps.
“He won’t,” she said sharply and kicked the door closed with her foot. The noise shook the tiny vestry, rattling the old wooden table in the corner.
Bryce took a step towards her but she held up her hand. His aftershave drifted across the confined space. No. She didn’t need this. She didn’t need any reminder of the guy who’d told her he loved her and made false promises.
She fixed her eyes on him. “You lied to me.”
He looked shocked. “What?”
She shook her head. “You looked me in the eye and told me you loved me and it didn’t matter that I couldn’t have kids.” She was praying he wouldn’t hear the tiny waver in her voice.
She held up her hand again. She couldn’t listen. She just couldn’t. Because then he might try to persuade her to stay – his guilt would make him. And she couldn’t look at him either. Because she could see him crumbling right before her eyes.
Women the world over spoke freely of their biological clocks and their desire to have kids. Men didn’t. They just didn’t do things like that.
But she’d heard Bryce. She’d heard him say that. And now she could see his face she could see how hurt he looked. Spending a life with her would mean that he gave up his desire for a family. She couldn’t do that. Not for a second.
Bryce was one of the kindest, nicest guy’s she’d ever met. He’d be a fabulous father. And he deserved that chance.
She took a step forward and reached up, kissing him on the cheek.
“You can’t walk away, Bryce, but I can. I’m not going to marry you. Go find your girl. Go find your dreams. Find a girl to marry who can give you a whole house full of kids. Have the family that I know you will love. That’s what I wish for you.”
Now her voice was shaking and she couldn’t hide it. He opened his mouth to speak and she shook her head. “Don’t Bryce. Just don’t. Just let me go.”
She gathered up her skirts again and opened the door. Reuben fell backwards. He’d had his ear pressed to the door.
She shot him a look of disgust and strode down the hall as fast as she could. One thing about arranging a quick wedding – she’d driven herself here. Her honeymoon case was in the trunk of her car. She’d didn’t need anything else.