Authors: Violet Howe
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, events, and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
Cover Design: Robin Ludwig Design, Inc.
Published by Charbar Productions, LLC
Copyright © 2015 Violet Howe/LM Howe/Charbar Productions, LLC
All rights reserved.
For My Knight, who has given me the incredible gift of being able to pursue my dreams. Your love allows me to grow, evolve, and be the best me I can be. I thank you for that.
I love you. I love us.
For My Son, who is my heart walking outside my body. Being your mom is the greatest blessing of my life. You inspire me every day and give me the courage to take on the world.
I love you, Boo.
I don’t have enough room to acknowledge everyone who has been a part of bringing this book to fruition, but I’ve tried to at least mention the key people. If I missed your name, it’s not because I didn’t appreciate your efforts. It’s because I’m past forty and I don’t sleep enough. Please know I appreciated it when you did whatever it was.
My sincerest thanks and heartfelt gratitude to:
Dad and Bev: Since the moment I decided to pursue this lifelong dream, your support and encouragement has been unfailing. You have been with me every step of the way, learned the industry with me, talked me off the ledge numerous times, and given me the bolstering I needed to press on. We wouldn’t be here without you.
Aunt Zona: Thank you for being my rock, my constant, and my source of wisdom and Southern sayings. We should write a book of Zona-isms for life lessons. I appreciate your support and encouragement.
My parents, Bobby and Sherry: Thank you for instilling in me a love of writing and reading, especially the finer arts of escape literature! A special thanks to the Queen for her vast knowledge of grammar and all things literary. Thank you for your love and support.
Jan: My other mother and bestest good friend. I could write an entire book acknowledging all you’ve done for me and what your friendship means to me, but for now, I’ll just say thanks and I love ya.
Heather: I can’t see the keyboard because I am bowing down to you, ye goddess of knowledge and wisdom. Without your invaluable guidance, I would still be bumbling along. Your friendship is extra icing on the cake.
Bonnie (and Sandy too!): Beta-reader-extraordinaire and lifelong best friend. Your input and insight helped me shape this story and bring it to life. Thanks for going above and beyond when called upon. Every. Time.
Karin, Molly, Kim, and Kathy: You ladies rock! Thank you for taking the time to read and give me feedback. You each gave me influence that improved and shaped the final project.
Christine: Your feedback and your questions have pushed me to discover new things about my characters and delve deeper into my story. I love what you’ve brought out of me. Thanks for putting up with the craaaaaazy.
Lesley: You are my audience! Your love for Tyler was the final boost I needed to show this baby to the world.
Kalon: Thank you for representing the guy POV. You always give me insight in a completely different direction, and I hope you never stop.
Max: Girl, what have we not been through together? You had to be a part of this, and I can’t thank you enough for bequeathing to me your title for my series. They might have gotten a limo, but we got a book series.
Beth: Thanks for your artistic insight with the cover design and for introducing me to Outlander. You restored my love of reading.
Jody Wenke: Who else would I have asked about photography and websites? Your friendship is one of my favorite wedding gifts. Thanks for your support. (I’m still determined to prove Andy Wenke wrong.)
Susan P: You gave me the courage to veer off the path and journey on new adventures. I am forever grateful for your friendship and your influence.
Kathy, Suzanne, Susan W, and Joann: You ladies introduced me to a whole new world that changed my life forever. To you and to Marion, Ken, Bill, Diane, Lisa, Michelle, and Joan: You were the best example of what it means to belong to a team, and my time with you remains one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Small Group—Suzann, Nick, Molly, Frank, Melissa, T: Thanks for being family, there for me through thick and thin and all that life has to offer. I appreciate you “thinking about me.”
And finally to the loyal followers of the Goddess Howe blog: Thanks for sticking me with since the beginning of this journey. Your comments and your support encourage and inspire me.
Saturday, October 5th
I’ve always said I didn’t want an ordinary life. Nothing average or mundane for me. But as I stared at the rather ample naked derriere wiggling two inches from my face today, I realized I should have been more specific with my goals. Definitely not ordinary, but not exactly what I had in mind.
The Texas-flag tattoo emblazoned across the left cheek waved at me as she shifted her weight from foot to foot. The flag was distorted and stretched, as was the large yellow rose on the right cheek, both tattoos dotted with dimples and pock marks. An uneven script scrawled out “The Yellow Rose of Texas” across the top of her rump.
Her entire bridal party—her closest friends and relatives, mind you—had left her high and dry. They’d stormed off the elevator as I tried to enter it, a flurry of daffodil-yellow silk, spouting and sputtering about their dear loved one, Tonya the bride.
“That’s it! We’re done!” They sounded off in a chorus of clucking hens.
“We ain’t goin’ back in there. She can get ready on her own!”
“Yeah, she can get ready on her own!”
“Known her since third grade and she’s gonna talk to me like that?”
“Third grade? She’s my first cousin. I’ve known her since the day she was born. She’s always been that way. I don’t know why y’all acting all surprised.”
