Reluctant Bridesmaid: Softcover
Jordan Harrison no longer trusts relationships, so when her widowed mother is swept away by a handsome, wealthy architect, Jordan fears the hasty engagement will end in disaster. After all, how well can her mother know the guy after only a few months? Intent on saving her mother from certain heartbreak, Jordan races to Breckenridge Manor to delay the wedding, but runs into more than she’s bargained for—a handsome, understanding man intent on helping her heal past wounds and open her mind to new possibilities.
Known as the man with nerves of steel, Tanner Breckenridge lives up to his reputation, but it doesn’t take long for him to discover he has a soft spot for Jordan Harrison, the daughter of his father’s future bride. Loyal to his father, but captivated by Jordan, Tanner puts his heart on the line and risks everything for a chance at love.
Awards & Other Kudos
First Place Winner of the 2010 San Antonio Romance Authors Merritt Contest, Inspirational Category
“Get out of the way!” Jordan Harrison shrieked as she jammed the brake pedal into the floor. She released one white-knuckled hand from the steering wheel to smash her palm against the horn, but the blaring sound did nothing to deter the bewildered deer standing on the narrow country road.
The SUV’s tires hydroplaned on wet asphalt, sending the vehicle sliding out of control. Shock stole her breath, and she braced for impact. At the last possible moment, the deer bounded across the road and disappeared into dense foliage. Momentarily relieved, Jordan didn’t see the tree approaching until it was too late.
The passenger door smashed against the huge oak’s trunk, jerking her sideways. Her seatbelt snapped tight, tearing into flesh. Pain erupted in her shoulders and shot up her neck. Bark splintered. Metal crunched. Seconds later, a quiet stillness replaced the grating, metallic sounds.
The tension headache she’d had a few moments ago paled in comparison to the intense throbbing in her skull now. Nausea threatened, and she closed her eyes as her breathing came in short, rapid bursts.
Lord, I don’t need this. Not now.
Tires screeched on the road behind her, but the sound didn’t register until her driver’s side door jerked open. “Are you OK?”
Jordan looked toward the anxious voice, and her breath caught. A tall, broad-shouldered man leaned in the doorway. His dark-haired good looks and handsome features stunned her nearly as much as the accident had.
Concern creased his brow as his light blue eyes roamed over her. “Should I call an ambulance?”
Jordan drew in a shaky breath and whispered, “No. I-I’m OK.”
“Are you sure?” His deep voice sounded apprehensive. “I saw what happened. You hit that tree hard.”
“I’m a little shaken, but I’m not hurt.”
The man’s tense features relaxed, and he nodded. “Sounds like someone up above was looking out for you.”
“I have no doubt about that.” Jordan pried her fingers from the wheel and raked a hand through her hair. “You must be the guy in the white truck that’s been following me.”
“I wasn’t following you. We just happened to be heading in the same direction. There aren’t many places this old country road leads. You must be headed for the lake, too.”
“I was. I mean, I still am.”
“Come on. Let’s get you out of there.” His muscular arm brushed her shoulder as he leaned across and released her seatbelt. Heat slid along her skin where he touched her, and Jordan stilled. With all the problems she faced, she had no time to deal with a spontaneous attraction to a stranger.
She steeled her nerves and took his offered hand. His warm, solid grip helped steady her as she stepped out on shaky legs. The rain-freshened air calmed her but did nothing to ease her churning stomach as they walked around the vehicle to view the damaged side. Jordan’s heart lurched at the sight of the crumpled passenger door and flat right, front tire. She shook her head at the unexpected and costly delay. “I’m going to be late for dinner.”
The man’s startled gaze snapped to her. “You could have hit that deer and been seriously injured or killed. I’d hardly think being late for dinner is something you should be concerned about.”
“It’s a little more involved than that, but you’re right. At least I’m alive.” She rubbed her temples as she surveyed the remote, desolate area. “The travel brochures claimed this road to be a picturesque, winding drive toward Smith Mountain Lake. I agree with the winding part, but I’m not so sure about how scenic it is. I haven’t seen anything but trees and fields for the past hour.”
He knelt and studied the deflated tire. “Don’t forget about the Virginia wildlife.”
“Oh, yes. The deer are scenic.”
“Unless you run into one.” He stood and dusted his hands. “Do you have a spare tire?”
“Then you can probably drive out of here. If you’re up to it.”
“I can drive.” She eyed her SUV with speculation. “Are you sure the engine isn’t damaged?”
