fond of public speaking, but it’s more than that. These past few months haven’t been easy—for either of us.”
She tugged at a tangle. “Planning a wedding is stressful. As is moving house. We’ve done both this year.”
“At least it’ll be all over by tomorrow night.”
She turned to look at him, an odd expression on her face. “That’s a funny thing to say about your wedding day.”
“Big events with tons of guests aren’t my thing.”
“Why did you agree to it?”
He shrugged. “I know how much a traditional wedding means to you.”
She bit her lip. “You’re looking forward to the honeymoon at least?”
“Yes. Yeah. Of course I am. A holiday is exactly what we need.” He bent down and pecked her on the cheek. “I’d better let you get some sleep. Besides, Jonas will be waiting for me at the cottage.”
Her baby blue eyes met his. “I love you, Gavin. I’ll be a good wife to you.”
“I know you will. I love you, too.”
And he did. Of course he did. So why did the words weigh down his tongue like lead?
ON HIS WEDDING DAY, Gavin rose early for his morning run. Dawn was breaking when he closed the door of his cottage. His hand stilled on the door handle, and his eyes strayed to the nameplate on the wall.
, the Irish word for home.
He’d loved this house the moment he’d seen it, ramshackle though it was. Where his mother saw a dump, he saw potential. Where she saw a financial drain, he saw an opportunity. And where she saw an unwanted abode, he saw a home.
Now it was no longer his home.
If his mother had despaired of the cottage, Muireann despised it. She’d set her heart on a big house, and her parents were willing to sell them Clonmore Lodge. Gavin had caved, acknowledging the cottage was too small to raise a family. The cottage was up for sale, but no interesting offers had come through yet. He was relieved, even though they needed the money. If a buyer didn’t materialize soon, he’d have to find a tenant. But that was a concern for another day.
He headed down the short path and out the gate. He crossed the road and stood at the railings overlooking the beach.
What a view. The tide was out, exposing a vast expanse of wet sand. It was rocky in places, sandy in others.
He took the steps down to the beach two at a time. At the bottom, his trainers sank into damp sand. After a few preliminary stretches, he began to run.
He pounded down the strand, his lungs burning, his mind free. The only activity more calming than this was swimming, but even he wasn’t crazy enough to wade in today.
After a couple of kilometers, he stopped to catch his breath. He wiped sweat from his brow and took a swig from his water bottle. The sea was wild and the tide had turned. The waves crashed and foamed, and the blue-green water crept up the sand.
He should get back to the cottage. There was a lot to do before he left for the church. Plus he had a guest. Yeah, breakfast with Jonas was something to look forward to. He hooked his water bottle.
He whipped round.
Jonas was pounding down the sand toward him, clad in an old T-shirt and what appeared to be swimming trunks. A lit cigarette dangled from one hand. His dark hair stood on end, and thick stubble shadowed his jawline. Despite his disheveled appearance, he looked better than Gavin felt.
“Morning.” He grinned at his friend. “Didn’t expect to see you up this early, never mind jogging.”
“Trying to get fit. The sedentary lifestyle and all that.”
“Bollocks,” Gavin said with a laugh. “You’re sickeningly fit for a man who sits on his arse all day and writes.”
“Mental exertion, mate. Crafting stories uses a lot of energy.”
“Yeah, right. More like a high metabolism and good genes. Enjoy it while it lasts.”
“I’m jogging, aren’t I?” Jonas took a drag from his cigarette. “I’m trying to set an example for Luca.”
“With fags and beer?”
“Shut up.” Jonas grinned.