Here With You (A Laurel Heights Novel) - By Kate Perry
Normally when Nicole, Marley, and Valentine went to Grounds for Thought, they sat at the round table in the window and drank coffee. But this wasn't a normal evening. Tonight, Nicole sat on the counter and swung her feet while she drank champagne.
Tonight was Valentine's wedding reception.
Nicole surveyed the scene with her expert eye. Everything was perfect, from Valentine's dress to the way they looked at each other. Joyous. The bride glowed and the groom looked besotted. At least that was the way his expression would have been described in the historical romances Nicole loved to read.
She sighed. She loved romance.
When she was a little girl, she demanded that her parents read her the stories where the prince swept the girl off her feet. She loved pink and roses and chocolate.
As an adult, her tastes had refined. Instead of roses, she preferred tulips. Red was her color now, and chocolate...
Well, she still loved chocolate.
She'd also found a passion for lingerie. So much so that she'd quit her job as an office manager and gone to work at Romantic Notions in Laurel Heights. She'd been there for over half a year, and she was still going strong. She'd never stayed at any job for that long.
She loved her job. She sold more than expensive scraps of lace and silk—she sold romance. She helped women turn dreams into reality.
She sold Happily Ever After.
Everyone deserved Happily Ever After.
She looked forward to her own. She didn't doubt that she'd get one, she just didn't know what it'd look like. Or who would be involved. She'd just broken up with her boyfriend—not that it was a loss. Sure, she was sad, but he hadn't been right for her in the long run.
Finding the right person was key. Marriage was forever. She understood the logical arguments: people changed and you couldn't predict if you'd be with someone for all your lives.
She didn't buy those arguments. If you loved someone enough to marry him, you worked at it and fixed your problems—you didn't bale at adversity. Marriage was sacred. Her mom and dad were testament to it. Valentine and Ethan, too.
One day, she vowed, as she watched all the love and happiness before her.
One day she'd find the right person. Someone who was on her side and encouraged her to be more. Someone who'd have her back no matter what. A best friend who excited her mentally and physically.
She'd had a best friend once who'd been like that. They'd only been friends, but she'd often wondered if they couldn't be more one day.
Until he'd left to pursue becoming a musician and never talked to her again.
Not that she wanted to think about Griffin Chase. Today was a day of happiness, and remembering Grif never made her happy.
"You look sad," the man standing next to her said. "Or like you're gonna punch someone out."
She looked at Bull. She'd just met him that evening; he was a good friend of Valentine's new husband. He was a mountain of a man with muscles on top of muscles, a bald head, a UV tattoo of a dandelion along the side of his face, and a heart of gold. Nicole had liked him instantly. They'd only known each other for, literally, minutes, and he already felt like a brother.
"I'd rather dance." Smiling, she hopped off the counter. "Want to?"
"Let's get down." He set his drink aside and held out his hand. "But don't get ideas about me. You're cute and all, but I'm not your type."
"You know my type?" she asked with a grin as he led her to the dance area.
"Yeah. Younger and prettier than me." He nodded to the front door. "Like that dude who just walked in."
She looked at who he pointed out, and then she tripped. He was wearing a cowboy hat low on his forehead and sunglasses despite the late hour, but she recognized him despite the disguise.
Based on the way the party around them quieted, other people did, too. Not surprising—his music had blown up. Griffin Chase was a household name and had a face everyone knew. He'd always wanted to hit it big. She wasn't surprised at how successful he'd become. His music was emotion transformed into sound, unique and all his own even in its widespread appeal. Add his voice to the mix and he was destined to be a star.
"You okay?" Bull steadied her. "I know I have two left feet, but even I've never knocked over a girl before I started dancing