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       Swept Into Love: Gage Ryder (Love in Bloom: The Ryders Book 5), p.1

           Melissa Foster
 
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Swept Into Love: Gage Ryder (Love in Bloom: The Ryders Book 5)


  SWEPT Into

  Love

  The Ryders

  Love in Bloom Series

  Melissa Foster

  This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author and do not represent the opinions or thoughts of the publisher. The author has represented and warranted full ownership and/or legal right to publish all the materials in this book.

  SWEPT INTO LOVE

  All Rights Reserved.

  Copyright © 2017 Melissa Foster

  Kindle Edition

  V1.0

  This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means, including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without the express written consent of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  Cover Design: Elizabeth Mackey Designs

  WORLD LITERARY PRESS

  PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

  A Note from Melissa

  The best way to stay up to date on my releases is to sign up for my newsletter:

  www.MelissaFoster.com/News

  If this is your first introduction to the Ryders, every book is written as a stand-alone, so jump right in and enjoy! For those who have read the entire Love in Bloom series, beginning with the Snow Sisters, you’ve waited a long time to read about Gage and Sally. Their love did not take me by surprise, but their story sure did. It’s fun, emotional, and riddled with all the ups and downs you’d expect from a friends-to-lovers, second-chance, single-parent romance. I hope you enjoy their story as much as I do.

  Be sure to read past the end of the book for a preview chapter of EMBRACING HER HEART, the first book in the Montgomery series! This new series is fun, sexy, and oh so sassy! I know you’ll love it!

  About The Ryders

  The Ryders are a series of stand-alone romances that may be enjoyed in any order or as part of the larger Love in Bloom big-family romance collection (40+ awesome books). You can jump into the series anywhere. The characters from each family appear in other Love in Bloom subseries, so you never miss an engagement, wedding, or birth. For more information on the Love in Bloom series visit www.melissafoster.com/LIB

  THE RYDERS

  Seized by Love (Blue & Lizzie)

  Claimed by Love (Duke & Gabriella)

  Chased by Love (Trish & Boone)

  Rescued by Love (Jake & Addy)

  Swept into Love (Gage & Sally)

  Download a FREE Love in Bloom series list: www.MelissaFoster.com/SO

  Download a FREE family tree and more here: www.MelissaFoster.com/RG

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  A Note from Melissa

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Epilogue

  Excerpt from Embracing Her Heart

  Excerpt from Sisters in Love

  More Books By Melissa

  Acknowledgments

  Meet Melissa

  Chapter One

  SALLY TUFT AWOKE to a freight train running through her head and the worst cotton mouth she’d ever experienced. She lay on her back, eyes closed, trying to remember what happened last night after the conference she’d attended. Thank God what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas, because she didn’t need her boss finding out she got rip-roaring drunk. She rolled onto her side, coming face-to-face with hot whiskey breath. Her eyes flew open and she bolted upright, clutching the sheet to her chest. Her heart pounded wildly as she took in the gorgeous sandy-haired man lying next to her. Oh shit! Shit, shit, shit!

  No. This can’t be happening.

  She slammed her eyes shut, trying to calm her mounting panic by breathing deeply, but that made her head hurt even worse.

  Her eyes opened slowly, roving over Gage Ryder’s scruffy jaw and the full lips she’d fantasized about so many times she should be arrested. This was bad. Very bad. Gage had been her best friend and co-worker since her husband was killed in a skiing accident several years ago. And worse, he was her son’s confidant. The man whom Rusty went to with problems his father was no longer there to help him with.

  Her gaze trailed over his broad shoulders and muscular chest as realization set in. She bit her lower lip, holding her breath as she lifted the sheet. Please let me have something on. At least underwear. The pit of her stomach twisted at the sight of her closer-to-forty-than-thirty, less-than-perky bare breasts, and stomach that had never quite regained its elasticity after having her now twenty-year-old son. Oh God!

  Gage rolled onto his back, and her eyes were drawn to the formidable bulge lifting the sheets. Look away. Look away.

  She couldn’t look away. He’d made his feelings for her clear without ever actually spelling them out. Would he mind if she looked? Oh God! I should mind! She needed to force those desires back into Ignore mode. Closing her eyes and gritting her teeth, she tried to do just that. But the urge to look was too strong, and they popped open again, drinking in every hard inch of him.

  His left arm stretched over his head, coming to rest on the pillow. The other reached beneath the sheet and adjusted himself. Her nipples prickled to tight points. Now was not the time to get turned on, but she couldn’t stop staring as he sleepily pushed the sheet down his chest, revealing solid abs she’d seen a million times—but never once in bed. They were sexier than when he was playing basketball or chopping wood to heat his home. Oh God, she loved to watch him chop wood.

  Her eyes moved to the other wood in sight. She heard a whimpering sound and realized it came from her. She snapped her mouth shut. She had to get out of there before he woke up and realized what they’d done.

