An all-new friends-to-lovers romance is out this week in Piper Rayne’s The Baileys series, and I have an excerpt for you.
I open the door of the only tuxedo shop in town and let Juno walk through first.
Mr. Johnson smiles at us and comes around from behind the counter. “Juno Bailey. I didn’t think I’d get to see your beautiful face today.”
He opens his arms and Juno falls right in, hugging him back. Mr. Johnson was a friend of our dads. If you grew up in Lake Starlight, you knew one another. So just like my dad, every guy who went to school with Mr. Bailey feels a sense of responsibility to the Bailey kids.
“Hi, Mr. Johnson. I’m here to tell this guy what to wear for the big day.” She thumbs toward me.
“He definitely needs the help.” Mr. Johnson smiles at me over Juno’s shoulder.
“Whatever. Let’s see what you got for me.” I rub my hands together.
Juno sits in one of the big leather chairs by the fitting room. “Fashion show time.” She pulls out her phone. “I’ll take a picture of each so we can see if it’s camera-worthy.”
“I already set some things in dressing room number one.” Mr. Johnson points at the small hallway. “I figured you for more of a classic guy, but I didn’t know how dressy you wanted to get. Don’t worry about fit. I’ll tailor it.”
“I want to see each one, Stone.” Juno crosses her legs and picks up a magazine from the small round table. She’s back to her usual self, which hopefully means we’ve moved past the awkwardness of last weekend.
I shut the door of the fitting room and overhear Mr. Johnson asking Juno about her siblings, how the new babies are and how the new mothers are holding up. She’s polite and cheerful, but unfortunately, I hear the tone in her voice that says she’s being overly polite. Not that she’s not happy for her siblings—Juno lives for her family—but something is really bothering her lately. It’s like she’s in a rush to find someone one day, and the next she thinks she’s destined to be the solo Bailey.
I slide my slacks off my body and fold them neatly on the bench, then exchange my button-down for the classic white shirt Mr. Johnson put in the room. As I’m buttoning it, all I can think about is how I always saw Juno as my bride. How it wouldn’t be her voice on the other side of the fitting room door because she wouldn’t want to see me before our wedding day. But here I am marrying Brigette instead. It’s all so different than what I imagined.
I tuck the white shirt into the classic gray slacks, adjusting the waist to fit better.
I’ve always been a commitment guy. Always ready for the next step. I’m not surprised to be getting married, but I am surprised to whom, since I promised my heart to someone other than my bride-to-be a long time ago. I witnessed my parents’ loving marriage all my life. I saw how much they leaned on one another when my grandparents passed away and when Tim and Beth Bailey died. When fishing season wasn’t going well, and my mom had to get a job. Even though my dad was depressed because he felt it was a man’s place to bring money into the household, he made sure that all the household tasks were done. That there was a hot meal for my mom when she came home, and the laundry was all put away. They saw one another through thick and thin, and I want the same. A partner in life.
My arms glide through the black jacket and I straighten the white shirt underneath by pulling on the cuffs. I look goofy as hell.
“Come on, Stone, we’re waiting,” Juno yells.
I walk out in the tuxedo to the three mirrors and step up on the box.
Juno says nothing. She looks me up and down, but no words leave her mouth.
“Well? I look ridiculous, right?”
“You look grown-up.” Her lip trembles for a millisecond before she swallows and masks any emotion. “Where’s the lanky kid who broke his arm trying to be cool on a skateboard?” She lets out a strained laugh and stands, taking a picture with her phone.
“Where’s the girl with bubble gum all over her face because she shoved so many pieces of Hubba Bubba in her mouth to blow the Guinness Book of World Records’ biggest bubble?”
She smiles. We could go on and on about all our memories. The good ones. The funny ones. We never talk about the serious ones. Juno likes to keep those in a locked vault. Unfortunately, many of those times are memories I like to relive. Not because they’re bad, but because of what happened when we comforted one another. The lingering touches, the tight hugs and long holds. The short kisses to cheeks that would continue down the other’s face until our lips met. The soft, hesitant kisses to test if the other one was on the same page. Times when the line would blur slightly with the excuse of comfort.
“Circle around now.” She twirls her finger in the air.
I do as she says, acting like a runway model with my hands tucked into the pockets of my pants.
“You are a classic kind of guy, aren’t you?” Her eyes peruse me and my blood whooshes through my body at her attention.
“I think it’s too dressy though. I mean, we’re having a garden wedding at Selene’s.”
She stares at me, her finger to her lips, tapping like she’s a judge on Top Model. “Let’s see what else Mr. Johnson found.”
I disappear down the hallway and hear her laugh at something Mr. Johnson says.
I take off the tux—which is the one I wore in my head while I waited for Juno to walk down the aisle toward me—and put on a navy suit with a white shirt and burgundy tie. This works better for my wedding with Brigette.