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Dearly Beloved by Peggy Jaeger

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  • Match Made in Heaven 1

    Colleen O'Dowd manages a thriving bridal business with her sisters in Heaven, New Hampshire. After fleeing Manhattan and her cheating ex-fiancé, Colleen still believes in happily ever afters. But with a demanding business to run, her sisters to look after, and their 93-year-old grandmother to keep out of trouble, she's worried she'll never find Mr. Right.
     
    Playboy Slade Harrington doesn't believe in marriage. His father's six weddings have taught him life is better as an unencumbered single guy. But Slade loves his little sister. He'll do anything for her, including footing the bill for her dream wedding. He doesn't plan on losing his heart to a smart-mouthed, gorgeous wedding planner, though.
     
    When her ex-fiancé comes back into the picture, Colleen must choose between Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now.

    Rating: Spicy
    Page Count: 430
    Word Count: 109317  
    978-1-5092-2362-6 Paperback
    978-1-5092-2366-4 Digital

    Excerpt

    Chapter One

     

    “9‑1‑1! Colleen, I’ve got a 9‑1‑1 in the Bawl Room!”

    I cringed at the crisis call blaring through my earpiece. I hated emergency calls, especially when everything was about to start. To pull off the perfect wedding, just like when invading an enemy country during wartime, you have to run on a strict, unbendable time schedule. There was no room for deviation. A 9‑1‑1 call was the equivalent of a ticking time bomb, set to blow up the whole operation.

    “On my way,” I said. “Any bloodshed?”

    “None so far,” my assistant Charity Quinlan replied, her small voice breathless with urgency. “But it’s coming. Get here. I don’t know how much longer I can keep them from killing one another.”

    I shot from my command post at the back of my hometown church in Heaven, New Hampshire, and sprinted down the long corridor toward the kid’s section, affectionately known as the Bawl Room, which was the staging area for the soon-to-start wedding I was in charge of. The small space was given this moniker because it was where parents of unruly children shuttled their little miscreants when their behavior disrupted the congregation during Mass. My sisters and I had been banished to the room every Sunday of our childhood.

    I took a calming breath in front of the closed door—a door that did nothing to muffle shrill, raised, and angry voices—and ran a hand across my quaking abdominal muscles. They’d been throbbing and pulsing like a precision quartz timepiece from the confining, belly-flattening, spandex undergarment I wore to mask the extra eight pounds I’d recently packed on.

    I said a silent prayer to St. Gabriel, the patron saint of strength. “Breathe,” I whispered, making it a plea. “Just breathe.”

    Placing a broad smile across my face, I pushed through the door and entered into a tempest I regarded as the tenth circle of Hell: ex-wives.

    Two lavishly dressed women—one in her fifties, the other ten years younger, and both trying desperately to look in their thirties—stood, dyed stiletto to dyed stiletto, glaring at one another. Both had fisted hands planted on their hips, shoulders hunched, perfectly coiffed heads bent, ready to do battle.

    “Who do you think you are?” one screeched at the other. “You’re not her mother. You’re nobody in this wedding, just my ex’s current squeeze of the second, so back the hell off. Now!”

    The woman being shrilled at, all six foot of her in icepick heels, leaned forward and pulled her outlined, lipstick-enhanced mouth back into a perfect teeth-baring snarl. She jabbed one of her french-manicured tips at her aggressor and ground out, “I’ve been married to him longer than you were, bitch, and you know it, so who you calling squeeze of the second, because from where I’m standing, you were more like a mistake who got knocked up than a wife any day of the week.”

    The elder of the two was set to pounce, aiming for her rival’s perfect camera-ready face so I did a quick little jog and insinuated myself between them.

    “Ladies.” My gaze ping-ponged from one to the other. “Please. The wedding is about to begin. We can’t have this kind of behavior.”

    “She started it,” the actual mother of the bride, Mary Ann Stively said, pointing at her ex-husband’s current wife. “She says she should go down the aisle after me because she’s married to my loser ex—”

    “Who’s the father of the bride,” JoEllen, wife number two, said. She turned her back on wife one and faced me. “You’re the wedding planner, Colleen. You know proper protocol says I should go down the aisle right before the party, since I’m married to the father of the bride. I looked it up, read all about wedding etiquette and procedures.”

    “In what? Your current edition from slut-of-the-month book club?” Mary Ann spat.

    JoEllen’s eyes slitted under penciled eyebrows standing stationary on her unlined and unmoving forehead, a paralytic effect—I surmised—from years of Botox injections.

    “Why, you—” She inched forward and tried to reach by me, but eight years of track in school and four more in college gave me a decided advantage in swiftness. I blocked her, my arms splaying out at my sides so she couldn’t go around me.

    My left eye started to twitch—never a good sign—and I knew I had to set this situation to rights. Now. The wedding was scheduled to begin in less than ten minutes.

    “Mrs. Stively.” Both women stared at me. “Um, the current Mrs. Stively.”

    JoEllen pulled herself up to her towering height and gave her paid-for breasts a good forward thrust. “What?”

    “I know you feel you deserve to walk down right before the wedding party—”

    “I do.”

    “—but I’m sorry. Whatever you’ve read stating that was the correct procession is incorrect. The actual mother of the bride is the one who immediately precedes the party. Unless, of course she’s not present or deceased. Then it would be proper for a stepmother to be the last person down the aisle before the attendants and bride.”

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Dearly Beloved

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