An Hour before the Wedding

“Oh darling, you look magnificent. Let me admire you.” Barbara held the mother-of-the groom at arm-length and nodded her appreciation. “That navy blue dress is simply perfect with your blond hair.”

Theresa opened big arms and greeted her cousin and best friend with a hug. “I knew you??????????????????????????????? wouldn’t turn your back on me on the day I so badly need your support—the day I’m losing my only son.” Her voice wobbled and she clutched the satin on her heart with a dramatic flourish.

Barbara concealed her smile under a concerned pout. “Losing a son or gaining a daughter?”

“Hmm… I’ll tell you all about it in a moment. You’re the only one I can confide in.” She pulled Barbara inside the left lounge of the First Christian Church on Main Street, but Barbara paused and spun to the door.

Theresa’s eyes rounded at the sight of four toddler girls huddling behind Barbara’s back. “Oh my God, look at those darlings. They are …so cute,” Theresa added with a visible effort. “You’re an amazing grandmother.”

“Yes, they are adorable and so easy to handle, so obedient and well-behaved.” Barbara encompassed her granddaughters with a tender smile. “Sweethearts, say hi to Antie Theresa.”

The girls squinted suspiciously at Theresa, grumbled, “Hi,” and hid their faces in Barbara’s skirt.

“Daughter number one is locked in her hospital to substitute for two other doctors, and daughter number two flew overseas for an important interview,” Barbara explained. “I couldn’t say no, when the overwhelmed husbands delivered their sets of twin girls in my living room and left right away. I wasn’t going to come but you insisted so much—”

“I need your support. I’m losing my only son. That girl put her claws on him from day one and is not letting go,” Theresa lamented. “Her parents didn’t even consult me for the details of the ceremony or the wedding reception. On top of everything, my ex is doing his best to upset me. The bastard is coming with his Barbie Doll, and —”

A huge commotion interrupted her and a high-pitched voice chimed at the door of the lounge. “Samantha darling, we’ll use the lounge. It’s a quiet place where Brooke can put the last touch to your makeup.”

“Oh dear,” Theresa whispered. “My ex’s number three and Greg’s mother-in-law are here with that…that girl who’s stealing my poor innocent boy. I don’t know if I’m going to faint or kick them out.”

“Neither, sweetie. Welcome them with open arms.”

Theresa heaved a deep breath and lifted her chin a notch. “You’re right. I can do it.”

The bride sashayed in, lovely with long curls cascading on her bare shoulders and back. Her gorgeous dress of silk and lace swooshed in the silence. She froze in her tracks and stared at the four little girls running toward her and squealing pree-ty, ve-wwy, ve-wwy pwet-ty.

“Why, thank you little girls. Who are you?”

Behind the bride, a tall woman in a long royal-blue dress stepped forward. “Oh Mrs. Morrison, I mean Theresa, you’re already here?” Her voice betrayed her annoyance. Was she ups???????????????????????????????et the lounge was already occupied?

“Hello Susan, meet my friend Barbara Ramsey Roland, the wife of TV producer Lou Roland. Susan Hunter, the bride’s mother,” Theresa introduced.

“Really?” A young beauty in a skin-tight, little red sheet and silver stilettos, clicked her way to Barbara. “I’m Brooke Williams, the groom stepmother. So nice to meet you, my dear Barbara.”

“So nice to see you, too, dear Brooke,” Theresa crooned, imitating her nemesis’ tone, before Barbara could recover. “My ex’s new one,” she muttered into Barbara’s ear.

Barbara whispered back to Theresa, “The bride seems like a sweet girl. Are you sure—”

“Barbara,” Brooke’s giggle covered the exchange of salutations, her eyes shining with excitement. “I can’t wait to meet your husband. I love his shows. You know I’ve been studying drama.”

“We know,” Theresa nodded with a sarcastic grin. “No one acts as well as you do.”

“Can I borrow these little darlings to be my flower girls? Please, Mrs. Roland.” Samantha’s ???????????????????????????????gentle smile was genuine. “They are so adorable with their matching white dresses.”

“We were not going to stay but if you really want them to walk in the cortege, they can hold hands and do it. They’ve already been flower girls at my wedding.”

“Yes, Barbara, stay for my son’s wedding,” Theresa urged. Barbara glanced at her friend. She’d recovered her poise, but deep down she might still need support. If only Theresa could get out of her depressed mood and give a chance to her future daughter-in-law.

Meet Barbara Ramsay and her sets of twin grandchildren in the Holiday Babies Series—CHRISTMAS BABIES, VALENTINE BABIES, MOTHER’S DAY BABIES.

Brunch the Day Of the Wedding. Trouble’s Brewing

Tina watched Hank paste on a smile and move to accommodate two ladies toward the table on his left.

