Meet me at the Wedding – Chapter One

Meet me at the Wedding – Chapter One

We’re delighted to share the first chapter of Meet me at the Wedding by Georgia Toffolo.

This book is full of friendship, new beginnings and of course, ROMANCE. The perfect summer read, especially if you love the enemies to lovers trope!


Every time Lily Atwell punched a fist into the icing she was kneading, she imagined Henry Hawkesbury’s face.

Every. Time.

He had ruined everything. But she wouldn’t let him ruin this cake. It was the ninth incarnation of her best friend, Victoria’s, wedding cake. Finally having settled on the sponge – a delicious blackberry and lime – she was focusing her attention on the topping. Torn between buttercream and royal icing, she was trying them both. And resolutely ignoring the fact that because of her, or at least, because of Henry Bloody Hawkesbury, the wedding might not happen. Well, she mentally bartered with herself, it would happen, just not the way that Victoria had wanted it to happen. And that was unacceptable.

Lily felt the rising panic in her chest and forced a fist back into the firm icing on the smooth metal workbench in the kitchen of her restaurant. How dare he come back after ten years and mess everything up. How dare he go against his father’s wishes and refuse to hold Victoria’s wedding at the Hawkesbury estate?

The sudden vibration of her mobile phone, loud and angry, cut through the silence and made her jump. And then, as it vibrated perilously close to the edge of the shelf she’d put it on, she reached up just in time to catch it as it fell.

Lily answered without checking the screen. She didn’t need to. Only three people would call her at six thirty in the morning and she’d pick up no matter what she was doing because that’s what it was like between Victoria, Malie, Zoe and her. They were her rocks. They’d been there for each other before, during and after the accident ten years ago. They’d cried, laughed and shared everything, but most of all, they’d loved each other unconditionally. And Lily honestly didn’t know how she could have survived without them. She wedged the phone between her shoulder and ear.


‘Good, you’re awake.’ Zoe’s crisp voice came down through the speaker.

‘Of course I’m awake. What normal person wouldn’t be at 6.30 on a Sunday morning? Everything OK?’

‘Yes,’ Zoe replied in a voice that indicated anything but.

‘What’s wrong? It’s not Finn, is it? You haven’t changed your mind, have you?’ Lily rushed out as she continued to press into the icing. She’d been surprised to see how the years had turned Finn from an angry teen into the tall, handsome, dark-haired man she’d met only a month ago and couldn’t have picked a better man to have captured Zoe’s deserving heart.

‘No! No, no. Not at all . . .’ And there it was. The faint trace of dreamy wistfulness that seemed to have infected her friends in the last few months. That they had each found their happy-ever-afters made Lily’s heart soar. And even the slight twinge of loneliness she felt being so far from them couldn’t take away from her happiness for them. ‘Hold on, I just want to get Malie in on this.’

‘In on what? Have I missed a Lost Hours? Pretty sure it’s too early for V—’

‘Nope, just hold on . . .’

The Lost Hours had become their code for a drop-everything-now-no-matter-what-damn-time-it-was call. A ‘break in case of emergencies’ – or news. It had saved them, supported them and connected them across continents and years.

‘Hola, ladies.’ Lily couldn’t help but smile reflexively at Malie’s greeting. ‘Have I missed it?’ she asked. As Lily heard a rustling through the phone, she imagined Malie sweeping the mass of her beautiful curls away from her ear.

‘Missed what?’ Lily asked, confused.

‘No, you’re just in time,’ replied Zoe. ‘I’m staging an intervention.’

‘Another one?’ Lily asked, confused thinking back to Zoe’s last unnecessary intervention after Malie had finally realized she was totally, one hundred per cent, head over heels in love with Todd Masters.

‘Yes. Because it’s been three weeks, Lils.’

Lily’s stomach roiled.

‘Have you told V yet?’ Malie asked gently.

‘Told V about what?’ Lily replied, folding the icing and punching at it again.

‘Lily Atwell. You are brilliant, amazing and beautiful, but also one hundred per cent deep in a river in Egypt!’ Zoe cried down the phone.

‘I’m not in denial, Zo,’ Lily exclaimed, letting out a puff of air as she switched to the rolling pin.

‘What time is it, Lils, and what on earth are you doing?’

‘It’s 6.30 and I’m making icing.’