  What if he remembered what happened—or didn’t—last night? She was never going to drink again. Not in this lifetime, and definitely not with Gage Ryder.

  She clutched the sheet and slid to the edge of the bed, struggling to dredge up memories of last night from the muddled recesses of her mind, but her head was spinning. At least her hangover had taken a backseat to the reality of having slept with Gage. He rolled toward her as she stepped quietly from the bed. The sheet caught beneath him and pulled from around her. She gasped, her hands darting to cover all her private parts as Gage’s amused blue eyes opened and followed her frantic hands. A slow smile crept across his gorgeous face. She needed more hands! She yanked the sheet from the bed and turned around.

  “Don’t look!” she yelled as she tried to wrap it around her. “Oh my God. Gage!”

  “Sally…?”

  “Don’t say a word. Wait. Please tell me we didn’t have sex. Just…” She shook her head and spun around, bringing Gage and all his naked glory into full view. For a second she was struck mute, her jaw hanging open. His thick arousal lay nestled between powerful thighs, on a manicured tuft of dirty-blond hair.
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  “See something you want?” Gage said with a chuckle, snapping her brain into gear.

  “You’re naked!” She spun around again, breathing so hard she feared she might pass out.

  “You whipped the sheet off me,” he said far too casually.

  “I’m naked!”

  “I see that, and I prefer you without the sheet.”

  “Gage!” She huffed. “Put a pillow over yourself! Cover that thing up.”

  He sighed loudly and she heard the rustling of the pillow.

  “Okay, Salbird. I’m covered, but given that we’re both naked, I’m pretty sure you got more than an eyeful last night.”

  Salbird. The first time he’d called her that they’d been at a party at Danica’s house. Danica was Gage and Sally’s boss at No Limitz Youth Center. In addition to that, she and her husband, Blake, were two of Gage and Sally’s closest friends. As everyone mingled around the party, Gage put a hand on her lower back and whispered, Can I get you a drink, Salbird? He’d flashed that boyish smile of his, and the endearment had stuck. Sometimes he just called her bird. It was a silly endearment, but it sounded magical coming off his lips. To this day it made her feel special in a way nothing else ever had, and though she’d wanted to know why a man she’d only recently met had likened her to a bird, she’d never asked. She didn’t want to spoil the magic. But what if last night spoiled the magic?

  She faced him again, tears stinging her eyes as she tried not to stare at his tempting body. “Did we…?”

  “You don’t remember?”

  He sounded disappointed and confused, and it made her heart hurt for too many reasons. “I…um…Do you?”

  He cocked a brow, his lips tipping up at the edges. It was the kind of answer a guy gave when he didn’t want to commit one way or the other, and she knew him well enough to understand that he was playing it safe. If he didn’t remember, he thought she’d be hurt. And if he did, she’d be humiliated.

  She sank down to the bed, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Gage. How could we have done this? I’m so embarrassed.” All these years she’d wondered what it would be like to kiss him, to be in his arms, to see him gazing deeply into her eyes as she made love to the only man besides her deceased husband she’d ever wanted—and the only one she shouldn’t have. Between Rusty and their jobs, there was too much at risk. And now she’d blown it. Not only had they slept together, but she’d been so drunk, she couldn’t even enjoy the memories of their only night together.

  “I’m the last person you should be embarrassed with.”

  He touched her arm, something he’d done so many times she knew the feel of each of his fingers, but as he moved closer and his lips touched her shoulder, it felt different, sending heat and confusion cascading through her.

  “Shh. Sal. It’s okay.” He brushed her hair over one shoulder. “You know how I feel about you.”

  He felt too good, sounded too reassuring. She pushed to her feet and paced to try to calm her racing heart. She knew exactly how he felt about her. He was always there when she needed him, even when she didn’t realize she did.

  They’d met months after she’d lost her husband, but the hurt had still been just beneath the surface. He’d been right there with her as she’d waded through the lingering devastation, and he’d helped Rusty deal with his anger toward his father for leaving behind a world of misunderstanding about a son—Chase, a half brother to Rusty—they hadn’t known about. Gage had taken the brunt of Rusty’s rage, and now he and Rusty were too close for her to jeopardize their relationship for her own happiness.

  “This is anything but okay,” she said adamantly. “The last thing I remember is having drinks and celebrating the new youth center. How did we get drunk enough to do this?” They’d come to Vegas for a youth management conference, as they had been tasked to open a new center in Oak Falls, Virginia, where they were due to arrive later today.

  “Jesus, Sal.” Irritation rose in his eyes. “You make it sound like sleeping with me is a horrible fate.”

  “That’s not what I mean and you know it.” She stared out the window and caught sight of her reflection in the glass. Her normally straight hair stood up in the kind of wild tangles that came from a man’s hands during fits of passion.

  From Gage’s hands.

  She swallowed hard, wishing she could remember the feel of them, see the heat in his eyes as he buried himself deep inside her. Great. Now she was thinking about having sex with him.

  She looked at the clock. “We’re going to miss our flight. I have to go to my room and get ready.”