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He was so handsome, those broad shoulders wrapped in a tuxedo. Country boy or city boy, he was comfortable in either location. Hank was Hank, regardless of where he lived.
His shoulders tensed when Samantha, holding to Greg’s arm, walked into the room. He recovered soon enough. “Tina. Come on over. Meet my friends.”
Samantha would be married in a few hours. Would she be content? In this town. With Greg? Though she’d never met the bride and groom to be, Hank had known them for years. One look at Samantha, Tina had her answer. Yes. Yes, Samantha would be an ecstatic bride.
Tina had doubt from time to time. Was marriage to Hank what she really wanted? Could she be happy with Hank and take on the child of a prisoner? That was a bad thing to say. Evan couldn’t help who his parents were. Everyone believed Tom, Evan’s father, was innocent of the accused crime. Nevertheless, Hank had taken on Evan to care for until his father could return to society.
The one thing Tina had discussed with Hank repeatedly, and it bothered her a lot. When and if Tom was released, and Evan chose to live with his father, their hearts would go with him. However, Hank had given his word to Tom, and he’d keep his promise. No matter what.
Evan had won her heart too. Life hadn’t been fair to the little guy. First, his father had been railroaded into prison, and then his mother had finally passed from cancer. Evan was one tough young boy. Hank had seen to it that he’d kept Evan busy with school in Atlanta, learning how to work around the cabin in the Smoky Mountains, most of all he’d taught him to care for horses. Boys needed an animal to befriend. Hatchet and Sam supplied that comfort.

bigstock_Cowboys_Young_And_Old_681538

She’d won her mother and sister over, rather Hank had done the winning over. They couldn’t resist his Southern charm, his intoxicating personality. Tina grinned thinking of when they’d first met. He sure wasn’t full of charm then.
She hadn’t liked him at all. He’d been a tough one to get to know. He’d not cared for her much either. She grinned. It was no wonder. He’d taught her to chop wood, and the mess she’d made when she baked a cake. Oh, Lord! Not to mention when she’d burned part of his manuscript. She wouldn’t think of that anymore.
Tina knew Hank and Samantha had had a past when she caught the look between them. Their past was too noticeable to mistake. A lump formed in her throat when she saw that Hank had seen that she’d recognized the discomfort he tried to hide. She knew then the doubts she’d experienced, were undeniable.

A Smoky Mountain Wedding – Book Two, coming November, 2013
My books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, Apple and Smashwords.
You can find links on my website, here. http://caroldevaney.weebly.com/my-books

10AM The Day Before the Wedding

At the Williams Residence – The Groom’s Father’s Home

 

drunk“The best man shouldn’t be sleeping on the couch,” the new and updated Mrs. Williams said.

Ben opened his eyes and then quickly shut them again against the glare of the sun. He couldn’t remember the lady’s name since he and Greg had referred to her as wife number 3 ever since they’d got engaged—seemed like yesterday.

He forced himself to sit up and found himself sitting opposite to the poster girl for any man’s anti-marriage campaign.

“Where’s Greg?” He felt no compulsion to be polite, but he added a smile out of habit when looking at a pretty young woman. Too young. He felt squeamish just then and wondered if it was her or the tequila from last night shaking up his insides.

“Hey best man—you’re up,” Greg said as he pounded down the stairs and jogged into the front parlor.

Ben noticed his friend didn’t even acknowledge his so-called step-mother’s presence.

“Let’s get out of here and go for a run,” he said, jogging in place and dressed in a t-shirt and sneakers.

Ben looked down at his jeans. “Let me go change.”

“Aren’t you boys interested in a little breakfast first—or at least coffee—before you run off,” wife number three said. Ben figured if she wanted to sound like the woman of the house he’d indulge her.

“No thanks, mam.” He emphasized the mam and felt satisfaction at her barely suppressed cringe.

He and Greg left and once he threw on shorts and sneakers from his bag in the guest room, they took off.

“So you never made it up to be last night?”

They jogged down the walk and the sun felt good. Not good enough to dull the dismay that had settled deep inside him ever since his best friend had asked him to be his best man—a backhanded way to announce his engagement and to a woman Ben hadn’t even vetted as suitable for breakfast the morning after let alone ball and chain welded on for who knew how long—and only to be removed by misery and money—loads of money.

“Yeah. Fell asleep where I stopped.”

“Man, it was a great night—thanks. Couldn’t have asked for a better bachelor party.”

“Sure. You left early, Greg. You spent half the night on the phone with your beloved.”

Greg laughed at his pouting and smacked him on the shoulder. “It’s the thought that counts.”

“You sure you want to go through with this?” It was the first time Ben had said anything so direct—or so earnestly. Joking around was one thing, but this time, he’d managed to stop Greg in his tracks.

“What are you saying? Is there something I don’t know?” Greg for the first time, looked less than his 100percent confident self.

Ben almost regretted giving voice to his cynicism. But not quite. He forged forward as they stood on the sidewalk next to a white picket fence bordering a lush green carpet-like lawn surrounding a four-square white American Colonial with black shutters. His best friend was about to plunge into the pristine suburban neighborhood existence and leave him behind.  Greg may as well be heading for Mars.

“Look—you’re young. Your family has money—hers doesn’t.” Greg stared at him and his face turned from concerned to a closed steel door. Ben wouldn’t let it go—couldn’t let his friend ruins his life—not yet before he’d even had a chance to really live. “Look at your Dad’s latest wife.”

