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Attending her best friend’s wedding, Emily Parks tires of being asked when she’ll marry. At the reception, the most attractive guy she sees is the portrait of the former home owner killed during the Civil War. After a few drinks, she takes a walk to clear her head. When she pauses to admire the full moon reflecting on the fish pond, a mysterious fog materializes, and she tumbles into the water … and into the past.
Samuel Marshall’s life is out of control. He’s engaged to a girl he doesn’t love and is over his head running his father’s plantation. And his best friend wants him to fight in the Union Army. When a mysterious woman appears in his bed, the world comes into focus. She’s refreshing and different, and he’s falling in love.
Everything would be perfect, except the Civil War is about to begin. How long does “ever after” have to last for it to count as happy?
Page Count: 414
Word Count: 106159
Happily-ever-afters don’t happen at someone else’s wedding. Emily Parks knew this and had no expectations. Well, not many. If she could meet someone who would sweep her off her feet, that would be great. In the meantime, she was maid-of-honor and determined to enjoy herself.
If only the music wasn’t quite so loud. The bass vibrated through her bones as she danced with one of the groomsmen. The loud music was the only fault she could find, though. Dayna and Johnson really couldn’t have picked a more beautiful place for their reception. The nineteenth-century mansion-turned-inn had been restored to its full pre-Civil War glory. The ballroom had polished wood floors and crystal chandeliers and ornate French doors leading out to the veranda and gardens. Other than the blaring music, it was like stepping back in time. Upstairs, where the bridal party had rooms for the night, there were even canopy beds. Could life get better?
One song segued into another, and she gave a wave to her dancing partner and headed back to her table, where her drink awaited. She took a sip.
“Bet you can’t wait ’til it’s your turn,” Dayna’s mother said, practically having to shout the words to be heard.
Emily forced a smile and nodded. She drained her glass, then pointed toward the bar to indicate she was going to get another drink.
Even over by the bar it was hard to hear herself think. She waited for the tuxedo-clad bartender to mix a highball for the groom’s grandfather.
“Whiskey sour,” she said when he turned to her.
The bartender refilled her glass, and she stuck a dollar in the tip jar.
“You’re next, eh?” the groom’s grandfather said and moved on, not waiting for a response.
Emily took her glass and emptied it in a couple of swallows.
She put it back on the bar.
“Another already?” the bartender asked.
“I’ve invented a drinking game,” she told him. “Anytime someone tells me I’m next, or any variation thereof, such as, when are you going to get a boyfriend and settle down, I drain my glass.”
The bartender mixed her drink and gave her a wink.
“You in need of a boyfriend, sweetie?”
She rolled her eyes and took a huge swallow. It burned her throat and made her eyes water. Or maybe that was the annoyance at it being rubbed in her face, yet again, that she didn’t have a significant other.
“I’ll let you know.”
Out on the dance floor, Dayna and Johnson moved together like they were made for each other. Maybe they were. From the moment they started dating in high school, they had eyes for no one else. They even had a couple name: DayJon. Dayna always joked that it sounded like a good name for their first son. Every time Emily was in a relationship, she’d realize that although she was having fun, it wasn’t at all like what Dayna and Johnson had. She wanted what they had. She’d never even had a couple name.
She sipped her drink. Slugging back that last glass might not have been the best idea. The edges of her vision were starting to get a little wobbly. The room was too loud and too hot and too everything.
The lobby brought some relief. She sat down on an ornate blue velvet sofa. Her feet ached. That was the problem with wearing new shoes to a wedding. Not that she had much choice. These were the ones Dayna had picked out. They’d been dyed to match the pale yellow gowns. Yellow was totally not her color, but since most of the bridesmaids were Dayna’s cousins, they had the darker skin that offset the yellow beautifully. Emily more or less faded away. It didn’t matter though. No one was looking at her anyway; it was Dayna’s day.
Huge portraits lined the wall. A nice touch that made the historic inn seem even more like a home. The one directly opposite her was of a handsome young man with wavy dark hair, neatly-trimmed mustache, and piercing gray eyes.
“You like that painting?”
The owner of the inn, an older, professionally-dressed woman stood next to her.
“I do.” She couldn’t take her gaze from it. Especially the eyes, they simply gripped her. “Do you know who it is?”
“Samuel Marshall.” She touched the frame lightly, almost caressing it like one might a loved one. “This used to be his house. He died in the Civil War.”
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