Dangerous Games Bonus Scene
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I hope you enjoy this bonus scene with Asher and Izzy. (And a surprise appearance by Grams. LOL)
A pink hue peeks over the mountains in the distance, the dawning of a new day on the horizon. I exhale a long breath as I strum a random melody on my guitar, glancing at the woman to my right, her head resting on my shoulder.
“We said we wouldn’t stay out here all night.” I lean down to kiss her temple.
A tiny moan escapes her throat as she pulls the blanket tighter against her body, snuggling up next to me a little more.
When Izzy broke off her engagement to Jessie ten years ago and cut me out of her life, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do this again. Be able to sit on the dock at Grams’ lake house, a guitar in my hand, this amazing woman at my side as we watch the sunrise together. Despite it all, we managed to find our way back her.
It leaves no doubt in my mind. Isabella is my soul mate. From our first encounter, our souls intertwined, nothing to come between us. Not time. Not miles. Not even my brother.
“Don’t they say this is bad luck?” I murmur.
“What’s that?” She lifts her head off my shoulder, her tired brown eyes meeting mine. A slight breeze causes a few tendrils of her nearly jet black hair to blow in front of her face, and I smooth it behind her ear. It’s a simple touch, but the sensation of her skin ignites a spark inside me. Always has. I know in my heart it always will.
“Seeing each other before our wedding on the day of the ceremony,” I answer.
“I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to spend the night before our wedding together, either. As if one night would somehow make me pure again.” She giggles as she angles toward me, her full, luscious lips poised on mine. “But after this past year, no amount of Hall Marys or Our Fathers will ever erase all the sinning I’ve done with you.”
“Is that right?”
“That’s right. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.” She presses her mouth more firmly against mine, her kiss perfect. From the first touching of our lips during a blackout in Vegas, it felt like she was made to kiss me, and me her.
For years, I hungered for her, even when we sat on this very dock while my brother, her fiancé, slept inside. And now she’s mine. No more obstacles keeping us apart. I’ll never take her for granted, not after everything we went through to get to this place, hours away from her finally bearing my last name.
Isabella is my dream. My biggest fantasy. My everything.
“I doubt I’ll ever tire of these lips,” I whisper.
“Good.” I sense the smile spreading across her mouth. “Because they’re the only lips you’ll be kissing for the rest of your life.”
I pull back, admiring how beautiful she looks in the early morning light. The luminosity of the rising sun makes her look almost ethereal, a glow surrounding her like a halo. The sun reflects off her necklace, drawing my eyes to it. She allows the fabric of the blanket to loosen, reaching for my face. She pushes my hair out of my eyes, then cups my cheek. I melt into her touch. It’s so simple, so innocent, yet has me greedy for more. I fear I’ll always be greedy for more of her.
“Do you remember the first time we watched the sunrise together like this?” Her voice is breathy.
I nod, briefly closing my eyes as I relish in her touch. “One of my fondest memories. One I returned to dozens of times over when you broke up with Jessie and cut us all out of your life.”
“It was that first Thanksgiving. When he brought me here to introduce me to his family.”
It was one thing to learn the girl I’d fallen for already had a boyfriend. It was a different story to learn that boyfriend was my very own brother.
I’d approached him, convinced he did this in some juvenile competition with me. He insisted he hadn’t, reminding me that, while I’d told him about this girl I’d had my eyes on, I never pointed her out. Then he offered to break it off with her. But he looked happy again after the train wreck that was his relationship with Candace. I hated the idea of being what caused him to return to that dismal state.
It turned out I was right, that he had known Izzy was the girl I’d fallen for. While I initially felt betrayed, I’m not the same person I was ten years ago. Neither is my brother. I refused to destroy the bond we’ve shared since his birth over this. In the end, our relationship has proven to be stronger because of everything, so much so that he’ll be standing by my side today as I marry the woman he almost did.
This is certainly a story to tell our kids one day, if for no other reason than to teach them the power of forgiveness, that nothing in this world is worth destroying your relationships with people who love and care about you.
“It was the first night Jessie and I stayed together,” she continues.
I tilt my head at her. “You guys hadn’t spent the night together before then?”
