Teaser Tuesday: Maid of Honor

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 Here’s an excerpt from my adult romance novel Maid of Honor.  It needs some work, but it should be good enough for a teaser.  Enjoy!

“God, I hate weddings,” Ariel proclaimed, tossing her controller on the bed. She watched as it bounced once, before switching the television off.
 The whole beautiful disaster that was flowers, and music, and what cake to have.  And don’t forget what color dress, and how to stand for this picture and that picture.  Ugh. It was just too much.  That is why I’m never going to do it.  They were just too much of a bother and God knew they never worked.  What were the recent statistics?  Over fifty-percent of all marriages failed?  Yeah.  No, thank you.
            “Well, it’s not your wedding, Ari,” Cat reminded her.  “It’s mine.”
            “Ah, yes, but as your maid of honor I’m expected to go through absolutely every awful stage of this thing with you.  You’re going to want to know if pink or red roses are better or should you hire a DJ or a band?  Sit down or buffet?  Not to mention the hours of invitation addressing.”  She shivered at the thought. “Then you’ll cry or scream at me when I don’t pick the one you wanted to begin with.”  She knew. She’d seen it before. 
How many times have I been a bridesmaid now?  She counted them quickly in her head.  Six, she’d been a bridesmaid six times in the last five years. What was that statement?  Always the bridesmaid, never the bride?  Not that she wanted to be the bride.
            Cat’s whispery laugh echoed through the phone lines. “I’m not going to be that bad.  Promise.  The whole big wedding is to appease our mothers anyway.  They’ve pretty much got the whole damned thing planned out for us.  So, please, please, please will you be my maid of honor?”
            Ari ran her ring-studded hand through her black hair. She hated it when Cat used that tone of voice.  It always crumbled her control.  “Damn it. I hate when you beg.  Fine. Fine.  When is it?” she asked.
            “In a month.”
            Ari’s jaw dropped.  “A month?  Are you crazy?  Why so soon?”
            There was a long pause, and then Cat asked, “Why not?”
            “Why not? I’ll tell you why not.  There is no physical way you can get everything taken care of in a month.  I can’t even comprehend the fact that you’re doing this but…wait…you’ve never rushed into anything in your life.  That’s my job.  Why so soon?” she asked again. 
            Cat sighed, making a sound like static on the phone line. “I just want to. Anyway, I’ll explain everything when you get here.  You’re coming for two weeks anyway.  Can’t you just extend the trip?”
            Knowing Cat could keep her mouth glued tightly shut when she wanted to, Ari glanced at her calendar.  She didn’t have anything pressing to do and her boss was harping on her to use up all her vacation time this year. She’d just have to see if she could use it all up at once.  “I don’t know. I’ll have to call my boss and find out.”
            “Great,” Cat said.  “Call me when you know. Toodle-loo.” She hung up, leaving Ari staring at the phone.  Why is she always doing that?  Back you into a corner until you had no choice but to agree, than leave you standing there to figure out the details on your own.
             Shaking her head, Ari punched in the numbers for her boss and crossed her fingers that she would side with her.
           
She should have known it, she thought, an hour later. Everyone is insane.  Who knew my bitch of a boss actually had a soft streak for weddings in that icy heart of hers? 
            “Go, go,” she’d said. “Weddings are fun.  So romantic.  Go and bring back lots of pictures. I just love weddings.”
            Damn it, Ari thought as she packed. The one person I’d hoped could stall the inevitable had failed me.  Now what? 
            Now, I fly to North Carolina and watch my best friend fall into the trap of Holy Matrimony.  Lovely, she thought with a grimace.
* * *
           
