By the time we started working on this book, we’d only known our editor, Adam Wilson, for eight months, but together we had already released two books (Bastard and Stranger), with four more scheduled in the same year. This type of publishing schedule for a new author-editor combination is a bit like summer camp: everything is wild and goes by in a blur, and relationships don’t have the luxury of the normal slow easing-in, getting-to-know-you time. As with anything else in life, sometimes those intense experiences work, and sometimes they don’t, but with Adam we’ve been so profoundly lucky. When we finally met in July, we just knew: he is our people and is absolutely our brand of crazy (or very convincingly pretends to be because we send him both metaphorical and real cupcakes). Working with him has been one of the best experiences either of us has had, ever, and we can’t wait to see what we get to do together next.
When we were first going through the query process, we read probably a hundred blog posts that emphasized the importance of finding an agent that clicks for you. It’s not about finding an agent, everyone said, it’s about finding the right one. In truth, Holly Root is not only the right agent for us, she’s also one of the best people we’ve ever known. Without her, these books would never have found the perfect home with Gallery, or with Adam. She still says she knew from the very first time she spoke to him about the project that he would be a perfect fit for us. It’s these types of relationships that make us feel eternally grateful.
But it’s also the involvement of our beta readers—Erin, Martha, Tonya, Gretchen, Myra, Anne, Kellie, Katy, and Monica—that makes us realize that the process of writing is so much more than putting words to paper; it’s also finding your community of people who will help you battle the crazy on the bad days, and help you celebrate the awesome on the good ones. If you’ve ever sent your work to someone to read, you know what a vulnerable experience that can be, and to every one of our readers who has helped with the Beautiful books, thank you for so perfectly balancing support with criticism. Sorry that we’ve killed some of your brain cells. Anne, thanks for the Nietzsche and the kick-ass line about him. Jen, thank you a million times over for the promo and cheerleading. Lauren, thank you forever for running the Beautiful social media, and being excited for every cover, excerpt, and email. We love you all.
You can also like this:
We’re erecting (hee! we said erecting!) a billboard in honor of our fabulous S&S/Gallery Books home. THANK YOU, Carolyn Reidy, Louise Burke, Jen Bergstrom, Liz Psaltis, the wonderful art department, Kristin Dwyer (we are kidnapping you soon), Mary McCue (SDCC next year, no choice), Jean Anne Rose, Ellen Chan, Natalie Ebel, Lauren McKenna, Stephanie DeLuca, and, of course, Ed Schlesinger for laughing at Hanna’s jokes. You’ve all made us feel like we’re family. We get a pullout couch in the offices, right?
Writing isn’t a nine-to-five job, or a Monday-to-Friday job. It’s a job you do whenever you have a slice of time, and it’s also the job that is a slave to inspiration, so if you lack even a tiny slice of time (typical), but you have a flurry of ideas, you drop everything to get those thoughts down before the fickle bastards disappear. Sometimes that means running away to the computer while dinner is boiling on the stove, and sometimes it means that the husband takes the kids to a movie or the zoo or on a hike so that Mommy can get something done. But regardless, writing is a process that requires a lot of patience and support by everyone in the writer’s life, and for that, we make loving heart eyes at the loves of our lives, Keith and Ryan. And our children: Bear, Cutest, and Ninja, we hope you someday realize how patient you’ve been, and how that patience means we now get to spend a lot more time with you. Thanks to our family and friends for putting up with the crazy: Erin, Jenn, Tawna, Jess, Joie, Veena, Ian, and Jamie.
And last but certainly not least, writing these stories would mean nothing without the amazing people who read them. We’re still blown away when you tell us you stayed up all night reading, or pretended to have the stomach flu to steal a few hours locked in a bathroom because you couldn’t put down our book. Your support and encouragement means more to us than we could ever hope to convey. Thank you. Thank you for continuing to buy our books, for loving our characters as much as we do, for sharing our sense of humor and dirty minds, and for every tweet, email, post, comment, review, and hug. We hope we get to hug each and every one of you one day.
Bennett would like to see you all in his office.
