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Wedding Haters (Event to Remember Series-Book 2)

Wedding Haters

A Novel

By Melissa Baldwin

To all my girlfriends—you know we’ve all hated a wedding at some point.

Chapter 1

 

This could very well be the most amazing place in the universe. I’m still in awe that this is happening to me. I would keep pinching myself, but I’m starting to get weird marks on my arms, and pretty soon, people are going to start talking. I don’t know what exactly they would say, but you never know with all the haters out there. I actually just read one of those funny e-cards on Facebook and it said, “Cheers to my haters, the best is yet to come.” I admit I have a (small) addiction to those funny e-cards.

I walk around the ballroom and envision my wedding day-- too bad October seems so far away. I’m not the most patient person in the world. OK, truth be told, I’m not patient at all. My fiancé Cole on the other hand is extremely patient, or it could be that he is so laid back that patience is not of any importance to him. He’s a stand-up comedian, and as you can imagine, he hardly takes anything seriously. However, his marriage proposal was a big production.

After one of his shows, he actually hired people to approach him and ask him for his autograph. He introduced me as his girlfriend and then said, “I’m hoping she will become my fiancée tonight.” The lady he hired then proceeded to take off her wedding ring and tell him to kneel down and ask me. It turns out she had my ring the whole time. People were cheering, and I sat there like an idiot wondering exactly what had happened. OK, I know how this sounds, but it really was the most romantic and fun thing that has ever happened to me. I’m sure it will be a story that our great-great-great-grandchildren will talk about.

“Madie, earth to Madie. Hello, wake up?” I notice my best friend Sienna is waving her hand frantically trying to get my attention.

“Well? Are you happy with everything so far?” she asks smugly as she folds her arms. She’s obviously proud of herself and already knows what my answer is going to be.

“Are you kidding? Yes!” I exclaim.

The truth is I’m beyond pleased with everything. Sienna recently launched her own event planning company, and she has done really well so far. She spent years working for a well-known event company and possibly the most horrible human being to ever walk the earth. Since then, she built a name for herself, and it has paid off. And now my wedding is turning into one of the biggest events of the century. Who knew?

I wish I could say that I haven’t been one of those bridezillas you hear about. But that would be a lie. I mean, I’m not completely impossible or anything like that. I would say indecisive would be a more fitting word. In my defense, unlike the majority of the state of California, I’m planning on doing this only once. That means only one wedding, one marriage, to one man for the rest of my life.

As I walk around, I remember when I was growing up I had pictured myself dancing under twinkling Christmas lights in a recreation center or maybe a church gym. Not that there is anything wrong with having a wedding in either of those places, believe me I would marry Cole in a parking lot if I had to. I guess to some people a wedding in the ballroom of a hotel may not be that glamorous, but to me it is. I feel like royalty!

There’s only one problem; I’m having a difficult time choosing everything that I want. Like I said, I tend to be a tad bit indecisive. But honestly, why do I only have to choose one dress or one cake? There are so many possibilities out there, and thankfully, Sienna is level-headed enough to keep me grounded. I have a feeling I’m about to drive her to start drinking, a lot.

I take a break from my daydreaming to glance at my phone. A feeling of dread comes over me as I’m thrown back into reality. Crap! I’m going to be late for my next appointment.

“AHHHH!” I scream. “I have to go. Mrs. Wilson is going to be at the salon in twenty minutes.”

“See you later.” I hear Sienna yell as I sprint out of the ballroom. I’m a freelance hair stylist and Mrs. Wilson is a “special” client. In other words, she’s also a close friend of my grandmother’s, and I will hear about it until the end of time if she is unhappy or if I’m late. Every time I see her name on my schedule, I feel like I should take a Xanax. I have a very good reputation and a wonderful clientele, but when my grandmother refers her friends, I become a hot mess. The most interesting part is that my grandmother has never come to me to get her hair done. Not that I’m surprised about that.

I absolutely love doing hair; it’s my passion. Well, it’s one of my passions. My other passion is baking. Many people are shocked when they hear this. About a year ago, I started decorating cookies and somehow started a side cookie business. Looking back, I’m not even sure how it all came about. It started with a few birthday parties and showers, and then it happened, my big break. Several months ago, I was “discovered” at my friend Abby’s birthday party. Which brings us to now; in a few weeks, my cookie creations will be featured in Bev’s Sweet Treats in Beverly Hills. Yes, as in 90210! I still haven’t decided on an official name for this business. Really though, I’m not even sure if it is a business or a hobby or what? I had some business cards made that say Cookies by Madie, but I think I need to get a little more creative and choose an official name. Cookies by Madie sounds really boring and lame, or so I’ve been told.

All of this excitement and my recent success have definitely pleased my grandmother, which doesn’t happen very often. I have disappointed her a few times throughout my adult life. My decision to drop out of college to go to cosmetology school was the big one. Especially because my overachieving cousins Ellie and Stephy chose “respectable” careers. Those careers being accounting and architecture. My parents tell me that she loves me the same, but I’ve never felt that way. Needless to say, my choice in having my wedding reception at the Four Seasons and my cookies featured in a Beverly Hills bakery brought my status up from pure disappointment to somewhat acceptable. Don’t get me wrong, I know she loves me, but I think she loves my cousins a little more. I know I may sound like a spoiled child, but at least I admit I have childhood issues. Isn’t admitting it a step in the right direction or half the battle or some other old saying that is supposed to be therapeutic?

Somehow, I manage to beat Mrs. Wilson to the salon with about four minutes to spare. She’s notoriously punctual, so this is a surprise. I run around and grab my supplies to prepare for the next few grueling hours of my life.

When she arrives, I can see that she’s in a good mood today. She asks all about my wedding plans, which is ridiculous because I know my grandmother has been giving her a play-by-play of every detail. Things get a little awkward when she starts asking me if her son and his wife will be seated at her table. I completely fumble over my words because I’m 100% sure that her son is not on my guest list. The truth is I don’t remember ever meeting her son. I start to panic, so I tell her I will have to “check on that.” If I was to tell her no, then she would call my grandmother and then grandmother would call me. I know she would go on and on about how Mrs. Wilson is one of her greatest friends and how her son fixed Grandmother’s garbage disposal ten years ago, so of course he has to be on the guest list. Hopefully Sienna will come up with a genius plan to get us out of this.

After I finish with my appointment, I find my phone and dial Cole’s number.

“Hey, girl,” he answers with a raspy, deep voice. He says he’s trying to channel Ryan Gosling. I love when he does that.

“Just finished with Mrs. Wilson,” I say as I start to clean up my station.

“How is my girlfriend Helen?” he says sarcastically. Mrs. Wilson loves Cole. She says he reminds her of an old boyfriend she had many years ago. She always links her arms in his and giggles every time she’s around him.

“She was in a good mood, but I’m sorry to tell you that she didn’t ask about you at all. Maybe she’s over you,” I say sarcastically.

“What? I seriously doubt that,” he says with a laugh. “Hmmmm, I guess I will just have to marry you,” he adds.

I smile to myself. I’m so in love with this man; he makes me happier than I ever thought I could be. Even when I’m mad at him, he still has some kind of magical power that makes me forget why I was ever mad. After I hang up, I start to reminisce about when we met. It was a little over two years ago. The truth is at first he annoyed me to no end, so annoying that every time I was around him I wanted to punch him. He was always sarcastic and never seemed to take anything seriously. Now looking back, those are some of the qualities that I love the most. His passion for life is one of the things that made me fall in love with him. He has such a positive energy, and he is one of those people that can make friends everywhere he goes. I wish I had his warmth and openness.

Looking back at my dating history, there were times I thought I would never find someone so amazing. I think it’s safe to say that I had some of the absolute worst dating experiences ever. One day I woke up and realized that I was just wasting time. I pulled myself together and went after my dreams. Not long after, Cole came along and the rest is history.

Cole comes from a strong and loving family, but he’s definitely the wild one in the bunch. His mother, Susan, is your typical perfect wife and mother. I usually feel completely inferior around her—not because she purposely makes me feel this way, but because I’m the woman who is taking her baby boy away. She’s also a member of several women’s clubs in the community, she hosts tons of fabulous dinner parties, and she wears pearls while cleaning.

Cole’s father is usually very quiet and lets Susan dominate their lives. I think he likes it that way though. They are very educated and conservative, and I don’t think they were pleased with Cole’s decision to become a professional comedian. But they support him nonetheless. Susan and the rest of his family have always been so nice and welcoming to me, they’ve become a second family since my parents moved out of state. I’m an only child, and the only family that lives nearby is my grandmother and my two cousins whom I’m not close to at all.

Speaking of my grandmother, she’s left me several messages and we keep missing each other. She loves to keep tabs on our wedding plans to ensure that we are planning a proper event. Her heart is in the right place, or so it seems, but she is definitely “old school.” She demanded that I take a class on proper dinner etiquette-- the kind with the correct silverware and where to put your pinky finger while drinking tea. I totally lied and told her I did. I know that’s bad, but I figured I could go on YouTube and learn all of that nonsense in case she tries to quiz me, and knowing my grandmother, she will.

After work, I join Cole at the club for dinner and his show. When I finally get home, Sienna is already asleep. Our apartment is in a constant state of disarray as we are both cleaning out all of our junk and packing to move. Well, really all of my junk because Sienna doesn’t have any junk. She would be considered an anti-hoarder. I don’t know if there is a show about anti-hoarders, but if there ever were, she could easily be the star. This move has been a hard transition for both of us because we have been roommates for years and friends for even longer. Right around the time of my engagement, Sienna went through a really horrible breakup. At that time, everything seemed to be changing at once. Things were especially hard for us because I didn’t like her boyfriend, and I was vocal about it. Since then, she’s in a great place and has found a beautiful new apartment that will be close to both me and our friend Abby.

Abby is our other best friend. She just had a beautiful baby boy named Ace Matthew. Abby was definitely born to be a mom; she’s also a teacher and the first of our friends to have a baby. Abby is always the one who takes care of everybody; she’s understanding, nurturing, and patient.

When I go into my room, I find a note along with a list from Sienna on top of my mess. I’m a little surprised she didn’t attempt to clean up in here. I admit it’s bad, probably worse than ever. I sit down and read her list. She has been on me to pick out centerpieces and make choices for the caterers. After months of asking, and now begging, I still can’t decide what I want to do. I made the mistake of going on Pinterest, and now I keep changing my mind. Since the wedding is in October, I chose warm colors: plum, gold, and burgundy. I also picked out my wedding gown pretty quickly too. It was the third gown I tried on. I thought that was the most important decision I had to make, but I know that’s not enough for her.

I look around my room and let out a huge sigh. OK, I have a lot of stuff. I didn’t realize how much I had till I attempted to clean out my closet. I really, really hate throwing things away. Seriously, you never know when I might need that Eminem T-shirt or those Rollerblades that were only used twice. How could I give those away? I spent good money on all this stuff; if I were to get rid of it, I might as well throw hard-earned money into a fire.

Much to my dismay, I start to go through a few piles of clothes. I decide to give away two pairs of pants and three shirts. This is so huge for me that I consider waking up Sienna to tell her the good news. Probably not the best move.

Instead, I fall asleep with my makeup on again, and when I wake up, my eyelashes are stuck together from my mascara. I have a full day of clients, so I quickly get ready. I’m about to leave when my phone rings and I see my grandmother is calling. I contemplate letting it go to voice mail, which is silly because she will keep calling until I finally answer. Here goes nothing—

“Hi, Grandmother,” I answer cheerfully. “How are you?”

“Hello, dear. I wanted to let you know that Helen said that you did a wonderful job with her permanent.”

“Oh good. I’m so glad.” I punch the air in excitement and let out a sigh of relief. Even though I absolutely hate when she calls it a “permanent.” I consider correcting her but why bother because no matter what she will continue to call it a permanent.

“The other reason I’m calling is because I spoke with Ellenor, and she mentioned that you had not called her or Stephanie regarding the bridesmaid gowns. When were you planning on doing this?”

I must be hearing things because I’m not sure what she is talking about. Does she think that my cousins are supposed to be a part of my wedding?

“What do you mean? Why would I talk to them about that?” I reply nervously.

“Madison, surely you aren’t waiting until the last minute to pick out the gowns?” she insists.

“Grandmother, Cole and I are having very small wedding party. Sienna and Abby each chose their own dress. I told you this.” I remind her.

“Madison Grace Wales, are you telling me that you’re not planning to ask your cousins to be a part of the biggest day of your life?” she asks sharply. “I think that your friends are lovely girls, but they’re not blood relatives. The girls would be devastated if you didn’t include them.” She continues on with her tirade and I start to tune her out. I even mention that Cole has only asked his brother and his friend Jeff to be groomsmen. After listening to her carry on for a good ten minutes, I finally tell her that I will think about it and discuss it with Cole. That seems to appease her for now, but I know this is not over. Not even close.

When I hang up, I’m frustrated. There is no way I want to have my cousins as bridesmaids. We played together when we were little, but as we got older, they were never nice to me. It was always the two of them ganging up on me any chance they could. My mom would always tell me just to ignore them and that they were jealous of me, blah, blah, blah. Honesty, I never understood why because they always had each other. They actually remind me of the stepsisters from Cinderella except not as viscous. However, I don’t intend to let them anywhere near my wedding gown, just in case.

We hardly have any contact now, other than family dinners or holidays. We’re Facebook friends but that’s only out of family obligation. Ellie never officially congratulated me on my engagement, which doesn’t surprise me. She’s the meaner one of the two for sure. Stephy said congrats, but she tends to do whatever Ellie tells her to do. I decide to call Sienna to tell her about the conversation because I know she will know how I need to handle this

“Are you kidding me?” she shrieks. “You can’t have Drisella and Anastasia in the wedding.” I laugh because there have been countless times when they have taken on those names, usually after they started trouble for me and got my grandmother all riled up.

“I know, but you know how my grandmother can be,” I say sadly.

“Madie, you can’t let her bully you. This is your day,” she insists.

“Yes, I know,” I agree. “Anyway, on a more positive note, I looked through some stuff last night, and I’m giving away two pairs of pants and three shirts. Aren’t you proud of me?” I say excitedly.

“That’s great, but,” she hesitates, “I was in your room last night. Are you sure that’s all you want to give away?” she says sarcastically. “There are things in there you haven’t worn in years, not to mention that horrible Eminem shirt.” I knew it! She always hated that shirt. I’m sure it was giving her a major anxiety attack not to get rid of it.

“Hello? Have you not heard anything I’ve said? I have more pressing issues to take care of. We have to figure out how to handle my grandmother before I worry about anything else.” I say, trying to change the subject. “I promise I will get around to it. In the meantime, because you’re my wedding planner, maybe you can call my grandmother and talk some sense into her?” I beg.

“Ohhh.” She stops. “I don’t think that’s in my job description.”

“I know, but maybe you can talk to her from a professional angle. You always know the right things to say,” I plead.

When I hang up, I’m hopeful that I have convinced Sienna to get me out of this mess. Fingers crossed.

I finally get to work and try to put the conversation from the morning out of my mind.

I love my job. I mean really love my job. Honestly, how many people can say that and mean it? Sometimes I feel like a therapist, but for the most part, it’s pure entertainment. Today’s clientele does not disappoint.

My first client is Chloe; I see her every seven weeks to the day. Every visit she has a new true love and she “knows” that they are the one, as in her soul mate put on this earth to find her. Those are her words, not mine. After talking for the majority of her appointment, she asks about the wedding plans. I tell her all about the amazing Four Seasons and about my conversation with my grandmother.

“That totally reminds me of when my sister got married. My mom took control of everything. Things have never been the same with them,” she explains. “Don’t let her tell you how to plan your day because something like this could forever change your relationship.”

“Everyone seems to think that’s an easy task,” I explain. “When it comes to my grandmother, I turn into a child again.” I’ve spent a lot of time going out of my way to please my grandmother, probably even more than my own parents.

“So, you’re seriously considering having two girls in your wedding that you don’t even get along with?” she asks. “Girl, that’s crazy.”

“It’s not that we don’t get along, exactly . . .” I hesitate as I trim the back of her hair. “We just haven’t really had any contact with each other in fifteen years.”

“That’s kind of the same thing,” she says. “And how do you even know that they would want to be in the wedding?”

“That’s a good point. I haven’t thought of that, and knowing them, they probably don’t. This may be all my grandmother’s doing.” I start to feel better, and I know exactly what I need to do to move on from this nonsense.

After work, I sit down to think about what I need to say to my cousins. I know that I need to call Ellie even though I really, really don’t want to. This is completely ridiculous that I’m this nervous. I never get nervous talking to anyone; I’m usually very bold.

I dial Ellie’s number, and as it continues to ring, I’m praying that she doesn’t answer. As soon as her voice mail comes on my heartbeat slows down. I leave her a quick message and hang up.

A few hours later, I’m happily baking in my kitchen. Lately I have been baking a lot, testing new cookie designs and creating new flavors in preparation for Bev’s Sweet Treats. I have a secret cookie ingredient, but I have never told anyone. Sienna claims she knows what it is, but I think she’s bluffing. She’s threatened to reveal it on a few occasions when she has gotten mad at me, but I still don’t buy it. I’ve just created some adorable monogrammed cookies when I hear my phone ringing. I’m hoping it’s Cole and not Ellie, but no such luck. I take a few breaths and answer.

“Hello,” I say timidly.

“Madie, it’s about time you called me. I was wondering when I would hear from you,” she says cheerfully.

I check my phone screen just to make sure I didn’t imagine seeing her name. This doesn’t sound like Ellie at all.

“Ellie, is that you?” I ask.

“Of course, mad Madie,” she says with a chuckle. I groan; that’s a nickname they gave me when I was younger. I used to get so upset when they were mean and that was the nickname they gave me. I still hate it.

“You know I hate when you call me that. Anyway, what’s up?” I try to create some small talk before the dreaded bridesmaid discussion.

“Steph and I were waiting to hear the details. How’s everything coming?” she asks with an overwhelming genuine concern, too much concern. I’m trying to process her question because I don’t know if she’s asking about the wedding plans in general or about bridesmaid gowns.

“Everything is coming along well. Sienna is on top of things as usual. How are things with you?” I’m pleased with my response as I try to move on to talking about her life. Although, I’m still curious as to why she cares so much about my wedding and my life, I can’t remember one time in my adult life that she has been so eager to talk.

“Grandmother says you are having it at the Four Seasons. That sure is a nice place; of course I wouldn’t expect anything less for you, Madie,” she says with a chuckle.

“Thanks,” I reply. There it is, that underlying, condescending tone that Ellie is so good at. Now I’m positive I’m talking to Ellie. “Speaking of Grandmother, she mentioned something about my bridesmaids’ gowns, and I’m not sure what she was talking about. I’m really sorry if she was harassing you about it.”

“It’s fine; we just figured you were so busy that you forgot to give us the details. So, when do we get to see pictures and where should we get our fittings?” she asks.

Crap! Did she just ask about fittings? This is really happening; they think they are a part of my wedding even though I never asked them.

“Ellie, honestly, I didn’t mention the gowns to you because I assumed you guys wouldn’t want to be in the wedding. I know this is not exactly your thing,” I explain. “Especially because we haven’t talked in months.”

“Are you serious? Why wouldn’t we want to be in the wedding? We are family; you are like a sister to us,” she says softly. Sister? Did she really say sister, since when? She’s up to something; it’s probably just another way to earn points with Grandmother or to tell people they will be a part of a Four Seasons wedding. Either way, I have to put a stop to this and fast!

“Cole and I have decided to have a very small wedding party. I didn’t pick out any gowns. Sienna and my friend Abby each chose their own gowns. So . . .”

“That’s even better; Stephy and I will start looking ASAP. I hope you at least have a color scheme,” she says. Oh no! What do I say? These girls have never shown any interest in my life before, and now they are dying to be in my wedding? I need to just be honest. I need to ask why they are suddenly so eager to have something to do with me.

“Wait, Ellie,” I interrupt. “I have to be honest that I’m really surprised about all of this.”

“What do you mean by that?” she says sharply.

“I just mean that I’m surprised you want to be a part of my wedding. We haven’t had much contact over the years, and I know how busy your schedules are.” I taper off in hope that she takes the way out I’m offering her. My hopes are dashed as she continues talking.

“Madie, I know we haven’t been as close as we were when we were kids, but you are more important than any busy schedules. Of course Stephy and I will be a part of your day.”

There are no words to express my shock at that moment. First of all, the fact that she said we were close blows my mind. This girl has gone completely mad.

“I hope you understand that I have to talk to Cole,” I reply. Yes, that’s it! I will blame the man; that’s always a safe way out. ”We hadn’t really planned for a larger wedding party, and it’s only fair that I discuss it with him,” I add carefully.

“I suppose, but is this not your wedding, and haven’t we been like sisters to you?” she asks firmly. “I should think he wouldn’t have a problem with this. Unless, he is one of those controlling men that has to have the final say. Madie, have you turned into one of those submissive girlfriends?”

“Of course not. Cole is not like that at all, but it’s still the right thing to let him know if I make any changes.”

“Whatever, just let me know the details soon. I need to have time to find the perfect dress.” When I hang up the phone, I’m still in shock. A part of me wonders if I just imagined this entire conversation. I have no idea how I’m going to get out of this mess. I still hope that Sienna will step up to the plate and save me. I know the right thing would be to just suck it up and ask them. On the other hand, this idea has the potential to ruin my perfect day.

Cole is traveling for a few days, so I send him a text.

Call me soon. Need to talk.

When I speak to Sienna, she reminds me of the torment and frustration that these girls can cause. I know she’s right, but if I exclude them this could have lasting negative effects within my family. My aunt and my mom are still pretty close, and I know that I will never live it down. I can’t even count the number of times my mom has begged me to move on from my issues with them. Perhaps it’s time I grew up and got over it.

A few hours later, after I finally talked to Cole, I decide that it’s the right thing to do to move on from the past. Tomorrow, I plan to call each of them separately and officially ask them to be a bridesmaid. I really hope I’m not making a big mistake.

 

*

 

The next morning I call my mom before work. My first client isn’t until 11 a.m., so I have a few hours free. I explain about Grandmother’s phone call and my decision to ask the girls to be in our wedding.

“I can’t tell you how happy this makes me,” she says joyfully. “Aunt Kate has asked me a few times, but I have tried to stay neutral. This will make things a lot less awkward for everyone.” I can hear the relief in her voice. This is typical; my mom has always tried to stay neutral, even at my expense.

“I know, Mom. I just wish you understood why this is so hard for me,” I explain. “They were horrible to me, and to this day we’re not close at all. This is a huge step for me. I just hope I’m not going to regret it.”

“Madison, I know they weren’t always nice, but you know how mean teenagers can be and you’re all adults now,” she says. “And don’t forget they’ve always been jealous of you; that’s probably why they acted that way toward you.” I roll my eyes. If I had a dollar for every time my mom has told me this, I would be a billionaire. I tune out the rest of this conversation because no matter how she tries to spin this there is never a good reason to bully another person. Also, neither of them has ever had a decent relationship that I know of, and I’m sure that’s bothering them. Now, here I am getting married in a beautiful venue to my own prince charming surrounded by everyone I love.

“When I spoke with Ellie last night, she seemed really excited about the wedding, which I find strange but whatever,” I say.

“Kate has told me that they are really happy for you and were hoping to be involved,” she adds.

I don’t have the heart to tell my mom that Aunt Kate has no clue what she is talking about. My aunt tends to be really ditsy; don’t get me wrong, I love her and I know she’s had a hard life. Her husband left her and my cousins when they were young, and she pretty much had to make a life for them on her own. I know this is what my mom means when she says they were always jealous of me. My dad was always around, and I did have a great childhood. I suppose this is also why my grandmother always favored them over me. After a few more minutes of hearing how proud of me she is, I get off the phone. I can only take this conversation in small doses because it always ends the same way.

I decide to call Stephy first because she’s easier to deal with and she actually congratulated me. She doesn’t answer, so I leave her a message. I take a few deep breaths before I call Ellie.

“Ellenor Smith,” she answers.

“Hi, Ellie, it’s Madison.”

“Madie, two times in twenty-four hours. I’m so lucky,” she says with a snicker. I take another deep breath and mentally force myself not to hang up the phone.

“Yes, it’s your lucky day,” I say sarcastically. “I wanted to call you back to let you know that I spoke with Cole. We would be honored if you and Stephy would be a part of our wedding day.” I bite my lip; I’m not sure if she will see right through me or not.

“Really?” she says, sounding surprised. “Oh wow, I can’t tell you how happy I am that you said that. I know you may not believe this, but we were really hoping you would ask us. We are family, and we should all come together for such a happy occasion.” Wow. I feel like I’m taking to Grandmother. I wonder if she wrote a script for Ellie to recite.

“I know, and that means a lot,” I say uncomfortably. “I will email you some details. I also left Stephy a message, so if you talk to her before I do just let her know.” After I hang up, I actually feel good about my decision. Maybe our relationship is evolving and we will grow closer over time. Or maybe I just ruined my entire wedding. All of a sudden, I feel nauseous.

After a busy day at work and the stress of my family stuff, I’m looking forward to dinner with Sienna and our friend Craig. We are meeting at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. I also have to find a way to break the exciting news to Sienna.

“Madie!” Craig yells my name and gives me a big hug. “I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever.”

“I know. How are you?” I ask as we sit down at our table.

“Sienna has me slaving away. You know she’s a drill sergeant at work. I hardly even get to stop for lunch or even a sip of water,” he says, giving a laugh. “Oh, and forget about bathroom breaks,” he adds. Craig works for Sienna at her company Sheer Happiness Events. They have worked together for years.

“Hell ya, I know how she is. She’s been on me to clean my room for weeks. She must think I have nothing better to do; that girl cleans in her sleep.” We both start laughing. Poor Sienna doesn’t say a word; she’s such a good sport.

“OK, guys! You’ve made your point,” Sienna says.

“I actually have some news,” I say quickly. I figure I may as well get it over with and break the news to them about the evil stepsisters joining the party.

“You’re not pregnant, are you?” Craig demands. “Because if you are, you will look awful in your dress.” I can tell he’s completely serious. “Not to mention you will have some serious explaining to do to your grandmother. Please let me be there when you tell her.”

“Craig!” Sienna shouts.

“What?” I shriek. “Of course I’m not pregnant. Why would you ask that?”

“You said you had some news,” he says innocently. “I just figured.”

“No, I’m not pregnant, but . . .” I hesitate, “I’m not sure you will be much happier with what I do have to tell you.” Both Sienna and Craig are staring at me.

“We have two new members of the bridal party,” I say excitedly. At least, I try to sound excited. I feel like someone should start playing some horror movie music because the look of horror has come over Sienna’s face.

“Oh no, tell me you didn’t!” yells Sienna. “I can’t believe you gave into the pressure from Grandmother.”

“Who are these people?” Craig asks with a curious look in his eyes.

“These people are my cousins, Ellie and Stephy,” I tell him. “We haven’t been close in a very long time, or ever really,” I add. “I got a call from Grandmother the other day to tell me that they had been asking about the wedding. Between my grandmother, my mom, and them, I finally gave in to the pressure and asked them to be bridesmaids.” I glance at Sienna, and she still has the same horrified look on her face.

“I know what you’re thinking,” I tell her.

“Do you?” she asks. “Madie, you are one of the strongest and boldest people that I know. Why is it that you let them tell you what to do?” I groan because I know she’s one hundred percent right. I usually have no problem standing up for myself. At the same time, maybe this is a step toward a new relationship with my family.

“You’re right,” I say finally. “But, I’m willing to give them a chance. Ellie seemed really happy when I asked her, and my mom was really happy too. I’m hoping that maybe this will change our family dynamic.”

“So, tell me what’s so bad about Ellie and Stephy?” Craig asks. “Their names are adorable by the way,” he says with a laugh.

“Ha! Yeah well, don’t let the names fool you. When we were growing up, they were little terrors and that didn’t improve with age. They were so mean to me, and I still haven’t completely gotten over it.”

“So what!” says Craig. “Kids were always mean to me for as long as I can remember. It happens to everyone.”

“I know,” I say thoughtfully. “But there’s one moment that stands out in my mind.” I pause. Both of them are staring at me, listening intently. All of a sudden, I’m nervous to tell my story, but I start to tell it anyway. “When I was thirteen, we were at a family friend’s birthday party. I had saved all my allowance for several months to buy these awesome Guess jeans. I was so excited to wear them for the first time that night. I still remember every detail about this party. There was a huge Italian buffet and probably about fifty guests or more there. I had just gotten my plate of food and sat down at the table next to Ellie. I stood up to reach across the table to grab a napkin, and then I sat back down. Little did I know that Ellie had put a plate of spaghetti sauce on my seat, and I sat down in it. Ellie and Stephy were practically rolling on the floor laughing, and they had told the other kids beforehand, so everyone was watching to see it all play out. When I realized what had happened, I just sat there and started crying.” I get so caught up in my story that I almost forget that I’m talking to Craig and Sienna. At that moment, I feel like I’m back in that dining room, and the tears are welling up in my eyes.

“Anyway, I know it sounds silly and I’m not thirteen anymore.” I dab the corners of my eyes with my napkin. “I guess I just have never fully gotten over it.”

“OK, so that would be pretty traumatic for a thirteen-year-old,” Craig replies. “Did they get in trouble?”

I let out a sigh. “Yes, they did, but it never lasted. Somehow, they always seemed to come out on top. My mom has always said they were jealous of me because their dad left when they were young. My grandmother always favored them, but it got especially worse after we grew up. They chose the respectable professions, and I decided to go to cosmetology school,” I explain.

“We also sort of nicknamed them,” Sienna chimes in. She looks at me with a smile and winks.

“Yes!” I smile. “When I was younger, I used to feel like I was Cinderella and they were the evil stepsisters, so we kind of gave them the nicknames.”

“Drisella and Anastasia?” Craig exclaims. “I LOVE it, and I can’t wait to meet these girls. I have a feeling this wedding is going to be very eventful.” He gives a mischievous grin. This is right up Craig’s alley; he lives for drama. I really hope that he is wrong or at least that he means eventful in a good way. Now I’m really wondering if I’ve made a huge mistake.

Chapter 2

 

A few days later I’m in the middle of baking madness. My kitchen is now filled wall-to-wall with cookies. The floor is covered in flour, and the counters and table are covered in cookie sheets, cutters, and fondant. I have spent all of my extra time trying to create new masterpieces for my bakery feature. I feel as if I have no creativity left. Why is it when I’m making cookies for fun I can do anything I want, but now that I need to be super creative I can’t come up with anything? I really think that I have hit a cookie block. Yes, I know there is no such thing as a cookie block, but it sounds good to me. I have called everyone I know to ask for advice and ideas.

At one point, I sit down in the middle of the floured floor almost in tears, praying for new ideas. While in the midst of my prayer, I have a creative breakthrough. My wedding venue is the Four Seasons, so that’s it, the perfect idea. My theme needs to be the four seasons—fall, winter, spring, and summer. I’m going to feature each season with a variety of designs. I pull out my sketchbook and start jotting down some ideas. I start with fall: I definitely need Halloween, fall leaves, and Thanksgiving. My excitement starts to build even more as ideas come to me. For winter, I have a million ideas for Christmas, snowflakes, and a lot of Tiffany blue. Next is spring with Easter, flowers, and more flowers. And finally, for summer I will do suns, flip-flops, and surfboards. I look up from all my ideas and feel rejuvenated. Somehow, I need to narrow it down because too many cookies will be overwhelming and busy. I get to work and somehow lose track of time. It’s not until I hear a knock at the door that I look up from my work. When I open the door, I’m happily surprised to see Abby and baby Ace.

