Eden Brooks exited the plane and walked across Valley International Airport with her rolling suitcase trailing behind her. Stepping outside into the warm afternoon Texas air was a stark contrast to the cooler temperatures she’d left behind in Oregon. At the curb, she located the shuttle to South Padre Island.
“I’m going to the Diamond Resort,” she said to the driver, who wore his dark hair in a single ponytail.
“First time to the island?” he said over his shoulder.
“No, I came here once for spring break back in college. My old roommate, and best friend, is getting married Saturday on the beach. At sunset.” As the words left her mouth, she couldn’t help but envy the romance of it. Exchanging vows with the ocean and the setting sun in the background, how much more romantic could it get? Sophie was beyond lucky, especially because finding a good man was nearly impossible. But Sophie had found a great one in Antonio.
The drive took over an hour, which gave her plenty of time to catch her breath and relax. She hadn’t seen Sophie in a year, but they’d kept in touch on social media and through phone calls and texts. Sophie had met Antonio during their junior year at UT in Austin, and six years later, they were finally tying the knot near Sophie’s hometown of Brownsville, Texas.
“I forgot about that huge bridge,” Eden said as they approached the island with the massive structure ahead of them.
“The resort is the tallest building over there.” He pointed across the bridge.
“Oh, I see it.” The white building was easy to spot against the deep blue sky.
“It’s a popular destination. Right on the beach. Large pool with a restaurant and bar next to the water,” he said. “You’ll like it.”
“We’re all coming in today for a long weekend.” She was excited to spend time with Sophie, then witness her marriage.
“You should check out the dolphin trips or the snorkeling. There’s also a dinner cruise and a pirate ship.”
“Pirate ship?” They hadn’t seen that during spring break. Eden hoped they’d have some time to explore the island.
“Appeals to the kids.” He laughed. “Took my son there a few weeks ago.”
“Sounds interesting.” She tried to imagine what it might look like inside a pirate ship.
“We also have concerts.” He gestured with his hand. “I think the Goo Goo Dolls are here Friday Night at Fisherman Jack’s Outdoor Bar.”
“There’s a lot to do here.” Eden was sure Sophie had everything already planned out.
The shuttle bus pulled up to the hotel. “Here we are,” the driver said.
“Thank you. And thanks for the information about things to do here. I’m hoping to have some down time and relax.” Relaxing would be a welcome change to her hectic, stressful schedule back in Oregon.
“I hope you enjoy it here. Maybe you will find some romance at the wedding?” He winked.
“Uh, I don’t think so.” Eden wasn’t here to meet a man.
He handed her the suitcase. “Never discount what can happen at a weekend wedding, especially here on the island.” He said it in such a mystical way Eden had to do a double take. Was he serious? This weekend was all about Sophie. Her wedding. Her weekend.
Eden checked into her room. It was spacious and looked out over the Gulf. The salty sea air floated around her room. She kicked off her wedges and collapsed onto the bed.
A knock sounded, so she got up and opened the door.
“Sophie,” she screamed. The two friends hugged each other and took turns squealing.
“You look fabulous,” Sophie said. “What did you do to your hair?”
“It’s called bronde. Do you like it?”
“Oh, I love it. The blonde ends are so beautiful.” Sophie said, her dark brown eyes wide. “And you look like Blake Lively’s twin.”
Eden laughed. She could only wish she looked like a glamorous celebrity. “Enough about me.” She waved her hand. “You are going to be a gorgeous bride. You look so fit.”
Sophie flexed her bicep. “I’ve faithfully gone to the gym every day for a year.”
“Every day? That’s impressive. I’m happy if I ever make to the gym.” She wanted to go, but the kids she placed in homes had to take precedence over trips to the gym.
“Okay, not every single day, but close. My dress is strapless and I want to look good.” Sophie smoothed her long dark hair.
“You definitely will.” Eden gave Sophie another hug. “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too. I’m so happy you’re here.” Sophie squeezed Eden.
Eden stepped back and peered at her best friend since college. “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything. You’ve been planning it forever.”