Lo, you are so much more than a co-author, you’re my best friend, the moon of my life, the chocolate to my . . . you see where I’m going here. I love you more than all the boy bands and glitter and lip gloss combined.
PQ, you look so pretty today! I love you even though you make me pee myself laughing. In fact, I love you more than I love Excel, GraphPad, and SPSS combined. Is your collar tingling?
ONE BEAUTIFUL BASTARD OF A GROOM. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BITCH OF A BRIDE. A PANTY-RIPPING OFFICE HOOKUP TURNED TRUE LOVE EVERLASTING.
You are cordially invited to the wedding of Bennett Ryan and Chloe Mills
Take a sneak peek here at the opening of Beautiful Beginning . . .
“I’m about to cut a bitch,” I hissed, pushing my share of the work away from me. Bennett failed to even look up, so I added, “And by that, I mean paper-cut a bitch.”
At least this got a tiny flicker of a smile. But I could tell, even after doing this for the past hour, he was still in Wedding Preparation Zone, and would keep robotically working until the entire, unending pile of cardstock in front of him was gone. Our normally immaculate dining room table was littered with Tiffany-blue wedding programs. Across from me, Bennett methodically folded each one in half before moving it to the Completed stack.
It was a simple process:
But I was losing my damn mind. Our flight left at six the following morning for San Diego, and our bags were all packed but for the five hundred wedding programs we had to fold. I groaned as I remembered we also had to tie five hundred blue ribbons around five hundred tiny satin bags full of candy.
“You know what would make this night so much better?” I asked.
His hazel eyes flickered to me before returning to the task at hand.
“A gag?” he suggested.
“Amusing, but no,” I said, giving him the finger. “What would make this night better would be getting on a plane and flying to Vegas, getting married, and then fucking all night in a giant hotel bed.”
He didn’t bother to reply to this, not even a whiff of a smile. It was probably fair to say he’d heard this exact sentiment from me approximately seven thousand times in the past few months.
“Fine,” I replied to his silence. “But I’m serious. It’s not too late to drop all of this and fly to Vegas.”
He took a moment to scratch his jaw before reaching for another program to fold. “Of course it isn’t, Chlo.”
I’d been playing around—mostly—up to this point, but with his words genuine irritation swept through me. I slapped my hand on the dining room table, earning a quick blink from him before he resumed his folding. “Don’t patronize me, Ryan.”
I pointed a finger at him. “Like that.”
My fiancé gave me a dry look, and then winked.
Damn that man and his goddamn sexy wink. My anger dissipated somewhat and in its place came a flare of desire. He was ignoring me, being a patronizing ass. I was being a bitch.
It was the perfect setup for me to have many, many orgasms.
I looked him over and sucked the edge of my lower lip into my mouth. He was wearing a deep blue T-shirt that was so old and worn, the collar was frayed and—even though I couldn’t see it—I knew there was a tiny hole right above the hem that was just big enough for me to slide my finger through and touch the warm skin of his stomach. Last weekend he’d been wearing that T-shirt and I’d asked him to keep it on while he fucked me against the bathroom counter, just so I could wrap it up in my fists.
I rocked a little in my chair to relieve the ache between my legs. “Bed or floor. Your choice.” I watched him as he remained impassive, and added in a whisper, “Or I could just climb under the table and suck on you first?”
Smirking down at his work, Bennett said, “You can’t get out of wedding preparation with sex.”
I pulled back to study him. “What kind of man says that? You’re broken.”
Finally, he gave me a dark, hungry look. “I promise you, I’m not broken. I’m getting this done so I can focus on wearing you out later.”
“Wear me out now,” I whined, standing and walking over to him. I slid my fingers into his hair and tugged. Adrenaline dripped hot and electric into my veins when his eyes fluttered closed and he suppressed a groan. “Where’s all this money you have? Why haven’t we hired someone to do this?”
Laughing, Bennett wrapped his hand around my wrist and pulled my fingers from his hair. After kissing my knuckles, he very deliberately set my hand back at my side. “You want to hire someone to fold programs the night before we leave for San Diego?”
“Yes! Because sex!”
