Nick Baxter wasn’t Facebook friends with his brother. In fact, he wasn’t any kind of friends with his brother. But one evening while he was kicked back with his friend Michael drinking a beer and watching a basketball game, he clicked over to Randall’s page for no reason at all, the way you looked up that guy you went to summer camp with or the girl you took to the prom.
And there she was. Sarah. Right there with Randall in his profile pic.
Nick sat up suddenly, clutching his iPad in both hands, telling himself it couldn’t be her. Maybe his vision was out of whack. Or maybe it wasn’t his Sarah—what if she had an identical twin? But when he looked at that waterfall of blond hair and eyes like a cloudless summer sky, he knew the truth.
It was Sarah.
“What’s the matter?” Michael asked, as he grabbed another nacho. “You look sick.”
Nick couldn't stop looking at the screen. It was as if she'd leaned out of the photo and whispered hot, sexy promises in his ear, paralyzing him with anticipation.
Michael sat up and peered around the edge of the iPad. “Wow. She’s hot.”
No. She was more than just hot. So much more.
Images filled Nick’s mind, one after the other—searing, sexy images of the three days he’d spent with her a year ago in Park City. They met at the Sundance Film Festival, at the screening of a movie whose name Nick didn’t even remember. All he remembered was blinking as the lights came up, and then turning to the woman in the seat next to him. One look at those beautiful eyes, and he was a goner.
Within the hour they were back at his place, and the sex was unlike anything he’d ever experienced. She was a woman unlike any he’d ever experienced, with a smile that made his nerves sizzle and a carefree laugh that filled the air like siren song.
When she told him she was there for only three days, suddenly every hour seemed too precious to waste on something as trivial as his business. So for the next few days he was missing in action, confounding the hell out of Michael, who worked himself silly covering for him. They were business partners, so it was horribly unfair for Nick to disappear. He knew he’d have to atone for that sin later, but it was one he’d cheerfully committed. He couldn’t fight it. He just couldn’t fight the intense desire he felt to be with her, that sensation of floating a foot above the ground, that exhilarating, heady feeling that he, Nick Baxter, just might be falling in love.
“So who is she?” Michael asked.
“Sarah,” Nick murmured.
Michael looked at him blankly for a moment, and then his eyebrows rose. “Sarah? The woman from the film festival?”
“The most perfect woman in the world?”
“The one who loved you and left you?”
Even now, a year later, Nick still felt a sharp, gnawing pain in his stomach at the very thought of it. He’d awakened the morning of her last day in town to find her gone, and all she’d left behind was a single line scrawled on a piece of note paper. Thanks for a great time…Sarah. He told himself it didn’t mean she’d left for good, that maybe she’d just gone for a walk, or to the market to pick up breakfast. Something. Anything. But as the hours passed, he had to face facts. She was gone, and she wasn’t coming back.
Desperate to find her, he plowed through his memory for any clues she might have given him. She’d told him she lived in Houston and worked for a nonprofit agency, but in a city the size of Houston, that wasn’t enough information to go on. They’d spent hours talking about movies. Politics. Current events. But almost all their conversations had centered around What do you think? rather than Where exactly do you live? or even What’s your last name? It had been as if too much information would break the spell and bring the experience back to the mundane real world. Even so, he felt as if he knew her more intimately than any woman he’d ever met. But when weeks passed and he didn’t hear from her, he was forced to admit the truth.
She didn’t want to be found.
Michael set down his beer and twisted his head around for a better look at the photo. “So who’s that guy she’s with?”
That was the most horrible thing of all. “Randall.”
"My brother, Randall."
Michael’s eyes flew open wide. “The one you don’t speak to? I don’t get it.”
Nick didn’t get it, either. He stared at the photo, searching for some kind of explanation for the two of them being together and came up with nothing. A slow, seething jealousy welled up inside him. How could this possibly be happening? How could his Sarah be in a photo with his estranged brother? Randall had his arm around her, and she was smiling. Maybe they were just friends. Please, God, let it be that.
“Holy crap,” Michael said, pointing to the “About” section of Randall’s page. “Look at that.”
Nick looked where Michael pointed, and air whooshed out of his lungs as if somebody had punched him in the stomach.
Engaged to Sarah Renfro.
Engaged? Engaged? She was engaged to his annoying, controlling, domineering brother? How the hell had that happened?
Nick had received the wedding invitation, so he knew Randall was getting married. Undoubtedly it had been sent to him at the insistence of their uptight, socially correct mother, because he couldn’t imagine Randall wanting him there. Nick had thrown it aside because he just didn’t give a damn. He knew Randall’s fiance was a woman named Sarah, but it was a common name, and not for one moment had Nick put two and two together.
