Authors: Jessie Evans
A Summerville Novella
(Always a Bridesmaid #5)
By Jessie Evans
Weddings, engagements, and babies, oh my...
It's the eve of Lark and Mason's wedding, and Lark has a secret she's been hiding from everyone, even her husband-to-be. Melody and Nick make a choice that will change their lives, and Aria and Nash learn that sometimes love doesn't go according to plan.
Join all your favorite characters, as well as a new, surprise couple, in the heart-warming conclusion to the "Always a Bridesmaid" series.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright © 2013 Jessie D. Evans
This book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author. This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously. Cover image by Maglara for Shutterstock. Cover design by Bootstrap Cover Designs. Editing by Edited Ever After Editorial.
Other Novels by Jessie Evans
Betting on You
Wild For You
Dedicated to M. Thanks for the happy ever after.
Table of Contents
Gretchen “Nana” March
Gretchen Maryanne March didn’t tolerate it. Never had, never would.
She liked fun as much as the next person—she jitterbugged every Friday at the senior center, spent hours during the summer nursing her watermelons to prize-winning size, and was not averse to a little whiskey in her cider on a cold winter’s night—but there was a way things ought to be done. Tradition was a gift from the family that came before, a time-honored way of doing things meant to keep old folks on the straight and narrow and young folks out of trouble. Tradition was the
But unfortunately, her favorite granddaughter’s wedding rehearsal was shaping up to be anything but traditional.
Narrowing her eyes, Gretchen swept her cool gaze over the assembled company.
Her granddaughters, Aria, Lark, and Melody, were at the front of the church, fussing over what time to bring in the flowers the next morning, even though Gretchen had told them, repeatedly, to hire some of those Mexican boys from the hardware store to put up the flowers instead of trying to do everything themselves. Thrift was well and good, but Lark’s soon-to-be-husband was a doctor. Certainly, he could afford a few Mexicans.
She’d said as much to Lark.
Judging by the face Lark had made, you would have thought Gretchen had suggested the bridesmaids carry stinkweed bouquets down the aisle.
Then Aria had started in on one of her lectures about how people are people and have names and identities and dignity and yap yap yap, as if Gretchen wasn’t a lifelong registered Democrat in spite of her late husband’s and son’s Republican leanings. She had been a firm believer in equal rights since the sixties.
But she had seen that look in the girls’ eyes, that “Oh no, Nana’s gone and shown her slip again,” look, and so she’d removed herself to the back of the church without another word, leaving them to work out the flower business on their own.
From the way the three of them were still squawking, it wasn’t going so well, and Aria was so wrapped up in their conversation she hadn’t noticed that Gretchen’s great-granddaughter was toddling all over the church. Allowing a teething toddler to run loose in a house of worship was disrespectful. Felicity was going to end up gumming on all the hymnals, and Pastor Daniels would know exactly who was to blame for the damage.
Gretchen’s mouth pruned as she watched Felicity’s red head disappear into another row of pews.
She turned to look for the baby’s step-daddy—to see if at least
might be paying attention—but the three men her granddaughters had hitched themselves to were all at the back of the church with the rest of the groomsmen, laughing too loud and passing around a flask the youngest one had brought.
Liquor in church
. Gretchen’s mouth pruned tighter.
That flask alone would have been enough to make her disapprove of that Nick character, even if she hadn’t seen all the tattoos he thought he was hiding under those long-sleeved shirts he put on for family gatherings.
But she’d seen Nick Geary downtown last week and gotten a good long look at the nonsense scribbled all over his arms. He looked like a felon—a handsome felon who bore a striking resemblance to a darker-haired James Dean, but a felon nevertheless.
Melody could do
better. Gretchen intended to tell her so the next time Melody came over to help her thread her sewing machine.
There were so many nice, single boys Melody’s age in the church right now, and Gretchen knew all of their grandmothers. There was no reason for Melody to settle for a flask-toting troublemaker when she could settle down with a nice boy. And she needed to settle down soon, so she could start making babies at a reasonable age, instead of waiting until the change of life was practically on her the way these other girls seemed to be doing.
It was better to get babies out of the way when you were young, before you had too much time to get used to being single and childless. Idle hands are the devil’s playthings, after all, and nothing keeps a woman’s hands busier than a child.
As if summoned by her thoughts, there was a loud
followed by a piercing shriek as the baby began to cry.
Aria jumped and turned to search for her daughter, only to end up crawling down the row of pews in her red dress, probably flashing her underwear to half the church, before she spotted the toddler and gathered Felicity into her arms.
“Is she okay?” Nash asked, hurrying down the aisle.
“She’s fine,” Aria said, rocking the baby as she rubbed Felicity’s back in soothing circles. “Just dropped a hymnal on her toe, I think.”
