Always the Bridesmaidby Whitney Lyles
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What do you do after you walk down the aisle in four weddings in a few months-none of them your own? What's left after you've donned the must-have-not dresses of the season, forked over your cash, and fake-smiled your way through countless photos? After you've dealt with the smashed guest, the smooshed cake, the dashed hopes, and the missed bouquets? That's what Cate Padgett is starting to wonder, as she embarks on stint after stint on the sidelines, watching friends swap bar-hopping for baby-naming...while her own love life goes nowhere fast. But is Cate unwilling to settle down-or just unwilling to settle? And can anyone really judge her if they haven't walked in her dyed-to-match shoes?
Wild, witty, and full of weddings to cry over, Always the Bridesmaid is an endearingly romantic comedy about standing out in the crowd even when everyone's wearing the same celery-green dress...and daring to make every day The Happiest Day of Your Life.
- Penguin Publishing Group
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- 18 Years
Read an Excerpt
The Bride's Bouncer
It was during the first round of photos galore when Cate Padgett decided that her fake smile hurt as badly as the tight underwear she'd been wearing all day. Hours of photographs in front of Founders Chapel made her face feel frozen and tight, her jaws permanently clenched, her cheekbones forever lifted.
Furthermore, an unyielding wedge had been tormenting her for what seemed like days. She stole a look over her shoulder just to make sure her gown wasn't sandwiched between her cheeks. It was only her granny-style underwear that was causing such discomfort. She would've sacrificed two cocktails at the reception for a moment of privacy to alleviate the problem.
Just when she thought she had a shot at freedom, the photographer called her name again. "Catie, we need you again, dear." She'd been hollering it all afternoon.
At moments she'd been tempted to grumble, "It's Cate, Vicky," but decided that might ruin the atmosphere.
Nerves were already on edge. It was ninety degrees in San Diego. Besides being hot and stuffed in very uncomfortable clothing, the whole bridal party was hungry and anxious.
This was her third time as a bridesmaid. Being a veteran, she expected discomfort and stress throughout the wedding preparations and knew how important it was not to be an accessory to conflict.
"Catie," she called again. "We need one with you --"
"She goes by Cate," Sarah said.
"Oh! Ha! My bad," Vicky said in between squeals.
Cate squeezed Sarah's shoulder as she moved close to her for the hundredth time. She was careful not to incite catastrophe by snagging her veil or accidentally smearing makeup on her white gown.
"Okay, Cate. Good. I need you to leave your arm around Sarah . . . Oh yeah. Perfect! Beautiful just like that. Tilt your chin a tad to the left. A little more. Now scoot your front forward. Lift your forehead and think of parties."
There was something very unnatural about all this.
"Yeah, perfect!" Vicky called. "Right like that! Smile! Beautiful." The camera snapped. "Now, don't go too far," Vicky called as Cate stalked across the sidewalk. "We'll be needing you again for the group shots. Oh! And bridesmaids: Don't lose your bouquets!"
She had just managed to squeeze into a small, private section of shade when her name was called again. She looked at Vicky and her assistant, but it wasn't either of them. They were shooting Sarah with the flower girl.
"Cate." There it was again, faint and male. "Psst. Cate. Over here."
She spun to the left.
"No. Behind you," the voice said.
She turned around and faced a bougainvillea bush. B. J. Nichols, a groomsman she recalled drinking heavily with in college, weaseled in between the red-flowered branches.
"What are you doing?" she asked. She could feel her satin gown sticking to her damp back -- and that wedge. If she ever wanted to torture someone, she knew how.
"Cate, we have a problem."
"Claude is here."
"I'm not kidding. He's here, and I think he's drunk. He's sitting in the church, right now, as we speak."
"You have to tell him to leave."
"He won't leave," B. J. said between gritted teeth.
"Can't you get another groomsman to help you?"
"We've all tried. He won't listen to anyone. Besides, we're supposed to be seating people right now." He adjusted his bow tie. "He's turned hostile, Cate. And you know him better than any of us. You've gotta help."
"Does Miles know?"
"No! Are you kidding? He'll kick his ass!"
"You can't just throw him out?"
"He's telling the organist to play 'Friends in Low Places,' Cate. He won't leave."
"Catie! Yoohoo! It's group picture time."
Cate pretended not to hear her.
"Give me two minutes," she whispered to B. J. Straightening her dress, she headed back to the fountain.
Why did wedding predicaments always gravitate toward her? Two years ago, crisis struck at her sister's wedding when a fellow bridesmaid had spilled a glass of red wine down the front of her peach gown. Cate had remembered that white wine neutralized red wine, so she immediately sent an usher for Pinot Grigio. She poured the wine on her dress, blotted it, and hung the gown under the hand dryer in the ladies' room for a solid ten minutes. Then they made sure that the girl held her bouquet in precisely the right place to cover the faint traces of red wine.
However, she never imagined she'd have to remove the bride's ex-boyfriend from the chapel only minutes before they were supposed to walk down the aisle.
As she stood in front of the camera, she became uncomfortably aware of the look of alarm that had replaced her fake smile. She tried to think of parties instead of that dipshit Claude Mitchum singing Garth Brooks in front of all of Sarah's friends and family. How was she going to get him out of Founders Chapel? She debated telling Sarah's dad, Mr. Cross. But he was having a moment, teary-eyed, choked up, and totally emotional about giving his youngest daughter away.
"Good Lord," she muttered between her teeth as the last picture was snapped.
Founders Chapel was full of familiar faces when she entered. Old friends from college and relatives of Miles's and Sarah's filled the wooden pews, thumbing through their wedding programs.
The Spanish Renaissance church was a landmark at the University of San Diego. It had been one of her favorite places to seek solitude when she'd attended USD. But she didn't have time to admire its serene beauty now.
B. J. was escorting an elderly couple down the aisle and shot her a nervous look. She scanned the chapel but didn't see Claude anywhere. Maybe he had left. That's when she noticed B. J. aggressively nodding his head in the direction of the organ.
There he was. Sitting in the Reserved for the Family row, just inches away from the organist. He was arguing with her.
Copyright © 2004 Whitney Lyles
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(Jeanne Ray, author of Eat Cake)
Meet the Author
Whitney Lyles knows all about being a bridesmaid. She also knows about the trials and traumas of living with roommates at 27 and wishing for a home of one's own.
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