Lone Wolf (Wilde Brothers Ranch #6)- Scarlett Grove
Annie Wilson threw her suitcase into the back of the party van while the other bridesmaids squealed and clapped. She hopped into the backseat next to her friend Mary.
Marcy Collins, the bride, turned to her from the front passenger seat and patted her hand. “This is going to be so much fun.”
Annie sat back with a sigh, trying not to feel overwhelmed by the presence of so many women so close. Marcy was one of Annie's oldest friends. And when Marcy asked her to be the maid of honor in her destination wedding in Fate Rock, Annie hadn't thought twice about it. But the actual experience of going to the wedding was another thing entirely. She wasn’t exactly friends with all of Marcy's friends. There wasn't a single one of the six ladies in the band that she didn't get along with individually, but Annie had never liked groups. She’d always preferred to be alone.
Tricia, their driver, looked into the rearview mirror and asked the four women in the back if they were ready.
“Aye aye, captain,” Amelia said, saluting Tricia.
“Here we go.” Tricia pulled out of the parking lot of Annie's apartment building.
A few minutes later, they were on the freeway, headed south. They were singing along to the greatest hits of the 80s: Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and Boy George. The lyrics to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” got the whole crew hyped up even more than the Red Bulls they'd been drinking since leaving Denver. Annie wanted to lose herself in the moment. But the sound and the energy of six women singing badly to loud music was already draining.
“Don't worry, Annie. We’re going to the spa as soon as we arrive.” Marcy winked back at her best friend from the passenger seat.
Since Annie was Marcy's maid of honor, planning the bridal shower had been her responsibility. The groom and his groomsmen would be having their bachelor party around town, while the bride and her bridesmaids would be at the mountain lodge. So they would have the run of the estate.
Annie picked up her phone and checked her itinerary again, hoping she hadn't missed any details.
“Don't worry, Annie,” Amelia said. “I'm sure you have it all planned out perfectly.”
Annie was good at organizing things, but not as good at managing other people. She worked alone as a social media marketer. She was just fine with people as long as they were behind a screen, communicating through emails or text messages. But as soon as she had to deal with a bunch of people up close, all she wanted was to run away.
Annie had grown up poor. After her abusive addict father died of an overdose, her mother fell into a terrible depression then gave Annie up to the state. She’d been shuffled back and forth between different households, always trying to avoid attention and stay safe. Her already-introverted personality had become reclusive. She'd been lucky that she was smart and determined. Avoiding boys and men had made it easier to focus on her studies.
She’d learned how to use computers and social media with a high level of aptitude while she was still in junior high. And by the time she graduated college, she had already started her own social media marketing company, working as a freelancer for organizations and individuals. Her clients considered her one of the best in the business.
She made a decent living, was completely free to go anywhere in the world she wanted, and didn't have to depend on anyone or anything for her success. Annie was living the dream. But that didn't keep her friends from constantly asking her if she wanted to date. The answer to that question was always an emphatic no.
“We're almost there,” Tricia said as she pulled off the freeway on the exit ramp into the small town of Fate Rock, Colorado. Marcy's grandparents still lived in Fate Rock, and her father had grown up there. So she'd always gone there for the summer. And to her, it was the archetype of a homey small town.
“You have no idea how many times me and Brad have discussed moving here,” Marcy said as they drove through the idyllic main street. The shop storefronts were covered in navy-blue awnings, and the windows were full of trinkets, antiques, clothing, and art. They passed the old-fashioned hardware store, a barbershop, and a 1950s café before they turned the corner down a side road toward Fate Rock Lodge.
“It's too bad Brad's job is three hours