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Authors: Wendy Markham

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary

Slightly Engaged

BOOK: Slightly Engaged
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CRITICAL PRAISE FOR
Mike, Mike & Me

“The inventive premise of Markham’s winning novel involves a love triangle in both the past and the present among pretty Beau, the Mike she married, and the Mike she left behind…. Markham’s latest is an appealing, wholly original yarn.”

—Booklist

“…hilarious…readers will be instantly catapulted back in time, into their own versions of Very Big Hair and spandex bike shorts.”

—Romantic Times BOOKclub

CRITICAL PRAISE FOR
Slightly Settled

“Readers who followed Tracey’s struggles in
Slightly Single,
and those meeting her for the first time, will sympathize with this singleton’s post-breakup attempts to move on in this fun, lighthearted romp with a lovable heroine.”

—Booklist

“Like many women, Tracey needs to figure out when to listen to her friends and when to listen to herself.”

—Romantic Times BOOKclub

CRITICAL PRAISE FOR
Slightly Single

“…an undeniably fun journey for the reader.”

—Booklist

“Bridget Jonesy…Tracey Spadolini smokes, drinks and eats too much, and frets about her romantic life.”

—Publishers Weekly

WENDY MARKHAM

is a pseudonym for
New York Times
bestselling, award-winning novelist Wendy Corsi Staub, who has written more than sixty fiction and nonfiction books for adults and teenagers in various genres—among them contemporary and historical romance, suspense, mystery, television and movie tie-in and biography. She has coauthored a hardcover mystery series with former New York City mayor Ed Koch and has ghostwritten books for various well-known personalities. A small-town girl at heart, she was born and raised in western New York on the shores of Lake Erie and in the heart of the notorious snow belt. By third grade, her heart was set on becoming a published author; a few years later, a school trip to Manhattan convinced her that she had to live there someday. At twenty-one, she moved alone to New York City and worked as an office temp, freelance copywriter, advertising account coordinator and book editor before selling her first novel, which went on to win a Romance Writers of America RITA
®
Award. She has since received numerous positive reviews and achieved bestseller status, most notably for the psychological suspense novels she writes under her own name. Her Red Dress Ink title
Slightly Single
was one of Waldenbooks’ Best Books of 2002. Very happily married with two children, Wendy writes full-time and lives in a cozy old house in suburban New York, proving that childhood dreams really can come true.

Slightly Engaged

Wendy Markham

In loving memory of my beautiful mom,
Francella Corsi
April 17, 1942–May 11, 2005
You alone read and loved everything I ever wrote….
And you said you liked the “funny ones” best of all. Here’s one
more, written with laughter through tears, especially for you.

Most of all the other beautiful things in life come by twos and threes, by dozens and hundreds. Plenty of roses, stars, sunsets, rainbows, brothers, and sisters, aunts and cousins, but only one mother in the whole wide world.
—Kate Douglas Wiggin

Contents

Part I:Labor Day Weekend

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Part II:Sweetest Day, Beggar’s night

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Part III:Thanksgiving

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Part IV:Christmas

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Part V:Anguilla

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Part VI:Valentine’s Day

Chapter 18

Part VII:October

Epilogue

Part I

Labor Day Weekend

Chapter 1

I
love weddings!

Doesn’t everyone?

Um, apparently not.

“Cripes, Tracey, I can’t believe this is how we’re spending the last Saturday of the summer.”

That’s my live-in boyfriend, Jack, grumbling as he gazes bleakly through the windshield of our rented subcompact car at the holiday-traffic-clogged Jersey Turnpike. The midday sun is glaring overhead and heat radiates in waves off the asphalt, along with toxic black exhaust fumes.

Thank God for air-conditioning. I adjust the full-blast passenger’s-side vent to blow in the vicinity of my navel, lest it muss my fancy upswept do.

It took me almost an hour and a half a can of Aussie Freeze Spray to get my straight, bra-clasp-length brown hair looking this supermodelish. It’ll probably wilt the second I get out of the car, but at least Jack got to appreciate it. He was momentarily complimentary about my hair and my slinky red cocktail dress before he went back to grousing about the wedding.

It shouldn’t bug me that he didn’t mention anything about how I was wearing a similar red dress the night we met.

It shouldn’t, but it does.

I can’t help it. For the first year or so that we were together, he made a point of noticing details like that. I guess he’s gotten less romantic the last few months. Or maybe I’ve gotten overly sensitive. I shouldn’t go around weighing every comment he makes—or noticing the ones he doesn’t make anymore.

I shouldn’t, but lately, I do.

It’s not that I think we’ve fallen out of love. If anything, we’ve become closer, our lives interwoven. His friends are my friends; his mother and his favorite sister, Rachel, sometimes call just to talk to me. My friends are his friends; my mother and sister—well, forget about them. The point is, we’re still a solid couple. We laugh all the time; we know each other’s most intimate secrets; the sex is frequent and good, if I do say so myself.