She blows out a laugh, the sound more beautiful than any song I can imagine writing. “Not yet. We took things slow… At least in the beginning.” She chews on her lower lip. “Anyway, I hadn’t realized he wasn’t exactly a night owl, like I was. I was wide awake at eleven at night while he was fast asleep.” She floats her eyes forward, a serenity washing over her as she peers at the lake in front of us. A few birds fly amongst the tall trees, announcing the arriving day as subtle waves lap over the rock shore beneath the dock. “That’s when I heard the soft sound of you plucking at your guitar.” She turns back to me, nodding at the instrument currently resting against my torso. “That guitar.”
I crack a smile. It doesn’t matter that I’ve finally made it, that I’ve had more success in the music industry than I ever could have imagined. There’s something about the feel of this guitar, the one I used when writing so many of my early songs, that I love. Parts of the neck and body are worn from where my hands have held it for hundreds of hours, but no guitar will ever compare to this one, regardless of how unique and expensive.
“So I got out of bed, pulled on my boots and coat, and headed outside. In the back of my mind, I knew it was a bad idea, that I should go back to Jessie, but some bigger force was at play, pulling me to you that night.” She cranes her head back, peering into my eyes. “And so many other nights to follow. I’d actually begun to look forward to Jessie going to sleep just so I could slip out of bed and come see you.” Her lips skim against mine. “You were my favorite drug. Still are.”
Her words cause warmth to flood through me, my heart full with an emotion that’s so much more poignant, more addictive, more satisfying that simply love. Love is too weak a word for what I feel for this woman.
“I didn’t think it was possible to fall even deeper into you, but I just did, darlin’. You will always be my drug of choice.” I bring my hand to her face, running a lithe finger along the curve of her cheeks, skating over her bottom lip. A shiver runs through her at the contact. “These lips will always be the perfect elixir to my troubles.” I lean closer, the promise of her kiss unhinging me, making my need for her mount with every heartbeat. “That night you came and sat beside me on this dock without so much as an invitation, it confirmed what I felt in my heart.”
“And what’s that?” she asks huskily.
“That you belonged with me. With that one simple act of just sitting with me, you lowered the walls I erected after losing Emilia.” I thread my fingers through her hair, tugging her closer. I fear no matter how close she is, it still won’t be enough. I’ll always have an unquenchable need to have her, consume her…choose her. “You lit my soul on fire, and that flame has only grown hotter over the years.”
She adjusts her body, her nails digging into my scalp as she erases that last whisper between our mouths. “And I will always burn for you.” She forces my lips to hers, as addicted to my kiss as I am to hers.
At first, I try to keep the contact respectful, benevolent, but when she slides her tongue against my mouth, I become a man unhinged. With a growl, I tighten my grip on her, deepening the kiss, my tongue sweeping against hers, tasting everything she has to give. And she’s all mine. I still want to pinch myself. Still can’t believe we’re in this place, this moment that still seems like nothing more than a dream.
Pulling away, she pants, chest heaving. I love that I can make this woman breathless. I hope to never take that for granted. To always find a way to make her fall in love with me again every day, even if it’s because I emptied the dishwasher or remembered to put the toilet seat down.
“We should go inside,” she says through her labored breathing. “Before I can’t keep my hands off you. Need you to be well rested for tomorrow night.”
“Tomorrow night?” I cock a brow.
She pulls her lower lip between her teeth, nodding. “Our wedding night. Fair warning. There will be no timer. No breaks.” She brushes her lips against mine. “Just me, you, and no clothes all night long.”
I groan. “That sounds like heaven. But there’s one little problem.”
She pulls back. “What’s that.”
Beaming, I gesture to where the sun has ascended over the mountain peaks. “The sun’s up. That means we’re getting married today.”
A serenity washes over her expression, her mouth curving up in the corners. “I didn’t think this would ever happen.”
“Me, either,” I respond as she verbalizes my own thoughts. “But you know what Grams always says.”
She pinches her lips together. “Are you talking about ‘every slip is not a fall’? Or maybe ‘ifs and buts butter no bread’?”