“But isn’t it nicer like this? Enjoying each other’s company and,” he said, lifting his wineglass to take a dramatic sip, “conversing like the happily affianced lovers we are?”
I glared at him, shaking my head at his attempted guilt trip. “I offered sex. I offered hot, sweaty floor sex—and then I offered to give you a blow job. You want to fold paper. Who is the buzzkill here?”
He picked up a program and studied it, ignoring me. “Frederick Mills,” he read aloud, and I began pulling my shirt up and over my head, “together with Elliott and Susan Ryan welcome you to the wedding of their children, Chloe Caroline Mills and Bennett James Ryan.”
“Yes, yes, it’s so romantic,” I whispered. “Come here and touch me.”
“Officiant,” he continued, “the Honorable James Marsters.”
“If only,” I sighed, and dropped my shirt on the floor before working my pants down my hips. “I’m going to pretend it’s Spike performing our wedding ceremony instead of that hilarious gentleman with early dementia we met back in November.”
“Judge Marsters performed my parents’ wedding ceremony almost thirty-five years ago,” Bennett chastened me gently. “It’s sentimental, Chlo. The fact that he forgot to zip up his pants is a mistake anyone could have made.”
“Fine.” I did feel a little guilty for making the joke, but I stood quietly for a minute, letting my memory of the old, frazzled man take shape. He’d met us at the wedding site when we went out to see it last fall, and got lost on each of three trips to the men’s room in under an hour, returning with his fly open each time. “But do you think he’ll remember our na—”
Bennett cut me off with a stern look before he realized I was only wearing my bra and underwear, and then his expression went a completely different kind of dark.
“I’m just saying,” I started, reaching behind me to unfasten my bra, “it would be at least a little amusing if he forgot what he was doing halfway through the ceremony.”
He managed to turn his attention back to folding the program before my breasts were exposed; he made a crisp seam as he slid his thumb along the edge. “You’re being a pain in the ass.”
“I know. I also don’t care.”
He quirked an eyebrow as he looked up at me. “We’re almost done.”
I bit back my response, which was to point out that folding the programs was the least of our worries; the next week with our two families together had the potential to be a disaster of Griswold-family holiday proportions, and wouldn’t sex right now be a lot better than thinking about that? My father and his two boozy divorcée sisters alone could make us crazy, but add in Bennett’s side of the family, Max, and Will, and we’d be lucky to get out of there without a felony under our communal belt.
Instead I whispered, “Just really quick? Can’t we take a little break?”
He leaned forward, inhaling the skin between my breasts before moving to the side and kissing a path to my left nipple. “Once I start, I don’t relish stopping.”
“You don’t like interruptions, I don’t like delayed gratification. Which of us do you think will get her way?”
Bennett ran his tongue over my nipple, and then sucked it deeply into his mouth as his hands circled my waist, slid to my hips, and then worked together to pull my panties off with a satisfying rip.
Amusement lit up his eyes as he looked up at me from where he sucked at my other breast, and his fingers teased at the juncture of my hip and thigh. “I suspect, my impossible wife-to-be, that you’re going to get your way and then I’ll finish folding these later while you sleep.”
Sliding my hands back into his hair, I whispered, “Don’t forget about tying the ribbons on the candy bags.”
He chuckled a little. “I won’t, baby.”
And it hit me all over again, like a warm gust of wind: I loved him, madly. I loved every inch of him, every emotion that passed through his eyes, and every thought I knew he had right now but wasn’t voicing:
One, that I’d been the one to insist we do as much of this ourselves as we could.
Two, that I was the one to assure him it was fine that every distant relative of ours on the planet had somehow squeezed their way into this wedding event.
Three, that I would never, ever back out of the opportunity to wear my wedding dress on the Coronado coastline.
But instead of pointing out the obvious—that he was the one being a good sport here, not me, and that despite all of my bitching I would never be satisfied with a quick Vegas wedding—he stood, turning to walk to our bedroom. “Okay, then. But this is the last night I’m fucking you before we’re married.”
I was so buzzed by the “fucking” part that it wasn’t until he’d disappeared down the hallway to our bedroom that the rest of his words fully sank in.