Sometimes platonic friends make the best spouses.
Years ago ex-lovers and coworkers Amy and Moe agreed on a marriage pledge—if they’re not married by thirty, the jaded duo will head down the aisle and start a family together.
And tomorrow Amy hits the big Three-Oh.
The problem is, neither of them can afford help from a fertility clinic which means they’re going to have to start their family the old-fashioned way. Can the two friends withstand the pressures of baby-making as their minds begin to turn down avenues that are anything but platonic? And what will Amy do when she does the unthinkable and begins to fall for her husband of convenience?
The Marriage Pledge is the fifth book in the Veils and Vows series. It can be read out of series order and as a standalone.
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Sneak Peek from The Marriage Pledge!
Moe’s breath caught as Amy walked through the wild grasses growing along the shore of the crystalline mountain lake, the breeze messing with her brown, wavy hair. He hadn’t seen her dress beforehand, and for some reason he hadn’t expected something so delicately feminine from a woman who tended to balk at conformity as well as tradition. He noted the way the fabric hugged her curves, highlighting her strength as well as her whimsy. It was perfect.
She returned his smile with what looked like relief, and when she reached him at the water’s edge, took his offered hand, giving it a squeeze.
Mary Alice Bernfield, a local who was certified to perform wedding ceremonies, began speaking.
Amy’s chest expanded as she pulled in a breath, her eyelids fluttering. Moe couldn’t recall his friend ever looking so nervous. Her hand was damp and something was off—even more so than when she’d told her parents that she was leaving nursing for good. They hadn’t exactly been thrilled that she was going to “throw it all away” and work in the pub with Moe once again.
Personally, he’d been thrilled at the announcement, having missed working alongside her. And she’d seemed more confident than ever, even though she’d have to face the firing squad.
But today? She looked uncertain.
“Hey,” he murmured. “You okay?”
She gave a quick nod, looking away as though distracted by the birds circling above the lake.
Nope. She definitely wasn’t all right.
Did she need him to call this off and send everyone home?
He gave a light tug on her hand and she returned her gaze to him. He lifted his eyebrows.
“Are you—” Amy broke off, not finishing her whispered question when Mary Alice paused in her speech.
“Do you need me to stop?” the woman asked.
Amy leaned forward, murmuring quickly in Moe’s ear, “Are you sure you’re okay with this?”
His head snapped back in surprise. He searched her eyes for clues. “Yes.”
There was nobody else in his life he’d rather do this with. It was easy and fun being with Amy, and they’d create a great family together even if they weren’t in love. They had more than most couples had. History, respect, friendship and trust. There wouldn’t be endless nights of fighting where their kids hid under their pillows, in an attempt to block out the sound.
The definitiveness of his answer must have silenced her doubts, because after a long moment of simply watching him, Amy gave a nod. She turned to Mary Alice, giving her a nod, as well.
“Okay then…” Mary Alice said, before launching in once again, her voice loud and clear.
Moe kept his gaze on Amy, watching for signs that she wanted out and was simply afraid to say so. If worse came to worst, they could get an annulment in the morning and break their pledge.
Amy quirked her head at him, looking thoughtful.
“What?” he mouthed.
She stuck out her tongue, making him chuckle in surprise.
Amy was going to be all right. He could relax. She had simply been looking out for him, like the good friend she was.
She was warm and kind, with a refreshing unpredictability. He didn’t have it in him to let go and change his life on a dime the way she did, discarding careers she’d worked hard to get into if they got in the way of following her heart. It was a trait he admired and one he hoped would be passed down to their kids.
Man, they were going to be amazing parents. They were fantastic lifelong friends, who could laugh off spilled beer and always hated the same movies. They didn’t argue and they would make some pretty darn cute kids, with Amy’s wavy brown hair and his own dark eyes. They were the best kind of partners and, quite simply, this marriage was going to rock.
“Did you have vows prepared?” Mary Alice asked.
“Oh, right.” Moe probably should have been listening and not staring at Amy’s long lashes while he ran through contingency plans and visions of the future.
He reached into his suit pocket, pulling out the two short paragraphs he’d prepared as a way to keep the ceremony’s focus on their friendship rather than the typical stuff about devotion and undying love.
“Do I go first?” he asked, brushing a hand through his foreign, short hair.
Mary Alice nodded. She was being uncharacteristically quiet, and he wondered what the die-hard gossip was thinking.
