Title: Left at the Altar
Series: A Match Made in Texas, #1
Author: Margaret Brownley
Pub Date: November 1, 2016
Welcome to Two-Time Texas:
Where tempers burn hot
Love runs deep
And a single marriage can unite a feuding town
…or tear it apart for good
In the wild and untamed West, time is set by the local jeweler…but Two-Time Texas has two: two feuding jewelers and two wildly conflicting time zones. Meg Lockwood’s marriage was supposed to unite the families and finally bring peace. But when she’s left at the altar by her no-good fiancé, Meg’s dreams of dragging her quarrelsome neighbors into a ceasefire are dashed.
No wedding bells? No one-time town.
Hired to defend the groom against a breach of promise lawsuit, Grant Garrison quickly realizes that the only thing worse than small-town trouble is falling for the jilted bride. But there’s something about Meg’s sweet smile and determined grit that draws him in…even as the whole crazy town seems set on keeping them apart.
Who knew being Left at the Altar could be such sweet, clean, madcap fun?
I can’t do this!” Meg cried out, hands planted on her waist. At long last, she and Tommy had managed to escape the crowd of well- wishers. Now it was just the two of them, facing each other on her front porch like two combatants.
“I hafta marry you, Meg. Don’t you see? It’s the only honor’ble thing to do.” Tommy looked like he’d just been in a fight. Shirttails hanging over his trousers, he’d somehow managed to lose his bow tie, and his spiked hair stood on end as if it had been combed with an eggbeater.
“Don’t talk to me about honor. If you were all that honorable, you would never have left me at the altar in the first place!”
“I don’t blame you for bein’ riled. If I was you, I’d be mad too.”
“Mad doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel!” She threw up her hands. “You knew the judge was about to rule in my favor. That’s the only reason you agreed to marry me.”
Tommy grimaced and raked his fingers through his hair. His shoulders drooped along with his expression. “Meg…the only way my family can come up with ten grand is if we sell the shop and mortgage the house. Even then”— he shook his head— “that won’t even begin to pay for legal fees.”
“Oh, Tommy, no. You can’t do that.”
“If I don’t marry you, my family will end up at the county poor farm.”
She felt trapped. Worse, she felt sorry for him. For the whole Farrell family. “I don’t want your money, Tommy. I don’t.”
“It doesn’t matter. The judge said if I don’t marry you this time, I better come up with the big bucks else he’s throwin’ me in jail.”
“Oh dear goodness.” Her heart rose to her throat. “He can’t do that.”
“He’s the judge. He can do anythin’ he wants.”
Her mind whirled. There had to be a way. “I’ll have Papa talk to him. Tell him we don’t want the money.”
Tommy shook his head. “The judge made his rulin’. There ain’t nothin’ we can do. ’Sides, everyone is countin’ on the Farrell-Lockwood feud comin’ to an end.” He was right. It was no longer just the two of them affected. It was the whole town. How did life become so complicated?
“What did Grant…uh…your lawyer say?”
If Tommy noticed her slip of tongue, he gave no indication. “He said that marryin’ you was the only way out.”
Tommy only confirmed what she already suspected, but still Meg felt her heart squeeze tight. “He…he said that?”
So he had planned this all along. The kiss was just a…what? A ruse? A game? A way to keep her distracted?
“Don’t look so horrified, Meg. You make it sound like marryin’ me is the end of the world.”
That’s exactly what it felt like, but she didn’t want to say as much. “What…what about Asia and the Pacific Islands?”
Tommy shrugged as if his dreams were of no consequence, but the faraway look in his eyes told her otherwise. “It won’t be so bad. I’ll be a good husband to you, Meg. I swear. I’ll never stray, and I won’t cause you any more problems. Maybe one day, we can go the islands. Just you and me.”
She tried to breathe, but something like a boulder was lodged in her chest. This whole mess was partly her fault. If only she’d known her true feelings from the start. She loved Tommy, she did, but now she realized that love was more like for a brother than a lover.
“I don’t know, Tommy…”
“We don’t have to go to the islands,” he said, misunderstanding her hesitation. “We can go to Paris or Ireland or even Italy.”
The more he talked, the lower Meg’s spirits fell. Her feelings for Tommy had never caused her to lose sleep or stop eating, not even when he’d left her at the altar. Not like the people who wrote to Miss Lonely Hearts. She’d experienced none of the tortured misery of a broken love affair as described in the letters. None of the heartache.
If she could force herself to love Tommy as he deserved to be loved, she would gladly do so. But the heart had a mind of its own, and the most anyone could do was follow.
Of course, that didn’t mean she had feelings for anyone else. Certainly not for Grant. Not now. Not after he’d thrown her under a train, so to speak, rather than lose his case.
“There’s somethin’ else,” Tommy said, staring down at his feet.
She gulped and knotted her hands by her sides in an effort to brace herself. Something in his voice told her that things were about to get a whole lot worse. “What is it, Tommy?”
He looked up. “Judge Lynch is only in town for another week.”
She frowned. “So?”
“That means that I have seven days to come up with ten grand or— ”
Her stomach turned over. “Or…or what?”
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MARGARET BROWNLEY penned her first novel at age eleven and has been writing ever since. She’s now a New York Times and CBA bestselling author and has written thirty-five novels and one nonfiction book. Margaret and her husband have three grown children and make their home in Southern California.