“I don’t think so. But, if you don’t want to take the chance, it would be my pleasure to give you a ride.”
She shook her head. “Thanks for the offer, but if you dropped me off I’d have no way to escape if I needed to.”
He gave her a questioning look but didn’t comment. “Let me grab a few tools, and I’ll give you a hand.”
“Thanks, I appreciate your help.”
“No problem.” He headed toward his truck with long, purposeful strides.
A curious wasp buzzed by Jordan’s head, weaving back and forth as if sizing her up. “Go away.” She nearly swatted the pest but stopped herself. She did not need a nasty sting adding to her misery.
Securing her shoulder-length hair in a clip, she blew her thin, wispy bangs from her eyes and crossed to the vehicle’s rear, placing some distance between her and the roving insect. She lifted open the back door and unzipped her suitcase. Shuffling through her hastily packed items, she found a bottle of ibuprofen. Swallowing two pills on a dry throat nearly gagged her, as they left a bitter, gritty texture on her tongue, but she managed to get them down. She swallowed again to dislodge the horrid aftertaste.
With hopes the pounding in her head would soon ease, she dropped onto the bumper and took in her surroundings. The momentary silence after the accident had given way to a cacophony of insect and animal sounds, most of which Jordan didn’t recognize. She did pick out the sound of tree frogs from among the various inhabitants and a set of crows screeching their distaste at her presence.
“Yeah, well.” Jordan slapped at a thirsty mosquito as she lifted her gaze to a set of black birds circling overhead. “I don’t want to be here either.”
The man returned with a lug wrench and a jack. “So, what kind of dinner are you attending that you need a way to escape? Is it a blind date or something?”
“No. It’s not a date. I’m meeting my mother’s fiancé for the first time.”
“And that’s not a good thing?”
Jordan scoffed. “All I want is to talk sense into Mom and take her home.” Her fears and anxiety came back in full force as she thought of her dire circumstances.
“Talk sense into her?” The man tossed the words over his shoulder as he dropped the tools and ducked under the SUV, paying no mind to dirtying his clothes.
Jordan waited for him to drag out the spare tire before she answered. “Yes. Sometimes I think an unpredictable stranger has replaced my sensible mother. She was always so level-headed before. Now I don’t know what she’s thinking.”
He rolled the tire toward the front, and Jordan followed with the jack and lug wrench. Setting down the tire, he knelt and draped an arm across his knee. “So what’s changed?”
“Mom met some wealthy architect and lost her common sense. She’s only known him three months, and she’s already agreed to marry him.” She rubbed the nape of her neck, soothing muscles rigid with tension.
The man stilled as astonishment crossed his features. “Jordan?”
Startled, she took a step back. “H-how did you know my name?”
He grinned and ran a hand over his clean-shaven jaw. “I’m Tanner Breckenridge.”
Dumbfounded, she struggled to intake a lungful of air. “You’re Maxwell’s son?”
“In the flesh.”
Of all the people to witness her mishap, it had to be her mother’s fiancé’s son? “Scoot over. I need to get to the lug nuts.”
“Jordan, I can change the tire in five minutes.”
With enough problems to face already, she did not want to be indebted to the Breckenridge family—for any reason. “I can manage just fine on my own.”
He hesitated and then relented. “If you insist.” He stood, eased around her, and leaned a shoulder against the injured oak tree, casually crossing his ankles. He twirled a finger around a waist-high blade of grass, absently plucking it from the earth as if he had no care in the world.
Jordan didn’t know much about Tanner, but she did know he lived with his father. Not wanting to make a fool of herself if she had trouble loosening a lug nut, she suggested, “Why don’t you go on home? I don’t want to make you late for dinner.”
He said nothing and Jordan’s irritation mounted, but she focused on her task. The sooner she worked her way out of this mess, the better. The evening sun peeked through the remaining clouds, warming the June air and drying remnants of the brief rain shower. A trickle of sweat rolled from her creased brow, and she swiped it away. With damp palms, she placed the wrench on the nut and pressed hard. Sore from the accident, her muscles complained and the tool slipped. Her hand smacked against the blown tire’s rim. Pain seared through her fingers. She dropped the tool, and it brushed her new Capri pants before hitting the ground, leaving a smudge of dark, greasy dirt on the material.
“Let me know if you change your mind.”
Jordan twisted and looked up. “You’re not going home are you?”
