Authors: Catherine Mann,Joanne Rock
Tags: #Romance, #Fiction
A Runaway Brides Novella
The Wedding Audition
Copyright © 2015 Catherine Mann and Joanne Rock
The Tule Publishing Group, LLC
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
In memory of DeWanna Pace, an early champion of our work and lover of quirky voices. Dee generously shared her knowledge and creativity with hungry new writers, providing much needed affirmation and guidance. We couldn’t have asked for a kinder introduction to the writing world.
hat’s so wrong
with asking my guy for a threesome?”
The question blared from the radio sex talk show and fired into Annamae Jessup’s mind faster than the chemicals refreshing her highlights before her rehearsal dinner tonight. Her hands clenched the armrests on the hair salon chair, the scent of the developing solution stinging her nose.
God, she could barely manage a twosome with her fiancé without breaking out into hives lately. Everyone told her it was pre-wedding jitters. She should be dancing on a cloud. She’d snagged Atlanta’s golden boy, third baseman for the Atlanta Stars.
If only her engagement wasn’t so public, every moment of their romance recorded by cameras because of her family’s reality TV show. Thanks to the wealth of Jessup sportswear and her producer stepfather’s connections, her family had become Atlanta’s small time cable answer to the Kardashians –
Acting Up: The Atlanta Heiresses
Four years of her life had been documented since her stepfather had landed the network deal for his family. Her role? The good girl in the middle of drama while her siblings and sorority sisters partied. All she’d wanted was a peaceful life and to finish her degree in hospitality and tourism. But as a habitual family peacekeeper, she went with the flow for what the rest of them wanted, putting up with the show and hoping her part would stay small.
She wasn’t the smart one or the sexy one or even the quirky one. Now the Atlanta cable area was watching the live televised special as the show’s homemaker darling prepared to walk down the aisle in the ultimate love match. It was the biggest role she’d ever played on the show and she hated that it had become just that—a role.
There were even “Annamae Loves Boone” t-shirts and billboards all over town.
That’s what she felt, right? Love. The nerves were to be expected. Even that radio talk show would agree.
The radio blared with the dulcet British accent as the call-in show host answered the threesome question, “It’s not a matter of right or wrong, love, it’s a matter of mutual consent. You and your partner need to be in agreement on your sexual journey whatever path that may take. Thank you for calling.” The sound of the phone disconnecting echoed. “Next up? If you need help with your relationship, emotional or physical, call Sex Talk with Serena, that’s 5-5-5-s-e-x-t-a-l-k.”
’s producer, a retired game show model, waved from beside the television camera. “Turn down the radio. We’re ready to roll.”
An intern scrambled to adjust the volume on “Sex Talk with Serena” to a low whisper. Darn shame. Maybe Serena could have shed some light on the cold feet setting in faster than her highlights.
Annamae pushed back a chunk of foil wraps on her hair, the black cape slick and cool against her skin heated with nerves. Celebrated stylist Lindsey Ballard wielded a comb and a paintbrush along Annamae’s hair. Dressed in a Janis Joplin t-shirt and purple paisley scarf tied—pirate style—around her head, Lindsey cast meaningful looks at the junior hair designers scattered around the elite Buckhead studio. “I could use some help finishing up the color,” she announced to the other stylists who’d gathered to watch her work. “Who wants to share the spotlight for fifteen minutes of fame?”
She rearranged the tail end of her purple scarf on her shoulder, fluffing the sheer fabric and winking at Annamae. Lindsey had become one of Annamae’s best friends over the course of the show, winning Annamae’s heart as a kindred spirit by ducking as much screen time as possible.
“I’m in.” One of the interns set aside an oversized European fashion magazine he’d been thumbing through and crossed over into the camera’s field, dodging an umbrella light on the way.
“Awesome.” Lindsey handed the junior stylist a chunk of hair before weaving the tail end of her comb through the next section of strands, never missing a beat. “Well, what do you know? We’ve got a little three-way of our own going here now.”
Not exactly racy stuff, but compared to Annamae’s real weeknights, this afternoon’s hair style three-way sounded downright exotic. “I’m settling down. I’ll be a married lady by this time tomorrow.”
An intimate ceremony – with a half a million of her nearest and dearest friends in TV land watching. Gulp.
“That doesn’t mean the two of you can’t live it up. Follow him on the road and keep those sports groupies away.” Lindsey paused, dipping into the bowl of touch-up color and peering down into her friend’s eyes. “Smile, Annamae, this is your big week.”
