Their trial relationship was meant to last six months, but things didn’t quite work out the way they planned...
Justin Middleton, who has left a string of broken hearts across the state of South Carolina, has only one thing on his mind, and that’s winning Terri Mitchell’s heart in six months. That’s all the time she’s given him...six short months. If he can’t do it by then, they’ll go their separate ways.
Terri Mitchell knows she’s lost her mind when she even suggested this harebrained scheme. She finally thinks her heart is on the mend from her past encounter with Justin. However, when he shows up at her house late one night looking deliciously sexy and irresistible, her iron will to fight him vanishes and the words tumble from her lips before she’s barely aware of what she’s done.
Within weeks, both of them find themselves passionately involved, but when Terri’s brother, Preston, shows up, mysterious things begin to happen, turning their blissful world into something dark and dangerous.
My best friend was getting married in ten minutes. I was about to walk down the aisle as her maid of honor and I’d never been so nervous in my entire life. My palms were pretty much dripping water and I only hoped my dress wasn’t stained beneath my arms, because I was sure that about right now I was having massive antiperspirant failure. I had practiced walking in these shoes for two solid weeks at physical therapy. My therapists had convinced me (I actually made them pinky swear to me) that I could do this. At this moment I was quite certain that they had fed me some boldfaced lies. I knew when I took my first few steps, that I would stumble, then my bad leg would give out, and I would go rolling instead of walking down that aisle.
Crap in a handbasket!
I looked at Tana, the wedding director, and she nodded, signaling it was my turn. My grip tightened on my bouquet of fresh cut flowers. I was surprised the damn stems weren’t crushed by now. No doubt my fingers would be green by the time the ceremony was over.
My left foot went out, followed by my right. Okay, I had this. I repeated this mantra...left, right, left, right, until I was up at the altar and taking my place next to the spot where Lexi would stand.
I smiled and I’m sure it reached my ears, because I swear I could feel my earrings tickling my cheeks. Then I forgot the promise I made to myself. I totally blanked out because I was so excited about the stupid fact that I had made it down the aisle without looking gimpy. I let my eyes wander across the altar and damn if they didn’t land directly on him.
He looked like the dude in the Ralph Lauren Polo ad...tall dark and alluring. Dressed in a black tux, he was perfect. Justin Middleton, brother of the groom and best man...my heartbreaking nemesis. I suppose nemesis is relatively harsh, but heartbreaker isn’t. I had dreaded this day now for months. I should be happy for Lexi...she’d been my bestie since freshman year at UVA. But I was pulling the selfish card today. I tried not to, but everything I did was useless. I pasted a smile back on my face and jerked my head to the back of the church so I could watch Lexi walk down the aisle.
Damn, that girl looked gorgeous. Her dress was really something. I’d never seen a bride where anything close to that. Originality...pure and simple. Her dress had an illusion neckline, making it appear sleeveless and off the shoulders, when it actually had sheer fabric that afforded a boat neckline. The dress was fitted and had fabric beads sewn onto it until it hit mid thigh where it was covered in layers of chiffon and stiff ribbon, giving it a totally off the charts look. And she was getting married in the church every Charlestonian would give their left hand...hell their right hand too...to get married in. St. Phillips was the church on every Charleston postcard ever made. You had to be connected to get married there. And the Middletons were certainly connected. Hell, they were Charleston. South of Broad, blue blooded born and bred. Lexi sure lucked out here.
And Pearce...didn’t he look yummy? Not nearly as yummy as Justin, but girls all over South Carolina would be grieving today because one of the most eligible bachelors, not to mention one of the wealthiest, was getting hitched. Once again, Lexi sure lucked out. But if anyone deserved it, Lexi did.
Now, I sure wish the show could get a move on, because I would love for this thing to get the hell over with. I only had enough plastic smiles to last for a certain amount of time and once they ran out, I was gonna have to hit the road. I hated to be so snarky about this, but I couldn’t stand around with this happy assed face when I was cracking to pieces on the inside.
The happy couple said their vows and damn it all, I started crying. Thank God the Tana gave us a list with a bag at the rehearsal last night, which included waterproof mascara and eyeliner, or I would’ve looked like Rocky raccoon, resident maid of honor and side kick to Bullwinkle. Yeah, this was gonna be fun.
