Get ready to walk down the aisle one last time with the Majestic Maine series, because the final book releases June 27! Until then, enjoy this exclusive excerpt of Last Bride Standing by Ginny Baird!
Aidan tossed his backpack into Jordan’s trunk beside Trudy’s suitcase. From the size of it, he wasn’t planning to stay in Majestic long. Probably just long enough for their rushed nuptials, which meant they needed to get the formalities over with now. Charlotte had agreed to make an appointment at the courthouse for their civil ceremony, but she’d been waiting until he actually showed and made this real.
And boy did it feel real now. Too real.
Charlotte waved at Aidan as Jordan shut his trunk, and his gaze fell on her.
“So…you did bring a ring?” She was dying to see it, expecting a huge diamond, one that shouted “I’m engaged to someone filthy rich!” Aidan definitely wouldn’t pass up a chance to flaunt his wealth. She’d half expected him to exit the airport holding out a ring box and flipping it open. Which was overly dramatic. She got that. But if they were going to marry for convenience, they could at least pretend to do it right.
Aidan’s eyebrows rose. “Ring?”
He was joking, right? He would laugh any moment now and say, “Of course, here it is.” But he didn’t, and her stomach dropped. Aidan just stood there with a confused look in his eyes, like giving your fiancée a ring was some sort of new idea that hadn’t occurred to him.
Airport security guards blew their whistles, motioning vehicles forward. But Charlotte wasn’t going anywhere. Not until she knew—for sure—that Aidan was here to uphold his end of the bargain.
She forced her left hand up in the air, even though it felt like it was set in cement, and pointed to her ring finger. Aidan peered at Trudy, and Charlotte’s pulse spiked. Maybe he was rethinking things? Having second thoughts? He couldn’t do that—not now.
“I’m afraid rings won’t be necessary,” he said.
Indignance burned through her at his superior tone. If Charlotte could tough out this arrangement and put on a happily married glow in public, then so could he.
“Oh?” she asked. “Why not?” It wasn’t like he didn’t have the money, and Charlotte would not be left out or left behind by her sisters this time.
Nell had a gigantic rock on her hand, thanks to Grant. And Misty and Lucas had exchanged promise rings. Charlotte didn’t need much. Just some kind of token. A symbol that Aidan was actually going through with their plans. And since he could afford high-end jewelry, it would have been considerate of him to think of giving some to her.
Trudy pulled a face. “There’s not going to be any wedding, ducky.”
Charlotte blanched. She could actually feel all the blood draining from her face.
Nell gawked at Aidan. “You’re backing out on our deal?”
Misty set her chin, looking bullish. “You might have said something sooner.”
Aidan’s left eyebrow arched at Charlotte. “I thought you’d be pleased.”
He thought what?
She gritted her teeth and tried not to scream. After the utter panic she’d been through? The man-hunting, the machinations, the making her sisters believe she might actually win their bet when she’d always known in her heart that she’d be the last bride standing. To what? Get rewarded with a runaway groom?
“You think I’m pleased that you’re bailing?” Her temper flared. “Yes, Aidan, I’m thrilled. This is exactly what I wanted—to lose everything.”
“Hang on!” Aidan held up his hands. “Nobody’s bailing. That’s not how this is.”
Charlotte glowered at him. “Then how is it?”
His stare back at her was formidable, too. He evidently wasn’t apologizing or backing down, no matter what she thought of him.
“Are you saying you put us through that bet for nothing?” Charlotte fumed, running a hand through her hair. “It’s been murder in Majestic these past three weeks.”
Now, it was September twentieth. Just ten days before her parents’ bank loan came due and they risked losing their café and their house.
“Not totally murder, though,” Nell gushed quietly.
Grant shot her a lovesick grin, which looked a little off on such a tough outdoorsman. “Yeah,” he crooned, taking her hand. “Some things have worked out.”
“Agreed.” Misty sighed, with stars in her eyes.
Charlotte was happy for her sisters—she honestly was—but extremely put out for herself. Not to mention her parents and their family café. She glared at Aidan. The absolute nerve of this man. “So all of this has been for nothing?”
“Nothing’s been for nothing, Charlotte.” He gave her a smug grin. The same know-it-all look he used to get when they were kids that drove her completely over the edge. He’d tended to use it before lowering the boom about something, proving he was right. And Aidan loved being right. All the stinking time.
“What’s that mean?” she asked him. Her heart skipped a beat and then it hammered harder. It seemed like the rug was going to get yanked out from under her, and Aidan was going to do the yanking.
Trudy removed a folder from her over-the-shoulder purse and handed it to her. “We’re only staying in Majestic long enough to execute our agreement.”
Charlotte felt like she’d missed a step and stumbled on some stairs. She wheeled on Aidan. “What’s she talking about?”
He cocked his head. “I’ve no interest in marrying you, Charlotte. Not here, not now. Not in England later.” He frowned. “Pretty much not ever.”
The words landed on her like an avalanche, and for a moment she couldn’t breathe. Nell steadied her arm, and Misty’s eyes widened with fear.
Of course he didn’t. Charlotte wasn’t his sort of woman.
She was a small-town girl who wore flouncy peasant skirts, and he was a world-class bigshot who thought quite a lot of himself. Obviously. Maybe she should have expected his last-minute trick maneuvering. Should have known better than to think he’d honor their arrangement. Or that he’d be honorable at all.
He calmly folded his arms in front of him, like it had all been settled. Like he wasn’t just dropping a bomb on all of them.
And with his next words, the bomb exploded, leaving her dazed.
“I’m giving you your half of Bearberry Coffee,” he said. “Free and clear.”
With just ten days left till her folks’ loan comes due, ever-pragmatic Charlotte Delaney is officially throwing in the towel on the bet that she made with her sisters. It looks like it’s up to her to save their parents’ café and beloved home with a marriage of convenience to her family’s rival. It’s time to get the in-name-only nuptials over with. Of course, Charlotte’s never been one to easily admit defeat…
Aidan Strong has exactly zero intentions of marrying one of the Delaney sisters—even Charlotte, his first crush. He’s come to Majestic, Maine, to make things right…only Charlotte has other plans.
She’s challenging Aidan to a new wager. And the prize? His billion-dollar coffee empire. Now the tiny seaside town of Majestic is about to witness the ultimate game of hearts…and winner takes all.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Ginny Baird writes wholesome contemporary stories with a dash of humor and a lot of heart. She enjoys taking walks in the park, cooking with her husband, and creating worlds where romance is a given and happily ever afters are guaranteed. After spending many years in Virginia, she returned to her home state and now lives in North Carolina with her family. Visit her website for more about Ginny and her books. www.ginnybairdromance.com.