            Wonderful, Josh thought with a scowl, simply wonderful.  Not only had he gotten roped into marrying his best friend’s sister, now he had to go pick up her best friend from the damn airport. What did she have to come so early for, anyway? The damn circus–oh wait, that’s marriage, how could I forget?– isn’t for another month anyway
            He stared at his watch. The plane was late.  Figures. The damn things never came on time.  Especially when you needed them to.  He really didn’t have time for this.  He had other, more important, things to do.  Like supervise the construction on that pretty little Victorian he was restoring. 
            Idiots.  Who in their right mind would try to “modernize” a Victorian?  Well, at least with his restorations, the old lady would once again shine. Probably even before the wedding.
            He looked at his watch again.  Where the hell was that damn plane and how was he even supposed to recognize her?  All Cat had said was, “Pretty, with black hair and blue eyes. My height. Thin.”
            Nice description, Cat. How many thin women with black hair and blue eyes are going to get off that plane? He’d reserve judgment on the pretty part.  Most women thought their pals were pretty.  Didn’t mean they actually were.
            And what the hell kind of name was Ariel anyway?  Didn’t the mermaid have red hair?  And if she was named after Shakespeare’s Ariel, wasn’t he a guy? 
            Just then he saw a fairly attractive woman of about thirty with black hair step through security.  Straightening his shoulders he walked up to the woman, who was holding her bag to her body as if terrified that someone would steal it.
            “Hi. I’m Josh. Uh, Cat sent me instead of Connor.  I’ll take your bag for you,” he told the woman, who just kept staring at him like he’d lost his mind. He felt a hand on his arm and looked over to see another dark haired woman.
            He goggled at her.  She was simply stunning.  Her hair wasn’t really black, more of a sable, and there were yards of it.  Her eyes weren’t simply blue, either. They were cobalt and just as striking as the rest of her.  She was petite. A curvy five-two, he reckoned.  And all of it leg. 
            When she smiled he almost swallowed his tongue.  “Hi. I think you’re looking for me. I’m Ariel Sutherland.” 
            This was Ariel? She couldn’t have been older than twenty-five.  He turned away from the other woman who took off like a mouse who’d just escaped from being eaten.
            He grinned at Ariel causing her to blink. “Hi.  Josh Stanton.” He held out his hand and she took it without hesitation.  That is, until he brought it to his lips and kissed it. 
            She raised an eyebrow, trying to pull her hand away when she felt sparks shoot up her arm at his touch.  “You’re Cat’s fiancé, right?”
            He grimaced.  He’d forgotten for half a second he was engaged and wasn’t too happy she’d reminded him of it. “Yes,” he said and took her bag from her, slipping her arm through his. 
            She let him lead her to his car, but didn’t say thank you when he opened the door for her.  How rude, he thought, obviously manners weren’t something they taught in New York. He tossed her bags into the trunk and then drove away from the airport. She was staring out the window, but he could see her quite plainly glaring at his reflection.
            What the hell did I do? he asked himself. He tried a few more times to start a conversation, but she only ignored him or answered shortly, continuing to glare at him in the glass.
            Giving up, he drove the rest of the way in silence.  When they pulled into the driveway of Cat’s parents’ house, a beautiful old plantation home, she visibly relaxed. When she saw Cat, with her long blonde hair, blue eyes, and long, lean figure, waiting on the wrap-around porch, she started bouncing on the seat.  Weird woman, he thought, as she tore out of the car toward Cathy before he’d even put the car into park.
* * *
           
