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Because You Loved Me
(The Billionaires of Sawgrass #1)
By Delaney Cameron
Audiobook & ebook, 182 Pages
April 5, 2019 by Wisteria Press
He’s in love with the boss’s daughter. She’s secretly engaged to someone else.
Graham fell for Bridget the moment he laid eyes on her. He was fully aware that he’d unwittingly done what his best friend and mentor wanted all along. Unfortunately, it takes two people to make a relationship, and the female part of this equation isn’t interested. Being something of a realist, Graham accepted the inevitable. It wasn’t so with Bridget’s father. He continued to play matchmaker, stubbornly refusing to admit that his interference only made the situation worse. Graham’s only comfort is the fact that none of Bridget’s relationships have as yet become permanent. But even that false hope is ripped away when she drops her bombshell.
Bridget can’t deny she’s led a somewhat charmed life. As the eldest daughter of a successful businessman, she’s never wanted for anything. After graduating from a prestigious college in New York, she didn’t have to draft résumés or suffer through stressful job interviews. Instead she went to work for her father creating updated interiors for his hotel flipping company. The only gray cloud in her personal sky is her father’s ridiculous idea that his ex-Navy pilot protégé and his daughter constitute a match made in heaven. His embarrassing attempts to force her and Graham together have made it necessary to keep her engagement to the man she does love a secret. But it’s only a temporary thing. She has no doubt about her ability to bring her father around to her way of thinking.
The best laid plans, right? When destiny shuffles the cards and deals out a new hand, unrequited love and an unsuitable fiancé could turn out to be the least of Graham and Bridget’s problems.
Bridget smiled a little as she led the way to the stairs. “I guess that means my brother and sister are behaving. I hope you realize it won’t always be like that.”
“I’d be disappointed if it was. It’s natural for kids to test their limits.”
“Is that what you did?”
She heard him chuckle.
“I still do it.”
She glanced over her shoulder and met his amused glance. “I’m not surprised.”
“You looked and sounded very smug when you said that. Didn’t you ever color outside the lines?”
By this time, they’d reached the wide landing on the second floor. Bridget did a quick mental debate and turned to the right. “I never wanted to.”
He came up beside her, looming over everything. “Maybe you didn’t have enough incentive.”
There weren’t many people who could make Bridget unaware of her most noticeable physical characteristic. She was taller than most of the people she ran across on a daily basis, including Roman. That wasn’t the case with Graham. Not even the high heels she wore in the office made any difference. In the tennis shoes she was wearing at the moment, his height advantage was apparent.
“Could be,” she said. “It’s not something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about.”
“That’s too bad.”
Bridget rolled her eyes as they entered Caden’s room. “Why?”
He sat the containers on the bed, a half-amused, half-serious look on his face. “You miss out on a lot of things when you play it safe.”
“Oh, really? Can I assume you limit the use of this…strategy to your personal life?”
His eyes started to twinkle, something she’d seen happen when he was speaking to someone else. It was quite a different experience to find it directed at her.
“Of course. I always play by the rules in business.”
She wasn’t sure if that was a subtle jab at Roman or not. “That’s what I thought.” She pointed to the set of folding doors covered with Ironman and Hulk posters. “You can start on the closet. I’ll work on the chest of drawers.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He pulled a plastic tote from the top of the pile and maneuvered past her. Bridget smiled to herself as she waited for him to open the closet doors. There was a few seconds of what could only be stunned silence, and then, “Shazam!”
She laughed so hard she had to sit down on the bed.
“What’s so funny?” he asked, his obvious confusion setting her off again.
Bridget pointed at him while she tried to catch her breath. “You! I didn’t expect to hear that from a battle-hardened ex-Navy pilot.”
“I adjusted my response to my audience.”
“How considerate of you! Are you ever caught off-guard?”
“A lot more than you think.” He waved a hand at the disaster behind him. “Any suggestions?”
“Start at the top and work your way down.” Bridget grabbed a box, walked over to the dresser, and opened the top drawer. It wasn’t in much better condition than the closet. Caden hadn’t inherited their father’s talent for organization. “Liesl’s room will be less chaotic. She’s not nearly as messy, plus she’s more into clothes and jewelry than Legos, video games, and action figures.”