He cleared his throat, looking up to make eye contact with Amy. Her dark mascara made her amber eyes seem even larger.
“Amy, you are my best friend.”
That sounded really lame.
He studied her for a long moment. She was gorgeous, funny and as sharp as a tack, and his written words failed to express that. He folded the paper in half, noting that her doubts seemed to rise, the longer he took to find the right words for the moment.
“Amy, all I want is for you to be happy.”
There. Her shoulders had gone down a notch.
He continued, “When you feel lost, just look to me and I will be your compass.”
Well, that was a bit cheesy and cliché, but it seemed to be working. Her eyes were smiling now. Probably due to the high cheese factor present in his words. Later, she’d undoubtedly make a crack about how he was the proud owner of a cheese factory, and that he’d made her lactose intolerance act up thanks to the high levels of dairy in his little speech.
He held back his own mirth and added, “When you feel unsettled and awash with rogue waves, look to me and I will be your anchor, your calm seas. When you want to fly, look to me and I will be the air that lifts your wings.” His amusement faded as his words, corny as they were, spoke an element of truth. “When you need someone to hold you, my arms are yours. You make my days brighter, and I love how full of life you are. I love that I never know what you’re going to say or do, or even who you will be in the next moment, the next month or next year. You keep me on my toes and remind me to live my life to the fullest, and not settle into a routine just because it’s easy and what I always do. We bring out the best in each other, both as colleagues and as friends. And as your husband, I want you to know that I will continue to be as devoted to your plans as you are. Know that I will always be here for you, and we will always be friends.”
Amy’s eyes had grown wet as he spoke, and now the tears spilled over. She gave a little hop when he finished and threw herself into his arms, squeezing him tightly. Moe rubbed her back until she slipped from his embrace and faced Mary Alice.
Amy cleared her throat, and her voice was higher than normal as she asked, “My turn?”
“When you’re ready,” the woman said, dabbing at her own eyes.
“Moe,” Amy said, not bothering to dry her wet cheeks as she read from a Brew Babies cocktail napkin, “I don’t know what I did to deserve such a wonderful, kind, loving and supportive best friend, but I’m grateful.” She looked up. “Even when you’re super cheesy.” A glint of humor twinkled in her eyes.
He chuckled. “Way to work that into your vows.”
She flashed him a wink and drew in a shaky breath, the note in her hands trembling ever so slightly. “Any woman would be honored to have a man like you in her corner, and even more honored to have him step up as her husband. I hope…” Her voice suddenly wobbled dangerously. “I hope—”
Moe edged into her personal space, cupping her bent elbows in case she needed support. She rested her vows against his chest and looked up briefly before bending her head to read from the napkin again.
“I hope I don’t fail you,” she whispered. “I hope that I’m able to give you at least half of what you give me, because it’s so much. My life is better for having you in it, and every sacrifice you have ever made for me has not gone unnoticed.”
Moe’s mouth quirked as he tried to comprehend where she was coming from. He hadn’t made any sacrifices. Amy was a dedicated friend, and everything he did was for them. That’s how their friendship worked, and always had.
And when it came to their marriage, he couldn’t imagine either of them living with anyone else. All the men in her life had come and gone, just like the women in his. Their pledge was perfect. Their friendship was perfect.
“It will only be a sacrifice if you start making me watch horror movies,” he said.
Amy giggled, her body relaxing as it bounced against his. He drew her into another hug. There was a lightness inside her when she was happy that made everything feel easy.
Mary Alice went through a few more lines of legalities, binding them together as husband and wife.
They were married.
Moe grinned at Amy.
“You may kiss the bride,” Mary Alice said with a hint of mischief in her voice.
Amy’s mouth dropped open ever so slightly, and Moe leaned back.
Of course they were going to have to kiss. That was kind of a staple activity in weddings, even between two friends.
Moe studied the woman in his arms, a warm feeling of calm coming over him. She was looking at him expectantly, her grip on him tightening.
They’d kissed before. No big deal, right?
* * *
End of sneak peek!
Check out the kiss and the rest of their story by picking up your copy of The Marriage Pledge from your favourite bookstore:
ebook price $3.99
paperback price $10.99
Copyright © 2018 Jean Oram. All Rights Reserved. Not to be copied or distributed in any form without explicit permission from the author Jean Oram. Contact her to inquire further.