For those on the fence with the Where You Left Me series I thought I’d offer up the first chapter of Vol. 1. as a fun freebie.
Where You Left Me (Vol. 1)
1. At the Altar
So, this is it. This is the place where you left me. Not very original, I have to say. I would have thought you’d come up with something less cliché than leaving me at the altar, but now that I’ve had a minute to think about it, everything about you was predictable. Ordinary. Nothing earth-shattering. Not even the sex. Yeah, that was all fake by the way.
Believe it or not, you leaving me standing here all alone is not the worst part about this messed-up day. It’s what you’re making me do now that’s pissing me off. Because of your spineless ass, I need to go out to that waiting crowd and face my parents. Hell, I have to face your parents and all your dipshit friends you made me invite. This should not be my job. You’re the one who couldn’t keep your hands to yourself. Because, of course, you were banging one of my bridesmaids. You couldn’t be more of a tool if you tried.
Then again, what does that make me in this story? No. I will not be the loser in this scenario. Screw that. Screw you. You saved me a lifetime of regret and bad dick. So, you know what? Thank you. Thank you for taking years of misery off my shoulders.
Pacing rings in the minister’s chambers next to the altar, my fingers stopped their assault on the phone’s keypad while I read over my response to Dwayne after his dramatic dash from the church moments earlier. Emma’s bouquet still lay on the floor where she’d dropped it to take his hand to run down the rose petal aisle together. To hell with the both of them.
Never reply in anger, I could almost hear my mother whispering in my ear. I took a deep breath and rolled my shoulders back. I put the phone down without sending the message but keeping the words for fine-tuning later.
Adjusting the bottom of my dress, I winced. The tug against the sticky tape holding my girls in place reminded me not to move quite so much. Stupid strapless dress. After a quick check, I determined they wouldn’t be escaping their cage anytime soon. I wished for the umpteenth time I had gone with the A-line dress I’d wanted instead of this strapless monster. I hated strapless anything. My boobs were too big for such a dress, but Dwayne’s mother, Dwayna, of all things, had insisted on it. She’d gone on and on about how strapless dresses were her little Dwayne’s favorite. Dwayna and Dwayne. That really should have alerted me right there that his family was nuts.
While there was a ridiculous amount of relief knowing I didn’t have to marry the guy, I found myself being angry as hell about missing out on the honeymoon. That was the only thing I’d been looking forward to. Not being his wife, but finally getting to go to The Bahamas.
That truth should have been a red flag, but when you lived in a hick town as I did, the choices weren’t many, so you took what you could get, and Dwayne was one of the few bachelors within a hundred-mile radius.
I figured I could learn to deal with his boring personality and his serial-killer eyes if we could occasionally get out of this dump. That had been one of Dwayne’s few perks. He had to travel a bit for his work. Even though it would be short trips where we’d likely only see the hotel, it didn’t matter. Anything to get me out of Erwin.
By leaving me, Dwyane was taking that great escape from this boring life away from me. I mean, sure, I could go on my honeymoon alone, but how depressing would that be? Going to the most romantic place on earth solo would be salt in an open wound. It wasn’t fair. Why did my life have to get turned upside down because of that dipshit?
Hell no. This was my wedding day. If he didn’t want to marry me, that was his loss. I wasn’t about to change my plans for him. I was going to get married and go on my honeymoon as scheduled. I just needed to find a groom. No problem.
After grabbing my bouquet of slightly bent flowers off the floor, I came out of the minister’s chambers where I had locked myself away. As soon as the door opened, my mom rushed over to me, her eyes red with worry. All attention turned my way, and a hush fell over the waiting family and friends as they shifted in the pews to watch what I’d do next. I’m sure they all expected a nervous breakdown.
Clearing my throat, I gave them all a pleasant smile.
“Be with you all in a second,” I assured them. “Mom, you can go back and sit with Dad now. I’ve got this.”
