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Authors: Hope Ramsay

A Fairytale Bride (11 page)

BOOK: A Fairytale Bride
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“Yeah,” Courtney said, picking up the margarita and the lemon-drop martini. “Come on, Willow. Grab your beer and the manhattan and come on back to say hey to the girls.”

Willow didn’t want to socialize with high school acquaintances. Not with her life in shambles. It would be embarrassing. But Juni had other ideas. “Go,” she said, giving a little wave from behind the bar. “You need to reconnect, you know? I’ll send your burger when it’s ready.”

And that was that. Willow had been hung out to dry by her little sister, who was so obviously trying to get her to move on with her life. Willow gave Juni the evil eye as she picked up her beer and the manhattan and followed Courtney as she headed off to a table in the back corner where two women were sitting.

“Hey, guys, look who I found at the bar,” Courtney said as she placed the margarita in front of a woman with long dark hair and smart-girl glasses and the lemon drop in front of a thin woman with brown hair carefully styled in a businesslike pageboy.

The women at the table blinked up at Willow, the confusion on their faces proving that they hadn’t recognized Willow any more than Willow had recognized them.

“The manhattan’s mine,” Courtney said as she plopped down on one of the empty chairs. “Sit down, Willow.”

Willow sat and then immediately started thinking of ways to excuse herself. She didn’t know or remember any of these people, and she didn’t want to endure the awkwardness that came when people realized who she was.

By the same token, she didn’t want to be rude either. She had to live in this town, and she knew how things worked. Being pleasant was the best way to get along with people—especially those who were ready to judge her for whatever reason.

Lemon-drop girl cocked her head and stared. “Do we know you?” she asked.

“Oh, for goodness’ sake,” Courtney said, gesturing with her manhattan. “This is Juni’s big sister, Willow. She was my lab partner in tenth grade and one of the very few people at Braddock High who never once said a single word about my braces or my zits.” She turned toward Willow with a sheen in her eyes. “I’ll never forget that day when you punched Dusty McNeil for calling me a pizza face and told him he was lewd, rude, and socially unacceptable.”

Willow had no recollection of this specific incident, although she had frequently called Dusty all kinds of names. The two of them had spent high school engaged in an endless rank-out contest. And when they weren’t hurling insults, they were bass-hole buddies with fishing rods, whiling away the hours on Liberty Run. Willow had worked hard to rise above that younger version of herself.

“I’m Arwen Jacobs,” Lemon-Drop Girl said. “Juni and I were in the same graduating class, which probably explains why I don’t remember you.”

“Hi, Willow. I also graduated in Juni’s class, but I do remember you,” Margarita Girl said. “I’m Melissa Portman. My grandmother owned the bookstore in town, and you used to come into Secondhand Prose with Shelly Marchand all the time.”

The memory warmed Willow. “You were the skinny kid with big glasses who always had her nose in a book.”

Melissa nodded. “Yup, that’s me. I remember that you never bought many books, but Shelly was addicted to paperback romances.”

Which Shelly had consumed like candy until David Lyndon had come down from the hill to fish on Dusty McNeil’s land. And then Shelly had found her own real-life romance.

“It’s so sad the way she died,” Arwen said as she lifted her lemon-drop martini. “Here’s to Shelly, the local girl who landed her prince.”

“Yeah,” Courtney said, lifting her manhattan. “To Shelly.”

Willow raised her beer but said nothing. Having spent all afternoon at the inn and the old chapel, she didn’t trust her voice. Shelly’s death had left a hollow, achy place in Willow’s heart.

“As a technical point, I don’t think David Lyndon is a prince,” Melissa said, “but I’ll drink to Shelly.”

“You know,” Courtney said, giving Melissa a direct, blue-eyed stare, “you need to give up this thing you have about the Lyndons. David Lyndon
is
a prince. And you are about to marry another prince of the same family.”

“His last name isn’t Lyndon. It’s Talbert.”

“What’s all this about?” Willow asked, suddenly curious.

“Melissa just got engaged to Jefferson Talbert-Lyndon, the journalist. She’s never been a big fan of the Lyndons, which is why it’s so funny that she’s marrying one of them,” Arwen said.