I felt more than a little uneasy about what all this meant for our schedule. The ceremony was supposed to start in fifteen minutes. The bride should have already been downstairs and loaded in the carriage to make her way to the hotel’s beach.
My unease grew to panic when I knocked on Tonya’s door and she opened it clad only in a skimpy little satin robe.
“Honey, you’re supposed to be dressed and downstairs already.”
I tried to say it as sweetly as possible, but I’m sure my panic came through. My Southern accent kicked in thick, which usually only happens when I’m panicked or frustrated. Or pissed. Or drunk.
“Do you think I don’t know that?” she asked, arching a perfectly drawn-on eyebrow. “Do you think somehow when I booked this wedding and had invitations printed and planned the entire damned event, I somehow didn’t realize what time the ceremony started? And just who the hell are you anyway?”
Well, alrighty then. Obviously this was going to be a fun day.
“Um, I’m Tyler Warren. I’m assisting Lillian with your wedding today.”
“Fine. Those bitches left me with my nails wet.” She held up both hands to show me the glossy, fresh manicure. “How the hell am I supposed to get dressed with wet nails?” she asked, arching both eyebrows now and glaring at me like I was somehow responsible for this.
“Oh.” My mind spun with the limited time frame I had available, the amount of clothing she still needed to put on, and the amount of time it would take to get her in the carriage and to the ceremony.
“Give me just a second to let Lillian know we’ll be down shortly.” I smiled what I hoped was my sweetest smile and stepped backward into the hallway.
She slammed the door as I frantically dialed Lillian’s cell.
“You’d better be calling to tell me she is in the carriage and on her way,” Lillian said. “It is hotter than Hades out here. I have several people looking like they’re about to faint, and I may possibly dunk a cranky, tuxedoed five-year-old headfirst in the lake. The bridesmaids say she is not even dressed. Tell me you are on top of this, and my ceremony will not run late.”
Lillian Graham has been doing weddings since Moses’s mother got married, and her weddings do
run late. Even after working for her for three years, I still get nervous as all hell assisting one of her events. No one else in the office has that effect on me. I don’t even get nervous with my own clients. But with Lillian? Sheesh.
I felt like I might throw up a bit when I opened my mouth to answer her, but I swallowed hard and tried to sound calm.
“Yes, yes, I’m on top of it. Getting her dressed now and we’ll be right down.” I lied to my boss and hung up on her.
Tonya swung open the door on my first knock.
“Do you have more calls to make, or can you help me get dressed now? I don’t want to be late for my own wedding.” She stood there tapping her pudgy little foot with both hands on her hips.
I’ve often wondered why people freak out and become monsters on their wedding day. It seems to me if it’s a happy occasion, if you’re marrying someone you love, and if all your family and friends have come to see you be happy and get hitched, the least you could do is be nice about it.
“Okay, let’s get you dressed and to your ceremony!” It was probably the most sickeningly false voice I have ever used.
Tonya led me into the room waving her fingers to dry her nails. I struggled to keep from staring, but I was fascinated by her. Never in all my days had I seen anyone so colorful!
Tonya was about five feet two and well over three hundred pounds. She wore a royal purple satin robe with huge yellow flowers all over it. Though it barely skimmed the bottom of her rump, she seemed perfectly at ease nearly naked in front of a total stranger.
Tonya’s hair glowed a bright, shocking orange. Not red. Not auburn. Orange. A fiery, neon orange curling in cascades of flames around and below her shoulders.
An iridescent smudge of purple shadow covered her eyelids, and greasy black liner outlined the entire rim of her blue eyes. A thick, black fringe of false eyelashes fluttered and flapped with every wink.
The bright, bubble-gum pink smear on each cheek matched the slick gloss on her lips. I thought perhaps she would be more attractive without makeup. And without her present scowl.
“Here,” she said, gingerly holding out a pair of pantyhose between her French-manicured fingers. “Put these on.”
I swear for a minute I thought she meant for me to wear them. Then it dawned on me with sickened recognition that she wanted me to put the pantyhose on her. Ewww.
I stared at her a bit dumbfounded. I have been asked to do many things in this line of work. It’s definitely not as glamorous as the star-crossed wannabes imagine it. But never in the multitude of weddings have I ever been expected to put on another human being’s pantyhose. I thought surely she was joking. Surely, there was a bridesmaid left hiding in the room to do this. Surely, a meteor could come crashing into the hotel at that moment and create a hole to swallow me up.
As a girl with abundant thighs myself, it is my personal belief that support pantyhose are a relic left over from some medieval torture chamber. I have never been happier with the fashion world than when they decided pantyhose were out of style and we could all go bare-legged.
Putting on hose is an all-out swearing, sweating, pushing, pulling, aerobic activity that borders on assault. My granny used to say it’s like shoving two pounds of lard in a one-pound sack. To go through this torture against your own thighs within the privacy of your own room with the shades pulled down tight is one thing. But with someone else’s sweaty thighs? I was repulsed. It must have shown.