‘Not the point, Malie,’ Zoe interrupted. ‘Listen. Lils, it’s getting serious now. And if you don’t fix this, I’m going to come down there and—’

‘What, you’re going to get on a plane from Sydney and come all this way?’

‘No,’ Zoe replied after a strange pause, ‘Of course not. But this can’t carry on. V needs to know that she can’t have the wedding at the Hawkesbury estate.’

‘No she doesn’t,’ Lily insisted, which was met by a loud and painfully audible groan. ‘She doesn’t. Because I’m going to make it happen. I am.’

‘How, Lils?’ Malie asked, the doubt in her tone undermining Lily’s determination. ‘He’s already said no.’

‘Well, I’m going to make him say “yes”.’

‘Have you seen him?’

‘Not since . . .’

No. Absolutely not! No way.

 Henry’s last words on the matter cut through her mind, making her want to lash out with the rolling pin.

‘Lils, listen. It’s not the end of the world.’

‘But it’s what Blake wanted,’ Lily replied both sadly and stubbornly, the ache in her chest expanding once again for the loss of her friend. But he’d been more than that. Boss, mentor . . . none of the words seemed to do enough justice to what he’d been to her.

Father figure.

‘I know, honey. But Blake isn’t here anymore.’ Malie’s words were said kindly, but they rubbed at a wound not even begun to heal and Lily hiccupped against a bubble of grief. ‘Look, do you want me to come back early? I could find someone to cover and—’

‘No, Malie,’ Lily interrupted. ‘Honestly, you don’t need to do that. I know you have things to finish up before you come home.’

‘Home. I love the sound of that,’ she replied and Lily could easily imagine the smile on Malie’s face as she spoke. Lily couldn’t wait until Malie was back in Hawke’s Cove. Her friend had travelled all over the world making a name for herself on the surfing circuit, before her godfather offered her a job in Hawaii teaching at a surfing school where she’d finally settled.

Then Malie had found the perfect guy – Todd – who didn’t try to tame her beautiful wildness, but instead complemented it, pacified some of the white-topped waves that made her a force of nature and gave her a safe harbour when she needed it. And they had decided to return to Hawke’s Cove and no one could be happier than Malie’s parents at the news, not even Lily. It had done wonders to chase away the shadows that had hung about them since the loss of their son Koa, who had died from cancer when they’d been sixteen. It had been such a tough time for Malie and her parents who had turned their grief into a need to protect Malie at all costs, not realizing that they were stifling her so much that Malie had seized the first chance she’d got to fly halfway round the world for her escape.

But soon she’d be back, and would re-open her parents’ old surfing business. She’d be coming home. It was everything Lily had always wanted. Her friends, back in Hawke’s Cove . . . And while Zoe was still in Sydney, focusing on her writing, the most that Lily could look forward to was having them all back for the wedding. If there was going to be a wedding.

‘Do you know why Henry said no to the wedding?’ Malie asked, bringing Lily back into the present.

‘No idea.’ Punch, punch, roll. The poor icing.

‘Maybe you should find out why?’ Zoe suggested. ‘Then perhaps you could change his mind?’

Lily pulled up short, the rolling pin hovering mid-air. ‘That’s not a bad idea.’

‘OK, it’s the beginning of an idea, let’s not get carried away,’ Zoe cautioned.

‘No, I think . . . I think it could work, right?’ Lily said, finally latching on to some plan of action after weeks and weeks of helplessness. ‘All I have to do is find out why and then change his mind, offer him something in return.’

‘Oh yeah? You planning to—’

‘Don’t be ridiculous. Just because you’re all having sex doesn’t mean that—’

‘Actually, it might really help take off some of the tension—’

‘I’m hanging up now!’ Lily cried before Malie could go into any further detail.

‘Lils, seriously,’ Zoe cut in. ‘I love you. Completely. But I’m going to give you a week. If you haven’t got him to agree to hold the wedding at the estate, then we’re really going to have to let V know. The invitations have been sent out.’

‘I know, I know. But don’t worry. I’m going to fix it. I have a plan,’ Lily said resolutely, half an idea forming in her mind.

‘Which is . . .?’

‘Bring him to the table, discuss terms, and get him to agree to the most perfect, amazing, beautiful wedding EVER.’

