Read Never a Bride: A Short Story Online

Authors: Traci Hall

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Romantic Comedy, #90 Minutes (44-64 Pages), #Contemporary Fiction, #Short Stories

Never a Bride: A Short Story

BOOK: Never a Bride: A Short Story
8.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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NEVER A BRIDE

 

TRACI HALL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Kendelle Press

All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Ambrosia by the Sea - Prologue

Ambrosia by the Sea - Chapter One

A Note From the Author

About the Author

 

Chapter One

 

 

“I love you,” Sheena told her best friend with all sincerity. “I couldn’t be happier that you’re marrying an amazing guy. I
refuse
to speak to his jack ass of a brother. Why can’t your mother be your maid of honor?”

“A new level of tacky,” Lisa said with a shudder. “You have to be polite, that’s all. A few people have noticed you’ve, well, been avoiding Jared.”

“For good reason!” Shoulders hiked to her ears, Sheena clarified, “We haven’t spoken since he left me at the altar.”

“He called you,” Lisa reminded gently.

“Texted.”

Lisa winced. “Rude, lame, awful and unforgivable behavior.” She curved her arm around Sheena’s waist and squeezed. “But, Jared is Mike’s brother, and Mike isn’t getting married without him as his best man. I can’t blame him.” Lisa stepped back, covering Sheena’s free hand with hers. “I selfishly need
you
, my best friend, and sister of the heart. There is nobody else.” She flipped her long, blonde side bangs. “Besides, my mother doesn’t have the knees for an organza mini-dress. I’m sorry.”

At the image of two hundred pound Mrs. Connor bared from thigh to ankle, Sheena blinked away tears with a chuckle. “It’s okay.”

“No. It’s a lot to ask. It sucks for you and I’m insisting anyway. But you know,” Lisa paused, then kissed Sheena’s cheek. “That if you really can’t stand up with me tomorrow, then I’ll understand. It’s just-” she hummed in thought. “You both are going to be around us even though you aren’t together anymore. Mike and I are hoping you’ll learn to be friends.”

Sheena’s belly knotted and she strangled the cocktail napkin she’d wrapped around the stem of her champagne glass. “Too soon.” Jared had asked her at the beginning of all this wedding chaos a few days ago if they could be friends. She’d pretended not to hear his direct question. “My heart is still raw.”

“Because you love him.” Lisa’s voice lowered in commiseration.

Defensive against any sort of empathy, Sheena countered, “He stopped loving me.”

“No,” Lisa denied. “I don’t think that’s true at all.”

“Jared took off to Alaska and never came back. Chicken shit. I had to return the cards, the gifts, and go on with my life like I wasn’t dying every day.” Sheena breathed in deep, eyeing the reception hall decked out in gunmetal gray and orange, in honor of tomorrow’s nuptials. She just had to get through tonight’s rehearsal dinner without falling apart. Nervous, Sheena chose fitted jeans and a silky sleeveless blouse in sky blue. Jared’s favorite color, because he said it matched her eyes. Not that she cared.

“He humiliated me when all I wanted was to love him forever. He’s a jerk, even if he is Mike’s brother.”

“I get it,” Lisa said. “If the best you can do is chilly, but polite, I can’t ask any more.”

“I can’t
do
any more.” Pain welled around the area of her heart. The thought of spending tomorrow in her nice warm bed with her head beneath the covers sounded better and better. “You really wouldn’t hate me if-”

Lisa shook her by the shoulder, panic on her face. “Don’t even think about it – you’ve been wonderful. Can’t you pretend for just twenty four hours more? This time tomorrow, I’ll be married, maybe a bit loopy, and I won’t mind so much if you want to throw the cake server at Jared’s head.”

Anger and hurt bubbled like lobster bisque gone bad in her belly. “I’m trying, Lisa.”

“I know, I know. Sorry to have brought it up. Spew for another second or two, then we’ve got to rein it in.” Lisa turned Sheena with a tug at her elbow, a quarter-step so she could see the front door without being seen. “Jared just walked in. Who is he with?”

