Coming Home for Us
Book 4 in the Wilder Brothers Series
The Wilder Brothers from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan continue with Elijah’s last chance at redemption and love.
I made plans. I followed the path. I fell in love.
Then the world took her away from me.
I swore to never love again, and I’ve done all I could to keep that vow.
But life finds a way and I can’t stop this burning attraction with my best friend.
Maddie stood by me when my world shattered.
She deserves more than a broken man who promised to never love again.
Only I swear she feels the same way about me. And I have no idea what to do about it.
Now she might leave the Wilders and I can’t tell her to stay—even if it means shattering the one piece of me I have left.
Coming Home for Us is Book 4 in the Wilder Brothers series
- Book 0.5: A Night for Us
- Book 1: One Way Back to Me
- Book 2: Always the One for Me
- Book 3: The Path to You
- Book 4: Coming Home for Us
- Book 5: Stay Here With Me
- Book 6: Finding the Road to Us
- Book 7: Moments for You
- Book 7.5: A Wilder Wedding
- Book 8: Forever For Us
- Book 9: Pieces of Me
- Boxed Set: The Wilder Brothers Collection
The full series reading order is as follows:
Coming Home for Us
When my phone began to chirp with notifications in rapid, staccato bursts, I knew my morning would end in shambles. I paused my yoga program on my laptop, slid out of downward dog awkwardly, and then picked up my phone. It continued to buzz, one right after another, and I cursed myself for setting my notifications to alerts, sound, vibrations, and flash. Before this job with the Wilders, I had been able to hide from all social media and email notifications. I had been able to decide whether I wanted to check those little red boxes on my phone or not. Now, though, I needed to know immediately what was going on. I was the wine club and tasting manager of Wilder Wines. Meaning people needed to know where I was, and I needed to be on top of things. Only as my phone did its own little break dance across my hardwood floors I winced.
No, today was not going to be a good day.
I sat down cross-legged on the floor, rolled my shoulders back, and figured that half of a workout was at least decent.
I looked at the screen, and my eyes closed.
Seventy-four new messages.
I had just checked my email earlier and everything had been labeled and set in the correct folders for priority, while eating quick overnight oats with my coffee before I worked out. I wasn’t one of those people that could just wake up and do things without food in my stomach. No, even half-blurry, one-eye open, still crust in that eye, I needed food in my stomach.
I was the exact opposite of all of my friends, but it didn’t matter. I knew my routine, so I checked my email while doing that, and now I was supposed to be enjoying a nice relaxing workout, only it didn’t seem to be that way.
I opened up the first email and cursed.
“Are you kidding me? Seriously? No. Someone couldn’t be that stupid.”
But they were.
A local business had cc’d instead of bcc’d three hundred or so people a confidential email. One that had to do with a wine club festival we were trying to be invited to.
Oh, dear God.
And it wasn’t just that he had cc’d instead of blind copied. Now we could all see each other’s emails, could see who was on this list, who wasn’t, and who was important enough to be considered.
The next email, of course, was an apology, this time a blind copy which didn’t negate the fact that he had already ruined the day for so many of us—including himself.
Because now the worst was happening.
Not just the confidential email with contract language and introductions. All of those things needed to be personalized and hidden.
No, it wasn’t that. It wasn’t even the fact that now all other businesses that might not understand consent were going to have our email addresses and there was going to be no getting out of that.
No, it was even far worse.
The first email was the dreaded reply all.
Not just to reply to him to let him know that he had sent the wrong email to everybody. Or that it was, yes, I got it, or an acknowledgment. Professional or laid back, it didn’t matter.
Oh, all of those were in there.
And they were reply all.
I groaned as my phone continued to vibrate. One message after another.
Thank you. Got it!
Awesome. See you soon.
Oh wow, I didn’t realize it was that date.
Did you send the right attachment? Thank you!
Hey, stop using reply all everybody. Reply all means we all get it.
The irony that that person replied all to that did not escape my notice. Nor the notice of the fifteen replies that reply all-ed to that man to explain it.
It was going to be a long day. Because as each person emailed back a reply all, other people took it on themselves to reply all to that reply all.
I was going to need a drink before this day was over. Luckily, I worked at a winery. However, it didn’t seem like there was going to be enough wine on the planet for this.
