Searching for love everywhere but in the right places, Christie Hayes is confounded when chocolate brown eyes wink at her at her best friend's wedding. A narrow miss of the bedpan, and she discovers old Mr. Hartway's grandson, Colton Keller, and brown eyes are one in the same.
Christie Hayes fluffed the bottom layers of Aleni’s silk wedding gown, dreaming of a marriage of her own when she should have been concentrating on her maid of honor duties. “When you said you’d be wearing your mother-in-law’s wedding dress, I thought you’d be wearing puffy sleeves and a headdress that dips over your forehead, not this beautiful silk gown and cap.”
Aleni smiled over her shoulder. “You all right?”
Taking in this scene of perfection, Christie choked back a sob. “I’m fine. Really. Let’s concentrate on today, your day.”
“That doctor you were dating.” Aleni frowned. “He responded ‘no’ to my invitation.”
Chewing her lip, Christie stared at the floor. “I’m sure he didn’t want to run into me.”
“You two broke up?”
Christie slumped into the chair next to the mirror. “We did. I know you warned me.” Her face crumpled into a frown. “He was seeing that pediatric nurse, Sara, on the fifth floor.” Christie lifted her head, jutted her chin out. “You were right about all of it. And I was wrong.” Her heart stuttered. “About so many things, Aleni. So many.”
“Oh, Christie. I didn’t tell you so I could be right.” Aleni leaned down and hugged her. “When are you going to find a guy who will treat you like a princess? Bad boys might be exciting, but they don’t change because of a promise or even a wedding ring. All guys with bad reps may not stay that way forever, but do you want to take the chance? You deserve better.”
Not wanting to appear helpless, Christie pushed at Aleni’s arms. “Let’s not talk about men. I don’t…well, I’m not smart like you. I can’t tell if they love me or they’re just saying it to make me happy. I’ve ridden the roller coaster of bad boys, and I still can’t tell the difference.”
“When a man loves you, you’ll know. He won’t have to tell you in words. There won’t be any guesses, and the man won’t pressure you into a relationship. There’s more to love than sex, Christie Hayes.”
Christie turned away, dabbing at her eyes. “I know. I just feel loved when there’s a man in my life.”
“Maybe, maybe not.” Aleni pushed a curl off Christie’s face. “I’m not a shrink. Only you know what you’re searching for. Now, stop crying or your makeup will run down your cheeks faster than an overflowing creek.”
Christie stared in the mirror. “Will run? Look at me. I already look like a raccoon. C’mon, girl. Don’t let me keep whining. You’re about to marry the most wonderful man in the world.”
“I am, that.” Gathering her skirt, Aleni did a one-eighty of the room. “Where’d Ty run off to?”
Christie re-applied her foundation and dabbed it with blusher. “He’s with Brice. Your little man is putting on his jacket. How did you find a size four tux?”
“Megan found it. Not as rare as we thought. His father would be so proud of him.” Her hands skimmed the edges of the flowers. Tears filled her eyes. “Eli was a good husband and father, but Brice will be, too. I am truly twice blessed.”
“You really are blessed, Aleni. If I believed in that stuff, that is.”
Aleni grabbed her arms with both hands. “You could be, too, Christie. If only you’d allow—”
“Not today, OK? Maybe when you get back from your honeymoon. I said I’d go to church with you—once. All right? Then, no more about it.” She wasn’t looking forward to it, but going to church one more time wouldn’t kill her if it would make Aleni and Brice happy.
“Deal,” Aleni said. “Doesn’t Megan’s dress look wonderful? I can’t believe she offered to let me wear it. And the veil’s her mother’s.”
Christie adjusted the small head-hugging cap. “So much prettier than those huge headpieces they wore in the eighties. This is lovely and perfect with the dress. Brice is going to faint when he sees you.”
“Oh, sure. Big bad soldier survives the madness of Iraq to come home and faint in front of a church full of people. How embarrassing would that be?” She giggled and pressed the flowers to her nose. “I can’t believe you arranged these. They’re gorgeous. And from Megan’s garden. I never realized how delicious peonies smell. Thanks, Christie. I couldn’t have done any of this without you and Megan.”
Christie smiled at the compliment and grabbed Aleni’s arm. “You hear that music? It’s calling your name. I think we’d better get out there.”
Megan peered around the corner. “Everyone’s waiting, missy. There’s a man who wants to marry you. And a little man who wants a new daddy—officially.” She grinned, but Christie recognized the hint of sadness in her eyes. Her son, Eli, had died in Iraq. And now, her daughter-in-law was marrying Brice Taylor, whom she welcomed with open arms. “Get a move on.”
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