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Authors: Ally Gray

Mob Wedding Mayhem

BOOK: Mob Wedding Mayhem
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Mob Wedding Mayhem
An Events By Design Mystery - Book 5
Ally Gray

C
opyright
© 2015 by Ally Gray

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

C
over design
by www.coverkicks.com

T
he Events
By Design Cozy Mystery book series is dedicated to my wonderful-beyond-words husband, Michael

Chapter 1

I
t would be too easy
, far too easy
, she thought to herself. All it would take is a push of her foot, a flick of her hand, and she could simply put the car in drive and crash straight through the three-story Victorian mansion that housed the offices of Events by Design, the country’s foremost event planning business. A flick of her wrist, a push with her foot, and it could all be over, she thought, staring through the windshield at the building that she so dearly loved.

There were perhaps fifty people inside that building and another two hundred people in the spacious yard out back, seated under an elegant canopy as the wedding prelude played. She cared about her staff, and even the temp workers who’d signed on to work the event. Some of the people were like family to her, and that was the only thing that kept her foot off the accelerator. Well, that, and the fact that her BMW was just so darn pretty, and it was almost paid for.

“Stacy? Are you there?” her earpiece asked from where she’d thrown it on the passenger seat, its tinny voice coming through faintly with a loud crackle.

She didn’t answer right away, instead she stared blankly at the offending ear piece, its cable snaking across her upholstery like a noose before disappearing into the battery pack. The last thing in the world she wanted to do right now was talk to the voice on the other end of her radio, even though it belonged to one of her best friends and she loved him like he was her own brother.

And that’s why I can’t answer
, she thought miserably. I love all of them too much to bring them down with me.

Events by Design was an established company with a reputation for being top notch, but ever since its founder and longtime matriarch, Abigail Prudell, had passed away, leaving the business to her very uninvolved nephew, Stacy had juggled not only the company’s stellar reputation and its services to elite clientele, but also managed to keep a secret that meant the difference between success and failure: the old lady was dead as a doornail.

Clients could have paid far less money for just as much professionalism and attention to detail, no matter who they chose to stage their parties and weddings. For that matter, they could have paid Stacy far less money to do the same quality job, if she’d started her own company after her boss passed away. But as Abigail’s assistant for more than fifteen years, Stacy felt a loyalty to the work that her employer had put into the company. When she learned that the nephew was planning to liquidate the company’s assets and shut its doors—leaving nearly forty people out of a job, or at least steady day labor work during events—she got the brilliantly stupid idea to keep the company going. In exchange for remaining in business, Nathan wouldn’t have to do anything except file the taxes each year and sign the paychecks.

It had all been too easy, she remembered again. Frighteningly so. After the first year or so of being afraid of being outed for pretending Abigail had lightened her workload while still manning the helm, the company’s name alone was enough to keep clients signing up years in advance. Stacy used to worry that someone would come along and stir up enough trouble that it all blew up in her face, but she’d gotten too good at running this company, and gotten used to lying through her teeth whenever a client, usually an unruly mother of an equally unruly bride, demanded to see the owner.

Which is exactly how Stacy found herself hiding in her car while a bride walked down the aisle a mere five hundred yards away. She’d been minding her own business, conducting herself in her usual polished, business-like, epitome-of-class-and-breeding manner when the final member of the wedding party to arrive—a bridesmaid who’d flown in that morning—turned to her and said the most horrifying words Stacy had ever heard:

“I remember you. My, my, if it isn’t little Stacy East, from Carr High School. I’ve heard all about this company you’re running, and I know your secret, too.”

Stacy’s vision blurred for a moment.
So this is what it’s like to have an out of body experience, like the kid who can see dead people
, she thought irrationally, almost calmly. Everything she’d worked for was about to go bust, every lie she’d ever forced herself to tell, every half-truth and misdirection she’d ever tossed out there, all of it had been pointless. She should have known that someday, somehow, someone would find out.

It was almost a relief, in some ways. The secret was out, and her days of living a lie were over. There would be no more deception, no more juggling act as she fought to keep all her balls in the air. Of course, there’d be no more paychecks, and there might even be no more grocery shopping after their past clients sued her, but at least it would be over.

She snapped out of her trance when she realized the woman was still speaking.

“I remember you,” the woman repeated in a surprised voice, causing Stacy’s eyebrows to crease together as she tried to place her. Finally her stomach dropped. She’d fought through so many obstacles and endured so much stress during the past few weeks of the busy wedding season that she’d never bothered to think about anyone finding out her secret, that Abigail was no longer running the show. The company’s entire reputation hinged on Abigail and her status as the most sought-after coordinator in the country, and Stacy had been so busy playing referee to a bunch of brides and their high-maintenance needs that she’d never given a moment’s thought to protecting their good name.

“I, uh, I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean, would you excuse me?” she stammered before turning tail and racing inside the building as fast as she could with as much dignity as she could project. She flew right through the doors to the old house, down the hallway with her heels clicking on the hardwood floors, and out the front door. She punched the unlock combination on the driver’s side door of her car and threw herself behind the wheel, slamming and locking her door behind her. She patted her pockets for her keys in order to flee, but remembered that she never had room in her pockets during a wedding for something so useless as car keys, not when there were sewing kits, tissues, stain remover wipes, and various other tools of the trade that had to be on her person at all times.

Stacy pulled her earpiece out of her ear and tossed her radio set on the seat beside her, throwing her head on her hands against the steering wheel. It had all come to this. She’d worked so hard all these years, and had put up with so much from so many people. Then there was this wedding, the ultimate test of her patience and her decision not to drink on the job. All of it was for nothing, as it only took one random stranger who claimed to be from her past to bring down her carefully built house of cards.