“This is an awesome surprise. What are you two doing here?” I say, giving them a huge hug.

“We were out running errands and wanted to stop by.” She gives me a look. “You must be baking. I’m sorry to interrupt you.”

“No way!” I say, running to wash my hands. “I’m way overdue for a break, and I need to get my baby fix.” Abby sits down in the living room, and I join her, reaching for baby Ace.

“How are the wedding plans coming?” she asks, handing me the baby. I’m so preoccupied with baby talk that I don’t even respond right away.

“Things are good. You know Sienna has everything under control, of course,” I say with a grin. “Although I think she may be frustrated with me. Not just because I’m indecisive but because of my two new bridesmaids.” I realize that I’m not sure if Abby knows anything about my recent plans. “Has she told you yet?”

“Told me what?” Abby says nervously.

“I have asked my cousins to be in the wedding,” I say slowly. “I received a call from my grandmother, and she told me they had been asking about my wedding. So . . . after some thought, I asked them.” Abby is quiet for a few seconds, which is not surprising. She’s very supportive and fair, and you can always count on her to give everyone a chance. She also tends to be the voice of reason, and as I said, she was born to be a mother.

“Did your grandmother pressure you to ask them?” she asks curiously. “The reason I’m asking is because you have hardly ever mentioned them since I’ve known you, and when you have, it’s never been positive.”

“I know, and that’s totally true,” I reply. “But, it just finally hit me that maybe the time has come to get over it and move on. We are adults now.” Wow, I sound like my mother. Ugh, I can’t believe this day has come.

“I think you’re right,” she says finally. “You never know, maybe this is their way of trying to make it up to you. They may have realized how they treated you and this is the only way to fix it.” I guess she could be right because they would never actually apologize.

“Possibly,” I say doubtfully. “I’m sure it’s more the fact of being a part of a wedding at the Four Seasons. I’m not saying they don’t feel bad for how they acted, but I know Ellie well enough to know that I won’t be getting much of an apology.” Baby Ace starts to fuss a little, and Abby hands me his bottle. I start to feed him and keep talking.

“She even had the nerve to say that I’m like a sister to them, a stepsister maybe,” I say with a giggle.

“So, what does Cole say?” she asks.

“Oh, you know Cole. He’s fine with anything. Sienna, on the other hand, thinks it’s a horrible idea. I just keep reminding myself that she has plenty of experience with weddings, so she should be able to handle whatever comes along.”

“I think that’s safe to say,” she says with a smile. “So, speaking of Sienna, has she mentioned anything about how things are going with Ace?”

“Not really, but we haven’t had much time to talk about it,” I reply.

Ace is a guy that Sienna has been dating on and off. He is a-mazing, but she’s being overly cautious since her last dating nightmare. He’s had to travel back to Europe quite a lot for work. He absolutely adores her, and she definitely likes him but won’t completely admit her feelings. I can understand why considering how her last relationship ended. We also set her up on a date with Cole’s best friend, Jeff. She liked him too, but he lives in San Francisco, so things haven’t really progressed much. Abby and her husband, Matt, have actually become pretty good friends with Ace. They even named their baby Ace, which has been a topic of many discussions (and many jokes) for all of us.

“I wish she would just stop holding back,” Abby says.

“I know, but I think a lot of it has to do with their work schedules. She has been extremely busy, and I know he has been back and forth to the UK a lot. But, do you know something I don’t?” I ask finally. Abby gives me a look that tells me she has some gossip.

“OK, I wasn’t supposed to say anything, but Ace called me before he left town this last time,” she says excitedly. “He basically asked what he has to do to convince Sienna that he’s serious about her. It was really sweet and my heart just went out to him. What do you think?”

I sigh. “I have no idea what the answer is. She really has her guard up since everything went down with Luke.” Luke is Sienna’s ex-boyfriend. She was madly in love with him, and he completely broke her heart. He even had an affair with her former boss, the most horrible being on the planet. Long story, but now she’s so hesitant to get serious again. Of course, if you ask her, she will tell you that she’s concentrating on her career right now. I’ve known her long enough to know she’s completely full of crap, and that truthfully she is terrified of getting her heart broken and understandably so.

“We have to think of something,” Abby demands.

“I agree,” I say thoughtfully.

“It may be time to recruit Craig into this, and we can call it the Sienna Love Project,” she says eagerly.

I make a face. Um, no, we can’t.

That’s typical Abby though, always looking out for everyone else. She’s much more subtle than I am when it comes to sticking her nose in other people’s lives. Truthfully, we all worry about Sienna; she deserves happiness more than anyone else. We talk for a little while longer, and then she leaves to get Ace home for a nap. I make my way back to the kitchen and the cookies that are waiting for me. After talking about Sienna and Ace, I’m reminded how grateful I am to have Cole. It’s as if Cole was reading my mind because when I check my phone there is a text from him waiting for me.

Want to get married in Vegas and forget this big wedding? (Wink) Or maybe the beach in Hawaii?

He asks me this question all the time, and he knows how much it irritates me. I text him back.

What do you think?

I know how much he really enjoys tormenting me, but I think that deep down (really deep down) he’s just as excited about our wedding as I am. Men always pretend they don’t care but they really do.

I think I better quit while I’m ahead.

I smile as I read his text. I’m about to write him back when he calls.

“Hellooo?”

“You aren’t going to dump me are you?” he asks immediately.

“Well, if you mention canceling my wedding one more time, I might have to,” I say, laughing.

“OK, I promise I won’t. But you still could dump me. Everyone tells me you are way too hot for me anyway.”

“This is true,” I reply.

“So, what are you doing?” he asks.

“Baking as usual. Abby and baby Ace stopped by. I’m working on new ideas for Bev’s.” I look around at my disastrous kitchen and let out a huge sigh.

“I can’t wait to see them; I’ll be home tomorrow afternoon, and my mom wants us to come for dinner this weekend. Are we free on Friday night?” Cole always checks with me about our schedule. Other than his shows, he leaves all other plans to me.

“Yes, we are free,” I say after checking my calendar.

“Oh yeah, and mom asked if you wanted to invite your grandmother. I told her I wasn’t sure. Are you in the mood for a night of emotional torture?” Cole starts to laugh hysterically. He knows how sensitive I am when it comes to my family, so he really thinks it’s funny to tease me.

“Hmmm . . . I think your mom is enough to handle at one time.”

“Word. I will see you tomorrow.”

After we hang up, I start to feel a tiny bit guilty. Maybe I should invite my grandmother to dinner. A few minutes later, after thinking about it, my feelings of guilt are gone.

When Friday arrives, I have a very busy day at the salon, and I’m tired, very tired. I received a call from Susan (Cole’s mom) yesterday morning requesting a few dozen cookies for a brunch she is attending on Saturday. So I was up until the early morning hours working on those in addition to setting up cookie displays and sending pictures to Bev with all my ideas for the bakery feature. I managed to finish all of Susan’s cookies and took my time wrapping each of them to bring to her tonight. In addition to her last minute request for cookies, she informed me that she took it upon herself to invite Grandmother to dinner and she accepted. I considered calling in sick to dinner, but I decided to just suck it up and take what comes.

After nine hours straight on my feet, I arrive at my soon-to-be in-laws’ home. I absolutely adore their house. It’s something you would see out of a Pottery Barn catalog, probably because almost everything in it is from a Pottery Barn catalog. Everything is bright, cheerful, and perfectly decorated, not even one throw pillow is out of place. When Cole’s parents bought the house, it was in shambles. They completely gutted it and remodeled from ceilings to floors.

As I said, Susan is your typical matriarch hosting parties, cooking fabulous dinners, and organizing family gatherings. She threw us a beautiful engagement party a few months back. Sienna and Craig nicknamed her June Cleaver and that’s not far from the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I really love her and she’s always been so nice to me. I, however, have never seen her without makeup or in anything other than designer clothing. Before I go inside, I check myself in the mirror. I always feel that I need to look my best when I come over here, and with my grandmother attending tonight, that need is magnified.

Cole is already there when I arrive. He’s sitting in his mother’s massive kitchen devouring some of her delicious cooking. Have I mentioned that Susan is an amazing cook? I feel like I gain at least five pounds every time I come here. Of course, that’s an exaggeration, but it’s probably not too far off. My grandmother has not arrived yet, so that gives me a few minutes to gather my thoughts.

“Madison, you look wonderful as always.” Susan greets me with kisses on both cheeks and a warm hug. Cole gets up from his chair, grabs me, and swings me around in the air.

“She always looks perfect!” he exclaims. “Way too good for me.” He kisses me passionately and sets me back down on the ground.

“Oh, honey, these cookies are perfect!” Susan says happily as she looks in the box. “You’re so talented.” I can feel the relief wash over me because she is happy with them. Even though I’ve made countless cookies for her, I still get a little nervous every time. After all, no woman wants to disappoint her soon-to-be mother-in-law. I thank her and sit down with Cole at the table.

“I’m so glad your grandmother was able to make it tonight, and it will be so nice to finally meet your cousins,” Susan says as she is stirring something on the stove. I’m about to say something…um, what did she just say?

“Wait! What do you mean meet my cousins?” I yell louder than I intended.

“Your grandmother is bringing your cousins along. It’s so wonderful that we will get to meet more of your family members, and I was so happy to hear that they’ve joined the wedding party.”

“They’re coming tonight? Here? I, um, I didn’t know that.” I hesitate and try to lower my voice. I think I might pass out. I’m just so tired that I don’t know if I’m mentally prepared to deal with the three of them. I excuse myself and run to the bathroom with Cole following me.

“Mads, are you OK?” he asks worriedly.

“I think so; I just wasn’t expecting to see them tonight,” I reply. “You haven’t met them yet and they can be . . . well, they can be completely evil,” I explain. “I promise I’m not exaggerating. I just hope that they’re on their best behavior and that they don’t make a scene at my expense.”

“They better not; you know that I always have your back,” he insists as he cradles my face in his hands. At that moment, I feel my nerves calm a little.

“Thank you.” I give him a warm kiss and wrap my arms around his neck.

“Although, I have to tell you that I’m really excited to finally meet the wicked stepsisters. You aren’t wearing any of their clothes are you? Are there any singing mice running around?” he asks as he looks around on the floor.

“Haha! Although, you are my prince charming, so I guess that would make me Cinderella,” I say with a big smile.

“I suppose I am rather dashing,” he replies with a horrible fake British accent. Just then, Susan interrupts our private moment.

“There you are. Why did you run off so abruptly?” She sounds very concerned. I contemplate explaining everything to her, but I’m not sure I want to share the skeletons in my closet just yet.

“I’m sorry. I’m just a little nervous about seeing my cousins. I haven’t seen them in a while,” I explain.

“Don’t you worry! When it comes to family, it doesn’t matter how much time goes by,” she says as she pats my arm.

This woman has no clue what is about to take place. My grandmother alone is a piece of work; thankfully, they have met and really got along well. I’m secretly hoping that the Ellie I spoke with on the phone is the Ellie that shows up tonight. Susan and Cole leave as I take a few more minutes to myself. As I stand, there in Susan’s perfect guest bathroom it occurs to me that maybe I’m completely over-reacting. Ellie and I did have a good conversation, and ultimately they have gotten their way by being asked to be in the wedding. That should be enough for them to be on their best behavior and not make themselves look bad in front of my new family.

Just then, I hear the doorbell ring and hear several female voices. Cole knocks on the door.

“All hell is about to break loose, are you ready?” he says, raising his eyebrows. He grabs my hand.

“I’m ready, but the question is, are you?” I lean up on my tippy toes to give him another kiss, and we head to the living room as if we are walking into a lion’s den.

Chapter 3

 

You can’t pick your family. I don’t think there has ever been a more profound saying. I’m really hoping this dinner party goes well. I’m sure Ellie will have plenty of snide comments, but it’s not like I haven’t dealt with that before.

After Cole drags me out of the bathroom, I was greeted warmly by my grandmother, not surprising because she knows how much Susan and I get along. Grandmother will do anything to make others think we are a perfect family. She’s always been very concerned with how others perceive us.

“Madie, you look great as always,” Stephy says. She wraps her arms around me with a big hug.

“Yes, she does!” Ellie chimes in. “Although, you still can’t decide what to do with your hair. Aren’t you worried that all of those chemicals will eventually make your hair fall out?” She puts her arm around my shoulder and gives a small squeeze.

“Ellie, you know I’m a stylist. It’s part of my job description to change my hair, and no, I’m not worried about it falling out.” I glance at Cole and I can see the excitement in his face. He probably thinks we are about to throw down or have a catfight—which would be a more appropriate saying in the presence of my grandmother? I’m not saying that I’m a fighter by any means; however, I’ve had my moments that I’ve had to defend myself.

“Well, I love that she changes it up,” he says. “I feel like I have a different girl every month.”

“And you must be Cole; I’m Ellie,” she says, giving him a once over. “Finally we meet, and I can’t tell you how happy we all are for you and our Madie.” Ellie looks over at me and gives me a big smile. I know I’m being extremely paranoid, but I can’t shake the feeling that something just doesn’t seem right.

“It’s nice to meet you, Cole. I’m Stephanie, but everyone calls me Stephy.” She reaches out to shake Cole’s hand.

“This is all so wonderful!” Susan exclaims. “I love when two families come together like this, and it will be even better when Karen and Bill are able to be with us.” Karen and Bill are my parents. Everyone starts talking at once as we make our way to the living room. I remain quiet as I take it all in. Cole’s father has joined everyone, and my grandmother is busy praising the girls.

“Yes, my Ellenor and Stephanie have both done extremely well in their careers. I’m just so proud,” she says fondly. “I have a wonderful legacy!” She glances in my direction. “And of course Madison, after all, she is the reason we are all here together.” I plaster a fake smile on my face; once again, I’m an afterthought.

“Madie, tell us all about this bakery thing you have going on,” Stephy asks.

“Oh yeah, we heard you’re now a baker or pastry chef, is it?” Ellie adds. “That was a huge surprise. Didn’t you break our Easy-Bake Oven when we were kids?” She giggles. Seriously, not that damn Easy-Bake Oven again. I’m pretty sure she brings that up at every family function. I decide it’s best to just avoid that discussion.

“No, I’m not a baker,” I reply calmly. “I’m a cookie designer, and my cookies will soon be featured at Bev’s Sweet Treats. I just started it as a hobby, but surprisingly it took off,” I say proudly.

“Oh yes, I have some right here,” Susan says excitedly as she gets up to get the cookies I brought for her brunch. “They’re not only beautiful but they’re also delicious.”

“Wow, those are really good,” Stephy says as she looks through the box. ”We have another friend that does cake decorating, right, Ellie? It looks really fun.” I catch a glimpse of Ellie as she looks at them; I can tell she’s impressed but clearly trying to hide it.

“Did you really make those?” she asks doubtfully.

“Of course, why do you ask that?” I say defensively. I can tell she wants to say something else, but she holds back for a few seconds.

“Those are almost too perfect to be homemade,” she responds. I watch her expression; it looks as if she is about to explode.

“Well, I can promise you they ARE homemade,” I say finally. “You’re more than welcome to come over and check out my disaster of a kitchen.”

“Madie, don’t get defensive,” she says, cracking a smile. “Madie has always had a tendency to overreact. She has never taken criticism very well.”

“Don’t you worry, Madie.” Ellie says patronizingly. “Your cookies are very cute.”

HA! There it is, she wanted to get a reaction out of me and she got it. I’m about to say something I may regret, but thankfully at that moment Susan invites us to all sit down for dinner. Cole and I hang back for a few minutes after everyone else heads to the dining room.

“How are you holding up?” he asks.

“I’m OK, but do you see what I’m talking about? Ellie was asking me if I made the cookies. Like I would lie or try to pass someone else’s cookies off as mine,” I whisper furiously. “I’m really not sure about all of this. I had hope that things were going to be different, but now I don’t know.”

“Hey now, she’s just jealous,” Cole says calmly. “It doesn’t mean she’s going to ruin the entire wedding. I think everything will be fine. Just try not to let them bother you.”

“I know you’re right,” I say stubbornly. “I hate when you’re right.”

“Stephy seems fine, is she always like that?” he asks.

“Yes. She would be OK on her own. She’s actually really into her own life and usually just follows Ellie’s lead when we are all together. If she does have an opinion about anything she has never said it out loud.”

“Are you two coming?” Susan interrupts our whispering. “Now is not the time for you to be making out.”

“Mom! Please!” yells Cole.

“What? I know what making out is, your father and I still make out all the time,” she says with a smile. “There’s nothing wrong with it if you do it at the proper time and place, not at a dinner party.” Cole starts making gagging noises.

OK. What just happened? I’m not sure how we got on this subject. I think I would rather be getting dental work without Novocain than having a discussion about making out with my future mother-in-law.

“Um, is dinner ready? I probably should get in there with my family.” I hurry to the dining room to escape one awkward situation in order to enter another.

Dinner is delicious, of course. All three of my family members compliment Susan throughout the meal. After we finish dinner, we hang around the table just talking. Finally, Ellie asks Cole all about his career. I’m surprised it took her this long because she has been sizing him up for most of the evening.

“So, how does one become a professional comedian?” Ellie asks. “I mean, other than going to comedy clubs or watching those horrible late night TV shows, I don’t know much about it.”

“At first, we were not thrilled with his choice,” Susan says, taking a sip of her wine. “But he’s happy and that’s what matters. He loves to make people laugh, and he is good at it,” she says fondly.

“Ah yes, we know all about that,” Grandmother says. “Our Madison was a good student, but she decided to leave her studies to pursue cosmetology. She is very talented of course.” It always amazes me how she adds that in every time she mentions my career choice. It’s as if it’s her disclaimer for admitting her disappointment.

“Do you see how perfect we are for each other, Mads?” Cole says, putting his arm around me. “We are both the black sheep of our families!” he exclaims.

At that moment, all of the awkwardness kind of fades away. Leave it to Cole to lighten the mood. He leans over and kisses me on the cheek, and I feel better instantly.

Susan and Grandmother go on and on about how neither of us are black sheep and the rest of the night goes smoothly. Ellie and Stephy give me a quick hug good-bye and tell me they’ll be dress shopping and will send pictures. After they leave, I help Susan clean up in the kitchen.

“Thank you for everything tonight,” I tell her.

“Of course, dear. It was a lovely evening,” Susan says as she puts dishes away.

“Yes, it was nice,” I say unconvincingly.

“Now, you just sit down so I can talk to you,” she demands. Oh no! I pray this is not the make out conversation again.

“I want to tell you a story,” she says immediately. I’m really not sure where she’s going, but I reluctantly sit down on a barstool.

“I got engaged before my sister Emily. She’s two years older than me, and she clearly wasn’t happy for me. She pretended to be, but she really wasn’t and everyone knew it. I know this was true because here I was, her little sister getting married first and that really bothered her. None of our other family members wanted to choose sides, so they just ignored the situation. Of course, it got better over time; Emily did in fact get married a few years later. The part I remember the most was how she made me feel throughout my engagement. At that time, I was convinced she was out to sabotage my wedding and my life. I thought every comment and every move she made was to destroy my special day. After months of being convinced of this, my wedding day was indeed perfect and yours will be too.” She stops abruptly and gives me a big hug.

I can tell that she thinks I’m overreacting to my cousins. If only she knew our history. I consider telling her everything, but I made a promise to myself to move on from the past. I decide to give her a short and sweet response.

“The three of us haven’t always been close, but I’m really hoping that our wedding will change that,” I say with a big smile. Now I just need to make myself believe it.

After a little bit more lecturing from Susan, Cole somehow manages to calm my nerves again and reminds me that his mother means well. And I really, really hate when he’s right. I hate to have to pry myself away from him, but I need to go home.

Sienna is packing boxes when I arrive home. She’s extremely methodical (and annoying) with her packing. I would prefer to just throw things in boxes, then neatly unpack and organize my new place.

“So, tell me how the big dinner party went?” she asks eagerly. “Did Susan and Grandmother Grace become besties?”

I shift some things to the side and fall down dramatically on the couch. I barely take a breath as I tell her all about the night from beginning to end. She laughs as I cringe over the make out conversation.

“Madie, are you sure you’re really OK with your cousins being in the wedding?” I’m quiet for a few minutes as I contemplate my decision. “Yes, I am, I think,” I say finally. “I need to do this for my family and for me. I need to get over it and move on.”

“So, while we’re on the subject, please, please, please decide on these centerpieces,” she begs. Just then, she produces several pictures of ideas we had previously discussed. She pulled them out so fast; I have no idea where they came from.

“Fine. Let’s get this over with,” I say as I quickly grab them out of her hand. “I have enough stress without your OCD.” We both start laughing as I look through the pictures, and she returns to her annoying method of packing.

The next morning I wake up to my cell phone ringing. I glance at the time and see that it’s not even seven o’clock. When I find my phone, I see I have two missed calls from Ellie. This is really not how I wanted to start my day. I listen to the voice mails a few times before I fully wake up. I wonder if I’m dreaming or hallucinating because I think she says something about needing to contact Sienna and Abby to discuss my shower and dresses. Just then the phone rings, she’s calling again. I answer on the first ring.

“Hello.”

“Good morning, Madie, it’s me. Sorry to wake you. I know you probably sleep late, but I was just way too excited to wait to talk to you.” She’s talking so fast; I don’t even get a chance to say anything.

“I really need to talk to Sienna. I have all these ideas for the shower. Also, how about we go to Vegas for your bachelorette party? I found the perfect dress for all of us. I really think we should match.”

“Whoa, whoa!” I interrupt. “Ellie, I really appreciate your excitement. Maybe I can have Sienna call you back later? I just woke up.”

“Madie, the clock is ticking. I know you well enough to know that you’re probably procrastinating,” she says firmly. Great, not only do I have Sienna on my back, now Ellie too. I sigh.

“Actually, I decided on centerpieces last night,” I say proudly. “As far as the dresses, I told you that you can pick out your own as long as it’s in the color scheme.”

“About that, I really think we all need to match,” she interrupts. “Just have Sienna call me, and we will get this taken care of.” Once again, she did not hear a word I said. Rather than try to argue with her, I agree and quickly get off the phone.

I go to the kitchen to make some oatmeal. I start to stress thinking about our conversation. Sienna, Abby, and I were already planning a spa weekend in lieu of an official “bachelorette party.” My wild party days are long over, and the idea of a weekend with my cousins makes me want to poke my eyes out. The question now would be how to get out of this. I could make up some elaborate story, or I could take the easy way out and let Sienna handle it. At that moment, I decide take the easy way out and get my day started.

As I drive to work, I start to daydream about my wedding. I can visualize every aspect of my perfect day, and then I picture Ellie there, standing near me and my heart starts to race. I start to wonder if I need professional help. Sienna went through a time when she was convinced that she needed therapy. Although, if she doesn’t get over herself and admit she wants to be with Ace, I may have to commit her myself. Which reminds me . . . I pick up my phone and call her.

“Hello,” Sienna answers on the second ring.

“Hey, do you have plans tonight?” I ask immediately.

“No, why?” she asks cautiously.

“Let’s go out! How about Venice? Do you think we can get in?”

Venice is a fabulous local restaurant with a band, dance floor, and amazing food. Sienna has a love/hate relationship with it. She had her last anniversary date there with her ex, but it’s also the place she met Ace for the first time. Ace’s family is also pretty connected there. Hopefully, if I can get her out, I can really encourage her to move on with her life. And selfishly, I would rather focus on her life right now than deal with my own family issues.

“OK. But Venice, really?” she groans.

“What’s that supposed to mean? Come on, it will be fun,” I beg.

“Fine. I will check to see if we can get a table.”

I can tell she’s not super excited about this, so I decide to address what we are both thinking about.

“Do you think Ace will be there? I haven’t seen him in a while.”

Sienna is quiet for a few seconds.

“Is that what this is about? Me and Ace?” she says finally.

I can tell when she’s irritated with me because it happens a lot. Especially when I try to stick my nose into her relationships. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. As her best friend, I think it’s my right.

“Seriously, don’t freak out on me. I just asked you a question,” I reply. “You haven’t mentioned much about him lately.”

“Ace is fine. We spoke a few days ago; he’s still in London for work. I just told you that,” she says nonchalantly. “He should be back in another week or so. Does that answer all of your questions?”

“Yes, but really, you don’t have to get so defensive. Anyway, you will get us reservations for tonight?” I say, changing the subject. “Bring Craig, too; let’s make it a party.” I will get Craig on my side, and we will bring this happy couple together once and for all. I feel like I should let out a sinister laugh as though I’m plotting to take over the world.

“Oh, and one more thing, I just got a call from Ellie.” I tell Sienna about our conversation. I probably should have waited until later because she was already irritated with me about all of the Ace questions.

Sienna, being the awesome friend she is, promises she will get in touch with her but quickly gets off the phone. She is probably trying to avoid any more pep talks from me.

After I hang up, I think about our conversation. Sienna knows that I have no intention of giving up on this subject. I need to talk to Abby, and I think that maybe it’s time that I had a conversation with Mr. Ace Eckelund. I leave Abby a message about our plans for the night, and I’m hoping that she has spoken to Ace. I haven’t had a chance to talk to her since she brought baby Ace over during my cookie madness. It may seem like I’m always meddling in Sienna’s life, but that’s what true friends are for, right?

A few hours later, I get a text from Sienna, and once again she has worked her magic and we are in for dinner at 8 p.m.

 

*

 

Surprisingly, I arrive a few minutes early, which hardly ever happens. I admit I’m late sometimes. Well, OK, all the time, but tonight I have an important agenda. Abby walks in right behind me.

“Hi!” I exclaim, giving her a big hug. “You look great and well rested. How’s mommy land?”

Abby smiles and I can almost see the joy pouring out of her. “It’s good, better now.” she adds. “Those first few months were rough, but we’re finally getting into a routine.” She starts to tell me about all of the cute things baby Ace is doing, and I know I better cut her off before Sienna gets here. We can talk baby all night long later.

“OK, before Sienna gets here, have you talked to Ace and what’s happening?” I ask urgently.

“I did finally,” she says with a deep sigh. “I can tell he’s discouraged. He says that he feels like every step forward leads to a few steps back. We definitely have to do something.”

“Well,” I say excitedly, “I have an idea.” A huge smile spreads across my face.

“WHAT?” Abby screams.

“Shhh!” I say, shoving my hand over her mouth. Everyone in the lobby at Venice is now staring at us.

“OH CRAP!” she says in a loud whisper. “Didn’t mean to scream but hurry and tell me,” she says, looking at her watch. “Sienna will be here any minute.”

“I have been thinking since I now have two new members of my bridal party, we will need a few more groomsmen. I talked to Cole, and we have decided to ask Ace to be in the wedding party. Cole thinks Ace is a great guy, too. So, what do you think?”

I can almost see the wheels turning in Abby’s brain.

“I love this idea,” she says calmly. “When—”

“What are you two whispering about?” interrupts Sienna. Both Abby and I jump straight in the air. I turn to see Sienna staring at me. Craig is right behind her, talking very animatedly on his phone.

“Whatever you want. That’s fabulous.” I hear him say. He leans in and gives Abby and I air kisses.

“Oh, we were just chatting about all of the adorable things baby Ace is up to,” I reply unconvincingly.

“Yes. That’s right,” adds Abby. Yeah, she’s the worst liar and Sienna knows it.

Sienna stares at both of us, and I know she suspects something. Luckily, Craig gets off the phone and interrupts our conversation.

“Abby, you are looking fine,” he says as he twirls her around. “Way better than the last time I saw you.” Yes, no matter what, you can always count on Craig to be completely honest.

“Craig!” exclaims Sienna. “Why do you always have to be so rude? Seriously, one of these days you are going to say something to the wrong person and it better not be a client.”

“Wait a second. You know how professionally fake I am,” Craig replies with a laugh. “I would never tell a client what I really think. Believe me, most of the time I wish I could.”

We all laugh, and a few seconds later, the hostess announces that our table is available. I catch Abby’s eye, and we both exhale in relief that Craig’s lack of inner monologue distracted Sienna from catching us whispering about her.

During dinner, we talk mostly about baby Ace and Sheer Happiness Events. Sienna and Craig tell a story about a bridal shower that was crashed by a jealous ex-wife. Apparently, it was a huge disaster. I can see how upset Sienna is about it; she can’t stand it when things don’t go perfectly. The subject then turns to my wedding. I tell everyone about my early morning phone call from Ellie and remind Sienna to call her.

“So, why is she suddenly so interested in this wedding?” Craig asks as he puts a California roll into his mouth. I really wish he wouldn’t have asked that question because the thought of it makes me start to sweat. Before I can respond, Craig starts talking again.

“I think it’s about time I got to meet the wicked stepsisters,” he adds with a sinister tone in his voice. “I’m a great judge of character, and I will be able to figure out exactly what this Ellie person is up to.” He leans back in his chair with an air of confidence that only Craig can pull off.

“Oh, please,” Sienna exclaims as she finally looks up from her phone. I start to wonder what she is so consumed with because she seems very preoccupied. “Craig, you are way too self-absorbed to be able to see through anyone,” she says. We all start to laugh, including Craig.

“I resemble that comment,” he says as he fixes his hair while looking at his phone. He even goes as far as to make kissing faces at himself.

“Madie, do you think it’s possible that your cousins just sincerely want to be a part of your day?” Abby interjects.

“Of course it’s possible,” I say. “I really do feel that Stephy is sincere, at least she seems to be. She seemed to grow out of that bullying phase a while ago. I just don’t think she cares enough to stand up to Ellie,” I say as I take a sip of my water. “Ellie, on the other hand, is definitely a wild card.”

“It’s pure, old-fashioned jealousy. That’s it,” Sienna replies. “At least it has been since the day I met you, and I’m sure it was that long before I ever met you. I will give her a call back tomorrow.” She picks up her phone quickly to answer another text.

“Who are you texting?” I ask. “You seem very interested in whatever is happening on that phone.” Sienna looks up to see Abby, Craig, and me staring at her.

“It’s just a potential client,” she says nervously. “Just a lot of questions, you know work never stops for me. Anyway . . .” she says, obviously trying to change the subject. “When’s the big cookie debut?”

“Next weekend! Bev really liked my Four Seasons idea,” I say excitedly. “I will be baking non-stop for two days straight. So, about the apartment.” I look at Sienna with a little bit of hesitation. “I promise I will clean it from top to bottom, or even better, I will hire someone to clean it.”

“Madie, don’t worry about it; this is a really exciting time for you,” she says sincerely. I know she means it, too. Sienna has been very supportive since day one about my cookie endeavor. She has very calmly overlooked the mess I make, and I have gradually gotten much better about it. Even I couldn’t stand the mess and chaos when I first started.

We have an awesome night out. We talk about my cookies, baby Ace, and Craig auditioning for some local showing of Hairspray. I really have the best friends. Reluctantly, I finally decide to bring up the elephant in the room.

“OK, Sienna, time to spill it. When are you seeing Ace again?” I ask as I take a bite of my tiramisu. I close my eyes as my favorite dessert melts in my mouth.

She lets out a huge sigh as she puts her phone down on the table. “Madie, didn’t we just have this conversation? I told you he’s still out of town for work.”

“Yes, you did, but you also didn’t elaborate on it. You know me well enough to know that wasn’t a good enough answer,” I say with a smile. Both Craig and Abby have become completely silent. I’m sure they are waiting to see if Sienna completely freaks out on me. For a second I think I may regret bringing it up, but her phone rings. She quickly excuses herself and leaves the table.

