I’m so excited to have my brand-new novella, Kiss the Bridesmaid, included in the Weddings on Main Street boxed set. It’s a sequel to Secret Vow and involves the wedding of Brooke and Ian from that novel. Mari is the groom’s sister and Jake is the wedding photographer, but they meet by coincidence when single dad Jake brings his four-year-old daughter to the local community centre for her first ballet class.
The opening chapter was inspired by a mundane event in my own life. When I took my four-year-old twins to ballet class, I saw a dad struggling to fit his daughter’s ballet slippers onto her feet. The mother of one of the other girls approached and gave him a hand. I doubt a romance blossomed from that brief meeting, but it sparked my imagination. I jotted down the idea, and when it came to writing the wedding story it seemed to fit perfectly. At some point I decided Jake should be an Englishman, which provided some fun moments of crossed signals between them.
Here’s the scene I came up with:
By the wall, Jake found a single chair unoccupied and lifted Lily onto the molded plastic seat. Kneeling on the carpet, he pulled a pair of pink glittery ballet slippers from the pocket of his leather jacket.
Lily shrugged off her purple wool coat, revealing the pink leotard and ballet skirt underneath. She kicked off her runners and thrust out both feet. “Hurry up and put them on, Daddy. I don’t want to be last.”
“Just a sec.” Jake tucked one of the slippers under his elbow and grasped the other with both hands, spreading the crisscrossed elastic straps. When he slid the slipper onto her foot, it pulled tight around her toes and gaped at the ankle.
“That’s not right,” Lily chided, her voice rising. “I’m going to be late.”
“I know. Let’s try this again.” He pulled off the slipper and tried separating the straps the opposite way, only managing to tangle them. Well, bloody hell. Even after three years of caring for his daughter on his own, the dainty ties and buttons on her clothing were a constant frustration to his large hands. He couldn’t remember for the life of him how the saleswoman had fit the slippers onto Lily’s feet when she’d tried them on in the store.
“Almost got it,” he muttered, while the little girl wriggled impatiently. When he glanced up, he found her watching him with the same narrowed, skeptical gaze that her mother used to give him. He couldn’t look at Lily without seeing echoes of Raina in her azure eyes and thick dark hair, and more so in her facial expressions as she grew. He had to hope temperament wasn’t as readily inherited.
He was still puzzling over the slipper when a gentle female voice floated down to him. “Can I help?”
Raising his head, Jake caught a glimpse of strawberry-blond tresses draped over a pale bare shoulder as a woman knelt beside him. The sweet fragrance of jasmine drifted down with her, and for an instant her feminine voice and scent roused his male sensibilities.
He blew out a breath to settle himself. “If you can figure out how these bloody straps are supposed to work,” he said, handing over the slippers in exasperation, “I’ll be forever in your debt.”
“They cross over the front of the foot, so you have to slide the toes in from behind, like this.” In a fluid motion, the woman slipped one shoe neatly onto Lily’s foot, and then did the same with the other.
“Thanks,” Jake muttered. “I would’ve chosen the more practical pair with a single strap, but I bought these because she went barmy for the sparkles.”
The woman tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear and turned to him. Her wide, graceful mouth curved into a smile that dimpled her cheeks, making his heart slam against his ribs. In the three years he’d lived in Eastport, he was quite certain he’d never seen her before. Her face was pretty, but in the deep green of her eyes he saw a glimmer of something far more alluring. The warmth and kindness there made him reluctant to tear his gaze from her.
“Barmy?” she asked, her brow wrinkling.
“It’s a British expression,” Jake said. “I mean she went crazy for them.”
She let out a short laugh, as lovely as her voice. “I don’t blame her at all. They’re gorgeous shoes. What’s your name, sweetie?”
Blinking in surprise, Jake opened his mouth to stammer an answer, before he realized she was talking to his daughter.
The little girl’s shoulders rose bashfully. “Lily.”
“That’s a pretty name. How old are you?”
Lily lifted her hand and splayed her fingers, tucking her thumb next to her palm.
“Four?” the woman said buoyantly. “That’s the perfect age to learn to dance. Are you ready?”
Lily beamed and bobbed her head. Thrusting her stuffed bunny into Jake’s hands, she leapt off the chair.
The woman stood. “You look like a real ballerina, Lily. Come with me. Class is about to start.”
Rising to his feet, Jake allowed himself a quick, appreciative survey of the black leggings and mauve tank top that clung to delightful curves. “You’re the teacher?”
“Yup. I’m Mari Bennett.”
“Good to meet you, Jake.”
If you`d like to find out what happens next, pick up Weddings on Main Street.
For more information on my books, visit my website at www.susanrhughes.weebly.com