Sunset Thunder (The Caliendo Resort, Book One)

Violet Caliendo escorts couples into the illusion of “happily ever after” as wedding coordinator at Willow Valley’s five-star Caliendo Resort. But Violet doesn’t believe in love or “happily ever after” anymore. She’s guarded herself from love so deeply since her divorce that some even call her the “Ice Queen.” When she has to plan her ex-husband’s wedding, even her Ice Queen persona takes a hit.

With her emotions in high gear, she takes out her frustrations by having sex with her ex’s best man, Ryder Carlex. Ryder is a playboy type and Violet figures it’s a simple one-time fling. But Ryder actually is attracted to Violet in a way he’s never known before. Neither of them ever imagines that the sparks between them will ignite a fire hotter than anything they’ve ever encountered – slowly breaking down both their walls.

Will Violet be able to let go of her past and embrace a possible future with Ryder? Will Ryder let Violet into his own deep, dark secrets? Or will their trust issues forever doom them both from achieving their own “happily ever after”?

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SUNSET THUNDER BOOK TRAILER

Chapter One

VIOLET CALIENDO OBSERVED countless couples, as head wedding coordinator at the Caliendo Resort. Couples so deeply in love and were so involved in the wedding planning, they knew the extras available before Violet offered them. Couples who needed their parent’s approval for each decision they made and couples who sometimes didn’t make it down the aisle at all.

Today’s couple however, was a first for Violet.

She had no joy as the sun beamed through her bedroom window, whispering a tranquil good day, while the reminder of her morning appointment brought back the dark and dreary feelings of regret from the previous night.

But Violet had dragged her heavy feet from the solitude of her bed, and the comfort provided by the bamboo-cotton duvet, to slog across the plush carpet. She’d pulled the elegantly embroidered cream and chocolate silk curtains open and soaked up the sun, allowing the warmth to remind her, it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t that good either, but she’d made an agreement with the couple and there was no altering that decision now.

Violet was a professional. Working at her family’s resort, she was left with no alternative but to provide the amenities of the resorts five-star rating.

Situated on the outskirts of the little tourist town, Willow Valley, The Caliendo Resort sat alongside the lake with a beautiful beach, where guests sprinkled across the sand like seashells, all summer long.

Violet’s grandparents had transformed the little stone inn into an all-inclusive get-away. Ten stories of elegant rooms stretched across a wide, ranch-style, U-shaped structure and centered around a maze of outdoor connecting pools and flower gardens that were shaded by trees guaranteed to help guests unwind and enjoy all the resort had to offer. Guests could easily find themselves taking advantage of the tennis courts, horseshoes, games area and golf course, while the winter months offered the best ski hill around. Chefs and staff prepped three kitchens in classy, on-site restaurants, and offered an outdoor, all-day buffet under a gazebo. But it was the ballrooms that fascinated Violet the most while growing up at the resort.

On warm July days, like today, most brides and grooms couldn’t contain their smiles of bliss, listening with eagerness to the exquisite services Violet offered to integrate into their special day. A day which they believed would be the grandest, most wonderful day, as they began their lives together united as one, and continued until the day they grew old, sitting on rockers and watching their great-grandchildren play about the yard.

She shook her head. What a crock.

Violet had been escorting couples into the illusion of “happily ever after” since she’d graduated University.

Wedding co-ordinating? How did someone with a Master’s Degree end up pursuing a career in wedding planning?

The answer was easy. Being the daughter of the down-to-earth Eliza Caliendo, whose guidance in life decisions for her six children lacked education as an incentive, substituting it with the encouragement to follow their hearts instead. That rationale landed Violet in an occupation in wedding planning.

Darned if Violet had known the dream of uniting couples into their happily ever after would come back and bite her on the ass...like today.

Violet had never encountered a groom-to-be who blurted out everything that popped into his small, sluggish head, without filtering his sentences in regards to the people around him. Lacking consideration for feelings...commitment...vows.

Joel Bensen was that exceptional groom, sending spikes of irritancy in Violet’s direction. And none of the nonsense they were forced to endure from his shark jaws had a single thing to do with his wedding.

Violet, on the other hand, had been raised to recognize the filter in her head and trained to run every single one of her thoughts through it before a word ever left her lips. The action saved her from embarrassment and looking like a fool, both of which Joel was unaware he was undertaking right now.

 “Hey Ryder. I’ve been calling you all morning. What is taking you so long? Are you still tumbling around in bed?” Joel said into his cell phone, and then paused while listening to the reply.

