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Slightly Engaged

Slightly Engaged

2.5 8
by Wendy Markham

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There are a lot of things worse than being SLIGHTLY ENGAGED…being entirely broke, completely alone and wholly perplexed.

It's been a year and a half since Tracey and Jack moved in together, and everything's totally perfect—well, okay, almost perfect. There's still Tracey's mom, who says they're "living in sin," and


There are a lot of things worse than being SLIGHTLY ENGAGED…being entirely broke, completely alone and wholly perplexed.

It's been a year and a half since Tracey and Jack moved in together, and everything's totally perfect—well, okay, almost perfect. There's still Tracey's mom, who says they're "living in sin," and her friends, who are all smug, married and totally sure that there would already be a ring on Tracey's finger if she hadn't been in such a rush to cosign a lease. Even Tracey is beginning to wonder whether Jack really is looking for a permanent relationship, or whether she's just renting space in his heart.

But just when Tracey's doubts are seriously raging out of control, Jack's mom lets her in on a secret--he's just taken an heirloom diamond out of the family's safe-deposit box, which must mean that he's going to propose any day now.

Okay, any week now…

Any month now?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Abby Foote, "Best Of" editor at Maine Life magazine, has a history of choosing the wrong guy. But when one of the latest in her list of disasters, Ted Puck, turns up murdered the day his engagement to someone else is announced, she becomes the prime suspect in this lighthearted romp from Senate (See Jane Date). To complicate matters, Benjamin Orr, the lead detective investigating the case, also happens to be the guy Abby had a major crush on during her high school years. When two other ex-boyfriends report attempts on their lives and even Abby's co-workers and family are suspicious, she begins her own investigation. Readers will cheer Abby every step of the way as she tries to clear her name and find her prince for whom the glass slipper will finally fit. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Red Dress Ink
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Slightly Series
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Read an Excerpt

Part 1
Labor Day Weekend

Chapter 1

I love weddings!

Doesn't everyone?

Um, apparently not.

"Cripes, Tracey, I can't believe this is how we're spending the last Saturday of the summer."

That's my live-in boyfriend, Jack, grumbling as he gazes bleakly through the windshield of our rented subcompact car at the holiday-traffic-clogged Jersey Turnpike. The midday sun is glaring overhead and heat radiates in waves off the asphalt, along with toxic black exhaust fumes.

Thank God for air-conditioning. I adjust the full-blast passenger's-side vent to blow in the vicinity of my navel, lest it muss my fancy upswept do.

It took me almost an hour and a half a can of Aussie Freeze Spray to get my straight, bra-clasp-length brown hair looking this supermodelish. It'll probably wilt the second I get out of the car, but at least Jack got to appreciate it. He was momentarily complimentary about my hair and my slinky red cocktail dress before he went back to grousing about the wedding.

It shouldn't bug me that he didn't mention anything about how I was wearing a similar red dress the night we met.

It shouldn't, but it does.

I can't help it. For the first year or so that we were together, he made a point of noticing details like that. I guess he's gotten less romantic the last few months. Or maybe I've gotten overly sensitive. I shouldn't go around weighing every comment he makes — or noticing the ones he doesn't make anymore.

I shouldn't, but lately, I do.

It's not that I think we've fallen out of love. If anything, we've become closer, our lives interwoven. His friends are my friends; his mother and his favorite sister, Rachel, sometimes call just to talk to me. My friends are his friends; my mother and sister — well, forget about them. The point is, we're still a solid couple. We laugh all the time; we know each other's most intimate secrets; the sex is frequent and good, if I do say so myself.

So what's the problem?

I want more, dammit. I deserve more. I'm finally over the pesky feelings of unworthiness and insecurity that festered in the wake of my arrogant ex-boyfriend, Will, who callously blew me off two summers ago.

It's not as though I've come right out and asked Jack what his intentions are — maybe because I'm afraid of the answer. But lately, I've found myself wondering pretty frequently — all right, constantly — whether Jack is ever going to take the initiative to make our relationship permanent.

Since he hasn't, I tend to secretly look for evidence that he's got the opposite plan in mind. Or, at the very least, that he's losing interest.

All right, maybe the ghost of unworthy, insecure Tracey has come back to haunt me. But I really should stop nitpicking — even if it's just mental nitpicking. Really. Before I turn into one of those Bitter Shrews.

Which Bitter Shrews, you might ask?

Oh, you know. The Bitter Shrews who nobody wants to marry. The ones who eventually become joyless middleaged spinsters with mouths that have those vertical wrinkles in the corners from wearing perpetually grim expressions.

Oblivious to the horrific visions careening beneath my divine updo, Jack props his outstretched wrists on the top curve of the steering wheel in frustration as he brakes to yet another stop.

"We should have RSVP'd no, Tracey. This is ridiculous."

"How could we do that? Mike's one of your best friends. Plus he's my boss."

"Soon-to-be ex-boss."

Right. Mike was fired a few weeks ago. Sort of. The command came down from the formidable Adrian Smedly, director of our account group, to Mike's supervisor, Carol the Wimpy Management Rep. But she didn't have the balls — or in her case, the heart — to come right out and ax a soon-to-be groom. Instead, she called him into her office and more or less told him to start looking for a new job as soon as possible.

The thing about Mike is that he's incessantly upbeat in a dopey, wide-eyed kind of way, like a big old happy pup. He trots nonchalantly through life wearing an open, friendly expression, heedless that his shirts are frequently rumpled and his hair is always mussed. If Mike had a tail, it would be perpetually wagging.

