I only have eyes for you, p.7
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       I Only Have Eyes for You, p.7

         Part #4 of The Sullivans series by Bella Andre
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Page 7

  Author: Bella Andre

  Surprised laughter burst from the crowd and Sophie had to shake her head and roll her eyes at Ryan, before catching her mother’s gaze and grinning. They’d predicted just this, hadn’t they? It was nice to know there were some things you could count on, she thought with a grin that she didn’t bother repressing.

  “But I’ve watched my brother and his bride pretty closely since they first found each other, and even for a guy like me, there’s no denying that if life is a game, I’m betting on their chances at taking home the pennant. ” He lifted his glass to Chase and Chloe. “To both of you. ”

  Sophie couldn’t believe Ryan had actually made her tear up. He was supposed to be the comic relief. Fortunately, she actually found herself thinking, Zach was up next.

  Zach grinned as he took center stage, knowing darn well that none of the women in the reception could even remember Smith or Ryan’s names anymore. How many times had one of Sophie’s girlfriends told her they’d never seen anyone as gorgeous as Zach? She was certain plenty of flat tires had been faked on his behalf, if only for the chance to get close to him for a few minutes.

  Her brother should have been utterly insufferable and arrogant. And, at times, Sophie had to admit Zach was pretty darn close to being the dictionary definition of both those words. Still, despite his endless teasing, she couldn’t help but love him.

  “Let this be a lesson to all of you who aren’t keeping up with your auto maintenance,” Zach said to the group. “Flat tires and totaled cars can lead straight to something truly shocking. ” He paused for effect, then lowered his voice and said, “Marriage. ”

  The guests all laughed, but even though Sophie was on the verge of laughing, too, she made herself shoot her brother a hard look. He grinned unrepentantly at her before turning to the bride and groom.

  “But seriously, this is a great day and I couldn’t have picked a better girl for my brother. To Chloe, for being brave enough to take the plunge with a Sullivan. ” He raised his glass and everyone followed.

  Gabe pretended to tackle Zach as he pulled the microphone from his hand, but he instantly sobered as he turned to Chase and Chloe. “All my life I’ve looked up to you, Chase. But never more than today, when you had the courage to make vows of forever with Chloe. ”

  Trust Gabe to get right to the heart of it. Her firefighter brother had always lived a life of risk and bravery. Just a few months ago he’d finally found his own true love in Megan and her daughter, Summer, two hearts and souls that were just as brave as her brother’s.

  “Just as you’ve always been there for me, I want you both to know that I’m here for you. Anything you need, any time, don’t hesitate to ask. Because I’ll move heaven and earth to make sure that it’s yours. ”

  Chloe blew Gabe a kiss as everyone applauded. Sophie felt bad for the men in the audience whose wives were now looking at them with new—higher—expectations after hearing from the firefighter.

  Sophie had been trying to prepare herself for the moment when Jake took the microphone to make his toast. She told herself not to stare at him for too long, but not to look away too many times, either. She needed to behave like everyone else in the audience. . . rather than like someone who was hopelessly, irrevocably, in love with the man standing before them.

  “I was ten years old when I met Chase Sullivan. I was in his backyard and I didn’t want to be there any more than I thought anyone else wanted me around. ”

  Sophie forgot all about acting normal. What was Jake doing? Sure, everyone else was pulling out the stops, but that was what brothers did for each other. Jake had always held his cards much closer to his chest than the rest of them, even Zach. Sophie fell even more in love with Jake as she watched him unexpectedly open up in front of hundreds of strangers.

  “I still remember watching the football come sailing from out of nowhere straight toward my puny little head. ”

  One look at the large man standing before them and it was absolutely clear to everyone that nothing about Jake had ever been puny. Sophie shivered as she remembered how big, how strong, his muscular body had felt pressed into hers while he’d been holding her.

  “Somehow I managed to catch it a before it nailed me right between the eyes. ” Grins turned to laughter as Jake turned to Chase. “Your aim has always been dead on, buddy. After witnessing firsthand the way you—and the rest of this motley crew—took in a scared kid more than twenty years ago, Chloe, you’ll be pleased to know that you’ve chosen to spend the rest of your life with one of the best men I’ve ever had the honor of knowing. There’s a saying in Ireland that seems pretty appropriate for today:

  If you must lie, lie in the arms of the one you love.

  If you must steal, steal away from bad company.

  And if you must drink, drink in the moments that take your breath away. ”

  Sophie couldn’t pull her gaze from Jake’s chiseled face as he raised the glass of specially brewed McCann beer that, she was surprised to suddenly realize, had just been delivered to all the guests’ place settings during the other toasts. That he’d planned such a beautiful toast for her brother and his new wife simply stunned her with its poignancy, as did his final words on lifted glass: “To one of those moments. ”

  Lori gave the crowd a saucy grin as she stood up. Putting her hand on her hip as if she were mad about something, she said, “I’ll have all of you know that I always figured I’d be the first Sullivan to get married. ” She pouted into the laughter, somehow managing to look beautiful even as she pushed out her lower lip. “And if anyone had told me that my big brother was going to up and steal my thunder, I would have reminded him that little sisters know how to exact our revenge. ” She winked in Chase’s direction.