As she hung up the phone, she thought through what she needed to do. She’d go to the estate and call a truce. And while she was there, she might as well get the herbs she wanted for the evening’s service. She hadn’t been back there since . . .

Lily couldn’t quite bring herself to say the words in her head. As she leaned in to knead the icing, she put a little more force and determination into her fists. Blake’s death had devastated her. It had severed one of the few anchoring points Lily had left.

Fearing that the tears pressing against the back of her eyes might escape, she brushed at her cheek, unknowingly leaving a dusty smear of icing powder in its wake, and gave the white mound a gentle pat before placing it in an airtight box.

She would get Henry Hawkesbury to agree, because she wanted Victoria’s wedding to be perfect.

It had to be.


Despite her thoughts, Lily couldn’t help but smile as she pulled her bicycle out on to the cobbled main street that bisected the small seaside town of Hawke’s Cove. She loved this time of year. An early summer’s sun crested over the hill in the distance, looking out and down on the port town below. The fishermen were not yet back from their morning haul, the tourists were not yet in full flow. It was . . . peaceful.

She pedalled past the ever-twitching curtain of Mrs Whittaker’s house, waving a cheery hand to the local busybody who would be sure to notice Lily’s bike ride towards the estate. Especially since it was the first time Lily had ventured back to the estate since Blake’s . . . funeral.

There. She’d said it.

To herself, at least.

Swerving the manhole that had never caught her unawares since the first and only time it had knocked her off her seat, she took a left at the fork in the road at the top of the hill and cycled along the flat path heading towards the forest that bordered the estate. Each rotation of the wheel felt harder and harder the closer she came.

Blake had been such an important figure in her life. He’d given her a job at sixteen in the kitchen of the estate-turned-hotel and she’d been awed by the glamour and luxury of the grand building, the immaculate restaurant, and the opulence of the rooms she’d been brave enough, at the time, to sneak a peek at. It was a far cry from the small, boxy council house she and her mother had shared on the outskirts of town.

Back then, she’d been trying to save up enough money for the culinary college in London she’d wanted to attend after secondary school, but the accident . . . Well, she’d needed an extra year and Blake had not only kept her job open, but also visited her in hospital for the short time she’d been there.

She’d escaped that accident pretty much unscathed, certainly in comparison to Victoria and Zoe. The tiny silvery scars criss-crossing her arms were nothing in comparison to the deeper hurts of her friends. Lily tried not to think about that night, but even now as she pressed on through beneath the thick canopy, memories flashed like shards of light through the leaves, dappling her mind.

A screech of tyres, the blue-and-white emergency lights, the harrowing screech of metal as firefighters sliced through the roof of the car. She shivered beneath the memory of screams of terror, of pain. Of being crushed up against the side door, where she’d had a clear view across the back seats, right into the windscreen of the car that had hit them, bonnet to side, Claudia having recklessly tried to overtake them and spun out of control.

All hell had broken loose. Men yelling, people prodding and poking, making her move when it had been the last thing she’d wanted. She wouldn’t leave them – Victoria, Malie and Zoe – no matter how many times the paramedics tried to get her out. She’d gripped Malie’s hand beside her, reached for Victoria’s where she was stuck in the driver’s seat, and stared at Zoe as the only way to reach her. Lily had hung on as if their lives depended on it. They’d held hands like that, locked in some frozen tableau, until she’d been practically dragged from the wreckage.

When Lily and Malie had been discharged after a week or so, Zoe and Victoria had been stuck behind, still needing treatment. She and Malie had threatened to move in, but the nurses and staff at the hospital refused to allow it. Not that it had stopped them breaking in one night, only to set off the alarm on the emergency exit they thought they’d managed to wedge open on an earlier visit.

It had been the only time in the months Zoe spent in hospital that Lily and Malie had seen tears of laughter, rather than pain and sadness in her eyes. To them, it had been worth every reprimand from the hospital.

As Lily continued to pedal, she felt the sensation and ease as something unique and wondrous. Zoe had lost the use of her legs in the same accident that had prevented Victoria from ever being able to have children naturally.

That night had taken something from each of the girls and ten years later, Lily realized that they were still feeling the echoes of that loss. But in the last few months Victoria, Malie and Zoe had each found a way forward from that, with the help of the love and acceptance they had found with their partners. And even the slight twinge of loneliness she felt being so far from her friends couldn’t take away from her happiness for them.