Violet was grateful it wasn’t on speakerphone. This gave his audience a moment of silence to absorb the meaning behind his question. Not everyone would understand, but Violet knew Joel was referring to Ryder’s sexual engagements.

Violet was attentive to the implication, having been Joel’s wife, for a long nine years. Thankfully that had ended two years ago.

Yes, Violet Caliendo was in fact, planning her ex-husband and his bride-to-be’s wedding...their happily ever after...the day that would be the beginning of the rest of their lives together.

What a crock.

Joel’s words came out now loud and inappropriate, ricocheting off the blend of neutral colored marble walls, and trailing around Violet and the entire Bensen wedding party, standing smack-dab in center of the high-class lobby. Joel should have lowered his voice, to no more than a whisper, while crossing the marble floors and Persian rugs. He should have actually taken the tasteless conversation outside. Instead, Violet watched him draw the interest of the three receptionists, stationed behind the front desk. Each time Joel’s voice echoed in their direction, their curious eyes bounced up and down from assisting guests to Joel...occasionally landing on Violet. Her eye contact with them snapped their full attention back to their jobs and to the guests they were paid to treat like royalty.

Violet didn’t allow the truth, that some of the staff’s curiosity was about her planning her ex-husband’s second wedding was. There was no room for shame.

Violet’s breathing remained steady and calm, even if she had the urge to suck in a deep, restless lungful of air and slap the phone right out of Joel’s hand with her perfectly french-manicured fingers. Her smile and eyes remained incomprehensible and professional, even soft, fighting the urge to roll them so far back in her head, for the sole purpose of making this whole image disappear.

Could you possibly attract any more attention to yourself, Joel?

“Dude, are you still with that chick?” Joel asked with a piercing laugh.

Violet cringed.

That chick?

How disrespectful. How was it possible that she had been married to this man for nine years? She wished it was the same reason she’d taken a career as wedding coordinator: following her heart. However, that wasn’t accurate. Violet had no say in her marriage to Joel, besides the obvious I do at the altar...which had been forced, expected and congratulated.

If only her I do had been overflowing with the same magical feeling that tickled her stomach and enchanted her youthful mind, as she pursued her career path. As a child, the summer months at the resort had been her favorite time of the year, as the outdoor pools opened, the golf course kicked-off its season and the lake warmed enough to swim.

But, it wasn’t any of those reasons that her little heart fluttered with eagerness, it was the bustle of the resort being booked solid with weddings. Weddings in one of the elegant ballrooms, or under the white tents beside the beach. Formal attire would sprinkle the grounds with laughter and music. It was magical. It was amazing. It was Violet’s dream to be a part of that remarkable enchantment, in both respects: as a bride and a wedding coordinator.

Unfortunately, Violet’s career path went against her father’s expectations of where a Caliendo should reside on the occupational scale and Robert Caliendo had punished her. He disregarded Violet’s presence in an even colder manner than normal, as he developed a deeper bond with the next eldest sibling, Anya. In a state of rebellion, Violet had laid her own path of punishment far worse than she’d ever imagined, ending up in a marriage that was nowhere near happily ever after.

Violet and Joel’s vows may have united them in marriage, but it was loveless union.

Violet tried to shake off the memories flooding her mind. Being single the last two years, she’d let go of her past...or so she thought. Now, standing here preparing Joel for his second wedding, was the constant reminder of her wedding.

Violet had been left with no other alternative but to marry Joel. The eve of her wedding two men had treaded so hard on her full-spirited heart that it left Violet empty inside. Her desire to find the man, that one Prince Charming, as juvenile as the phrase sounded, to pave a future with her, one with everlasting love, devotion, adoration...and so much more, had been ripped out of her and left suspicion, doubt, and distrust instead that eventually consumed the remnants of her heart.

Happily ever after. What a crock.

“No, no. The blonde one.” Joel laughed loudly, in an approving bad manner. Ignorant.

Yes, it was very well possible for Joel to attract even more negative attention to himself. The Caliendo guests did not pay good money to listen to how Joel’s best friend “scored”. Or how many times. Or what color the woman’s hair happened to be. Or how many women there were. Ugh!

Well done. Joel you are officially the most mortifying client I’ve come across in...forever. 

Joel laughed at whatever comment playboy Ryder Carlex offered from the other end of the phone. No doubt, just as obnoxious a remark as Joel.

