Book 3 of the Married in Malibu series
As the head of security for Married in Malibu, Travis Houston is absolutely certain that no one will ever get into one of their celebrity beachfront weddings without an invitation, especially the paparazzi. But though he's a master of keeping his clients safe, he can't say the same for keeping his own heart safe. Especially when Amy Woodford shows up from out of the blue and completely takes his breath away.
Three years ago, Amy went halfway across the country to try to escape heartbreak. But when her best friend's wedding brings her to Married in Malibu, she's suddenly face to face with the man she once loved with all her heart.
Love is always in the air at the beach in Malibu, and this summer is no exception as Travis and Amy can't help but fall for each other all over again. But will Amy's unconditional love be enough for Travis to believe that he could be good enough to transcend the pain from his past and give her his entire heart?
“A super sweet, charming and heartwarming second chance love story. I love this series!”Marybeth, 5 stars on Goodreads
Please enjoy the following excerpt of The Barefoot Wedding: Married in Malibu #3, copyright 2018, Lucy Kevin…
The heavy rain caught Amy Woodford by surprise, and that alone reminded her just how long she’d been away from Southern California. Locals knew that while it rarely rained in Malibu, when it did, it poured.
She hadn’t yet come to feel like a native of her adopted Michigan, but somewhere in the last three years, she’d forgotten enough about California to start buying into the myth that there were only ever cloudless blue skies. Even on the plane when she’d seen the storm clouds gathering, Amy had been certain that the sun would be shining once she landed. And for another hour, the rain had held off. Long enough for her to drop her bag off at the beachfront rental house as the sun set, then change into a pretty dress and redo her makeup before heading to Married in Malibu, the boutique wedding venue for the stars.
Maya Lamsen, Amy’s best friend, was going to marry Nolan Ruccolo, the love of her life, next weekend. As Maya’s maid of honor, Amy was here several days ahead of the wedding to take care of the last-minute details, while her supermodel friend wrapped up a high-budget photo shoot.
Amy was determined to make sure that Maya and Nolan had the perfect wedding. So determined, in fact, that she was willingly heading back into a very dangerous emotional place…with the only man who had ever captured, then crushed, her heart.
“Everything is going to be fine,” she promised herself as she parked her rental car at the wedding venue.
It had to be.
There was nothing that could have possibly kept Amy from being there for Maya on the most special day of her friend’s life. Not the rain that had finally started to pour down from the dark clouds above, turning from droplets to a vertical river in a matter of seconds.
And definitely not him.
Fighting the urge to get back into her car and drive away, Amy ran toward the front door through the quickly forming puddles in the parking lot. Taking off her heels so that she could move quicker, she did her best to ignore the scrape of the pavement against her feet. But it was just as impossible to outrun the rain as it was to pretend the small pebbles in the parking lot didn’t hurt.
Some things you just can’t run away from.
And you can’t pretend they aren’t happening either.
Her clothes were soaked through by the time she got to the door and rang the bell. So much for making a good impression. The storm had tangled her hair into a wild and unruly mess, her dress was plastered to her, her feet were muddy, and she didn’t even want to think about the state of her makeup.
Had it been a sunny day, the wedding venue would likely have been the most beautiful spot imaginable, with the converted hotel forming a centerpiece in the blooming gardens and a path leading down to a small, private beach. But she was too wet, and too nervous, to appreciate any of that today.
When there was no answer to the bell, Amy thumped her fist against the door, desperate to get out of the rain, then looked up at the small dome of a security camera above the door. “Could someone please let me in? I’m here to help with my friend’s wedding.”
At last, Amy was relieved to hear footsteps and then the click and snap of someone unlocking the door. But her relief was short-lived.
Because Travis Houston was standing barely a foot away.
Built like a star football player, he wore a tailored suit that emphasized his strength and power, as did his military-short hair. His caramel skin made his dark eyes stand out as they looked her over. She knew that he would take in every last detail, because he always had.
Somehow, she found her voice. “Hello, Travis.”
* * *
Though Travis had seen her on the security camera, he still couldn’t believe the most beautiful woman he’d ever known was standing on the doorstep of Married in Malibu.
“Can I come in?” Amy asked, and it was only then that Travis realized he was staring at her while she continued to be drenched by the rain blowing in from the parking lot.
He hurriedly stepped back. “Of course. Come in. Let me find you a towel to dry off with, and maybe a blanket too.”
During his career, he’d faced down paparazzi and crowds that had threatened to get out of control, without so much as blinking. Yet, Amy’s presence had him reeling.