“I know, right?” Sophie chuckled. “It’s about time we finally got married.”
Feeling exhausted, Eden sat on the edge of the bed. “Did Antonio’s grandparents make it?”
“Yes.” Sophie sat in the gray upholstered chair by the window.
“I remember him talking about them. I bet he’s glad they’re here.” Dozens of memories shot through Eden’s mind.
“He is. I think his dad might show up, but who knows? I’m not going to let him ruin the weekend.” Sophie slung her legs over the arm of the chair.
“What are the plans?” Eden pulled her hair up into a messy bun on the top of her head. It felt good to relax with Sophie. It had been too long since they’d been together.
Sophie’s eyes lit up and she clasped her hands together. “Tonight, the bridal party is having dinner.”
“The rehearsal dinner?” Eden leaned back on her elbows. If she had her way, she and Sophie would stay in her room and talk all night like they used to back in school.
“Not the rehearsal dinner. It’s a casual one with the groomsmen and the bridesmaids.” Sophie gave a sly smile.
“No.” Eden shook her head.
“What? I didn’t even say anything,” Sophie said, feigning innocence, but Eden could see right through her.
“I know what’s going on in that head of yours.” Eden sat up.
With mocked indignation, Sophie said, “You do?”
“Remember, I told you—” Eden held her hand up “—I don’t want you to try to fix me up.”
“Why not?” Sophie blinked a few times.
“Because I’m not into flings.” That kind of thing wasn’t at all enticing to Eden.
Sophie pointed at her. “I know that. I’m not talking about a fling.”
“Your relationship with Antonio is awesome, but it’s rare. Definitely not the norm. After what I’ve seen with my job, I’m a little . . .”
“Cynical?” Sophie said with a tilt of her head.
“That sounds pretty harsh.” Eden paused for a moment. “Maybe doubtful. Extremely doubtful.”
“But Antonio and I have something amazing.”
“You do, but I’ve seen so many broken women and destroyed relationships, I think—”
“I get that. But you can’t give up on love.” Sophie smiled. “And Jeremy is so great. He’s sweet and fun. And so handsome. Not as handsome as Antonio, of course.” She laughed. “I just want you to find someone and be as happy as I am.”
“I think the two of you sucked all the happiness out of the atmosphere for the next several years.”
Eden stood and walked over to her suitcase.
“Antonio is so wonderful.” Sophie gave a dramatic sigh.
Eden hefted her suitcase onto the bed and unzipped it. “Who knew the guy in your anatomy class would end up being your husband.”
“I did.” Sophie giggled. “The moment I saw him I knew. Remember?”
Eden smiled at the memory of that day when Sophie was so sure she’d found her Mr. Right. “Yeah, But I didn’t think you would really marry him.”
“It was love at first sight for me.” Sophie fanned herself.
Eden shook her head. She believed in attraction at first sight, but love was something you developed over time and through experiences. “That’s not a thing.”
“But it is. I’m proof of it.” Sophie patted her chest.
Eden wasn’t going to argue. “Well, I’m very happy for you. And I’m glad you’re getting married.”
“Me, too.” Sophie jumped to her feet. “Now let’s go to dinner.”
“Can I change my clothes? I’m not used to warmer temperatures. It was cold and drizzly when I left Portland.”
“Sure.” Sophie glanced at her phone. “Meet us down in the lobby in thirty minutes?”
“Yep,” Eden said as she opened the door for Sophie.
After Sophie left, Eden decided to take a quick shower. She put on a light floral dress and found her strappy sandals—a perfect combination for dinner on South Padre Island. She brushed through her hair, put on some lip gloss, and dabbed some perfume on her neck.
Eden took the elevator down to the lobby. When the doors opened she saw Sophie surrounded by a group of people. She walked over to the group. Sophie spotted her and slung her arm around her.
“You look beautiful, as usual.”
Eden smiled. Sophie always made her feel good.
A man with his back to her turned around and it made Eden take a sudden breath. His bronzed skin, thick dark hair, and chocolate brown eyes made her pulse quicken. He. Was. Gorgeous.
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