Busted (Promise Harbor Wedding)
Author:Sydney Somers

Prologue


Detective Hayley Stone loved weddings as much as the next person. Or she had right up until the moment she’d arrested her date.

In less than twenty-four hours she’d managed to infuriate half the East Coast tourist destination of Promise Harbor by handcuffing hometown hero Jackson Knight—in front of a crowd no less—and become the subject of hushed whispers when they’d shown up at the wedding together.

She hadn’t been the subject of any whispers since leaving her rebellious teenage years in the past, and she’d worked damn hard to keep it that way. Apparently arriving in Jackson’s ’69 Dodge Challenger warranted the dozens of speculative looks—and whispers—well after she’d taken her seat and Jackson headed toward the altar.

The woman sitting next to her stared at something directly above her ear. Trying hard not to think of her and Jackson’s slightly rumpled state, Hayley pulled a twig from her hair.

Wonderful.

Those not gossiping about ostracizing her for Jackson’s arrest were probably blaming her for making him late to the wedding, seeing as he was the best man. She’d have placed bets most people weren’t thinking about Jackson Knight’s troublemaking reputation—both on and off the ice—now that he was back in town. Promise Harbor’s golden boy couldn’t possibly be responsible for their late arrival or the debacle last night.

A familiar twinge of irritation twisted her stomach, one she heartily embraced if for no other reason than it gave her an excuse not to look at Jackson.

She’d made a name for herself on the Promise Harbor police force by following her gut and knowing the right things to say to defuse a bad situation. Thirty seconds in Jackson’s presence with what felt like half the town looking on, and she felt like a tongue-tied sixteen-year-old being singled out by the star quarterback on game day.

It would have been downright embarrassing if her line of work hadn’t conditioned her to keep a lid on emotions that would interfere with getting the job done. But she could have sworn by the occasional smile Jackson aimed her way that he was all too aware of the effect he had on the female population—her included.

Fighting the flush of warmth that raced across her skin, she scanned the gathered crowd. The church was jam-packed. Those Hayley didn’t recognize from growing up in Promise Harbor she knew from her time spent patrolling.

If Josh and Allie’s wedding weren’t already the social event of the summer, Jackson’s presence would have drawn people like a moth to the jersey-covered flame. Most of the women surrounding Hayley were already whispering about everything from Jackson’s former pro hockey career to the certainty that he was single and most definitely available.

Sparing Jackson from the town’s puck bunnies was one of the reasons she’d talked herself into being his date. She just hadn’t stopped to consider how much of the town would be witness to her probable lapse in judgment.

Telling herself she was being ridiculous, she finally glanced Jackson’s way and found him watching her. Used to seeing him in just jeans and T-shirts, or in a team jersey when she’d watched him play hockey on one of the televisions in her brother’s sports bar, she had to admit Jackson looked damn good in a suit.

Too good.

What the hell had she been thinking?

Self-preservation, she reminded herself, but that would all be for nothing if she ended up making a fool of herself. Going to the wedding with him might keep her own ex at a distance, but she had no interest in looking like another notch on Jackson’s bedpost.

From the altar’s steps, Jackson continued to stare at her. One corner of his full mouth tipped up, making him look far more innocent than they both knew he was.

As if reading her thoughts, he winked.

She rolled her eyes but failed to contain her own smile. Before she let herself read anything into a gesture meant for everyone else’s benefit, she turned her attention to the procession of bridesmaids—whoever had chosen the gaudy ball gowns had to be a closet Gone with the Wind fan—and finally the bride.

Allie looked simply stunning. Long blonde curls were piled high on her head and threaded through with stems of baby’s breath. Lacy and white, her gorgeous sleeveless dress fell just shy of dragging on the floor. She leaned toward the groom, Josh, as the two of them spoke quietly.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to unite this man and this woman in holy matrimony,” the reverend began.

The gathered masses instantly quieted, making it even easier to hear, “Oh, hell no.”

Like much of the congregation, Hayley turned her head at the sound of the objection that thundered through the church.

“Gavin?” Allie’s shocked question barely rose above the whispers and creaking pews as everyone tried to get a good look behind them.

Hayley didn’t bother with anything so subtle. She stood, feeling nearly as stunned as Allie looked. Gaze fixed on the altar, Gavin’s determined strides carried him up the carpeted aisle Allie and her dad had just walked.

Please tell me he hasn’t been drinking.

Hayley could just make out the bags under her best friend’s eyes, nearly lost beneath a beard that looked like it hadn’t seen a razor in a couple weeks. His rumpled hoodie and jeans had definitely been slept in, maybe even more than a night or two. He sure as hell looked like he’d just gotten off a serious bender.

Gavin didn’t seem to notice Hayley in the crowd, his entire being focused solely on Allie.

Oh, this can’t be good.

Barely twenty feet away, Jackson glanced at her. She managed only a helpless shrug as she watched Gavin march up to the altar. He didn’t quite reach the steps before the groom took a step toward him.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

Gavin didn’t take his eyes off the bride. “I’m here to talk to Allie.” Pale Allie who looked like she just might faint.

Clearly outraged at the unexpected interruption, Josh moved to stand between Gavin and Allie.

Cringing, Hayley inwardly braced for things to get ugly. She and Gavin had a slight history of out-of-control situations, though they’d often excelled at keeping their teenage antics off most peoples’ radars. There wasn’t a person in the church who wasn’t absorbing every single second of this, though.

Jackson’s face mirrored the same concern as he edged a little closer to the groom. So help her, Hayley had already broken up one brawl involving the groomsmen. Now was not the time for a repeat performance.

