Something Old, Something New (Prologue, page 1 of 1)

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Alex released Carmen’s hand as she stepped into the house. For a moment his gaze lingered on her slender figure as she walked into the kitchen. She had soft curves in all the right places.
He forced his attention back to Mr. Reynolds and the others waiting in the relative cool of the screened-in porch.
“Alex,” Mr. Reynolds said, indicating a tall thin blond man. “This is Sean - Joan’s husband. She’s my oldest daughter.”
“Sean,” Alex repeated, offering a hand.
Sean gripped his hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Well Sean,” Alex replied in a dry tone, “I hope some of it was good.”
Even Josh couldn’t contain a chuckle.
A short stocky man in a white T-shirt and matching sneakers jabbed a hand at Alex. “I’m Larry . . . of Mary and Larry,” he said in a southern drawl.
Alex gripped his hand and chuckled. “I’ll remember that, Larry.”
“And I’m Carl,” a thin man with a graying mustache said, pumping Alex’s hand. “I belong to Alice . . . at least, that’s what she says.” The deep set blue eyes held a smile that belied his solemn expression.
The last two men Alex knew well, Josh and Paul. Paul was the husband of the clinic receptionist, Saundra. Paul shook his hand, but Josh suddenly found interest in the dust on his boots.
“Looks like we could use some rain,” he said in a casual tone.
Mr. Reynolds furrowed silver brows in a futile reprimand of his son. When the gray gaze came back to Alex, the brows lifted.
Alex shrugged. Whether or not Josh was civil to him wouldn’t make or break his day. Josh still had his nose out of joint about Carmen. If he wanted to keep his marriage together, he’d best let go of his past with Carmen and start focusing on Lori.
Mrs. Reynolds joined them, holding up a large plastic container. “Here are some sandwiches to keep your strength up,” she said, and winked.
Josh took the sandwiches. “Thanks, Ma.”
Mr. Reynolds opened the screen door.
“We’d better start working on that Buffalo shed before it gets too hot.”
The others followed him and Alex called after them.
“I’ll meet you at the house. I need to talk to Carmen for a minute.”
A symphony of chuckles was the only response. As he turned toward the house, Mrs. Reynolds was preparing to go up the steps. She paused and smiled up at him, one eye almost covered by a wave of gray hair.
“I guess the best man couldn’t make it,” she said.
Alex smiled. “Bill had to work today. As for being the best man . . .” he left the sentence hanging and winked at her.
She smiled, blue eyes twinkling above round flushed cheeks.
“Carmen has her own idea about who is the best man, and it isn’t Bill.”
Alex laughed softly, assisting her up the steps with one hand on her plump elbow.
“I hope it’s me,” he said.
She grunted as she mounted the last step into the kitchen. “You know it is.”
Alex paused, staring wistfully out the window.
“I wonder sometimes if she’ll go through with it.” He shook his head and grimaced. “I guess I would though, considering my experience.” His gaze shifted to Mrs. Reynolds. “Still, we’re so different, and she’s giving up so much – the dairy, her home . . .”
“The dairy wasn’t that important to Carmen. That’s obvious by the fact that she gave it up so easily. Carmen throws herself whole heart into everything she does. I can’t imagine marriage being any different.”
She arranged the cake on the table.
Alex lifted his brows. “She was sure stubborn about the goats with Josh.”
Mrs. Reynolds shrugged. “That’s because Josh gave her an ultimatum . . . him or the goats.” Her gaze lifted to Alex. “You let it be her choice.”
Her shoulders dropped as she sighed. “That goat dairy was what kept her going financially and emotionally. She was about as close to her parents as any child I’ve ever seen. When they both died, she was lost. The dairy gave her purpose . . . hope. She was a change of life baby and they were so conservative and religious. When kids teased her about her outdated moral convictions, she got defensive and withdrew. I think that was the only reason she and Josh became an item. He understood and accepted her.”
She shrugged and turned to the cabinet, removing some paper plates.
“I love her almost as much as I do my own children. I knew she didn’t really love Josh, but I didn’t know how to tell them – or even if I should.”
She placed the plates on the table and looked up at him, her smile sad.
“Then you came along. Josh was so jealous. He knew he had been bested from the first day. He wanted to hate you – wanted you to fall on your face. I don’t think he has accepted yet that he admires you.”
Alex stared at her. If Josh admired him, he certainly hid it well. Maybe she wanted to see it that way. It wouldn’t be the first time his wealth or position had attracted people. Yet the Reynolds family seemed to be above that. They were confident in their self worth and appeared to accept people at face value. Like Carmen, their concept of friendship was two-way, with more focus on giving than receiving. They saw people not for who they were or what they had, but for what kind of person they were. That made their friendship with him all the more valuable.
“Josh was always so possessive about her,” Mrs. Reynolds continued, shaking her head. If another boy gave her so much as a second look, he had words with him.”
Alex’s laugh was short and humorless. “Yeah, I know that. He was snarling at me from the day we met.” He lifted his brows and shrugged. “But then, he was dead on about my intent, too.”
Mrs. Reynolds smiled at him, her eyes regaining the familiar sparkle. “You knew what you wanted and you went after it. She likes your confidence and tenacity.”
Alex absently ran fingers through his hair and sighed heavily. He was taking on a lot of responsibility – maybe more than he could handle. The clinic and other investments were enough to keep him busy. He had no false illusions, though. Carmen was going to be a handful. She might get over the phobia about adoption – if that was actually the problem. It might be more an obsession about biological kin. And then there was the issue of one person making decisions. He wasn’t opposed to making decisions, but marriage should be a partnership. There were some decisions that should be made jointly, and being in control meant taking full responsibility. Still, Carmen had an independent nature. She was strong willed – especially when it came to issues about morality. Even though she carried it to extreme, he admired her integrity.
His attention turned to the purpose for coming inside the house.
“I need to talk to Carmen before I leave,” he said, heading for the doorway to the living room.
As he stepped through the doorway, all eyes turned to him. Normally he wouldn’t mind having the attention of a room full of females, but this was different. In two weeks, they’d be relatives . . . kind of.
He ran a hand through his hair again. Taking a deep breath, he walked toward Carmen. She was sitting in a chair beside Katie, watching him with rapt attention.
From the first time he saw a photo of her, she had held his interest. In the months since he had come to know her, she had grown from a beautiful face to a beautiful woman. There was a passion about her. That much he had discovered the first time they kissed. Yet she was always trying to conceal that passion. At times it seemed that she might be afraid of him. That was a disturbing thought. Surely she must know he would never do anything to harm her.
He knelt in front of her, gazing into amethyst eyes that openly adored him. She had the most expressive face he had ever seen. Every emotion lay there waiting to be read. The full lips parted as she smiled and that tiny dimple appeared at the corner of her mouth. She was a little apprehensive right now. That wasn’t too surprising, considering the fact that she insisted she wasn’t a social person. Actually, a protected childhood probably left her ill prepared for socializing. Carmen was a straight forward person, and didn’t pretend she was something she wasn’t. It was one of the many things he admired about her.
He asked a few questions to make sure she would be able to contact him when she was ready to leave and then stood. He would love to take her in his arms right now, but that would embarrass her. Instead, he squeezed her shoulder and left. There would be time enough for affection after the party – when they were alone.
He left the room reluctantly. The guys were generous enough to offer assistance building the buffalo shed and he didn’t want to keep them waiting.

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