Greg’s nostrils flared and he said nothing. Ben pushed his hand through his hair. This wasn’t working. Why did he think Greg would ever take his concern seriously.

“Hell—think of all the fun you’ll be missing—I’ll never see you again except maybe at your kid’s birthdays and we both know how I am about kids.” Ben flashed his smile—the chagrinned version and hoped for mercy.

“So that’s it? No big revelations about how horrible Sam really is and how she’s not who I think she is because you saw her starring in a porn flick?” Greg laughed.

“Really—she starred in a porn flick?” Ben pretended to be impressed—but he wished he had that kind of smoking gun to throw a monkey wrench into this speeding train wreck of a wedding about to smash his friends life to smithereens.

“Don’t worry about it. You’re a cynic. I know you don’t believe in marriage. But we’ll be two-glass-of-tequila-with-limebest buds forever.” Greg put his hand on Ben’s shoulder. “You’ll come to the kids parties to rescue me from the ennui of total contentment and we’ll drink shots of tequila and remember when.

“Fine—but don’t tell me I’m coming to those cheesey kids ball games because I know they don’t serve alcohol.”

They both laughed, but Ben’s gut twisted and he wasn’t sure if it was anxiety about his fate or his friend’s.  In spite of his tendency to cynicism, something didn’t feel right. He could feel it in his gut and his gut never lied.

The June Wedding – The Wedding Dance

Two months before the wedding…

“Greg I want to do something special for our first dance,” said Samantha.

He looked at her with a question in his eyes. “Like what?”

“I found a video on YouTube and I want to do what this couple did.”

“Let me look at it, but I’m telling you right now, I’m not doing ‘Thriller’ for our first dance.”

“It’s definitely not Thriller.”

Samantha went to her computer, “My cousin Caroline emailed it to me as a suggestion.”

“That’s the one in Arkansas, the nurse?”

“Yes.”

“She has good taste.”

Samantha clicked on a saved link in her wedding spreadsheet, and it began.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHly3ZIyjLE

Greg sat in the office chair while Samantha stood behind him with her hand on his shoulder.

When it was over with, both had smiles on their faces.

“That guy looked so happy.” Greg stood and turned drawing Samantha into his arms. “We’ll have to practice.”

“Yes.” She reached up and wrapped her hands around his neck and pulled him down for a kiss. A long kiss.

“We need the music.” Greg whispered in her ear.

“I already have it.”

Greg drew back, “You knew I’d say yes?”

“I knew you would like to look super cool on the dance floor.”

“You know me too well. Super cool is my game. I’ll have to remember to get a black shirt to the reception hall and you’ll need a short white dress.”

“It’s on the spreadsheet.”

Greg laughed, “Well, let’s get started. I need to get those steps down.”

“I just want to look as happy as that couple does.”

“We are happy together. Today. Tomorrow. Forever.” Greg kissed Samantha again, sealing his vow.

.

Pepper Phillips is the author of “Unconditionally” where Caroline tells her story.

Mother of the Groom – Immediately following the short wedding ceremony

bandsJock MacLaren glanced over at the wedding party and all the smiling faces as photo after photo was shot, including one of the wedding rings he’d designed and hand-crafted for Greg and Samantha. Greg wanted something simple, yet elegant. Jock designed a flowing interlocking Celtic knot pattern made of strands of 18k yellow and rose gold with rails of platinum for substance, weight and longevity. Jock had known Greg since he was born and he’d loved Greg’s mother far longer than that.

And there she stood, off to the side of the rest of the wedding party, alone, arms lightly wrapped around herself as if she needed a hug. Theresa looked regally elegant in her simple pale yellow v-neck sheath with a ribbon of Morrisson tartan caressing the top of her rib cage, subtly accentuating her breasts and coming to a small bow at her shapely back. Her taste, like everything else about her, was exquisite.

pearls Jock sold Theresa the pearls she wore at her neck. He’d hand chosen each and every one to go with her dress. She didn’t know that the graduated choker started with a near perfect champagne hued 12mm South Sea pearl that was worth a small fortune by itself. Theresa didn’t care about things like that, even though she could afford them now that she’d finally divorced Mathew.

Jock took perverse pleasure in the fact that Mathew knew what his ex-wife was wearing around her neck. His new wife, Brittany, who could have attended high school with his son’s bride, nodded toward it and whispered into her husband’s ear as she clung to his arm like a two tentacled octopus. Mathew’s gaze met Jock’s. Jock nodded from the back of the church and smiled, fully enjoying the moment. Theresa paid for a strand of dyed fresh water pearls. What she wore was priceless and Mathew knew it.

Mathew might not regret trading Theresa in for a younger, blonder, model, yet, but he would in the years to come. It was inevitable. Theresa was smart, kind and fun to be around. The new Mrs. Mathew Williams was high maintenance now with the potential of reaching new heights of ever-increasing-maintenance as she grew older. Her yearly shoe budget alone could have paid for the entire wedding.

house Samantha and Greg chose to have a cocktail hour reception at Samantha’s home, a quaint yet picturesque residence, complete with a white picket fence and a beautiful back garden that was Samantha’s pride and joy. Jock helped set up the white canvas tents in case the weather turned foul. So far the weather stayed a bright, cheerful seventy-two degrees, as if the wedding gods were shining on this beautiful and loving couple.

