BOOK BLURB:“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” is Shelby Atwood’s personal credo. She’s managed to avoid commitment all her life — no pets, no plants, not even a long-term lease. Heck, she’s had colds last longer than her romantic relationships. How could she be any other way when she has a gigolo for a father? But then gunfire erupts at the latest wedding she’s agreed to be in, and it ends up being the best thing to happen to Shelby’s love life.
Detective Ryan Nichols is assigned to the case, and when the shootings don’t stop, he becomes her 24-hour bodyguard. Shelby wouldn’t mind except Ryan is too appealing, too sexy, and too happy to remind her of the raucous bachelorette party when she mistook him for a stripper.
Shelby’s plan is simple: find the shooter, have a fling with Ryan, and return to her non-committal life. Unfortunately, the shooter is very elusive. Shelby’s feelings for Ryan are way more than adrenaline-fueled lust. And returning to her normal life is now impossible since, despite her lifelong resistance, she’s managed to put her heart smack dab in the line of fire.
You just don’t expect to see gunfire at a wedding.
I know, because I’ve been in a lot of weddings, despite my well-known aversion to them. “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” is not just a cautionary adage, it’s my personal credo.
Having a gigolo for a father might have contributed something to that philosophy. Who really knows for sure?
Today Alexa, my best friend since grade school, glided down the aisle of the chapel to the accompaniment of a string quartet playing an elegant Handel air. For this wedding, she wore a white strapless dress, complete with tulle and beaded embroidery that made all the women sigh as she passed. The low v-back and body-hugging mermaid shape, along with her icy blonde beauty, provoked quite a different response from the males in the congregation.
I clutched my single calla lily, watching her entrance with a mixture of awe and disbelief. How had Alexa persuaded me to be her maid of honor, again?
And yet again.
“Shelby, you’re my good luck charm,” she had cooed while I suffered through the circle of hell known as “trying on bridesmaid dresses.”
“How do you figure that?” I had asked, peeling off a poufy satin monstrosity the color of Mountain Dew. “Every time I’ve been your maid of honor, you’ve gotten divorced!”
“Oh, that has nothing to do with anything. Everything goes off without a hitch when you’re there.”
“Maybe that’s the problem. If I weren’t around, there would be some sort of hitch, and then you wouldn’t be hitched.”
I admired Alexa’s wildly unwavering enthusiasm for weddings, and commitment, and all that “’til death do us part” stuff. Especially since none of her marriages seemed to last very long. Two years was the record so far, and that was because her husband was working overseas for one of those years. Which was supposedly the reason for the end of that union.
That, and the next husband was already in her sights.
When the evil wedding consultant gleefully rolled in another torture rack crammed with dresses for me to endure, I shuddered. “Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, marriage isn’t right for you?”
“That one.” Alexa pointed to a strapless hot pink mini-dress that could have worked—if Hooters ever decided to cater weddings. “And why all these concerns? Don’t you like Jordan?”
“Of course I like him, silly. He seems perfect.”
He was handsome, loving, and completely ga-ga for his bride. Alexa told me during our numerous wedding planning get-togethers, which thankfully required a great deal of wine, about Jordan’s great sense of humor, and even greater job. Who wouldn’t want him for a husband? If I were the marrying kind, even I would want him for a husband.
Although, as I recall, Husbands One through Three were pretty darn perfect too.
Alexa smiled, spinning her index finger to indicate I should twirl in front of her. “Maybe, Shelby, you’re afraid all of these weddings will change your mind about marriage.”
“Ha!” I, the eternal bachelorette, scoffed, and quite eloquently. Alexa raised her eyebrow as if debating whether to get out of her chair and start the Heimlich maneuver on me.
In the end, I gave up trying to make Alexa see the multiple incredible benefits to staying single. I’ll probably be her bridesmaid when we’re bunkmates in the nursing home, although by then I’ll be adjusting the tapes of her adult diaper, rather than the tiers of her lace-edged wedding veil. I agreed to be her maid of honor this one last time.
Of course, I didn’t realize when I made the promise this would be Alexa’s final chance to stand at the altar.
At the minister’s signal, Alexa handed me her bouquet of cascading white lilies and then she faced Jordan, ready to promise to love, cherish, and obey the (fourth) man of her dreams. She beamed at him, eliciting a few more wistful sighs behind us at the evidence of true love. Or maybe it was for the handsome groom in his single-breasted designer tuxedo, beaming right back at her.
Reverend Deering asked Alexa to repeat the vows she most likely had memorized several ceremonies ago. I had heard them often enough that I could have stepped in to recite the words if either of them were prevented from completing their duties.
“I, Alexa, take thee Jordan—”
A ray of June sunshine chose that moment to burst through the chapel windows, highlighting the promise contained in the newlyweds’ expressions. Even I felt swept up in the optimism that accompanied each and every one of Alexa’s weddings. My heart beat with hopefulness, and I wondered if someday I would—
Out of nowhere, gunfire erupted, a quick succession of pop, pop, pop.
Screams quickly followed, along with the frantic sounds of the congregation scrambling for shelter under the wooden pews.
“Sonofabitch!” I tossed the bouquet over my shoulder, as I’d seen Alexa do millions of times, and darted toward my suddenly bleeding best friend, knocking her to the floor to prevent any further harm.
I looked up and saw the minister cowering under a pew, tugging at the tulle swag that moments ago had been decoration, not flimsy protection against wayward bullets. My heart pounded while my brain struggled with two wildly different thoughts.
One, the blood spurting from Alexa’s shoulder ensured I would never have to wear this peach-yogurt-colored dress again.
And two, who could possibly hate weddings more than I did?”
FEATURED AUTHOR: Donna Cummings
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