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Authors: Jane Graves

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Tall Tales and Wedding Veils

BOOK: Tall Tales and Wedding Veils
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Tall Tales and Wedding Veils
Jane Graves

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2008 by Jane Graves

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Forever

Hachette Book Group USA

237 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Visit our Web site at
www.HachetteBookGroupUSA.com

First eBook Edition: June 2008

ISBN: 978-0-446-53779-7

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

About The Author

The Dish

“I was thinking about the limousine,” Tony whispered.

Flashback. Mouths, hands, kissing, touching . . .
“What about it?”

“There’s no reason we can’t pick up where we left off that night.”

He hooked his finger around a strand of her hair, easing it back over her shoulder. Then he dipped his head, leaned in, and kissed her neck. Heather was so stunned, she couldn’t move.
Stop him. Right now. Nothing good can come from this.

But for some reason she sat there, frozen in place, as his lips moved along her neck, remembering how it had felt before. But it was even better now because she wasn’t anesthetized with champagne. He moved his lips next to her ear, and she could feel his hot breath as he spoke.

“You have no idea how much I wanted to make love to you. Right there in the backseat of that limousine.”

“I wouldn’t have let you,” she said, a little breathless. “I don’t do that sort of thing.”

“Heather, you were so hot for me I’m surprised you didn’t tear the clothes right off my body.”

And if this goes on, he’s going to tear the clothes right off yours.

“Jane has a gift for making outrageously comic situations seem plausible, and her characters shine.”

—Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine

BUCKLE UP FOR SEXY FUN WITH
HOT WHEELS AND HIGH HEELS

“A delightful, funny read with a unique twist as a former trophy wife discovers herself, and true love, in the most unexpected place. A total winner!”

—Susan Mallery,
USA Today
bestselling author of
The Marcelli Princess

“Jane Graves is a pro at blending romance and comedy . . .

Hot Wheels and High Heels
is a delightful story packed with heated romantic tension, colorful characters, and a fast-paced story line that keeps the reader hooked.”

—RoundtableReviews.com

“Absolutely hilarious! . . . Jane Graves has done an outstanding job with this book.”

—RomanceReaderatHeart.com

“An interesting and fun novel with plenty of fascinating characters, this story starts fast and doesn’t lose momentum.”

—Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine


Hot Wheels and High Heels
draws you in, then blasts off! Fasten your seatbelt for a fun, rollicking ride!”

—Stephanie Bond, author of the Body Movers series

“[Jane] Graves writes with charming wit. Her characters make you smile and the situations her heroine, Darcy, faces will make you howl with laughter . . . an entertaining and delightful read.”

—Armchairinterviews.com

“Funny as can be and I had a blast reading it . . . it’s on my short list of best romances for 2007 . . . a delight in any season.”

—AllAboutRomance.com

“This book is . . . a woman’s self-discovery while she learns what’s really important in the world. The author does a fantastic job at her characterization of Darcy . . . hilarious . . .

The last page of this book was turned with a true sense of contentment.”

—ARomanceReview.com

“Fans will enjoy the antics of the high-heeled Darcy as she sasses her way into the heart of stark loner John who, though he knows she is not his style, loves her spunk; so will readers.”

—Midwest Book Review

BOOKS BY JANE GRAVES

Hot Wheels and High Heels

Tall Tales and Wedding Veils

To Brian, with all my love

Chapter 1

T
hey were the ugliest bridesmaid dresses Heather Montgomery had ever seen, and she’d seen her share of them. When you had a family that could fill Texas Stadium, somebody was always getting married, and it was family law that cousins asked cousins to be bridesmaids, even if it meant blood relatives had to stand in line behind five of the bride’s sorority sisters.

This time around, it was Heather’s cousin Regina tying the knot, and she’d chosen these dresses for one reason only: Her high-priced wedding planner had convinced her they were the height of fashion. To Heather, they simply looked ridiculous.

“Regina!” squealed Bridesmaid Number One as she fanned out the skirt of one of the six petticoated, puffy-sleeved, waist-hugging creations. “They’re
fabulous
!”

Two and Three voiced similar opinions, while Four and Five stroked the satin reverently, making breathy little noises of approval. Heather had given up trying to remember the five names all ending in
i
—Cami, Taci, Tami, whatever—and which blond woman belonged to each one. In the end, she’d simply assigned them numbers according to hair length.

In the wake of all the
oohs
and
ahhs,
Heather traded furtive eye-rolls with her mother. Barbara Montgomery had come along on this dress-fitting excursion, even though she didn’t particularly like her sister
or
her niece. She was there because family weddings always stirred things up, and if she stayed in the thick of things, she was sure to be around when the pandemonium began. The whole family thrived on chaos in a way that boggled Heather’s mind. Given her own preference for a calm, tidy, organized life, sometimes she wondered if the stork had taken a wrong turn twenty-nine years ago and dumped her down the wrong chimney.

“Oh, yes,” Barbara said. “The dresses are simply adorable. Don’t you think they’re adorable, Heather?”