“It ain’t like I got any other options,” she said, placing one hand on her hip and waving the other in such a dramatic flourish I almost laughed at the absurdity of the situation. “Them bitches all left me.”
I wondered briefly if this was the task that pushed them out the door.
“Those selfish no-good whores got themselves ready and didn’t do a damned thing to help me. And now here I am, on
day. It’s about
. It’s not about
. They’re lucky I even invited them. I didn’t have to! They oughtta be thanking me! Kissing my ass! Doing all they can to show me some appreciation, don’tcha think?”
My phone vibrated on my hip, and I ignored it. I knew it was Lillian, but I had no idea what to tell her.
“Okay,” I said with a deep breath. “Let’s do this.”
She propped her foot up on the ottoman in the room. I knelt on the carpet to begin the task at hand, taking another deep breath and thinking I truly do not get paid enough to do this.
I carefully slid one leg of the hose over her French-manicured toes and then over her calloused heel. So far so good. It wigged me out a little to touch someone’s feet, but I kept telling myself to be a professional. To square my shoulders and get it done.
We made it over her ankle and started up her leg with no problem, but as I got to the largest part of her calf just below the knee, things got more difficult. And awkward.
When I put on my own hose, I have to start working my fingers all the way around the leg to make sure the hose come up evenly. Not so easy to do on someone else’s leg. I twisted, scooted, and bent my arms like we were playing Twister. All to get the hose over one knee.
Her legs were slick with perfumed lotion, which didn’t mix well with my own palms damp with nervousness and the sheen of her perspiration. The moisture caused my hands to slip and slide, but it did the opposite for the hose as they adhered to the stickiness and refused to budge.
To keep from thinking about how this would work above the knee, I went ahead and started on the other leg. Over the toes, up the calf, over the knee. Then we had reached the point of no return. I had to get the hose up her thighs and over her bum.
My phone vibrated again, and I shut it completely off. I wasn’t sure I could hold my composure on the phone while facing the monumental task ahead of me. Better to deal with the consequences later and climb the mountain in front of me now.
It was one of the hardest and most uncomfortable workouts of my entire life. I tugged. I pulled. I did little circles around her on the floor until my knees were carpet burned. All the while praying my fingernails wouldn’t pop through the strained nylon and spark a run.
Tonya stretched. She danced. She did squats. She wriggled, and jiggled, and wiggled to try and help put everything where it needed to be without the use of her hands.
“Maybe you could spread your legs a little farther?” I never thought I would ever have occasion to say that to another woman.
“Wait, no, that pulls the hose tighter,” I said as her balance wobbled from trying to stand at a straddle with the hose around her thighs.
I strained to wedge my hands between her legs, but there was no space between the fleshy abundance of her upper thighs. We were both outright sweating now, and the scent of us mixed with her lotion nauseated me. It was a nightmare beyond what I could have dreamed up.
Bit by bit and inch by inch, the hose were slowly coming up, but that meant my hands were slowly getting closer to the nether regions, which I had no desire to reach. I silently prayed a bridesmaid or family member would come walking in. Or a housekeeper. Or an alien. I didn’t care at that point. I did not want to have my hands all up in this girl’s hoohah.
She grunted and squatted again as I tried to heave the nylon across her dimpled upper thighs. I sighed and sank back on my knees behind her, catching my breath for a moment as I summoned the courage to finish the job.
It was at this point that she hiked the robe up out of the way.
No lacy big-girl panties in sight. Nothing. Nada.
Just The Yellow Rose of Texas fluttering in my face. My hands faltered, and I considered what other jobs I could do if I quit this one at that very moment.
As I contemplated the need for more specific life goals other than “not ordinary,” Tonya shifted her weight and cleared her throat. I realized I’d been staring at her butt for an awkwardly long pause.
I took another deep breath and wrangled the nylon past Tonya’s lady parts, determined to finish the deed and get out of that position. Let me tell you, if I never have to do that again, it will be too soon. The material strained as I hoisted it over the fleshiest part of her cheeks and settled it around her midsection. I thought the waistband might cut off my circulation if I didn’t get my fingers out as quickly as possible.
“Okay, get my dress,” she commanded with a sweep of her arm and a point of her finger, as though completely oblivious to our unfortunate bonding experience and the effect it had on me.
I walked to the closet in somewhat of a fog, feeling both violated and underappreciated. I slid open the mirrored door and gasped out loud before I could catch myself.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Tonya asked. “Custom made. The only one like it in the whole world.”
“Wow! It’s . . .” I struggled for composure and tried to find any leftover reserves of calm facade and polite bullshit not used up in the nylon project. “Amazing!” was what I finally came up with.
I could say it was purple, but that would be a tragic understatement. It was more like an optical assault of purple. Shocking brighter-than-you-can-imagine purple. The satin jacket had shoulder pads and huge puffy sleeves that would have done any 80s prom photo proud. The voluminous, floor-length, A-line skirt shimmered with layers of organza over royal purple.
“Purple’s my favorite color,” she said with a huge smile.