Authors: Erin M. Leaf
Erin M. Leaf
Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
To my husband—you're my rockstar!
Erin M. Leaf
Copyright © 2013
“The only reason I’m wearing this dress is because I love you.” Isabelle eyed her reflection with a critical eye. The strapless bridesmaid’s gown puckered alarmingly over her full breasts, but that wasn’t the worst of it. When she turned and looked at the back, her butt took up the entire mirror. Huge swaths of magenta tulle floated out from her waist like someone had gone crazy with a cotton candy machine. She shuddered and turned back around, trying desperately to repress her image in the mirror. “Fiona, my ass looks five times larger than it actually is in this fabric. I didn’t know that was possible.”
What are you talking about? You look nice in pink,” Isabelle’s best friend said from the bench near the mirror. She idly twirled a fabric sample around her fingers. “I
you in pink.”
No, Fiona. I don’t look nice in pink.
do.” Isabelle adjusted the bodice so that her cleavage wasn’t quite so overwhelming. At least she didn’t have to worry about it falling down. The boning in the torso was so tight and solid it felt like armor.
You’re not going to make me pick a different color, are you?” Her best friend asked, sounding worried. “I already told Todd that pink was the color,” she said, mentioning her fiancé. “It’s been planned for ages. I already bought bunting for the ceremony.”
“No, of course I’m not.” She wouldn’t do that to her friend. She knew Fiona wanted the perfect wedding and if that meant she had to suffer in this hideous dress, so be it. “You love pink, so pink is what you’ll get,” she said, smiling ruefully. They’d been friends since the day they’d met in college as roommates, and she wasn’t about to disappoint Fiona now. Fiona had saved her from hiding in her room all those years ago, too shy and scared to go out and meet people. She owed her.
And anyway, the color of the dress is definitely not the biggest problem I have with this wedding
, Isabelle thought, tugging at the fabric. It itched.
So, Todd told me that Preston is bringing his new girlfriend to the wedding.” Fiona stood up and adjusted the mound of tulle floating off the side of the dress. She bit her lip, looking at Isabelle from the corner of her eyes.
“Oh?” In the mirror, Fiona grimaced. Behind her, the hustle and bustle of the shop continued beyond the dressing room’s half-wall as if they weren’t talking about the man who’d humiliated Isabelle more than any other man in her life. Ever.
In the history of living.
Fiona twisted her fingers in the fabric
she was ‘adjusting.’ Exasperated, Isabelle made a face. Now, she couldn’t move without ripping the dress. Her friend had her trapped.
And just when I’d like to run for the door, too. Fiona knows me too well
. She tugged on the fabric, but Fiona’s grip tightened.
I tried to get Todd to tell Preston not to bring her, but he told me he couldn’t do that to his best friend. And Preston
the best man. I’m so sorry.” Fiona crumpled the tulle anxiously.
Isabelle swatted Fiona
’s hands away. “Stop it. You’re just wrinkling it.” She smoothed down the skirt, trying to get both herself and the dress under control.
Rage is not a good look for you, remember?
she told herself.
It makes you blotchy.
I wish you would tell me why you two broke up,” Fiona said. “I hate to see you so unhappy.”
’m not unhappy, I’m pissed
, Isabelle thought, grinding her teeth. Aloud she said, “It’s no big deal, Fiona. I can still be your maid-of-honor. Your wedding is going to be amazing.” She forced a smile.
“It is, right? I can’t wait. Todd and I have been planning this wedding for a year and it’s finally all coming together.”
Isabelle mused. The last thing she wanted to do was talk about her lying, cheating, asshole ex-boyfriend. “Time for me to get out of this dress. All the alterations are perfect.”
The rehearsal dinner is on Friday. You’ll be okay, right? I had to sit you next to Preston,” Fiona said, biting her lip.
And just like that, the zipper snagged in the fabric.
Of course she sat me next to Preston. Ugh.
Isabelle struggled with the dress. Stupid tulle. “I’ll be fine, Fiona. Stop worrying. I’m not unhappy. I have a good job and an awesome best friend. What more could I ask for?”
Fiona stooped down to help untangle the fabric from the metal teeth.
“I know, I know. You keep saying that. But Preston suddenly has a new girlfriend and you only broke up, what, two weeks ago?”
More like a month and a half
ago, only I didn’t know it at the time.
Isabelle swallowed down her ire, just like she’d been doing for the past several weeks, and pasted on a bright smile. “Sometimes people grow apart.”
Fiona frowned over the zipper.
“Todd and I didn’t. Won’t.”
Isabelle wished she were anywhere but here, stuck in this stupid, frustrating conversation.
“You and Todd have been dating for five years. It’s different for you. Preston and I only dated for a few months.”
I knew the week I met Todd that he was the one,” Fiona said, loosening the fabric. She stepped back, an uneasy expression on her face.
Isabelle knew her friend didn
’t want to hurt her, but this whole situation sucked. She swallowed and yanked on the zipper again. It opened, finally freeing her from the dress. She shimmied out of the top of the pink monstrosity and pushed it down over her hips. Her beige strapless bra was digging into her ribs and it didn’t match the white panties she’d put on today for work, not that she cared about matching underwear at this point. She’d long ago given up on pretty lingerie. Those little lace things didn’t have a prayer of holding her breasts in place.
How the hell do women with breast implants manage to wear those little scraps of nothing, anyway?
she wondered, not for the first time. She stepped out of the dress. No underwear was ever going to make her look like a supermodel. She avoided her reflection in the mirror, instead pulling on her pants and blouse as quickly as possible. It was cold in here.
Are you sure you’re okay with this?” Fiona asked, handing Isabelle her purse.