“No.” I chuckle, my eyes shining at Grams’ constant words of wisdom. Then my expression falls as I push a lock of her silky hair out of her eyes. “I meant what she said about true love.”
She exhales, melting into my touch as I cup her cheek.
“How it’s like a boomerang. How it will always find its way back to where it belongs. It doesn’t matter how much we fought this, or the obstacles in our way. This is the way our story was supposed to end.”
“I agree. Except on one point.”
“And what’s that?”
She slowly shakes her head. “This isn’t the end. This is just the beginning… Darlin’.” She winks.
I burrow my fingers into her hair, pulling her back toward me. “I like the sound of that… Darlin’.”
* * *
"This thing is a goddamn noose,” I say as I stare at the full-length mirror in my bedroom, attempting to knot my tie.
There’s a reason I never wanted a job in corporate America. Hell, I don’t even think I wore a tie to any of my interviews when I was looking for a teaching position. But Izzy deserves the wedding of her dreams…including me wearing something other than my typical jeans and a t-shirt.
“Stop.” Jessie forces me around. “Before you cut off your airway.” He laughs as his fingers form the material into an appropriate knot, as if he can do it blindfolded. He probably can. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen him without a tie. “There.” He steps back, admiring his work, then turns me back to the mirror.
As much as I prefer my casual attire, I don’t mind the tan suit with a navy blue tie Izzy chose for today. At first, she told me she was happy if I wore khaki shorts and a white button-down shirt, but I refused to go along with that. This is the most important day of my life, even more so than the Grammy ceremony back in January, where I took home three awards, including one for album of the year. I wore a tux for that. I can at least wear a suit on my wedding day.
“Thanks, man,” I say, smoothing the tie into place before buttoning my suit jacket. Glancing at the clock, I see it’s ten minutes until the ceremony is to begin. Butterflies instantly swim in my stomach. Not out of nerves. I have nothing to be nervous about. I’m more excited than anything.
“Ready?” Jessie asks.
“I’ve been ready for this day for over a decade.”
He smiles as he pulls me in for a bro-hug. “I know you have.” He drops his hold on me. “Now let’s get you married.”
“You have the rings?”
He pats the chest of his suit. “Safe and sound.”
With a nod, I draw in a deep breath in an attempt to calm my excitement. “Okay,” I exhale. “Let’s do this.”
Jessie beams, not a single hint of jealousy or despair in his expression.
I follow him downstairs and into the great room, where my immediate family is waiting to start the processional. I glance out the large windows and into the back yard, where several dozen of our closest friends and family wait to celebrate in this day.
When we started planning for this, Izzy and I decided to keep it on the smaller side, only inviting the most important people in our lives. We also knew the only place we wanted to get married was here, at Grams’ lake house, the place that has always held such strong memories for both of us.
“There’s the man of the hour,” Grams cuts through my thoughts.
I turn my attention away from the windows and toward where she sits in the reading chair. I head toward her, slowing my steps when I see she’s flanked by a half-dozen men who appear to range in age from their sixties to around eighty.
“Grams…” My greeting comes out questioning. I lean down to kiss her cheek, then pull back, eyeing the men surrounding her, a single brow cocked. “What’s going on?”
“It’s your wedding. Don’t you remember? I’m the one who should have memory troubles. Not you.”
“No. Not that.” I subtly nod behind her. “Who are all these people?”
“You told me I could invite a few of my friends.”
“I thought that meant some people you met at Bingo, or something. Not star in your own version of The Bachelor.”
“My darling boy…” Grams gingerly raises herself to her feet.
One of the men at her side jumps to help her. While the years have been good to her, as the days pass, she’s gradually showing the signs of her age more and more. After all, she’s now ninety-one. While I don’t want to think about it, I know she probably doesn’t have a lot of time left. Then again, Grams has always surprised us. She may outlive all our expectations.
“You should know by now I’ve never been one to play Bingo.” She smiles that devilish smile of hers, a glint of mischief in her eyes.