Finally, Samantha noticed that her new mother-in-law was not being brought into the photos and waved her to the dais where the photographer was shooting. When Theresa un-hugged herself and moved forward with a smile, Jock turned and walked out of the church. He’d catch up with her at the cocktail hour in Samantha’s garden. He looked at his watch. The cocktail hour was due to begin three minutes ago. The wedding party would be along shortly. All they had to do was cross the street to be at Samantha’s for champagne, more potent libations and more nonstop photo ops before entering the horse drawn carriages and making their way to Samantha’s parents home for the dinner reception. The horse drawn carriage ride down Main Street, so romantic for the bride and groom, would be torture for Theresa, who would be alone. Everyone else in the wedding party had been separated into couples.

Jock planned on stealing the mother of the groom away, sweeping her off her feet, and making love to her slowly, if she let him. The love-making would wait until Theresa was ready. The kidnapping and whisking away would start immediately.

DomJock headed toward the libation tent, had the bartender pull out the bottle of Dom Perignon he’d secreted there earlier along with a set of Waterford flutes and waited for Theresa Morrison to cross the street. Her gaze sought and found his and she walked right to him. Jock smiled as she came to his side. He poured the perfectly chilled champagne into the heavy flutes, handing the first to her, then held his up to hers, clanging them gently. He winked at her and saw her face soften.

Flutes

“What do you say, lass. Wanna take a ride with me? I promise to get you back in time for dinner.”

Theresa pushed back her shoulders, steeled her jaw and drained her glass in two long swallows. Her gaze flew to her ex-husband, then to the fifty or so people following Samantha and Gregg, vying for the couple’s attention. When she looked back at him, there was certainty and a willingness to engage in a new adventure in her eyes.

“Absolutely.”

Auburn Jock nodded toward the street and a classic Auburn with top down pulled down, complete with a driver in hat and tails.

“Lady, your carriage awaits.”

June Wedding – The Honeymoon

roses & wineAbby set the vase of fresh red roses on the nightstand. Sweeping her gaze over the room, she noticed a crease across the burgundy bedspread and bent to smooth it out with her hand. The bride and groom would arrive soon, and everything had to be perfect.

Abby hadn’t seen her niece Samantha in years, and could hardly believe the shy, bookish teen she’d known was now grown and married. Since Abby couldn’t make the trip to the wedding, she was thrilled that Sam and Greg had chosen Niagara-on-the-Lake for their honeymoon and Abby’s inn, The Roses, for their accommodation. Proud of the effort she’d put into restoring the historic inn, Abby couldn’t wait for Sam to see it. She was just as eager to meet Greg, and to introduce them both to Jason.

Thoughts of Jason warmed Abby and brought a smile to her lips. Could she refer to him as her boyfriend after only a few dates? She hadn’t called anyone her boyfriend in over twenty years, and since her husband’s death had settled into a comfortable single life; but whenever Jason kissed her or twined his fingers through hers, she felt like she was twenty again and beginning a new life full of fresh possibilities.

The vase of roses would look better by the window, she decided—right beside the bottle of sparkling wine from Jason’s winery that she had chilling downstairs and would present once the couple arrived. She carried the vase to the dresser and set it to the side, just beyond the pool of bright sunshine spilling in through the open curtains.

Turning to the window, Abby glanced at the street below, and a shiver bolted down her spine. She realized she was standing on the spot where, as she drove by the inn last weekend, she’d spotted a mysterious young woman peering out of the room. Wearing a billowy dress with her long hair loose, the woman had looked out of place, oddly pale and somehow … transparent. Abby had persuaded herself it was a trick of her imagination, brought on by the stories that had been circulating among staff and guests at the inn—tales of disembodied footsteps, a woman heard weeping late at night, a rocking chair swaying by itself. These strange events were attributed to Rebecca Norris, who had died at the inn two hundred years ago, and whose spirit many believed still haunted the place.

But those were just stories.

Weren’t they?

Read more about Abby, Jason and the ghost of Rebecca Norris in Wine & Roses.

June Wedding – 3:00 pm The flowers

“I will kill my cousin.”

wilted roseLisa Miller looked up from attaching silk streamers to church pews. Her friend and mother of the groom, Theresa Morrison looked frazzled and losing her last nerve. She held a cardboard box, her tears falling into the contents.

She rushed to Theresa’s side and glanced down at a box full of wilted flowers. The poor white roses looked like they had been cut a week ago.

“This is what I get. My cousin, Liza said she could do this. I trusted her. I thought I could save a few dollars.” Theresa dropped the box, fell to the pew, and put her face in her hands. Sobs racked her body. “Everyone is doing something, I just wanted to feel like I was helping. The ex and she-who-will-not-be-named were doing big stuff like the rehearsal dinner and some expensive surprise. I saw the designs for the reception and it is going to be gorgeous. I just wanted to do my part. I said I could decorate the church and look what happens.”