Violet envisioned Ryder, standing on the bow of his daddy’s boat with the sun glistening off the hard muscles of his bare chest, and his hair, silkier than her own, blowing in the wind, looking so proud for doing...nothing. Because he was a playboy who sailed around on his daddy’s fortune, picking up women and wasting money like he had an unlimited supply...which he very well possibly did.

Violet had never been really acquainted with Ryder. Even through the years she’d been married to Joel and the two men had maintained a relationship, she’d kept her distance. After Ryder had stood by Joel’s side as best man at Violet’s wedding, she had seen enough of him to last her a lifetime. He basically pounced on every woman at the reception...single or married...and probably scored a rendezvous in the bathroom on more than one occasion. Like every woman at her wedding, Violet wasn’t blind to Ryder’s beauty. Lord, he was a gorgeous man...on the outside. On the inside, he was cold, heartless...loveless.

If Violet hadn’t known Joel’s true intentions, she would blame Ryder’s womanizing ways for misguiding her husband away from her and their two children, eleven-year-old Sophia, and seven-year-old Parker, and into the arms of Missy Daniels. However, she was quite aware Joel got exactly what he came into this marriage for...money.

Violet’s eyes trailed casually and professionally at Missy Daniels the bride-to-be. There was no uncertainty in the look Violet cast, because her father educated her to master the art of expression, or there-lack-of. The look was not that of a jealous ex-wife, but that of a professional.

Missy was a dedicated maid employed at the Caliendo Resort for many years, questionably shacking up with Joel while he was still married to Violet...happily ever after...eternity...forever...what a crock.

Why Violet had ever believed in happily ever after was beyond her now. As an adult, looking back at the foolish, young girl with her head in the clouds, she couldn’t believe they were two in the same person. If her younger self had paused from her dreams about love, she would have acknowledged that her parents weren’t ever in love and possibly even noticed that Eliza had been cheating on her father with Violet’s Uncle Carl, her dad’s brother, most of their marriage. After Robert passed away just a year ago, Carl and Eliza made their relationship public, as well as presenting the truth about Violet’s oldest brother Marc and youngest sister Izzy’s paternity. It turned out Carl was their biological father...it had been a shock to all of them...but should it?

Missy was watching Violet and smiled shyly when Violet’s gaze fell upon her. Missy was weak and very few people would respect her. She allowed her feelings to write a tale across her face.

For instance, when Missy and her fiancée had initially walked through the door this morning, Missy carried a look of fear at the possibility of a reconnection between Violet and Joel. That had been quickly extinguished. There would never be a reconnection between that selfish, careless, two-timing jerk and Violet. She was too strong to fall for love again. Love was a foolish game that tipped the game pieces of those involved in the direction of lust, desire and whatever else formed, only to knock them over and scream game over. No, thank you.

Violet maintained a professional smile in return, but inside her stomach was knotting. 

Why had she agreed to this? It was crazy. She was crazy!

When she had agreed, she’d thought it would gain respect from the people at the resort but, even if that was true, it was still the worst idea ever. It was so beyond what normal people did that Violet was wishing she had listened to every single one of her family members who advised her against it. Violet thought she was strong enough and professional enough to soar through the meetings, but right now, listening to nonsense banter and Missy staring at her with suspicion that transferred to her bridesmaids, who were eyeing her up like she was the enemy...her...it felt like Violet’s insides were about to burst. And that was the last thing she’d ever want, but Lord how she needed a break from all this craziness. 

Violet casually glanced back at the iPad in her hands, feigning busy, but really scoping the time on the clock. 

One fifteen. It had only been fifteen minutes? This was torture. You are in fact putting yourself through torture!

“Ryder, I don’t want to start without you man. Bring the blonde with you.” 

Violet was pretty sure she just vomited in her mouth. If anyone was worse than her sneaky cheating husband it was Ryder Carlex. 

I need a break from these obnoxious people. 

Forcing herself not to roll her eyes, but unable to squander another second looking at any of them, Violet’s eyes shifted to the second floor where a thick, ornate wrought iron railing scooped out in a half moon shape above the lobby desk. It was an informal, relaxing area for guests to lounge in overstuffed upholstered chairs and read under skylights. Violet’s eyes stopped at the rustle beside a six-foot emerald tree planted in a bed of rocks at the edge of the railing. Attempting to stay out of sight, were her sister Emma and her mother...spying on Violet.

Unbelievable. They didn’t think she could do it. They didn’t think she could do it! If they didn’t think Violet could do it, what did everyone else think...like the receptionists?

