By Debbie Mason
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Format:ebook (Digital original) $1.99 $2.99 CAD
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It's autumn in the cozy little town of Highland Falls, and for Sadie Gray, it's the most romantic time of the year, not to mention her life. After all, she's engaged to brilliant and gorgeous FBI agent Chase Roberts, whose kisses warm her from head to toe on chilly evenings. But Sadie's having trouble convincing herself that she deserves this much happiness—and deserves him. And the worst part is that Chase's family seems to agree . . .
Chase loves his grandfather, but he won't let anything—or anyone—get between him and Sadie. Especially when Chase has never felt this way about another woman. But when Sadie and Chase start planning to say their “I do’s” on a reality TV show, Chase's grandfather goes from disapproving to full-on Wedding Sabotage Mode. Now Chase and Sadie's special day is quickly turning into a disastrous three-ring circus. Can Chase and Sadie find their way back to each other . . . before their wedding turns into a happily never after?
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Sadie Gray stood at the front of the Blushing Bridal Boutique filming a segment called Say Yea or Nay to the Dress for her best friend’s YouTube channel, Abby Does Highland Falls. Their mutual best friend Mallory was the MC for the event.
It wasn’t a role Mallory was comfortable with. She was eight months pregnant, and being the center of attention on camera wasn’t exactly something she enjoyed. But her six-year-old stepson Teddy, who was one of Abby’s biggest fans, had won her over. Looking adorable in a black tux, Teddy stood beside Mallory to the left of the dais in front of a packed house.
The women filling the rows of white chairs had their paddles at the ready—yea on one side, nay on the other. So far none of the dresses had gotten more than a smattering of yeas. Sadie didn’t think it had anything to do with the dresses. Abby, the bride-to-be, looked like she was going to a funeral instead of shopping for her wedding gown. When Abby had first begun planning her wedding, Sadie had assumed her lack of enthusiasm was because she was pregnant and had morning sickness. But lately, she’d begun to worry something more was going on.
Raised whispers coming from behind the backdrop drew the audience’s attention. The shop owner—who had gone to considerable expense and effort to create a fabric wall that resembled barn board decorated with autumn leaves and pumpkins, the words Fall in Love just above where Abby should be standing but wasn’t—shot a nervous glance at Mallory, who in turn shot one at Sadie.
Sadie reached behind her for her phone on the counter and started “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder over from the beginning, raising the volume in hopes of distracting the audience from whatever was going on backstage.
Mallory bent to whisper in Teddy’s ear. The little boy nodded, disappearing behind the backdrop. Moments later, he returned with Abby clutching his arm.
She wore an organza mermaid wedding gown with a ruffled skirt, which wasn’t much of an improvement over the high-neck metallic lace dress she’d appeared in ten minutes earlier. They were beautiful dresses; they just weren’t Abby.
Mallory gave Abby an encouraging smile while reading from the notes the shop’s owner had given her. Then she said, “Okay, ladies and gentleman, are we saying yea or nay to the dress?”
Teddy was the only one who gave the dress a yea, which wasn’t a surprise. He’d voted the same way for every dress. But their audience didn’t just let their paddles speak for them; they began explaining in detail why they’d voted nay.
Sadie didn’t know who looked more defeated, Abby or the shop owner.
At the chime of bells, Sadie turned to see her cousin, Elliana MacLeod, maneuvering a stroller inside. Sadie stopped filming and hurried over to hold open the door.
“Sorry, someone was missing her mommy.” Ellie grinned down at Sadie’s seven-month-old daughter who babbled up at her from where she sat strapped into the stroller. The words were barely distinguishable except for one that sounded a lot more like dada than mama. It wouldn’t surprise Sadie if her daughter’s first word was dada. Not only did Chase spend an inordinate amount of time teaching her the word, but Michaela had rewarded him with her first smile and giggle too. “And her daddy,” Ellie added.
Sadie missed Chase as much as her daughter did. He’d once again flown to DC to check on his grandfather. It was his second trip in the past seven weeks. Sadie waited for the shoe to drop each time he came home, positive his grandfather had convinced him to give up on the life he was building in Highland Falls with her and Michaela and return to DC.
