Today, I'm happy to be hosting Chicki Brown on a tour stop for I Want You Back, the fifth book in her Stafford Brother series.
Nick Stafford is the youngest in his family. He's recently graduated from medical school and finished his internship. Everything was going well for him until Cherilyn, his girlfriend of two years, starts hinting about marriage. The thought of adding more responsibility to the pressure he is already facing getting ready to take the last of his board exams and the nearly quarter of a million dollars in student loan debt already hanging over his head is too much. He breaks off their relationship.
Eight months later, he runs into Cherilyn at an event on the arm of another doctor, and she's wearing an engagement ring. Seeing her with another man stirs up a jealousy like he's never experienced before. Now all Nick can think of is how he can get her back.
Cherilyn opened the powder room door and peeked out. “Who told everyone the wedding is off?” she asked her father when she saw they were alone.
“Derrick did. The best man went out with him.”
“He must hate me.”
“I imagine he’s pretty angry, but he’ll come to see that it’s for the best.”
“Do you really think so?”
“He will. It might take some time and meeting another woman, but he will.”
“God, I hope so.”
“Mom said Nick came to see you. What did he have to say?”
“That I was making the biggest mistake of my life and he couldn’t let me marry Derrick because he’s still in love with me.”
“Why did he wait until the last second to tell you in front of all the family and guests?”
“Daddy, he’s been calling me and texting me for two months, ever since he found out Derrick and I were engaged. I refused to answer him. He saw this as his last resort.”
Mika returned to the salon looking flushed and sweaty as though she’d been running. “Are you ready? I explained to the driver that we’re going back to your apartment then he can return for the rest of the girls. We need to go out through the kitchen so nobody sees us.”
“Let’s grab all your things and get out of here.” Mika stuffed the wedding gown and veil back into a garment bag. Cherilyn reached under the ottoman and retrieved the box holding the necklace then picked up her sparkly white shoes and put them inside the bridal money bag, a gift from her bridesmaids.
“I’m so sorry, Daddy.” She kissed her father on the cheek and followed Mika down a set of stairs that led to the kitchen where they escaped out a service entrance. Her best friend threw the garment bag into the back seat of the limo and they jumped inside, all the while gazing around the area to see if any guests saw them.
“I knew all along I shouldn’t have accepted Derrick’s proposal. Nick has always been in the back of my mind,” she whispered to Mika so the driver wouldn’t hear. “Even though we weren’t seeing each other anymore, a piece of my heart still belonged to him. I kept telling myself it didn’t matter, but when he showed up here today, I couldn’t deny my feelings.”
“You’re doing the right thing, Cher. Everybody was shocked when you announced your engagement after dating Derrick for only five months.”
“I knew it was too soon, but something inside me just wanted to prove to Nick that another man wanted me.”
“You can’t marry a man for spite.” When she looked up, tears were streaming down Cherilyn’s cheeks. “Aww, girl, don’t cry. I didn’t mean that in an ugly way.”
“It’s not that. I’m just so angry with myself for not listening to my heart in the first place.”
“It’s over now and—” Mika’s phone rang. It took her a minute to find her purse amongst all of the items she’d grabbed from the salon. When she clicked into her missed calls, her expression changed into a wide smile. “That was Nick. Should I call him back?”
She was too surprised to do more than nod.
“Hello, Nick. What? We didn’t know you stayed for the ceremony. We’re in the limo on the way back to Cher’s place. Yes, here she is.”
Cherilyn took the phone with a trembling hand. “You were there?”
“Yes.” His voice was so soft, she had to strain to hear him. “I had to see if you would go through with it. I’m so glad you didn’t. Mika said you’re going back to your apartment. Is it all right if I meet you there?”
“Uh, yes. I don’t see why not.”
“See you in a few minutes.”
Cherilyn handed the phone back to Mika. When she dropped her head back into the cushy headrest and closed her eyes, the guilt poured over her. “Am I a horrible person for what I just did to Derrick?”
“You did what you had to do,” her best friend since high school tried to reassure her. “Stop beating yourself up. Think about your next step. What’s in the box, anyway?”
She glanced down at the tiny gift box still clutched in her hand, and then handed it to Mika with a sigh.
“It’s beautiful. Is it real?” Mika asked, examining the sparkling necklace.
“Of course it’s real. Nick isn’t into fake anything, but that’s not the point. It’s what the necklace symbolizes.”
“What does it mean?”
“He and I used to spend a lot of time sharing our daydreams. One of mine was getting married in Paris standing under the Eiffel Tower. When he gave me the box, he said if I’d marry him, we’d get married there.”
“He didn’t mean right away, did he?” Mika asked with a questioning frown.
“I don’t know. We didn’t exactly have time to get into details.”
“You always told me Nick didn’t have any money. How does he intend to whisk you away to France?”
Cherilyn snickered. “When the Stafford brothers say they’re broke, they don’t mean broke the way the rest of us do. He once told me his parents put money in trust for each of them that they couldn’t touch until they graduated from college, but I wouldn’t expect him to dip into it for a European vacation. I don’t even want to think about more wedding plans right now anyway. Just knowing he wants to marry me is enough at the moment.”
“If you ask me, you’d better strike while the iron is hot, girl,” Mika said with a devious smirk.
The limo pulled up in front of Cherilyn’s apartment, their starting point this morning. The driver exited and opened the rear door.
“I’m going to see her inside,” Mika informed him. “And I’ll be right out." She grabbed the gown and other items off the seat and followed the runaway bride up the steps.
Cherilyn unlocked the door to her apartment and pulled her friend into a long hug. “Everyone should have a best friend like you. Thanks, Mika.”
“Are you sure you’re going to be all right?”
“Nick is on his way. He should be here any minute. I’ll be fine.”
“Let me put these things inside.” Mika took the armful of items and laid them on the chair next to the door, then kissed her cheek and stood back with a gentle, contemplative look. “Make sure you call me if you intend to get on a plane, you hear me?”
“I promise, but we’re not going anywhere. Go ahead. Get the limo back so he can take the rest of the girls home. Please apologize to them all for me.”
Mika turned to head back to the car then stopped midway down the sidewalk. “I mean it, Cher. Don’t leave this country without telling me.” Nick’s Charger pulled up behind the limo, and he jumped out. “I guess I’d better get out of here. Love you, girl.”
He climbed the four steps leading up to her door and drew her into his arms. “Thank you for giving me another chance. I won’t blow it again.”
She felt her knees weaken as his mouth descended onto hers in a kiss that sang through her veins. He raised his mouth from hers, and when he gazed into her eyes, it was as though they had never been apart all those months.
“I love you, Cher.”
“I love you too. Let’s go inside.”
Contemporary women’s fiction/romance author Chicki Brown has been featured twice in USAToday. She was the 2014 B.R.A.B. (Building Relationships Around Books) Inspirational Fiction Author and also the 2011 SORMAG (Shades of Romance Magazine) Author of the Year. Chicki was also a contributing author to the Gumbo for the Soul: Men of Honor (Special Cancer Awareness Edition).
A transplanted New Jersey native who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, Brown still misses the Jersey shore, the pizza and the hot dogs.
Nia Forrester, Beverly Jenkins, Iris Bolling, Lisa Kleypas, and J.R. Ward are among her favorite authors.
Amazon Central Author Page: http://amzn.to/l2kjXQ
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Pick up your copy. You're in for a great read!