This was such a bad idea.

Her mother’s vivid, pink dress edged with a leopard print collar and cuffs was a harsh contrast against the green foliage and Emma was even more obvious in her neon orange yoga outfit.

Busted, they both attempted to turn around and out of Violet’s vision, which was a waste of time after making eye contact with each of them. Violet watched in horror, as they collided into each other, smacking their heads and hitting their knees. Emma tripped backwards, falling over the chair, her legs flailing in the air like a bad television show then flipping onto the floor. Her mother, unbalanced, sent one hand grabbing her head as the other reached for the railing. Somehow she unhinged one side of the hanging flower box and it tipped sideways.

Violet winced.

Please don’t make a scene. Please don’t make a scene!

 As Eliza’s hands flailed to catch the box and straighten it, the dirt and live flowers went tumbling out, landing with a loud thud on the lobby desk...in front of Marc.

The staff and guests, including the Bensen wedding party gasped in horror, heads turning in every direction, questions and voices growing louder.

Violet cast her unimpressed stare at her guilty-faced brother. When did he sneak behind the desk? She knew exactly what he was doing behind that desk, even if he held a handful of papers like he was hard at work. He wasn’t working. They were only missing Izzy and Uncle Carl.

At the thought, Violet heard Izzy’s laughter from the hall to her right that led to the lobby elevators and further down, Violet’s office. They were all spying on her. They didn’t think she could handle herself.

Violet inwardly cringed at the realization.

They were all going to get a piece of her mind about their childlike behavior when they were privately situated in her office.

Besides being infuriated, Violet was almost glad for the distraction and watched amused as Marc straightened his designer charcoal suit, setting the papers down on the counter to address the situation. “Is everyone alright?” he asked, going from each guest and staff until he was confirmed they were fine. “I will call maintenance to have this cleaned up. Sorry about the disruption. The staff will give you discounts for your next stay.” Marc didn’t circle around the desk and disappear down the hall like he should have. Instead he feigned work...at the lobby desk, with one watchful eye glancing in her direction.

Joel slipped the phone into the breast pocket of his polo shirt and turned to Violet. His round, plump face danced with amusement against his thick crows-feet and laugh lines stretching from his gloomy hazel eyes. She didn’t know if it was from whatever he and Ryder had discussed, or his delight with the notion that her whole family was present for their meeting.

This wasn’t the first meeting with the Bensen wedding party, Caliendo’s, she silently scolded.

Joel feigned a look of compassion in Violet’s direction for the current awkward situation, but even the smallest hint of concern was really non-existent. How could a man who spent nine years with her be so cold toward her? Probably the same reason you are cold toward him: A loveless marriage full of deception and lies.

“Ryder’s twenty minutes away. I’m going to step out and when he gets here we can meet back. In twenty?” Joel threw the number around, looking from Missy, who nodded, to Violet.

Oh, she was charging them extra for this. 

Violet smiled, her professional charming, no problem, but inside I want to slap you upside the head and kick your feet from under you, smile. “Alright. Why don’t we make it thirty minutes and give him some leeway.”

Heaven knew the man was probably wrapped around a skank or two, shacking up in his daddy’s mansion on the lake, or tangled in two sets of legs on his daddy’s boat.

A sting of reality clicked in. Who was she to judge Ryder because he was born into money? Or to assume because he was born into money it was the very reason for behaving like the playboy douche he was?

Violet and all her siblings had been born into money and they didn’t act like Ryder. Playing all day and sleeping with a different person...or two...each night.

Joel’s arm was around his fiancée’s and they were heading out the front door with her posse of bridesmaids at their heels...cheap non-designer heels at that. 

Ugh! 

That thought wasn’t even like her. She wasn’t quick to judge ignorantly, but today she didn’t feel like herself at all. 

It was hard to believe she had created two brilliant children with that man. A man who had the gall to ask her to plan his second wedding at his first wife’s resort. What kind of man did that?

Violet turned her attention to her disruptive family. The more pressing question was, What possessed her family to behave like inexperienced spies?

Violet sent every single one of them a, in my office now, look before starting down the hallway, bumping into Izzy, who was peering around the corner with a cheeky smile.

Izzy latched onto Violet’s arm and laughed, throwing her head of long blonde, beach-wave hair back to tumble across the bare back of her summer halter top. “Leave it to Momma and Emma to mess up operation Catclaw,” she said.