“Yes,” she said, sounding almost as Stepfordlike as her mother. “Adorable.”

“Of course they’re adorable,” Aunt Bev said as she fluffed the skirt on Three’s dress. “They’re by
Jorge.

“Well, pink must be Jorge’s signature color,” Heather said. “I mean, look at how much of it he used here.”

“They’re not
pink,
” Regina said with a toss of her head that sent a shudder through the mountain of lace attached to it. “They’re
salmon.
It’s all the rage this season.” She fluttered her hands. “Go ahead, girls. Try them on.”

Heather went to a dressing room and stuffed herself into the dress. The sleeves drooped to her elbows, at least six inches of hem dragged on the ground, and it fit so snugly around her waist that breathing was a chore.

She pulled back the curtain. One through Five had morphed into gushy, grinning quintuplets with perfectly toned abs that didn’t make the slightest bulge in the waistlines of their perfectly hideous dresses. It was like watching models on a Parisian runway wearing ridiculous clothes, yet for some reason, nobody laughed.

The seamstress smiled as she fanned her gaze over the flawless members of the wedding party. Then she zeroed in on Heather.

“Hmm,” she said, running her hand over the waist of Heather’s dress and shaking her head. “It’s a little tight.”

Heather sighed. “I told Regina to get a fourteen, just in case. I knew it would have to be taken in, but—”

“A fourteen?” Regina said, blinking innocently. “I’m sorry, Heather. I swore you said size twelve.”

There was nothing wrong with Regina’s hearing. It was just her way of coercing her cousin into a smaller size so she wouldn’t have five pencil-thin women walking down the aisle followed by one who looked like a gum eraser. So what if Heather wouldn’t be able to breathe? As long as enough oxygen went to her brain that she stayed upright during the ceremony, that was all that mattered to Regina.

“I can let it out a little,” the seamstress said. “But only a little. There’s not much seam allowance.”

“Can’t you order the fourteen?” Heather asked.

“Too short of notice.”

“The wedding’s not for a month,” Regina said. “I’m sure you can drop a size by then.”

Drop a size in a month? When she hadn’t been able to drop a size in the past ten years?

“Try the Hollywood watermelon diet,” Four said with a vacuous smile. “I once lost six pounds in a weekend on that one.”

Great. Not only did Heather have to be in a wedding she was going to hate, she had to starve herself for the privilege. As the seamstress knelt down to mark the hem of her dress, Heather wondered how many celery sticks she’d have to eat in the next month so she wouldn’t look like ten pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack.

“So, Heather,” Aunt Bev said. “Are you seeing anyone right now?”

The eternal question. One whose answer never seemed to change. “No, Aunt Bev. Nobody right now.”

“What a shame. But don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll meet Mr. Right very soon.”

The subtext was so thick, Heather could barely wade through it, and all of it was directed squarely at her mother.
My Regina’s getting married, and your Heather isn’t even dating anyone.

“Actually, Heather is concentrating on her career right now,” Barbara said. “A lot of young women are waiting until their thirties to marry.”

“Is that what all the women’s magazines are saying?” Aunt Bev said, looking befuddled. “If so, I’m afraid I wouldn’t know about it. It’s all I can do to get through every issue of
Modern Bride.

“What they’re
saying,
” Barbara said, “is that some women choose to be successful in their own right before settling down and getting married.”

“And I think Heather is very smart to do that,” Aunt Bev said with an indulgent little smile. “That way, if the worst happens and she doesn’t find a man, at least she won’t be struggling for the rest of her life to put food on the table.”

Heather had long since learned to let Aunt Bev’s comments roll right past her. Her mother hadn’t. Heather could almost feel her mother’s brain working, trying to manufacture a comeback, but when it came to sheer bitchiness, she couldn’t hold a candle to Aunt Bev.

Heather took off her dress and put her clothes back on. As the seamstress marked the other bridesmaids’ hems for alteration, Heather sat down on the bench next to her mother.

“Don’t listen to Aunt Bev,” Barbara muttered under her breath. “She’s just jealous that you have a fabulous career while Regina barely made it out of college.”

Truthfully, there was a limit to the fabulousness of a career as a CPA, if it even counted for anything in the first place where her family was concerned. Career women weren’t put on the same pedestal as those who chose matrimony and the mommy track. What was valued the most was the ability to wed, procreate, raise progeny to adulthood, maintain a clean house, and sustain enough of a relationship with your husband that he doesn’t leave you for his secretary.

“Why don’t I just tell Regina that I don’t want to be in the wedding?” Heather whispered. “She doesn’t want me there in the first place. If I backed out, it would make both of us happy.”

“No. If Regina asked, you have to do it.”

“Angela told her no. Why can’t I?”

“Angela is with the Peace Corps in Uganda.”

“So that’s all I have to do to get out of this? Live in squalor in a foreign country?”

“You’re being unreasonable.”

“What about Carol? She said no, too.”

“You know Carol is having trouble getting her meds straightened out. God only knows how she’d behave the day of the wedding.”

“So if I pop a few Prozac, I’ll become ineligible, too?”