“Mommy misses Daddy too, baby. But he’ll be home tomorrow afternoon.” Sadie leaned in and kissed her daughter’s rosy cheek. She looked adorable in a pink faux-fur vest, gray-and-white-striped top, pink leggings, and gray baby boots. “And it looks like Auntie Ellie took you shopping again.”
Ellie had come home two weeks ago to help her maternal grandfather run the Mirror Lake Inn.
“I hope you don’t mind but I couldn’t resist. They were unveiling their new fall line at Cutie Patootie when we walked—” Ellie broke off at Abby’s raised voice, narrowing her violet eyes at Sadie’s best friend standing on the dais. Ellie’s grimace seemed to validate everyone else’s opinion of the dress.
“Okay, I get the picture, ladies. I think we’re done for the day.” Abby hiked up the wedding gown and tromped offstage.
“Wait! You have to pick a dress,” the shop owner called after Abby. “I won’t have enough time to order yours in before the wedding if you don’t find something soon.”
Abby and Hunter were getting married on October twenty-third, less than a month away.
“That’s fine.” Abby smiled before disappearing behind the backdrop.
The shop owner stood wringing her hands, shooting a do something look at Mallory, who in turn shot one at Sadie.
Obviously sensing that Sadie was at a loss for what to do, Ellie patted her shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’m sure I can find Abby a dress she’ll fall in love with.”
Sadie’s cousin reached back to twist her long, raven-black mane into a ponytail as she walked toward the wall of wedding gowns. Removing a clip from the pocket of her brightly colored ankle-length sweater, Ellie pinned her hair on top of her head, clearly focused on the task at hand. Sadie’s cousin owned Custom Concierge, a personal shopping company she’d founded in New York years before.
Blushing Bridal’s owner hurried over as Ellie flicked through the dresses with an expert eye. “We’re closed at the moment, but if you come back later, say, in an hour, I’m sure I can find you some—” the owner began.
“Lena, she’s not looking for a wedding dress for herself. Her fiancé left her at the altar in May,” said Babs Sutherland, the owner of Spill the Tea, shrugging in response to the women hissing at her to be quiet.
Sadie stared at her cousin. Ellie hadn’t said anything to her about a broken engagement or a wedding, and they’d once been as close as sisters. It couldn’t be true. But when Sadie’s gaze landed on their grandmother looking sheepish in the front row, she had a feeling that it was.
Ellie’s exclamation of delight drew Sadie’s attention from their grandmother. Her cousin was working a blush-colored lace dress free from among the frothy white gowns. Ignoring the shop owner’s moue and negative head shake, Ellie held up the dress, gave what looked like a satisfied nod, and made a beeline for the back of the store. She slowed to cast a disappointed look at their grandmother.
So Granny had spilled the beans after all.
Which was odd. Her grandmother didn’t like to gossip, especially about family. But if Agnes hadn’t told Babs, then how…? Sadie sighed. How indeed. Her grandmother had the second sight, a gift that she couldn’t really control. If she’d taken Ellie’s hand when she’d stopped in at I Believe in Unicorns, her grandmother’s store on Main Street, Agnes wouldn’t have been able to keep from blurting out whatever she saw in front of customers. She went into a trance-like state when foretelling someone’s future.
“It looks like your great-granny is in hot water with Auntie Ellie,” Sadie murmured as she crouched beside the stroller. “And it looks like Mommy is going to be up late editing today’s video for Auntie Abby’s channel. Let’s just hope Auntie Ellie picked a winner.”
Michaela took her fist from her mouth, offering Sadie a drooly smile before responding with a minute-long commentary in baby speak. Sadie laughed. “I think your daddy’s right. You’re going to talk as much as your Auntie Abby.”
Her daughter validated Chase’s predication by babbling nonstop for another few minutes, and, as Sadie so often did, she responded as if they were having a real conversation. “I agree. You are a very lucky girl to have so many amazing women in your life, including your Auntie Abby. I just wish she was a little more excited about her wedding.”