Now, I had to look forward to picture time and more plastic smiles. I pulled up my bootstraps and watched as Lexi and Pearce walked down the aisle as Dr. and Mrs. Middleton. Oh good lord, they looked so happy. I really couldn’t help the true smile that formed then, because looking at them made me believe in it all...their love was nothing short of bursting from them.
I heard a throat clearing and looked up to see Justin waiting with his arm bent. I’d been so engrossed in watching the happy couple, I’d forgotten I had to walk arm in arm with him.
Well, isn’t this a crap storm?
I didn’t have time to prepare myself. When I put my hand on his arm, I felt the jolt all the way to my toes. I forced myself to look at my feet, when all I wanted to do was to fall into his eyes...his perfectly gorgeous eyes. Lexi always called Pearce, Smoky Eyes, because he had gray eyes. Well, Justin’s were gray too, but his were the color of the sea, right before a storm hit. Deep, dark bluish gray and every time I looked at them I was pulled into their depths...just like I would imagine the sea as it would call to me. Mysterious, with things unknown lurking below the surface. That was Justin. Beautiful and sometimes frightening because he made me feel things I’d never felt before.
He leaned his tall frame down to my smaller one so he could whisper to me, “You were perfect when you walked down the aisle, Terri. You made me proud.”
That caused my head to jerk up. I shouldn’t have done that because my eyes landed right on his. And there I was, falling into them...deeply, dramatically, and yes, painfully.
“God, you’re beautiful.” Three simple words that nearly made me cry. I felt my lower lip tremble, but forced myself to smile instead.
“Thanks. You clean up pretty good yourself,” my voice trembled.
He smiled and it felt like someone lifted all the blinds and curtains in the church. The light just entered and blazed around him. He was that kind of beautiful. I knew I needed to get away from him. That’s the sort of effect he had on me.
Suddenly, I was back there again...last March.
“Ms. Mitchell, we’re taking you into surgery. You were in a car accident and your leg was broken. We’re going to fix you right up.”
Car accident? Where was Justin? Was he okay? Surgery? The next thing I knew I woke up again in a room and there were my mom and dad.
Several surgeries later, that damn wheelchair, physical therapy and Justin...Justin. God, why couldn’t I forget him? Things had been moving along so well until that wreck. All those surgeries and he couldn’t stop blaming himself. And then Lexi catching him with those two girls and my heart nearly breaking. Yeah, my leg had been broken and I’d been left with a twisted mass of scars, but my heart was the one that felt more damaged.
We reached the back of the church and were whisked off to the side by Tana and the photographer to where pictures would be taken. I was hoping they could put this thing on fast forward, get to the reception, have a little face time with Lexi and get the heck outta Dodge. That was my plan anyway.
Picture after picture and tons of pasted smiles later (I hope Lex didn’t shoot my ass when she saw these pictures), we finally hopped in the limos and left for the reception at the Charleston Yacht and Harbor Club.
I mingled with some of the guests, and made my way around to chat with Lexi and Pearce for a while, but before long, the throbbing in my leg and the aches and pains, had me hunting a chair. I spied one back in the corner so I walked, or at least gave my best imitation of one, over to it and blew out a huge puff of air when the weight left that leg. I was happy Lexi had approved the long dresses that we wore since they hid the scars that covered my disfigured limb. I absently rubbed it, like I often did, wishing for a huge bag of ice. They ought to invent Spanx you could cram an ice bag into for people like me. Maybe I could join forces with the Spanx lady and we could come out with Spanx on Ice. I bet those professional ice skaters would love that! We could even make a version for hockey players.
“You must have something terrifically funny on your mind by the look on your face.”
That voice of his made me want to strip off every thread of clothing and run naked through the streets yelling, “Take me, take me!” Crap! What kind of sexy did that man have working?
“I guess so. I was thinking about a joint venture with the Spanx lady. We could call it Spanx on Ice.”
“What?” he asked, bewilderment clouding his eyes.
“You know...for my leg.”
“Oh.” He smiled, nodded and acted like he was with me. I knew better from his odd expression. He didn’t get it at all.
“Do you even know what Spanx are?”
I burst out laughing. “Never mind then. They’re something no man should ever know about.”
“Hmm, now I’m intrigued.”
“Oh God! Don’t be.” The last thing I needed was for Justin Middleton to see me in a pair of Spanx.
Mother of God save me now!
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