Lily resumed pedalling and pushed on into the forest that flanked the border of the Hawkesbury estate, where the dark canopy overhead brought more than shade. It brought memories of Blake. The steady hand the older man had guided her with, the welcome arms he had embraced her with after her return from London. The kind distraction he had offered her aching heart after her ex-fiancé’s betrayal. The quiet, sad yearnings he’d had for his son’s return . . . The son who had left Hawke’s Cove ten years before and not looked back once.

Until it was too late.

She shivered, the shadows turning her exertions ice cold, as loss entwined with the past to bind her in a sadness she had to force herself to shake free from. Finally, the path emerged from the forest and out into the sprawling open hillside of Hawkesbury estate. The sight of the vineyard spilling downwards in layers from where the old Georgian building stood proud at the top always filled Lily with happiness, even today when it was ringed with the sharp sting of grief. Blake had worked so hard for each and every vine. The pride in his voice and gaze as each harvest had increased in abundance and popularity had been clear to all. His restaurant, naturally, stocked the lion’s share of the produce, but in the last three years the estate had been supplying more and more vendors with high quality wine that was gaining international recognition.

As Lily drew to a halt, leaning the bike and her weight on one foot, she couldn’t help but wonder what would happen now. What Blake’s son would decide to do with the estate – and everything that his estranged father had worked so hard for.



Sorry, mate. Didn’t mean to be away for this long.


Hitting send, Henry passed a hand over his face, trying to wipe away some of the exhaustion from gritty eyes. His phone pinged.


No worries. Can just about manage without you.



Although he knew his business partner was being sarcastic Henry very much hoped that wasn’t the case. Their business had been a lifeline over the years and if it hadn’t been for Ben, who the hell knew where Henry might have ended up? Probably at the bottom of a bottle. As long as it wasn’t a wine bottle.


Seriously, bro, how’s it all going?


Henry sighed. Bloody awful?


It’s OK.


It certainly would be better now that he’d given the staff four weeks of paid leave. He’d needed some time alone. Just to be. Without hotel guests, or staff members filling rooms that had changed in the ten years since he’d last stepped foot in the estate that had been in his family for generations. The hotel manager had made the calls cancelling the scheduled guests willingly enough, seeming to understand the precarious position they were now all in.

This was the first morning he’d been in the place by himself since he’d arrived. He’d flown into London the morning after his mother had called. Spent a few days with her and her husband in Borehamwood – his mother, sad-faced but dry-eyed, watching as Henry had spent hours on the phone organizing a funeral for a man who he hadn’t spoken to in ten years.

He loved you, Henry. But you were both as stubborn as each other.

Henry had made it down to Hawke’s Cove in his rental the night before the funeral and stood at the front of the mourners that numbered almost the whole bloody town. He shivered at the memory of casting the dry earth on his father’s coffin, still not quite able to believe that he was gone.

The last few weeks had been tough. Tougher than he’d expected. He’d met with Blake’s estate lawyers who seemed, if not surprised, then at least satisfied, with his mother relinquishing any rights to the estate from a will that had been made years before.

Henry shook his head and looked, unseeing, out of the window of the top-floor room he’d been using, utterly unable to step foot back in his old bedroom. Blake had left him everything. He’d genuinely expected to go to the lawyer’s, sign some piece of paper agreeing to walk away with nothing. And now he was the owner of a five-star hotel, over three hundred acres of woodland and working vineyards, one private beach and nearly thirty employees.

And almost each and every one of them had answered nearly every question he’d had about the estate with, Ask Lily Atwell. A familiar sense of frustration rose within him. He’d had no idea how involved in the estate she’d become in the last ten years.

He’d done his best to avoid thinking about her, or any of the other girls – Zoe, Malie and Victoria – in the years since the accident. Anytime he’d been on the verge of wondering what had happened to them, his mind had done a volte-face, and instead he’d plunged himself into some new project, driven by the demons haunting his past.

But now they, she was everywhere he turned. Lily Atwell. The little ball of fiery fury he’d already had one painful interaction with when he’d told her she’d have to cancel her friend’s wedding.