Lisa sat beside her friend and rubbed her back. “We’ll figure out something, Theresa.”

She placed the box between them on the pew. Pulling out the flowers, she arranged them all around. “Look, they aren’t all bad. Just the roses. You take out the roses and anything else you find wilted and I’ll go get the bouquets from the bridesmaids.”

Theresa sat and yanked dying flowers out of the arrangements. Yank! “I love my cousin,” muttered under her breath because she was in church.

Lisa made her way to the bride’s room. She tugged her dress down but it didn’t help. Didn’t you get this dress one size too big? Chastising herself didn’t help. The dress wasn’t getting any roomier over her hips. Tears blurred her vision. Her husband’s comment this morning about the dress hadn’t helped. Boy, Lisa, hope you don’t pop any buttons. His remarks always came with a laugh and a tickle, like that make it okay. But the comments were razor-sharp, designed to slice her self-confidence to shreds.

She knocked on the bride’s room door and went in. She wished she could tell the bride it wasn’t all white lace and roses. She sighed. On this day, it seemed that way. And she would make sure it stayed that way for the happy bride-to-be. At least for today.

Grabbing the bridesmaid’s flowers, she promised to have them back as soon as possible. She rushed back to her friend’s side and noted the other flowers didn’t look so bad without the wilted roses among the other greenery and foliage. “How many flower holders do we have to fill,” she asked.

june wedding flowersTheresa moved to the aisle and counted. “Ten and the arrangements for the sides of the microphone for the minister. Wait!” She rushed to the altar and pointed out a fern on either side. “We can move these, add some of the silk streamers, and the filler from the arrangements Liza did.”

Lisa nodded and pulled out her phone. “Todd, we need four dozen white roses. If you can’t find white, bring pink or Sterling. No, they are not silver. They are purple, like we had for our wedding.” She pushed the off button on the phone and went to help her friend.

“Okay,” Lisa said as she joined Theresa at the front of the church. “Let’s take the white roses from the girls’ bouquets and add them and the streamers to the ferns up front.”

They arranged the ferns quickly, adding roses, and pale pink silk. Lisa and Theresa stepped back and high-fived each other. They used some of the filler flowers and greenery to the flower holders on the sides of the pews.

Todd Miller strode down the aisle, his arms full of Sterling roses and his tuxedo fitting just right. Lisa sighed. Sometimes her husband did everything perfect. He bowed before her, with that bright smile that lit up a room. “Will these do, my Lisa?”

She grabbed them with a smile, a kiss on his cheek, and kneeled down to add the purple roses to the bridesmaids’ bouquets and one each for the holders on the pews. “Sometimes simple is better, Theresa. It looks just like you planned it this way.”

Theresa smiled at her, gave her a hug, and rushed the redone bouquets back to the bride’s room.

Todd squatted down beside her to help. “Let me do that, you bend anymore and you’ll split a seam.” He gave her a laugh and a quick tickle. She turned away to hide the tear running down her cheek.

Why did no one tell you on your wedding day that there’d be days like this?

She sighed, “Because then, no one would get married in the first place.” She muttered under her breath and worked on a smile for her returning friend and for Samantha and Greg’s happy day.

“Thank you, Lisa.” Theresa hugged her. “You know how to fix everything.”

***************************************

Jill James Book Cover 1Too bad Lisa can’t fix her marriage as easily. Find out how Todd and Lisa lose their marriage and get it back in Divorce, Interrupted now FREE at most retailers for the summer.

Jill James, author of contemporary and paranormal romance
coming soon, Love in the Time of Zombies

*Decaying Roses photo credited to Victor Habbick via freedigitalphotos.net
*Wedding Flowers credited to MS Word images.

Food, Cakes, Plants, and the Wedding is at 6:30 p.m. Oh my!

I tried to look at the clock, but without my glasses, I wasn’t certain of the time. The sky was no longer dark. It had a purplish cast, yet the streetlights were still on.

I stumbled into the bathroom and started the shower.

Trying to cram in quality time with my niece and her husband meant we sat up late and chatted until one in the morning. The warm water felt good as I chased the sleep from my eyes and got the kinks out of my shoulders. Having Penny helping was a godsend. And watching those young women laughing as if they were still in grade school was a delight.

We dipped a gallon of strawberries in chocolate along with pretzel sticks. Then there were all the molded chocolates. Plus I must have made enough marzipan candy flowers for a small army. Tess made her signature wedding bell cookies that were bagged for the guests, and tied with ribbon and tiny gold wedding bands.

She made three hundred taquitos. I have no clue how many lettuce wraps, and a half dozen other types of finger foods. I kept telling her that this is a small wedding and she swore she knew what she was doing. I hope so. I will admit those lettuce wraps were delicious. Tess says she always provides food that will fit any diet including a vegan one.

Well, between sampling the icing and testing all the finger foods, I refuse to step on the scale for a few days. But it was her little sausage and hamburger balls wrapped in filo that were to die for. Talk about perfect finger foods.

I stepped out of the shower and realized my back still hurt from standing in the kitchen for two days fixing foods. I blew my hair dry, tossed it into a twist, and held it in place with a big claw clip. A few minutes later, I was dressed and fixing coffee.