            God, what a creep, Ari thought, watching Josh on the other side of the dinner table.  The way he had stared at her in the airport should have been illegal.  It had made her blood pressure skyrocket before she’d reminded herself he was her best friend’s fiancé. 
            Well, to be truthful it wasn’t just his stare that had done it.  It was the thick wavy brown hair that had just begged for her to run her fingers through it and the eyes -the same color as her grandma’s prized jade elephant- that did nothing to detract from his tough, sharp jawed face. Even the small scar on the bridge of his nose was sexy.  She shivered, remembering how his eyes had clouded with just a hint of desire when they’d looked at her.
            Then, remembering, she scowled.  He was taken.  Not just taken, but taken by her best friend.  That louse, she decided.  Already fantasizing about other women and he isn’t even married yet.  Maybe he didn’t want to be married, she thought. 
            If he didn’t want to get married, why was he?  It’s not like he had to.  Even if Cat was pregnant it’s not as if her father would make them have a shotgun wedding.  She pursed her lips as she thought about it.  Maybe it was a shotgun wedding. This was the South, after all. She tried sneaking a glance at Cat’s stomach, surreptitiously.
            Idiot, Ari thought, shaking her head, she wouldn’t be showing yet
            The front door banged open and Connor, the male equivalent of his younger sister, Cat, slammed through. 
            “Well, really, Connor.  Can you make any more noise?” Amelia, Cat’s mother, demanded.
            He grinned at her. “Sorry,” he said, his blue eyes scanning the room until he saw Ariel sitting by his father, Colin.  His smile got larger and he leapt across the room in three large bounds, picking her up and kissing her soundly.
             “There you are, gorgeous.  How was your flight?” he said, oblivious to his mother’s shocked stare.
            Just fine,” Ari replied, ignoring his demonstration.  He’d done the same thing every time he’d seen her, ever since they’d dated five years earlier.
            “Connor, sit down this instant and leave Catherine’s guest alone,” Amelia said.
            He grinned again and sat in Ari’s chair, pulling her with him and into his lap.  His mother scowled at him, but he didn’t release her. “How’s my best girl?”
            “Perfect, now that you’re here,” she told him, glancing over at Cat who was grinning at her.  Cat was way too used to the openness of their friendship to be concerned. But when Ari looked over at Josh, he was scowling at her. 
            Wonder what got his nose out of joint, she thought, before turning back to Connor.  “So, what was so important that you couldn’t pick me up from the airport?” she asked.
            He smiled and whispered in her ear, “What else would keep me away?”
            Ari laughed, knowing the only thing that would keep him away would be another woman. 
* * *
            Josh sat on the front porch enjoying a cold beer.  One of those rare moments in his life he usually enjoyed.  The hot, muggy air and a cold beer. Listening to the cicadas croon along with the crickets.  Even the mosquitoes weren’t a bother tonight.  But, not even the calm of the evening could relax him tonight. He wasn’t enjoying the sounds of the cicadas or crickets and, while he appreciated the mosquitoes finding their dinner elsewhere, he really couldn’t have cared less. He was annoyed.  And that annoyance held a name, along with its shapely figure.  Ariel Sutherland. 
            His reaction to her was simply male hormones, he told himself.  What man wouldn’t want her? Jesus. She had legs up to her ears and her voice had poured through him like warm brandy on a cold night. If that didn’t set a man’s nerves to humming, nothing would.
            It wasn’t any of that that was bothering him.  No sir, it was how she’d responded to him.  Warm and friendly one minute. The ice-queen the next. And it was obvious that she only had a problem with him.  Look at the way she’d responded to Con.  No ice on her then.  Betcha he’s had a piece of her, Josh thought with a scowl. 
            So, what? It’s not like you’re interested.  She’s your fiancée’s best friend.  Shit, now how did that happen?  He was going to get married.  Not for another month, but he didn’t want to be married.  Never wanted to be married. He saw his parents’ marriage.  Not a marriage, a farce.  Not a very funny farce, though. More of a cataclysmic disaster.
            Why they still lived in the same house was beyond him.  It wasn’t sex that was for sure. As far as he could tell, they hadn’t so much as slept on the same side of the house since he was ten. 
            And now, he was letting them do what his father’s parents had done to his father.  Forcing him to marry someone he didn’t love all for the family name.  How pathetic.  He should have said no. He should have put his foot down. 
            But no, his mother and father had ganged up on him and he’d caved.
            “Joshua, you are thirty-three years old.  It is time you settled down and married.  Since you haven’t found someone suitable, we have found someone who is,” his mother, Debra, had told him.
            He’d laughed and poured more brandy. “Who do you believe is suitable, Mother?”
            “Catherine Kordovan,” she’d said with a smile.
            He’d set down his brandy with a snap of glass against wood.  “No, she’s one of my closest friends. Practically my sister.  I refuse to destroy her life, and our friendship like you and dad did.  For some stupid ideological bullshit about bloodlines and heirs.”
            His father stood up. “You will marry her or I’ll cut you off.  I’ll make sure that every trust fund you have is cut off and if it can’t be, it’ll spring a leak.  By the time you hit thirty-five it’ll all be gone. Then how are you going to fund your precious house-flipping business?”
            Knowing his father all too well, Josh knew he’d make good on the threat, so he’d agreed to the marriage. And he’d asked Cathy.  To his great surprise, she’d agreed.  Now they were to be married and he was miserable.
            He looked up when he heard laughter and saw Ari and Connor start up the walk from the gardens.  He had his arm around her and she was leaning into him, her face lifted to his, and her mind-blowing smile on her luscious lips. 
            Josh scowled into his drink before he could entertain any thoughts in that direction.  Nope, that would cut off his trust fund faster than refusing to get married.  She was exactly what his mother termed unsuitable.  Gorgeous, but unsuitable.  Any woman who looked like a Playboy pin-up had to be, didn’t she?
            Connor and Ari glanced over when they walked up to the porch and Connor stopped laughing.  “Hey, Josh, why the long face?” he asked.
            Josh looked up and over at Ariel pointedly. “No reason.”
            Ari laughed, knowing that she was the problem, and kissed Connor’s cheek. Serves him right, she thought.  “I’ll see you later, Connor,” she promised, and ignoring Josh completely, flounced into the house with hips swinging.           
            Connor stared after her, and then sighed and patted his heart. “I love being a man.” He sat down next to Josh.
            “Isn’t it hard to make time with her through all that ice?” Josh asked.
            “Ice? On Ari? Man, have you got it wrong,” Connor told him, stretching out.
            “She was nice enough when I first met her and, Jesus, her looks stab right through you, but the minute we hit the car she iced up.”
            “What did you do?” Connor asked, looking at him. “Ari’s the nicest woman I know.  Most are vindictive little wenches in pretty gift-wrap. Not our little Ari, though.  She’s as sweet as they come.”
            Josh snorted. “Yeah, right. I’ll believe that when I see it.”
            Connor twisted his body to look at him. “What did you do?” he repeated.
            “I didn’t do anything.”
            Connor laughed. “You did something.  Ari isn’t one to turn ice-bitch for no reason.”
            “She asked me if I was Cathy’s fiancé and I said yes.  That’s when she went all ice-queen on me.”
            “Connor?” Ari’s voice called out from the door.  “Your father wants you.”
            “Damn.  I’d better go,” Connor said jumping up.  “It’s probably to discuss the ‘business’ again. I really hate that.”
            Josh chuckled and waved his friend away.  He heard his footsteps go into the house, then Ariel’s as she walked on to the porch. “May I?” she asked, gesturing to the space beside him. She’d heard what he’d said about her and thought it better to try and be friends, at least until the wedding.  Then, she could forget all about him.
            When he shrugged, she sat next to him.  “It’s beautiful here. I keep forgetting that.”
            “So, you’ve been here before?”
            “Yes, I used to come with Cat on our school breaks.”
            “Didn’t want to go home?” he asked, rudely. When she didn’t respond he looked over and saw sadness on her face. 
            “No. I didn’t really have a home to go back to.  My parents died when I was three. Car accident.  My grandmother raised me, but she died right after I graduated high school.”
            Insensitive clod, he chided himself. Stepped in that one. Keep that up and she’ll never like you.  Not that he cared whether or not she did.  “Sorry.”
            She turned her face to him and smiled. His breath caught in his throat and he had to turn away so he could breathe again. “It’s okay. I don’t really remember my parents.  And it’s been almost ten years since Nana died. It’s just a bittersweet memory now. I miss her though.  She was an awesome woman,” she told him.
            “Ten years?  How old are you?”
            “Twenty-five.”
            He spun around to stare at her. “You graduated high school at fifteen?”
            She smiled and his heart skipped a beat.  “Yeah, I’m a good student. My grandmother pushed me, but not too much.  I was the one who decided to go as fast as I did.  I preferred it.  I wasn’t really good around other people so I studied,” she said, shrugging.
            He stared out over the backyard, trying to control the hormones surging through his body. What is with that smile? It should be banned as an illegal substance.  “It was good of you to agree to be her maid of honor,” he finally managed. 
            She frowned. “I guess. I’m not into the whole let’s-go-crazy-and-spend-the-rest-of-our-lives-together, thing. Usually ends up in divorce.
            Boy, did he agree with that. “Or worse,” he muttered.
            She looked over at him, her cobalt eyes searching his face. “Or worse,” she agreed. 
            “Yet, here you are,” he pointed out.
            “She’s my best friend.  There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for her.”
            They were silent again, then she blurted out, “Did you knock her up?

