Emma spun in circles beneath the thin silver moon of late summer. Strappy sandals dangled from one hand as she danced barefoot across the cool grass. On one side, a group of trees towered over her. On the other was an enormous playground slide, scaled up for adult use.
She’d sipped just enough champagne for twirling to feel liberating, but not so much to make her dizzy. It was, however, just enough alcohol to make a bad idea seem like a reasonable one, which was why she was currently dancing by herself on the large swathe of grass at Camp Firefly Falls. If she were inside the Pinecone Lodge, enjoying Josh and Ruby’s wedding reception with the rest of the guests, she might forget all the reasons she wasn’t supposed to lure the best man into the nearest coat closet.
So far, Emma had been an excellent maid of honor. She’d found a last-minute replacement for broken shoes, dealt with a caterer who considered capers one of the four food groups, and hired the best stripper on the East Coast for the bachelorette party. If there was a maid of honor trophy, it would be on her mantel—so long as she made it through the rest of the night without breaking Ruby’s only rule.
“Stay away from Max,” her friend had told her as Emma worked her way up the long line of buttons on the back of Ruby’s wedding dress.
“Josh’s friend? The best man?” Of course she knew exactly who Max was. She’d quietly ogled him a few times the year before and done so again at the rehearsal dinner.
Ruby snorted. It was the downside of best friends. They tended to see through your bullshit. “Yes, that one. I caught you eying him last night. Please don’t go full Emma on him.”
“I have no idea what you mean.” Emma pulled out her best wounded innocent expression.
Ruby’s oh please look was louder than usual.
Emma sighed. “Okay, fine. I’ll behave myself. Give me some credit for self-control.”
“It’s not your self-control I worry about. It’s your tendency to treat men like chew toys. You play with them until they’re torn into shreds, then wander off in search of something new.”
“It’s kind of impressive, really.”
“And yet they keep coming back.”
“You know exactly why.” Ruby gestured at their reflections in the mirror. “It’s a sign of how much I love you that I’m willing to be outshone on my wedding day.”
“Please. Josh won’t be looking at anyone but you.”
Ruby’s lips curved into that secret smile she had every time her husband-to-be’s name was mentioned. “I know it’s hard for you to look less than perfect, but try to have an underbite or something whenever Max is around, okay?”
Perfect was a strong word, but she couldn’t protest, not when she’d spent most of her life working to earn that description.
The last button finished, Ruby spun to face her. “Hook up with a cater waiter if you’re bored. Max is Josh’s business partner. If you do your usual number on him, I’ll spend the next six months fielding questions about you, like I always do when you dump a guy. I have better things to do with my life.”
Emma helped Ruby pin the veil. “You’ve giving me too much credit. He knows I’m from Los Angeles. What if he just wants a fling?” Emma found herself strangely reluctant to agree to Ruby’s request. The bride’s whims should be indulged, she supposed, but Emma hated to sign away her rights to a tipsy wedding flirtation.
“A fling. You know that’s how Josh and I started, right?”
Emma took in her friend’s white dress and veil and fought a shudder. If this was where flings ended up, maybe it was a good idea to stay as far away from Max as possible.
It had proved harder than she expected. The man was gorgeous. Dark hair, intense blue eyes, and the body of a Viking. He’d been appealing enough at the rehearsal dinner. Tonight, in formalwear…well, she hated to admit it, but Ruby was right. If Emma wasn’t under strict instructions to stay away from him, she’d be discovering what was under his cummerbund that very moment.
Instead, she was putting some distance between herself and temptation. Maybe the night air would cool her down. Emma wasn’t used to denying herself a bit of fun, but she would do anything for her best friend. Plus, whatever frustration she was feeling now, she had several days to work out her stress. Just the thought made her steps lighter. As soon as she’d noticed that Josh and Ruby’s wedding coincided with spa week at Camp Firefly Falls, she’d rushed to register. For the next few days, she only had to worry about massages, seaweed wraps, and drinking as much cucumber water as humanly possible.
For the last year, Emma had worked nonstop to turn her success as an Instagram star into something more substantial. Years of building her brand as a beauty vlogger, influencer, and all-around selfie queen had at last yielded results. The cosmetics line bearing her name launched in six weeks at an international chain of beauty stores. This was a chance for a little preemptive celebration before things changed forever.
Grinning at the thought of a week away from never-ending meetings, Emma flung out her arms for another spin across the grass. Her skirt flared around her, and her hair escaped from its pins as she twirled faster.
Emma crashed into a wall.
She must have had more champagne than she thought. She shouldn’t be anywhere near a building. Her hands flew up to brace herself, and then she knew she’d had more champagne than she thought. Walls weren’t this warm or this sculpted. They certainly didn’t wear black tie this well.
It was the spinning that had made her breathless. Not the gaze locked on her, with eyes so blue they pierced the dark.
She’d left the party to avoid temptation, but Emma had forgotten one little detail.
Temptation always managed to find her.
She was still beautiful, damn it. Foolishly, Max had hoped that, away from the fairy lights and romantic decor of the reception, Emma would appear to be a mere mortal. If anything, the way the moonlight reflected off her pale hair and highlighted her flawless bone structure only emphasized her perfection.
“Max.” Her lips pursed a little on the single syllable of his name. “What brings you out here?”
He forced his gaze away from her lips, but there was no safe place to look, no part of her that didn’t make him feel off balance. Her hands pressed against his chest, and she wasn’t moving from the spot where she’d stumbled into him. Max knew he should step away from her, but he couldn’t convince his body to move.