A hymnal on her toe.
Could have been much worse
, Gretchen thought to herself.
And it was probably going to get worse. Her granddaughters were as bad as that baby, running around completely unsupervised, slapping together a wedding all willy-nilly, like it was some Saturday night BBQ. Gretchen had no idea what her daughter-in-law was thinking, letting the girls take charge like this, but then Sue had always been inclined to let her daughters get away with murder.
First, she let Aria fly off to Europe to live with hippies and perverts when she was practically still a child, then Lark dropped out of college, and then Melody skipped college completely, giving up a full scholarship to go to cooking school, which she wouldn’t have needed if Sue had taught her girls how to cook the way a Southern woman should. Now, Aria was a remarried divorcee, Lark was living with her fiancé before they were married, and Melody spent far too much time over at her felon boyfriend’s apartment, unchaperoned.
If she didn’t know better, Gretchen would have thought her youngest granddaughter was living with the boy, but not even Sue would tolerate that kind of behavior. Melody and Nick weren’t even engaged. It would be a scandal worse than the time Bob went streaking down Main Street. The family would never live it down.
If Stephen were still alive, he would have whipped the entire lot of them into shape, but her husband of fifty-four years had been dead for almost a year. Now it was up to Gretchen to keep this family on the straight and narrow.
“I don’t know!” Lark suddenly shouted at Melody, drawing all eyes to the front of the church. “I can’t decide and I’m so tired and puffy and my dress is never going to fit and everything is ruined!”
She burst into tears louder than Felicity’s and ran from the room, disappearing through the door leading to the choir loft.
“Monkeyshine,” Gretchen mumbled beneath her breath, rising to go after her granddaughter.
But before she could make her way out of her pew, Mason came sprinting down the aisle like they were on a football field instead of inside a church, and raced after his fiancée. If Gretchen had reached the end of the pew a little faster, she had no doubt she would have been run over.
“This is a church, not a track meet!” she called after Mason, not surprised when her future grandson-in-law ignored her completely.
“These kids,” came a deep voice from the pew behind her.
Gretchen turned to see Harris Nelson, one of the church deacons, standing with his arms crossed at his chest, a teasing twinkle in his blue eyes.
“What are you doing here, Harris Nelson? Did they cancel Bingo at the Elk’s lodge?” Gretchen asked, lifting her chin and patting her fiercely hair-sprayed white curls.
“I’m helping Pastor Daniels at the wedding tomorrow,” Harris said. “I told him I’d lock up after y’all are through. He had some shut-ins to check on this afternoon.”
“That’s Christian of you,” Gretchen said. “But does Pastor Daniels know he’s working with a deacon who’s got a gambling problem?”
“Is it gambling if you always win?” Harris winked as he propped his hands on the back of her pew, leaning closer.
Gretchen couldn’t help but notice what nice hands he had, big and tan and strong-looking despite his thinning skin.
She lifted her eyes to his, refusing to be flustered by a man almost young enough to be her son. Harris was ten years younger—sixty-eight to her seventy-eight—and had always been trouble, even back when his wife was still alive.
Since Regina had passed three years ago, the man spent more time at the Elk’s lodge than any church deacon should. He clearly needed a woman to take him in hand. Gretchen made a mental note to send one of her younger girlfriends in his direction. Maybe Shirley. She wouldn’t be seventy until next summer and was almost fully recovered from her hip replacement.
“You’re a mess, Harris Nelson,” Gretchen said, clucking her tongue. “And that’s the truth.”
“I like how you always say my full name,” he said, chuckling. “Makes me feel like I’m back in elementary school, getting in trouble with the teacher. Remember the old school, back when all the grades were together?”
Gretchen huffed. “Of course I do, I’m not senile.”
“I remember the first time I saw you,” Harris said, with a grin. “You’d walk past the playground before school with your friends, that blond ponytail bobbing. I swear I thought you looked like a movie star.”
“This isn’t the place to swear anything.” Gretchen fought a smile, not wanting to let the compliment please her for some reason. “And besides, you were just a baby back then. What were you, five years old?”
“Eight,” he said. “Plenty old enough to know a beautiful girl when I see one.”
“Saw one,” Gretchen corrected automatically, the former English teacher in her unable to resist.
“Nope. See one. Present tense,” Harris said, winking again.
Gretchen blinked in confusion for a moment before his meaning hit and a giggle bubbled out of her without her conscious permission.
“Harris Nelson,” she said after a moment, shaking her head. “Are you flirting with me?”
“I guess I’m not doing a very good job if you have to ask,” he said, with a rather adorably shy grin. “So…what are you doing after the rehearsal? Want to go have a decaf coffee and talk old times? My treat?”