A lot had changed in the past fourteen years.
Fourteen years ago, Natalie and her best friend, Lily, were inseparable, and Lily’s older brother Colin was the tasty treat Natalie had craved since she was fifteen. Now, Lily was about to get married and their engagement party was being held at the large, sprawling estate of her brother.
He’d come a long way since she saw him last. She’d watched, smitten, as he’d evolved into the cool college guy, and when Lily and Colin’s parents died suddenly, Natalie had watched him turn into the responsible guardian of his younger sister and the head of his father’s company. He’d been more untouchable then than ever before.
Lily and Natalie hadn’t seen much of each other over the past few years. Natalie had gone to college at the University of Tennessee and Lily had drifted aimlessly. They exchanged the occasional emails and Facebook likes, but they hadn’t really talked in a long time. She’d been surprised when Lily called her at From This Moment, the wedding company Natalie co-owned, with a request.
A quickie wedding. Before Christmas, if possible. It had been early November at the time, and From This Moment usually had at least fourteen months of weddings scheduled in advance. But they closed at Christmas and for a friend, she and the other three ladies that owned and operated the wedding chapel agreed to squeeze one more wedding in before the holiday.
Natalie’s invitation for the engagement party arrived the next day and now, here she was, in a cocktail dress, milling around Colin’s huge house filled with people she didn’t know.
That wasn’t entirely true. She knew the bride. And when her gaze met the golden hazel eyes she’d fantasized about as a teenager, she remembered she knew a second person at the party, too.
“Natalie?” Colin said, crossing a room full of people to see her.
It took her a moment to even find the words to respond. This wasn’t the boy she remembered from her youth. He’d grown into a man with broad shoulders that filled out his expensive suit coat, a tanned complexion with eyes that crinkled as he smiled and a five-o’clock shadow that any teenager would’ve been proud to grow.
“It is you,” he said with a grin before he moved in for a hug.
Natalie steadied herself for the familiar embrace. Not everything had changed. Colin had always been a hugger. As a smitten teen, she’d both loved and hated those hugs. There was a thrill that ran down her spine from being so close; a tingle danced across her skin as it brushed his. Now, just as she did then, she closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of him. He smelled better than he did back when he wore cheap drugstore cologne, but even then, she’d loved it.
“How are you, Colin?” she asked as they parted. Natalie hoped her cheeks weren’t flushing red. They felt hot, but that could just be the wine she’d been drinking steadily since she got to the party.
“I’m great. Busy with the landscaping business, as always.”
“Right.” Natalie nodded. “You’re still running your dad’s company, aren’t you?”
He nodded, a hint of suppressed sadness lighting in his eyes for just a moment. Good going, Natalie, remind him of his dead parents straight off.
“I’m so glad you were able to fit Lily’s wedding in at your facility. She was adamant that the wedding happen there.”
“It’s the best,” Natalie said and it was true. There was no other place like their chapel in Nashville, Tennessee, or anywhere else she knew of. They were one of a kind, providing everything a couple needed for a wedding at one location.
“Good. I want the best for Lily’s big day. You look amazing, by the way. Natalie is all grown up,” Colin noted.
Natalie detected a hint of appreciation in his eyes as his gaze raked over the formfitting blue dress her business partner Amelia had forced her into wearing tonight. Now she was happy her fashion-conscious friend had dressed her up for the night. She glanced at Colin’s left hand—no ring. At one point, she’d heard he was married, but it must not have worked out. Shocker. That left the possibilities open for a more interesting evening than she’d first anticipated tonight.
“I’m nearly thirty now, you know. I’m not a teenager.”
Colin let out a ragged breath and forced his gaze back up to her face. “Thank goodness. I’d feel like a dirty old man right now if you were.”
Natalie’s eyebrow went up curiously. He was into her. The unobtainable fantasy might actually be within her grasp. Perhaps now was the time to make the leap she’d always been too chicken to make before. “You know, I have a confession to make.” She leaned into him, resting a hand on his shoulder. “I was totally infatuated with you when we were kids.”