Ivy’s story is Book One in the Molyneux Sisters
One night at a wedding…
Workaholic Ivy Molyneux is primed for the biggest promotion of her life—she couldn’t be more ready to take over Australia’s biggest mining operation! Trouble is, after a wildly-out-of-character (and just plain wild) one-night stand at her sister’s wedding, it may have to be delayed…by about nine months.
Ivy thought hooking up with fellow guest Angus Barlow was pretty crazy—until she finds herself telling this gorgeous SAS officer that she’s pregnant. Craziest thing of all? She finds him even more irresistible than ever! Ivy’s hoping it’s just the baby hormones, otherwise the next nine months are going to be even more challenging…
…Miss Bates loved how Ashton played with some pretty standardized romance conventions. The pregnant heroine isn’t helpless, or vulnerable; on occasion, Angus may see her that way, but we know she can do this just as easily on her own. She chooses to make Angus a part of her life and give her baby a father, even if nothing works out between them. The portrayal of the career woman is realistic and nuanced: Ivy loves her job, but isn’t defined only by it. It’s a life-long dream, but it doesn’t mean her baby detour will end it, or sacrifice it. It means it’ll change it. Angus is a refreshing portrait of a soldier who loves what he does: he’s not tormented, or guilt-ridden, or traumatized. He doesn’t diminish the ugly aspects of his job, but he doesn’t magnify them either. Does all this convention-turning-on-its-head make this romance any less romantic? Any less of a magnificent HEA? It’s sexy and romantic and heart-stoppingly beautiful and true. – Miss Bates Reads Romance
Read an excerpt
It had started exactly eleven steps down the aisle.
Ivy knew this, because she’d been counting.
Step, together one. Step, together two.
Generally the counting happened when she could feel the famous Molyneux temper bubbling away inside her. Or on the rare occasions she was nervous—although she couldn’t remember the last time that had been. But today, it was neither of those things. The bride—her sister April—was the one who should be feeling anxious. Marriage wasn’t something Ivy could see herself doing any time soon. She dated, occasionally, but never anything serious. Right now, her focus was on her work, and the family business, and everything else took a back seat. Because in Ivy’s experience relationships had an irritating habit of leaching into everything. And when it came to her career, well—anything that could damage that was just not acceptable.
But anyway… She’d been walking down the aisle, happily aware that the crowd seated in rows of white wooden chairs were peering around her for a glimpse of the bride, when she’d felt it. At exactly step eleven.
Someone wasn’t looking around her. Not at all. Someone was looking right at her, in a way that Ivy wouldn’t have thought possible. In a way that had weight.
And it was so strange, and so unexpected, that Ivy even stopped counting.
But she didn’t stop walking, and she didn’t shift her gaze from exactly where she was heading: the celebrant, a pretty wooden trellis temporarily constructed on the exclusive Nusa Dua beach, and the cerulean blue of the Indian Ocean beyond.
Because today she was April’s chief bridesmaid, and she took any job that she was given seriously. Bridesmaid or Board Executive—it didn’t matter. Work was work, and Ivy always lived by the idea that you should never do anything if you weren’t going to do it right.
So she started counting afresh, and then made sure she completed her bridesmaid duties to the best of her ability.
But that weight didn’t lift until well after April had kissed her new husband. In fact, it wasn’t until April and Evan stood together to accept the hugs and well wishes of their guests that Ivy could finally openly search the crowd without fear of raising the ire of the videographer.
But by then it was too late. That heavy, heavy gaze was gone.
* * *
Much later—what seemed like hours of smiling for the photographer later—Ivy stood with her two sisters and the rest of the bridal party at the back of the enormous marquee that would host the wedding reception.
The luxury hotel their mother had booked for the occasion loomed four storeys high on three sides, hugging the marquee as it stared out to the ocean. A welcome whisper of a breeze skimmed Ivy’s bare shoulders and pushed the silk of her full-length dress against her legs. It was still warm, but Bali’s famous humidity appeared to have let up just a little. Regardless, a blonde make-up artist hovered amongst them, busily ‘fixing’ Ivy and her sisters before their big entrance. Can’t have your faces melting!
Ivy shifted her weight rather than rolling her eyes—which reminded her once again that crazily expensive, handmade, bespoke heels did not guarantee comfort. Not even close.
The Balinese wedding planner was barking out instructions in a failed attempt at a stage whisper, but having reviewed the day’s minute schedule—and provided a few useful suggestions—Ivy knew exactly where she should be. She strode over to Sean, Evan’s best mate—and best man—and hooked her arm through his.
‘Are we going in?’ he asked. Beer in hand, he clearly wasn’t taking his best-man duties as seriously as Ivy would’ve liked.