She looked up at me, ready to swoop in and try and save me from myself, but I held my hand up. “Please, Mom. Just sit. Trust me.”
Through tears, she shuffled her way back over to my dad, who seemed entirely confused about the whole thing. That made two of us, Pops.
Walking to my spot at the front, I addressed the waiting crowd.
“Sorry about that slight hiccup. We seem to be down one groom. Not to worry, though. You came here to see a wedding, and a wedding you shall see.” I glanced over to Dwayne’s wedding party. Of the four men he’d chosen, only one of them was unmarried. He was easily in his sixties, but hey, I was desperate.
“Carl, I know we don’t know each other well, but would you like to get hitched?”
There were a few uncomfortable laughs.
He cocked his head, clearly confused.
“I’m serious. Look, let’s get married. We’ll honeymoon in The Bahamas. What do ya say?”
He continued to blink his eyes like a broken stoplight. The man was in shock, clearly.
“Carl?” I asked again. Don’t leave me hanging, dude. “You up for a little fun in the sun?”
“Um… I’m gay.” There were a few audible gasps and one woman in the front crossed herself.
I sighed. “Ah. How about just sun, and no fun then?” His expression gave me my answer. “Okay. Fine.” I turned to face the pews. Surely someone here would be game for a little adventure. “So, it turns out Carl here is a bust. That means it’s someone’s lucky day. Who wants to get married?”
There were several whispers of shock as people realize I’d officially lost it, but zero takers. My mom looked at me like I’d grown a second head while my father stood up, ready to drag me out of the church and save me the embarrassment. I held my hand up at them both and turned back to the onlookers.
“Seriously? No takers?” I begged. “This is a legitimate offer. You’d get a free trip to The Bahamas! All you’d need to do is take a week of work off with zero notice… just happen to have a passport on your person and want to spend a week in a tiny cabin with me.”
Now that I’d said it out loud, I realized how crazy my idea was.
“Okay, I get it. It’s a tad nuts. I mean, who can up and leave their life behind for a week to sit on a beach with a girl who rocks a bikini.”
“Jazz!” my mother hissed.
“What? I do.” I may not have a lot of things, but great control top bikini I had.
I lifted my hand holding the bouquet over my eyes to peer into the crowd, searching for anyone who might be willing.
“Anthony!” I shouted. “You know you want to come with me.” I pointed at him with the flowers. Anthony was my co-worker at the library and barely ever said more than a “hello” to me, but who needed a big talker on the beach? All I needed was a body beside me, so I didn’t look so pathetic.
“No, thank you,” he said softly.
I frowned. Well, this was embarrassing. Even with an all-expenses-paid trip to The Bahamas and these boobs, still, no one wanted me. My shoulders slumped. Story of my life.
“I’ll do it,” someone said to my left.
My heart kicked up as I scanned for who spoke up. The voice had come from the back, but I couldn’t tell where exactly. That’s when a lanky-looking guy stood up. A more opposite guy from Dwayne you could not get. Where Dwayne was in his forties with an office manager’s physique, this guy was maybe fifteen pounds heavier than me soaking wet. His dark hair needed a cut as it hung over his eyes in loose waves. Two dimples greeted me with a warm smile. Christ. He was just a kid. Early twenties at best. Not that I was old, but a thirty-year-old and a twenty-year-old did not exactly have too much in common.
Does that honestly matter, Jazz? And hell, he might even be fun to play with. That would teach Dwayne to leave me.
“Perfect! Get your tiny little ass up here. Let’s get hitched.”
My mom stood up then, ready to object, but I held up my finger. “No, Mom. I love you, but no. I’m doing this. I deserve a wedding. I have worked too hard for this day to throw it away. We have a bride and now a groom. The show must go on!”
I glanced back over to my new fiancé, who was still standing where he was near the back, probably unsure if I was serious or not.
“Let’s go, Romeo. The reception kicks off in about forty minutes. And we have a flight to catch in the morning.”