“Madie, you’re my hero,” Craig says excitedly. “You don’t know how many times a day I try to talk to her about him. I know she really, really likes him, but she’s being so stubborn. He’s probably getting so bored with her that he’s ready to move on. I’m sure a man like Ace Eckelund will have no problem finding a new love interest, and I don’t blame him one bit.” He adds. “I tell her all the time that she better stop dragging this out.”

“No way,” Abby says firmly. “Ace is totally committed and he has told me that he will be patient with her. Also, you guys can’t tell her this but . . .” She leans in close to Craig and me. “He hinted around to Matt that he thinks he may be in love with her,” Abby whispers.

“Ahhhh!” Craig screams. “Seriously, I love the girl but she’s exasperating. She will never get any better than him.”

“Craig, that’s awful.” Abby replies calmly. “She’s just being extremely cautious. She can’t bear to have her heart broken again. We just have to . . .” Abby stops talking when Sienna returns to the table.

“Sorry, you guys, I was waiting on that call. Craig, guess who that was: Bianca Grazian! She has just hired us!” Sienna announces. “You guys have no idea what a huge deal this is. Her wedding will be the social event of the year.” She claps her hands together.

“Wait, I thought my wedding was going to be?” I say, giving her a wink.

She smiles and has seemed to forget all about our previous conversation. I decide to drop it because she and Craig start talking excitedly all about their plans. I glance at Abby and nod my head. I know just what needs to be done; maybe something good will come out of my cousins joining the party after all.

Chapter 4

 

The next week seems to fly by. Before I know it, I’m forty-eight hours away from my cookie debut at Bev’s Sweet Treats. I’m so stressed because nothing seems to be going right. Poor Cole has been on non-stop runs to the baking supply store as well as food runs for Chinese, pizza, and even McDonald’s at midnight. I’m so nervous that I ended up throwing up the entire meal. Truthfully, that may not have been nerves but more the fact I should never have eaten all that junk food in the middle of the night. Either way, I haven’t slept. I have actually thrown away whole batches of cookies. I didn’t tell Sienna though because there has been many a day that she has practically survived on my cookies alone—that is, when she isn’t on one of her no sugar diets that last a day or two.

When Friday morning rolls around, I have finished the fall and summer displays. All of my spring cookies turned out horribly. I consider quitting while I’m ahead, but I refuse to give up. I still have a little over twenty-four hours to pull this together, so I need to stay completely focused.

Easier said than done. While I was having a minor anxiety attack, I used the wrong amount of butter in my dough and didn’t even realize it. I run to my room, scream into the pillow, and throw a few things. A little while later Cole finds me in my room having some kind of crazy hugging-my-knees, rocking-on-my-floor toddler tantrum. I wish I had a picture of his face when he saw me rocking as if I was possessed. I think I left my body for a minute.

“Madie, you OK?” Cole asks with concern. He stands back for a few minutes until I respond.

“I think so,” I say softly. “Except, I have to wonder what I’m doing. Seriously, I should just stick to doing hair! I’m GOOD at doing hair; no, I’m GREAT at doing hair! I have no business being a cookie designer or doing anything in the kitchen!” I shout and start to rock again and Cole sits down next to me.

“First of all,” he says as he puts his arm around me, “please stop the rocking; you’re creeping me out.” Leave it to Cole to make this into a joke.

“Thanks for your support,” I reply glumly.

“Oh, don’t be mad.” He kisses me on the cheek. “Yes, you’re great at doing hair, but you love your cookie business and you’re great at that, too. Why don’t you just have fun and enjoy yourself?” He’s right, and as always, he makes me feel much better.

A few hours later, I’m able to finish my project and even make some fun cookies for our emergency stash. This stash tends to disappear quickly during certain times of the month in an apartment with two women. I spend the rest of the night cleaning up the disaster that has accumulated over the past week. I have everything ready to deliver to Bev tomorrow morning before heading to bed. After I shower for the first time in almost three days, I sit down in front of my computer, and I glance at my wedding countdown calendar. I can’t remember the last time I looked at this. I count the days and realize that it will be here before I know it. I pull out Sienna’s list that she left for me weeks ago and get to work.

 

*

 

I wake up and glance at my phone; wow, 7:30 a.m. sure came quick. The last thing I remember is attempting to conquer my wedding to-do list from Sienna. So far, the only thing I have checked off is finally deciding on the centerpieces. I still have to make final choices for the music list, wedding favors, and bridesmaids’ gifts. For some reason I was able to choose my dress rather quickly, but these simple tasks completely stress me out.

Once again, I put the list aside and start to get ready for my exciting day.

“Help me choose my outfit,” I yell to Sienna. We’re getting ready to bring everything to Bev’s. Thankfully, she has been advertising for weeks and is expecting a great turn out. I even created an invitation on Facebook, so hopefully a lot of my friends will come to show their support. I’m also a little nervous that it’s going to be too successful. Is that even possible? Am I weird for worrying about this?

“Sienna!! Hurry,” I yell again, much louder this time.

“Sorry, was on the phone with a client,” she says as she comes running in. “I already told you blue tunic, black skinnies, and you can borrow my Jimmy Choos.” Sienna has a bit of a shoe obsession, which I have no issue with since we wear the same size. I purposely helped her find a new apartment close to mine so I could borrow shoes anytime I need to. Of course, that’s not the only reason, but it’s an added perk for sure.

“How are you feeling?” she asks as I get dressed. “What an exciting day! To think your hobby has turned into such an amazing opportunity. “Sienna’s phone rings again, and she quickly excuses herself in the middle of her thought. Hmm . . . I start to wonder what she is up to. She’s being so secretive, and for some reason, she doesn’t want me to know whom she keeps talking to. I haven’t seen her put that phone down in days. Just as I’m finishing up, I get a text message from Ellie. When I read it, I feel my heart sink into my stomach and I think I may vomit.

Grandmother told me that today’s your bakery thing. Can’t believe you didn’t tell me. Planning on stopping by.

OK, I’m not going to panic. I need to stay focused on my day ahead. I send her my response, short and sweet.

Great. See you there.

On the way to the Bev’s, I ask Sienna about her mysterious secretive phone calls. She defensively insists that they are phone calls from clients and potential clients, and I decide to leave her alone for now. I’m surprised at how nervous I become as we get closer. My heart starts racing and my mouth is dry. I mean, this is just a hobby, right? I guess I haven’t really thought about all the possibilities that could come from this.

“You’re really quiet all of a sudden,” Sienna says, interrupting my thoughts. “I know you don’t believe me, but why does it really matter who I was on the phone with?”

Hmmm . . . She is definitely hiding something.

“Why are you acting so defensive?” I demand. “To be honest, I wasn’t even thinking about you and your BIG secret.”

“There is NO SECRET!” she yells.

“OK. Whatever. What I was thinking about was why I feel so nervous about today? I mean, it’s not like I need a job or a new career. I love what I do.” Before Sienna can say anything, we pull up at Bev’s. “Here we go,” she says.

As we pull up, I see a sign hanging in the window announcing this month’s feature:

COOKIES BY MADIE

That reminds me, I still have to come up with a cute and clever name. I take a deep breath and walk in.

I love Bev’s! It is the most adorable little bakeshop and has been in business for over twenty years. The walls are pink and aqua with different shaped mirrors covering them. Delicious pastries, or “sweet treats” as Bev calls them, line the shelves. There are cozy chairs everywhere for customers to enjoy; that’s if you’re lucky enough to get a seat. Most of the desserts are homemade by Bev herself except when she features an up-and-coming baker or in my case, “cookie designer.”

When I walk in, I see Cole is already enjoying one of Bev’s amazing banana pudding cupcakes.

“There she is!” Cole cheers as I walk in. “Looking fierce, of course!” He gives me a big hug and twirls me around like he always does.

“Thanks, babe.” I give him a kiss. “Can you help bring everything in? I’m going to go find Bev and find out where she wants to set up.”

“Madison!” she exclaims as she comes over and gives me a warm hug, “Honey, you are looking really thin. Are you feeling OK?” I smile because she says this to me every time she sees me. I get the feeling that she has a belief that no one in this industry should be thin. I could tell her that I’ve eaten junk food for the last few days and then thrown it all up due to nerves, but then she will think I have bulimia so I decide not to say anything.

“Of course, I feel great!” I reply excitedly. “Thank you again for having me. I hope I make you proud. Where do you want to set up?”

A little while later I stand back proudly as “4 seasons by madie” is on display. I’m especially excited about the fall designs I created. The summer is winding down and my wedding is in the beginning of October, so I took my time with that particular season. I expect that those will be the first to go. I turn to see that customers are already coming in the door. I fidget a bit, fix my hair, and smile. Here goes nothing!

A few hours later, I finally sit down. What an amazing, fun day! We took several pictures, and many friends stopped in to see my feature. Bev introduced me to all of her regulars, and I’ve had many requests for my business card. I’m feeling both overwhelmed and excited that I’ve also met some potential clients. But doing hair will always be my number one love (other than Cole of course). As I start packing things up to leave, my grandmother and Ellie finally show up.

“Madison, I apologize for us being late, but we had to run a few important errands.” My grandmother kisses my forehead and walks directly toward the display. I hear her introduce herself to Bev. Knowing Grandmother, she is hoping to become best friends forever with Bev because Bev is very well known in Beverly Hills. Not that Grandmother is an opportunist, but she wouldn’t mind telling her friends that she knows Bev personally.

“Wow, Madie, I’m impressed,” Ellie exclaims. “This is a really cute shop. Once again, you outdid yourself.” I can’t decide if she is truly being kind or just sarcastic. Regardless, I feel like I’m on top of the world so I decide to just thank her for coming. Before I can say anything, she makes a beeline for Sienna.

“Sienna, I was hoping you would be here,” she says. “We have a lot of wedding plans to discuss.” I can tell that Sienna is biting her tongue. “Not only that . . .” she continues, “I have to tell you that it really is a small world after all. I met someone who knows you; his name is Luke Price.”

I feel like I’m having an out of body experience. That’s a name that doesn’t come up very often with us and leave it to Ellie to open up old wounds. I feel bad for Sienna because that name brings up a lot of pain for her. I think that’s the reason she hasn’t been able to move on with Ace. I hurry to try to defuse the situation before Sienna gets upset.

“Ellie,” I whisper, “let’s not talk about Luke; that’s a really touchy subject.” She looks at me with a puzzled look. “Oh. I didn’t realize, sorry,” she says unconvincingly. I breathe a sigh of relief as I feel like I stopped a major volcano from erupting; however, I was wrong.

“This sounds really juicy; you have to tell me what happened,” Ellie says. Her eyes are wide and innocent, and I realize she probably doesn’t know the story. Who says the word juicy anymore anyway? Sienna still hasn’t responded, but I can tell she is on the verge. She very calmly starts speaking, and I can tell she doesn’t want anyone to think this situation still bothers her.

“Madie, it’s totally fine; we can talk about Luke,” she says, giving me a big fake smile. She turns to Ellie. “Luke is my ex-boyfriend; we broke up several months ago. Not on the best terms, but I do wish him luck in the future. Where did you meet him?”

“Wow, I really am sorry for bringing up your ex-boyfriend,” she exclaims. ”I met him at a party my friend was having. We ended up talking for a while and somehow Madie’s wedding came up. He mentioned he knew you pretty well and asked how you were doing. That was pretty much it so don’t worry your pretty little head; we didn’t spend the whole evening talking about you.”

Sienna changes the subject as she always does when she wants to avoid talking any more about a subject. They start discussing my wedding, and I wander around the shop. Cole and Grandmother are still talking to Bev, and I can hear them discussing our wedding cake or rather us not having a wedding cake. We decided to do a variety of red velvet, German chocolate, and coconut cupcakes in lieu of a traditional wedding cake. Grandmother absolutely hates the idea; although, that’s not a surprise.

“I just think that a vanilla wedding cake with white icing is proper for an event such as this; cupcakes are so juvenile. This is not a sixth birthday party,” she says. Cole gives me a look, and I can tell he wants me to save him.

“Grandmother, we already discussed this; we wanted to choose something that would be different and fun. Bev, please tell her that a lot of people are choosing different options when it comes to cakes.” Hopefully she will be able to talk Grandmother down off the ledge.

“Yes!” she says, catching on to my hint. “You would be surprised how many people are choosing different varieties. These young people have new, fresh ideas, and trust me, it really will look gorgeous. Come and look at some pictures of a few cupcake towers I have done.” She takes Grandmother over to a table, and they sit down with a stack of photo albums.

“Thanks for leaving me in the trenches taking grenades for twenty minutes,” Cole whispers exasperatedly. “You couldn’t have come and saved me sooner? Your grandmother thinks you are marrying a hoodlum who is forcing you to have cupcakes at your fancy wedding. She thinks that it will destroy the whole event.”

I laugh. “Stop! She doesn’t think that, and you know she adores you,” I say as I put my arm around him.

“Whatever. Maybe she did before, but the cupcakes have pushed her over the edge. I’m worried because you never know, she may stand up and object at the ceremony.” Of course, he knows that will never happen.

We finally leave Bev’s a little while later, and thankfully there’s no more mention about the wedding cake or Luke Price. After Sienna and I arrive home, we sit down and work out a few more wedding details. I decide to not bring up her secret phone calls because I’m pretty sure she has had enough emotional trauma for one day. We spend the rest of the night talking about my wedding shower and our upcoming girl’s weekend along with enjoying the emergency cookie stash. I usually never eat my cookies, but I think I’ve earned it tonight.

I wake up the next morning with a major sugar hangover. Is there such a thing? I feel horrible! When I stumble out of my room, I find a note from Sienna’s personalized stationary collection on the kitchen counter.

M-

Officially 4 weeks to go! YAY

BTW-Ellie called me; I’m on my way to meet her and Stephanie at Alexa’s to look at bridesmaid dresses. Apparently, it is life or death. Is she always this high maintenance?

Call u later!

-S

Oh no! As if I’m not feeling bad enough, I wake up and I’m greeted by a message about my cousins. I’m really surprised at how involved they are becoming. I was convinced they would just show up for the event and have nothing to do with any planning, but clearly, I was wrong. The question is, should I head over to Alexa’s or just let Sienna handle it? I did plan on spending the day packing. Maybe I should ask Sienna. I find my phone still in my bag from the day before. It barely has any battery power left, so I plug it in and send Sienna a text.

Do you want me to meet you or stay here and pack?

I make a protein shake while I wait for her response. I had a plan to get a lot accomplished today. My life is about to get really busy and now I have to stop everything to go do damage control. I reread Sienna’s note. Four weeks, wow. I’m getting married four weeks from today. I send Cole a text.

Four weeks from today you are marrying me. UR so lucky!!

Up until now, it seemed like time was dragging on, and now I feel like time is flying. I drag a few folded boxes from the hall closet and tape them together. I manage to get two boxes started before Sienna finally texts me back.

Need to figure something out. They are insisting on matching dresses. Had to text Abby.

Crap! I better get dressed and head to Alexa’s. I can’t leave Sienna to deal with this all by herself.

When I arrive at Alexa’s I find Sienna, Ellie, and Stephy in a sea of gowns. There is every color and every style you could ever imagine. I can tell by the looks on Sienna’s and Jennie’s faces that they are frustrated. Very frustrated.

“Hi, ladies. What’s going on?” I ask when I walk in.

“Madie! I’m so glad you are here,” Stephy yells. “Which dress?” She holds up two very pretty dresses. “We’ve been trying to tell Sienna that it’s imperative that we all match. Think about it, your wedding is at the Four Seasons. If we don’t match it will look tacky and thrown together, and we just can’t have that.”

“You’re the first of us to get married. You need to make this perfect for Grandmother,” adds Ellie.

I glance at Sienna, and she raises her eyebrows.

“Whatever you guys want,” I say, shrugging my shoulders. “The dresses are beautiful, and if you girls want to wear them, I have no problem with that. I did tell Sienna and Abby that they could pick out their own gowns, so that is up to them.”

I think my answer could not be more perfect.

“Well, I already spoke to Abby and sent her a picture and she is fine with it so . . .” She looks at Sienna. Obviously, she is the holdout. I really don’t think she cares what she wears other than the fact that she doesn’t want to give in to Ellie’s demands. However, I know her well enough to know that she too would be wearing one of these dresses in the end.

“Fine,” she reluctantly agrees.

“Fantastic!” exclaims Stephy. “Jennie, let’s get these measurements, and we will have to rush them. We are down to four weeks.” She hurries off with Jennie talking a mile a minute.

“Sorry,” I whisper to Sienna.

“It’s fine; Abby made a good point. The gowns are really pretty, and we want to make your day as perfect as possible even if that means giving in to the stepsisters’ demands.”

“OK. Now that we have that worked out.” Ellie rushes back. “Let’s talk about the shower. Do you have a date?”

“Um, yes we do,” Sienna says cautiously. “It’s in two weeks, and we are having it at the Korral House. Everything is pretty much done and invites are going out this week,” she adds. Just then, her phone rings, and she picks it up on the first ring. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so excited to take a phone call.

“Oh. Well, what about the bachelorette party? I think a trip to Vegas is necessary, don’t you think? I have a friend at the Bellagio.” Ellie grabs her phone and starts looking through her contacts. “I can call him right now and get it scheduled.”

I really was hoping this subject wouldn’t come up. Sienna, Abby, and I were planning a quiet spa weekend before I asked the stepsisters, and now I have no idea how I’m going to get out of this.

“That’s really sweet, Ellie, but we haven’t really planned anything just yet other than the possibility of a spa weekend somewhere. Honestly, I’m not sure if I will even have the time for a trip; the big day will be here before we know it.”

“What?” she exclaims. “That’s insane. You need to have a girls’ weekend before your wedding. One last weekend before you’ll be the little wife.”

“That’s funny, but I don’t think anyone would think of me as a little wife.”

“You know, Madie, your fiancé travels quite a lot. Aren’t you ever concerned about that? He’s gone a lot,” she says innocently.

I can’t believe that she would actually imply that Cole would cheat; she hardly knows him.

“Ellie, if you are implying that Cole would cheat, you couldn’t be more wrong. He travels because that’s his career and he loves it. He has begged me to travel with him for some time, but I have my own career.” Ugh, I stop myself because I realize I don’t need to give her an explanation and I refuse to let her get to me again.

“Whoa, Madie. Why are you getting so defensive? That’s not what I was saying at all,” she says innocently. “I was actually saying that because he is always traveling, what’s wrong with you taking a few days to travel with your best friends.”

She’s so full of it and that was exactly what she was referring to.

“Please let me do this for you. My friend Frankie can hook us up.” I admit I’m torn because there is a small part of me that really wants to take her up on the offer. I mean, a hook up at the Bellagio? That would be so awesome even if it means spending a weekend with them.

“Let me just run things by Sienna and Abby, and I will let you know,” I say finally.

“Well, hurry!” she says firmly. “It’s really short notice, so I will go ahead and call Frankie to give him a heads up.” I sigh because I know she has no intentions of giving up.

I can see through the front store window that Sienna is still on the phone. She is slowly pacing back and forth. I wish I could somehow eavesdrop on her conversation because I’m dying to know whom she is talking to. My attention is suddenly pulled away from Sienna and her mysterious call when Stephy returns to the fitting area still talking a mile a minute, and I can see that poor Jennie is probably on the verge of quitting her job just to escape. I don’t blame her one bit, although I’m sure Stephy is not the first obnoxious woman she has dealt with.

Sienna’s return interrupts my thoughts.

“So, are we done here?” she asks. “I have to go in to the office to take care of a few things.” I’m about to ask her who was on the phone when Ellie interrupts us.

“Oh good, Sienna. I was just talking to Madison about the bachelorette party. I put a call in to my friend at the Bellagio. We’re going to Vegas!” She starts clapping.

“Really? We—as in all of us.” Sienna raises her eyebrows as she points to each one of us.

“Of course! We are Madie’s bridal party and her best friends. Seriously, you’re a wedding planner you should know this. It’s our responsibility to do this for our Madie.”

Ugh! She’s so fake! Is there a trash can nearby? I wonder what Ellie would say if I started vomiting in the middle of Alexa’s Bridal and her $10,000 dresses? I have never thrown up in a public place. Well, except that one time I almost got sick on the Ferris wheel at Disneyland, but I think that’s a regular occurrence for a theme park, not a bridal shop. I can see that Sienna is patiently waiting for an explanation from me. Maybe it would be easier to just throw up because that would change the subject for sure.

“Thanks, Ellie, that’s sweet. I told you that we would talk about it and see if we can swing it,” I say with a swift glance at Sienna.

“What’s there to talk about?”

“Ellie, you’re so right. I’m in!” Sienna exclaims. I have to admit my mouth drops open because I’m surprised by her excitement, especially without discussing it.

“Perfect!” she says excitedly.

I wait until my cousins finally leave to ask Sienna what she was thinking and why she just agreed to go on this weekend away with them. We must have been thinking the same thing because a hookup at the Bellagio is way too good to pass up. So I guess we are going to Vegas with the evil stepsisters. Now if only we can figure out a way to ditch them?

Chapter 5

 

I love date nights. I hope that even when Cole and I are old with grandkids that we will still go on dates. After the stressful week that included the matching bridesmaids’ dresses and the planning of an unwanted Vegas trip, I’m ready for a night out with my man. I tell Cole all about my morning, and he thinks it’s hilarious.

“I’m so glad you find all of this so funny,” I say with a scowl. “Honestly, though, do you think I should be worried about this? These girls are becoming immersed in our wedding. It’s stressing me out.”

“Well, we could always get married on the beach in Hawaii.” He gives me a wink. “I would hate to see you so stressed out.”

I never would have considered that before, but maybe that’s not such a bad idea. I don’t say anything though. I don’t want to give him the impression that I like the idea because then he would never drop it.

“Honey, it’s not happening, so give it up.” I lean over the table and kiss him. For a few seconds I think we forget where we are. Ew. I don’t want to be one of those people who makes out in a restaurant. I quickly excuse myself to use the restroom. As I make my way through the restaurant, I see a very familiar face seated nearby. I’d know that face anywhere, it’s Ace Eckelund and he is not alone. He has a girl with him?

“Madison! How wonderful to see you!” He practically jumps out of his seat and kisses me on both cheeks. I’m slightly taken aback by his accent even though I’ve heard him speak hundreds of times. I mean, really, how hot is that?

“Hi, Ace, when did you get back in town?” I ask while glancing in the direction of his dinner companion (date?). I’m about to go into overprotective bitch best friend mode but Ace answers the burning question before I have a chance.

“Madison please meet Allyson; she is from our Scotland division, and we’ve just moved her to the States.” Allyson says hello and shakes my hand while she continues to size me up.

“Welcome to California.” I give her a warm smile even though I already know what this girl is up to. She seemed extremely interested in who I was, and once she found out I was off the market she seemed more at ease. Just then, the lightbulb goes off in my head and now is my chance to ask Ace about the wedding.

“Ace, can I talk to you about something really quick? I promise,” I say, looking at Allyson who is clearly becoming more and more annoyed at my interruption. I wave at Cole who is on the phone; he shakes his finger at me because he knows what I’m up to.

“Does Sienna know you’re back?” I ask when we walk away from Allyson’s eye rolling.

“She does. We spoke earlier today. I suppose she hasn’t told you?” he says with a smile. He knows that I’m notorious for sticking my nose in their business.

“Noooo, but that’s not why I wanted to talk to you. Long story short, I asked my cousins to be in our wedding party so our numbers are uneven. My grandmother will probably throw herself down the stairs if I don’t correct this. Sooo, Cole and I would love to have you in our wedding. Please! You will probably save Grandmother’s life.” I stop and give him an innocent smile.

“Oh.” He looks surprised. “I am honored you would think of me. You know I have to ask, does Sienna know about this? I’m really trying to be careful; I promised her we would take things slow.”

“She doesn’t yet, but I will tell her. She won’t care. So what do you say?” I’m practically begging, although I’m sure I’m not the first woman to beg Ace Eckelund for something.

“Mr. Eckelund, you aren’t trying to move in on my girl are you?” Cole joins us and slaps Ace on the back.

“Of course not, mate. It’s great to see you.” Ace gives Cole a man hug. Or that thing guys do that’s a combination of a handshake, chest bump, back pat, and hug. Does anyone know what that is called? I just call it the man hug.

“Good thing because I would never be able to compete with the accent and the abs. Seriously, I can see your six pack through your sweater.”

Ace laughs and shakes his head. I take a look and I don’t believe it, you really can.

“Babe, I just asked Ace to be in the wedding. I’m waiting on the answer,” I say, giving Ace a look.

“Very well, I will do it IF you tell Sienna right away. I don’t want her to feel like this was planned behind her back and I wouldn’t want to upset her.”

“I promise! Thank you!” I give him a hug.

“Whoa, whoa. No hugging this guy, he’s a magnet for women.” Cole pulls me away from Ace and smiles.

“Fantastic. I’m sorry, but I must get back to my meeting.”

Oh yeah, poor Allyson. I almost forgot about her. I look over to see her fidgeting with her hair and her dress. Hmmm . . . Sienna better watch out for that one.

“Who’s Allyson?” Cole asks when we get in the car.

“Trouble.” That’s the best answer I can think of.

When I get home, Sienna is on her laptop busily typing. Hopefully she’s in a good mood. I tell her all about my date night, including the almost full-blown make out session, and then I tell her about running into Ace. That grabs her attention immediately.

“I need to tell you something but promise me you won’t get mad at me.” I beg her as I grab her hand. She quickly pulls away because, let’s face it, it’s never good when anyone says that.

“You know, since Ellie and Stephy have joined our party, we needed a few other groomsmen, so we asked Ace. Cole thinks he’s a great guy, and we thought he would be a great addition.” When I finish talking, I wait for Sienna to react or not react or do something.

“Why would you do that?” she shouts at me. I can tell she is pissed, really pissed. ”I know what you are trying to do. I told you things are going fine with us.”

“I’m not trying to do anything,” I yell back. “There’s nothing wrong with asking him, and I didn’t do it just because of you.” This is partly true because we all really like Ace. “You know I love you, but you are being really stupid about this. Ace really wants to be with you; he is an amazing guy, and you better get off your butt before you lose him.” Yikes. That was harsh; I’m going to regret that later.

“Stop! Just stop! You have your own life, so stay out of mine.” Sienna picks up her laptop and runs to her room. She’s careful not to slam the door because one time she did and I teased her for acting like a teenager. We laughed about it later.

So, that didn’t go well at all, which of course I expected. Hopefully she gets over it in time for my shower. It’s probably not ideal to be fighting with your wedding planner. Maybe I should Google it? What to do when fighting with your wedding planner/best friend? Rule #1—Stay out of their love life.

The next morning I wake up in a bad mood, and I’m tired. Sure enough, at two o’clock in the morning, I was regretting what I said to Sienna, and then at three o’clock I realized that I forgot to tell her about Allyson from Scotland. She’s already gone when I get up, and that’s probably a good thing because even though I feel bad, I’m much too stubborn to admit it just yet.

When I get to the salon my co-worker Caycee is busy telling everyone about her nightmare client from the morning. I really like Caycee; she’s a newbie, as in right out of school. I love her enthusiasm, and it’s refreshing because many of the other stylists I work with are completely jaded.

I’m getting ready for my first client of the day when Caycee comes over and sits in my chair.

“Madie, have you ever just hooked up with a client after their appointment?” she asks with a mischievous grin.

“What do you mean? Like a regular client or a walk-in?” I ask. Of course, I already know the answer because she’s new and has no regular clients.

“Does it matter? It’s just that he was so cute. Is that bad?” Hmm . . . I’m not sure if I should say anything since I haven’t had the best of luck giving love advice in the last twenty-four hours.

“Why are you asking me?”

“I was just wondering if you ever have?” she says innocently.

“Caycee, do you know how long I have been in this industry?”

“OMG! Tell me!” she yells. Just then, my first client Jocelyn arrives, and I’m saved from sharing details from my younger, wilder days. I love when Jocelyn comes in; she’s a divorce attorney, and her stories are the best.

After a full day of doing hair and lots of great chats with my clients, I think I’ve managed to avoid Caycee and her interrogation. However, the girl doesn’t give up, and after much begging, I tell the details of my brief encounter from almost a decade ago.

“Dang, girl! You were ca-razy!” She holds her hand up to slap me five.

“We’ve all had our wild days and that was a very long time ago. Very.” I try to remind her of that fact and usually I don’t kiss and tell.

“Hmm . . . people don’t change that much.” She raises her eyebrows and turns away. Ahhh . . . whatever. I’d rather not take another walk down memory lane. I wonder where that term even came from? Considering certain memories from my past, memory lane is not a place I love visiting. It’s not that I have a lot of bad memories; it’s just that . . . well, we all make poor choices when we’re young. Although, I suppose this conversation is better than going home to deal with Sienna and her silent treatment. She’s a master at the silent treatment, so good that she could teach a class on it.

Admittedly, the guilt is starting to set in, and I totally understand why she’s taking her time with Ace, but I just don’t want her to miss out on a good thing. My guilty feelings are interrupted by a call from Cole; apparently, his parents have asked us over to dinner, and they want to talk to us about something important. An important talk with my soon-to-be in-laws, every possible scenario goes through my head and then I start to panic.

 

*

 

A few hours later, I’m sitting in Susan’s beautiful kitchen, and as usual, I offer to help, but she won’t let me touch a thing. I’m convinced the woman doesn’t want me to touch anything. I’m a little confused because she has to know I’m not a complete disaster in the kitchen. After all, she loves my cookies.

“So, honey, tell me how the plans are coming? Are you getting along with your family?”

I was hoping she wouldn’t ask. I don’t want her to think I’m being completely ridiculous, and I can’t possibly tell her that I continue to doubt the sincerity of my cousins or the fact that I wish I didn’t have to invite any of them to the wedding. I know I’m acting like a brat because, other than a few snide comments, they haven’t done anything horrible, at least not yet.

“Everything seems to be going well so far, other than a few tiny issues.” I tell her about the bridesmaids’ dresses and fun-filled bachelorette party that’s being planned despite me not agreeing to it. What I really want to talk about is why we were invited tonight.

“It’ll all work out I’m sure,” I say nonchalantly. “So, Cole says you wanted to talk to us about something, is everything alright?” I tried to wait until she brought it up, but of course being the most inpatient person on the planet, I had to ask.

“Of course, dear, everything is fine. Why do you ask?”

“I told you, babe,” Cole exclaims as soon as he walks in. “Mom, she’s freaking out about whatever it is that you want to tell us. She has called me about fifty times asking if I know what you want.” I’m so going to kill him! Sometimes he never knows when to shut up.

“I’m not freaking out!” I give him the shut up or else look.

“Don’t worry, you two. It’s good news; I promise.” She hugs both of us and rushes back to her cooking.

Cole walks over to kiss me on the cheek, and I lean away. He thinks this is absolutely hilarious, and right now, I think he is absolutely annoying. When, and if, Sienna starts talking to me again I need to ask her to teach me how to give a good silent treatment.

I’m so anxious I can hardly eat my dinner. What’s the big freaking deal? Just tell us already! I can’t believe they haven’t said anything yet. Cole hasn’t asked either, and now I have another reason to be mad at him. Finally, after dessert, Cole’s father asks us to join them in the living room. My heart is racing!

“We were going to wait until the wedding to give you your gift, but we thought sooner was better.” He hands Susan an envelope. OMG—an envelope?

“We’re so excited about this that we just couldn’t wait any longer,” Susan says as she hands Cole the envelope. I wonder what’s in that envelope. It has to be money or maybe plane tickets?