I stood up and stretched my back. I knew that no amount of yoga was going to fix this.
Instead, I took my vibrating phone to the restroom with me and quickly showered. It continued to buzz as it sat on the ledge in my shower, and I glanced through soapy eyes to see if it was anything important. It would take a lot of effort to weed through my emails to find legitimate ones because people were idiots and hadn’t kept the subject line the same. So instead of all of the emails being embedded on one line, they took up and ever expanding amount of space.
And it just kept going. It was never going to end.
I finished showering, wrapped my hair in a towel, and proceeded to lotion, pluck, and get ready for my day. I wish I could be one of those people that just wore jeans and a T-shirt at work. A lot of my friends who worked on the vines and within the company were able to do that. One of my best friends, Kendall, could just wrap a chef’s coat around whatever she wore and be fine.
But I was one of the faces of the Wilder Retreat. Which, considering I was one of the few of my friends not married into the Wilders, made it a little odd.
When the Wilders retired from the military, each for various reasons that I still didn’t know and it wasn’t my business, they bought the Retreat and Winery.
From the outside, it seemed as if they had lost their damn minds. None of them knew anything about wedding venues, owning a company like this, and they sure as hell didn’t know anything about wine. It turned out that Elijah and Evan both knew a little bit about wine because of their family connections, but when I first met them I was really afraid I was about to lose my job and end up penniless, or spend all of my time being mansplained to while having to teach them.
Thankfully, it had been nothing like that, and in the years we had worked together, we’d become a family, a powerhouse on the wedding and winery circuit outside San Antonio, Texas.
I knew that they could have done anything and succeeded. Whatever the Wilders wanted, they got, because they worked their asses off for it.
Well, at least most things they got, but I didn’t want to think about that familiar pain.
It had been two years since the Wilders had lost one of their own. Since I had lost one of my good friends. A woman I didn’t think I was going to like at first because of who she loved. And who loved her. But Joy had been my friend, and it still hurt to think about her, because one of my best friends was dead. Gone. And the man she had loved was still sort of my boss.
And that was all he was. At least anymore.
I shook my head at those morose thoughts, and quickly dried my hair, grateful for my new blow dryer that did it in a quarter of the time now, so I didn’t have to wake up before the sun rose to get it done.
My hair used to stop right above my butt, with slight waves and caramel highlights, but I recently chopped it to just above my shoulders, and I liked the look. It was different, but it worked for me. At least, I hoped it did. My boyfriend thought it did, so I counted that as a win. Not that I’d seen my boyfriend often in the past few weeks. Time and messy schedules meant we were two ships passing in the night, not actually seeing each other, but maybe that would change soon.
I finished my makeup and went through my notes for the day, making sure that I was ready for what was coming up. I had two wine tours and a club meeting.
Wine clubs bought our wine and helped us sell it. Between that, and hopefully this upcoming festival, despite how these emails started out, we were putting Wilders on the map. Wilder Wines was a thing now, and not just a hobby for six brothers.
I was damn good at my job, at meeting people, at making sure that they were having the best time. And I sold wine like nobody’s business. Elijah and Evan could make it, along with their winemakers, but I sold it.
My phone buzzed again and I groaned, but did that little heart skip when I realized it was Elijah’s name on the email. I cursed that little blip because damn it, it shouldn’t be doing that anymore.
I didn’t love him anymore. Not that I had really loved him. But I’d had that heart crush, where you knew that that person could be the one for you. Where every connection and every breath just made sense. But he never saw me that way. And I knew for a fact he never realized that I wanted him as anything other than his friend and coworker.
It had taken realizing that he was in love with another woman, and we were better off as friends, for me to finally just move on. I didn’t love him that way, and while he was attractive as hell, I didn’t have that pull anymore. No more spark.
I even had two failed relationships in the past two years. While Elijah had been in mourning, grief overriding everything he did, I had tried my best to find love. Hadn’t really figured it out yet, but Nathaniel, my boyfriend, gave me some spark. We were comfortable, and I was happy.
I might be a little restless, but it had nothing to do with the Wilders, nothing to do with Nathaniel and love, and everything to do with me.