She’d changed since he’d last seen her, when they’d bumped into each other, literally, on the steps of the inquest. She’d lost some of the round-cheeked softness he remembered from her teens. Cheekbones had sharpened, but the long dark hair that had escaped a messy bun, tendrils whipping about a strong jawline echoing the outrage practically vibrating from her thin frame as he’d told her no to the wedding, was a richer auburn colour than before. It had made her eyes glow. And clearly reduced him to some kind of simpering fool that waxed lyrical about autumnal colours and innate beauty.

A headache was beginning to form at his temples. Less than two months ago, he’d been in his Manhattan apartment with Ben and his wife Amina, celebrating the end of an investment deal that would finance the latest app to be launched by their company. They’d laughed, still not quite believing how far they’d come from their first contract, scribbled on a napkin, certainly less than legally binding, given half the bottle of SangSom that they’d consumed on a beach in Thailand nearly eight years earlier.

Ben had been bristling with a kind of excitement that seemed, even for him, a little excessive. And that’s when Henry had realized. Realized that Amina hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol all night. Henry had taken Ben in a hug before he’d even managed to get the words ‘we’re pregnant’ out of his mouth. He’d instantly assured Ben that, of course, he understood they’d be moving to Singapore to be nearer to Mina’s family for the birth. And that as long as they built him an ‘uncle annex’, he’d be fine.

Henry’s phone had rung in the midst of it all, but he’d ignored it, focusing instead on Ben, his wife, the baby . . . But the phone had rung again. And again. It had been his mother. Darling. I’m so sorry. It’s your father.

Henry loosened his white-knuckled grip on his mobile.


Can you send over the paperwork for the Johnson deal?


Seconds later Ben replied.


You don’t trust me?



With my life, mate. But I could do with the distraction.



’Nough said.


Henry shoved his phone into the pocket of his jeans and shrugged on a jumper over his shirt. It might be the afternoon in Singapore, but the sun was rising over the vineyards in Hawke’s Cove, touching the fields with gold. Once again, he was drawn to the window that looked over the impressive estate, vainly trying to see what it was about it that his father had loved more than his wife and child.

The early summer sun picked out the dips and troughs of the sweeping hills. Blake’s precious vines had tripled in size, winding their way down the bank, and glinting off the glass plates of the orangery at the back of the house.

House. Not home. Not all the things that would be, could be, conjured by the word. Henry longed for the smooth sleek lines of his New York apartment. The hustle and bustle of the noise that hummed constantly from the chaotic streets, tourists and builders flowing forth as if different tides fighting against the other.

The silence here was unsettling. He could lie to himself and put down his sleepless nights to that, but he wouldn’t. Because he had stopped lying to himself years ago. When he’d realized that his behaviour had been nothing more than that of a child acting out, resentful of one parent who couldn’t care less and one who cared too much. When his behaviour and selfishness had finally tipped to such devastating depths as to irrevocably damage those around him. He cursed, loudly into the room where no one could hear. It was too early for the kind of self-recrimination that usually came with a late night and a bottle of whiskey. That was what being back here did to him. Turned him back into the angry young boy and away from the calm, professional, successful man he had become.

He was about to leave, when a bright flash of orange caught his eye. Drawn, reluctantly but curiously, back to the window he caught the sight of a figure on a bicycle. As the sun glinted off trails of auburn hair held up with what looked improbably like chopsticks from this distance, he realized that there was only one person it could be. The last person he ever wanted it to be.


She wasn’t going to punch him.

She was going to kill him.


She snapped the secateurs repeatedly, her grip firm, as she cast her eye around the herb garden. Lily had been feeling quite positive about the whole thing, hoping to extend an invitation of truce, to start over again, after their last painful confrontation. Until she’d let herself into the walled herb garden and seen . . .

She could cry.

Weeds had sprung up and were threatening to overwhelm the delicate herbs she and Blake had spent years caring for. The netting protecting some of the now rotting strawberries had torn away and caterpillars had almost completely decimated the lettuce crop.

Rage filled her, hot and scouring and not all of it directed at Henry. A good part, but not all. It had been too long since she’d been here, unwilling and unable to face the new lord of the manor. But now . . . ohhh. Now she would let him have it.

‘What the hell are you doing here?’

She jumped, startled by the angry voice of the man she had been imagining murdering in several colourful ways. Spinning, she turned on him and launched towards him, still snapping the secateurs.