“Here you go.” Cole hands it to me

“You want me to open it?” I slowly take it out of his hand and hold it in my hand as if it’s a fragile family heirloom. Cole tells me to hurry, but I feel as if I’m moving in slow motion. As I take the contents out of the envelope and read, I’m almost speechless.

“What?!” That’s all I manage to spit out. I’m in complete shock. “Is this for real?” I hand it to Cole.

“It’s a house!” I shout. “You gave us a house?” I don’t even know what to say; I think Cole is in as much shock as I am. He grabs the paper out of my hand. I jump up from my seat and give both of them a huge hug.

“We gave Mike and Sara one as well, so it was only fair,” Susan says. “Just wait until you see it, it’s gorgeous. The best part about this is that you will only be three houses down, so now you can join the garden club. The ladies will all be ordering your cookies, so you know you will be extremely busy. And when you have a baby I can babysit for you.”

Wait? What did she say? Something about the house being practically next door, the garden club, and me having a baby? It all kind of mixed together.

“Whaaat was that?” I ask slowly.

“The house is the one on the corner. It’s been up for sale for months, and they just redid all of the floors, hardwood, as well as brand new bathrooms. Here are the keys, it’s all yours!”

Cole and I look at each other; I know exactly what he’s thinking because I’m thinking the same thing. It’s a free house! That is a free house living practically next door to my in-laws. Not to mention an invitation to join the garden club, which would be ridiculous because I don’t garden. Every time I’ve ever had a plant, I’ve killed it. The truth is I know that most of the ladies in the club don’t actually garden; they have gardeners. Most of the time they just gossip and try to one-up each other. There is not a chance in hell I would be able to hang out with those women on a regular basis. Not only that, we are nowhere near ready to have kids yet.

“So, are you ready? We can see it right now.” Susan takes a huge leap off the couch and makes a beeline for the door.

“Mom, can you give us a second?” Cole says abruptly. Finally! I was wondering when he was going to speak up.

“What’s the matter?” she asks, looking completely crestfallen. “Are you not happy?”

“Of course we are,” I practically yell. “This is the most unbelievable, amazing, um gift.” I don’t want them to think we are being ungrateful. We can’t possibly tell them that we are super excited about the house but not the location.

“Mom, can you give us a few minutes to talk?” Cole’s parents leave the room and immediately Cole starts asking me if I’m OK with all of this.

“Well, I admit it’s a little bit of a shock. I mean, we already have a new apartment near work and our friends.”

“What are you saying? You don’t want to move over here?” he asks worriedly. “Babe, I know it’s not ideal, but this is pretty great.”

“No, not at all. I just, it’s just . . .”

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but are you ready to see the house?” Susan interrupts. I can see the excitement pouring out of her; she’s practically bouncing off the walls. Cole looks at me and raises his eyebrows.

“I’m definitely ready! Let’s go see our new house.” I practically sprint for the door.

As we are waking down the perfectly manicured street, I start thinking about how I could be so ungrateful. Maybe I am acting like a spoiled child. Maybe my cousins are right. I’m starting to feel so guilty; as we arrive in front of the beautiful house on the corner, I stand there staring at it. This is the one? I have driven past this place more times than I can count, and now it’s mine. It really is breathtaking, a grand front door with manicured bushes and flowerbeds, and no doubt the former owners had a gardener.

“This is it?” Cole asks, interrupting my thoughts. “Wow.” I’m sure he has ignored this place just like I have.

“Who wants them?” Susan asks, holding out the keys. I glance at Cole, and I can see the sparkle in his eye.

“You take them,” I say, the excitement building intensely. Cole grabs them and makes a run for it, with his parents and I close behind.

I’m completely speechless as I walk through this house that I guess really is mine. I let out a gasp because I just don’t know what to say. I have hugged Cole’s parents more times than I can count. The floor plan is big, open and cozy at the same time. There is an adorable little room/alcove right off the kitchen that will make the perfect cookie room. Susan has told me about several ideas she has for decorating. Luckily, Cole stepped in and reminded her that we would love the chance to decorate our first home. I tell her that I’ll definitely need her help because I plan to stay on my mother-in-law/neighbor’s good side. We spend what seems like hours walking around. After a while, Cole’s parents head home and leave us alone. We’re sitting down in the huge living room talking about everything we want to do.

“So, what do you think?” Cole asks as he places his hands behind his head. “I bet you’re happy you decided to marry me now. I knew being a mama’s boy would come in handy someday. Could you imagine what they would have given us if I finished college instead of doing comedy?”

I lean in to give Cole a kiss; he starts kissing me back passionately.

“Thank you for marrying me,” I tell him as I somehow manage to release myself from his grasp. “I love you so much, and no, I’m not saying this just because your parents just gave us a house.”

“I should be thanking you. Let’s be serious; you are way too good for me.” He always says this, and it’s simply not true. Cole is the most sincere man I have ever met. He never has an agenda, he’s confident, happy, and he loves to share that with others through his work.

I finally head home after planning out every paint color and décor theme for every room. Despite my being ecstatic about our new house, (Our house! I still can’t believe I have a house!) there is a looming feeling of dread. I have to break the news to Sienna that I will not be living around the corner from her. I just feel so horrible because I even helped her pick out her place so we could live near each other. I know that no matter what Sienna will be supportive because that is the type of person she is. We haven’t really spoken much since the Ace/wedding party dilemma. I’m not even sure if she is ready to talk to me.

When I get home Sienna is already in bed, but she did leave me a note. When I read it, I feel a little sad.

Hey.

I’m sorry, I know I overreacted. Everything is ready for the shower.

Still Best Friends Forever?

-S

And now I’m crying; it starts out with just a few tears and ends up big and ugly. Why can’t I just leave this poor girl alone? My intentions are good, but I still continue to meddle after she has asked me to stop. From tonight on, I promise I won’t say another word about Sienna’s love life. Ever.

Chapter 6

 

Nothing irritates me more than when people don’t return calls or messages. I have left several messages for Bev to see how things are going with my cookies. I haven’t heard much from her other than her customers were very impressed with them. So what? What does that even mean? I’m starting to wonder if she’s purposely ignoring me. Maybe they aren’t doing as well as we had hoped. I’m bordering on stalker mode by continuously calling her. I know I need to stick to the two-day rule like in dating; apparently, that rule applies to everything. Who knew? I remember the two-day rule from my dating days. Nothing was more tortuous than that: the waiting, wondering, and second-guessing. Ugh!

On a good note, Sienna and I hugged and made up. We’re best friends again, and it’s a good thing because tomorrow is my bridal shower. I can hardly contain my excitement! All has been quiet with my cousins, so that’s even better news. I’m just praying that they stay on their best behavior tomorrow. Caycee and Lauren, my wild and crazy co-workers, keep warning me that they’re giving me massage oils and toys at my shower. This isn’t really a surprise because they gave me lingerie and handcuffs at my engagement party. Susan and the garden club ladies all gasped in horror; no doubt they’re the ones who have these items hidden in their bedrooms. Grandmother just shook her head and gave me a look of pure disapproval. I know that look very well. Anyway, I try to remind these girls that this is a bridal shower and not a bachelorette party. They seem to find it hilarious that my poor grandmother may have a coronary at the sight of anything sexual, and I’m sure Ellie would love to blame me for something happening to her.

The next morning I wake up early and finish several loads of laundry. I even do a little packing. While I’m curling my hair, I realize I still haven’t told Sienna about the house. It’s not really that I’m avoiding it; it’s just that we’ve both been busy. OK, so maybe I’ve been avoiding it. Anyway, I’m planning on telling her about it tonight.

My peaceful morning is abruptly interrupted by a phone call from Ellie. I’m going to have a positive attitude. I repeat this over and over out loud.

“Good morning, Ellie,” I say cheerfully.

“Madie, can you please talk to Sienna? I have been asking her what I can do to help today. She refuses to let me help; she keeps saying that everything is done. What are you going to do about this?” she demands, all without even saying hello.

“Ellie, I really appreciate you offering to help. Honestly, this shower has been planned for months. I hired her, and she’s just very particular about her events. I promise it’s nothing personal.” I already know how this is going to go. I learned a long time ago that Ellie doesn’t like not getting her way.

“So, that’s it. You really don’t want me or Stephy being a part of this day, do you? Well, maybe we just won’t come at all.” And with that, she hangs up on me.

“Good, please don’t come,” I say out loud. I really wish she were still on the line to have heard that, but of course, she’s not.

I call Sienna to let her know about the lovely conversation I just had with my dear cousin. She apologizes for all of it being her fault. I remind her that this issue goes back way before my shower or wedding plans. Needless to say, we are both praying that she will follow through on her threat of not coming. I should be so lucky!

When I arrive at the Korral House, I’m very impressed. Sienna and her team have outdone themselves once again. I had requested a Hawaiian luau-themed shower. I know some people may think the luau theme is overdone, but I have always loved luaus, and because we are going to Hawaii on our honeymoon, it seemed like a fun idea. As soon as I walk in, I’m welcomed with an authentic Hawaiian lei. Not the cheap party store kind either but gorgeous fresh orchids. Their smell is so overpowering that it has filled the room. The décor is subtle and tasteful, but I still feel like I’m in the Pacific. They have even hired real hula instructors to teach Polynesian dancing. I had to talk Craig out of the fire dancers. In his words, every party should have men in loincloths performing, but I thought that would have been a bit much. Seriously, though, how many times do I have to remind everyone that this is not a bachelorette party?

The guests are starting to arrive, and everyone is loving being greeted with a lei and a drink in a coconut glass. I’m having such a great time already that I completely forget about the incident with Ellie this morning. Unfortunately, that’s short-lived because she didn’t keep her promise of not coming. She and Stephy arrive about twenty minutes late, and I can tell she has an agenda.

“Are you kidding me? A luau?” She spits out the word as if it’s the most disgusting thing ever. “I thought Sienna was some big shot event planner, and this is all she could come up with? I’m sure there is something that I could have done today, but noooo, she had to be selfish so that she could take all the glory for this. I probably shouldn’t have even come.”

I know what she’s trying to do; I can let her get to me or I can just ignore her. She continues to complain, and I guess I finally snap. I must have really had enough because it doesn’t even occur to me that some of my guests may overhear me losing it.

“Stop!” I yell. “I’m so sick of all of this. Are you trying to ruin my day? I told you this has been planned for months, and you refused to listen to me. If you don’t want to be here, then you are more than welcome to leave.”

I think I completely throw her off guard because she doesn’t say a word. Unfortunately, while I’m going off on my tangent I don’t notice my grandmother, Susan, and my mom standing behind me. I know I’m going to hear about this later.

“Madison, what in the world?” I hear my mother’s voice from behind me. I close my eyes and pray I imagined that. Like maybe she is actually the little angel on my shoulder.

“Mom, hi! When did you get here? I’m so happy you’re here.” I turn around to hug her. Thankfully, Susan escorts Grandmother away, but I have no doubt that I will have to answer to her later. That’s going to be lots of fun.

“Aunt Karen, it’s so good to see you,” Ellie interrupts as she gives her a big hug. “I’m sorry you had to see all of that. I can explain—I had graciously offered to help with the shower today. However, Madison and Sienna made it clear they didn’t need or want my help.”

Wow, I really want to punch her, as in a possible beat down not just a shut-her-up kind of punch. Seriously, what’s happening to me? I’m turning into a monster; these girls bring out the absolute worst in me.

“No, that’s not what happened,” I say in a loud whisper because the guests are starting to multiply. “I told you that I had hired Sienna to plan my shower months ago before you showed any interest in my wedding. I told her what theme I wanted and let her take full control. And yes, I chose the luau theme.” I can read Ellie’s expression, and I know she wants to say something else but she stays quiet.

“Hello, ladies!” Craig interrupts loudly. “Well, well, well, the cousins have arrived. I have been looking forward to meeting both of you for weeks. I’m Craig. I work with Sheer Happiness Events, and I’m one of Madison’s best friends.” He reaches out and shakes both of their hands. Both of the girls are friendly, and Craig manages to distract them from me as he leads them to the bar to get a drink. He’s awesome; I need to remember to buy him a gift. My mom is still standing in front of me with her arms folded in disappointment.

“Mom, you can save your lecture for later.” I hold up my hand because I know she has plenty to say. “I know how disappointed you are in me, and you will have plenty of time to tell me about it after my shower. For now, I’m going to enjoy my day and spend time with my friends.”

When I turn around Abby is waiting for me. I walk over to her, and she gives me a hug. She doesn’t say a word, but she knows she doesn’t need to.

I’m having so much fun, especially because I have managed to avoid my entire family for most of the day. I could definitely get used to this on a regular basis. Everyone loved the hula lessons; even Ellie was out there practicing. I took a picture so I had proof, just in case. The shower is a huge success until Craig has a brilliant idea, actually a not so brilliant idea. He decides we should go around the room and everyone should share a memory or message about me. Oh no! Why? I whisper to him that I specifically requested no games. He insists that this is not a game and that it gives everyone a chance to share something wonderful about me. He’s obviously forgetting that family is here, and my stomach starts to turn into knots. This is going to be a disaster.

As the game, or whatever it is, gets underway, I realize how many great friends I have. Most of the guests are sharing stories about how we met or what they love about me. There are lots of laughs and even a few tears. There is a bit of a gasp when Kellie, a friend from high school, tells a few stories about us getting drunk on wine coolers, getting tattoos, and throwing up in the pool at the YMCA. To this day, I’m not even sure how we got to the YMCA that night. Anyway, Grandmother obviously didn’t know I have a tattoo. I see her rub her temples; she must be getting a migraine, or at least that’s the excuse she will use when she leaves early. Slowly we are making our way around the room, and Stephy’s turn is approaching. Maybe I should create a diversion? I could always pull the fire alarm. I glance at Sienna who gives me a nervous smile.

“Hi, everyone. I’m Stephanie Smith, Madie’s cousin. I’m happy to be here today to celebrate my cousin’s wedding. Madie is like another sister to us and she deserves all the happiness in the world.” She pauses as she takes a sip of her tropical drink. For a second I think she is finished talking, but of course, I’m not that lucky. She continues, “I have always admired Madie; she’s a hard worker and has risen above her challenges.”

Ahhh . . . Yes, here it comes. I plaster a huge goofy, fake smile on my face. “School was not always easy for her; she was even held back a whole year. But that didn’t stop her—she realized that mainstream college classes probably weren’t for her and went to cosmetology school. She’s done very well! Madie, I’m so proud of you.” She runs over to me and gives me a hug. The plastered smile is still there. If my Grandmother wasn’t here, I’d be halfway through a bottle of tequila by now. Of course, I would need to save the other half for whatever Ellie has to say. And now it’s Grandmother’s turn. I close my eyes and remind myself that this will all be over soon enough.

“Hello, everyone.” She doesn’t stand up but gives everyone a Miss America kind of wave. “Such a wonderful occasion to celebrate. I have been extremely blessed with three beautiful and talented granddaughters. I’m thankful that Madison’s marriage has brought my girls together again. Thank you.” She smiles and waves again. That’s it, that’s her message to me, nothing about me alone, no mention of my accomplishments. Wow, just wow. If I had that bottle of tequila it would be completely gone, and Ellie hasn’t even shared her glowing tribute to me yet.

“How are you holding up?” Abby whispers from beside me as she gives me a sympathetic look. “You know, on the whole, I don’t think it’s been that bad.” I know Abby is trying to make me feel better, and she is right. It really could have been so much worse. I look up to see Ellie standing; she is the last of my guests to talk. Here we go.

“Hello, I’m Ellenor Smith, Madie’s other cousin. I think Stephy said everything perfectly. We have so much respect and love for Madie, and we do consider her another sister. Even though we haven’t been as close as we were when we were young, Stephy and I are making the effort. We practically had to beg her to be bridesmaids, and thankfully, she finally agreed. Of course, in her defense, it was last minute.” I look at Sienna and signal the she needs to cut this off now. I see her whisper to Craig because this was his idea to emotionally torture me for an hour. “How terrific are her cookies? They almost look store-bought, but don’t worry, Madie, I know you made them,” she says, pointing at me. “I have to admit I was surprised about this hobby of hers. When we were kids she did break our Easy-Bake Oven and almost burned our house down, and believe me when I tell you that was not the only stupid thing she did . . .”

“OK! Thank you so much, ladies,” Craig interrupts Ellie. “I’m terribly sorry to cut this short, as you can see, the dessert buffet has been set up. I know after listening to all of these emotional tributes I could definitely go for some chocolate. Please help yourself.”

The guests start chatting and making their way to the dessert table, which looks amazing, I might add. Because I don’t have tequila here, I will just have to eat my weight in desserts. I’m not usually an emotional eater, but after today, I probably need to be.

“So, I don’t think it was that bad,” Craig says after he walks over with a black-and-white cookie in his hand. “Whatever!” I exclaim. “That was brutal, thanks by the way.” I’m not one who holds grudges, but it may take me a while to forgive Craig for this one.

“Craig’s right. I expected much worse,” Abby says, wrapping her arm around my shoulder.

A little while later most of the guests have gone except for Sienna, Abby, Craig, Susan, and my family. We’re busy gathering the gifts, décor, and the flowers.

“Madison, I can bring all the gifts to the house. You can put everything away as you move your stuff over,” Susan says as she looks for something in her gorgeous Louis Vuitton bag (authentic, of course). Crap! She didn’t just say that out loud, did she? With everything happening, I haven’t had a chance to tell anyone about the house.

“House? What house?” Sienna is the first to ask; everyone else is staring at me. I guess this means it’s time to make the announcement.

“My house, well mine and Cole’s.” I give Susan a big smile. I know she’s probably wondering why I haven’t told anyone. “I’ve been so busy that I haven’t been able to tell you all about this fantastic gift that we’ve been given. Cole’s parents have given us a beautiful house for our wedding. I still can’t believe it!” Everyone starts talking at once and asking questions.

“Susan, what a wonderful present. Thank you!” my mom says, giving Susan a big hug.

“What’s the square footage?” Grandmother asks.

“Is there a pool?” asks Craig.

“We will have so much fun decorating!” Abby exclaims.

“Are you kidding me? Who gets a free house?” I hear Ellie whisper to Stephy.

“Where is it?” Sienna asks.

Thankfully, Susan starts answering everyone’s questions. I pull Sienna aside to explain.

“I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you yet. We found out while we weren’t speaking, and then you were so busy with the shower. Honestly, I just forgot.” I feel so bad right now; I should have told her.

“I know we were planning to live close to each other. Neither Cole nor I knew they were going to do this.” I’m trying to talk as quietly as I can, especially because I see Ellie and Stephy curiously watching us. I know they think we’re about to argue, and I refuse to give them the satisfaction of seeing that.

“Of course. I know that,” she says. “Congratulations.” She gives me a quick hug and runs off to pack up the décor.

“Honey, are you OK?” Susan asks worriedly.

“Yes. I’m fine.”

“I invited everyone to my house for a late dinner. That way, you can bring them to see the house. I hope that’s OK.” How do I tell her that that is the last thing I want to do? After everything everyone has done for me today, I don’t.

“Sounds good,” I tell her.

After we load up all the gifts into several cars, we caravan over to Susan’s, and I guess my place, too. (Still can’t get used to that.) My mom rides with me, and I know she just wants to talk about my run-in with Ellie.

“Go ahead, Mom, let’s get it out so we can move on.”

“Honey, why are you so defensive?” she asks with the same disapproving tone my grandmother uses. “Why don’t you just tell me why you were screaming at your cousin in front of all your friends and family?”

“Mom, will it even make a difference if I tell you?” I keep my eyes focused straight ahead on the road. This isn’t my first rodeo going head-to-head with her on this subject. “You’ve already made up your mind. You expect this perfect family relationship that’s just not going to happen.”

“No, honey. That’s not . . .”she tries to interrupt, but I hold up my hand to stop her.

“Please just let me finish. I asked them to be in my wedding, the most important day in my life. I did this for you and Grandmother. We’re never going to agree on this subject and my feelings have never mattered anyway. So, it’s probably best to just leave it alone and move on.”

Mom doesn’t say anything else about it, and the rest of our ride is quiet. When we pull up at the house (my house), Mom tells me she loves me and gives me a hug. I sense a tiny bit of something from her, guilt maybe? I tell her that I love her, too.

My new house is a huge hit as is Susan’s dinner that she somehow manages to whip up in less than thirty minutes. Sometimes I wonder if she has a secret chef team hidden in her house, or maybe she has a delivery company bring in food and she pretends she made it. Either way, she outdoes herself again. I hope Cole doesn’t expect these kinds of meals after we’re married. If so, I guess I can always send him down the street to his mommy’s house for a home-cooked meal. At least he will always have cookies.

Chapter 7

 

A few days later, I realize that I haven’t heard a word from my cousins, and it’s been wonderful. I quickly learn that I have a bad habit of jinxing myself when it comes to them. When I arrive at work, I look at my appointments for the day. At 1:30, I see a familiar name, and I start to feel sick to my stomach. There is no way it could be the same person, right? There are people out there with doppelganger names, right?

“Lauren!” I yell, running to the reception desk. “Who’s this Stephanie Smith? Did she say anything when she set the appointment?” There is no way that Stephy would actually allow me to do her hair, right?

“Not really, she requested you when she made the appointment. That was pretty much all except she was very demanding and wanted to get an appointment as soon as possible. Do you know her?” Crap! It is Stephy, but why?

“I think so.” I have a bad feeling as I start to get everything ready for my day. I wonder why Stephy would be coming to me today. I’ve been doing hair for years, and never once has either of them shown any interest in my career other than to put it down. So, this leads me to believe that they’re up to something or maybe paranoia is officially taking over my soul. I guess it could be possible that what they said at the shower is true. Maybe they are really trying.

A few hours later, I hear Stephy’s voice. I was hoping up until the very last second that another Stephanie Smith was going to walk through that door. But of course not, it’s Stephy.

“Madie, I brought tons of pictures of what I want you to do. I really want that ombre color that everyone is doing. Here’s exactly what I want.” She hands me some pictures of some very dramatic color. Stephy has really dark hair, so I’m hesitant to go this drastic on her especially because I have never done her hair. I know her well enough that if it’s not exactly what she is expecting she will let it be known. Now the question is how do I convince her to do something else?

“Honestly, Stephy, this is too dramatic for today. We could gradually get there in a couple appointments. Here are some other options.” I hand her my iPad with several other ideas. She looks through them but that doesn’t seem to satisfy her.

“Can you get as close to this as possible?” She points to one of the pictures she brought me. “Unless you just can’t do it?” She knows that is going to drive me crazy. I hate when someone questions my skills because I’m great at doing hair, and I know it.

“Of course I can do it, but I want you to be happy with how it turns out. It would be better to start gradually and work to this.” I think she’s actually considering that I may know what I’m talking about. Although I’m still curious to know why she came to me today out of the blue.

“So, what happened to your regular stylist? You’ve never come to see me before. Not that I mind, it’s really nice of you to come in.” I put her on the spot because I have nothing to lose by just being honest.

“Oh, Federico is wonderful. He went on a holiday around the world. Won’t return for several months. I miss him dearly. Anyhoo, I figured why not give you a chance to do my hair. I’m sure you can use every bit of practice you can get. What is it that they say, every client is more practice or mastering your craft or something like that?” Hmmm . . . I give her a forced fake smile. I’m contemplating “accidentally” chopping off some of her hair, maybe just on one side. I wonder if I would feel guilty about it afterward?

“OK, let’s get to it then.” I try to put that idea out my head.

Is this appointment ever going to end? Stephy has been rambling non-stop about gossip at her job, men she has been dating, and how she is now on a strict juicing only diet. I want to tell her that I have no desire to hear another word about her irritable bowel syndrome and other “private” health issues she had prior to the juicing. Nor do I care about the “who has slept with whom” sagas at work. She hasn’t let me get a word in.

I manage to finish her hair without completely chopping it off or overprocessing her color. That was definitely an internal battle of good versus evil. Good ultimately prevailed, but only so I could keep my spotless reputation intact.

“Here you go!” I exclaim proudly as I spin her chair around to show her my latest masterpiece. “The color really suits your skin tone.” I did a subtler ombre color than the pictures she brought in. It’s very similar so she shouldn’t really notice, or so I thought.

“Oh. Well, it’s nice but it’s not this color,” she says as she holds up the picture to her head. “I really had my heart set on this.”

“I know, but this is just a slightly darker shade; we’re working to this.” I point to her picture. “At your next appointment, we will be able to achieve exactly that. Just trust me, I have been doing this a long time.” Secretly I’m praying she won’t come back. She stares at herself in the mirror for what seems like several minutes. She starts running her fingers through her hair and swinging her head around. She looks like she’s in a shampoo commercial. I can tell she’s really starting to like it, but I doubt she will admit it.

“Well, I will just have to see.” She gathers up her stuff, gives me an air kiss, and with that, she is gone.

After she leaves, I wonder if I just imagined all of that. Why, after so many years, did she decide to come to me? Was there some kind of ulterior motive? I shake my head; I think I’m starting to lose it. I put these crazy thoughts out of my head and get ready for my next client.

When I get home I look around my apartment, and it really hits me that I’ve barely started packing. I don’t know what I have been waiting for. Something comes over me and I become a packing machine; granted, it’s not Sienna’s perfectly organized (and annoying) method of packing, but at least I’m doing it.

When Sienna comes home, she doesn’t make a single comment about me packing but gives me a satisfied smile. We chat for a few minutes and she hurries to her room; she obviously has plans tonight and seems to be in a good mood so my guess is she has a date with the very dashing Ace Eckelund.

“Which outfit do you like better?” she asks, holding up two possible choices.

“Well, that depends on where you’re going,” I say, giving her a sly grin.

“It’s a dinner party, but it’s still a work function,” she replies quickly. I raise my eyebrows.

“OK, OK. I’m going with Ace.” Wow, what’s this, she admitted it to me? She isn’t keeping it a secret?

“Oh, that sounds fun. I think you should wear that one.” I point to the always appropriate and sexy little black dress.

“What’s the dinner party for?” I ask curiously. Ace’s company is always having these fun dinner parties/work events. If I ever need a job, I plan to call him immediately. I’m not even exactly sure what he does, but it’s something international and they’re always having fun.

“There is a new team being introduced from Scotland. They recently arrived, and it’s some kind of welcome party.” She runs back to the bathroom to do her makeup.

All of a sudden, a light bulb goes off in my head and I remember that woman Ace was with at Venice. What was her name again? I hurry to the bathroom to tell Sienna about it and trip over my box I was packing.

“Ow!” I scream, followed by a bunch of bad words. My grandmother would be horrified if she heard me right now.

“What are you doing?” Sienna yells.

“I just tripped, damn it. That’s what I get for packing.” I really should just hire movers to pack up my crap.

“Anyway, I just remembered something.” I sit down on the floor and rub my knee, which I can already tell will be nice and bruised. “I forgot to tell you that Ace was with some woman from Scotland when we ran into him. I can’t remember her name though.”

“Was it Allyson?” she interrupts with an eye roll. Hmmm . . . that’s not good; she has obviously had the pleasure of meeting her.

“Yes! I take it you’ve met her.” I can read Sienna like a book; she has met her, and as I told Cole that night, she also thinks that Allyson is trouble.

“Yep. Apparently she’s brilliant and will be a smashing addition to the team here.” I laugh at Sienna’s imitation of Ace. I’m assuming they’ve had some discussion regarding her.

“Don’t get me wrong, she’s been extremely nice to me, but I don’t know. There’s just something,” she continues and I can see she’s worried.

“I’ll tell you exactly what it is. She’s a woman with a pulse, and he’s the boss who happens to be the ultimate package. She knows exactly what she’s doing. Of course she’s going to be super nice to his girlfriend.” She raises her hand to protest. “Oh stop! You’re his girlfriend, so get over it. Anyway, just keep an eye on her.” I finish telling her all about the night I met her and how she stared me down when I was talking to Ace. On a side note, this may be just the thing she needs to give her that push to letting her guard down with him.

Sienna looks amazing as always when she leaves for her date. The very brilliant Allyson doesn’t stand a chance.

The next few days seem like a whirlwind. I have my final dress fitting. Have I mentioned I love my dress? And I mean LOVE! I already have plans to wear it all the time after the wedding is over. I will be like Monica and Phoebe in that episode of Friends when they are sitting around in wedding dresses drinking beer and eating popcorn. That will totally be me.

With a little over two weeks until the wedding, I’m finally getting serious about packing, and everything else seems to be falling into place perfectly. Even things with my cousins have calmed down, other than a ridiculous phone call from Stephy yesterday. She called to tell me that she and Grandmother discussed the wedding hair for both the bridesmaids and me. I (nicely) told her that I appreciated her suggestions, but they needed to leave the hair to me. I’m not sure if that will be enough or if I will hear more on that subject later.

This morning Bev called with a few cookie orders. Luckily, I don’t have any more clients, so I head home early to get started on the cookies. When I get home, I find Sienna sitting in on the floor with piles of papers around her. She’s frantically looking through files; whatever is going on has her completely flustered.

“Hey, are you OK?” I say, and she jumps straight into the air.

“Madie, you scared the shit out of me,” she yells. “I didn’t expect you home so early.”

“I’m sorry. I have some cookie orders to work on.” I put my stuff down on the couch. “Are you OK?” I ask again because I can tell she’s not OK.

“I just have to find something. I never lose things. I can’t believe this,” she rambles on under her breath.

“I can help you; what are you looking for?” I sit down on the floor and grab a stack of files.

“This is crazy! How could I do this?” she yells and puts her face in her hands and starts to cry. Sienna hardly ever cries.

“Oh no, don’t cry. What’s wrong? What did you lose?” I scoot over on the carpet and put my arms around her. I can’t remember the last time I saw her this distraught. In between sobs, she starts to talk.

“I (sob) lost (sob) a (sob) very important document.”

“OK, I can hardly understand you. Take a deep breath and try to calm down.” I bring her some tissues, and she settles down a little.

“Apparently, I didn’t turn in an amendment to a contract for an event. I swear that I did, now the venue is telling me that the event was canceled, but I never received notification of it. Craig and I completely tore apart the office today. This is a lot of my stuff from my office when I left Carrie’s.” She points to the huge mess on the floor.

“OK, so what should I be looking for?”

She starts to cry again. “It’s the contract for your wedding. I . . . I’m so sorry, Madie, but as of right now, your wedding is canceled.”

Chapter 8

 

What was that? I feel like I’m hallucinating. I’m sitting on the living room floor with Sienna who is still sobbing. I think she said my wedding has been canceled. My wedding that is supposed to take place in two weeks. My wedding that will have guests from around the world in attendance. My wedding that is supposed to be the most perfect day of my life. I can see it now: Ellie and Stephy laughing at me, my grandmother asking how I could let this happen.

“W-What? But, we were just there a few weeks ago? How is this possible?” I literally can’t move.

“I’m not sure,” she says, wiping away her tears. “Apparently there has been several changes made to their event staff and my contact is no longer there. I have talked to about five different people over the last month or so.” I start to frantically look through the files on the floor. Sienna gets up and goes to the bathroom. She comes out a few minutes later, and I can see she has a plan.

“Don’t worry, Madie. I’m going to fix this, I promise.” She grabs her bag and runs to the door. She leaves me still sitting on floor. I’m not sure what to do, so I literally look through every single piece of paper for anything with my name on it. There is nothing here. I start to think of every scenario that could happen. What if this doesn’t get fixed? Will we be able to find another venue with this short of time? What about the guests who have already purchased their plane tickets? Oh. My. Gosh. I need Cole.