I had been working with the Wilders since they opened the resort over four years ago, and I didn’t know if this was my last stop or just a stepping stone. That was something I was going to have to figure out on my own, though.
But thankfully, I knew it had nothing to do with Elijah. Although, every once in a while, when I wasn’t expecting it, seeing his name on an email or even in a text did something to me. But it was out of habit, a ghost reflex, nothing more.
Subject: RE: are they serious?
I snorted. Apparently, he was one of the ones who changed the subject lines.
Are they serious right now with all these emails? Did none of them go to business school? No, did any of them learn how to use email at any point in their life. Don’t they know that there are memes about reply all at this point? Who the hell uses reply all?
I laughed and picked up my phone to reply back.
Subject: RE:RE: are they serious?
Oh, they are serious. Because they need to make sure everybody else knows that they know that reply alls are wrong. Or they’re just stupid. None of them have actually said anything important. And I haven’t had time to go over the original email. But I’m interested to see whatever this festival brings us. If we even get invited. For all I know, he just sent out a mass email saying you all suck we’re not doing the festival, and we’re going to move on to French wines, not local ones.
I’ll be in soon. And we can talk about it then. But I do have a question though—did you feel like replying all? Or just to me?
I frowned and erased that last line. There was no reason for that. It was a little too personal. We were friends, and he had no problem talking to me about most things. But I knew if I wanted to remain sane, I needed to keep some boundaries. Even if it felt a little weird.
I grabbed my bag and got into my car so I could head to the Wilder property—my home away from home.
When the Wilders first opened their business, many of them lived on site. Not everybody did anymore. When Eli and Alexis got married and subsequently had their daughter Kylie, they moved into a house they had built. Evan and Kendall and their twins Reese and Cassie all lived offsite as well. Everett and his girlfriend, one of my favorite superstars ever, Bethany Cole, lived offsite when they were in the area, and split their time between here and LA. In the two years since they had finally gotten together, they had found this weird balance where it felt like Everett was always here because he was constantly on emails and video chats with us, even while they were in LA for her work. I didn’t know how the brothers felt about that, considering the whole point of owning this business was for them to get to know each other and come together, but I liked the fact that Everett was happy. He deserved it. All of the Wilder brothers did.
And I deserved it too, though I wasn’t sure why I had that weird thought.
I lived offsite as well, but I always had. I had a small house about twenty minutes from the Wilder Retreat and Winery, which in Texas was only just down the road. Everything was big in Texas, therefore getting anywhere took all damn day.
I pulled in past the new security gates and nodded at the staffer. He nodded back and checked my license plate. I kept moving because I worked there and they knew me well enough I didn’t have to sign in. But guests did, and while I knew that some winery guests and residents might not enjoy it, they got used to it. Many companies and businesses did that these days, because it kept people safer, and I for one was happy for that. With everything that had happened to my friends over the past few years, we needed that safety net.
And Trace, Bethany’s bodyguard, had helped set up everything for us.
I waved at the car going the opposite way and grinned, thinking about how things had changed.
Trace had come to us thanks to Bethany, and the person driving away, LJ, was now our contract lawyer. He had his own business, and had once worked for our rival company, but through a series of events that still made my heart hurt, LJ was now family, in the same way that I was family.
I pulled into my spot, waved at a few people as I got out of the car, but kept walking.
“Maddie,” a voice called out.
I turned to see Jay, our vintner and winemaker. He was broad-shouldered like the Wilders, but a little shorter, not as muscular. He worked hard, was a brilliant winemaker, and had been my friend longer than the Wilders had.
“I saw you in the email. Not all the Wilders got it, but you, me, and Elijah. We’re the great ones.”
I rolled my eyes. “Great. So happy we can wallow in our pain together.”
“Amos wasn’t on it, though. Which was surprising.”
Amos was our vineyard manager and was surly, growly, and I wasn’t surprised he wasn’t on the email. He got things done, but on his own terms. However, that was fine with me. As long as the other people didn’t have to deal with his growliness, that meant I could get more work done.
“Hopefully, the emails stop soon.”
“That’s always the goal. You have a first tasting up this morning, 10:00 a.m., wine. That makes me happy.”
I grinned. “After all those emails, I’ll probably do the tasting with them.”