Despite her age, I still see the conniving woman she’s always been. The woman who’s rarely played by the rules. Instead she rewrote them. I probably got my risk-taking personality from her. She’s the one who encouraged me to quit my job as a high school music teacher and pursue my dreams, much to my parents’ dismay at the time. While they’re proud of everything I’ve accomplished, when I first moved out to LA, they saw it as a fool’s decision, thought the chance of me making it was slim to none. And it was. But the universe intervened.
Just like it intervened when it brought Izzy back into my life.
“I know that, but—”
“There are plenty of people who go on dates with different potential suitors. Who play the field, so to speak.”
“I understand that. But most people date different people at different times. Not all at once.”
“That may be true, but remember I’m older. I may not have many days left.” She leans toward me. “Plus, I’ve been reading this romance book I found online. Did you know there’s a thing called a reverse harem?”
It’s a good thing I’m not drinking because I’d surely spit out my drink. “Reverse…harem?”
She nods, eyes brimming with excitement. “It’s like a regular harem where there’s one guy fooling around with a group of women. Except it’s in reverse, so it’s one women—”
“I got it,” I practically shout, my face heating. “No need to paint a picture.”
She chuckles. “Your father reacted the same way. But don’t worry.” She winks. “It’s all just innocent fun.”
I give a pointed look to the men flanking her. “It better be.”
“It is,” several of them say.
“Ah, so I see you’ve met the harem,” a deep voice calls out. I turn, watching as my father and mother approach, Dad dressed in a similar khaki suit as me, Mom wearing a navy blue flutter sleeve dress.
“I have. I’d like to say I’m surprised… But I’m not.”
Chuckling, Dad hugs me. “Me either.”
“Ready, sweetie?” Ma asks, brushing the light scruff on my jawline, her eyes brimming with pride.
I offered to shave for the wedding, but Izzy adamantly refused, said she loved the disheveled look of my appearance. So instead, I opted for a hair cut and a bit of grooming.
“Without a doubt.”
“Then let’s get out there.” She winks as she loops her arm through mine, allowing me to escort her out to the back yard.
My veins are on fire with the excitement coursing through me as I stand in front of our guests at the foot of the dock, the lake sparkling in the background. The seconds seem to stretch as I watch Izzy’s friends walk at a painfully slow pace up the makeshift aisle, like they’re purposefully taking their time simply to heighten my own anticipation.These past twelve hours we’ve been separated have been torture. More so than the weeks we’ve often spent apart while I toured the world.
Finally, the music changes to a slower arrangement of “My Favorite Almost” that I wrote for today. Everyone stands and my pulse speeds up. When she appears in the aisle, my heart is ready to burst with the love I have for her.
Her eyes meet mine, her parents flanked on either side of her, escorting her toward me. Jessie places his hand on my shoulder, squeezing, supporting me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so beautiful, so breathtaking. And that’s what Izzy does. What she’s always done. She steals my oxygen, making it so I can’t breathe without her.
Her face isn’t heavily made up. There are a few waves in her hair, a bit of gloss lining her lips. Otherwise, everything about her is natural. Her dress is simple, a stunning sleeveless lace number that’s fitted through the bodice before flowing to the ground. A few jewels overlaid on the fabric catch the sunlight, making it sparkle. And settled on her chest is the origami dove necklace I gave her at this very spot nearly a year ago.
“Hey,” she says once she reaches me.
“Hey,” I manage to say, my jaw slack.
“You clean up good.”
“You…” I trail off, licking my lips. “Wow.”
She giggles. “I like wow.”
“Congratulations, Asher, dear,” her mother says, cutting through my obvious ogling of her daughter.
I turn to her and lean down, leaving a gentle kiss on her cheek. “Thank you, Victoria.”
“Take good care of our girl,” her father says.
“I will,” I agree as he places Izzy’s hand in mine, her skin soft against mine. As I stare at our linked fingers, it finally sets in that she’s mine, that I’m hers.
Facing her, I tune out everything. It’s just us, and our bubble that will never burst again. I immerse myself in all she is, drowning in her, never wanting to come up for air. It’s not until I feel a nudge that I look away from her mesmerizing eyes.
I glance over my shoulder, meeting Jessie’s gaze.
“You’re up. The vows.” He hands me her ring.
“Oh, right.” Reluctantly dropping my hold on Izzy, I take the band from him, a nervous laugh escaping my throat.