After I get off the phone with Cole, I feel a tiny bit better. He assured me that we would get this all worked out, and if not, we could always elope in Hawaii. I yelled at him for that, even though I know he was just trying to make me feel better. I don’t know what it is though; something isn’t adding up with all of this. Sienna booked the venue months ago, and she would never make this kind of mistake. The only thing I can think of is when I got engaged, she was in the middle of relationship hell. So, I guess it’s possible for an error to be made. But the strangest part is that we have been there multiple times since then. We have taken a tour of our ballroom and sampled food. So, why all of a sudden is something from the contract missing? I’m starting to think that someone has done this on purpose, someone is trying to sabotage my wedding, or maybe I’m just paranoid.

I feel like hours have gone by. I have tried calling Sienna multiple times. I even call Craig.

“Hi. It’s Madison, has Sienna called you?”

“No, why?” he says cautiously.

“I know what’s going on, Craig.” I roll my eyes. I could tell that he wasn’t sure if I knew or not.

“Oh good.” He sounds relieved. “I really didn’t want to pretend like the shit hasn’t hit the fan. Don’t worry though; Sienna has us working on everything. We are prepared to contact every guest on the RSVP list as well as contacting a few new venues. You know . . . just in case.”

My heart completely sinks. What if this doesn’t get fixed? I feel sick to my stomach, so I quickly get off the phone. There is nothing else for me to do but wait. I flip through the channels and find Dirty Dancing. I’m starting to feel so hopeless that not even Patrick Swayze’s dancing is cheering me up. Sienna finally comes home. She has definitely calmed down, but I can already tell that she doesn’t have great news for me.

“Well?”

“It’s being investigated further. I made them show me the file and, sure enough, some documents are missing.”

“So, do you think someone could have done this on purpose?” I ask her. I can almost see the wheels turning in her head.

“I . . . I don’t know? I didn’t even think about that. I can’t imagine who would do that or why?” Ugh, she has a point, and as usual, she always has to be so practical. It really is annoying.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” We both sit there quietly. The only sound in the room is coming from Dirty Dancing, and I hear “Nobody puts baby in the corner.” Sienna is right, who would care about ruining my wedding enough to go to these lengths?

“Ellie!” I shout suddenly. “It has to be her!”

“What?” Sienna asks. I can tell by the look that she’s giving me that she thinks I’m losing it.

“Madie, I know you have your issues with your cousins, but I seriously doubt that Ellie would go to the trouble of getting the wedding canceled. How would she do it? She would have to have a contact there, and it would have to be someone willing to risk his or her job. It just doesn’t make sense.”

She’s right; I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

“So, I will follow up again tomorrow. Don’t worry, everything is going to be fine.” She gives me a nervous smile.

I want to tell her that I talked to Craig and that he told me about contacting the other venues. I decide to wait until tomorrow; I’m still hoping and praying that something will magically happen and my wedding will go as planned.

When I finally get to bed, I lay there for what seems like forever. How am I going to explain all of this to Grandmother? She’ll be completely devastated, and once again, I’ll be the biggest disappointment in her life. I’m still not convinced this is Sienna’s error. There’s more to it, and I’m going to find out what it is.

What a horrible night’s sleep. I guess technically you can’t even call it that. I tossed and turned most of the night. After I drag myself out of bed, I find Sienna’s room empty. Her bed is so perfectly made that it looks like she didn’t even sleep in it last night. Sienna sends me a text that she is working on everything. On my way to work, I start to feel really guilty. I should be helping her with all of this; after all, it’s my wedding. I send her a text.

Want me to come meet you? I should be helping.

A few minutes later, she responds.

Of course not! I got this.

I knew she wouldn’t let me help. I guess there is nothing else I can do except wait.

My phone starts to ring. I see Cole is calling.

“Hello,” I answer.

“Hey, girl. So, are we still getting married? Just tell me if I need to show up and what I need to wear.”

I smile to myself, even though the thought of this whole disaster still makes me sick. Cole somehow manages to make me feel better about it.

“I have no idea. Maybe we should get married on the beach in Hawaii?” It’s not like that would be a bad thing, and then I won’t have to worry about my family.

“Really? I have been waiting months for you to say that. Let’s go tomorrow!” he says eagerly.

“I know,” I hesitate. “Sienna is working on it today. Let’s just see what she has to say, and then we can make the decision.”

After I hang up, I’m even more frustrated. I know that Cole has never wanted the big fancy wedding, but it’s almost as if he’s happy that our wedding is falling apart. Sienna is my only hope at this point. I’m starting to think that no one else even cares. When I get to work it seems like everyone has only one thing on his or her mind, and that’s my wedding day.

“So, I was looking on your wedding registry the other day and all of the less expensive things are already purchased, do you care if I don’t buy from there?” Caycee asks. “I mean, I’m not trying to be cheap, but I can’t exactly afford some of that stuff on the list.”

“Of course you don’t have to buy from there,” I insist. “I’m not a fan of registries, but Sienna insisted it was necessary because some people prefer to have a list to buy from.”

After I manage to slip away from Caycee, two other co-workers ask me about the wedding. Oh my gosh, I’m really starting to panic.

I manage to get through my morning without destroying anyone’s hair. I don’t have any clients this afternoon and still haven’t heard back from Sienna. I think it’s time that I do something about this, so I leave work and head straight for the Four Seasons.

When I arrive, I immediately get choked up as I walk through the exquisite lobby. I can’t believe this is happening; a few weeks ago, I was here planning the perfect day. I take my sunglasses off the top of my head and put them on. I don’t want anyone to see my face because the ugly cry could start at any second. I head to the event office, which is located near the back on the second floor. There’s a smaller lobby right outside the office. I can hear talking and laughing as I walk down the corridor. As soon as I turn the corner I see her sitting in one of the large leather chairs, and she’s laughing. It’s Ellie. I knew it! She did this; there is no other possible explanation. I know it could be a coincidence, blah blah, but really? I quickly turn around and duck into a small hallway. OK, Madison, how are you going to handle this? I ask myself. A few different ideas come to my mind:

  1. I could leave and call Sienna. She would definitely know what to do

  1. I could approach her, act surprised, and find out why she is here.

  1. I could punch her.

  1. I could confront her and completely go off on her making a huge scene.

So considering my current mental state, which I’m assuming on the whole isn’t great, it’s as if I have an out of body experience. Without thinking things through, I turn around and walk right up to her. I can already tell by my heart racing that I’m unintentionally choosing option #4.

“Mad Madie, what a surprise. Are you here to do wedding stuff?” she says, giving me an innocent smile.

“I think you know why I’m here, and I told you to STOP CALLING ME THAT!” My voice gets progressively louder with each word.

“Why are you yelling? I was joking, just relax,” she says calmly.

“Stop telling me to relax after what you’ve done. Of course, I’m going to yell. What did you expect I would do?” I say through my gritted teeth.

“OK, so it’s obvious you’re having a bad day, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She excuses herself from her table and starts to walk away.

I grab her arm. “Seriously, you’re going to pretend like nothing has happened. Like you haven’t completely ruined my wedding.” I start to raise my voice again and a few people are now watching us.

“What the hell?” She really has the innocent act down perfectly. ”Ruined your wedding? You can’t be serious?”

“Whatever, if you didn’t get my wedding canceled, then why are you here? You’ve hated me since we were kids; all of the years of being mean to me, then all of a sudden you’re so interested in being my bridesmaid? I knew you were up to something. How did you do it though? How did you get my wedding canceled?”

“Canceled? You’ve completely lost your mind!” she exclaims. “And what are you even talking about, me being mean to you? You have always been a spoiled brat!”

“Forget it, it’s not like you would tell me the truth anyway. I’m done with you forever! I will still marry Cole whether it’s here or not and have a wonderful life, but you will always be a miserable cow.” I turn and walk away. OK, truthfully, I’ve never called anyone a cow before, but it sounded good, or maybe I’ve just read too many chick-lit books. I hear Ellie call my name, but I keep walking. I meant what I said; I’m done.

On my drive home, I’m still fuming. I realize I never even went to the event office. I hear my phone ringing from my bag. Sienna is calling, finally!

Chapter 9

 

“Madie, what the hell is going on? Ellie just called me and said you’ve completely lost it.”

Wow, I can’t believe she actually called Sienna; she is so infuriating. I know she is going to continue to deny her involvement in all of this. She’s going to play the victim and make me out to be the bad guy.

“I haven’t lost it. I just told her I was done with her after what she has done,” I reply very calmly.

“You did what? Wait a minute, how do you know she’s behind all of this? Did she admit it?”

I tell Sienna about going to the hotel and seeing Ellie there.

“Wait. You don’t know for sure that Ellie did this; her being there today really could have been a coincidence. Madie, you don’t have any proof.”

What’s she saying? Seriously, what are the chances of her being there today, the day after everything has gone down?

“So, she told you that she didn’t sabotage the wedding. Do you believe her?” I ask sternly.

“I don’t know what to think. I guess it’s possible she could’ve somehow. I don’t know . . . I have to make a call. I will meet you at home in a bit.”

As I drive home, I wonder how long it will take for Grandmother and my mom to call me. Whether or not Ellie is behind this, I really should’ve never asked my cousins to be bridesmaids. I should’ve stood my ground and went with my gut feeling. From this moment on, I refuse to let anyone in my family bully me ever again.

While I’m waiting for Sienna, I call Abby and explain what just happened. I know I can always count on Abby to be supportive.

“Wow,” she says finally. “That’s awful. Do you really think your cousins would do this? They really seemed so interested in being a part of the wedding . . .” she trails off.

I sigh. I really hate it when she makes me think about things. Maybe I did overreact and jump to conclusions. The thing is that even though I originally wondered if Ellie was behind this, deep down I really didn’t believe it. At least until I saw her there today, that made me realize that it could be possible, that they really could be that heartless. But, what if it really was just some crazy coincidence?

“Are you saying you don’t think Ellie did this?” I ask. I have a sinking feeling in my stomach. First Sienna and now Abby, I’m starting to wonder if I’m on my own here.

“No. Well, not exactly,” she hesitates. “I’m just saying that maybe there’s a chance that this isn’t her fault?”

Baby Ace starts crying, so Abby gets off the phone. When I get home, I refuse to sit around and do nothing, so I make cookies and do something I hardly ever do: I eat cookies, a lot of cookies, and then I throw up.

I completely lose track of time, and I’m in the middle of tying ribbons on cookie bags when Sienna finally comes home.

“Hey,” she says softly. She looks completely exhausted. I can tell by her body language that she hasn’t gotten anywhere with the wedding.

“I guess you don’t have any good news for me?” I ask knowingly. She shakes her head and frowns.

“I’m so sorry. I spoke with the director today. They are investigating it, but I guess in the meantime there was another event booked.” She looks away, but I can see the tears welling up in her eyes.

“It’s not your fault,” I remind her. I swallow hard; I don’t want to start to cry because it will make Sienna feel even worse than she already does.

“So, um, what do you suggest we do now?” I ask. “What about all of the guests? The DJ, all of the plans?” I suddenly feel overwhelmed; it looks like Cole may get his wish because a Hawaiian beach wedding is looking better and better all the time.

“I wanted to talk to you about that; we’ve been working on a few options.” She sits down and pulls out her phone. “We can have the wedding at a country club. It’s a beautiful place, but it will be a tight fit with the number of guests that are expected. There’s also another venue we are working on. I’m just waiting to hear back from them about availability.” I try my best to pretend that I’m not completely devastated about all of this.

“I’m sure either location will be great,” I say unconvincingly. “Tell me what we need to do; we only have two weeks.” Sienna scrolls through her phone.

“As soon as you choose the venue, we will switch everything. I have Craig and Nicole ready to contact the guests, and honestly they won’t even know the difference.” She rubs her forehead. “I know this isn’t how your wedding was supposed to go, and I feel absolutely horrible about it. I promise I will do everything I can to make it a beautiful day.”

“You don’t need to feel bad about anything. None of this is your fault,” I reiterate.

While Sienna and I are talking, I miss several calls from Grandmother and my mom. I knew it wouldn’t take long for them to find out. I decide to let every call go to voicemail because I know I’m not prepared to talk to any of them. My phone rings again, and I’m about to turn it off when I see it’s Susan calling. Cole must have explained what’s happened. It’s time for me to be honest with myself and everyone else that our wedding plans have changed.

“Hi, Susan. How are you?” I try to sound as cheerful as I can.

“Honey, I just got a strange call from Cole,” she says. “Please tell me what’s going on with the wedding.”

I tell her the whole story from start to finish except conveniently leaving out the Ellie part. I get choked up a few times, but I manage to do it without becoming hysterical.

“I have never heard of an event being canceled at the last minute. What about the deposit? This is absurd.”

“I don’t know what’s happening,” I reply. “It’s being investigated, but we don’t have time to wait. Sienna is working on a new location. They will inform all the guests of the changes as soon as we have it set.”

“Oh dear. “ She sounds completely in shock. “How are you holding up? I can’t imagine how you must feel. Honestly, I’ve been so impressed with Sienna. I’m shocked she could make this kind of a mistake.”

I don’t want her to think badly of Sienna, so I decide to explain everything that happened with Ellie.

“Oh my goodness, how could she do this? I know most families have problems, but I never could imagine something like this. It’s very disappointing,” she exclaims. Ahhh, finally someone is not suggesting that Ellie is innocent. I ask her if she thinks I made a mistake with my confrontation.

She doesn’t say anything at first. “No, I don’t think you made a mistake,” she answers finally.

“I’m not convinced that your cousin is behind this, but I’m proud of you for being honest about your other feelings.” She continues, “I think you’ve been holding in these feelings for a very long time. You have a lot of issues with both of them as well as your grandmother and even your parents to some extent. The time had come to be honest.”

Wow, I never thought about that. “I still haven’t spoken with my grandmother; that will probably be the most difficult part. No doubt she’s already heard Ellie’s side, and she’s come to her own conclusion.”

I can’t continue to stress about this because that’s what got me into this whole mess. If I had stood firm on my own feelings, then I never would have let them talk me into asking them. For the first time in a few days, I start to feel better. I thank Susan for listening before we hang up.

Sienna goes to bed early but not before I hear her on the phone. She must be talking to Ace; I overhear her say something about this being damaging to her company. I keep forgetting how this will affect her. I guess losing a wedding at such a high profile location can’t be good for business. As devastated as I am, I need to remember that other people are being affected also.

The next morning when I wake up, I feel a little better, at least emotionally. All of those cookies definitely did a number on my stomach; that was my first and last time I will be stress eating. I vow never to do that again.

I’ve managed to avoid all calls from my family, but I know I can’t do that forever. I just don’t know what to say, or rather, I do know what to say, but I’m not sure how to say it. Ugh, I think I need professional help.

The best (and easiest) place to start is with my mom. When I call her, it doesn’t start out good. She yells at me for making a scene in a public place and not talking to Ellie about it at first. I try to explain that I was in the heat of the moment.

“When are you ever going to take my feelings into account?” I say to her, my voice starting to crack. “You pressure me to ask them to be bridesmaids. But you failed to realize that we haven’t spoken in months or maybe even longer.”

“Honey, that should never matter when it comes to family,” she insists.

I’m more frustrated than ever; I guess this is never going to change. This will be a battle for the rest of my life, unless I want to completely cut ties with all of them. Sad to say that there have been many days in my life that I have considered that.

“Mom, stop!” I yell, and I start to cry. “I’m your daughter. For once, can you be on my side? Think back to all those times I came to you when they would do something mean to me. Please try to put yourself in my shoes.” Mom doesn’t say anything. Maybe she’s actually thinking about it, but I’m getting more and more frustrated.

“Of course you don’t have anything to say,” I say sadly.

I hang up on her because I’m not getting anywhere, and I don’t want to say something I may regret later. Well, that didn’t go well at all, but I don’t care. I made a vow to myself last night that I wouldn’t let any of them bully me ever again. I have to do something productive; this is not a positive start to my day. I have a wedding in two weeks and no place to have it. The most important thing is marrying Cole; I will worry about everything else later. There is only one place I have to be today.

When I get to Sheer Happiness Events, I can see Sienna and Craig busily working through the window. I sent Sienna a text that I would be coming by to discuss everything. She seemed happy that I was coming in, so I’m praying that means that things are looking up.

“There’s the blushing bride-to-be,” Craig announces when he sees me. “Can I just tell you that I’m amazed at how you are keeping yourself together with everything that’s happened. I thought you were going to completely fall apart.”

I guess he doesn’t know anything about my public verbal attack on Ellie because I’m pretty sure that could count as falling apart.

“I appreciate your faith in me, Craig,” I say with a smile. “I’m hoping you guys have good news for me?”

I notice Nicole look up from her desk. She gives me a friendly wave. I don’t know her well, but Sienna says she’s great.

“Craig, leave her alone,” Sienna says, hitting him on the arm. “Madie, we do have good news for you. We found a location that I think would be fantastic.” She runs into her office and emerges with some pictures. She shows me a picture of a beautiful beachside resort. It’s definitely not as elegant as the Four Seasons but it’s very nice.

“What do you think?” she asks nervously.

“Wow, it’s really nice. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this resort before.”

I start to look through the brochure. The lobby is very tropical, with big palm trees and lots of hot pink everywhere. It’s bordering on tacky—the only things missing are plastic flamingos. On the other hand, the ballroom is amazing. It’s bright and airy; part of it has a glass roof that reminds me of a green house. The best part is the balcony extends out over the sand and overlooks the ocean.

“What is this place?” I ask her. She gets an excited look on her face.

“It was an old hotel that was abandoned. The new owners just opened a few months ago after a massive renovation. They’re only using it for events, so it will not be a hotel anymore. I know the lobby is hideous, but it’s available the night of your wedding. What do you think?”

I look through the pictures one more time. “It’s perfect,” I exclaim. Sienna and Craig high-five each other, and Nicole cheers from her desk.

“There is one tiny little issue,” she says as she holds two fingers together. I don’t like the sound of that. Usually when Sienna says that it’s really a bigger issue than she is letting on. “They have no catering staff. So we will have to find a caterer, but I have made a few calls so hopefully I will hear something back.”

This is just great. There will be no food at my wedding; my guests will starve. We will have to go to Costco and get lunchmeat platters, and we will have to serve pigs-in-a-blanket. Don’t get me wrong, I totally love pigs-in-a-blanket, but I just didn’t want to serve them at my wedding.

Oh well, we have no other option at this point, so I tell Sienna to book the resort anyway. I call Cole to tell him the half-good news, and he pretends to be upset about us not eloping, but I can tell he doesn’t care either way. He tells me as long as he marries me and we can start our life then he’s happy. I’m instantly reminded of what really matters, just him and me exchanging our vows.

“I miss you so much,” he whispers, his voice getting deeper. “I will be home tomorrow night, and all I want to do is hold you.”

My heart does a little flutter and I walk outside to talk to him in private. I’m not the kiss-and-tell type of person, and I don’t need the staff of Sheer Happiness Events hearing my personal conversation.

“So, what can I do to help?” I ask when I come back inside.

“You OK? You’re looking a little flushed,” Craig says, giving me a wink. “It was getting a little hot in here. Why did you walk outside? It was just about to get good.” I knew he was listening.

“It was getting hot and it got hotter, so I had to leave. Some things are private,” I say with a sultry tone. As expected, Craig wants to know every detail.

“That’s no fair; we needed a good love scene to lighten the mood around here.” Craig pouts as he stomps off. I give a little chuckle, and I see Sienna smile.

I spend the rest of the afternoon at Sheer Happiness. Sienna divided the guest list between Craig and Nicole. I thought they were going to have to call all two hundred people, but they’re designing little note cards with “Change of Venue” on them. She also found a caterer to do the food, but unfortunately, it will be a more casual buffet style, not quite the four-course dinner as planned. Grandmother is going to pass out when she hears of these changes. Well, that’s if she hasn’t disowned me after my fight with Ellie. She may completely boycott my wedding now, and considering my conversation with my mother, she may not be there either.

“So, I guess Vegas is out?” Sienna says after Craig and Nicole have left for the night. With everything that has happened, I totally forgot about Vegas. I guess this was one way to get out of it.

“Um, yeah, I would say so. Oh well, even though it would have been fun to be in Vegas, I’m wasn’t looking forward to an entire weekend with the evil stepsisters.”

I can tell that Sienna is disappointed; she was really looking forward to the royal treatment at the Bellagio.

“I’m sorry,” I say as I put my arm around her. “I know you’re bummed, but we will do a trip some other time. With everything going on I couldn’t leave town now anyway.”

I don’t want to admit it to Sienna, but I’m disappointed too, not about the Vegas trip but about not having one last weekend with her and Abby. She must have been reading my mind though because she suggests we at least do a spa day, which was part of our original plan anyway.

“I know it’s not Vegas, but it will be fun, and because we won’t be roommates any more after next week . . .” she trails off and looks away. “Anyway, I will get it scheduled,” she adds, clearing her throat.

And there it is, that weird awkwardness that has never happened with us until recently. We haven’t really discussed moving or the house; it’s been the elephant in the room for sure, and I still feel horribly guilty even though I know I haven’t done anything wrong.

“I know, I’m sorry,” I say as I turn my head to avoid looking at her. I don’t want to start crying.

“Madie, please don’t be sorry for starting your life with Cole. You deserve it and don’t let anyone try to get in the way of that.”

I know she’s referring to my family, and she is 100% right. Sienna is the best friend I could have ever hoped for. I want her to find happiness, too.

“Same for you! You have to let yourself be happy, let your guard down.” I see a small smile spread across her face.

“You mean with Ace, right?” she asks knowingly. Duh, of course I mean with Ace, but I decide not to say another word. Even I’m getting sick of harassing her about it.

I go to use the bathroom; while in there, I hear voices and then yelling. I open the door but hang back and listen. I don’t believe it, it’s Ellie. She has a lot of nerve showing up here.

“She hasn’t called any of us back. I can’t believe she would do this to us,” Ellie exclaims innocently.

“She actually accused me of getting the wedding canceled,” Ellie adds. “What does that even mean? Is the wedding really canceled?”

Poor Sienna, I can’t leave her out there to take their abuse alone.

“Can you excuse me for one second, please?” I hear Sienna say. She comes into the bathroom.

“You need to stay here,” she whispers. “I’m going to talk to her and see if I can get to the bottom of this. Maybe she will let something slip.”

“No way,” I whisper back. “I’m not leaving you alone with that.” I point to the front lobby. I can tell Sienna is up to something; she has a gleam in her eye.

“Just stay here and be quiet,” she demands. I attempt to argue, but she quickly runs back to the front. I lean my head to the door so I can hear what’s happening. There isn’t any more yelling, so it’s hard to hear what they are saying. I hear Ellie say that she didn’t do anything and that I’m acting like a spoiled child. Crap! I hate not knowing what’s happening. I finally hear the door chime; she must have left. I practically run out into the lobby.

“What happened and why did you tell me to stay in the back?” Sienna looks completely worn out, and I know the feeling. Sienna rubs her face in her hands.

“Long story short, she went on and on about how horrible you acted after everything they have done for you. Also something about breaking special family bonds, blah, blah.” She rolls her eyes.

“Yeah, I heard her say I was acting like a spoiled child.” I frown and fold my arms like, well, like a spoiled child. They should talk, I think to myself.

“Just try to ignore her,” Sienna says as she walks around, straightening up the office. “Ellie insists that she isn’t behind this.”

I knew she would deny it, and she will continue to, probably forever. Sienna stops what she’s doing, and I can tell she’s thinking about something.

“What are you thinking?”

“Honestly?” she asks carefully. “I’m not sure she did this.”

What? She can’t be serious. What kind of mind control do these girls have? Somehow, they manage to manipulate everyone in my life. Truthfully, I’m not that surprised because they’ve been doing this since they were kids. Whatever, it doesn’t matter anymore anyway.

“OK,” I say nonchalantly. “I don’t care about who did this anymore. My wedding is going to happen. It may not be how I planned it, but sometimes things don’t turn out the way we want, right?”

Sienna doesn’t say anything, but she nods in agreement. She knows this better than anyone. The truth is, whether or not Ellie is responsible for this, it was time for me to confront her, just like Susan said. Maybe I should’ve gone about it in a different way, but at the time it was the only way I knew how to express how I felt.

“You can do what you want, but maybe you should think about it for a few days and then sit down and talk to her.” She moves away from me after she says that, which is silly of course.

“Yeah, I’ll think about it,” I say doubtfully.

Chapter 10

 

No! This can’t be happening again; we found a new place for my wedding. Why is the door locked? I’m trying to get inside but there’s a huge deadbolt on the door.

“I told you she would mess this up, Grandmother,” Ellie says.

“Yeah, mad Madie can’t seem to do anything right and just look at her dress,” Stephy adds, giving me a disgusted look.

I look down to see my wedding gown covered in tomato sauce. No, no, no . . . this can’t be real. I was thirteen when I sat in that plate of sauce.

“You did this,” I yell, pointing my finger at my cousins. Everyone starts laughing; I look around me and see all my wedding guests watching us. Cole will fix this; where is he? He has to be here; it’s our wedding day.

“Whoa, look at that bride. What happened to her dress? Did she roll around in the kitchen at Olive Garden?” I look up to see Cole doing a comedy routine at the altar.

“Cole, what are you doing?”

“Relax, babe. I just have to finish this routine, then we can get married.” He keeps telling jokes about my dress.

“Stop!” I scream and jump out of my bed. I look around in a panic. I’m still in my bedroom; my heart is racing and I’m sweating. Calm down, Madison, it was just a bad dream, I tell myself.

It’s 4:30 a.m. I lay back down but can’t fall asleep. I know I said I was just going to move on from this, but I keep replaying what Sienna said, and she was serious too. She doesn’t think Ellie was behind this, but then the question is who was? Or maybe it was just an honest mistake on Sienna’s part. I need to accept the fact that I may never know what really happened. I wonder what Stephy thinks about all of this. I guess it’s not really fair that I always include her with Ellie. Don’t get me wrong, I think she’s far from innocent, but I don’t think she’s that bad. I roll over and try to put it all out of my mind.

I get to work early the next day despite only sleeping about four hours last night. Surprisingly, I’m feeling pretty good other than the dreaded phone call I have to make to my grandmother. I’m becoming a master at avoiding her calls. Who knows, maybe I will manage to get away with this for a while.

I decide to tell my co-workers about the change of venue. You would have thought it’s the end of the world by their responses.

“This is horrible news. I told all of my friends I was going to an event at the Four Seasons,” Lauren whines. “How could this happen?”

“What are you talking about?” Caycee exclaims. “Your wedding is like . . . next week.”

I give them the condensed version of the story. There’s really no reason for them to know every detail, and I explain that they will be getting the information for the new location. As I’m talking about the beach resort, I start to feel a little anxious. What if something else goes wrong? What if this was all a sign that my marriage is doomed?

I try to get to work, but I really didn’t expect that I would have to spend the next fifteen minutes consoling Caycee. You would have thought it was her wedding that was canceled.

I’m working until close, and as I finish my last client, Lauren informs me that I have a visitor. When I get to the front, I find Grandmother waiting for me. I’m not really sure what to say. I don’t think Grandmother has ever stepped foot in my salon. Suddenly, I feel like a kid who has just gotten into massive trouble and has been sent to the principal’s office.

“Grandmother . . . what a nice surprise,” I say nervously. She doesn’t show any emotion. My time of dodging her has come to an end. Oh well, it was a good run while it lasted. I can already tell that this is going to be a lot of fun.

“Madison, because you haven’t returned any of my calls, I had no choice but to come here.” She takes a good look around. Well, it’s nice to see you too, I think but refrain from saying it out loud.

“OK . . . if you give me a few minutes to finish up, we can walk to the café next door and talk.” I don’t give her a chance to respond as I quickly go to my station and clean up.

A little while later, we walk silently to the Caffeine Café next door. I love this place; it’s warm and cozy, and the coffee aromas are amazing. Not to mention all of the delicious treats. I remind myself that I have given up sugar forever after my cookie binge from the other night.

We sit down at a corner table, neither of us saying a word. I really hate the silence; it’s so uncomfortable not knowing who should speak first. Luckily, Grandmother has no problem starting this conversation.

“Madison, I have tried to understand what has happened over these last few days. I’ve considered that you’ve had some sort of stress-induced breakdown. Perhaps the stress of the wedding, your work, or maybe just getting married in general.” She starts fidgeting around in her seat. I don’t believe this; she honestly thinks I’ve had a nervous breakdown. The next thing I know she will try to have me committed.

“Grandmother, I . . .” She holds her hand up to stop me.

“First, let me finish,” she says firmly. I close my mouth and stop talking. “Maybe you aren’t ready to get married and that’s alright, but regardless of your reasons, your behavior is . . .” She stops talking and shakes her head. I wait to see if she is finished, interrupting her again definitely won’t help my case. She doesn’t say anything, so I start talking, and I don’t stop. She doesn’t show much emotion until my tears starting falling.

“You have never once considered my feelings,” I say in between my tears. “I’m grown-up now, so it shouldn’t matter, but you sat back and let me be bullied by my own family. You made excuses for them, there were never any consequences for how they treated me, and at times you too were a part of it.” The tears have slowed and I start to feel stronger than I have ever felt. Something comes over me, and I’m not afraid to admit my feelings. I could totally stand up on my chair and yell, “I am woman, hear me roar.” Not that I would because I could never show my face in here again, and I love the lemon pound cake way too much.

“How many times have you insulted my career?” I ask, and then suddenly I have the urge to take a miserable trip down memory lane. “Do you remember when Ellie, Stephy, and I decided to put on the Christmas parade in the front yard? Do you remember what happened?” I stop to give her a chance to say something, but she just sits there, silent. Sadly, I’m not surprised. It may seem silly now, but my cousins made me play a donkey in that parade while they and all the other kids played the Christmas princesses and princes. I cried the whole time, and Grandmother told me that I needed to stop and that I needed to accept that I wouldn’t always get my way.

I decide to continue the dreaded trip down memory lane, so I remind her about the tomato sauce incident as well as the fallout of when I repeated a grade and she told Aunt Kate and my cousins. Not shockingly, Stephy had no problem announcing that at my bridal shower.

When I have finally concluded my throw up of the mouth, I look at her and wait. When she does finally speak, she surprises me.

“Do you know how lucky you were to have both of your parents doting on you? A parent’s love and devotion is something special and you don’t appreciate it until you realize it’s gone.” She clears her throat and continues. “When their father left, the three of them were devastated. Understandably so, and I vowed from that day that I would always be there for those girls. I know the feeling, the feeling of . . .” she hesitates, “the feeling of a parent leaving, and I would never wish that on anyone.” At first I have no clue what she is talking about, but then I remember my mother telling me that her grandfather left when Grandmother was young and she never really got over it.

“I’m sorry that happened to them,” I say sympathetically. “But how is that my fault?”

Grandmother is clearly very uncomfortable, and I think she is finally getting what I’m saying.

“It’s not.”

She looks down and her face softens. “I suppose I went out of my way to try to make things easier for them, at your expense. That was wrong of me; I can see that now.”

I’m expecting a “but” about now, so I wait for it. She doesn’t make any more excuses, but she doesn’t exactly apologize either. Oh well, baby steps I guess. Luckily, I’m mentally prepared for what’s about to come.

“Anyway, regarding the subject at hand. Ellenor says that you accused her of canceling the wedding. Please tell me what on earth is going on.”

I scrunch up my face and relive every detail since Sienna delivered the bad news. When I finish explaining, Grandmother looks shocked and basically horrified. I’m not exactly sure if she is upset about the things I said to Ellie or the fact that my big fancy Four Seasons wedding is a thing of the past. It’s probably a little of both.