“Do strong pours. It’s what we like.” He winked, handed off a stack of notes for me, and I thanked him before heading back to my office.
I looked up at another call of my name and smiled.
My heart didn’t do that little twisting pitter-pat thing. But it did warm. Because I knew this man. And I wanted to love him.
My boyfriend Nathaniel jogged up to me, cupped my face, and kissed me softly.
I smiled back. “Hi. I didn’t know you were going to be here today.”
“I’m meeting Eli and Alexis later to go over something for the setlist.”
Nathaniel was in a band, though that wasn’t his day job. His main job was working numbers for a local business, but he moonlighted in a band that did gigs for the Wilders. It was how we had met. He had played a song and sung just to me, and I had laughed and then danced with him when the DJ went on for a bit.
Alexis and Kendall had pushed me towards saying yes to a date and, knowing that I needed to move on from yet another failed relationship, I did.
Nathaniel could be a rock star, he was growly, and suave, and it was enough.
“I’m glad that you’re here.”
“I’m glad that I’m here too. What do you say to dinner tonight?” he asked, his voice low. He wiggled his brows and I laughed.
“Is that your line?”
“Hey, we both work at least two jobs. Sometimes my line has to be a wiggle of my brows.”
“You know what, you’re right. We’re not kids anymore. As long as you don’t ask me if I fell from heaven or whatever that line is, I’m fine.”
“I’ve got you, babe.” He kissed me hard, and I pushed at him.
“I’m working, Nathaniel.”
He looked over my shoulder and grinned. “Hey, there’s your boss.”
I turned because the hairs on the back of my neck had already stood on end. I had known Elijah was there.
I always did.
That was the damn problem.
“Hello, you two. I see you’re manhandling my wine club manager.”
“Only in the best ways,” Nathaniel said as he hugged me to his side.
I rolled my eyes and pushed at him. “Okay. I do actually have to get to work.”
“I figured, with all the emails,” Elijah said with a roll of his eyes.
The fact that he looked happy and was laughing a bit meant everything to me. Because in the past two years, he hadn’t. Before losing Joy, he had always had a little spark in his eyes, a little grin. He’d been suave and jovial, and a little growly when he needed to be, but he always smiled. He’d always made anyone feel like they were the center of the universe, even for that one conversation.
Then he lost the love of his life, and had grown dark, cold. Now it looked as if he might be clawing back out of that abyss, and that meant everything to me, because I wanted him to have the best.
He needed it.
“Email thing?” Nathaniel asked, with a frown on his face.
“Don’t worry. It’s just a work thing. I’ll see you later tonight, though. Yes, to dinner.”
“Sounds good, babe.” He kissed me on the forehead and then held out his fist to Elijah. “Did you see the Stars?”
I frowned. “The stars? Like up there?” I asked him and pointed at the sky.
The guys looked at each other and then sighed.
“Hockey,” they said at the same time.
I threw my free hand up in the air. “I like sports. I just don’t understand the idea of hockey in Texas.”
“It’s an indoor rink,” Elijah explained. “They keep it chilled inside. They aren’t playing on ice in the heat.”
“And after a hot day, playing inside where it’s cold is fun,” Nathaniel added.
I shook my head, wondering why it felt so weird that these two seemed to be friends, or at least friendly. It shouldn’t matter.
“Okay, you guys, I’m going to work. You guys talk about your sportsball.”
“You say that as if you’re not a hardcore New Orleans Saints fan,” Elijah teased.
Nathaniel sighed. “I still can’t believe it.”
“Who dat?” I laughed and left them alone, shaking my head as I looked at my email again.
They continued to talk about sports and I just ignored them, knowing that I needed to focus on my day and not the countless emails that kept popping into my inbox.
But one email was there.
One email I wasn’t ready to think about.
I knew what it was.
I wasn’t a Wilder. I wasn’t tied to this place irrevocably. And I needed something. Something more. I was damn good at my job. I thrived at this.
Only I hadn’t changed what I was doing in the past three years. And I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I ignored the email in my inbox, though I would have to deal with it soon.
I wasn’t a Wilder. I wasn’t wild.
But maybe, just maybe, it was time to move on.
Coming Home for Us
is available in the following formats:
Grief, loss, death, suspenseful action.