I’m not used to little children who get up at the crack of dawn and ask me a million questions before I’ve had my first sip of java. But there was Ana and Nina jabbering away. I handed them each a small box of orange juice, hoping that filling their mouths might stop the flow of words. It didn’t.

The clock on the microwave glowed four fifty-five. Inwardly, I groaned. If I’m lucky, I had three hours of sleep. I opened the pantry and handed Ana a box of toaster pastries. That’s when I realized that Tess’ big SUV was missing from my driveway. I cooked bacon in the microwave, while I fixed a huge batch of scrambled eggs and hash browns.

Jose soon joined us with Joey in his arms. English language vanished from my kitchen as the children conversed with their father in Spanish, or well, I think it was Spanish, but it might have been Portuguese. As long as I didn’t have to talk, I was happy standing over the stove with two big fry pans, two spatulas, and my first cup of morning caffeine.

Then I heard Jose say, “Tess go with her father to nursery.”

“That’s good,” I answered, hoping it was a statement and not a question. I wondered why I was even awake or how I’d made it this far. I handed a loaf of bread to Ana, pointed to the toaster, and put the butter on the counter. In morning speak that normally would have only consisted of grunts, I forced myself to say, “Here, you fix.”

At six o’clock, I was at the coffee shop and smiling at my regular customers. It’s not their fault I didn’t have fours of sleep. They come for the best coffee and smile. My walk-in refrigerator was stuffed with foods and two big cakes. I crossed my fingers that the health department wasn’t going to pull an inspection. They have the strangest rules that normally don’t apply to me, but I knew from the classes that I had to take, that things like meat could not be stored on a shelf over vegetables even if they were in tightly sealed containers. And this morning, I had no idea what anyone had put on any shelf. At least,  I didn’t have to worry about potted plants or flowers.

When I saw Pepper Phillips, I breathed a little sigh of relief.

“Hi,” she said brightly.

“Hi, grab a cup before I put you to work.”

“Where’s Tori? I thought she was supposed to be here today.”

“She’s not even certain she’ll be back in time for the wedding. She took her grandson to college in North Caroline for a special summer program.”

“That was this week?”

I nodded. “And she just released her newest western, Beneath a Texas Star. Did you see her cover? I love it! I think it’s my favorite of all her coveA River CIty Novelrs.”

“And Mona just released hers. To Love a Hero. Didn’t you just release a new River City novel?”

“Surely did. A Child’s Heart (Trent and Cassie’s Story). It’s my sixth River City novel.”

“This has been a busy month for the Authors of Main Street.”

“It has. And it’s not over!”

***

Tess wiped her hands on her jeans. “What do you think, Dad?”

“Picture perfect.”

Tess looked around Samuel and Nancy Hunter’s backyard. Tess knew Mr. Hunter had been going nuts, since the forsythia bloomed in the early spring, trying to make the lawn look perfect for his daughter’s wedding reception. It was as green as a golf course, with at least a few tons of mulch spread several inches deep over the flowerbeds. It made it easy for Tess and her dad to hide the pots of the borrowed potted plants from the nursery. She watched her friend’s dad, pulling the hose with a hand-held sprinkler to water it all in.

Tess pulled the gloves off her hands and realized she still had managed to get dirt under and around her nails. Her smiled returned as she watched Mr. Hunter filling the little black, pre-formed pool, rigged with a fountain that blocked the back doorway to the Hunter garage. Tess’ dad had managed to camouflage the door with a grouping of trellises and tall ornamental grasses behind the pool.

Images of playing on a swing set that no longer existed in the Hunter yard, ran though her head. If she wasn’t at the Hunter house, then Sammie was at hers. They dragged little suitcases filled with Barbie dolls back and forth. When they got older, they were carrying CD’s of their favorite music and practicing for cheerleading, although neither one of them made it on the squad. Then one day, everything changed. She’d met Jose and fell in love.

She remembered Sammie’s tears at the wedding. Sammie was certain that the childhood friendship had come to a screeching halt. No amount of reassurances would curb those tears. Tess had done the unthinkable. She married Jose. What a wedding.

Jose’s mom barely spoke English, and Tess’ family and friends didn’t speak Spanish. Samantha had taken French in school and Tess had taken Spanish. Seemed all the translating fell on her.

For ten years, she and Samantha had faithfully called and kept in touch. Samantha had been her maid of honor, which was nothing more than being a witness at Tess’ tiny wedding. Today the rolls would reverse, and she would stand as matron of honor for Samantha. That thought snapped in her mind like a giant rubber band. Ohmigod! How am I going to do it all?

She ran and hugged Samuel Hunter, then hugged and kissed her dad. “I gotta run!”

A half hour later, she was in the shower scrubbing the dirt off her body and from her nails. She put on clean clothes, barked orders to Jose, and scooted over to the coffee shop.

“Hi,” she said breathlessly, as she came through the back door.

***

I rolled my eyes at my niece. “Chill. It’s not even ten o’clock. You’ve got plenty of time.”

“No. I don’t Auntie Eez. I’ll never get it all done!”