Fiona, please. Can we not talk about this? Preston and I broke up. End of story. My heart’s not broken and there’s nothing more to it.” Isabelle had no intention of telling Fiona what he’d done to her, at least not now, right before the wedding. Fiona deserved to live with her fiancé, happily ever after. Just because Todd’s best friend was a miserable excuse for a human being didn’t mean she had to ruin her best friend’s special day.
Fine,” Fiona sighed. “But I’ll get it out of you eventually.”
Isabelle rolled her eyes.
“There’s nothing to get out of me.” She grinned, then, looking down over her curves. “Well, except maybe the cinnamon candy I stashed in my bra.”
“You’re still doing that?”
It’s such a convenient place to store things,” Isabelle argued. “What use is having this kind of boobage,” she curved her hands over her top, “if you can’t take advantage of the storage capacity?”
“Okay, that’s the third time you’ve hit the bass track when you meant to beef up vocals. What’s going on with you today?” Marvin Clementine shoved away from the soundboard, tipping his chair back dangerously. He frowned at the man next to him: stocky, brown hair, hazel eyes, brilliant music producer, great friend. And for some reason, Ian was totally off his game today.
It’s nothing,” Ian said, standing up and stretching. Marvin eyed him skeptically. Ian just stared into the glass above the equipment, clearly preoccupied.
The recording booth in front of them was empty, but Marvin
’s guitar sat on the stand near the microphone. He’d been planning on laying down tracks for an acoustic song he’d just written, but they hadn’t been able to finish mixing the track they’d recorded yesterday.
Ian, come on. We’re friends, right?” Marvin ran his hands through his hair, wincing when one of his rings caught in a few strands. He always forgot and ended up ripping hair out when he got frustrated. He took the skull ring off his index finger and eased the beaten-up silver band that had been his father’s wedding ring from his thumb and tossed them on the board in front of them. The full-sleeve tattoo he’d foolishly gotten when he turned twenty-one winked up at him from his forearm: two mourning doves, wings spread, looking as if they were about to fly away. The feathers stretched up his arm, eventually turning into an abstract design on his shoulder and reaching down his chest to his groin. When his parents had been killed in a car crash, he’d had that tattoo put on his skin to remember them. Theirs had been a great love affair, the kind you never see anymore. The kind everyone wished for. The happy ever after that only existed in the movies. His mom and dad had been a rare couple.
Marvin once thought that he
’d one day meet the perfect woman and fall in love like that. He snorted softly to himself. That dream had faded long ago, somewhere between the time his second girlfriend had snapped a photo of his naked ass while he was asleep and posted it on the internet and when the next one had cheated on him with his ex-manager. Now, every time he looked at his wrist, the doves’ sad eyes mocked him. That kind of love was out of his reach. He hadn’t realized until a year after his first album had gone platinum that he’d become more of an idea than a man. A rock star. A celebrity. Women wanted him for his money and his music and his persona, not for who he truly was inside.
’d known that was gonna happen, I’d probably have gone into carpentry, like my dad
, he mused.
And I could’ve still played music on the side.
He eyed his friend. Ian still stood in front of their equipment, staring into the glass. Marvin knew he wasn’t seeing the booth.
Hey,” he poked him.
Ian shot him a dirty look.
“Seriously Ian. I’ve known you for over a year and you’ve never been like this. Is it girl trouble? If so, I feel your pain.” Marvin stood up and stretched too, wandering over to the door of the sound booth. “Women are rough.”
Girl trouble. Ha, that’s funny.” Ian sighed and rubbed his face. “I suppose you could call it girl trouble. It’s my sister.”
Marvin lifted his eyebrows.
“You have a sister? How did I not know this?”
“I dunno, man. I guess I don’t much talk about Isabelle, but we’re close. When our parents died, all we had was each other. She’s the only family I have left.”
Marvin pursed his lips.
“She doesn’t live here, does she? I would’ve met her by now.”
Ian shook his head.
“When I moved to California, she stayed in New York. That was three years ago. Jesus. She’s twenty-three now. Time flies.”
You say that like you’re so old. You’re only twenty-five. I’m the old man here at twenty-eight.” Marvin leaned against the door. “So, what’s going on with your sister? She’s not sick, is she?”
Ian started pacing.
“No, no. Nothing like that.” He stopped for a moment and glared at Marvin. “This goes no further than this room, got it? My sister is a good person. I don’t want people talking about her. She’s really shy and that would make her crazy.”
up, a little offended. “Ian, seriously, when have I
talked about your private business to anyone?
private business? I’m not that kind of guy. I’ve
been that kind of guy.”
Ian rubbed his eyes.
“Okay, okay. I know. You’re right.” He flopped back into his chair. “Isabelle’s stupid boyfriend fucked his stupid blonde secretary in her kitchen. On the table. Isabelle walked in on them. After she got done throwing his lying, cheating ass out the door, she found out it wasn’t the first time that it had happened. And she found out that there’d been other women, too. She had to get tested for STDs and deal with the crap he’d left in her apartment, and all the other shit that goes along with getting rid of the trash.”
Marvin winced. “Jesus, that sucks.”
He understood. He really did. “She okay? You want me to go with you to beat this guy up?”
Ian scoffed. “Yeah, right. Y
our fans would mob us both the minute you set foot anywhere near that douchebag and the asshole would get away. Besides, what good would it do? Once an asshat, always an asshat.” He frowned. “Also, Belle told me I’m not allowed to punch his face in. She’s worried I’ll get arrested or something. She said, and I quote, ‘It’s not like he broke my heart. I was more embarrassed than anything else.’”