  “Sally, wait. Let’s talk.”

  “We’ve obviously talked enough.”

  Gage pushed to his feet, carrying the pillow in front of him as she ran around plucking her bra from a chair by the window and her dress from where it lay crumpled at the foot of the bed. Evidence of our drunken fuckfest. A fuckfest I don’t even remember. Renewed panic shot through her. She wasn’t on birth control. She spun around looking for her panties and trying not to completely freak out. She spotted her heels lying by the door and a condom wrapper beneath the edge of the bed. Oh, thank God. Memories of last night came back to her in stilted flashes, like an old movie reel. She remembered stumbling through the hotel room door as they kissed. She shuddered with the memory of her back hitting the wall and Gage’s hard body pressed against her, and his mouth—Lord, his hot, delicious mouth—had trailed down her neck, her chest…

  Gage bent down, fishing around in the bottom of the sheet draped around her, startling her from her erotic thoughts.

  “Sweetheart, this is not the end of the world. So we had too many celebratory shots.” He rose to his full height of six three or four, big and broad and so freaking hot her breath left her lungs. He lifted his hand and dangled her thong from his finger.

  “Maybe not for you.” She snagged the tiny strip of material, feeling her cheeks burn. She pulled on the thong beneath the sheet, trying not to think about his kisses, or how they had led to sex, which she desperately wished she could remember.

  “Don’t be ridiculous,” he said with an annoyed expression. “We’re adults, and we’re totally into each other. This was meant to be.”

  “We’re friends. It’s not like that between us and you know it.” It was partially true. They’d never crossed the line between friends and lovers before, even if she wanted to.

  “But it could be.” Gage stepped closer, heating up the temperature in the room by fifty degrees. “It can be.” His arm circled her waist from behind, and he kissed her neck. “I want it to be.”

  She closed her eyes, fighting tears. “Gage,” she whispered in a shaky voice. “Don’t you get it? Rusty needs you more than we need each other.”

  “Why are you and I and he and I mutually exclusive?” He turned her toward him, his expression serious, his jaw tight. “You know I love you both. I have for years, Sally, and I know you feel the same for me.”

  Her heart reached out, capturing his confession, reveling in it, even if for only one painful moment. She knew she couldn’t enjoy it, not at Rusty’s expense, and she tucked Gage’s words, and her feelings, away once again.

  “What we feel doesn’t matter,” she insisted. “I’m not selfish enough to do that to my son.”

  Confusion—anger? hurt?—rose in his eyes. “What the hell does that even mean?”

  “Rusty lost his father, Gage. He turns to you for everything. If you and I tried to be a couple and it didn’t work, I’d be screwing him out of the best thing in his life, the one person who helped him find his footing again. I can’t risk that.”

  “Bullshit, Sally.” He tightened his hold on her arms. “Whether we’re together or not, I’d never disappear from Rusty’s life.”

  His eyes were trained on her, challenging and angry, and still, beneath it all, she saw the surety of his love and the friendship that had always been there, driving the pain of their situation even deeper.

  She twisted from his grip and rea
ched for her phone on the nightstand. “But it would never be the same. Not for him and not for us. I can’t—” Her gaze caught on the papers beneath her phone. She lifted them with a shaky hand, scanning the marriage certificate and a receipt for something called an Elvis Hound Dog Wedding. “Ohmygod. What have we done?”

  “What is it?” He peered over her shoulder, his hot breath momentarily distracting her from the papers. “Well, hot damn, Salbird. Looks like we’re married.”

  “This doesn’t mean…It’s got to be a joke.” She shifted the remaining papers on the dresser and gasped at the sight of a photograph of her and Gage kissing beside a heavyset man dressed in full Elvis garb, his arms outstretched, as if he were presenting them to the camera. Above them, a sign read VIVA LAS VEGAS WEDDING CHAPEL.

  Gage lifted her left hand, revealing black marker circling her ring finger. They both glanced at his left hand. A matching black ring circled his third finger.

  AFTER A SIX-hour-plus stressful flight to Virginia, Gage’s patience was wearing thin. Sally refused to talk about their situation. It felt like he’d been given the gift of a lifetime and then it had been stolen away. He was elated to find himself married to the woman who had captured his heart from the first day he’d met her, and equally torn apart by how hard she was pushing him away. He drove the rental car down the quiet roads of Oak Falls, Virginia, where they were spending most of the next week putting infrastructure into place for the new youth center before returning to Allure, Colorado, on Friday. He’d thought setting up the new location would be his big break in getting Sally alone and finally asking her out on a real date. He’d never imagined they’d already be married by the time they arrived. Now, if only he could convince her it wasn’t the end of life as she knew it.

  Gage cut the engine and reached for her hand, brushing his thumb over the faded ink on her finger. She must have scrubbed the hell out of it, because his was still black as night despite his own shower. He met her troubled baby blues, hurting for her. “We need to talk about this, Sal.”

 
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