“So let me get this straight,” Michael said. “The brother you can’t stand is marrying the woman you couldn’t shut up about. The one you were crazy about, except she left you without a trace. Is that right?”
It sounded even worse when Michael said it. Nick wished he could slip his hands into that photo and right around his brother’s neck. Get away from her, Randall! She’s mine, she’s mine, she’s mine!
“I wonder if they’re already married?” Michael said.
Nick jerked his head up, horrified at the thought. “His status still says ‘Engaged.’”
“Maybe he hasn’t thought to change it yet.”
Nick tossed his iPad aside and leaped off the sofa. He dug through a pile of mail on his kitchen counter, hoping he hadn’t thrown it away. Finally he saw the heavy ivory envelope beneath a circular from a car dealership. He extracted it from the pile, pulled out the invitation, and panic surged through him. “The wedding is in three days.”
Michael picked up his beer again. “Sorry, dude. Guess that’s the end of that.”
“The hell it is.” Nick he tossed the envelope aside. He sat down on the sofa again and grabbed his iPad.
“What are you doing?”
“Booking a flight to Jamaica.”
“That’s where the wedding is taking place.”
Michael sat up suddenly. “Now, wait just a minute. You’re going to the wedding?”
“Why not? You actually have to ask that?”
Nick pulled up his airline app. “I just want to find out what’s going on.”
“She’s marrying your brother. That’s what’s going on.”
Nick scrolled through the flights. “There has to be more to it than that. He’s not her type.”
“You had a three-day affair. How the hell do you know what her type is?”
“Okay, here’s a flight from Salt Lake City International to Montego Bay leaving first thing in the morning. I’ll have to lay over in Dallas, but I can be there by early evening.”
“Have you forgotten we have a software update day after tomorrow? A conference call with a new snowboard vendor? Business is crazy!”
Nick blew out a breath. “I know. I have no right to ask you to cover for me again. But—“
“But you’re going to anyway.” Michael shook his head. “This woman is becoming a real pain in my ass.”
“I’ll make it up to you. I swear. You name it. Whatever you want.”
"I want you to think about what you're doing."
"I've already thought about it."
“So do you intend to do once you get to Jamaica? Stop the wedding?”
“I don’t know. It all depends on what I find out.”
“Oh, come on! That shit happens only in movies!”
Nick hit the button to book the departing flight. He had a choice of return flights, but since he had no idea when he’d be leaving Montego Bay, he decided to book one-way.
“Nick?” Michael said.
Nick filled in his name and address.
“This is a bad idea.”
Grabbed his credit card.
“A very bad idea.”
Typed the number.
“Nick! Your family already thinks you’re nuts!”
“I don’t give a damn.”
“Mess up that wedding, and there goes your inheritance.”
“My inheritance was gone a long time ago."
“There's always hope."
No. To hell with what his family thought. Why shouldn’t he hop a plane to a foreign country at a moment’s notice? He was nothing if not impulsive, right? Wasn’t that what he’d been told since he was old enough to know what the word meant? It fell right into place beside careless and unpredictable and irresponsible, words he’d heard so many times growing up that they’d been indelibly etched into his brain.
“You’ve told me about your brother,” Michael said. “He’s not the nicest guy in the world. If you show up there, you’re liable to end up at the bottom of the ocean.”
“I’ll take my chances.”
“If you end up dead, can I have your Burton Barracuda?”
At that moment, Nick would have given away every high-end snowboard he owned just to have Sarah back again. “Sure, buddy. It’s all yours.”
“Well, then. In that case I’m pulling for Randall.”
“Watch the game,” Nick said, rising from the sofa. “I gotta pack.”
Michael shook his head. “I’ll say it again. This is a bad idea.”
“She’s worth it.”
“She’s another man’s fiance.”
“She doesn’t know what she’s getting into.”
“She left you after that weekend for a reason.”
Nick felt as if he'd been punched in the stomach all over again.
“I’m not trying to be a bastard,” Michael said. “And I don't know why she left. But she screwed you over once. Why would you rip that wound open all over again?”
Michael might be right. This could turn out very badly. In fact, it would be a miracle if it didn’t. But it was something Nick had to do. Once he was face-to-face with Sarah, he intended to get some answers, no matter how much it shook things up. He needed to see for himself that it really was her. He needed to know how she’d met Randall, much less gotten engaged to him.
But most of all, he needed to know why the most beautiful and intriguing woman he’d ever met had left him without a trace.