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Ellie said, coming to crouch on the other side of the stroller.
“Why not? What did she say?” Sadie asked her cousin.
“She didn’t have to say anything. Her first marriage ended in disaster, so she’s obviously afraid of making the same mistake.”
“Hunter is nothing like Abby’s first husband. He adores her, and she adores him. They’re perfect for each other.” The couple had been living together for more than a year at the farm on Honeysuckle Ridge.
“And that’s why she doesn’t want to get married. She’s afraid if they do, it will change everything.”
“But that’s crazy. It’s just a piece of paper.”
Ellie shrugged. “Fears are rarely based on logic.”
Sadie frowned, wondering if her cousin might be projecting after what Babs had revealed about Ellie’s disastrous trip to the altar.
“It has nothing to do with me,” Ellie said as if she had somehow read Sadie’s mind. “And before you ask, I don’t want to talk about it.”
At that point, Sadie was barely listening to her cousin. She was stuck on the thought that Ellie had been able to read her mind. She leaned in to her cousin. “You didn’t just put two and two together, did you? You didn’t just sense that Abby’s scared because her first marriage didn’t end in a happily-ever-after. You read her mind.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Her cousin avoided meeting her eyes, busying herself straightening Michaela’s vest. “Mommy’s being silly, isn’t she, sweetheart?”
“No. Mommy isn’t being silly. I know you, Ellie, and I know when you’re hiding something from me. Granny always told me I didn’t have to worry about inheriting her gift. She said the oldest MacLeod granddaughter would—”
Sadie was cut off by a cacophony of women’s voices yelling at her to start the music. “We’re not done talking about this,” she told her cousin.
Shuffling through the playlist on her phone, Sadie swapped out “Isn’t She Lovely” with Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in hopes that the change of music would bring about a change in the result. She thought it was a good sign when Michaela started moving to the music in her stroller. Sadie got up and retrieved her video camera, turning it on just in time to capture Abby walking out from behind the backdrop.
Abby had barely taken her place on the dais when Teddy’s paddle went up and he shouted, “Yea!”
He was right. Abby looked gorgeous in the lace wedding gown. The dress, warm beige with a hint of peach, complemented her best friend’s pale skin and long, curly red hair rather than washing her out like the white wedding dresses had. And while the other dresses had overpowered her petite frame, this one fit both her figure and her personality to perfection.
Smiling at Teddy, Mallory opened her mouth to read from her notes, but before she got out a single word, every member of the audience echoed Teddy’s yea.
“Yay!” he cheered, grabbing Abby by the hand. And for the first time that day, the bride-to-be smiled. A real smile that lit up her face and grew wider when Teddy started swinging her arm and dancing to the music. The entire front row got to their feet, clapping and waving their paddles. Within seconds, everyone in Blushing Bridal was singing and dancing to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
Sadie smiled as she captured the moment on video, her heart overflowing with love for her friends, her family, and her hometown.
“Turn off your camera and join in,” her cousin said, dancing past her with Michaela in her arms.
What the heck, Sadie thought. She had more than enough footage. She turned off the camera, set it on the counter, and danced her way to her cousin’s side.
The women in Blushing Bridal were still celebrating Abby’s wedding dress pick fifteen minutes later when Sadie’s cell phone rang. She glanced at the screen, and her heart thumped an excited beat. She shook her head at her reaction to seeing Chase’s incoming FaceTime call. Honestly, the way her heart raced you’d think she hadn’t spoken to him in a month instead of a mere fifteen hours.
“Hey,” she said, unable to keep her smile from spreading into an ear-to-ear grin when his gorgeous face appeared on the screen. Obviously, she had no shame when it came to the man. She was totally out there with her feelings for Chase, which was a new experience for her. And every once in a while, it gave her pause. Like now. Because the smile he offered in return was strained by comparison. “What’s wrong?”
“I can hardly hear you. Where are you?”
Okay, so maybe she was overreacting. “Just wrapping up at Blushing Bridal. Abby said yes to the dress. Give me a sec.”
- On Sale
- Jul 13, 2021
- Page Count
- 60 pages
- Forever Yours