“As if anybody would actually think
you’re
unbalanced.”

True. Everybody in her family had a reputation for something. Heather’s was being sane.

“If you come up with some story now,” her mother went on, “everybody will think you’re jealous of Regina because she’s getting married and you’re not.”

Heather started to say she didn’t care what her family thought, but she knew her mother did. In front of Aunt Bev, she portrayed her daughter as a high-flying career woman who couldn’t be bothered with something as mundane as marriage. But Heather knew the truth. Her mother didn’t want to say,
Meet my daughter, the CPA.
She wanted to say,
Meet my daughter, her handsome husband, and her four lovely children.

Fifteen minutes later, after the fittings were over and they’d suffered through a lecture from Regina on the jewelry they were expected to wear for the wedding, Heather and her mother left the bridal shop. As soon as the door closed behind them, her mother rolled her eyes.

“Can you
believe
those dresses?” she said. “My sister may have money, but she has no taste. None whatsoever. But it doesn’t matter. You still looked beautiful in that dress, despite how horrible it was.”

Beautiful? No. Heather was nothing if not a realist. She wasn’t beautiful. But that didn’t stop her mother from continually professing it, as if repetition would make it come true. While Heather was growing up, she could only imagine how her mother must have watched and waited for her ugly duckling to blossom into a swan. Instead, Heather had ended up somewhere between a chicken and a cockatiel. She had a headful of curls the color of a paper sack that she spent ten minutes every morning taming with a flat iron, a bump on the bridge of her nose she kept swearing she was going to have fixed, and a body polite people called “curvy.” In the past ten years, she’d lost approximately fifty pounds. If only it hadn’t been the same five pounds ten times, she might actually have gained a foothold on being thin.

On the positive side, she had clear skin, blue eyes everyone commented on, and nice white teeth that had never needed braces or fillings. But she’d always felt as if the bad outweighed the good, and if attention from men was any indication, she wasn’t the only one who thought so.

They stopped beside Heather’s car. “You
are
going on the bridesmaid trip tomorrow, aren’t you?” her mother asked.

Heather groaned inwardly. A weekend jaunt to Las Vegas with Regina and her five picture-perfect friends? She couldn’t wait.

“Yeah, Mom. I’m going.”

“Good. Aunt Bev and Uncle Gene are footing the bill. Take advantage of it.” She gave Heather a quick hug. “Where are you off to now?”

“I’m meeting Alison for a quick drink at McMillan’s.”

“You’ll have a good time in Vegas,” her mother said, then shrugged nonchalantly. “And who knows? Maybe you’ll meet a nice man.”

There it was again. Heather could say she was going to a gay-pride parade, and her mother would still say,
Maybe you’ll meet a nice man.

Heather hated to burst her mother’s bubble, but for her, this trip was going to consist of going to a few nice restaurants, sitting by the pool, catching up on her reading, and watching a lot of men watching five blond bridesmaids instead of watching her.

There was nothing like having a drink at McMillan’s to put Tony McCaffrey in a good mood. He loved everything about the place—the antique bar with the inset mirrors, the big-screen TVs, the polished oak tables, the clacking of pool balls, the beat of the music, the hum of the crowd. When he went to heaven, he imagined God would welcome him inside the Pearly Gates and escort him to a bar and grill just like this one. Somebody would hand him a beer and a pool cue and surround him with a host of tall, leggy women with halos of blond hair and whose only desire was to keep him company in paradise.

As soon as he bought this place, he wouldn’t have to die to go to heaven.

Two weeks ago, he’d told his boss, John Stark, that he was leaving. John ran Lone Star Repossessions, where Tony had worked as an auto repossession agent for the past few years. It was a good fit for his skills and personality. He kept his own hours, the money was good, and on the rare occasion when dangerous deadbeats tried to cause trouble, he generally managed to talk his way out of the situation with a smile and a little bit of Texas good-ol’-boy charm. But when this bar had come up for sale, he realized he was destined for bigger things. For once he’d be running his own show rather than being part of someone else’s.

John told him he was sorry he was leaving, but he admired that Tony wanted to go into business for himself. Then he’d pulled a bottle of Scotch out of his desk drawer, poured each of them a drink, and toasted Tony’s future success.

God, that had felt good.

Tracy came to the table and slid his usual Sam Adams in front of him. She’d started working there about a month ago, and she was just his kind of woman—quick with a beer, out for a good time, and
very
nice to look at, with long blond hair and legs to die for. Someday soon, he intended to do more than just look.

“You’re sure in a good mood,” she said. “Could it be because you’re getting ready to buy a certain bar and grill?”

He smiled and took a sip of his beer, which tasted even better than usual. “You bet it is. Monday’s gonna be a red-letter day.”

“Everybody around here is thrilled that you’re going to be the new owner.” She leaned in and spoke confidentially. “Frank is such a tight-ass.”

She was right. Frank was a tight-ass, and that was the last kind of person Tony intended to be. There was no need to be a slave driver. A happy employee was a productive employee. That was going to be his motto from now on.

BOOK: Tall Tales and Wedding Veils
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