“What?” Sheena whirled too quickly and champagne sloshed over the rim of her glass. It had always been this way for her, around him. Her heart beat faster, her emotions lifted with sheer damn elation that he was in her world. It had nothing to do with his looks, though Jared Langley was a beautiful man. Tall, slim but not skinny. He wore clothes so well that he’d earned his college money modeling for a high end clothing store.

She discreetly wet dry lips, short of breath as she watched him scan the room. A pretty brunette stood at his side, and he had his hand at her back, the other holding the door open. Girlfriend? Date? Stranger he met in the parking lot on the way in?

“I don’t recognize her,” Lisa said, a slight frown veeing between her brows.

Unable to tear her gaze away, Sheena absorbed the sight of Jared, hungry. Thirsty. Dying. She never got to say goodbye, just mourn the worst betrayal of her life. She’d made him the center of her universe, and he’d gone to Alaska.

For a job.

Three months ago.

He’d broken her heart. There was no way this side of sanity they could be friends. She couldn’t survive it.

 

* * *

 

Jared nodded to the catering assistant, waitress, in layman’s lingo, and let the door close behind them. She went to the kitchen, and he searched the room for Sheena. Not to talk to her, she’d turned the cold shoulder into an Arctic art form, but to look his fill at her. He’d missed her like a damn arm, or leg, or something even more important. He absently rubbed his chest, zoning in on where she stood next to Lisa, his future sister-in-law. Sheena had been his best friend, the woman he’d considered his soul mate.

Until she’d turned into a living nightmare. His sensible, logical Sheena suddenly invested in Bride magazine and watched Cupcake Wars, and had an opinion on the varying shades of ivory for lace. Hell, he never realized she liked the stuff, which reminded him of grandmas and doilies on the backs of the stained furniture.

And gray was damn gray, not freaking
gunmetal
.

“Jared?”

He turned toward his brother’s voice, glad to be pulled from his bitter memories. She should have talked to him; she never should have shut him out. All he’d wanted to do was discuss their situation and now three months later she still wouldn’t listen.

“Hey, Mike.”

“Do have to sound so pissed off?”

“I have every reason to be pissed.”

“I know, I know. You got cold feet and don’t understand why Sheena can’t be more understanding.” Mike forcibly steered Jared toward the beer fountain.

“A little sympathy might be nice, considering I left Alaska to be here.”

“You went for a week long advertising gig and never came back.”

Jared reached for a stein and filled a mug then paused in horror. “Good God – is this a picture of you and Lisa in Lederhosen?”

Mike grinned. “We had a great time in Germany last year. She dug up all kinds of photos.”

“Anything incriminating?”

“She wouldn’t let me use the one of you wearing the lampshade last Christmas.”

“You chose a fine woman.” Jared ground his back teeth together. He’d thought he’d chosen well too…

Mike cleared his throat, lifted his filled stein and clicked against his brother’s. “Thank you for leaving the wilds of Alaska, the moose, the grizzly and…snow…”

“It’s August. No snow.”

Mike raised his brow, calling bullshit without actually saying anything.

Jared exhaled, recalling the snow on the mountains and the plane he’d had to take the get out of the picturesque valley. “Maybe a little snow. On the peaks.”

“Anyway, I appreciate the brotherly sacrifice. I was prepared to brave Big Foot in order to have you here.”

“Despite how terribly painful it is to witness true love and happiness when I’ve been so recently bereft?”

“Did you really just say
bereft?

Jared gave a half smile. “Sheena isn’t the only writer in the family.”

Mike paled and Jared’s stomach twisted as he realized what he’d said. He hung his head – he’d thought they were forever. He didn’t need a stupid wedding to make it real. It killed him that she’d made the wedding so important.

“I’m sorry.”
Putting a hand on Jared’s shoulder, Mike said, “Sheena is hurting too. Lisa and I realize we are both schmucks for insisting on having you in our wedding. But we love you, and neither of us could imagine getting hitched without you.”