“The wedding isn’t until six thirty this evening, and Pepper assured me, she’ll help.”

I pulled a key from my pocket. “Nancy gave it to me a week ago. That way you can be with Samantha and I can set-up all the food.”

“You can’t move those cakes by yourself.”

“And that’s why you are here and I borrowed that truck out there.”

“We get to use that?” Her face lit up.

“Yes. Let me tell Pepper that we’re going to take the cakes over to the house.”

I stepped from the kitchen to the shop and spotted Ty and Bill drinking coffee. My policy is to give any first responder on duty, free coffee. And there sat two of our men in blue. “Hey, guys, can I get a hand with something heavy?”

They were on their feet in a flash.

“I’ve got Samantha’s cakes that need to go into the truck. Are you willing to help?”

“Sure thing.”

I shot Pepper my best smile. “Hold down the fort for me?”

Pepper gave me that look that said I really owed her for all her help today.

I jerked my thumb towards the front door. “You got help. Here comes Carol DeVaney.”

I wondered how I would survive without my author friends? Ty and Bill followed me into the kitchen. “Tess, I brought two our finest hunks of testosterone to lift those cakes.”

Tess came around the corner, and I watched her jaw drop. Yeah. I giggled to myself and wondered how Ty even managed to find a shirt that would fit over his broad shoulders and biceps. The closer Ty got to Tess, the more she had to look up. Bill stood taller than the average man, but Ty towered him. I don’t think Tess came to his solar plexus.

“Th-th-the cake is in-n-n there,” she stammered.

I bit the insides of my cheeks to keep from laughing at her. I showed the guys what we needed moved and where it was going. Ty and Bill picked up the main cake that sat on a heavy round piece of wood. That strong base was covered in white paper, which was cover in paper doilies. On top of it, sat a cake that stood over three feet tall. The guys carried it to the truck as if it weighed less than three pounds.

Once the cakes were secured to Tess’ satisfaction, they bought out the supplies and packed them into the truck.

“Need help getting these out?” Bill asked.

“If that’s an offer, I will never turn it down.”

“As long as we don’t get a call, we’ll follow you over to the Hunter’s.”

Tess and I jumped into the truck. With a police escort, complete with flashing lights, I approached every stop sign with caution, panicked that I’d dislodge something and ruin all of Tess’ hard work. Samuel Hunter was waiting for us, looking more like a gardener than the father of the bride. But his expression was priceless. I guess he thought I was deep trouble with those flashing lights following me.

It didn’t take us long to get everything inside. Samantha appeared in her robe for a few moments and squealed with enthusiasm when she saw the cake in her mom’s dining room.

I pulled the key from my pocket and dangled it in front of Nancy. “Don’t worry. I’ll bring the food over about five and set up before I go to the church. Everything will be ready by the time the guests arrive.”

“You’re certain?”

“Positive.”

“You really won’t need the key. Our neighbor, Edna Davies and her husband should be here. She wanted to help.”

“That was sweet of them to offer.” I knew the older couple. Edna didn’t like leaving her husband for any length of time, and he hardly ever left the house. “Other than getting your daughter into her dress…it looks like everything is ready. But I don’t see the flowers.”

“They are to arrive any second.” There was a quiver in her voice.

I nodded. I’ve often though it was the mother of the bride who had the most stress. I made mental notes. Most of the food would be set up on the patio, but the cake was on a round, wheeled table that Tess had brought with her. Someone, correction, several people would be needed to drag that cake out to the area under pretty white canopy. For now, it would stay in the dining room. All the serving dishes, etc were in the kitchen waiting for me to fill them and put them in the proper place. Along with all the big coffee urns that had come with the cakes.

It looked as though they rented chairs along with the tables that filled the yard. Or could they have borrowed them from the church? I glanced up at the pretty blue sky. There was no rain predicted until late. This was one time I hoped the weather forecast was wrong and those late evening showers came very late. It was hot, but by evening, the temperature should drop to a more comfortable level. So many people were trying to give Samantha the perfect wedding. I didn’t want to see all the hard work go down the drain

I slipped back into the house and realized Ty and Bill were gone. I called up the staircase, “Tess, are you leaving with me?”

“Be right down, Auntie Eez.”

I looked at my watch. I was pushing the noon rush hour. Pepper is going to kill me. “Hurry up!”

The Wedding Cake and the Visitor

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 Temptation lurks around every corner and sometimes attacks in your very own kitchen—Penny knew this, had written it as gospel in her heart, but even after months of relentless calorie counting and hundreds of hours logged on the elliptical, one little whiff sugary goodness could turn her knees to butter.

Tess, who pretended to be her friend but kept company with the enemy, held out a spoon weighted down with frosting.  “You have to taste this.”

 Penny gripped her spatula and her willpower. “Just a spoonful of sugar makes the boobies hang down.”

“Boobies will hang anyway. It’s what they do.” Tess laughed and wiggled the frosting under Penny’s nose. “You’ve already lost so much weight, how much damage can a smidge do?”

Penny sniffed at the offending spoon and returned to creating spun sugar roses. “That smidge is a whopping 150 calories.”