“Madison, no matter what trouble you and Ellenor are having she would never do something like this. Are you sure your friend didn’t make the mistake?” Grandmother has always liked Sienna, so I know she isn’t just saying that to redeem Ellie. “Things do happen and I know she recently started a new company. Or perhaps one of her staff made the mistake.”

“It really doesn’t matter anyway. We have a new location, and it will be a wonderful day.” I decide to just move on from the subject because I’m emotionally drained and I’d rather not go back and forth about Ellie anymore.

“No, you need to go there and demand that you have your wedding as planned. I’m calling my lawyer.” She pulls out her phone and starts scrolling.

I stop her because, frankly, I don’t care anymore. I once said I would marry Cole in a parking lot if I had to, and now after everything that has happened I mean it.

As Grandmother and I are leaving, she gives me a hug, a different kind of hug than usual. It wasn’t rushed or cold. “I hope you girls can work things out. It may seem like they don’t care about you. But they do.”

There are so many things I could say to this comment, but it’s probably best to keep my big mouth shut. I’ve said more than enough for one night (or for one lifetime).

Chapter 11

 

A few days later, Sienna, Abby, Craig, and I are on our way to Palm Springs for a spa day/night. Craig totally crashed our trip, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him no. Since my conversation with my grandmother, I feel like a different person. I feel like me again, well, like me from before my wedding planning. The other day I asked Sienna and Craig if they thought I had become a bridezilla. They looked at each other and busted out laughing. Clearly, they thought that was funny. When I told them I hated them, they laughed even harder.

I can’t believe this is it, my last weekend as a single woman. Well, technically I haven’t been single for a few years, so that’s probably not accurate. That really doesn’t make sense when people say that because, obviously, if they’ve been engaged they aren’t single but whatever.

We are on the road to Palm Springs, and Sienna and Craig are eating some of my cookies that I brought for the trip. (Not me, of course.)

“Hey, Madie, do you remember our last road trip to Palm Springs?” Craig says before he takes a bite of his twentieth cookie. (I would like to say I’m exaggerating, but I don’t think I am.)

“Really, Craig?” I punch his arm. Our last trip was pretty eventful, at least for Sienna that is. That trip was the beginning of the end for her and Luke. We saw him there when he was supposedly out of town working.

“Madie, don’t worry about it,” she says from the driver’s seat. “It was the best thing that could have happened. Who knows where I would be right now.”

“Yeah, we could still be working for Carrie right now, and you could still be with Luke.” He makes a face.

Sienna doesn’t say anything. She just keeps a steady gaze on the road. Abby is busy texting Matt because this is her first time away from baby Ace, and she’s obsessing over it.

“Aw, look at this picture of baby Ace.” Matt must have just texted her. “I miss my baby so much.” She looks like she could burst into tears at any second. I hope she snaps out of it, at least for today.

“OMG! I totally forgot to tell you that I saw Carrie at The Ivy last weekend. She pretended she didn’t see me, but I know she did,” Craig says as he folds his arms. “She’s had more work done.”

That’s crazy because that woman has had so much plastic surgery that nothing on her is real anymore. She could totally go on Jerry Springer or Dr. Phil or whatever trashy talk show people are watching these days.

“Who was she with?” Sienna asks. I know what she meant, as in, was she with Luke? Although, the rumor is that she dumped him a while ago.

“It doesn’t matter,” she adds. “I actually heard she’s trying to invest in some other business, but she’s having a hard time since the company went under.”

“Don’t you mean since you left her and it went under. Technically, it’s your fault,” Craig says.

It’s not really Sienna’s fault. Carrie was never there, so Sienna was pretty much running the company. She was going to leave even before she found out about Carrie and Luke.

“Enough about this, we’re here for Madie,” Sienna says firmly. She’s a master at changing the subject. I don’t blame her at all this time.

I look at my phone. Cole and I have been sending sexy messages back and forth all day. He has been doing a small tour for the past week, trying to get all of his shows in before the wedding. Ever since he told me that all he cared about was marrying me, I feel like we are back when we first started dating. It feels new, exciting, and exhilarating. I can’t wait for him to come home so we can make up for all of his traveling.

“What’s going on over there?” Craig asks with a singsong tone in his voice. “You seem a little flushed again. Can I see your phone?” he asks as he reaches for it.

“No,” I yell, turning away from him.

“Madie is sexting her boyfriend,” he announces. I expect him to follow it up with nah, nah, boo, boo. I really wish I didn’t let him come with us because he can be really obnoxious, like the little brother I never wanted.

“So what,” Abby says nonchalantly. “It’s not a big deal. Matt and I send those kind of messages all the time, several times a day.

“What!” Craig, Sienna, and I all shout at the same time. This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. I think we are all completely shocked by this secret side of Abby. We always thought of her as more of a Susie-Homemaker/kindergarten teacher/nun type of wife. That just proves that you never truly know people. I can’t believe Abby is a closet tramp.

“OK, I need to hear more about this!” Craig exclaims. Oh well, at least the attention is off of me.

“What do you want to know?” Abby asks innocently. “Matt is my husband; there’s nothing wrong with sending him sexy pictures.” I’m completely shell-shocked; I still haven’t said a word.

“Of course there is nothing wrong with it, but this is you we’re talking about.” Craig gives a smirk. “You don’t do that stuff. I picture you wearing a long-sleeve flowered nightgown reading a book in bed with Matt. Just like Carol Brady from the Brady Bunch.”

Wow, that really is a pretty good description now that I think about it.

“No way,” Sienna says. “They weren’t exactly innocent; everyone on the Brady Bunch slept with each other. I saw it on one of those True Hollywood stories.

The discussion changes to all of the old sitcoms and all of the actors who have since had messed up lives. I lean my head back and look out the window. I can’t believe this day has finally come. My wedding is planned, everything has fallen into place, and the wicked stepsisters are no longer a part of it. The voice mails have finally tapered off as well. Both of them have left several messages, but I haven’t called them back yet. I know Grandmother asked me to, but I need more time.

Chapter 12

 

I’ve always thought that every family needs a doctor, a lawyer, and a mechanic. I think I may have to add a massage therapist to that list, too. I feel like I’m floating on a cloud right now, and considering all of the stress from these past few weeks, I needed this. After we are done with our treatments, we sit in the outside relaxation area.

“This is so fun,” Craig says loudly. He has obviously embraced this experience. He’s wearing his fleece robe, his feet are propped up on the ottoman, and he’s sipping on cucumber-infused water. Yep—he’s become one with the spa life, but really, who doesn’t?

Just as we’re getting comfortable, two women join us in the relaxation room. Nothing like a blast from the past to ruin my bachelorette weekend, and I thought things couldn’t get any worse. Wow, was I wrong. The two women just happen to be Carrie Anderstone, Sienna’s former boss, and one of her best friends whose name I can’t remember. Sienna and Craig are both obviously uncomfortable, which makes it even more awkward for Abby and me. Neither of us says a word; we just sit back and watch. Carrie has clearly had more plastic surgery than the last time I saw her. I’m not really sure how that’s possible considering there isn’t one inch on her that hasn’t been nipped, tucked, or lasered.

“Sienna, love, it’s been tooo looong,” Carrie says while slurring her words. Carrie is also a raging alcoholic, so no doubt she has been drinking mimosas since the sun came up. “What brings you here? This really isn’t your scene.” Sienna gives her a short hello and explains that we are all here for my bachelorette party. Carrie completely ignores the rest of us, including Craig, who also worked for her for a few years.

“Well, it’s fabulous seeing you,” she says unconvincingly. “We really should do lunch sometime.” This woman can’t be for real. Sienna just smiles and nods her head; I’m always so impressed by how she handles situations like this.

A few minutes later, Carrie and her silent but drunk friend are called for their next service. She’s barely out of the room when Craig starts in about all her surgery.

“Are we even sure that was Carrie?” he says with a snort. “It won’t be long before she’s completely unrecognizable.”

Sienna groans. “Ughhh, I should’ve known there could be a chance of running into her. I think she may live here.” Carrie’s a regular on the spa scene. She’s either traveling the world to different spas or having surgical procedures done.

While we’re discussing the Carrie excitement, Abby excuses herself again. I think she’s having a really hard time being away from her baby because she’s not enjoying the spa as much as the rest of us. So despite the awkwardness of the encounter with Carrie, it was still some good entertainment for the day, and luckily, there were no fireworks.

 

*

 

Later when we are getting ready to leave for dinner, we’re still waiting in the lobby for Abby to join us. She was on the phone again.

“You’ve got to be kidding me! What are they doing here?” Sienna exclaims. When I look across the lobby, I’m unpleasantly surprised to see Ellie and Stephy. How did they know we were here? I can’t help but wonder if all of these unwelcome party crashers are more signs that my wedding/marriage is doomed?

“How would they even know we were here?” she adds as she tries to duck behind a magazine.

I was wondering the exact same thing until I notice Craig’s reaction. Oh. My. Gosh. Why did we bring him again?

“Craig?” I ask.

“I’m so sorrrrry,” he says dramatically. “I checked in on Facebook, tagged you all. Don’t be mad, I had too. I couldn’t exactly come here and not brag to all my friends.” I close my eyes and shake my head.

“So let me guess, you’re friends with my cousins on Facebook. That means they saw your post and came down here.”

“I’m afraid so,” Craig whispers. He drops his head and pretends to feel guilty. He really should pursue his acting career. But I know he doesn’t feel guilty, he lives for this kind of drama

“We won’t let it ruin our night,” Sienna interrupts and grabs my hand. “Maybe they won’t even see us; we could go out through the garden. Let’s go.”

Just as we are trying to make a run for it, they see us. “It’s too late; we’re spotted,” I say in a loud whisper.

“Madie, wait please,” Ellie calls out. “We really need to talk to you.”

The three of us stop in our tracks. I try to think up a story as to why we can’t stay. Unfortunately, I can’t think that fast.

“Um, we were just leaving for our dinner reservations,” Sienna says as if reading my mind. Craig doesn’t say anything but is watching us intently. I really want to blame him for this, but it’s really my fault for avoiding the situation. I need to stop running and face them.

“It’s OK, Sienna; we still have a few minutes,” I tell her. She raises her eyebrows but does as I ask. She grabs the sleeve of Craig’s sweater and pulls him away.

So here I am facing my arch nemesis since childhood. Once again, it’s two against one, but for some reason it doesn’t bother me as much anymore.

“Well, let’s hear what you have to say,” I say as I sit down on one of the huge wingchairs in the lobby. They give each other a look and both sit down.

“Madie, I swear to you that I didn’t do anything to ruin your wedding. You have to believe me,” she begs. I look back and forth between the two of them. They seem to be a little more sincere, definitely not as smug as usual.

“What about you?” I ask Stephy. “Maybe it wasn’t Ellie, maybe it was you all along.” I figure I might as well get that out also. It wouldn’t be a shock because she has always seemed to fly below the radar.

“Me!” Stephy shouts. “How dare you accuse me! I would never do . . .” Ellie holds up her hand to stop Stephy’s rant.

“Madison, I can’t believe that you would really think these terrible things about us. We just heard from Grandmother that the wedding is no longer at the Four Seasons. This is . . . horrible,” she spits out in disgust. She then takes a deep breath and rubs her forehead.

“It’s time I . . . or . . . um, we were honest with you.” Now this should be interesting, finally some honesty.

“Initially, we didn’t want to be a part of your wedding.” Shocker, I think to myself. “Don’t take that wrong; it wasn’t because we don’t care,” she trails off trying to make up for the foot that she just put in her mouth. I look over at Sienna, Craig, and Abby who has finally joined them watching from afar. No doubt they are dying to know how this is going. So far, there hasn’t been any yelling, hair pulling, or food on anyone.

“Anyway, Grandmother wanted us to be together and said you would be asking us. We know you always wanted to be close to us when we were young, you know, having been an only child.” She looks at Stephy and she nods.

“Then we started looking for dresses, and we started getting excited,” Stephy chimes in. “It really seemed like we were getting closer, we were even going on a trip, and then you went BALLISTIC on Ellie at the hotel.”

Seriously, the way she describes it you would have thought I went after her with a knife or something. That was a definite exaggeration.

“I’m telling you the truth, Madie. I had NOTHING to do with all of this.” She looks me in the eye, and for the first time, I actually believe her.

“OK,” I say softly.

They both look taken aback. “You believe me?” Ellie shouts.

“I’m trying to, but regardless of that, we need to have a talk.”

I did it; I can’t believe I finally did it. I spilled everything from the bullying when we were kids to the recent insults and snide comments. I told them I had had enough and that I wouldn’t stand for it any longer. Some of their reactions were surprising; they seemed to have forgotten a lot that had happened or at least pretended to. And then I was honest when I told them that they were welcome to come to the wedding; however, I would prefer them not to be bridesmaids. I don’t think that went over to well, but they didn’t argue. Hopefully that won’t come back to bite me later.

A half hour later, I’m sitting at dinner with my friends. “I want to make a toast,” Abby says loudly.

“Cheers to Madie! I’m so proud of you,” she slurs. Poor Abby has had three glasses of wine. Craig ordered a bottle to celebrate, and I don’t think she has had a drink in a very long time. I cover my mouth to keep from laughing. I look at Sienna who is also amused; she too has been sipping her wine. She isn’t a drinker either, and I can already tell that this is going to be a fun night.

After dinner, we head out to Have a Nice Day Café, the best dance club ever. I’m shocked to say that both Abby and Sienna are drunk. They are in the middle of the dance floor trying to dance like John Travolta. Craig is busy recording their dance; no doubt that will be all over social media by tomorrow. I’m just watching carefully to make sure neither of them does anything they will regret tomorrow. I didn’t notice Sienna drinking other than a few sips, but I guess I was too busy watching Abby. All of a sudden, I feel someone’s arms around my waist and then kissing on my neck.

Oh, hell no; those days are over. I turn around ready to drop-kick some frat boy, but I’m pleasantly surprised to see that Cole and his best friend Jeff are standing behind me. My fiancé just crashed my bachelorette party.

“Hold on, you are not suppoooosed to be here mister,” Abby interrupts before I can say a word. She throws her arm around me and starts to hang on me. “This is a bachelorette partay, no boys allowed.”

“What have you guys done to her?” Cole says, laughing.

“Nothing, I’m fiiine!” She starts poking his chest.

Sienna and Craig have now joined us also.

“Jeff!” Sienna yells and practically leaps into his arms.

There’s a bit of a story behind Sienna and Jeff. Cole and I had tried to set them up after she broke up with Luke. She agreed to go out with him as a favor to me, but they ended up having a great time. I think things could have progressed for them except for the fact that Jeff lives in San Francisco. They agreed to be just friends, and then things started to move forward for Sienna and Ace, well sort of.

“What are you doing here?” I ask Cole after a long, passionate kiss. I know this is supposed to be my bachelorette party, but I don’t care. I’m so happy to see him.

“Craig kept posting on Facebook, so Jeff and I decided to drive down. We were kind of bored.” I need to make a mental note to unfriend Craig on Facebook.

“Dance with me,” Sienna says as she drags Jeff out to the dance floor. Abby and Craig are now trying to do some kind of line dance that doesn’t go with the song that is playing. I giggle; at least everyone is having fun.

Cole and I start to slow dance to the very quick up-tempo song. I tell him all about Carrie and the stepsisters randomly showing up. I also tell him how I was worried that all of their appearances were more signs that our marriage is doomed. He reassures me that everything will work out fine.

All of a sudden we hear the crowd chanting, “Go Abby, Go Abby, Go Abby.” We look over to see Abby doing some kind of crazy dance in the middle of a circle of people. She is going to be mortified tomorrow. I explain to Cole that she was really struggling being away from the baby. I guess I’m not completely surprised that she had too much to drink.

“Whoa.” Cole’s mouth drops open. I turn to look and see Sienna totally grinding on and kissing Jeff. No way. I have to try to stop her, or she will be so pissed at me. I start to walk over to her when Cole grabs my arm.

“Let go, I have to stop her,” I tell him.

“Why? They’re having a good time.” Cole shrugs his shoulders. “Let them have fun.”

This isn’t the first time Cole and I have disagreed about those two. He really wants them to get together, but I know she really wants to be with Ace. I’m about to yell at Cole when I see Abby vomit all over the dance floor. Crap! Cole, Craig, and I go out to her.

“I don’t feel good!” she says. “I want my baby and Matt.” She starts crying. I tell Craig to go get Sienna and Jeff. It’s obviously time for us to leave.

“Yeah, baby! Get it, girl,” Craig yells to Sienna, and I punch him in the arm. “Stop! Don’t encourage that.”

What a night! When we get back to the hotel, we clean Abby off and get her into bed. Not before she calls Matt crying, telling him how much she misses them. Sienna continues to be all over Jeff. Thankfully, it’s not as bad as it was at the club. She tells me to mind my own business when tell her to stop. At least I can say I tried. Jeff doesn’t seem to mind at all despite my hints that she won’t remember any of this tomorrow. The rest of the night goes OK; we order room service and play blackjack for hours. Once Craig is over his tantrum that Cole shouldn’t be at my bachelorette party, even he has fun.

“So, Sienna, are you choosing Jeff or Ace?” Craig asks after taking another sip of his drink. With all of the excitement of Abby and Sienna, I have no idea how much he’s had to drink. Holy crap, this is so awkward! Leave it to him to add to the awkwardness, and technically, this is his fault. Although, I don’t exactly mind being curled up in Cole’s arms tonight. Frankly, I’m over being a bachelorette.

“Why is everyone always in my business?” she says, laughing. “I will choose when I’m ready.”

I notice a smirk spread across Jeff’s face. Oh this isn’t going to end well, and now I have both Jeff and Ace in the wedding party, and I’m down two bridesmaids. Sienna was right; I really should have never asked Ace. Those damn cousins messed everything up.

“Just ignore him,” I tell her, giving Craig a dirty look. Cole and Jeff finally leave at about 4 a.m. Craig is passed out on the floor with one leg up on the couch. Sienna is barely awake but still talking. We lay on the balcony lounge chairs staring up at the stars.

“I don’t remember everything that happened earlier tonight,” she says as she’s starting to fall asleep. “I’m probably going to regret it,” She mumbles. I figure I’ll wait until she’s completely sober to break the news of her PDA display at the club. “You’re getting married, Abby’s married, and I’m still . . .” She falls asleep midsentence. Poor Sienna.

*

 

When I wake up, Sienna and I are still on the balcony. It’s a beautiful morning, so I don’t move. I can’t believe I’m getting married in six days. I start to daydream about my wedding. At least I can tell my mom and Grandmother that I’m on speaking terms with my cousins. I don’t know if they will end up coming to the wedding, but at least I invited them.

“Ohhhh,” Sienna moans. She turns over, opens an eye, and looks at me.

“Morning, sunshine,” I say cheerfully.

“Why?” she whines. “Why did you let me drink? You know I can’t drink.”

I apologize and explain, “I had no idea you were drinking that much! I thought you were sipping your wine. Besides, Abby was making a much bigger scene—throwing up all over Have a Nice Day Café.

“No she didn’t! Oh wow, I’m so glad I didn’t do anything like that,” she says, covering her eyes with her arms.

“Mmmhmm,” I mumble. I may as well tell her now to give her time to let it sink in. “Um, so do you remember Cole and Jeff showing up last night? They were at the club and then came back here with us.”

She still has her arms covering her eyes. Did she fall back asleep?

“Sienna?” I ask.

“No, no, no!” she cries out. She jumps up off the lounge chair. “I do remember them being here, and I remember sitting on Jeff’s lap. Please tell me that’s all.” I cringe as I tell her about their PDA at the club and then again here.

“Do you remember Craig asking if you if you were going to choose Jeff or Ace?” I ask.

I can tell by her reaction that she doesn’t remember nor does she remember her answer.

“No, this isn’t happening.” She dramatically falls back down on the chair.

“Mmmmm . . . when can we go home?” I turn to see Abby standing in the doorway, and she looks horrible. I try to hide my smile because here I am with my two best friends, and for the first time in my life, I’m not the one with the hangover.

She pushes Sienna over and lies down next to her. I have to take a picture of this because no one would ever believe me without proof.

“I have to say that you girls look really bad.” I laugh and snap a picture with my phone.

“Stop!” Abby says.

“You better not show anyone that,” adds Sienna.

“Of course I won’t,” I lie. You never know when this picture will come in handy.

 

*

 

A few hours later we’re heading home after we finally get Craig to wake up. When we dropped Abby off, she started sobbing as soon as she saw Matt and Ace. It was kind of sweet even though I’ve never seen her fall apart like that.

When we get home, Sienna immediately goes into her room and shuts the door; she didn’t say much on the way home. She’s either really embarrassed or she feels guilty because of Ace.

I wander into my room and sit down to check my email. I’m immediately excited to find a message from Bev until I read the entire message.

She says she received the change of venue notice and wants to discuss. Crap! I probably should have called to explain. I leave her a voice mail. I guess this does kind of interfere with my Four Seasons cookie theme. I’m still sitting holding my phone when Sienna comes out of her room.

“Are you OK?” I ask cautiously. She looks like she’s been crying.

“Yeah. I just talked to Ace. I told him that we needed to talk. I’m meeting him for dinner. I have to tell him what happened.” I can tell she’s nervous. “I feel so bad, and I don’t want to lead Jeff on.”

I remind her that she had been drinking and that Jeff knew that. He didn’t exactly push her away either.

“Ace may be done with me after this,” she says sadly. “I need to be honest with him though.”

“Hopefully he will understand, and if you want, I will tell him that we don’t need him in the wedding party after all.”

“Oh no, the wedding!” she whines. “I keep forgetting that Jeff will be there too, and I’ll have to face both of them.” She drops her head on the counter.

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I got a message from Bev. She didn’t sound happy about the change of venue card that she got. Believe me, I’m just as ready as you for this wedding to be done and over.” I don’t know what to expect from Bev, hopefully she won’t make a big deal out of it. I guess I could always change the theme of my feature if I had to. I start to panic thinking about starting over.

*

 

It’s Monday morning, and I’m exhausted. I packed all night and waited up for Sienna to get home from her date. I fell asleep before she got home, but at least I have a huge load of boxes in my car to bring to the new house.

“How did it go?” I ask her. I can tell by her reaction that it went better than I thought it would.

“Surprisingly, it went well,” she says calmly. “I told him everything. At first he was really mad, but not at me, at Jeff.” Oh great, the next thing to go wrong. I imagine a fight breaking out at the wedding between Ace and Jeff over Sienna. They will throw each other around and someone will fall on the cupcake tower. I imagine my Grandmother smiling because she already hates the cupcake tower.

“He thinks Jeff took advantage of the fact that I had been drinking. Anyway, I calmed him down.” A smile spreads across her face. “He told me this hasn’t changed anything about the way he feels.” I have to wonder, though, if Ace is too perfect to be real. Either that or he is not used to not getting his way. Sienna is probably the only girl who hasn’t thrown herself at his feet. She’s the ultimate challenge for a guy like him.

“So, is Allyson still hanging around all of time?” I ask. Sienna rolls her eyes.

“Apparently she’s doing a bang up job, whatever that means.” She sticks her tongue out. Hmmm . . . yeah, what does that even mean?

“By the way, I talked to Ace about not being in the wedding party, and he was totally fine with it.”

Yes! I was hoping she would take care of that. I feel so terrible about this. I think I’m slowly learning my lesson about minding my own business. Well, maybe.

Chapter 13

 

I tell myself not to panic. I mean I’m probably overreacting. I have left three messages for Bev, and she hasn’t returned any of my calls. So what do you do when someone doesn’t return your calls? Well, in my case, I start stalking her and show up at her bakery unannounced to talk to her.

When I get to the bakery, I notice that the sign with my name on it is no longer in the window. OK, before I start to overreact, there could be a good reason for that. I mean, my feature was only supposed to be for a few weeks anyway. When I go inside, I’m not surprised that my cookies aren’t even in the case anymore. I take a deep breath and try not to get mad. It wouldn’t exactly be a good thing to go off on Bev. Maybe she completely sold out and hasn’t had a chance to request any more orders? She would have to take the sign down if she ran out. Yes! This could all be a good thing after all.

I ask the girl at the counter if Bev is available, and she disappears to the back. A few minutes later Bev emerges with a box. It’s my box filled with the leftover cookies.

“Hello, dear. I apologize for not returning your calls; we’ve been extremely busy here.” She sits down and puts the box on the table in front of me. I’m not really sure what to say.

“Um, thanks . . .” I stutter. “You can just keep the remainder.”

“That’s very kind of you, dear, but I just don’t have any more room right now.” She turns and points her finger at the shelves. I’m so confused because she hasn’t mentioned anything about the message she left me. Is that the reason she pulled my cookies off the shelf?

“Is everything OK? You left me a message about receiving the information regarding the change of venue. Sienna will be contacting you to make the arrangements for the cupcake delivery,” I assure her.

OK, this is awkward, but I don’t know any other way to bring up this subject. I really want to ask her if she’s not featuring my cookies anymore because of this. I mean really, what are the chances this would all happen at the same time.

“About that, I was surprised that I wasn’t contacted sooner. When I initially heard about it from a customer, I didn’t believe it. Your wedding at the Four Seasons was the inspiration for this feature.”

A customer? Who? And why would they tell her?

“Tell me, is it true that Sheer Happiness Events is crumbling?” she asks curiously.

Are you kidding me? What does she mean by that?

“No . . . not at all, where did you hear that?” I ask worriedly.

“Oh dear, the rumors are strong,” she says, nodding her head. “Then those girls were in here talking about your wedding getting canceled because Sheer Happiness didn’t meet their deadlines. I’m afraid to send any more of my customers to them.”

“Bev, really, I promise you that it wasn’t their fault.” I scramble to fix this. I might as well ask her about my cookies while I’m at it.

“I, um, hope that isn’t the reason you don’t want my cookies.” Crap! I didn’t mean for that to come out like that. Now I sound completely desperate.

“Not in the slightest,” she assures me. “We can do another feature after the holidays; we will have more room by then. Maybe a Valentine’s Day special?”

Valentine’s Day, really? She’s completely skipping over Christmas; I was expecting that to be the busiest holiday. I’ve clearly been blacklisted, and from a Beverly Hills bakery. I guess it’s a good thing I still have my career doing hair. It’s totally fine though because it’s not as if I was planning on expanding my cookie business. After all, I was worried about having too much on my plate.

“Uh, sure. I can definitely do that. Do you want me to send you some samples?” I ask hopefully.

“Sure! We can talk about that again in January.”

I’m not delusional. It’s pretty doubtful that I will hear from this woman again.

She tells me that she will make arrangements with Sienna for my wedding cupcakes and then gives me a quick hug good-bye and rushes to help someone in her kitchen. She leaves me sitting alone in the middle of her bakery with a box of unsold cookies. It’s either my imagination or it sure seems like someone is out to destroy my life.

After leaving Bev’s I go straight to our new house to unload my car. On the way, I break my vow and scarf down five cookies. I’ve got to stop this stress eating nonsense; I’ve never done this in my life. As soon as I get there, I tell Cole all about what happened at Bev’s.

“Babe, it’s her loss,” Cole says as he wraps his arms around me; we are lying on our brand new sectional couch.

“Doesn’t it seem like a lot of things are going wrong? Or am I overreacting?” I ask. I can tell he is considering it, but he quickly disputes it.

“I can see why you would think that, but it’s just a big coincidence,” he says as he starts playing with my hair. “Bev would be crazy to pull the cookies just because the location of our wedding changed. She’s the one who will miss out.” He starts kissing me softly, and it quickly becomes more passionate. We’re half undressed when there is knock at the door. It comes as no surprise that it’s Susan. And I thought my day couldn’t get any worse. Cole throws a pillow across the room and stomps off to the door. I fix myself up, which is ridiculous because we will be married in a few days anyway.

“Mom, you need to call before you come,” I hear Cole say angrily when he answers the door.

“I’m sorry, honey. I just wanted to bring these gifts over; they were delivered to our house today.” She walks right in puts the boxes on the table. “Hi, honey.” She gives me a warm hug. “Madison, I also brought you some fresh lemons from my lemon tree. They would be divine in a cookie.” I thank her, but after tonight, I don’t want to think about cookies for a while. I’m starting to wonder if I should just take a break for a while. I can use my free time to travel with Cole and decorate my new house.

The three of us stand there awkwardly, and then Susan realizes that she interrupted us. “Oh, I’m dreadfully sorry. I promise from now on I’ll call.” She hurries to the door, but I stop her.

“Susan, no, it’s fine. Thank you for the lemons. Would you like some coffee?” I ask her, walking to the kitchen. Cole gives me a frustrated look and shakes his head behind his mother’s back.

“Sure. But I’ll only stay for a few minutes,” she assures us. Cole falls dramatically back onto the couch. Oh well, her coming over kind of ruined the mood anyway. It’s not as if we could just pick up where we left off right after she walks out the door. That would be kind of disgusting.

“Tell me, is everything set for this weekend?” She sips her coffee.

“I hope so,” I say with a sigh. Truthfully, nothing would surprise me after everything that’s happened the past few weeks.

“I promise there’s no need to worry a bit about the rehearsal because it will be perfect,” she says excitedly. With everything happening, I had completely forgotten about the rehearsal dinner. Susan really wanted to be in charge of that, so we gave her full reign, and I think Sienna was especially grateful for that. Susan’s events are always excellent, so I have no worries that it will go off without a hitch. It’s going to be a quaint gathering with just the bridal party and family, and considering everything that has gone on with my cousins, I’m not sure they will be there. I tell Susan all about the conversation I had with them.

“Good for you, honey. That talk was a long time coming. I admit I’m surprised you asked them not to be in the wedding, but all things considered, I think that’s for the best.” Before I know it, Susan stays for over an hour. Poor Cole turned on the TV a while ago. I totally knew better; when Susan says a few minutes, what she really means is a few hours. I whisper to Cole that I’m sorry.

When she finally leaves, Cole pretends to be asleep.

“You can stop your pretend sleeping,” I say, hitting him in the stomach. He curls into a ball. “You know you could have joined in on our conversation.” I sit down on the couch.

“Do you think that she’s going to stop by unexpected all the time?” he asks worriedly. “Because that’s really going to mess up my plans for you and me.” He gives me a wicked smile and leans in to kiss me on the neck.

I try to continue reprimanding him but completely lose my train of thought. What were we talking about again? Oh well, it really doesn’t matter.

 

~ * ~

 

When I get back to my apartment, I look around at the disaster that’s all mine. There are some things that I realize I’m not good at, and packing is one of them. I finally gave in and hired movers for the remainder of my stuff. Why I waited this long, I have no idea. Sienna picked up the keys to her new apartment the other day and started moving her stuff. Ace is there helping her, and I notice something different about them. They seem more affectionate than I have ever seen them before, and Sienna seems to finally be letting her guard down. I’m dying to ask her about it and get the latest. She’s in her room when I ask Ace how things are going.

“They are progressing, slowly.” He gives me a smile. “Of course that incident with that bloke Jeff wasn’t ideal.”

I cringe because I totally feel responsible for all of that. It was my idea in the beginning to introduce Jeff and Sienna. Even though they didn’t end up together, it’s still my fault that they even dated in the first place.

“I know. I’m sorry about that. You know Sienna doesn’t drink, so that was part of the problem. She says you were really understanding about that whole thing.” He flashes me one of his million-dollar smiles.

“Things happen, you know, and I don’t feel threatened by Jeff at all.”