‘You!’ Lily exclaimed. ‘You! How dare you!’

‘Excuse me?’ His indignant reply burst from lips that were full and that seemed, to Lily, almost carnal. Henry looked utterly devastating in a pair of jeans that clung to strong thighs, topped by a dark blue cable knit jumper pressing against the outline of a very well-defined torso.

Why couldn’t he have run to fat? she internally moaned. Why couldn’t he have just become . . . ugly? It made her even more angry and devastatingly conscious that she had come from her kitchen wearing an old pair of jeans, a loose white V-neck T and a large fluffy orange cardigan.

‘How bloody dare you! This place is nearly ruined.’

‘Ruined?’ Once again, he sounded dumfounded.

‘Yes! Look,’ she commanded, waving the secateurs to the left. ‘Just look at it. Stinging nettles! We haven’t had stinging nettles in here for nearly three years. And the caterpillars!’ Lily hated the way she had to crane her neck to look up at him, not realizing how close they were standing.

‘That’s hardly my fault.’

Lily wanted to jump up and down on the spot and stamp her foot like a child. Of course it wasn’t his fault. It was hers. She just hadn’t been able to face coming back here since Blake . . . let alone wanting to stay away from Henry.

‘What are you doing here?’ he demanded slowly, as if desperately seeking patience.

‘I wanted to call a truce,’ Lily practically growled, knowing full well that the tone of her voice suggested anything but. And from the glint in Henry’s eyes, he seemed to find it just as ironic.

‘And you do this by breaking and entering—’

Breaking and—’

‘Causing damage to private property—’

Damage?!’ she cried.

‘And . . . theft,’ he said, peering into the basket of her bicycle, containing some of the herbs she’d managed to forage before his arrival.

The gall of the man!

Oh, he’d really gone and done it now. Every good intention burned to dust on her tongue as Lily forgot all about Victoria’s wedding and her intentions to offer a truce, and instead realized that she was on the verge of being barred from the only haven she had other than her kitchen.

Anger. She latched onto it like a lifeline. She didn’t know what it was about Henry, but he was bringing out the worst in her. She was never like this. Never. She was the peace keeper. In London one chef told her she’d be better off in the UN than the kitchen. But the implication that she wasn’t wanted there had only made her work harder.

‘Henry Hawkesbury, I have been looking after this garden for nearly seven years, while you swanned off around the world with a trust fund in your back pocket, doing God knows what with God knows who—’

‘What and with whom I’ve been doing in the last few years is absolutely none of your business.’

‘But this estate has been my business. Blake and I built this herb garden together. It’s . . .’ Hot tears were pressing against the backs of her eyes, all the anger and grief swelled in her chest, because she’d wanted to say, it’s ours. But she couldn’t do that anymore, could she? Blake was gone. And Lily suddenly realized that all this time, she’d been focusing on what it meant for Victoria and the wedding now that Henry was back. But she had been avoiding how it would affect her.

‘Go on,’ Henry said, cutting through her thoughts. ‘Please.’ A wave of his arm gestured for her to continue. ‘Please tell me more about how remiss I’ve been in the last ten years. Tell me more about the glorious man who turned his back on his son when he needed him the most.’


Henry clamped his jaw shut. He’d revealed too much. In that one moment, Lily Atwell had managed to unearth the very thing he’d spent years running from. No. Not her. It was this damn place. A place he couldn’t wait to be rid of.

‘Henry . . .’

He looked into large brown eyes that were shining with sympathy. He feared for a moment that she might try and find some kind of excuse for Blake’s actions.

‘Don’t,’ he said, cutting her off before she could continue. ‘I shouldn’t have said that.’

He watched as she bit back whatever words may have been on her tongue and ducked behind the thick curtain of her hair. When she looked up, he noticed a smear of something that looked like flour across her cheek. It made her seem incredibly innocent and his gut clenched.

For just a moment, he’d actually enjoyed verbally sparring with her. Through the last couple of months everyone had been treating him with kid gloves, stepping on eggshells around him. But not Lily. The more he’d needled her, the more outraged she’d been, the more she gave back and he’d relished it. Fed it even. He wanted that instead of the grief suddenly simmering between them.