A knock on her window startled her. She sat bolt upright and looked at the face peering into her car. Her heart stopped when she saw the woman’s face practically pressed against the glass. Stacy sighed and stepped out of the car. There was nothing to do but face the music, and at least this way the two of them would be alone in front of the building and not standing in front of the wedding party.

“Stacy? I’m so sorry! I was only kidding, I didn’t know you were sensitive about it!” the woman cried as she grabbed Stacy in a hug, leaving her bewildered and disoriented. “I promise, I won’t say a word about it. You were always so smart and so confident, I never dreamed you’d be upset about your secret. And honey, it’s nothing to be ashamed of! We’ve all had a little work done, there’s no reason to keep it a secret from everybody! But I promise, if you don’t want people to know about your nose job, I won’t say a word! Scout’s honor!” The woman held up two fingers in a Boy Scout salute, a serious look on her face.

Stacy unconsciously reached up and touched her nose, feeling the slight bump that remained after she’d had cosmetic surgery to repair the damage from a college softball incident. Now she had no choice but to laugh with relief, especially as she finally placed the woman. “Jacqueline? Oh my gosh, it is you! You look fantastic!”

“I told you, I’m sure we’ve all had some work done! And honey, I’d better look good for what I paid, or I know a doctor who’s gonna find himself on the wrong end of my Louisville Slugger!” the woman answered, twirling in a small circling and showing off her figure. “But sweetie, you didn’t have to run away from me, I meant what I said. I won’t say a word, and I’m sorry I even brought it up.”

There was no time for a better explanation, so Stacy just said a soft “thank you” and linked her arm through the guest’s elbow, leading her back to the wedding after retrieving her radio from her front seat. They promised to catch up during the reception, and Stacy left her to return to the bride and groom’s important day.

Chapter 2


I
don’t know
if I can do this,” Stacy said, nestling her head against Nathan’s shoulder, her breathing returning to normal after what felt like hours of lovemaking.

“What, have wild animal sex with your husband? Aren’t you supposed to wait at least six months before deciding to cut me off? ‘Cause I’ve got bad news for you, you already did,” Nathan answered, kissing the top of her head and falling back against the pillows. “Several times, if I remember it correctly.”

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it,” she said, swatting him playfully on the chest. Nathan pulled her closer to pin her arms against his chest. “I meant, the company.”

“What’s there to think about? You’ve practically run that company for the last fifteen years! You were still in high school when you started working for my aunt. Now, you know what it takes to run this business and to excel at it, so what’s got you so upset and convinced that you can’t do it?”

“That woman… the one from the last reception. She said she knew my secret.”

“Yeah… must suck to have had a nose job and then have someone from your past come find out about it. Why’d you do it, anyway? Getting a little concerned about your looks in your old age, are we?”

“That’s not it, and you know it! I was hit by a softball! Why does anybody even take softball as an elective in college? It’s not like we managed to make it through high school without suffering through it.” Stacy protested out of habit, but that wasn’t what she was referring to either. “What if I’ve been tempting fate all this time? I’ve gotten by with this secret for so long, what if I’ve gotten sloppy and I slip up? What if someone really finds out?”

“Finds out what, exactly? Finds out that you’ve been running the show all this time, and that you’re incredibly good at your job? Who cares if my dead aunt isn’t there pulling your puppet strings? I have full legal control of the company, I’ve kept you on to run things, and now you’re my wife! It doesn’t get more legal than that.”

“I know, you’re right. It’s just that I feel like I’ve been a fraud all these years.” Stacy ran her fingertips over Nathan’s chest, enjoying the way it made him tense up under her hand.

“You’re not a fraud, not by a long shot,” he answered, hitching her leg up over his until she was pressed against him. He moved gently against her as he kissed her neck lovingly. “The only thing you are… is perfect.”

“You’re make it really hard to concentrate on my worries, you know,” she answered breathlessly, her hands running through his hair and pulling his head closer to her.

“Mmmm-hmmm… you said hard,” he replied in typical jokester fashion. Stacy rolled her eyes at his dumb joke, but remembered that his ability to make her laugh was one of the ninety-three or so reasons she’d finally caved in after all these years and married him. That and the fact that he was the most handsome, doting, affectionate, loving man she’d ever known.

“I can’t think clearly when you’re doing that,” she said as Nathan’s lips moved up her neck to bite gently at her earlobe.

“I was kind of counting on that.”

“I should probably tell you to stop it so I can focus.”

“Should I stop?” he asked in a voice that clearly told her he already knew the answer.

“Don’t even think about it,” she answered, turning his chin to face her so she could kiss him deeply.

It was only later when Nathan was asleep that Stacy could concentrate on the problem at hand, namely the fact that someone was bound to do a little digging and uncover the truth eventually. And with the number of events in the past few months that had required police intervention, it was a wonder that someone hadn’t already uncovered the truth: Abigail was dead, and had been for a long time. She, Stacy East—only recently Stacy Prudell, thanks to her recent marriage to Nathan—was no better than a common con artist, an unscrupulous huckster who took people’s money and promised them something in return, something that she had no right to deliver as she’d only been Abigail’s assistant until the woman’s death.

I won’t think about that right now
, she thought to herself firmly.
I’m in charge of this company, and I’m now part owner, thanks to marrying Nathan. It’s my company, and I call the shots. I have for years anyway, and now it’s official.

So why do I feel like a thief?

BOOK: Mob Wedding Mayhem
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