About THE CASTAWAY BRIDE
Publisher: Kandy Shepherd
Read Chapter 1:
With trembling fingers, Cristy Walters made the final adjustment to her bridal veil as she gazed into the mirror in her hotel suite. She tucked in a stray wisp of golden hair, then smoothed down the flyaway swathe of white tulle. She checked her front teeth for lipstick.
Now all she needed was for her maid-of-honor, Miriam, to inspect the row of tiny satin-covered buttons that fastened into loops all the way down her slender back. She couldn’t be sure she hadn’t missed one.
She didn’t bother to knock on the door that connected their two rooms before she pushed it open. “Well, what do you thi—?” she began and then stopped halfway through her triumphant pirouette, her silky skirts swishing to a sudden halt around her ankles.
All she could see of Miriam from behind the black, tuxedo-ed back of the man who was kissing her was a flash of pink satin and Miriam’s plump arms twined voluptuously around the man’s neck. The man’s hands appeared to be clutching Miriam’s bottom.
They were too engrossed in their passion to notice her and Cristy unsuccessfully smothered a laugh. Really Miriam, can’t you wait until after the ceremony before you get off with the groomsman!
Her laugh, muted as it was, disturbed the couple. They stood still for a moment then sprang apart in a rustling flurry of satin. As they turned, the smile froze on Cristy’s face and she felt as though all the air had been suddenly and painfully squeezed from her body.
The man kissing Miriam so passionately wasn’t the groomsman. He was the groom.
She stared in disbelieving horror at Howard, the man she was to be joined with in holy matrimony in just twenty minutes time.
Her husband-to-be and her bridesmaid stared back, guilt etched on their stricken faces. Howard’s chin was emblazoned with a smear of Miriam’s hot pink lipstick.
Then Howard cursed and Miriam yelped out Cristy’s name in a high-pitched squeak.
Cristy felt all color drain from her face and she started to tremble from the top of her pearl coronet to the tips of her silk-clad feet. She let out just one single sob of betrayal and fury.
Then she spun on one high satin heel, wrenched open the door and ran, helter-skelter, into the hotel corridor. Frantic, she looked from side to side, unable to comprehend the reality of what she’d seen. Not Howard and Miriam. The two people she trusted most in the world. This couldn’t be happening to her. She’d wake up any minute.
Then she heard Howard’s voice close behind her and knew she was only too awake. “Cristy, come back. I… we can explain.”
Nothing he said could make this better. She didn’t want to hear one traitorous word from him. Howard—the man she was marrying because she’d thought he was decent and honest and honorable. Because she’d thought he would never let her down.
It had been six weeks from proposal to today’s proposed “I do”. In that time not once had she doubted his commitment. Not once had she suspected anything between him and Miriam. Miriam, who had her own husband.
A wave of nausea rose so that she nearly choked. Her dream wedding had suddenly turned into the worst of nightmares.
Cristy didn’t care about the expectant guests assembled below in the hotel function room. She didn’t care about the celebrant gearing himself up for the ceremony.
She just wanted out of here.
She pushed aside a trolley laden with fresh linen and toiletries, mumbling a frantic “sorry” to the startled housemaid who stood, hands on hips, and watched the bride’s flight down the corridor, her long, full skirts billowing out around her, her frothy veil floating above.
Cristy made for the elevators to find the doors just closing. She stabbed frantically at the “down” button with her freshly manicured fingers. “Please, please let me in,” she beseeched as she tried to wrench the doors apart.
Suddenly they slid open. She stumbled and fell into the elevator—smack onto its only occupant, pushing him hard up against the wall.
The man’s chest was solid, and the arms that encircled her to help her gain her balance were strong and powerful. She was as close to him as if they were in a lover’s embrace—she could smell the spice of his aftershave, feel the warmth of his skin, sense his heart thudding against hers. But she was too winded to apologize or move away from him.
Behind her she could hear Howard pounding furiously on the elevator door. “For heaven’s sake Cristy, this isn’t what it seems.”
She looked back over her shoulder.
The doors started to glide open again revealing Howard’s flustered, lipstick-smeared face and, peering nervously and tearfully behind him, Miriam.
Howard’s agitated eyes and nervous wringing of his hands made him seem genuinely distressed but Cristy couldn’t bear to hear what he had to say. She didn’t need explanations. She’d seen what she’d seen. How could she ever, ever forget the way he’d been clutching Miriam’s bottom.