“We’re kind of in the middle of something.”

“Yeah, this can’t wait.” Ignoring the groom entirely, Gavin looked past him to Allie. “I need to talk to you. Now.”

What little color was left in her face retreated the second the crowd’s collective attention shifted to the bride. Whispers flew around the church as the people close enough to hear the exchange passed the details on to the crowd at the back.

Someone directly behind Hayley hissed for her to sit down, but all she could do was stand motionless, clutching the front of the pew as her friend took another bold step forward.

“I don’t think so, Gavin.” The threat in Josh’s voice was clear, and judging by the numerous idiots who’d pulled out their cameras, it would be immortalized in digital memory.

Hayley glanced at the two women holding up their phones in the row next to her. “Put them away,” she snapped, just loud enough for them and a few people in the rows behind to hear.

She didn’t wait to see if they listened, her attention darting back to the scene unfolding at the front of the church.

“Listen. I can do this here, in front of the whole town,” Gavin continued. “I don’t mind. I’m leaving here with Allie one way or another.”

Oh boy.

How many times had he sworn up and down that he and Allie were over? His and Hayley’s friendship had felt the strain of that breakup until Gavin made her promise not to mention Allie anymore. They were moving on, lived on opposite sides of the country. End of story.

Although she hated it, Hayley had stuck to her end of the deal, right up until two weeks ago when she knew she had to tell Gavin that Allie was getting married. She’d been worried when he never called her back, but just assumed he didn’t want to talk about it.

He sure as hell wanted to talk about it now.

Josh on the other hand didn’t look like he wanted to hear a word that Gavin had to say. Hayley couldn’t blame him any more than she could blame her mule-headed friend for taking this long to speak his mind. Not that she was surprised in the least. The man had a serious knack for doing things the hard way.

“I think keeping some of this private might be appropriate.” Gavin leaned around Josh to look at Allie. “I have some things I need to say before you say I do to another man, Al.”

Josh sighed, stepped closer. “Don’t do this, Gavin. Haven’t you messed with her enough? Just let her be happy.”

Hayley could barely make out the conversation. Everyone around her leaned forward as though they were having the same problem.

“That’s exactly what I want to do,” Gavin insisted, not backing down an inch. “Is that what you want?”

Jackson put his hand on the groom’s shoulder, long enough to help Josh hold his frustration in check, but it still edged into his voice. “I’m standing next to her in a tux in front of a minister. What do you think?”

“I think that if you don’t let her talk to me, you know that she’ll always wonder. You don’t want that, do you? To have your wife wondering about another man?”

Josh exhaled sharply and shoved his hand through his hair. Then he half turned to the bride. “Allie?”

“What would I wonder?” Her voice was a pained whisper that betrayed more than just shock at Gavin’s unexpected appearance.

Hayley half expected the bride to march across the small distance separating them. Or maybe throw the reverend’s Bible straight at Gavin’s head had it been within reach. In her place, Hayley would have likely done the latter.

“You’d wonder what I had to say to you so badly that I would fly over four thousand miles so I could rush in here to stop your wedding.”

There wasn’t a sound in the church, not even the click of a flash, as Allie stood staring at Gavin, a tear silently tracking down her cheek.

“Allie?” He stepped forward.

She pressed her lips together and shook her head, her mouth moving in what Hayley guessed was, “You’re too late.”

“Bullshit.”

Oh, he wouldn’t…

Gavin stepped forward, bent and scooped her into his arms, then headed for the side door.

And he did.

Hayley opened her mouth, but not a word came out.

“Gavin!” Allie kicked in protest, stalling him.

“Just a damn minute—” Josh started.

Gavin pivoted back around as though Allie were no more than a fluffy, lacy blanket cradled in his arms. “Give me a chance. Let me talk to her. Let me tell her what I came here to say. Then if she wants to come back, I’ll walk her down the aisle myself.”

Josh looked at Allie, his expression so careful he was either still shell-shocked himself or wondering if he could tackle Gavin without hurting Allie.

Ignoring the murmurs of protest, Hayley tripped her way—stupid freaking heels—down her row, scrambling over people not fast enough to move their legs in time, but couldn’t quite make herself walk the rest of the way to the front. She already felt like she was intruding on what should have been a private exchange, but Gavin wouldn’t have barged in without a damn good reason.

Whatever the bride said to Gavin lit up her best friend’s eyes in a way only Allie had ever managed. His arms tightened around her. Protective, sheltering. He glared at Josh like he was seriously contemplating taking him on, then turned away.

The breath Hayley had been holding slid out in relief, but tension jammed her spine straight the instant she focused on Josh. He couldn’t be taking this well, and neither could his mother, who stood up as Gavin turned his back on the groom, striding for the side door that the pianist rushed to open for him.

Between one second and the next they vanished from view, and every head swiveled back to Josh. The groom glanced around the church, needing a couple seconds to process that his bride-to-be had just been snatched out from under him, then strode after Gavin and Allie. The maid of honor, Josh’s sister, bustled after him, barely squeezing her monstrosity of a dress out the door she let bang shut behind her.

Josh’s mom, already on her feet, spun around, her gaze systematically searching the room the way Hayley remembered from eleventh grade math class.

“Detective Stone. Hayley,” she said sharply. Unbelievably, her tone mirrored every single time she’d caught Hayley writing a note to Gavin instead of paying attention in class.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Can’t you arrest him or something?” Josh’s mom glanced once more at the door, then back to Hayley, waiting for her to do something.

Aw, hell.