Well, of course not. Don’t get me wrong, Jeff is good-looking in a guy-next-door kind of way, but he’s no Ace Eckelund. What is it that Cole calls him? The abs and the accent . . . or is it the accent and the abs? Either way there is absolutely no reason for Ace to feel threatened by Jeff. Sienna has clearly made her choice despite her recent encounter.

“OK, you two, stop talking about me.” Sienna returns from her room. We both jump three feet in the air.

“We weren’t talking about you; we were talking about . . . my honeymoon. Ace was telling me about a few must-sees in Hawaii.” I’m proud of my quick comeback, and it’s totally legit because I’ve talked to Ace about this before.

“Sure you were.”

“Hawaii is fantastic,” Ace chimes in. “I haven’t been in a few years, but it’s one of my favorites and one of those places that you can visit over and over. I can’t wait to return. Would you like to go with me?” he asks Sienna.

Oh. My. Gosh. Ace just asked Sienna to go on vacation with him. I look at her face, and I can see the excitement. This is one of those moments when you know that you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. So I quietly sneak to my room and let them have this moment alone. Of course, I lean my ear to the door to listen, but I can’t hear a word. Speaking of my honeymoon, I haven’t even started packing. So instead of packing to move like I should be doing, I open my suitcase and start packing for my honeymoon. I have to admit this is a lot more fun!

On Friday morning, I have a few clients, including Mrs. Wilson. Of course, she wants to know all about the changes with the wedding, and she reminded me how disappointed Grandmother was initially. I guess Grandmother called her in a tizzy after she found out. Speaking of Grandmother, I’ve only spoken to her once since our talk, and she called only to tell me I would need to make sure she was seated on the correct side of the room during the ceremony. Apparently, this is a very important factor—that the bride’s and groom’s families sit in the right places. I guess it’s bad luck or something? Actually, I don’t really know if it’s bad luck, but she sure made it sound like it would be the end of the world if it’s not done this way.

In between clients, I get a phone call from Ellie. I’m fully expecting her to tell me that they won’t be attending the rehearsal or the wedding after all.

“Hello, Madie, it’s Ellie,” she says formally when I answer.

“Hi, Ellie, how are you?”

“I’m fine. I just want to verify that Steph and I are still allowed to bring dates to the wedding. You know, with all of the changes, we didn’t discuss this part. Both of us had already had dates prior to your um, changes . . . so if we can’t, we need to cancel on our dates.”

I had told them from the beginning that they were welcome to bring dates, but I guess I didn’t think they would. Stephy is always dating someone or a few different someones but never anything serious. Ellie has always seemed to be more monogamous, and I had no idea that she was seeing someone or had invited someone to the wedding.

“Of course, it’s still fine!” I exclaim. “I didn’t know you were seeing anyone.”

“Yes, we just started recently. He’s really great though,” she adds with a different tone in her voice. She started out very cold, but as soon as she started talking about this man, her tone completely changed.

Good for Ellie, maybe if she gets serious with someone she won’t be so bitchy all the time. Not that having a man is the answer to everything because it definitely isn’t, but it’s nice to have someone special in your life. I don’t think either of them have ever had a good serious relationship, but then again, I really don’t know much about their lives. It’s not like I’ve ever been included before. There’s no doubt that my cousins have daddy issues and with good reason. My mom always told me that their dad would randomly come in and out of their lives, and half the time they never knew where he was. It was really sad.

“That’s great. I’m happy for you,” I say kindly. “Are you planning on coming to the rehearsal dinner tonight?”

“Yes. Grandmother requested that we be there with her.”

Her response doesn’t surprise me. She makes it clear that the only reason they are attending is because Grandmother asked them to. I’m not delusional enough to believe that they really want to be there tonight but that’s ok. I’m hopeful that both tonight and tomorrow will be as uneventful as possible because I’ve had more than enough unexpected surprises that will last me a lifetime.

I rush home from work to get ready for the dinner. “Help! Wardrobe malfunction!” I yell. Sienna, Abby, and I are getting ready for the rehearsal. One of my straps just broke on my dress. Luckily, Sienna comes to my rescue with her Mary Poppins bag of tricks. She’s so good at this; I still can’t believe that people are questioning her work. There’s no way I’m going to tell her what people are saying. I’m still not convinced the rumors are real; maybe Bev just misunderstood. Or maybe she was just looking for a reason to pull my cookies from her shelves. Admittedly, that would break my heart a little.

“Thanks, friend!” I give her a big hug with tears in my eyes.

“You two need to stop!” Abby reprimands us. “Save the tears for tomorrow. Even you ‘Miss I never cry.’ ” She points to Sienna. OK, that’s like the pot calling the kettle black because we all know that Abby will be the first one crying tonight.

“She’s right,” Sienna says, putting everything back in her bag. “Let’s get this wedding started.” She hurries to finish getting ready.

Susan does it again. As soon as we arrive at the rehearsal dinner, I feel like crying. The room looks completely magical. Cole is already there; as usual, he is providing the entertainment and has several people laughing, including Jeff and his dad. Speaking of Jeff, Sienna hasn’t mentioned her drunken make out session since the day after my bachelorette party. I’m sure she feels awkward seeing him and not to mention Ace is also here. This should be interesting; at least if they throw down, they can get it out of their system before tomorrow. Susan is dancing around, fixing flower arrangements and checking table settings. I’m not exaggerating when I say dancing; I watch her move a flower arrangement and then do a little twirl. My parents are sitting with my grandmother, Matt, and Ace, who is holding baby Ace. I glance at Sienna, and her face says it all. She’s beaming, and I have to admit seeing Ace holding a baby has to be one of the most perfect sights to see. Oh, if only Allyson from Scotland could see him now.

“There she is; the bride has entered the room,” Susan calls out. Everyone turns to look, and for a second, I feel a little embarrassed. I have no idea why because these are my closest friends and family. It must be a bride thing. Shortly after I arrive, my cousins show up. I can tell they aren’t happy to be there, fingers crossed they don’t give any crazy toasts.

The dinner is off to a great start, and I’m enjoying being able to visit with everyone. I’ve heard that it’s almost impossible to visit with all of the guests at the wedding, so I’m thankful for this time. My grandmother and my mother are going out of their way to fall all over me. My mom has even brought me food. I can’t remember the last time she ever served me. It’s kind of over-the-top, but I appreciate both of their efforts.

I overhear Grandmother talking with a few of Susan’s garden club friends. “Oh yes, many of my friends use Madison’s salon. They speak very highly of her skills; she’s very talented of course.”

I look over to see Ellie and Stephy whispering to each other. I really need to go over and thank them for coming. Hmmm . . . do I have to right now? There’s that internal battle of good versus evil again. I begrudgingly decide to do it.

“Hi! You both look great,” I say with a forced smile. “Thank you for being here tonight.” They look at each other, and I can tell they want to say something.

“Well, even though you kicked us out, it was the right thing to do,” Ellie says as she hangs her head dramatically. Ahhh . . . yes, even after my heart-to-heart with her, she still hasn’t given up her guilt trips. This is really awkward because I’m not sure how to respond, so I just tell them to enjoy themselves.

I just need to ignore them; I can’t let them get into my head. I won’t let them ruin my night. I won’t let them ruin my night. I wonder how many times I will need to repeat this over and over to believe it. Maybe I need to write it down a hundred times like they make the kids do in school.

The dinner is amazing, and everyone is enjoying the food. Susan has made it a very relaxed atmosphere. She has soft music playing, the lighting has been dimmed, and she has even diffused some essential oils. I feel so relieved because everything seems to be going perfectly until I see Sienna and Ace walk out of the ballroom in the middle of dinner. That’s really strange.

“Madie, Madie?” Cole is calling my name, but I’m distracted by Sienna and Ace.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Mother says that we should say something; you know thank everyone for being a part of our special day blah, blah.” He pretends to tie a noose around his neck.

“Yeah. OK.”

I tell him that we need to wait for Sienna to get back before we speak, especially because she is one of the people we absolutely need to thank. A few minutes later Susan pulls me aside and asks me if everything is OK with Sienna.

“Why do you ask?” I glance toward the door because she still hasn’t returned.

“Catherine and Bridgette just told me that her company is going under, is this true?”

What? How would these women know anything about her company? I’m worried that the rumors have spread. I was hoping that Bev had gotten some wrong information. I see Sienna come back in, so I excuse myself from Susan to find out what was happening.

“Is everything OK?” She rolls her eyes and nods her head.

“Yes, Ace had an emergency work issue he had to take care of. Allyson said it was of the upmost urgency.” I knew it; that Allyson is up to no good. I tell Sienna not to worry about it and tell her to sit down. I totally understand why she’s paranoid. After what happened in her last relationship, it would be difficult to fully trust someone else.

When Cole and I give our speech, I get more choked up than I thought I would. It may be because I’m so overjoyed that we are really having a wedding. We thank our family, friends, and the wedding party. I try not to look at Ellie and Stephy giving me dirty looks, and I’m not upset because I probably deserve it to an extent. Cole makes jokes about us almost getting married in Hawaii, and I thank everyone for their patience with the changes.

Abby and Matt leave to take the baby home but not before she reminds me to relax and enjoy everything about this.

“You only get one wedding day, so make the most of it,” she says.

Like Sienna, she hasn’t mentioned her drunken dancing or the vomiting at the club. I don’t bring it up either. In other news, Sienna has gone out of her way to avoid Jeff until he finally sits down next to her.

“Now that has to be one awkward conversation,” Cole says, pointing at Sienna and Jeff. “Are you sure Sienna doesn’t want to give him another chance?”

“I’m pretty sure,” I reply.

“Whatever. I get it, though, that Ace is a catch. Even Jeff agrees and we both have a man-crush on him.” This makes me giggle but totally makes sense.

“See, you can chill out now. We made it through our rehearsal, and our wedding will go off without a hitch, so stop worrying,” Cole assures me. I nod my head and give a hopeful smile.

As our guests are leaving, I overhear Grandmother talking to Susan. “What a lovely evening. Tomorrow will be a joyous day. Isn’t it wonderful that our families will become one?”

She sure is laying it on thick, but it’s better than the alternative. I really hope that she’s right.

“Absolutely,” Susan replies. “I have an idea: why don’t you join my garden club? Madison is joining also. It will be a wonderful opportunity for us all to be together.” I cringe when I hear this; there’s another reason for me not to join that club. Before I know it, she will have my cousins joining also.

When I get home, I get ready for bed. It’s my last night as a single woman. Tomorrow is my wedding day—the day every girl dreams of. My stress is slowly turning into excitement, and I can’t wait!

Chapter 14

 

I wake up from yet another nightmare. This time, in my dream, I’m at a garden club meeting (go figure), and my cousins are there. We’re having some sort of competition and all the members have to share pictures of our flowers from our personal garden, and we will be graded. Whoever wins the competition will take over Bev’s Sweet Treats and will have the rights to my cookie business. Stephy wins and renames the bakery Stephy’s Sweets. I have to turn over all of my cookie supplies and recipes to her. The next thing I know I’m doing Grandmother’s hair. Somehow, I have given her a pixie cut with blue tips, she starts crying, has a panic attack, and is rushed to the hospital.

I wake up at 4 a.m. yelling, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I realize I’m still in my bedroom and that none of that actually happened. I try to analyze all of the craziness of my dream, but there is way too much to try to figure out. It’s finally hit me, the stress of the wedding. Am I getting cold feet? Is this normal to have nightmares the night before your wedding? I decide to Google “dreams night before wedding.” It’s a huge relief that I’m not the only bride out there going through this. Google brings up lots of information about wedding anxiety dreams and brides having crazy dreams for weeks leading up to their big day. Maybe I’m not going to need therapy as soon as I thought. I lay back down with the hope of getting a few more hours of sleep. It’s going to take a miracle worker to hide these bags under my eyes for pictures. Great, there’s another thing to worry about.

When I open my eyes, the sun is pouring into my room. My wedding day is finally here! I have the overwhelming feeling of excitement combined with feeling like I’m going to throw up. I sit up and look around my room. There are boxes everywhere and the walls are bare; it’s such a sad sight. I’ve lived in this apartment with Sienna for years, and now it’s the end of an era. How is it possible to be so incredibly sad and so incredibly happy all at the same time? I lie back down and think about everything that it has taken to get to this point. This day isn’t exactly how I originally planned, but I’ve realized along the way that all that matters is that Cole and I are vowing to spend the rest of our lives together. Hmmm . . . since when have I become so emotional and romantic? Are Cole and I going to turn into one of those cheesy couples who make out in public and sit together on the same side of the table at restaurants? Cole even did a comedy set about those couples a while ago. He had everyone practically rolling on the floor, so I doubt that will happen.

“Is the bride awake?” Abby sticks her head in my room.

“Hey, what are you doing here already?”

“I brought breakfast before we head to the resort.” She comes in and sits on the edge of my bed.

“You OK?” she asks, giving me a puzzled look. I figure I can talk to Abby about things because she was the first one to get married. As I explain my thoughts to Abby, a smile spreads across her face.

“What?” I ask her.

“It’s just funny because I remember thinking the same things when I got married; you have so much love for another person that it’s almost overpowering. Just wait until you have a baby.” Oh great, now her eyes are filling up with tears and she’s wiping the corners. It’s the first cry of the day.

“What are you guys doing?” I look up to see Sienna standing in my doorway, watching us cry and hug. “That’s enough of that.”

“I have some exciting news,” she says, ignoring our sobs. “When I called to confirm everything at the resort today, they told me that one or two of the owners wanted to pop in at the reception to take a look. Your wedding is really the first big event being held there, and they said that if they like what they see then maybe they will refer clients to Sheer Happiness Events.” She gives a loud squeal.

“Congrats,” Abby says as she dabs the corners of her eyes.

“That’s so cool! Maybe this has all happened for a good reason?” I get up to give her a hug.

“Enough of this!” Sienna says. “I need to go ahead of you and check on things, so I will meet you guys there.”

This is really exciting and a huge relief. Once people see how amazing Sienna’s events are, those crazy rumors about her company failing will stop.. Abby and I enjoy breakfast and gather everything we need for the wedding. I go to my closet and get my gown. Sienna offered to bring it for me, but I’m way too paranoid already, so I have no intention of letting this gown out of my presence. I remember making jokes about my cousins getting their grubby hands on it, and then I had that dream. Needless to say, this dress will not be going anywhere except on my body.

When we arrive at the resort, I gasp. The front is absolutely exquisite with tall while pillars, fountains, and beautiful palm trees lining the circular driveway. Craig and a few valet drivers greet us. Craig offers to take my stuff to the dressing room, so I give him everything except for my gown.

“Oh, I’m so glad you didn’t break out,” he says dramatically, looking at my face. “Did Sienna tell you about one of our last brides? The poor girl looked like she had the chicken pox.” I start to worry about the bags under my eyes from lack of sleep. They must not be as bad as I think because Craig would point them out, and he doesn’t say a word.

“Craig, you’re so mean,” Abby scolds.

“I’m not trying to be mean. I’m just relieved for you,” he says honestly.

When we walk into the lobby, it’s as hideous as it was in the pictures. It looks as if someone painted the walls with Pepto Bismal and threw in a couple of plastic palm trees. It looks like a tacky Miami Beach hotel from the ’80s. I still don’t understand why they didn’t do different decorating in the lobby. Thank goodness the ballroom and open balcony are as elegant as the pictures Sienna showed me.

Sienna and her team have done an amazing job with the décor. The fall-themed centerpieces that took me months to choose look gorgeous with the burgundy and gold linens and seat covers. Every centerpiece includes one of our framed engagement pictures. I’m completely in love. Even the buffet table looks lovely with tall fall floral arrangements, foliage, and candles.

“Are you happy with it?” she asks. “Everything needs to be perfect. I’m afraid we lost some momentum with the Four Seasons falling through and now especially with the owners stopping in to check it out.”

I wonder if she’s heard some of the rumors also. I’m certainly not bringing it up because I don’t want her spending the day stressed out.

“Everything looks perfect, and I’m sure the owners will be extremely impressed,” I reply. It really does look great, so I should take my own advice. Although, I was never worried about how things would look. I’ve been to enough of Sienna’s events and the décor is always fabulous. Craig is extremely creative, and he pays great attention to detail. My worries are more about a few of the guests and how they will behave.

A few hours later, we’re in the changing room putting the finishing touches on, and my mom has joined us and has started crying about ten times. She keeps saying it’s because her false eyelashes are bothering her. I don’t mind though because I’m just happy she’s here, especially after our argument. She did tell me that she was sorry that it seemed like she didn’t care about my feelings. Thankfully she didn’t mention one word about Ellie and Stephy not being in the wedding anymore. So I guess that means we’ve made up. Craig is keeping us updated on guests arriving and what they are wearing. Every time he comes back, he gives us a play-by-play.

“Susan is in head-to-toe designer. She’s so classy,” he says with excitement.

“Well, that’s no surprise. Cole’s father always says that she alone keeps Neiman Marcus in business.”

Sienna quickly gets ready and then heads out to supervise until it’s time to walk down the aisle. She’s doing a great job on double duty as both wedding planner and bridesmaid.

Grandmother joins us in the dressing room, and she hands me a small golden box.

“Thank you!”

I carefully open the box. Inside is a gorgeous gold charm bracelet.

“This bracelet was my mother’s, your great-grandmother. If you look at the charms, they are from different cities around the world. These are the places that she was able to visit in her life; her father was in the military, and they went to many exotic locations.” She looks at the bracelet and smiles. “Because you are the first of my granddaughters to get married, I want you to have it.” She opens the clasp and places it on my wrist. I’m so choked up I just lean in and give her a warm hug. For the first time in as long as I can remember she hugs me back and holds me tight.

“Well then, you must finish getting ready.” She looks away and pretends to get busy looking for something in her handbag. It’s actually a very touching moment; one that I’ve never had with her before and probably will never have again. She and my mom leave to be seated with the rest of the guests. Just Abby and I are left, and she gives me a tearful smile. We get distracted admiring the charm bracelet.

Just then, Craig interrupts the moment when he hurries into the room. “Oh no, oh no, oh no . . .” as soon as I look at him, my back tenses up.

“What’s wrong?” I immediately start to panic. He is about to tell me but pauses when Sienna returns. She’s as white as a ghost. Crap! Someone better tell me what’s happened.

“How dare she,” Craig says. He is talking to Sienna but then looks at me. “Your cousin Ellie is a piece of work. She just arrived with her date.”

“So?”

“You’re going to love this!” he says sarcastically. “Her date is the one and only, infamous Luke Price.”

He has to be joking. “Are you joking?” I ask deadpan. But he isn’t and there is nothing I can do about it. I’m half dressed and can’t leave this room until it’s time for my dad to walk me down the aisle to Cole who is waiting for me. I have no time to remove Luke from the premises, and Ellie knows that. Most of the guests are seated and I certainly don’t want any more bad publicity.

Now I know why Ellie brought up Luke’s name that night. She had every intention of bringing him to my wedding even before I ‘uninvited’ her. I knew it; Ellie is never going to change.

“I’m sorry. I wish I could do something about this,” I tell Sienna. “Is Ace here? Did they see each other?”

I can’t believe this; my wedding is turning into a reunion of the Bachelorette. We could totally film a “Men Tell All” with Sienna’s men. First, I had to worry about Ace and Jeff being around each other, and now we can add Luke into the mix. This would have never happened on the beach in Hawaii. I refuse to give Cole the satisfaction, so I won’t tell him that I just thought about that.

“Ace saw him and he asked me if he should kick him out. I told him no because there’s no need to create a huge scene for people to gossip about.”

“I thought the same thing,” I tell her. This really sucks. I would love for Ace to take charge and “remove” Luke from the wedding. How hot would that be? OK, Madison, not exactly the thoughts to have less than twenty minutes before you are getting married. Thankfully, Sienna interrupts my thoughts.

“Never mind all of this, it’s time for you to get dressed,” Sienna announces. Craig leaves, and it’s just the three of us again. Sienna is understandably shaken up, but she proceeds with professionalism and class like she always does.

I put my dress on and then turn to face myself in the full-length mirror. I can’t believe I’m staring at my own reflection. Abby starts crying right away and rushes to grab a tissue so she doesn’t smudge her makeup. I look at Sienna.

“Well?”

“Perfection,” she whispers and gives me hug. The three of us pick up our bouquets. My heart starts to beat faster and faster.

It’s time. My dad joins me at the door, and Abby and Sienna go on ahead.

“Cupcake, you look so very cute,” he says, using his nickname for me. Ugh, I’m going to cry again.

“Thanks, Daddy.” I give him a big hug. As I hug my father, it hits me that Ellie and Stephy may never experience a moment like this. All of a sudden, I feel sorry for them, and I guess I can understand what my mom always told me. I hug my dad a little tighter right before I pull away. He takes my arm and we walk.

Cole is waiting for me at the edge of the beautiful balcony with the Pacific Ocean as our backdrop. Four Seasons who? The ceremony goes too fast and half the time I feel like I’m in a trance, but in a good way. I don’t even flinch when I see Luke sitting amongst my wonderful friends and family. He really has just as much nerve as Ellie. I look out and see my parents and Cole’s parents. Susan is crying like a baby; I’m hoping those are happy tears and not losing-her-baby-boy tears. I even catch Grandmother dabbing the corners of her eyes. Today sure has brought out a lot of emotion from her. I glance down at the charm bracelet she gave me and smile.

The best part of course is that we finally made it! Cole and I are finally husband and wife. Nothing else matters at this moment. After our ceremony, we walk out onto the beach hand in hand to have a few moments alone. Not exactly the traditional walk “backward” down the aisle, but we aren’t exactly the poster couple for traditional. Cole picks me up and spins me around, and our guests are cheering from the balcony.

“You really did it; you actually married me,” he says as he puts me back down. “Can we go on our honeymoon now?”

“Yes, after the reception.” I grab his hand and we walk back to our guests, or rather, I drag Cole back to our guests.

The party gets started and everyone is having an amazing time. The food is average, and much to my dismay, on the buffet table in all its glory is a fancy platter of pigs-in-a-blanket. Cole and Jeff are actually throwing them into their mouths. I make a mental note to slap them both later for this. So far, I’ve managed to avoid Ellie and Luke who are happily walking around hand in hand talking to people. They both went up to Cole and said congratulations. I really wish someone had taken a photo of Cole’s face when Luke went up to him. As usual, Cole is so oblivious. I guess he didn’t get the memo that Luke had crashed our wedding. I wonder if they are really a couple or made some kind of an arrangement just for tonight to torture me. Luckily, there are plenty of people to greet and thank for coming. My plan is to be “busy” the whole evening so I won’t have to talk to them.

Abby comes up to me with baby Ace. “Everything is perfect. You can stop worrying now.” She gives me a one-armed hug, and baby Ace grabs my necklace. I give him a kiss on the forehead and pry his chubby little fingers off of my diamond necklace. She’s totally right. Sienna comes running over to tell us that the owners are going to peek in soon. I can tell she’s both excited and nervous. I want to tell her that I think it’s a little odd for owners to stop into an event, but then I remind myself that it’s a brand new venue so I guess it’s OK. Not to mention I really don’t know what normal is anymore.

Craig is in rare form tonight. He’s relentlessly teasing Sienna about all of the men that are here tonight. I make the mistake of telling him that it reminded me of a “Bachelorette: Men Tell All” episode. I should have known he would take that and run. He will be lucky if he still has a job tomorrow, but it’s kind of funny.

Back to our wedding—our first dance is so magical. As we are dancing, I actually forget that we are at our reception. I feel as if we are the only two people in the world. Cole’s description was that he felt like we were alone, dancing on the beach in Hawaii. I hit him on the arm; he really needs to get over it because we are already married. I promise him that when we renew our vows in twenty years we can do it alone in Hawaii.

When I finally remember that we’re still in California, I look around the reception. The first thing I see is Stephy dancing with Jeff. I thought she came with a date. “What is Jeff doing with Stephy?” I ask Cole. He looks over and smiles. “He asked about her a little while ago, and because Sienna hasn’t paid the slightest bit of attention to him, I told him to go for it.”

“Where’s her date?” I say, looking around. Typical Stephy, she probably ditched him already. Good for him though, that guy dodged a bullet. I bet he doesn’t even know how lucky he is.

“I don’t know, but Jeff’s a great guy; so if she likes him, then I say go for it. Sienna already had her chance, and she didn’t want to be with him, so he is free to date anyone else, and you have to admit that Stephy isn’t that bad.”

What’s he saying? Are we about to have our first fight as a married couple? Luckily, the song ends and Sienna calls us over for the toasts. During his toast, Jeff blabs on for a while and tells some story about deep-sea fishing off the Canadian coast and how he and Cole applied to be Canadian citizens. I have no idea what the purpose of him telling that story is, but of course, it’s probably just the alcohol talking.

After the toasts, Susan introduces me to the president of her garden club. I try not to act surprised when she tells me that she received my application to join. I glance at Susan who gives me two thumbs up. Oh my gosh, this is really going to suck. I have no choice because I can’t be blacklisted before even moving into that neighborhood. So, I do what any new daughter-in-law would do and tell her I’m looking forward to it. While we are talking about the meetings for the next five months (five!), Grandmother is walking by complaining to one of her friends about the cupcakes.

“I don’t know why they would choose cupcakes?” She emphasizes cupcakes as if it’s a dirty word. “Supposedly, it’s some kind of trendy new thing. Seems juvenile to me.” I can’t believe she’s still talking about the cupcakes. Is it really that big of a deal?

I notice Craig whispering to Sienna. He grabs her hand and pulls her out of the ballroom. Something’s going on, so I decide to follow them, and any reason to get out of this garden club discussion is worth it. On my way to the door, Aunt Kate stops me and tells me congratulations. She was another person I was trying to avoid only because of everything that happened with my cousins.

“It’s a beautiful wedding,” she says, pulling me in for an awkward hug.

“Thanks, Aunt K! I’m so glad you could come.” I don’t know what to say. Should I bring it up? She doesn’t say anything, so I don’t say anything.

I escape Aunt Kate and rush to the door to follow Sienna and Craig. I’m shocked at what I find in the hallway. “What the @#$*!” I say louder than I should have. A few people must hear me because they turn to look at me. As if Luke crashing wasn’t enough, this is ridiculous and I can see the horror on Sienna’s face.

Chapter 15

 

“Excuse me, can I ask what you are doing at my wedding?” I demand.

There, standing in the lobby with Sienna and Craig, is Carrie, Sienna’s former boss and her friend Elizabeth—probably two of the worst human beings ever.

They both give me a once over, clearly examining my wedding gown. My gown is exquisite, so I know they aren’t judging it unless there is a bead or a stitch out of place that I can’t see. I do a quick check of the front.

“Oh yes, I remember you,” Elizabeth says. “Didn’t I have to ask you to leave an event at my home?”

So this is a true story and not one of my finer moments. I was helping Sienna with an event, had a little too much wine, and got caught making out in the coat closet with Elizabeth’s boy toy of the week. When she found us, she quickly, and not so quietly, asked me to leave. That doesn’t matter though because that was a million years ago, so I just ignore her.

“I’m sorry but this is a private event, and I don’t remember sending you an invite.”

“Are you enjoying everything?” Carrie asks me, completely ignoring my comment. I look back and forth between Sienna and Carrie. I’m so confused right now. Why is she asking me if I’m enjoying it? Of course I am; it’s my wedding.

“Excuse me? Why do you care?”

The two women look at each other and smile. Sienna still hasn’t had much to say since I joined them.

“I don’t believe this. You’re two of the owners aren’t you?” Sienna exclaims. “This all makes sense now; this is why you were so accommodating when we were looking for a venue.”

“Oh love. I’m proud of you and your little company.” Carrie puts her hand on Sienna’s shoulder and she moves away. “I’m glad I was able to help you when you were in such a bind.”

Sienna looks as if she’s about to explode. She had worked for Carrie for several years and was getting ready to start her own company when she found out about Carrie and Luke. I don’t think she’s had any interaction with her since leaving the company, at least until we ran into her at the spa. I’m wondering what she’s up to, and I’m sure Sienna is wondering the same thing.

“Thank you for checking in with us. This wedding is a huge success as are all of my events so feel free to leave now.” She walks back into the ballroom before Carrie can say another word.

I’m still standing in the lobby with these evil women, and I really want to ask her why she seems so eager to help Sienna. Carrie doesn’t ever help anyone except for herself.

“OK, you can tell me what you’re up to,” I say, folding my arms. “After your history with Sienna, I find too hard to believe that you would be so willing to help her.

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” she replies innocently. “This is business and this is what we do. We have events here regardless of whose company plans them. Speaking of events, shouldn’t you be getting back to your wedding?” She’s so smug; I would love to slap that fake smile right off her face.

As much as I want to get to the bottom of this nonsense, she’s right; I don’t want to miss another second of my wedding. If Sienna can turn and walk away from this, then I can too. I don’t say another word and head back to my reception.

I find Sienna talking to Ace, and she’s a complete mess. I don’t blame her one bit though. First, Ellie brings Luke, and then Carrie shows up. It’s almost as if they are trying to get back at her by using my wedding.

“Madie, I feel so awful. I obviously have a lot of baggage, and I thought for sure I was past all of this.”

“Stop it. This is not your fault.” I grab her hands. “Ellie brought Luke here to piss me off. I don’t think that has anything to do with you at all.”

“I told her the same thing,” Ace agrees. “Luke is not bright enough to come up with that plan on his own.” I laugh because that’s so true. Ellie is cunning and manipulative and this has her name written all over it.

Cole, my new husband (squeal), comes up behind me and pulls me out onto the dance floor. I explain everything that just happened with Carrie and Elizabeth. Even he thinks that something doesn’t add up. “It’s almost as if this was all part of some elaborate plan?” I tell him.

“Babe, it’s our wedding. Don’t worry about all of this.” I can tell he is tired of all of the drama, and I am too. I promise myself that I’m going to enjoy the rest of this day no matter what happens.

When it comes time to throw my bouquet, I call all the single women. Sienna, Stephy, and Ellie are all standing in the front. Is it completely childish of me to hope that neither of my cousins catch it? I count to three, and I throw it. Sienna almost had her hands around it when Ellie came in a grabbed it from her.

“YES! This is perfect timing! Luke, baby, look at this!” She throws her arms around his neck, and they start passionately kissing. Both of them are definitely buzzed. Ellie is not one who would normally act like this in public. So either this is all for show or she’s almost drunk.

Grandmother doesn’t look happy at all, and this could possibly be the first time she has ever been noticeably upset with Ellie, at least when I have been around. I can’t imagine that those girls have ever disappointed her in some way. Who knows, I guess there’s a first time for everything? There I go again, obsessing over this. I probably should make an appointment with a therapist as soon as I get back from my honeymoon.

“It looks like someone is getting lucky tonight,” Cole says with a mischievous grin.

He’s gross.

“Excuse me, everyone.” I spin around in a panic to see Ellie with the microphone. She and Luke have stopped making out just in time to get her hands on the microphone. Someone needs to stop her because you never know what will come out of her mouth, especially considering the fact that she was a bridesmaid and now she’s not.

“I’m sorry to interrupt this great party, but I just want to tell my cousin Madison that I’m so happy for her, and I think we can all agree that this wedding has been great.” The guests all cheer loudly, and I stand frozen in my Jimmy Choos.

“While I’m up here, I have an announcement to make because my whole family is here for this celebration. Mom, Grandmother, Aunt Karen, Uncle Bill, my sister Stephanie, and Madison, I want to announce that . . . I’m engaged!” She starts jumping up and down like a child in a toy store. She holds up her left hand to show a gorgeous ring. Luke joins her behind the microphone, and they kiss again. What kind of sick and twisted show are they putting on? This has to be a nightmare that I’m going to wake up from. Ellie is going to marry Luke? He’s going to be a part of my family? I turn to Sienna, and she’s in shock as is the rest of my family. Once over the shock, Grandmother, Aunt Kate, and Stephy start cheering and rush to hug Ellie and Luke. Somehow, she kept her engagement (and relationship) a complete secret, and she chose my wedding to make the announcement.