Melissa’s cheeks pinked. “Don’t listen to them. They tease me all the time about this. But the thing is, Jeff, my fiancé, legally changed his name. He’s Jeff Talbert now. The Lyndons need to get that into their thick skulls.”

Willow recognized Jefferson Talbert-Lyndon’s name. He’d made news last spring with an article that put an end to the president’s first choice for the Supreme Court. He was also Nina Talbert’s son, and Nina was one of America’s richest heiresses.

“We were just discussing the wedding,” Arwen said. “In fact, that’s the main reason we’re here drinking.”

“You’ve got that right,” Melissa said, picking up her margarita and draining it.

“Go easy on that, girl. Remember what happened the last time you overdid it with the margaritas? It was crying-jag city, and we don’t want that to happen again, right?” Courtney said, then turned toward Willow. “You see, the problem is that Melissa wants a small wedding, but Jeff’s mother and father have invited the world. Which is awkward because his father is Thomas Lyndon and his mother is Nina Talbert. Yes, that Nina Talbert. So when I say ‘the world,’ I mean a lot of people. Like four hundred of them.”

“Also,” Arwen added, “since Jeff’s mother and father are divorced, and his father is the ambassador to Japan, he’s deputized his sister-in-law, Pamela Lyndon, to make sure that the wedding is up to the usual Lyndon standards. And, even worse, Pam Lyndon and Nina Talbert are old friends from college. So they’ve planned this big Christmas wedding in New York City. At the Plaza Hotel. And they have, more or less, completely ignored Melissa’s opinions about virtually everything.”

Melissa
thunk
ed her head on the table a couple of times. “I hate this wedding. I need another margarita.”

“Aw, c’mon, sweetie. You don’t have to get married in New York. You know that.” Courtney gave Melissa’s back a little rub.

Melissa looked up. “You’re right. Jeff and I are going to elope.”

“You’ll do no such thing. That’s what this intervention is all about tonight,” Courtney said.

“We’re here to convince you to plan your own alternate wedding,” Arwen said.

“How can I do that? There’s no time to plan a wedding. Not to mention the fact that Jeff’s mother and aunt will be furious with me.” Melissa waggled her empty margarita glass at the waitress.

“They’ll be furious if you elope, and so will Arwen and I. No woman really wants to elope,” Courtney said, then turned toward Willow. “Don’t you think that’s true, Willow?”

Willow had never given this question any thought. After Corbin Martinson’s betrayal, marriage wasn’t on her short-range to-do list. It wasn’t even on her long-range bucket list. “I don’t know much about weddings,” she said. “But I do know that if anyone can drive a girl to Vegas for a quickie wedding, it’s Pam Lyndon.”

“Boy, you sure have that right,” Melissa said on a deep breath.

Willow continued. “You know, Shelly wanted a small wedding with a reception at Eagle Hill Manor, which was her
home
, for goodness’ sake. But Pam wanted something else altogether. And Shelly was bullied into this big, extravagant thing in DC that she hated. There were, like, three hundred guests at her wedding, not to mention Secret Service at every door because the vice president was there. It was awful.”

Behind her glasses Melissa’s eyes brightened with a sheen of tears. “Pam Lyndon is a royal pain in the ass.”

The tears in Melissa’s eyes infuriated Willow. Pam Lyndon was at it again. Willow leaned forward. “Don’t you let Pam make you cry, Melissa. That’s what happened to Shelly. She made one concession after another, and then on the night before the wedding, Shelly fell apart because nothing was the way she wanted it—not even her wedding dress. I had to sit there and hold her hand while she bawled her eyes out. It was awful. I ended up bawling, too.”

Willow took a big sip of her beer, trying to push away the sudden, burning memory of that night. David and Shelly had loved each other, and their wedding could have rivaled any royal wedding anywhere. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the wedding Shelly had wanted.