In fact, the music April had chosen for their entrance had started, so Ivy used her free hand to pluck the beer from Sean, and to hand it to the wedding planner.
‘And we just follow them?’ Sean asked as he watched Mila and Ed disappear into the marquee.
‘You were at the rehearsal, right?’ Ivy said, but she was smiling as she tugged Sean behind her.
Inside, the marquee opened up—it was only the rear wall that had, well, a wall. Otherwise it was edged with white fabric gathered curtain-like against each support. April’s two-hundred-odd guests sat at white-draped tables topped with ivory flower arrangements amongst dozens of sparkling chandeliers—and beyond them, framed by the marquee like a postcard, was the ocean. Of course, a Molyneux wedding would never be anything less than spectacular—but even Ivy was impressed. And timing their entrance just as the sun began to sink beneath the darkening blue of the ocean? Perfect.
Ivy was about halfway to the bridal table when she realised she was counting her steps again.
Thirty-two. Thirty-three. Thirty-four…
But this time it annoyed her. Maybe it was the distraction of…of whatever it was she thought she’d felt during the ceremony—or maybe it was just that it kind of made sense that she’d be a bit tense while walking down the aisle, given her feelings about love and relationships. So counting her steps then had been okay.
But now? No, it wasn’t acceptable. Because now she recognised why she was doing it.
She was nervous. The way her stomach was flip-flopping all over the place made that crystal-clear.
She was used to having so many eyes on her. How many times had she been the spokesperson for Molyneux Mining? She had years of media training behind her. She’d been interviewed on live television, and she’d been splashed all over the newspapers—accurately and otherwise—her entire life.
So, yes, nineteen-year-old Ivy counted her steps all the time. Twenty-seven-year-old Ivy a hell of a lot less. Now, thirty-one-year-old Chief Operating Officer of Molyneux Mining Ivy shouldn’t need to do it at all.
Thirty-one-year-old Ivy was an accomplished, confident—powerful, some might say—grown-up. Counting steps was just…juvenile.
Fifty-seven. Fifty-eight. Fifty—
‘What did I do?’ Sean asked as he pulled out her spindly chair at the long bridal table.
Ivy blinked. ‘Pardon?’
‘You just told me to “Stop it”.’ He looked at her curiously. ‘With some force.’
‘I didn’t,’ she said, very quickly. Then sat down and fussed needlessly with her silverware as Sean took his own seat.
Ignoring Sean’s gaze, Ivy looked up to watch April glide across the marquee, arm in arm with her new husband—and both with stars in their eyes.
Her little sister had never looked more beautiful: like a princess with her blonde hair piled up high, and the oversized skirt of her dress floating about her like a cloud.
Ivy couldn’t help but smile, the ridiculous mystery of the step counting put aside for the moment. She was so happy for April. Today was her dream come true.
Slowly she relaxed into her chair, allowing that inexplicable tension to ease from her body.
And it was right about then—right about when she decided that yes, it was totally fine to slide her heels off beneath the privacy of the long table cloth—that she felt it again.
That look. That heavy concentration of attention that made the back of her neck prickle, but other parts of her…tingle. And Ivy was not one for superfluous tingling.
But this time there was nothing stopping her from looking up—from searching the crowd for this person, for this…
There he was, on the opposite side of the parquet dance floor. With his close-cropped hair, and the broadest of broad shoulders, Ivy would’ve guessed he was in the military, even if she hadn’t already known he was.
Angus. His name was Angus…Something. She remembered his name had stood out amongst April’s seating plan and guest list—a name she didn’t recognise, and who April also didn’t know. An old school friend of Evan’s: All I know is that he’s a soldier, April had whispered with some awe, one of those special ones. SAS.
Amongst a million other wedding-planning things to do—and a million more work-related concerns—she hadn’t given the mysterious Angus Somebody another thought.
But right now, the man had somehow taken up all her thoughts. And when their gazes finally connected—when she could truly see all that remarkable intensity—it was almost as if he’d taken over her body, too. Her skin was hot. Her mouth was dry.
And from this distance, she couldn’t even see the colour of his eyes.
Oh, God. What would happen if he was close enough for her to see if they were blue, or green, or grey?
Based on her current reaction, she’d most likely burst into flames.
Now she was being silly. He was just a man, just a guest at the wedding.
Just a distraction she didn’t need.
She was April’s chief bridesmaid. And she was Chief Operating Officer of Molyneux Mining. Neither of those things were conducive to gazing like a lust-crazed idiot across the dance floor at her sister’s wedding.
Yet she was still doing exactly that.
And just as she was sternly telling herself that it really wasn’t that hard to look elsewhere…anywhere…but at him…
Text Copyright © 2014 by Leah Ashton
Cover Art Copyright © 2014 by Harlequin Enterprises
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books SA. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprise Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.