The basic premise of the book is that Jess, the hardworking beauty editor of Orlando’s O Tart magazine, takes an overdue vacation to be maid of honor in her English cousin’s wedding. Jess recently split from her unfaithful fiancé, and she’s ready to enjoy being twenty-nine and single. However, she’s anxious about her trip, especially after an embarrassing episode two years ago following her beloved grandfather’s funeral. That particular evening, grieving Jess had too much to drink, and Nick—a stranger to her—held her in his arms while she bawled.
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Cate Lord, Lucky Girl/Excerpt 3 (End of Chapter Two) 1
A boisterous rendition of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring started up inside the church. I glanced in. The pews were almost filled. I recognized Aunt Prim. She was impossible to miss, even from behind, her curly gray hair poking out from beneath her enormous white hat spattered with fuchsia, yellow, and pink flowers.
The groom, Andrew Castleton, a handsome guy with wavy blond hair, stood with his best man near the altar. Andrew clasped and unclasped his hands as if he couldn’t keep them still. Yup, I’d say he was nervous.
Anna and Charlotte moved to my side. When Andrew saw them, relief softened his features. He grinned, and I knew exactly what he was thinking: “Tilly, the woman I love, is here.”
My cousins giggled and nodded.
My attention shifted to the best man. Mmm. Tall, broad-shouldered—
Oh. My. God!
My heart jolted like I’d just stuck my pinkie into an electrical outlet.
Nick Mondinello. The man my cousins had whispered about years ago. Sex God. Playboy. Heartbreaker.
He still looked like a younger version of Pierce Brosnan, the actor who’d starred in a couple of James Bond movies. Nick wore his dark hair shorter now and spiked with gel. He filled out his tailored gray suit very, very nicely.
Memories whooshed through my mind. The day after Grandpa George’s funeral. The Creaky Wicket Pub. The potted plant. Heat flooded my face, hotter than if I had yanked open an
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oven set to ‘broil.’
Aaahhh! How could my mind torture me at a time like this?
Nick glanced at me. Vines seemed to have snaked up from the carpet and locked around my ankles. The heels of my sandals felt rooted to the floor. The murmurs and music around me faded into a weird, Twilight-Zone buzz.
I forced my lips into a stiff, polite smile and adjusted my sweaty-handed hold on my bouquet. It would be just my luck to drop the pretty arrangement on the floor and turn it into a mangled hodgepodge.
Nick looked at someone on the other side of the church, and I exhaled noisily.
Then he looked at me again. He squinted, as though he was trying to place me. Maybe he was wondering why I was blushing so fiercely.
Severe sunburn. Hot flushes. Woman’s stuff.
I hadn’t blushed like this on my first date.
I held the roses tighter to my chest. Thank goodness the big bouquet would draw attention away from my boobs.
My face burned. Scorched, more like it. Embarrassing now, but not quite as mortifying as what I’d done two years ago.
Glancing away from Nick, I watched one of the ushers escort Aunt Cleo to a front pew, where she sat beside Aunt Prim.
I felt acutely alert, as if I was a taut spring, about to uncoil with a loud poing like a Jack-In-The-Box.
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Was Nick still looking at me?
I struggled to quiet the desperate squeak rising in my throat. Maybe I was worrying for nothing. Maybe Nick didn’t even remember what had happened.
He’d been drinking that night. We all had. Some of us—specifically moi—a lot more than others.
I dared a glance. Nick nodded in response to something Andrew said. A smile curved Nick’s mouth.
Hushed voices along with the whisper of silk came from behind me. Valerie, Tilly, and my uncle had entered the church.
My belly squeezed tight. Any moment now, the ceremony would begin.
Dread shivered through me.
A countdown began ticking in my head.
Ten. . . nine. . .
Oh no. In the recessional, I would have to walk arm in arm with Nick. Help!
Seven. . . six. . .
Butterflies swooped in my stomach. My hands felt coated in olive oil. The ushers led the last of the guests to their pews.
Three. . . two. . .
When the guys returned, the organist paused for a moment then struck up a vibrant march.
The Wedding March.
Ping. The moment of truth was upon me.
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I hadn’t prayed in months. But as the ushers began a slow walk up the aisle, I prayed I didn’t trip, stumble, or make a fool of myself.
Not in front of Tilly and my relatives.
Not in front of gorgeous Nick Mondinello.
Anna, Charlotte, and Valerie lined up ahead of me to begin their graceful stroll up the aisle. As I drew a deep breath, Nick’s gaze locked with mine.
He was still smiling.
In that moment, I knew without the teeniest bit of doubt.