“Peanut,” my mother pleaded, “are you sure this is what you want? There is no shame in walking away. It might be good for you to get some time on your own… Maybe don’t jump so fast into another relationship again?” Ouch, Mom. “Take some time for yourself. Figure out what you want in life. You don’t need a man to complete you, pumpkin.”
“I know that, Mom, but what I want is to go on this damn trip that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little girl. And I’d like to have some company when I’m there. Ideally of the masculine kind.” I smiled at my mom, who blushed three shades of red.
But that made me wonder if that might be a non-starter.
“Hey, dimples, you’re not gay, are you?”
“No.” He laughed, finally making it out of the pew.
“Married?” I countered.
“Not yet but give me a second to walk down the aisle.”
He had a sense of humor. I could work with that.
As he headed down the aisle, I held up a hand. “Wait! You’re at least eighteen, right?”
At that, he gave me another full dimpled grin. Damn. Even from far away I knew that would look sexy up close.
“No shit?” Murmurs spread through the church as I flinched. “Sorry, God,” I said to the ceiling. “It’s been a rough morning.”
It was at that moment I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning, I saw the minister. “A word, please?”
I glanced back at dimples and pointed at the steps.
“You. Wait there.”
He gave me a salute as he headed for the spot Dwayne once held.
He really was a cutie, at least from far away. Pulling me back to reality, the minister cleared his throat, and I let him lead me into his chambers again. Once he closed the door, he gave me a sad smile.
“I realize this must be a whirlwind day for you, given the circumstances, but I’m sorry, I can’t marry you.”
“Is it because I cursed in the church? That slipped out—”
“No. It’s not that, my child. It’s just, well, you don’t have a marriage license to marry this one.”
I scoffed. “Obviously. I literally met the guy right now.”
“Well, without that certificate, I’m afraid my hands are tied.”
Right. The marriage certificate. A tiny detail I neglected to consider in my plan to save face.
“Can you fake it?” I asked.
“Yeah. Like they do in movies. Say all the things you’d normally say.”
His eyebrows pinched together. “Yes, I could, but the marriage wouldn’t be binding—”
“Understood. I don’t think anyone here is under the illusion that any of this would be binding. All you’re doing here is helping me save a little face in front of my family.” He gave me a sad smile. “Look, I know this probably seems desperate, but I have sunk a lot of time and effort into this day. I refuse to have the day ruined because my ex proved to be an unfaithful dick-wad,” I said, flinching at my language. “Sorry. But it’s true.”
He raised an eyebrow but then said, “If you want a fake wedding, you can have it. It’s your money.”
Yes, it was. My money had paid for everything. Right down to the ugly bridesmaids’ dresses. If I had to be miserable in my dress, so did they. I’d saved up a lifetime for this moment, and I would be damned if it was about to be stolen from me because the groom bailed.
“Okay, let’s do this,” I said, adjusting my veil. The stupid thing was so long and lacy it was hard to see clearly through.
As I was walking back to my spot, I wondered suddenly if the dude was as cute as the lace had made him out to be. But before I could check, the minister said, “Well, it looks like we have enough parties to have a wedding after all. Might we have the processional music again to refocus our energy, Grace?” He nodded toward the pianist, who quickly began to play.
“So, I’m Jazz,” I whispered to the guy beside me. “Er, Jasmine Fairchild.”
He turned to look at me, shooting me those adorable dimples again. “Shawn Maven.”
Hell, even his name was sexy. I held out my hand. “Nice to meet you.” He took my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. It was remarkably warm against mine.
“Likewise,” he whispered.
I felt a shiver run through me. This was either going to be the most amazing thing I’d ever done or the worst.
Find out what happens to this new ‘couple’ in the Where You Left Me series!
Prequel Chapter: WHERE YOU MET ME (free)
WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 1 (available now)
WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 2 (New Release)
WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 3 (Pre-order)
That’s all from me for now! Until next week!