So what’s the problem?

I want more, dammit. I deserve more. I’m finally over the pesky feelings of unworthiness and insecurity that festered in the wake of my arrogant ex-boyfriend, Will, who callously blew me off two summers ago.

It’s not as though I’ve come right out and asked Jack what his intentions are—maybe because I’m afraid of the answer. But lately, I’ve found myself wondering pretty frequently—all right, constantly—whether Jack is ever going to take the initiative to make our relationship permanent.

Since he hasn’t, I tend to secretly look for evidence that he’s got the opposite plan in mind. Or, at the very least, that he’s losing interest.

All right, maybe the ghost of unworthy, insecure Tracey has come back to haunt me. But I really should stop nitpicking—even if it’s just mental nitpicking. Really. Before I turn into one of those Bitter Shrews.

Which Bitter Shrews, you might ask?

Oh, you know. The Bitter Shrews who nobody wants to marry. The ones who eventually become joyless middle-aged spinsters with mouths that have those vertical wrinkles in the corners from wearing perpetually grim expressions.

Oblivious to the horrific visions careening beneath my divine updo, Jack props his outstretched wrists on the top curve of the steering wheel in frustration as he brakes to yet another stop.

“We should have RSVP’d no, Tracey. This is ridiculous.”

“How could we do that? Mike’s one of your best friends. Plus he’s my boss.”

“Soon-to-be ex-boss.”

Right. Mike was fired a few weeks ago. Sort of. The command came down from the formidable Adrian Smedly, director of our account group, to Mike’s supervisor, Carol the Wimpy Management Rep. But she didn’t have the balls—or in her case, the heart—to come right out and ax a soon-to-be groom. Instead, she called him into her office and more or less told him to start looking for a new job as soon as possible.

The thing about Mike is that he’s incessantly upbeat in a dopey, wide-eyed kind of way, like a big old happy pup. He trots nonchalantly through life wearing an open, friendly expression, heedless that his shirts are frequently rumpled and his hair is always mussed. If Mike had a tail, it would be perpetually wagging.

So when Carol told him in so many words that he doesn’t have a future at Blair Barnett Advertising, Mike seemed pretty unfazed. In fact, from what I can tell, he hasn’t started cleaning out his office or even put together his résumé. I should know. He’s all but illiterate.

For the past almost three years I’ve been working at Blair Barnett, my primary purpose in life is to proofread Mike’s stuff, both work related and personal. I’ve doctored his memos, his presentations, even the supposedly impromptu toast he gave at his engagement party. If he were doing a résumé, I’d definitely know about it. I’d probably be writing it.

Never mind that what I should be writing by now—what I fully expected to be writing by now—is ad copy.

Last year I was promoted from my original entry-level account management position, but not into the coveted Creative Department, as promised. No, I was given the title account coordinator on the McMurray-White packaged goods account, which basically means I make a few thousand dollars more per year to remain in my claustrophobic cubicle and officially do administrative stuff while unofficially assisting my incompetent boss with his own duties. Oh, and I get all the freebie product I want, which means I am pretty much stocked for life on Blossom deodorant and Abate laxatives.

I’m supposedly still first in line for the next junior copywriting position that opens up in the Creative Department.

The trouble is, thanks to the lousy economy, Blair Barnett has been routinely laying off employees, including junior copywriters and account coordinators, for the past eighteen months. Jack, who is a media supervisor at the agency, keeps reminding me that we’re both lucky we still have jobs.

But I’m twenty-five years old. I don’t want a job; I want a career. And with Mike gone—which, presumably, he soon will be—who’s going to push for me to get another promotion? Certainly not wimpy Carol.

“Aside from whether or not Mike’s my boss, you still lived with him for years,” I point out to Jack, shoving aside troubling thoughts of office politics. “You can’t just not go to his wedding.”

“Why not? I should be
protesting
his wedding.”

“Protesting?” Amused, I imagine Jack picketing the church in a sandwich board. “On what grounds?”

“On the grounds that I loathe the bride.”

“Yeah, well, who doesn’t?”

Back when Jack was Mike’s roommate and Dianne was Mike’s omnipresent girlfriend, Jack referred to Dianne as a one-woman axis of evil.

I have to say, he wasn’t necessarily exaggerating.

It’s hard to remember that I actually kind of liked her back when she was just a voice on the other end of the phone whenever I answered Mike’s line at the office. My opinion changed rapidly when I found myself sharing girlfriend privileges with her in Mike and Jack’s tiny Brooklyn apartment.

Miscellaneous things I hate about Dianne:

1) She’s a catty, mean-spirited snob.

2) She talks to Mike in this cutesy-poo baby voice whenever she isn’t bitching at him.

3) She once called Jack an asshole behind his back and probably to his face for all I know.

Oh, and 4) She’s getting married.

Hell,
yes,
I’m jealous.

BOOK: Slightly Engaged
12.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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