Catclaw? Violet was afraid to ask.

Kate McAdams, Marc’s wife, met them down the hall, holding hands with Marc and Kate’s seven-year-old daughter Rosemary. Identical wide smiles on their tanned faces illuminated their deep mocha colored eyes and they each wore summer dresses over bathing suits. From their dry hair, Violet assumed that they were likely heading down to the beach.

“Hi Aunt Violet. Hi Aunt Izzy,” Rosemary said, waving her hand, holding a sand bucket full of shovels and molds. Almost tipping the bucket over, Rosemary lost interest in her aunts to steady it.

Kate looked like a beachy summer day in a strapless white dress and her dark chocolate locks pulled to a side ponytail that spilled wild curls over her bare shoulder. Before she could say anything, the elevator doors opened and Eliza and Emma stepped out.

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

Kate’s smile dropped as her eyes moved from each accountable Caliendo to the next, including Marc, who stepped beside Kate, kissing her cheek and scooping Rosemary into his arms.

“Oh, you four didn’t,” Kate said.

No one replied and her eyes fell on Violet, who silently told her they did.

“Oh, you did.” Kate sent Marc the hardest disapproving look.

Marc ignored her. “Are you ready to go the beach?” he asked Rosemary.  

“Are you coming Daddy?” Rosemary squealed, her arms going around his neck in a tight hug.

He glanced up at Violet’s fatal stare. “I am now,” he said.

“I told all of you to stay away from Violet’s appointment,” Kate said, then glanced at the screen of her cell phone like she’d realized something. “Didn’t your appointment just start?” she asked Violet, obviously wondering how it was already finished. Kate’s eyes widened and her head whipped around at the guilty party. “What did you all do?” she accused, sounding horrified.

It surprised Violet that Kate was so shocked her family had intervene into her business. Kate’s siblings were the masters of intervention into each other’s lives on a regular basis. There was always a McAdams sister popping in and out of the Caliendo Resort.

At that note, the elevator opened and Kent McAdams, Kate’s father, stepped out. He was and had been head of maintenance at the resort for over forty years. A tall, thin man who wore a pleasant smile across a face aged much older than he was.

“Grandpa!” Rosemary cried, immediately holding her arms out to be held.

Izzy was quick to fill Kate and Kent in on the reason Kent was needed at the front. “Momma and Emma knocked over a flower box from the balcony, and it landed on the lobby desk,” she explained. “Technically, it was only the dirt and plants. The planter is still attached to the wall. Hardly. Dangling sideways.”

Eliza made a hushed motion with her hands. “It was loose,” she defended.

“Did you throw the dirt at the Bensen party?” Kate asked Violet, only half joking with a smirk and wink.

Of course she did not throw dirt at the Bensen party. That thought hadn’t even crossed her mind...but it was an entertaining one.

“Joel is waiting for Ryder Carlex,” Violet explained.

“Ryder Carlex,” Emma snickered. “He tried to get up my dress at your wedding.” She laughed at the memory, and sobered as everyone’s questioning look fell upon her. “I said he tried. I didn’t sleep with him. He was a mess,” she said as if it was the worst thing to happen at Violet’s wedding. Violet had a list over ten pages long of worse things at her wedding than having sex with Ryder.

Eliza shared a look with Violet that only she understood, but Violet showed no emotion for that night so long ago in her past. Nor did she acknowledge the worry in her mother’s eyes. Violet was fine. If anything, that night had taught her to be the strong woman she’d become. The woman who was able to handle this meeting with the wedding party involved.

Eliza, on the other hand, wasn’t convinced. She shook her head. “That poor boy. He was having a rough time. It was unfortunate Kathleen and Donald hadn’t been able to attend the wedding. I’m sure his behavior would have been much different. Ryder adored his parents.”

Ryder’s mother had passed years ago, but his father was still alive and it seemed after his wife’s death, he dove deeper into work than he had before. They hadn’t seen him at one of Eliza’s galas in years.

“Why? So he would have put his perfect son’s illusion mask back on and acted like the ideal son they thought he was, instead of the playboy he actually is?” Violet hadn’t realized she’d spoken her thoughts until everyone turned their shocked expressions in her direction.

I said that out loud?

Eliza looked the most uncomfortable. “I don’t think Ryder is a...playboy.”

Oh, I did say it out loud. Could this day get any worse?

Emma touched their mother’s shoulder. “Ryder Carlex, is a playboy,” she told Eliza, breaking their mother’s image of Ryder.