“What just happened?” Craig asks me. I don’t have a good answer, so I just shake my head slowly. “Holy crap! This wedding is going to put us at legendary status. This is fantastic!”

I shake my head at him and walk away. I’m looking for Cole when Ellie finally catches up with me.

“Madie! Isn’t this the best news? I hope you don’t mind me announcing it here. You know how hard it is to get all of our family together, so I thought it would be the perfect time.”

I’m about to say something when Luke joins us.

“Madison, I haven’t had a chance to say congrats.” He wraps his arms around me and hugs me. I don’t hug him back. “Isn’t this crazy? We’re going to be cousins.”

“I’m speechless,” I reply. “So, how long have you two been together? I had no idea.”

They look at each other and start to laugh. Ellie starts talking. “We only met a few months ago, but when you find the right one, you just know it. Right, baby?”

“Yes.” He leans in and kisses her on the nose. Gross! I feel like throwing up but I don’t want to ruin my gown.

“Madie, I know things have been rough between us, but I’m happy for you and I hope you will be happy for me, too.”

I just stand there because I feel like I’m in a weird alternate universe. Not only has this been the best night of my life, it’s also been the strangest. This isn’t even about my issues with Ellie anymore; now this is about Luke. I hope he has changed because after what he did to Sienna, I wouldn’t even wish that on Ellie.

“Ellie, are you sure about this? You don’t really know him.” I point at Luke.

I have nothing to lose by being honest with her. It may not make a difference, but at least I can say I tried just in case.

“How dare you!” She glares at me. “I find the love of my life, and you’re trying to ruin my engagement. Madison, you really are so selfish.” She starts to walk away, but I stop her.

“You can think what you want about me, but you don’t know all the history between us. Luke is a cheater and an opportunist. You . . . you can do better.” I didn’t mean to hesitate when I tell her she can do better because I think she can.

I’m completely taken off guard when Luke interrupts our conversation. “Madison, I understand how you feel and you’re right. What I did was awful, and I will always regret hurting Sienna like I did. But I’ve changed a lot in the past several months, I’ve grown up, I’ve found myself, and I love Ellie. I hope in time you will see that.”

I scowl. “So tell me this, after all the history you have with Sienna and me, why would you blindside all of us and just show up here tonight? Why not tell me beforehand? And . . . did you know that Carrie would show up tonight also? Did you know that she owns this place?”

It’s not that farfetched of a question because I still wonder if this is some big plan thrown together from the devious duo—Carrie and Luke. I did read in the tabloids that Carrie had dumped Luke months ago, but you never know what’s true and what’s not. Even if Luke knew anything, he would never admit it.

“Carrie was here? Why? I haven’t seen her in months.” He hangs his head. “That’s a part of my past that I’m not proud of and, frankly, want to forget. If I could change any of that, I would, but I can’t. I hope you and Sienna can find it in your hearts to forgive me, especially because we’re practically family now.” He grabs my hand and holds it. I slowly pull it away.

“I didn’t tell you about Luke and I because of everything that has been going on,” Ellie adds. “I didn’t want you to think that I was doing it on purpose. We haven’t exactly been on the best terms.”

She does have a point.

“Hopefully we can all move on from this and maybe we can hire Sienna to plan our wedding,” Ellie chimes in. What? She’s completely lost her mind. She can’t possibly be serious.

Before I can reply, Cole joins us. “Well, I suppose I should say congrats. I had no idea you two even knew each other.” He holds his hand out to shake Luke’s hand. I roll my eyes; Cole was always oblivious to Luke’s true nature. He always liked him despite my extreme dislike for him.

“Babe, we have more guests to thank.” I grab his hand and drag him away before he makes plans to play golf with Luke. Cole doesn’t play golf but that’s what guy friends do, right? The last thing I want to do is start having regular dinner parties with Ellie and Luke because he and Cole become besties.

“Come on, Mads, this is our wedding, so you need to stop looking so miserable. People are going to start talking,” he says with a wink. “At any time they may start to wonder if you regret marrying me.” I hit him on the arm.

“Nobody’s going to think that.”

I need to get my mind off of this family drama. “Just think, in a few short days we will be in Hawaii on our honeymoon.” He kisses my hand, and we visit with the rest of our guests.

I make my way around talking to people. Caycee and Lauren from my salon tell me that this is the most entertaining wedding they’ve ever been to.

“I hope that’s a good thing,” I say.

“YEAH!” Lauren says.

“The entertainment almost makes up for it not being at the Four Seasons.”

She looks like she may cry. I can’t believe this girl is still upset about the Four Seasons. She was probably more devastated about the location change than Grandmother.

I laugh. “I’m glad you’ve enjoyed yourself.”

“Don’t forget to pack your ‘gifts’ for your honeymoon.” She gives me a wink. I promise her I will.

I continue to make my way around the ballroom. My parents have been sitting with Cole’s parents and have really hit it off.

“This has been such a great wedding, and how exciting for Ellie. That Luke seems like a nice guy,” Mom says. Obviously, my mom doesn’t know the connection between all of us.

“I hope she’s not making a mistake.” I didn’t mean to say that out loud, but it just came out.

“Honey, why would you say that?” I give my parents a quick synopsis of our past with Luke.

“Oh,” Mom pauses, “well, people can change. He seems very taken with her, so we can just hope for the best.”

“I guess.” I don’t bother getting into this discussion with her because it’s just not worth the trouble.

Cole joins us and my mom completely changes the subject. My parents love Cole (but who doesn’t), and my mom especially loves his comedy routines. Cole tells my parents all about some upcoming shows he has scheduled.

All things considered, my wedding is a success. I probably thank Sienna a million times. She has even met a few potential clients, so hopefully any negative publicity that’s flying around will go away. She doesn’t really say anything about the announcement of the engagement, and I don’t bring it up. She will when she’s ready. I did see Luke go over to her, and they talked for maybe a minute or two. I would have loved to be eavesdropping on that conversation.

We hug all of our family and friends and are whisked away in a rented Rolls Royce (another gift from Cole’s parents). I have no idea where this money keeps coming from. I wonder if I’ve married into some long-lost Kennedy relatives. Anyway, Cole cheers loudly and obnoxiously as we drive away, and I’m not ashamed to say that I join him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 16

 

The next morning I wake up to Cole snoring lightly next to me. I stare at him for a few minutes and roll back over and think about the events of the past few weeks and especially last night. I keep replaying everything in my head, and then I hear my phone buzzing from my bag. Who would call me the morning after my wedding night? I’m going to kill them.

It’s Sienna, and she has called three times. I know she would only call if it was important, or at least something she thinks is important.

“What’s wrong?” I ask as soon as I answer.

“I’m so sorry. I know this is bad timing. I just wanted to tell you something.”

“How are you feeling?” I ask. “I know last night was a little rough. Especially with Ellie and Luke’s announcement.” I know that no matter how much time has passed that break up was very difficult. At the time, she handled it very well, but she was also preoccupied with the launch of Sheer Happiness. Sometimes it takes people longer to really get over things.

“I feel good, like I finally have closure,” she says. “Luke actually came up to me at the end of the night. He told me he was truly sorry about everything. I didn’t know what to say, but I think it gave me some closure. He also said something really interesting that made me think.”

Luke said something interesting? This ought to be really good.

“What did he have to say?”

“Well, two things actually.” She pauses. “First, he said that the thing he regrets the most in his life was how he treated me. Then he said . . .” she pauses again. “He said I should give things a chance with Ace.”

Well, that is a big surprise. Ace and Luke go way back to college days and were pretty good friends until some girl came between their friendship. When Ace came to town, he and Sienna hit it off, but they were only friends and business associates. Nothing more happened, but Luke was extremely jealous. Go figure, he was the one cheating the whole time.

“That is surprising. He told me something similar about being sorry about what he did to you. That was after I told Ellie that she was too good for him.” I laugh.

“You said that? That’s awesome.” She sounds so happy. I think I just made her week, or maybe even her year.

“Yeah. Can you believe it? Last night was pretty crazy.”

When I get off the phone, Cole is still asleep, so I check some emails and take care of a few things before our honeymoon. Most of the messages in my inbox are junk. I cringe when I see an email that states that my application to the So-Cal Garden Club has been approved. I have to do something about this or else soon I will be gossiping with a bunch of rich ladies, wearing pearls to play tennis, and hosting my own dinner parties.

I scroll through my emails and find something very interesting. It’s from a bakery in Malibu.

Ms. Wales,

I saw your cookie feature at Bev’s in Beverly Hills and I think your cookies are precious. I was interested in having you featured in my pastry shop for the holidays. It would only be for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. Would you be able to provide me with a few samples? Please let me know if your schedule allows.

Namaste,

Marie Peterson

Sugar*Sugar*Sugar Pastry Shop

“YES!” I shout so loudly that I wake Cole up.

“I’m sorry, babe.” I get up and crawl back into bed with him. “I just got an email from a bakery in Malibu.”

I tell him about the offer and how I was convinced that my cookie days were over after Bev’s rejection. Cole has always been so supportive of everything I’ve attempted to do. I’ve been thinking about this, and I think it’s time I did the same.

“So, I’ve been thinking.” We’re still lying in bed and he is playing with my hair. “I want to start traveling with you more. I want to be more involved in your career.”

I’ve visited a few of his shows in the past but haven’t had the chance to travel as much as I would like to.

“Really?” he asks excitedly. “Well, that’s what a good wife should do.” He kisses me. “I would love that, but what about work?”

“What about it? I pretty much make my own schedule already, so I’ll just schedule all of my clients around your shows. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Cole must have really wanted me to travel with him because I haven’t seen him this happy in a while. We finally get up and get ready to go to brunch. We are staying at the Ritz for two nights and then going home to finish moving into the house before we leave for Hawaii in a few days.

“Do you think that Ellie and Luke’s engagement is for real?” I ask Cole while we are at brunch. “It wouldn’t be a huge shock if they staged the whole thing.” It really wouldn’t be; Ellie would probably do anything to draw attention away from my big day.

“No way,” Cole says confidently. “That engagement was a totally legit, and you know I don’t think Luke is that bad. He just made a bad decision. Maybe it’s time for everyone to move on.”

“Yeah, yeah.” I roll my eyes.

“I thought you worked things out with your cousins? Didn’t you confront them about everything, then made up and braided each other’s hair?”

“I did, well, all except for the braiding hair part,” I reply. But that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t have had this planned prior, and since when is Cole the voice of reason. That role is usually played by Abby or Sienna.

“Do you regret accusing Ellie of sabotaging the Four Seasons?” Cole asks finally. I don’t know how to answer that question.

“Maybe a little, but I guess I justify it because of how horribly they treated me for years. I know, I know . . . I need to stop letting my childhood issues take over.” Cole gives me a curious look.

“Um, yeah, you do.”

“Oh, don’t judge me ‘Mr. Blacksheep’ of the family.” He really should talk.

Thankfully, we move on from that subject and start talking about decorating the house, and Cole wants to look into adding a pool. I’m so excited to start our life together.

We have a couples’ massage scheduled for later in the afternoon, and then Cole planned a dinner on the beach. He loves planning trips, and he’s really good at it. He practically planned our entire Hawaii trip with a few of my requests of course, and he says that he has a few surprises planned too.

The next day we arrive home, and I have one more day to get things ready for the movers to come. Sienna is moving into her place this coming weekend. I call her when I get home.

“I’m home. How is everything?”

“Fine. How was the Ritz?

I can tell she’s preoccupied with something. I give her a quick rundown of our stay and ask her what’s wrong.

“I’m probably overreacting, but Craig told me that he heard that there are rumors that Sheer Happiness is going under.” She sounds so worried. “Have you heard anything?”

Ugh, she’s totally putting me on the spot. I just don’t have the heart to tell her exactly everything, so I give her a watered-down version.

“I haven’t heard that exactly, but Bev was asking how things were going for you. I told her I thought everything was fine. Don’t you have some pretty important events coming up?”

Hopefully people haven’t gotten wind of any of these rumors and canceled on her.

“Yes, I do! That’s the strangest part; I don’t know where these rumors are coming from. Of course, I know there is always going to be bad publicity.” She pauses. “But it’s not good if clients hear that my company is going under either.”

I try to convince her to ignore the rumors and focus on her work. I know that’s easier said than done.

“We have the Grazian wedding coming up, and soon we will start the planning Faith, Fashion, and Hope for next year.” That’s a huge relief to hear; Faith, Fashion, and Hope is a huge charity event. Sienna planned it last year, and it was an amazing success.

“See! Everything will be fine,” I assure her. “So, how are things going with Ace? Are you going to take Luke’s advice?” I can’t believe I just said that out loud. I feel like I need to get some soap and wash my mouth out.

She lets out a sigh. “Things are really good, except for Allyson.” She tells me about their dinner date the other night being interrupted yet again by an urgent issue that came up. If this Allyson is so brilliant then why is she always having a problem that needs Ace’s immediate attention? You would think that he would catch on to her helpless act.

“Don’t sit on this. You need to be honest with him about your feelings,” I demand.

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m planning on it.”

Chapter 17

 

When I arrive at my new house, I unload my car. Susan called me on my way and asked if she could bring over a meal because we aren’t quite moved in yet. I thankfully accept, and Cole will be very happy to hear that she’s recognizing her boundaries and calling first.

I have started neatly unpacking and organizing all of my cookie stuff. I’m so excited about my cookie room. I even have some framed pictures of a few of my favorite designs. I’m busily hanging them on the walls when I hear a knock at my door. Susan is right on time as usual. Except it’s not Susan at the door, it’s Ellie.

“Ellie? What are you doing here?”

“Hi, Madie. I wasn’t sure if you would be here, but my office is nearby so I thought I’d check.” She walks right by me into the house.

“Your office is nearby?” I repeat. Crap! Maybe I can convince Cole and his parents to move.

“Yes. Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about Sienna. Is there any way that you can convince her to be my wedding planner?” She wanders into the cookie room and starts looking around.

What? I thought she was kidding when she asked me that.

“Ellie, I don’t think so. You do remember that Luke and Sienna used to date, and Luke really did her wrong. That would just be really awkward.”

Ellie stares at me. Sometimes I wonder if she has selective hearing when I talk to her. It’s almost as if she ignores half the things I say.

“Of course I remember, but that was a long time ago, and Luke even talked to her at the wedding. Also, I’m not sure you knew this, but Luke and her boyfriend are really good friends,” she adds, looking at her nails.

“Not anymore they’re not.”

Ellie insists that Luke and Ace have moved on from their issues from the past. I sit down on a barstool after I offer Ellie some coffee. I try to explain that Sienna is not the best option, but I’m sure she could recommend someone else.

“Would she really want to send me to her competition?” Ellie asks. “I mean, starting a business is difficult, I would think she could use all the business she can get.” So even Ellie has heard the rumors.

“I’ll talk to her for you,” I finally agree. I know by now that sometimes it’s better to just agree and deal with the fallout later. She thanks me (sincerely) and gives me a quick hug. I admit I’m surprised because I don’t remember the last time she thanked me or hugged me.

“There is something else I wanted to talk to you about.” I can tell by her expression that I’m not going to like this.

“I have a confession to make and I hope this doesn’t change things with us, you know, since we’ve become closer.” Closer?

“It’s about Bev’s Sweet Treats . . .” she trails off.

I sit there as I listen to Ellie’s confession. It turns out that she was the one who told Bev that Sheer Happiness was going under, and she also told her about the wedding being canceled. She even suggested that the cookies be removed because it could be considered false advertising because I was no longer having a “Four Seasons” wedding.

“Madie, I really regret it now. I was angry that you would accuse me of ruining your wedding.” She looks at her hands. “But I understand if you need some time.”

I don’t really know what to say or how to respond.

My silence is interrupted by Susan’s arrival with our dinner. She tries to hide her surprise to see Ellie, but she doesn’t do a very good job. Ellie leaves shortly after and asks me again to talk to Sienna. She really has a lot of nerve.

“I’m sorry if I interrupted something,” Susan apologizes. I tell her not to worry about it and then explain about Luke, Sienna, and Ellie wanting her to plan the wedding. Then I tell her about Bev’s.

“My goodness,” Susan says, taking a sip of her coffee. “Perhaps the guilt was eating away at her. You know . . . she could have never admitted it, and you would have been none the wiser. I think that’s progress.”

I know she’s right; I just need time to let it soak in.

The next morning I meet the movers at the apartment. Sienna’s still there, so I go ahead and mention Ellie’s request. I decide not to mention anything about Bev’s to her. This is about business, and it wouldn’t be fair of me to keep Sienna from planning another event no matter what my personal issues are.

“What? Why would she want me to plan her wedding? I thought she said I did a horrible job with your shower?”

“No, she was just mad at me as usual. She knows you’re the best and that’s why she wants you.”

“I don’t know . . . I have to think about it,” she says. Really? I’m completely shocked that she even agreed to think about it. Is she really that desperate for business?

She leaves for the office right before the movers arrive and load up the remainder of my stuff. Cole is meeting the movers at the new house because I have three clients this afternoon. I look around the apartment and reminisce for a few minutes. A slide show of memories goes through my mind, as if I was in a movie or TV show. I imagine a sad song would be playing along with it. I can’t believe I’m married and moving into my first home with my new husband. This feels so surreal; I guess the time comes for everyone to have to grow up.

At work, Caycee asks me if I used her shower gift yet. I tell her that I haven’t but promise to bring it on our honeymoon. Seriously, why does she care so much? I’m busy organizing some products when I get a group text from Sienna.

Ace is inviting everyone to Venice tonight. Let me know if you can come, 7pm.

I send her a text her back that we will be there for sure. I really should be packing for Hawaii, but I love Venice and we always get the best service when we go with Ace because one of his family members is the head chef. I call Cole and tell him about our plans.

A few hours later, we are all at Venice. The band is playing, and we are passing around baby Ace. I’m happily playing with him when Abby tells Cole and I that we are up next to have a baby. I’m not surprised she has already started in with this. Abby got pregnant with baby Ace shortly after they were married, and I’m expecting a call any day that she is pregnant with Ace’s little brother or sister.

“Seriously, Abby, we’ve only been married for three days; there will be no babies any time soon,” I say firmly.

“Amen to that!” Cole agrees.

We’re having such a fun time. I look around the table at my wonderful friends, and I remind myself that families aren’t always biological. Thank goodness.

I go with Abby to the restroom to change the baby. The restroom is huge and the counter is full of makeup, lotions, and even disposable toothbrushes. This place is as much fun as the restaurant.

While we are in the restroom, another familiar face joins us. It’s Elizabeth, one of the owners from my wedding venue and Carrie’s friend. At first, she pretends that she doesn’t recognize me.

“Don’t I know you?” she asks even though she knows exactly who I am.

“Yes, you do. My wedding was just at your hotel a few nights ago.” I roll my eyes. Abby is busy with the baby, but she is obviously listening to our conversation.

“Oh, that’s right. I kicked you out of my home a few years ago,” she says with the same smug expression she had the other night. “Everything went well with the wedding, I’m assuming?”

“It sure did thanks to my awesome wedding planner.” She doesn’t respond to me complimenting Sienna. I start to smell some of the designer perfumes they have on display, and Elizabeth is doing the same thing.

“I’m glad to hear it. I guess it was a good thing those documents got lost so you had to change venues.”

I stop smelling perfumes and look at her. “How do you know that’s what happened?” I ask. Abby gets the baby changed and joins me.

Elizabeth starts to look very uncomfortable.

“My party is waiting for me, so if you will excuse me.” She starts to walk away when I grab her arm.

“Wait. How did you know that happened?” I repeat. She starts to squirm, and I can tell she’s trying to think of an excuse.

“Sienna told us when she called to book your event, and I suggest you let go of my arm or I will call security,” she says quickly and pulls her arm away.

Abby and I look at each other. I can’t believe it; this was all Carrie. She was behind the whole thing. This whole thing was about ruining Sienna’s credibility and not about me at all.

“So, Carrie was behind all of it after all? Don’t try to lie your way out of it.”

“You think Carrie really cares about your silly little wedding?” she gives a smirk. “This is business. The three of us bought this resort, and we will make it a huge success no matter what it takes.”

“Three of you?” Abby asks.

Elizabeth gives a wicked smile. “Yes. Me, Carrie, and our new partner, Stephanie Smith of AMC Architects.”

What?

She doesn’t say another word and leaves. Abby and I stand there, speechless. The only sound is baby Ace, cooing.

“Madie.”

“I know.” I shake my head. This must be what going into shock feels like.

So the whole time I thought everything was Ellie’s fault, it was Stephy. But how? What are the chances that Stephy knows Carrie? I’m trying to wrap my brain around this new information.

“You OK?” Abby asks.

“Yes, I am. I mean I’m married now, and it all worked out in the end. Wow, let’s go break the news to Sienna.” We head back to our table. At least now, I can reassure Sienna that none of this was her fault. She didn’t make any mistakes.

“We thought you guys fell in,” Cole says when we return.

Abby and I explain what happened with Elizabeth to Sienna and the guys. Sienna’s eyes get huge, but then she admits she’s not that surprised.

“I should have known, especially with how Carrie was acting at the wedding.” She shakes her head. “Madie, Cole, I’m so sorry; this was because of me all along.”

“You don’t need to apologize. We really don’t know the full story. We don’t know if this is all because of Carrie or Stephy. In the end, it all worked out fine, and our wedding was wonderful.” I wrap my arm around her.

I wonder if Ellie knew about this all along. She really had me convinced that she was sincerely trying. I feel like a complete idiot, and now I don’t know what to believe.

The rest of the night is really fun despite the turn of events in the restroom. On a positive note, I really think that things are finally progressing for Sienna and Ace. He got up to take a work phone call, and she grabbed his hand before he walked away. Abby looks at me with exhilaration in her eyes.

When Cole and I get home, we light a fire in our new fireplace and curl up on the couch. I’m still preoccupied with the Carrie-Stephy-wedding thing. I have this nagging feeling that I have to make a few phone calls tomorrow. I tell Cole how I’m feeling.

“Don’t you think it would be better to just move forward?” he asks. “Maybe it’s better not to bring up old stuff.”

“It’s not old stuff; it all just happened.” Ugh, men!

“Fine. But can we just forget about it? At least for tonight?” He starts rubbing my back underneath my shirt. I hit him.

He’s right. I will deal with it tomorrow.

The next day I’m bouncing off the wall with excitement. The countdown is on, and we leave in eight hours for Hawaii. I spend most of the morning unpacking boxes and packing suitcases. Cole and his dad have been hanging pictures and organizing the garage while Susan has unpacked my kitchen and made it “user-friendly.” I didn’t know a kitchen could be user-friendly, but I guess it can. Pots and pans near the oven and dishes near the sink. I never thought about any of this before. I also send Marie Peterson an email letting her know that I would be very interested in having my cookies featured in her bakery.

I tell Susan about what happened at Venice and how we found out that Carrie and Stephy were the ones behind the Four Season’s cancellation. I tell her how confused I feel about my cousins and how I don’t know what to believe.

“Goodness. You were right all along?”

“Maybe? I mean, I accused Ellie and she swore up and down that she was innocent. She never mentioned Stephy.” I leave my mother-in-law to continue to unpack my stuff (How lucky am I?) and go to make my phone call.

“”Ellenor Smith.”

“Hi, Ellie. It’s Madie. Sorry to bother you at work.”

“It’s fine. Did you talk to Sienna about my wedding?” she asks eagerly.

Crap! I forgot that she might ask me about that.

“I did. She says she will have to check her schedule; she’s pretty busy right now. But that’s not why I’m calling. I, um, I want to ask you something.” I decide to go about this in a different manner than I did the first time around.

She’s completely silent, so I cut to the chase.

“Did you know that Stephy has a new business endeavor?” I ask.

She doesn’t say anything.

“And did you know that she also happens to be new partners with Carrie Anderstone and Elizabeth, um . . .” Crap, I can’t remember her last name.

She still doesn’t say anything.

“And did you know that they also happened to be behind my Four Seasons wedding falling through?”

Silence.

“Ellie, are you still there?”

“Yes, I’m here,” she answers. “Madie, I told you the truth when I said I didn’t have anything to do with that.”

“OK, but what about Stephy?”

She doesn’t say anything at first. “I knew she was partnering up with Elizabeth. They have known each other for a while, but I had no idea about Carrie and that connection until recently.” She pauses. “Believe me, I’m not happy about this either, especially with Luke and Carrie’s history.”

Oh yeah. Totally forgot about that.

“Stephy has changed a lot over the past year or so. Everyone thinks she’s so nice and innocent. She has everyone fooled, even I feel like I don’t know her anymore.”

What’s this? Tension between these two?

“So, did Stephy do all of this on purpose?” I ask.

“Honestly, I don’t know. I asked her, but she denies it. I really think it was both of them, meaning Carrie and Stephy.”

“Hmm.” That makes sense.

“I wanted to tell you the other day, but . . . well, things have been getting better, and I didn’t know how to do it.”

When I hang up the phone, I feel relieved despite this new realization. Shockingly, that has to be one of the best, if not the best, conversations I have ever had with Ellie. I feel like we were real—no pretending or trying to force a conversation. I don’t think we will be best friends any time soon, but I think that in time our relationship will be better than it has been. I know I need to confront Stephy and get to the bottom of all of this, but maybe now is not the time, and it’s not going to change anything. I’m so proud of how much I have grown up. I’m a few hours away from my dream honeymoon with my husband. I will focus on that after I make one more phone call.

“Hello, Grandmother. It’s Madison.” Grandmother has always expected us to speak well and politely when on the phone.

“Madison, I thought you were traveling to Hawaii?”

“Yes, we are; we leave in a few hours.”

She spends the next several minutes reminding me of airport safety and washing my hands after touching everything. Sometimes I thinks she forgets that I’m not a little girl anymore.

I interrupt Grandmother and tell her that I just had a good conversation with Ellie, conveniently leaving out the Stephy situation. (Really, what’s the point?)

“I just wanted you to know that I’m trying and hopefully this will be a new beginning for us,” I say.

“Thank you, dear. That makes me happier than you will ever know.” Her voice cracks.

“I also wanted to thank you again for the gorgeous bracelet. I promise you that I will treasure and take very special care of it.”

Before I get off the phone, I tell her I love her.

“I love you, too, my dear, very much,” she says before she hangs up the phone.

I don’t move for a few minutes. I look around my new home, and I’m reminded of how blessed I am. No matter what the future holds with my cousins, we are family and we always will be. I’m no longer that little girl who feels left out. I’m a married woman with two successful careers and wonderful friends.

“Everything OK, babe?” Cole asks when he joins me in the room.

“Yes, everything is good! Let’s go to Hawaii!”

“That’s what I’ve been saying all along,” he says, wrapping his arms around me.

Epilogue

 

Our honeymoon was everything we expected and more. Cole even surprised me with a private little wedding ceremony on the beach. So in the end, he did get his wish, and we even danced alone on the white sand as we had envisioned.

When we arrived home from Hawaii, I was surprised to receive a message from Bev who asked me to do a small cookie display for her Christmas rush. I guess she heard that Sugar*Sugar*Sugar had contacted me to do a feature, and apparently Bev and Marie are frenemies. So with the holidays around the corner Cookies by Madie is going to be very busy. I still haven’t come up with that new cute and clever name for the business, so for now I guess Cookies by Madie will have to do.

After several attempts, I finally did confront Stephy. She insisted that it was all Carrie, and she claims that she was not involved in anything having to do with my wedding. I told her that I didn’t believe her, and she told me she would never come back to my salon again. Not that I care. I haven’t spoken with her since, and according to Ellie, she’s “devastated” that I don’t believe her. I know Ellie doesn’t believe her either, but she hasn’t come out and said it. I’ve come to accept that there will always be haters in life (even in families), but it’s just best to rise above them and be the better person.

Ellie and Luke decided to go with a different event planner, and Sienna is relieved that she’s making another planner miserable. Ellie is a horrible bridezilla, much worse than I ever was. Much to my surprise, she asked me to be a bridesmaid, to which I accepted. Of course, we are all wearing matching dresses. Even after everything that happened with Stephy, she actually dated Jeff for about five minutes but ditched him at another event she attended. Poor Jeff says he refuses to date anyone else related to me. Go figure, Cole wants me to set him up with Caycee from my salon. I’m trying very hard to get out of that one.

Sheer Happiness is still in business and business is booming. The rumors that were circulating have come to a sudden stop. Sienna is convinced that Carrie was behind that, and after everything that has happened, I don’t disagree. Sienna and her team are successfully planning the Grazian’s wedding, which will end up being the social event of the year and is going to be held at the Four Seasons. Craig is planning his own luau for his thirtieth birthday and is planning on having the fire dancers for the entertainment.

Sienna is busier than ever and happier than ever. She and Ace have “officially” become a couple. Abby and I are expecting an engagement announcement any day. Of course, we haven’t told Sienna this yet, but we know she is expecting it also. To Sienna’s delight, Allyson was moved back to the Scotland. Apparently, Ace said she was too high maintenance and had her transferred back. I’m pretty sure Sienna had something to do with that.

Abby announced that baby Ace is going become a big brother in April. I knew that wasn’t far in the future, and she keeps asking me to give her second child a best friend. Both Cole’s and my parents are begging for this as well. We have no intention of becoming parents just yet and want to enjoy being newlyweds.

I somehow managed to get out of joining the garden club due to my increasingly busy schedule and my upcoming frequent travel with Cole for most of his shows. Susan was not happy, but I promised her that I would be a “guest” from time to time. Grandmother and Mrs. Wilson did, however, join the garden club and are loving it. They have become best friends with Susan, and every time I see Grandmother now, she is wearing pearls.

Christmas is around the corner and we are hosting a big family and friends’ dinner at our new home. Susan is thankfully providing all of the food, and of course, I’m providing the cookies. It will be a fun and crazy night, and as I said once before, you can’t pick your family. But I’m thankful for the family I have.

 

The End

Where to Find the Melissa:

 

Website:

authormelissabaldwin.com

 

Facebook:

facebook.com/authormelissabaldwin

 

Twitter:

Melissa Baldwin (@mpbaldwinauthor) | Twitter

 

Instagram: 

Melissa Baldwin (@mbaldwinauthor) • Instagram photos and videos

 

 

 

 

 

 


Wedding Haters (Event to Remember Series-Book 2)

The exquisite dress, the dazzling menu, the family drama . . . It’s the day every girl dreams of, and Madison Wales is no exception. Her wedding plans seem to be going perfectly thanks to her very talented wedding planner, Sienna Harris. That is, until her grandmother and her two overachieving, bullying cousins suddenly want to become very involved in her big day. But . . . why? Madison’s perfect wedding dreams are dashed as things slowly start to unravel. With family drama in her midst, she wonders if her cousins are behind each disaster or if she has truly become a paranoid bridezilla. Will Madison be able to withstand all of the pressure and finally stand up for herself? The idea of eloping with her fiancé, Cole, is looking better everyday, even if it means leaving her dream wedding behind. Will she make the right choice?

  • ISBN: 9780692393239
  • Author: Melissa Baldwin
  • Published: 2015-12-29 04:40:12
  • Words: 56884
Wedding Haters (Event to Remember Series-Book 2) Wedding Haters (Event to Remember Series-Book 2)