Read an Excerpt
Can't Say No
By Bette Ford
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
It was a late-spring day, not a cloud in the sky, despite the chill in the air. Vanessa Grant had been rushing around since she'd overslept that morning. Even though she was late, she fought the urge to pound on the steering wheel of her dated SUV. As usual, the Metropolitan Detroit traffic was hopelessly snarled due to freeway construction.
She didn't bother to glance at her reflection in the rearview mirror. She knew her small African-American features, her toffee brown skin and dark brown eyes, showed just how tired she was. She'd not intentionally neglected herself, but there was always someone or something that needed attention. And there was never enough time to kick back and relax. Not that she was complaining, for she dearly loved her family and never regretted becoming her younger brother and sisters' legal guardian when they'd lost their mother, six years ago.
This morning was no less hectic than most. By the time Vanessa had her family dressed, packed, fed, and in the car, she was indeed ready for the minivacation she would be sharing with her girlfriends. After dropping the kids off, she headed for the home of her best friend, Brynne Armstrong.
Brynne had invited all six of her bridal attendants to fly down to spend four days and three nights, in Atlanta's Buckhead district. They were all thrilled, looking forward tobeing pampered in the day spa at the luxurious hotel. The all-expenses-paid trip was Brynne's way of thanking them for all they'd done to make her upcoming wedding perfect.
Brynne would be marrying Devin Prescott, her longtime sweetheart and father of her three-year-old daughter, Shanna next weekend. Although Devin was the quarterback for the St. Louis Rams, he was from Detroit and part of a large, close-knit family.
Vanessa, along with their good friends and fellow book club members, Laura Murdock, Trenna McAdams, and Maureen Hale Sheppard, were in the bridal party, as well as Brynne's soon-to-be sisters-in-law, Anna Prescott Mathis and Kelli Warner-Prescott.
"Finally." Vanessa sighed as she stopped her SUV at the security gates outside Brynne's gated community. After giving her name to the security guard on duty, she was waved through.
"Oh, no," she wailed as she pulled into the crowded driveway and parked behind Maureen's car. Evidently, she was the last one to arrive. Slamming her car door, she hurried to the back to retrieve her garment bag and makeup case.
Vanessa and Brynne had formed the book club in the hopes of sharing a beloved hobby by participating in lively book discussions and developing new friendships. The five single ladies decided early on they didn't need to have a man in their lives to be happy or fulfilled. Maureen, Laura, and Brynne worked together at the Sheppard Women's Crisis Center. Trenna owned the nursery school where Brynne's daughter, Shanna, attended. Of the five, Vanessa knew that at six feet she was the painfully shy one. The others teased her good-naturedly because she couldn't remember the last time she'd been out on a date.
But Vanessa wasn't like the other "Elegant Five" book club members, who were into fashion, shopping, and, for those still single, men. Although single, what little free time she had away from the children was spent designing glamorous evening gowns and wedding dresses, dresses she couldn't imagine herself wearing. She kept to herself the fact that the closest she had come to being intimate with a man was the fantasy lover who filled her dreams.
"It's about time you got here!" Brynne complained as she hurried out to help Vanessa with her luggage. "I was worried, afraid one of the kids was sick."
Vanessa smiled as she hugged her petite, beautiful friend. "Nothing like that. Just took forever to get us all out of the house. The twins were so excited because they will be staying several nights with friends, I couldn't get them to settle down last night. And Lana couldn't decide what to take with her." The twins were six and would be in first grade in the fall, while Lana, seventeen, would be starting her senior year in high school. "Where is your sweet baby girl?"
Brynne smiled. "Shanna's with Devin's parents. She loves spending time with them. She won't even miss me."
The foyer was crowded with luggage and people. Vanessa received hugs from her friends.
Laura Murdock was the first to scold, "What took you so long?" as she kissed Vanessa's cheek. "Leave her alone. She's here now, and we're going to Hot 'Lanta," Maureen Hale Sheppard, said with a welcoming smile. She owned and ran the Sheppard Women's Crisis Center.
"Kelli and I would have been happy to pick you up, Vanessa," Anna Prescott Mathis volunteered. She had recently married Vanessa's boss, Gavin, and was Wesley and Devin's baby sister.
"I was fine. Just running a little late," Vanessa said with a smile. She was surprised that the married ladies didn't mind leaving their gorgeous husbands behind. "Kelli, I love that outfit."
"This old thing?" Kelli teased, referring to the designer pantsuit. "Got it last week on sale." Before she married the Detroit Lions' star quarterback, Wesley Prescott, the tall beauty had been a full-figured model. Now she spent her days caring for their toddler.
"You missed the show, girlfriend." Trenna McAdams laughed, clapping her hands excitedly. "We got an eyeful."
"Really?" Vanessa asked, looking from one to the other. "What happened?"
"Laura has a new man," Brynne teased.
"New man? What about Ralph?" Vanessa blurted out, then immediately wanted to take back the name, afraid she had given herself away.
Laura scoffed, "Ple-e-ase! Old news. Ralph has never been more than a friend."
Vanessa frowned. The last she'd heard, Laura had been interested in Ralph Prescott. She couldn't help wondering what had gone wrong between Laura and Ralph.
How had Laura overlooked the fact that the six-foot-seven-inch confirmed bachelor was not only gorgeous but very wealthy? Ralph, like his cousins, had been a professional athlete. He didn't bother to hide what he was, a player. There was no shortage of adoring women in his life.
Excerpted from Can't Say No by Bette Ford
Copyright © 2008 by Bette Ford. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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