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THE DREAM MAKER
Alpha Aviator Series Book 3
BY TARA L. AMES
Head Chef and owner of a booming restaurant, Gabby Merrick not only has to prepare for a hurricane, but she has a tough decision to make, too. As much as she wants to marry Andrew Hughes, something is stopping her. In her heart of hearts, she still can’t accept the fact that Ethan Hastings, the love of her life, is dead, killed on a mission over in Afghanistan.
And what’s making it worse, the bartender she just hired, looks remarkably like Ethan, but he can’t be Ethan. For one thing, the bartender is much older, and for another, Ethan’s dead, right? She’s either losing her mind, or she’s just as sane as any other normal, human being, and the guy’s Ethan. And if so, where in the heck has he been for the past three years?
“You want me to marry you?” Under an August morning sun, Gabby Merrick stood on a dock in front of Andrew Hughes—in shock. Her boyfriend of two months pulled her into his arms and gave her a gentle kiss. His sweet, smelling cologne wafted around her. The ocean breeze tugged at her long hair. And her stomach twisted into a mesh of knots.
“Listen, I know we have been seeing each other for only a couple of months, but we’ve known each other for almost a year. I don’t need any more time to know what I want.”
Yeah, but she did. She had no idea if she was ready to open her heart again to another man. Deep down inside, she still believed Ethan Hastings, the love of her life, was still alive and would return home from Afghanistan someday. She knew it was silly to keep thinking that when the man had been reported dead almost three years ago, but she couldn’t help it.
Andrew clasped her hand and slipped a rock about the size of a ripe strawberry on her left finger.
Ohmigod. Gabby blinked at the diamonds glistening in the sun. He was dead serious.
“Imagine the life we’ll share.”
Still stunned, Gabby was speechless. All she could do was stare at the solid, gold chain Andrew wore around his neck and at the Tom Ford, designer, polo shirt, stretched across his chest. There was nothing cheap about Andrew. He had expensive taste, and with a successful career working as a wine broker, he could afford it. No doubt, he’d lavish her with material things, but did she really want all that? She had a lot of it already, growing up in a wealthy household.
“We’ll travel the world together, wherever my job takes us.” He stood on the ramp next to his seaplane and waited for her answer, his tanned face gleaming with hope.
Overcoming her shock, she at last spoke, “Andrew, I won’t give up my business.” Or my independence.
“I’m not asking you to sell your restaurant, if that’s what you’re worried about. We’ll hire someone to run it for you. I really want you to be with me. By my side.”
“Wow. You really have put a lot of thought into this.”
“Like I said, I don’t need any more time to think about it, I know what I want.”
“I—I don’t know what to say.”
“Say yes.” His intense gaze focused on her face. The tips of his blonde hair blew in the soft wind.
“It’s not that simple.” Gabby took a step backward. “You’ve really thrown me a fast ball. Unlike you, I need time to think.”
He narrowed his steely, gray gaze still focused on her face. “Look, you don’t have to tell me now. When I come back in a week, you can let me know your answer then.”
“A week?” She barely had enough time to think about what she planned to do tomorrow, especially now when her business needed her attention the most.
Ever since Luke gave up his share in owning JD’s Seafood Bar & Grille almost four months ago, she was way behind on paperwork. Accounts were owed. Bills were past due and the man, who Luke had hired to manage the bar in his place, was taking off after today to tend to a family emergency, leaving her shorthanded. And it wasn’t like she could call Luke and ask him to come back and help, he was away on a much needed vacation with his fiancée.
“I know it’s a lot I’m throwing out at you all at once,” Andrew said, yanking her hard from her thoughts.
No kidding. Her head pounded.
“But when I see something I want, I go for it, and I want you.” He held her tighter in his arms, as if that would really steady the thoughts flooding her mind. He had given her a ton of stuff to think about and in such a short period of time.
“I’m crazy about you, Gabbes.”
Irritation spiked down her back. She hated it when he called her that, but now wasn’t the time to tell him. “And I care for you too. I’m just not sure if I’m ready for marriage yet.”
Andrew brushed a kiss across her forehead. “Come with me to St. Thomas. Once there, we can talk some more about this.”
“As I told you several times before, I can’t leave my business, not with a possible hurricane heading our way.”
He sighed. “I just wish I could stay here and help you out, but I can’t afford to take the risk and miss out on that meeting. If the deal goes through, it’ll be huge for me and my clients.”
“I understand.” No, she didn’t. She hated storms, especially the kind that had a category number attached to it. Crap. She would just have to pull up her big, girl panties and go through it by herself.
“When I get back, I hope your answer will be yes. And if it is, we’ll have to celebrate with your family. We can even invite Luke and his fiancée.”
“My parents won’t be a problem, but my brother will still be deployed overseas and Luke and Sabine won’t be back until October.” What the hell was she saying? She didn’t even know if she wanted to marry Andrew yet.
“October.” He raised a wary brow. “I’m jealous. Where did they go, to some remote hideaway?”
“I’ve no idea. Luke didn’t tell anyone where they were going.”
“We’ll have to catch up with them some other time. You know I really do love you.”
Unable to repeat those three words back until she knew for sure how she felt about him, she could only bring herself to say, “I know you do. I just need some time to absorb all this.”
“Well, think hard while I’m away. Man, I’m going to miss you.” Andrew glanced at his watch and frowned. “I’ve got to go.”
“Call me when you arrive in St. Thomas.”
Andrew gave her a quick kiss. “This is going to be one hell of a long week.”
For her, it would be too short. The weight of her indecisiveness equaled the weight of that heavy rock on her left finger.
Tara L. Ames is a Michigan native with a penchant for creating highly sensual empowered stories about brave sexy men and strong-willed women. You can find her Alpha Aviators Series on most retail sites, coming this summer. Now living in Florida, she is actively writing another series in between taking care of her family, reading and enjoying the sun. Qigong/Tai Chi/Sudoku are her three biggest addictions besides chocolate.
Links to Tara’s website, blog, books, etc.
Amazon Author Page: https://amazon.com/author/taralames