  Sophie had to admit that her twin knew how to work a crowd. It was why she was such a great choreographer. Lori understood what people wanted, and she was talented enough to give it to them. After the deep emotions from her brothers and Jake, Lori’s seductive playfulness was just what the doctor ordered.

  “Good thing my love for you, Chase, is only surpassed by my thrill at calling Chloe sister. ” She raised her glass to the bride. “Welcome to the family, sis. We’re thrilled you’re officially one of us now. ”

  Sophie’s heart started pounding an out-of-control beat as Lori sashayed across the reception area to give her the microphone. She wasn’t comfortable speaking in front of people, had always been able to rely on a crowd of charismatic Sullivans to disappear behind.

  Her twin pulled her to her feet and shoved the mic at her, leaving Sophie no choice but to grab it before it fell to the floor. Sophie knew she must look like a deer caught in the headlights, with all of those people staring at her, waiting for her to say something beautiful and moving like every one of those who had spoken before her.

  Oh no.

  She didn’t know where to look, wanted to disappear into the floor. But then, just as she thought she was going to suffocate from being unable to take a full breath, she looked up and found Jake’s eyes on her.

  You can do this, he seemed to be saying to her. And there was such belief in his unwavering gaze that Sophie had no choice but to believe, too, if only for long enough to make her speech and sit down.

  “Hi. ” She wasn’t used to hearing her voice echoing out of speakers like that and it took her aback, until she locked on to Jake’s dark gaze again.

  You’re not really afraid of this bunch, are you?

  She suddenly remembered him looking down at her from a tree fort the boys had built, so many years ago. She couldn’t have been more than six or seven and her legs had been trembling the same way they were now, but she’d seen that challenge in Jake’s eyes and she’d risen to it, climbing up that tree so fast she hadn’t been able to let fear grab hold of her and toss her to the ground. He hadn’t congratulated her for making it into the fort, had probably made some crack about banning girls in the fu
ture. . . but she’d known he was proud of her.

  She wanted him to be proud of her now.

  “I love weddings,” she finally said. “Big ones. Small ones. If it’s about love, and forever, you’ve got me. Right here. ” She put her hand over her chest, then looked at her siblings. “Growing up in this family, it wasn’t always easy being an incurable romantic. ” Her brothers and twin grinned along with the rest of the guests. “But if I’d ever been even close to being cured,” she paused and faced Chase and Chloe, “the two of you made me believe in love all over again. ” She raised her glass to the couple. “I’d like to make a toast to my beloved big brother, Chase, and my brand new sister, Chloe, for writing one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve ever known. ”

  Everyone got to their feet again and she didn’t bother to stop her tears from coming as she beamed at her brother and his bride.

  And then, finally, it was time to give the microphone to her mother. Mary Sullivan kissed her on the cheek and whispered, “Absolutely perfect, honey,” before she took the mic and faced the happy couple.

  “I can’t count the number of times people have remarked on how hard it must have been raise eight children, but I’ve always thought I was the luckiest person in the world. ” She reached up to her head. “Even if I had to start coloring my hair in my thirties to cover up the grays that seemed to come in by the second. ” The laughter was mixed with sniffles already and Sophie was utterly enraptured by the love flowing around and around the room, wrapping them all up together in a soft cocoon.

  “Although today I’m officially welcoming Chloe into my family, she’s been in my heart since the very first time Chase spoke of her and I heard the love he felt for her even across the telephone lines. I love you both. ”

  Just as Sophie had planned, the music started at the tail end of her mother’s toast. Smith pulled her up out of her seat and into his arms. Her big brother was a fantastic dancer and she’d always loved dancing with him, since the time she’d been a little girl, standing barefoot on top of his shoes as he twirled her around the living room.

  She’d cried more today than she had in years, but they had all been good tears. Tears of joy, of pure love. Now she was laughing, feeling so light, so full of that love, as her brother dipped her and then drew her out for an extended twirl that left her breathless.

  Especially when she landed straight in Jake’s strong arms.

  Chapter Six

  Jake had never seen anyone more beautiful than Sophie Sullivan. If he’d been charmed by the purity of her emotions during the wedding ceremony, her reaction to her siblings’ speeches had to be the sweetest thing he’d ever witnessed.

  But it was her laughter as she danced with Smith that took him over the edge, straight to a place he knew damn well not to go.

  Sophie was simply irresistible. Not just because of her curves and her gorgeous face, but because of the very thing that should have had him heading as fast as he could in the opposite direction: She couldn’t even begin to know how to hide her emotions.

  No other woman had ever felt this right in his arms and when the song slowed and she put her head on his shoulder, he had to pull her closer, had to breathe in her soft scent, a hint of champagne and flowers.

  Jake could feel Smith’s gaze on him, hard and threatening, but in that moment Jake simply didn’t care if he was going to pay for his transgressions with Sophie. She was too warm. Too soft.

  And too damn sweet for him to figure out how to let go of her, yet.

  “Oh, Jake,” she whispered in his ear as they moved to the music, “this is so perfect. ”

  He was so attuned to the soft press of her breasts against his chest, to the feel of her breath over his earlobe, he didn't hear the warning bell in his head until several beats had passed. He knew what he needed to do. He needed to pull away, needed to make it clear that perfect was never going to be in the cards for the two of them.
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