“You couldn’t have waited another ten years?” Jared wasn’t really joking.

“Nope.” Mike leaned close and whispered, “Lisa’s knocked up.”

Jared choked on his beer. “You’re kidding me.”

“No, sir. She wants to keep it quiet – as if we haven’t been living together for three years and she’s a virgin. Until after the official “I do’s” are said – then she’ll,
we’ll
, tell her mom. The whole world will know in five minutes because my future mother-in-law is an entire telephone tree.”

Jared eyed Mike, expecting something different now that his kid brother was procreating. “Maybe you should, I don’t know, grow a beard or something. You look twelve. You can’t be a dad.”

Mike squeezed extra hard on Jared’s shoulder. “Can too.”

“Can’t.” Jared pretended like his baby brother’s grip wasn’t going to bruise.

“Too.”

“Can’t-”

“Mike, leave your brother alone,” Lisa rushed toward them with a forced smile. “He’s only letting you win to make you feel better. Thank you, Jared, for being such a good role model.”

“No problem, Lisa.” Was she glowing? He couldn’t tell. Maybe it was too early yet for that maternal thing to kick in. He leaned over to kiss her cheek, searching for Sheena, while pretending not to.

“She went to get a new glass of wine. Her other one cracked.”

He’d spent three months buried in work, convincing himself she didn’t matter. It hadn’t changed anything. Sheena was still the first thing he thought of when he woke, and the last one he thought of before sleep. “Is she okay?”

Lisa sighed. “No cut finger, and that’s all I’m commenting on. Why did you stay away so long?”

Jared shut down. “Lisa, please. You promised.”

Lisa’s eyes glistened with unshed tears. “I know – if you guys would just talk!”

Angry now, Jared gripped the handle of the stein harder than necessary. “I tried. She didn’t want to. She won’t listen.”

Lisa looked over her shoulder to the kitchen, then at him. “She’s in there. Right now. Alone.”

A flood of emotion washed over him. Pride, anger, hurt, betrayal, damn it – love. He stalked toward the closed kitchen door. Pushed hard. It swung inward and he saw her right away. Blonde ringlets curled against her slender neck, her shoulders entirely too high.

“Sheena,” he said, calling for her attention just as the brunette waitress came out of the backroom, tying a black satin apron around her waist.

“Hey,” she said, greeting him with a wink and a smile. “I was hoping you’d come back for my number.”

Jared gave a negating shake of his head. “Sorry. I’m actually waiting to talk with this lady here.”

Sheena’s body stiffened with displeasure. “I’ve got nothing to say.”

Tension radiated between them and the waitress gathered a tray of champagne flutes along with a full bottle of Moet. She passed by, so close she brushed his arm, and said, “I’d have given it to you, if you change your mind.”

Jared gritted his teeth, keeping his eyes on Sheena. Anger swirled off Sheena’s body and the minute the door closed behind the brazen waitress, she let loose.

“You can’t even get from the parking lot without turning on the charm! You lead these women on, smiling and flirting,”

He cut her off, gesturing behind him. “That was not my fault. I held open a door for her. That doesn’t constitute flirting!”

“She obviously thinks otherwise.”

Jared made a slicing motion through the air. “Enough about her! You sound jealous.”

“Hardly.”

“You have no right to be.”

“Don’t I know that?” Her shoulders soared and he ached to dig his thumbs into the tight muscles at her neck. He had the feeling she’d clonk him over the head with a silver serving tray.

She leaned against the stainless steel counter, the blue of her silk shirt the same color as her eyes – dark with emotion. Sheena stared at him, her lower lip trembling though her jaw was set.

He’d hurt her. He hadn’t known how to fix it then, and he was just as clueless now. To apologize was the first step, but he couldn’t form the words knowing she had every right to tear him apart.

His gut churned. “I’m sorry.”

Her face paled, leaving her lips dark pink in contrast. Her eyes welled. “Sorry?”

BOOK: Never a Bride: A Short Story
8.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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