“Nope. I’m not sure what kind of men you’re used to, but around here, we don’t leave stranded women alone to fend for themselves.”
Jordan might have warmed at his chivalry if she hadn’t been so aggravated. “Suit yourself.”
She felt his gaze on her back as she placed the wrench on the nut again. Careful not to lose her grip this time, she yanked hard. Her knuckles felt the impact, but the nut didn’t budge. Biting her lip to keep from screaming in frustration, she took a deep breath and yanked harder.
“Try applying a slow, steady pressure.” Tanner’s calm voice penetrated her efforts.
Jordan glanced over her shoulder, dismayed to find him kneeling close behind her.
He nodded. “Slow and easy.”
Swallowing her pride, she scooted closer and pressed slowly, leaning her weight into the task. The nut slipped a quarter of an inch. Trying again, she managed to loosen the nut. She turned to Tanner, expecting to see traces of smugness but found none.
“Thanks,” she murmured. Using the same technique, she loosened the other nuts and set the jack under the SUV.
“Your mom tells us you own a website design business.”
“That’s right.” Not in the mood for small talk, Jordan didn’t elaborate. She pumped the jack, slowly easing the vehicle from the ground. After removing the nuts and the tire, Jordan heaved the spare into place. Beads of sweat rolled down her temple, back, and her chest as the temperatures continued to climb. Absently swiping her forehead, she secured the lug nuts. Pleased with her work, Jordan let a small smile escape. She stood and dusted her hands, trying unsuccessfully to remove the grease from her fingers.
“I’m impressed.” Tanner rose alongside her, his lips curving into a smile.
“About what? The fact I own a business or that I changed a flat tire?”
He lifted a shoulder. “Most women I know wouldn’t even attempt to fix a flat.”
“Well, I’m not most women.”
“I can see that. You’re not at all like I expected.”
“Oh?” Curiosity sparked. “And what did you expect?”
Tanner shrugged again, and his smile revealed a dimple on his right cheek. “I thought you might be a little more like your mother. Sweet and delicate.”
“Sorry to disappoint you.”
“On the contrary, I’m intrigued. But it wouldn’t have hurt my feelings if you really needed me. As a matter of fact, it probably would’ve boosted my ego a little.”
Jordan doubted the handsome son of a famous, wealthy architect needed an ego boost, but she refrained from commenting. She plucked her shirt, lifting it from her damp skin and letting it fall back into place, wishing she wasn’t so grimy and sweaty. She must look wretched and smell horrible.
“I’d better finish the tire. I need to shower before dinner.” She released the jack. The wasp suddenly appeared again, threatening her with a painful sting. It danced around her face as if coming in for a closer look. She leaped up and backed away, running into Tanner’s solid, hard chest.
“Easy now.” He grasped her upper arms, steadying her.
Jordan jumped from the unexpected contact. Taking a step away, she spun in circles looking for the precarious insect.
“Hold still. Don’t give him any reason to hurt you.”
A tiny wisp of air touched the nape of Jordan’s neck, and she cringed.
Hold still? Yeah, right.
Ducking her head, she ran behind the tree. When the wasp followed, she called over her shoulder, “I think he likes me.”
“I don’t blame him.”
Jordan stumbled over the tree’s winding roots, barely keeping herself from falling as she came back around. “We just met. How do you know if you like me?”
“Well, so far, I haven’t experienced a dull moment with you. Aside from the fact you slammed into a tree, it’s all been very entertaining.”
Jordan stilled and drew her brows together. “I am so glad you’re amused.”
His lighthearted chuckle added to her annoyance.
“Well, don’t just look at me. Do you see the wasp? Is it gone?”
Do you think Jordan would have gone through so much turmoil if she had taken the time to pray for wisdom and guidance before making up her mind to 'fix' her mother's hasty decision?
Q2. Tanner's past decisions cause him to live with regrets. What kind of regrets do you have? How does this affect the decisions you make today?
Q3. Tanner Breckenridge seems to have it all, but Jordan soon learns appearances are deceiving. When Tanner explains he gets his security from God, Jordan starts to think about where she puts her faith. Do you trust God to provide for your needs?
Q4. By the end of the book, Jordan realizes only God can change people's hearts. Have you ever wanted to change someone only to discover you were the one needing to change?
Q5. God can and does make good things come out of bad situations. Jordan found a new life with Tanner amidst circumstances she could see no good outcome from. Name something positive in your life that arose from a seemingly impossible situation.