See, Violet wasn’t the only one who thought so.

“What is a playboy?” Rosemary asked.

Kate groaned. “And I thought it was my family I had to fear teaching her slang...”

“A playboy is a boy who really likes to play with girls,” Izzy said to Rosemary. “A lot of girls.” Izzy chuckled to herself.

Kate groaned again.

Violet checked down the long hall for guests. It was clear. She turned her attention to her family.

“In a half hour I will be resuming my meeting with the Bensen party. I expect none of you to be present.” She looked at Emma. “Not even you.” Sometimes her sister helped her with weddings and she always welcomed the extra pair of hands and opinion...but not today. “If I were you, I would be more worried about making sure that flower pot never comes unhinged again and not worrying about the Bensen party.”

Eliza touched Violet’s arm. “Sweetheart, we’re not worried about the Bensen party. We are worried about you.”

Violet was more worried about what the Bensen party was thinking about her ability to handle their wedding with her family spying on them. But her families concern didn’t go unnoticed.

Violet stepped forward and hugged her mom. “I’m fine,” she whispered in the side of her silver straight hair, styled in an angled bob that grazed her bony shoulders.

Eliza patted her back before letting go. “Alright, we will withdraw.”

“Operation Catclaw terminated,” Izzy said in a pout.

Kate chuckled her low surprise and murmured, “You named it. Didn’t you?”

“Yeah, well, what else am I supposed to do now that your sister has abandoned me to live in Oakston?” Kate’s youngest sister, Abby was Izzy’s childhood best friend to this day. A team of only two, they were wild, obnoxious, smart and blunt...both of them were lacking the filter Violet perfected.

“To work in Oakston,” Marc pointed out. “Abby runs their newest store location, regardless that Riley has enough money to take them both on a permanent vacation in Hawaii.” Marc added the jab. It was his way to try and convince Izzy to stop flaunting around the resort, taking advantage of the amenities and work.

Izzy gasped and her big eyes flew around the crowd, mostly questioning Kate and Kent. “Do you think Abby and Riley would go on vacation without me? To Hawaii?”

A round of groans echoed through the hall, as Izzy missed Marc’s point.

“I am texting−no I am calling her,” Izzy announced, her hand already pulling her cell out. “If she thinks just because her boyfriend is a money bag, that she’s ditching me on the next vacay, she is sorely mistaken.”

“Abby wouldn’t just pick up and go on vacation without telling you,” Eliza said. “You two have been friends forever.”

Marc mumbled under his breath only loud enough Violet and Kate heard him, “Nevertheless, Izzy doesn’t need a vacation. She needs a job.”

They grinned at him.

“Yes, she would. She went and fell in love with Riley and didn’t tell me. Gave me no warning,” Izzy pointed out.

“There isn’t exactly a warning when it comes to falling in love,” Kate said.

Violet wouldn’t know. She’d never been in love before.

Izzy waved her off. “Please, you and Marc had years of warning. Mom and Carl had even more years of warning. And Abby...Abby...she knew years ago, she just didn’t bother to tell me.” Izzy still didn’t call their Uncle Carl “Dad” even though he was her biological father and she’d known longer than any of them. She had dropped the Uncle, so hopefully she was on her way to a deeper relationship with Carl. She was just taking it in sweet, slow Izzy style. Funny, when all the other aspects of her life were buzzing busy.

“Catclaw Operation re-opened and I am going to pull the cat claws out on Abby instead of Joel.” Izzy made a hissing sound and slashed her nails through the air.

Rosemary laughed. “You don’t have claws Aunt Izzy,” she said. “You’re not a cat. You have fingers.”

Rosemary distracted Izzy from her Abby melt-down and she tickled her niece. Rosemary’s laughter filled the hallway. The comforting sound mixed with her family’s concern made Violet wonder why she had allowed today’s meeting to aggravate her in the first place. It was just another meeting. The same as every other couple who believed in their happily ever after. Violet would help them plan for it, when deep down she knew happily ever after didn’t exist, but she would convince every couple that walked through the front doors of the resort otherwise.

Now, if she could only convince herself not to roll her eyes when Ryder walked his playboy-self through the front doors bragging over the phone about his sexual affairs. What were they? Still in high school?

Violet would bet that Ryder still hadn’t grown up enough to call himself a man. Her bet was of no value since she did not plan on talking to Ryder long enough to evaluate his maturity.

Get this Bensen party in and right back out.