“Thank you, Willow,” Melissa said, taking off her glasses and wiping her eyes. She sat up straight and looked at her friends. “Okay, girls, I admit it. You’re right. I shouldn’t have to elope, and I shouldn’t have to go to New York to get married in some hotel with a zillion strangers as wedding guests. Shenandoah Falls is my home. It’s where Jeff and I will live after we’re married. We should get married here, with our friends and family present.”

“Now you’re talking,” Courtney said.

“And I’d want my ceremony at Grace Presbyterian, where Grammy was a member all her life. At Christmastime.”

“Check,” Courtney said. “To be totally honest, honey, I called Reverend Gladwin the day before yesterday and scheduled him for December seventeenth. So the church and the pastor are already taken care of. We just need to talk about the reception.”

Melissa’s eyes widened behind her glasses. “You’re kidding me, really? You did that for me?”

Courtney took her time finishing her manhattan. “I’m not kidding. You have a minister and a church all scheduled, so there’s no need for you to go traipsing off to Vegas.”

“But we still have a huge issue with the dresses. I, for one, am not wearing that hideous thing Pam Lyndon chose for me,” Arwen said, fishing the olive out of her empty martini glass and popping it into her mouth.

“I admit the dresses are a big problem,” Courtney said, “but we can always make dresses if all else fails. The bigger issue is the reception. The fellowship hall at Grace Presbyterian is taken on December seventeenth. They’re holding their annual Christmas bazaar in there.”

“If it’s a small enough wedding, we could probably hire out the main taproom at the Red Fern Inn,” Arwen suggested.

“That won’t work. You could get, like, three people in there. Melissa needs a bigger wedding than that,” Courtney said, pulling a day planner from her purse and flipping through the calendar section. “Unfortunately, the tasting room at Bella Vista Vineyards is also booked on December seventeenth, so finding a venue in Shenandoah Falls is going to be next to impossible. We might have to consider Winchester or, failing that, there’s always Berkeley Springs. Maybe the Castle is available.”

The conversation went back and forth between Courtney and Arwen for a solid fifteen minutes while Juni delivered Willow’s burger and another round of drinks. Melissa said little as she watched her friends bounce ideas around like Ping-Pong balls. And then, just as Willow had consumed her last French fry, Melissa held up her hands and spoke. “Stop, you guys. I know what I want, and I’m sure the space is available.”

“Where?” Arwen and Courtney asked in unison.

“Eagle Hill Manor.”

“But it’s closed.” This time everyone spoke together.

“I know, and that’s why it’s sure to be available.”

“But—”

Melissa held up her hand again. “Don’t you guys remember how beautifully decorated the inn used to be at Christmastime? Grammy took me there for high tea every December. She loved that place. And besides, Eagle Hill Manor is a part of our town, whether it’s closed for business or not. It would be perfect for a wedding reception.”

“You’re right,” Willow said in a cautious tone, the depression that clouded her heart lifting a little. “But I don’t see how you’ll ever get David Lyndon to allow it. I spoke with him earlier today, and he’s putting the place up for sale. And even if he puts off selling the place, I’m afraid it’s gotten a little shabby over the years.”

“We could help David fix it up before he puts it on the market,” Melissa said. “Jeff is fabulous at fixing things up. You should see what he’s doing to Secondhand Prose.”

“It’s more complicated than that,” Willow said. “He’d have to defy Pam. I know it would be a wonderful place for a wedding, but I—”

“We should do it for Shelly.”

Melissa’s words were almost like a slap to the face—the kind that clears a cloudy mind. Shelly would have been overjoyed to host this wedding.

Unfortunately, Shelly’s husband would never agree. Not in a million years.

“Melissa, it’s just not that simple,” Willow said in her kindest tone. “Based on something David said to me this afternoon, I think he blames the inn for Shelly’s death. So all he wants is to be rid of it. I think you guys need to look at reception places in Winchester or Leesburg or even Berkeley Springs, because you’ll never convince David Lyndon to host the wedding at the inn.”

Acknowledgments

Some stories come very easily and some require a lot of patience and lots of rewrites. This story was more of the latter than the former. My thanks to everyone who held my hand and sometimes provided harsh critiques. This story would never have happened without you.

BOOK: A Fairytale Bride
6.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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