“Forget why you’re here?” Izzy jokes.
“Nah. I fell under your spell. Like always.”
Her cheeks redden in response to my compliment. I take a moment to compose myself and get my thoughts together. Then I return my eyes to hers.
“Isabella Delaney Nolan,” I begin, my voice shaking. “I didn’t fall in love with you. I walked, hell, ran into love with you, fully aware of what I was doing, eyes wide open. My heart even more open. And along the way, it was my conscious decision, my choice to take every step toward you. Toward us.
“I’ve always believed in fate. But in my mind, we’re only fated to do the things we would have done anyway. Fate can’t make us do things we’re not already destined to do. It was fate that brought you to that club in Boston all those years ago. But it was my choice to love you. And I’d make that same choice a hundred times over. In another world. In another lifetime. My heart will always beat for you. My soul will always find yours. And I will always choose you. Yesterday. Today. And tomorrow. You’ll forever be my favorite always.”
When I slide the ring onto her finger, tears spill over her eyelids and she swipes at them. “You’ll forever be my favorite always, too.” She inhales a steadying breath, briefly closing her eyes to get her emotions under control. It’s taking everything I have not to cry at how happy I am that I’m minutes away from being able to call this woman my wife.
When she opens her eyes, I can’t help but smile, her own mother’s words sounding in my head. “You’ll know it’s love if you see a piece of yourself staring back.” And I do. But I don’t see just a piece of myself in Izzy’s gaze. I see all of me. My life. My heart. My home. This woman is my home.
“From the instant our eyes met, I knew you’d be the only man I’d ever love… Even if I initially agreed to marry your brother.”
Our guests chuckle politely as a stunning blush blooms on Izzy’s cheeks. Then her expression turns serious once more.
“My mama always says the only life worth living is one that’s full of surprises, one that keeps you on your toes. From the very beginning, you surprised me. Captivated me. And challenged me in a way no one else has. You say you ran into love with me. Well, I raced alongside you to that finish line, jumping over every hurdle in my way. And now that we’re finally here, I can honestly say without reservation that there’s no one else I want to run beside every day for the rest of my life.
“I promise to always be true to you. To support you whether you’re selling out four nights in a row at Madison Square Garden or struggling to get a gig at a local club. I promise to challenge you.” Her nose scrunches up. “And probably frustrate you, but don’t forget my stubbornness is one of the many things you love about me.”
I laugh slightly, fighting back my own tears from sliding down my cheeks. “That’s true.”
“But mostly, I promise to share my life with you. The ups. The downs. And the in-betweens. No matter what we go through, I know we’ll always have our boomerang love. And an origami dove. Thank you for never giving up on me.”
“Never,” I breathe as she pushes the ring on my finger.
Forgetting the order of the ceremony, I place my hand on the small of her back, yanking her body against mine. Unable to deprive myself of her kiss another second, I capture her lips with mine.
In our time together, we’ve shared more kisses than I can count. Happy kisses. Desperate kisses. Needy kisses. Tragic kisses. But I will forever remember this kiss.
The first kiss of the rest of our lives.
Thank you so much for reading this extra little bonus of Asher and Izzy!
Wondering what happens when Nora takes her trip on Route 66? Find out today in Royal Games!
Every girl dreams of falling in love with a prince.
When I met Jeremy, I thought he was my prince.
Caring. Compassionate. Sensitive.
And, unfortunately for me… Not attracted to women.
So here I am, thirty years old and divorced when most of my friends are just getting married. In desperate need of a restart, I set off on a road trip to learn how to love myself again.
The last thing I expected was to meet him.
Mysterious. Enigmatic. Sexy as hell.
And, after a malfunction with my rental car, my new road companion.
As we travel the miles along Route 66, I find myself experiencing a connection I never have. We share our truths, our secrets, our fears.
Can I give this man a piece of my heart after having it broken?
Can I learn to trust again after having that trust betrayed?
When his deepest secret is revealed, can I look beyond the lies and toward the only thing that matters?
I’ve always dreamed of finding my very own Prince Charming. Maybe my prince is Anderson North.