Travis gave her a towel from the linen cupboards and then a blanket that she wrapped around herself in an effort to get warm, before bringing her to his office. He made them both tea, partly because it was a good way to get some heat back into her…and partly because he needed something to do with his hands so that he didn’t give in to the urge to pull her into his arms. She was still shivering slightly as she gratefully cupped the mug of peppermint tea in her hands and took a sip.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, his surprise at seeing her again making his voice gruffer than usual.
“I’m the maid of honor for my friend Maya’s wedding this weekend,” Amy replied. “She couldn’t get away from work, so I flew in from Michigan to check on the last-minute details for her.”
Travis silently digested the information. He hadn’t let himself look for Amy after she left Los Angeles, because if he had, it would have been way too tempting to jump on a plane to go after her. And to beg her to come back to him.
“I wasn’t expecting you to show up like this,” Travis admitted.
“I can see that,” Amy replied, her expression unreadable.
“What I meant,” he clarified, “is that I don’t remember seeing your name on the guest list.”
“I used the name Amy Willington for Maya’s guest list,” she said in a soft voice.
“You’re married?” The thought that she had fallen in love with someone else was a lead weight in Travis’s chest.
“No, I’m not married.”
The relief that washed through him was as powerful as the waves that washed in against the beach.
“I knew you worked here,” she continued, “and I didn’t want to cause any problems for anyone, so I used my mother’s maiden name.”
“Seeing you again isn’t a problem,” he assured her. Yes, his heart felt like it was rocketing around inside his chest, but at least he felt something again. As opposed to the numbness of the past three years. “How have you been doing?”
“I got an opportunity to paint in Michigan after…” She let her words fall away, obviously not wanting to talk about what had happened between them. “So I took it.”
Travis knew Amy had attended art school in spite of her parents’ wishes—and their disapproval of her chosen career. He had always been proud of her for going after her dreams. “That’s great that your painting is going so well. I always knew that it would.”
Emotion flashed in her eyes before the shutters fell again. “Actually, I haven’t made all that many sales yet.”
That wasn’t what Travis had expected to hear. Amy was so talented and determined. If anyone deserved success with her art, she did. He wanted to ask what had happened and why it wasn’t working out quite the way she’d hoped. But he couldn’t. The same way that he couldn’t reach out to put his arms around her. Because he didn’t have the right to do it anymore.
His old feelings might be bubbling away under the surface, drawing him to her, but the simple fact was that he wasn’t worthy of her.
He never had been.
Besides, it was obvious that Amy wasn’t comfortable talking about her painting career. Even with the blanket wrapped around her, she looked less at ease now than she had standing on the doorstep, soaked to the bone by the rain.
“Maya asked me to take a look at the wedding and reception plans. I know it’s after hours for the rest of the staff here, but if there is any chance you could show them to me, I’d really appreciate it.”
Though he knew it made sense for them to get back on a purely business track, it was still extremely difficult to mask his disappointment that she was done talking about herself. “Yes, of course.”
Amy kept the blanket around her while Travis led the way to Meg’s office, where they could look at the detailed drawings for the ceremony and wedding reception, along with the lighting plans. There were also samples of the linens, as well as drawings of the flower selections.
Amy lifted the drawings to the light, looking at them from different angles for several minutes. Finally, she said, “Whoever put this together is a genius. Both the drawings and the design sensibility are absolutely perfect.”
“Meg is a brilliant designer,” Travis agreed. “Will you be able to come back tomorrow to meet her and the others to discuss the plans in detail? Everyone should be in by nine o’clock.”
“Nine sounds fine.” When she looked up into his eyes, he found himself hoping she might be about to say something more—maybe about how she missed him, or that she hoped they could try again. But in the end, she simply said, “Thanks for letting me in and showing me the plans. I probably shouldn’t have come by so late, but I couldn’t wait until tomorrow morning to take a quick peek at things.”
Travis knew he should take her words at face value. Still, he couldn’t help but hope the real reason she had come tonight wasn’t just because she was helping her friend with her wedding, but because she’d wanted to see him.
Now that she was here, standing before him looking as bright and beautiful as ever, he didn’t want her to go so soon. Not when it had been so long.
Far too long.
So as he walked her to the door, he couldn’t stop himself from saying, “Would you like to go out and get some dinner?”
Amy blinked at him, looking momentarily stunned. And, for a split second, tempted. But then she shook her head. “I ate on the plane. Thanks again for your help tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Before he knew it, she had taken off the blanket, bundled it into his hands, and fled to her car. Then she was gone.