“I noticed she likes to read. Other than her bedroom, my library is her favorite room in the house.”
When Bridget looked in his direction, the words forming on her lips dried up. Graham was reaching over his head for something on the top shelf. Her eyes locked on the ripple of muscles moving down his arms and across his back with the accuracy of a heat-seeking missile. Something stirred in the region of her belly. This was followed by a wave of warmth that defied the coolness of the room. Alarmed and embarrassed, she turned away, relieved he hadn’t witnessed her strange and completely unwanted reaction.
* * * * *
Graham usually preferred silence when he was working, but at the moment, he could have used some noise (no matter what form it was in) to take his mind off the woman standing a few yards away. He’d thought their brief, casual encounters at work were unnerving. Being alone with Bridget here was an entirely different level of disturbing. His highly-tuned senses sizzled with awareness, registering every breath, movement, and flip of her ponytail.
Dealing with these unsettling reactions didn’t keep him from knowing how difficult this was for her. When she let him in the house, he’d seen the trace of tears on her cheeks and heard the tremor in her voice. It had taken every ounce of self-control he had not to drop the boxes on the floor and take her into his arms, an action that would have embarrassed both of them.
If only he could think of something to say, but the light banter he employed with moderate success everywhere else seemed to have deserted him at the door of Caden’s room. All his addled brain could come up with as a conversation starter was ‘You smell really nice.’ Even as a compliment, it lacked imagination.
Behind him, he heard a drawer close. It was the perfect excuse to glance over his shoulder. Bridget looked up and met his eyes. Then she smiled. Graham’s heart did an award-worthy nose dive into his shoes.
“I was thinking of coming back with you today to spend some time with Liesl and Caden. Is that okay?”
Okay? It was the best news he’d had all week. “Of course. You’re welcome anytime. Liesl and Caden will love it. They miss you.”
“I miss them, too. It’s sad that it takes something tragic to make you aware of things like that.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself. All of us are guilty of having tunnel vision. The pace of life is faster than ever. It’s challenging to fit in everything.”
“It comes down to priorities. We make time for what we believe to be most important, all the while thinking that there’ll be plenty of time to get to those other things.”
“Sometimes we do get to them. It’s only after a window of opportunity closes that you realize how precarious life really is. There are no guarantees. There’s no insurance policy to protect you from the unknown.”
“Having served in the military means you know that more than anyone.”
He nodded. “It gave me a better appreciation of life as well as the freedoms we so often take for granted. This is off the subject, but I’m planning to take the kids to an air show. Caden mentioned wanting you to come, too.”
“An air show?” she asked, grinning. “That sounds right up your alley. When is it?”
“Two weeks from today.”
“I should be able to make it.”
He forced himself to say the rest. “Caden thought you might like to invite Roman, too. That reminds me of something I should have mentioned before. You’re welcome to bring Roman to the house when you come.”
He didn’t imagine the blush that entered her cheeks. Was it because she was still embarrassed about asking Graham for the money? Or was she remembering the remarks he made about Roman facing the consequences of his actions?
“That’s very nice of you. He hasn’t had many opportunities to get to know Liesl and Caden. That’s something I’m hoping to change.”
Graham was torn between wishing Roman would refuse and wanting the chance to size up the other man in person. Neither of those sentiments could be voiced aloud. “You’ll get to meet my mother today. She’s in town for the weekend.”
“What does she think about you being a guardian?”
“Nothing much surprises my mother. She has a unique talent for disregarding whatever doesn’t directly pertain to her.”
“That’s an interesting answer.”
“It’ll make perfect sense once you meet her.”
“Hmm. You’ve definitely excited my curiosity.”
That was something at least.
You’ll have me interfering in your life for at least ten more years.”
There was nothing he’d like more. He snapped the lid on the box. “A fate worse than death.”
“I bet you didn’t take that into consideration when you agreed to be a guardian.”
“A very premature action on my part.”
She grinned in acknowledgement, but he could tell she’d already moved on to something else.
“That’s probably what he had in mind all along.”
“Dad, of course. Don’t tell me you didn’t know he wanted you and me to…” she stopped suddenly, looking very much like her younger sister.
