Today's Reading

CHAPTER ONE

Present Day

LINA

The limousine door opens, and the wedding guests let out a collective gasp.

Because the bride's wearing green—chartreuse, to be precise.

Bliss Donahue gracefully exits the car and fluffs the tiered taffeta skirt swallowing the bottom half of her frame, oblivious to the slack-jawed expressions of the people witnessing her arrival at the Northern Virginia inn she's chosen for the affair.

Like a veteran member of the Royal Family, Bliss stands in front of her imagined subjects and waves a single hand in the air, her face upturned to catch the sunlight just so. After a thirty-second pause for maximum dramatic effect, she takes several dainty steps along the cobblestoned path, the back of her ruffled dress fluttering in the April breeze. A few of the older female guests cluck their tongues and tut at the sight of her jaw-dropping gown. Others visibly cringe.

Discreet as always, I stand a few feet away, ready to troubleshoot any mishap threatening to ruin Bliss's day. Although I warned Bliss the dress might overshadow the finer details of the otherwise elegant event, she was adamant that the unusual color accentuated her best features. In my view, the dress highlights her questionable fashion sense, but as the wedding planner, my job is to bring the couple's vision to life, no matter how wonky that vision may be. To be clear, I'm not averse to voicing my concerns if the situation calls for it, but in the end, this isn't my day, and if Bliss wants to walk down the aisle in a dress that looks as if it was cobbled together with Post-its to satisfy a Project Runway unconventional-materials challenge, I can't stop her.

That's not to say I don't appreciate the unexpected. I've had great experiences with forward-thinking bridal attire (a wedding in which a lesbian couple both wore three-piece cream pantsuits is a personal favorite), and I'll gladly support outside-the-box plans whenever possible—largely because I'd prefer the box didn't exist. Sometimes, though, a ruffled chartreuse dress is just...tacky.

Now that Bliss has made her way inside the inn without incident, I pull out my phone and scan the ceremony checklist. I'm two lines down the list when Jaslene, my assistant and closest friend, appears at my back.

"Lina, we have a problem," she says.

The news shoots through my veins like adrenaline. Of course we do. And that's why I'm here. Armed with a renewed sense of purpose, I whip around and draw Jaslene away from the entrance to the wedding venue. "What is it?"

Jaslene's face bears a relaxed expression. Good. There's mischief in her dark brown eyes, however. Not good.

"Oh, no, no, no," I tell her. "Your eyes are twinkling. If it's funny to you, it'll be terrifying to me."

Grinning like a Cheshire cat, she grabs my arm and pulls me toward the stairs. "Come. It's the groom. You need to see this for yourself."

I follow her upstairs to the groom's dressing suite and knock three times. Shielding my eyes, I open the door a crack. "If you're not decent, you have fifteen seconds to cover up your important parts. I leave it to you to decide which parts need covering. One, two, three, four, five—"

"We're decent. It's okay," Ian, the groom, calls out.

The strangled edge to his voice warns me that things are most definitely not okay, a conclusion confirmed by my own eyes when I sweep into the room and drop my hand. I blink. I gulp. Then I blurt out an obvious but clumsy question: "Where the hell are your eyebrows?"

Pointing in the direction of his three attendants, Ian groans. "Ask these assholes. They're the ones who thought it would be hilarious to shave them off the night before my wedding."

All but one of the assholes study the floor. Needing a target, I lock eyes with the lone male who isn't avoiding my gaze.
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