It Happened One Wedding Page 77

“We’ll have to go back there again,” Tyler said.

Right. Sure. Maybe it would even become “their spot.” They would be a couple and have a spot and everything would be lovely.

Say something about the wedding, her inner pragmatist nudged her as they headed up the steps to her front door.

Yes, the wedding. This was the perfect opportunity. The subject had even briefly come up during dinner, when she’d told Tyler that her sister was getting married in two weeks. She turned to face him when they got to the top of the stairs . . . but for whatever reason, the words got stuck.

He bent his head and kissed her.

Well . . . huh. At first, she wasn’t feeling it, but then something changed. Assuming that her hesitations and trepidations were holding her back, she decided to say screw it to all of that. For once, she forgot about her checklist and the wedding and decided to get out of her head and simply let her heart lead the way. And after pouring all that into her kiss, she pulled back and peered up at him with a smile.

Then she blinked, because his eyes were the wrong color—blue instead of hazel.

And she realized, in that moment when she’d said screw it to her hesitations and trepidations and had let her heart lead the way, she’d imagined herself kissing Vaughn.

“Oh, boy,” she said, with a ragged, panicky exhale.

“I know. I felt that, too,” Tyler said.

She was officially screwed.

 • • •

ON THE UPSIDE, Tyler handled the situation well.

Sidney let herself into her townhome, feeling bad and regretful about the conversation she’d just had—but she also knew that it had been the right thing to do. For one thing, Tyler deserved to be with a woman who wasn’t imagining another guy while she kissed him. To spare his feelings, she’d told a small fib and had said she realized now that she wasn’t over her ex-fiancé. He was gracious about that, and as he’d walked down the steps and out of her life, her one consolation was that a guy like Tyler wasn’t going to remain single for long—some lucky woman was going to snatch him up real soon.

Unfortunately, that woman wasn’t her.

She headed straight upstairs and changed out of her date clothes. After pulling on a T-shirt and pair of shorts, she curled up on her bed and thought about her next move. The checklist was irrelevant, at least for now. She most certainly wasn’t going to have a date for Isabelle and Simon’s wedding, and she’d just realized she had some sort of “feelings” or whatever for a man who—just last night—had been toasting her for having a date with another guy.

You know I’m smart enough not to fall for a guy like Vaughn.

Now more than ever, she needed to remember that.

Which meant her next move was clear. She would avoid Vaughn at all costs for the next couple of weeks—no more joking, flirty conversations; no more sexy scruff; no more talking to him about personal stuff or cozying up with him on the couch while looking at her parents’ wedding albums. That was all done. She needed to get through this wedding, and then she and Vaughn could go their separate ways. Yes, they would still run into each other occasionally via Isabelle and Simon, but she could handle that. She just needed some space right now, some time away from him, so that these “feelings” or whatever could abate.

And abate, they would. She’d make sure of it.

Twenty-nine

AFTER BREEZING PAST the Shedd Aquarium, Vaughn ran through the Lake Shore Drive underpass and followed the sidewalk to Columbus Drive. One more turn, and then it would be a straight shot to the finish line.

A large crowd cheered from both sides of the street—over a quarter million spectators had gathered to watch nearly 11,000 athletes race in the Chicago Triathlon. Shortly after seven thirty A.M., Vaughn, Cade, Huxley, and the other 150 people in their wave had started out with a brisk 1.5 kilometer swim in Lake Michigan. After exiting the water at the Chicago Yacht Club, they’d hightailed it barefoot and in their wetsuits along a carpeted path to the first transition area, where they’d stripped down to their bike shorts and had thrown on jerseys, helmets, and shoes. Spirits had been high as Vaughn and Huxley had mounted their bikes for the forty-kilometer course, and even higher as they’d caught up with Cade, who had been swimming for years to help with a college football shoulder injury and had garnered a slight lead in the first leg.

Now they were in the homestretch, nearly about to finish the 10K run. Huxley had dropped back a little, but Vaughn was still fighting it out for the lead with Cade. They’d been pushing each other hard throughout the race, which was exactly what Vaughn needed: something to keep his mind focused. Being on the course and pushing his body to its limits gave him a place to channel the restlessness he’d felt all week.

“Second place buys lunch?” he huffed.

“You’re on,” Cade panted, matching him stride for stride.

They’d been far more loquacious with the trash talk earlier in the race, but after swimming, biking, and running thirty-two miles, they were out of breath and keeping it short and sweet. They rounded the corner onto Columbus, and the finish line at Hutchinson Field in Grant Park came into view. They heard a female voice cheering them on from the left.

“Whoo-hoo! Go Cade! Go Vaughn!”

Cade grinned. “That’s Brooke.” Suddenly spurred on, he picked up the pace even more.

Then a second female voice called out. “Come on, Roberts! Keep going!”

Vaughn’s head whipped to the left, his heart pounding as he saw a red-haired woman cheering alongside Brooke, and for a split-second he thought—

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