Had she been frowning? Her stepfather would kill her for being “flat” on screen. She sat up straighter and tried to smile. “I’m just nervous changing my hair so close to the wedding.” A good enough excuse for something she couldn’t explain.
Lindsey sifted through the next batch of hair and reached for a foil. “It’s not a big change. Just a little more lift than usual. You can trust me.”
“I know.” And she did. Lindsey wouldn’t steer her wrong. “I adore your work. Your whole salon.” Annamae glanced around at the wide open space filled with natural light from floor to ceiling windows. The setting sun cast pink and purple shadows on brick walls that were painted bright, shiny eggshell, decorated with framed, classic black and white photography of historic Atlanta. She’d always appreciated the way the salon gave her the necessary armor to face the cameras. Today, the place had been jazzed up for the pre-rehearsal dinner festivities with her bridesmaids, a mini-salon party for the cameras. “It’s just pre-wedding jitters making me question everything.”
Out of the corner of her eyes she saw the camera move closer. She could already feel the controversial statement gaining gasps from viewers. Her gut knotted at the possibility of uttering one of those sound bites that went viral and defined a person for life.
She didn’t want to be that person. A doubting bride. She stared at her Medusa reflection, the foils spiking from her head like snakes.
Of course she wanted to marry Boone Sullivan. Right? Who wouldn’t? He was sexy, rich, even romantic. Any commitment phobia she felt had come from issues of abandonment by her biological father. But surely she couldn’t be so messed up that she would marry the wrong man just to please her stepfather?
“Every woman gets nervous before a wedding. I’ve got my panic attack scheduled for six days from now,” Lindsey assured her over the din of nearby blow dryers while a shampoo boy escorted one of Annamae’s bridesmaids toward the sinks. Lindsey was marrying a prominent Atlanta lawyer in the D.A.’s office next week, so she was no stranger to wedding hype. “But you’ve got nothing to be nervous about. I was drooling over that latest tabloid photo of you and your hunky fiancé clubbing last night.”
“Photo?” Did her every moment have to be documented? Silence greeted her question. Even the cameras stayed stock still as they blinked back at her with their red recording lights. “I’ll have to check when I get home.”
Lindsey backed up, her naturally blonde hair swishing in a low ponytail. She didn’t have to fake anything with chemicals. “You don’t have to wait.” She pulled out her cell phone and tapped the screen to life. “Here’s the whole article.”
Annamae scrolled through the tabloid piece, her hands shaking. She and Boone had gone out clubbing with the second baseman from Boone’s team and his new wife. At first glance they looked like two couples having fun, tearing up the town. But Annamae saw the truth in the photo. She saw love in the newlyweds’ eyes. Undeniable emotion.
Annamae looked at her own face and saw … acting. Damn good acting, but acting all the same. But was she just pretending to have fun? Or pretending to be in love?
And was the salon shrinking or were the fumes just making her dizzy?
“I’ll be right back. I need to go to the ladies’ room.” She snatched up her purse and made fast tracks around Lindsey and another woman under a hairdryer with foils heating.
Cape flapping, Annamae raced past a line of sinks in use, past a champagne fountain and into the bathroom. She clicked on the sparkling chandelier and sagged back against the door. Her heart hammered triple time. The gilded mirror reflected scared-as-hell eyes to go with that Medusa foil wrap.
The door vibrated behind her with a pounding fist. “Annamae,” her mother warbled – no doubt having downed at least three champagnes, “are you all right?”
“Fine, Mother,” she gasped. “I just need a moment to catch my breath. The fumes from the chemicals are messing with my asthma.”
Yet another reason she wasn’t the perfect daughter. Crummy lungs. Mousy hair. And mediocre grades. She should be happy that such a charismatic man wanted to marry her, but she could only see a life of being steamrolled. Overlooked. Fading. Coming up short.
“Annamae, honey, please collect yourself quickly. We need to get those foils finished or you’re going to have uneven highlights right before your wedding. Those camera lights can be particularly unforgiving.”
“Of course,” Annamae called back, knowing resistance was futile. Her life hadn’t been her own for years, not even her hairstyle.
“Let me get your father. He can fix anything. Maybe he can talk Boone’s team into giving him some downtime so you two can take a real honeymoon.”
Alone. With Boone and all his perfection? Her throat closed.
“Mom, he’s a baseball player. He can’t just take time off at the start of the regular season.”