He knew what she meant, but couldn’t resist teasing her. “He wanted you and me to what?”
She sent him an exasperated glance that still managed to quicken his pulse. “Don’t act so innocent, Graham. You know what I’m trying to say.”
He laughed, thinking how pretty she was when she blushed and wishing he could kiss every inch of her pink cheeks. “I do know. What I can’t figure out is why you’re having so much trouble saying it. There’s no one here but us.”
He was given an excellent view of her profile, which was no less adorable than the rest of her.
“It’s embarrassing. I wish I hadn’t brought it up.”
“Why? It’s always better to get something out in the open rather than ignore it. Yes, it was uncomfortable, but in reality, it was harmless. We both know your father meant well. I took it as a compliment that he thought me good enough for you.”
Her head turned just enough to allow their eyes to meet. “There were few people Dad really liked and even fewer that he trusted. The fact that you were in both those groups says a lot. But what Dad didn’t want to accept is that love can’t be forced. It can’t be manipulated by throwing two people together. If it’s meant to happen, it will. If it’s not, then all the planning and scheming in the world won’t make any difference.”
Graham could testify to that. “I couldn’t have said it better myself. As awkward as this conversation has been, we probably should have had it sooner.”
“I think you’re right. It wouldn’t have made all Dad’s machinations any less annoying, but at least we wouldn’t have been worried about what the other person was thinking.”
“I thought we handled ourselves very professionally.”
“Me, too, but there were times when I wanted to sink right into the floor.”
“Would one of those times be when Daniel arranged a business lunch, and you and I were the only ones who showed up at the restaurant?”
“Yes. I don’t think I said fifty words throughout the entire meal.”
“It was probably less than thirty, but who’s counting?”
“That’s what happens when I get really angry and really embarrassed at the same time. My brain goes on strike. Anyway, that’s all in the past. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll be able to laugh about it.”
“Anything’s possible,” he said, reaching for another plastic container.
The sultry notes of “Havana” by Camila Cabello filled the room. Bridget reached into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out her phone. Graham could tell who was on the other end by the look on her face. He’d give anything to have her look that way for him.
“Excuse me for a minute,” she said, walking toward the door.
A ragged sigh escaped him as he turned back to the closet. Everything Bridget said about love was true. It can’t be forced or manipulated. Love happens on its own terms, and once it takes hold, it stubbornly resists every effort by its unsuspecting host to withdraw. Having become one of those helpless victims, he thought it very unlikely that he’d ever be able to ‘laugh’ about it.
Excerpted from Because You Loved Me by Delaney Cameron. Copyright © Delaney Cameron. Published by Wisteria Press.
Other Books in the Series
About the Author
I’m a Georgia girl at heart if not by birth. I love to read, watch college football, and spend time with my husband. I’m a hopeless romantic so there will always be a happily ever after in my stories. I also like to write about second chances because love doesn’t always work out the first time.
I write sweet romances set in both contemporary and regency settings. My stories are about the journey to love, from that first meeting to the point where two people know their hearts are no longer their own. My characters aren’t perfect. They make mistakes and have faults like the rest of us. They learn the sometimes painful truth that the path to love isn’t always smooth, but it’s a road worth traveling.
(Posts go live on the day they’re scheduled.)
December 8th: Launch
December 9th: Krystal M. Anderson – Love’s Sweet Return
December 10th: Julie Coulter Bellon – The Marquess Meets His Match
December 11th: Delaney Cameron – Because You Loved Me
December 12th: Rachelle Paige Campbell – Love Overboard
December 13th: Raneé S. Clark – Finding Taylor
December 14th: Chrissy Elliot – Finding Home on Winslow Island
December 15th: Aspen Hadley – Suits and Spark Plugs
December 16th: Shanna Hatfield – The Christmas Bargain
December 17th: D. E. Malone – Love, Lies and Mistletoe
December 18th: Melissa McClone – Sweet Yuletide
December 19th: Sarah L. McConkie – The Promise of Miss Spencer
December 20th: Kimberley Montpetit – Mostly Dangerous
December 21st: Kate O’Keeffe – Dating Mr. Darcy
December 22nd: Regina Scott – Always Kiss at Christmas
December 23rd: Grand Finale
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