“How can you decorate an entire wedding cake without even taking a lick?” Tess asked.

“How can you profess to love me and still tempt me?”

“How can you be such an amazing cook and stay so thin?”

Penny sighed and put down her spatula. “All I have to do is close my eyes and picture myself at my brother’s wedding, wearing the beige dress that makes me look like a giant pralines and cream ice cone.”

“Ah, the dress from hell—or Dairy Queen.”

“Same thing,” Penny muttered.

“It can’t be that bad,” Tess said. “Rosalynn loves you, right?”

“I thought she did until I saw the dress.”

Tess licked her spoon and settled down on a stool in front of the three foot high, nearly completed wedding cake. “I’m glad my brother isn’t getting married. This wedding is enough stress. Thanks again for helping out.”

Penny smiled at her creation. If she couldn’t eat, she could do the next best thing—bake.  “Anything for Samantha and Greg.”

“Unless calories are involved.” Tess popped another spoonful in her mouth. She licked her lips, closed her eyes and murmured, “Yum.”

“Yum is right.” Penny bumped her hip against Tess and pointed her spatula at a tall, blond and blue eyed man standing in the courtyard. He looked lost and Penny fought the temptation to rip off her apron, bolt through the door and ask him if she could show him the way to where ever. “Who is that?”

Tess peered through the window and Penny elbowed her. “Don’t look!”

“How can I know who he is if I can’t look?” Tess asked.

“Okay look, but be fast and remember I tapped-tapped him first.”

Tess casually stood, went to the window and tweaked the curtain. “He’s visiting the new guy in 2B.” She resumed her spot on the stool, her back to the window.

Penny tried to focus on the cake, but for once sugar loaded calories had lost their appeal. The visitor of 2B glanced her way and their eyes met briefly. Embarrassed, Penny filled her pastry bag and drew a series of repeating hearts around the base of the bottom tier. When she looked up he was gone. Penny sighed, put down the pastry bag and returned to the sugar spun roses, promising herself that one day she would attend a wedding in a dress she loved.

And she would bake the cake and eat it, too.

 

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Penny and Tess are introduced in Losing Penny, a novel that sizzles with romance, suspense and lip smacking recipes. 

On the Eve of a Wedding….

You are cordially invited…sounds like trouble.

When I first got the invitation I wasn’t sure I should go. Is it customary to invite your ex boyfriend to your wedding? I sure wouldn’t. Granted the Chris and Samantha era ended more than 4 years ago and we have managed to stay at the level somewhere between acquaintance and friend since then. But, I always have always been a good breaker upper. And this is a small town, so you have to be or the whole town knows. I kind of had it down to a science, the key was to never lie and always be upfront. Then there is no legitimate reason for a woman to be upset when you break things off, since you warned them when things started. Sure sounds much nicer in my head than that. Oh well, I don’t have to worry about that anymore since Katie came home.

Katie, my beautiful girlfriend. My beautiful girlfriend who is willing to attend an exes wedding with me tomorrow. My Katie, who didn’t bat an eye and said I was being ridiculous worrying about the whole wedding thing. In a small town she said you go to every wedding, just to see what happens, good and bad. My Katie, who hasn’t once hinted that she wants to marry me. Maybe that’s the trouble with weddings, it either makes you wish for one or run from one. No telling what tomorrow will bring.

“Chris, babe, let’s go.” Katie shouted from the front door. How can a man take so damn long to get ready, she wondered? “We’ll be late for the whole wedding.”

“I’m right here, I couldn’t get my tie knotted. Sorry, let’s go.” Chris muttered as he walked past Katie, standing in the doorway, and headed for his truck.

“What’s up with you today, you are acting so strange?” Katie questioned.

“I’m fine Angel, just fine.”

“You don’t seem fine, but I will let it go, if you promise me a dance.”

“Do I ever deny you anything?”

“Yes, all the time.” Katie laughed and socked Chris in his right arm. “I can’t wait to see the decorations and I heard from Martha, that the cake and food is all being prepared by Samantha’s best friend. Word is she is makes the best cakes in five counties. Apparently, she used to live here, I got the run down when I went shopping for my dress.”

“Please don’t tell me, I don’t need to know.” Chris requested.

“Oh fine, don’t be a gossip hound like the rest of this town. You’re no fun.”

“Oh I’m going to be fun, you just wait until I get you home from this thing.” He warned with a gorgeous, mischievous smile.

“Promises, promises…so you still feeling weird about this wedding?”

“No.” He a answered much too quickly.

“Ok, that wasn’t convincing. Is it me?”

“Honey I’m ok, promise.”

All she gave him was a shoulder shrug and a “hmpf”.

Chris only hoped that Katie didn’t keep asking him questions. He wasn’t really sure what was going on with him. He just felt nervous. Like this day was somehow going to change everything.

As he turned onto Main St. and saw the first signs of the days celebration, he was beginning to think the reigning bachelor supreme of Pennsville Station just might the next one headed to the altar. With none other than the lovely lady, sitting to his right.

You can read about Katie and Chris’s journey in my novel What If…, available at Amazon and Barnes Noble.