Looking about the garden, he honestly couldn’t identify the ‘damage’ she’d identified. It certainly looked better than it had the last time he’d been there when it had been a storage for broken bits of machinery older than his own father.

Thankfully she threw the shears into the basket – she’d got a little too close with the sharp edges and he’d been worried for a moment that he’d be forced to take an unmanly step back. They landed beside what looked like half a forestry of herbs, peppered with rose heads, a few handfuls of a strange orange berry, and other bright little flowers.

‘What are you planning to do with all of those?’ he asked, the sight somehow making this exchange even more surreal.

‘A parsley oil. For herb-crusted lamb. And I’m toying with the idea of a sea buckthorn reduction, as we’ve had such a good crop of it this year.’

‘There’s a penchant for parsley oil and sea buckthorn reduction in Hawke’s Cove, is there?’

‘Hawke’s Cove might not be London, or New York, or Singapore, Henry, but we do eat down here, in case you’d forgotten.’

‘Been reading up on me, have you?’ he asked, an absentminded arrogance covering genuine curiosity, because he didn’t think it had been a coincidence that she’d reeled off a list of his apartment locations throughout the world.

‘What?’ she asked as a blush rose to her cheeks.

‘You just picked those destinations out of thin air, then?’

‘No, your father told me that’s where you’ve been living.’

This time, she looked more defiant when bringing up Blake, but as he held her gaze, her head slipped forward and she hid behind several strands of thick dark hair that had escaped the messy bun held in place by the . . . yup. Definitely chopsticks.

‘And I happen make a very good parsley oil, thank you.’ How she managed to sound both prim and defiant at the same time was a wonder to Henry.

He turned away with the excuse of looking around the garden before he could do something stupid, like acknowledge the fact that verbally sparring with her had made him feel more live than anything else had in the last month or so. But by the time he returned his gaze to hers, he wished he’d already left. Sincerity and compassion harpooned him to the spot.

‘I am sorry about your father.’

A sudden and shocking grief hit him square in the chest. Her sentiments lacked the hysteria of others’, the almost theatrical display of misery from strangers at the funeral. Those he’d been able to brush off, but Lily Atwell had cut him off at the knees with her simple, honest rendering.

And all the while, he couldn’t look away. It was as if she let him react to her words and was patiently weathering the storm they conjured, letting him rage silently. She just absorbed it all.

‘You should go,’ he managed to bite out.

‘Of course,’ she said, once again dropping her head slightly as if hiding behind her hair. ‘I just need to speak to Annabelle about—’

‘She’s not here.’


‘No one is. I sent them away.’

‘You did what?’ she demanded. ‘But Henry, this is—’

‘What Hawkesbury estate is or was, is none of your concern,’ he decreed, trying to understand why he had the strange sense that he was wrong. Very wrong.

‘And the guests? At the hotel?’

‘Have been cancelled and given full refunds.’

‘But what about the estate?’

‘What about it?’

‘It’s a working vineyard, Henry, the vines need—’

‘Pretty sure I can handle a few vines, Lily.’

He watched as she bit her lip again to prevent a retort, the angry blush riding high on alabaster cheekbones drawing his gaze upwards from her mouth to her eyes. Eyes that were wide, round and . . . spitting fire. He could feel the waves of anger rolling off her, breaching his skin like a series of tidal waves. As if by some monumental effort, she released her lip, drew in a jagged inhale, retrieved her bike and wheeled it past him, head held high and knuckles white as they gripped the handles.

He could have sworn he’d heard her utter the words bloody fool as she left through the doorway. And he most definitely agreed.

He should never have come back.


Meet me at the Wedding by Georgia Toffolo

Lily loves living in Hawke’s Cove, and planning her best friend’s wedding at the Hawkesbury estate is the icing on the cake. But when the estate’s owner dies, and his son cancels the wedding, Lily must face Henry Hawkesbury – a man she hasn’t seen since that fateful night ten years ago…

Henry wants nothing more than to return to Hawke’s Cove, sell his estranged late father’s estate and leave. He certainly does not want to host a wedding, or face Lily, who gets on with everyone – except him!

But when Henry needs Lily’s help, she will only provide it if the wedding can go ahead. Working together means both must face their pasts, and, in doing so embrace their future. But can two people afraid of love acknowledge what they have always wanted…?

Get your copy of Meet me at the Wedding here.