3 Responses to “Teaser Tuesday: Maid of Honor”

  1. Liz Czukas says:

    >Holy long teaser, Jess! LOL.

    Definitely still on the rough side, but I like this story. It's cute. Holy cats has your writing changed since I first read this one!

    – Liz

  2. RavenClark says:

    >Had trouble leaving this comment for some reason.

    This is the first of anything I have read from Main of Honor. I love the teaser. It is long, but keeps interest, and that's more important.

    The characterization is great, as is the dialogue. Got some wonderful lines in there.

    Just curious, have you ever read a book called The Passionare Winter, by Carol Mortimer? Probably not, it's an old Harliquen book, and didn't do over-well. But odd, the heroine's name was Liegh Stanton, and the hero's name was Henry Sutherland! LOL. Very strange, but don't worry about the similarity, since few pople know of that book.

    Oh, I was trying to figure out what seemed differwnt about this from your other work and it just hit me. It's in Third Person Limited. I remember you telling me you always write in First, because you can't head hop. Well, you did a good job here. All the charactewrs are distinct, and the voices remain consistant.

    Great teaser, Jess. Hope you keep writing this one.

    Raven

  3. RavenClark says:

    >Holy smokes, all the spelling errors in my comment! The book I mentioned, it was suppoosed to be "The Passionate Winter." Apparently, I couldn't spell to save my life today! Sorry, Jess.

    Raven