Tessa Wilson’s life is all over the map. She may be clumsy, but this time she’s stumbled into a pickle by choice, not by accident. She’s agreed to take a month-long trip around Texas jammed into a ’59 Cadillac with a drama-loving teenager, two elderly spitfires, and—oh, yes—her biological mama who gave her away at birth. And the ride gets even crazier when hot-as-sin cowboy Branch Thomas crosses into her lane. They don’t call him the sexiest man in the Lone Star State for nothin’.
As the miles pass and sparks fly between Tessa and Branch, her grandmother starts dropping hints about family wedding traditions. And as Tessa discovers the power of her budding friendships and the unbreakable strength of her newfound family of strong Texas women, she wonders if she’s also on the road to the biggest adventure of all: true love.
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Tessa peeled off her shorts and knit shirt on her way to the bathroom, tossing them in the general direction of the sofa on the way to the shower. She dropped the soap three times, got shampoo in her eyes twice, but was happy her hair was dry when Branch rapped on the door.
“You look beautiful, Miz Tess. But are you plannin’ on wearing shoes?” he asked.
“I was patting myself on the back for getting ready so quick and I forgot to put my sandals on,” she admitted.
“I think you are adorable in your bare feet. I could carry you to the car, but if you had to get out for the ladies’ room, you might get stickers since it’s an outdoor movie,” he said.
She sat down on the sofa and buckled her sandals. “Unless you carried me there, too.”
He leaned against the doorjamb and smiled down at her. “I could do it if you want.”
The scent of his shaving lotion wafted across the room when the air conditioner kicked on and stirred the air. Creased jeans, polished cowboy boots, and a plaid shirt that showed signs of an iron said he’d gone the extra mile to get ready that night. She stood up and waited a second before she took a step. With an empty bed that close and her roommate out for the evening, it would not be a good time to trip and fall into his arms.
“Are you sure you are a lawyer? I’d swear you were a sexy cowboy,” she asked.
He offered her his arm. “Thank you. I can clean up good when I have a reason.”
She slipped hers through it. “And this is a reason?”
“Of course it is. You are a beautiful woman and we’re going out to a drive-in movie in Mollybedamned. I feel like I’m taking a step back in time to the sixties,” he answered.
“And we’re sixteen again and this is . . .” She stopped.
“Our first date?” he finished for her.
She picked up her purse. “But it’s not a date. It’s two people going out to a movie.”
“Hey, I don’t offer my arm to my buddies when we go out for drinks or to the movies.” He chuckled.
“Then this is a date?” she asked.
“I think it might be.” He led her out into the parking lot. “Top up or down?”
“Up, at least until we get there.”
He opened the door for her and waited until she pulled the skirt of her sundress in before he closed it. Suddenly, she felt cramped and slightly claustrophobic. The old Caddy was big enough to haul eight people in a pinch and she’d ridden right up next to Branch for several days, so why did she have the jitters when there was at least three feet of space between them?
He started the engine and adjusted the air-conditioning. “I bet this hasn’t been used half a dozen times in all the years Mollybedamned has been going places. Does this feel strange to be just us in the car, or is it because the top is up?” he asked.
“A little, and I’m not sure which it is,” she admitted.
“I thought it was because I was alone in the car with you and your beauty filled the whole car,” he drawled.
Tessa wiggled down into the seat and wished that she was sitting right up next to Branch like always, but that would be presumptuous on a first date. “That, Branch Thomas, is a pickup line. Does it ever work?”
He found a radio station that played current music by Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Florida Georgia Line, and several of her other favorite artists. “It is a pickup line, and it does work in a bar.”
They’d gone through two little towns when she looked up and saw a sign that said they weren’t far from Turkey, Texas, and the town after that was Quitaque, Texas.
“I wonder how that town is pronounced,” she said.
“Tur . . . keee.” He drew out the syllables.
She air slapped his arm. “Not that one, the other one. Are we going to Tur . . . keee or that weird name? Is it Quit-a-eeek?”
“No, we’re not going to Turkey. We’re going to the other one, and it’s pronounced Kit-a-key,” he answered. “I looked it up on the Internet before we left. Had to get directions. It’s a little place, kind of like Boomtown. Lots of teenagers frequent these places. We’ll be the old people there.”
Tessa liked the comfortable aura in the car. She’d been afraid things would be awkward between them but they weren’t. She enjoyed his company whether they were riding in silence or talking about anything and everything.
“I don’t mind, do you?”
He kept time to a Miranda Lambert tune with his thumbs on the steering wheel. “Not if once we are parked, you slide across this seat and let me put my arm around you."
The Wedding Chapel at Ko Olina, Oahu