So when Carol told him in so many words that he doesn't have a future at Blair Barnett Advertising, Mike seemed pretty unfazed. In fact, from what I can tell, he hasn't started cleaning out his office or even put together his resume. I should know. He's all but illiterate.

For the past almost three years I've been working at Blair Barnett, my primary purpose in life is to proofread Mike's stuff, both work related and personal. I've doctored his memos, his presentations, even the supposedly impromptu toast he gave at his engagement party. If he were doing a resume, I'd definitely know about it. I'd probably be writing it.

Never mind that what I should be writing by now — what I fully expected to be writing by now — is ad copy.

Last year I was promoted from my original entry-level account management position, but not into the coveted Creative Department, as promised. No, I was given the title account coordinator on the McMurray-White packaged goods account, which basically means I make a few thousand dollars more per year to remain in my claustrophobic cubicle and officially do administrative stuff while unofficially assisting my incompetent boss with his own duties. Oh, and I get all the freebie product I want, which means I am pretty much stocked for life on Blossom deodorant and Abate laxatives.

I'm supposedly still first in line for the next junior copywriting position that opens up in the Creative Department.

The trouble is, thanks to the lousy economy, Blair Barnett has been routinely laying off employees, including junior copywriters and account coordinators, for the past eighteen months. Jack, who is a media supervisor at the agency, keeps reminding me that we're both lucky we still have jobs.

But I'm twenty-five years old. I don't want a job; I want a career. And with Mike gone — which, presumably, he soon will be — who's going to push for me to get another promotion? Certainly not wimpy Carol.

"Aside from whether or not Mike's my boss, you still lived with him for years," I point out to Jack, shoving aside troubling thoughts of office politics. "You can't just not go to his wedding."

"Why not? I should be protesting his wedding."

"Protesting?" Amused, I imagine Jack picketing the church in a sandwich board. "On what grounds?"

"On the grounds that I loathe the bride."

"Yeah, well, who doesn't?"

Back when Jack was Mike's roommate and Dianne was Mike's omnipresent girlfriend, Jack referred to Dianne as a one-woman axis of evil.

I have to say, he wasn't necessarily exaggerating.

It's hard to remember that I actually kind of liked her back when she was just a voice on the other end of the phone whenever I answered Mike's line at the office. My opinion changed rapidly when I found myself sharing girlfriend privileges with her in Mike and Jack's tiny Brooklyn apartment.

Miscellaneous things I hate about Dianne:

1) She's a catty, mean-spirited snob.

2) She talks to Mike in this cutesy-poo baby voice whenever she isn't bitching at him.

3) She once called Jack an asshole behind his back and probably to his face for all I know.

Oh, and 4) She's getting married.

Hell, yes, I'm jealous.

Don't you think it's unfair that she's getting married, and I'm not?

Yeah, so do I.

Ironically, if it weren't for me, Dianne wouldn't be walking down the aisle today. Or, most likely, ever. I mean, who would want a one-woman axis of evil for a wife?

I guess Mike would.

Except that I don't think he really does. He's basically getting married by default.

When Jack and I moved in together a year and a half ago, Mike was left without a roommate. He halfheartedly tried to find a new one for a while, then told Dianne maybe they should live together. She said no way. Not without an engagement ring on her finger and a wedding date on her

Mike swore to me and Jack that there was no way he was getting married. Not to Dianne, not yet, maybe not ever. He supposedly looked for an affordable studio apartment for a couple of weeks to no avail.

The next thing we knew, he had gone over to the dark side and was shopping for diamond rings.

Rather, he was arranging a five-year payment plan with sky-high interest for the rock Dianne had already picked out.


"Are we almost at the exit?" Jack asks, lifting his foot off the brake and creeping the tiny car forward a whopping two or three feet before stopping again with a colorful curse. It isn't the first time he's said that — or worse — since we left Manhattan this morning.

The day started off on the wrong foot at the rental-car place down First Avenue from our apartment on the Upper East Side.

Our Apartment.

Funny how even after seventeen months of living with somebody, you still get a little thrill over the mundane daily reminders of domestic coupledom. At least, I still do.

Anyway, we had reserved a midsize sedan, but for some reason the counter agent couldn't quite express — either because she didn't speak English or because she simply didn't have a logical explanation why — we got stuck with a car that's roughly the size of a toilet bowl, give or take.

At least it doesn't smell like a toilet bowl, like the rental car Jack and I had when we went to my friend Kate's wedding in sweltering Alabama last summer.

Then again, the lemon-shaped air-freshener thingy hanging from the rearview mirror in this car isn't much better. It kind of reminds me of that bathroom spray that doesn't really eliminate odors, merely infuses them with a fruity aroma. My parents' bathroom frequently reeks of country apple-scented poop.

Jack and I keep good old-fashioned Lysol in our bathroom.

Our Bathroom.

In Our Apartment.

See? Little thrill.

After said thrill subsides, I consult the contents of the engraved ivory-linen envelope in my lap: an invitation with a tag line that reads Grow old along with me . . . the best is yet to be . . . a reception card and a little annotated road map of this particular corner of hell.

Er, Jersey.

"I think we're about five miles away from the exit," I tell Jack.

"That means at least another hour. Maybe we'll miss the ceremony," he adds hopefully.

But we don't. We eventually find ourselves driving along a strip mall-dotted highway with fifteen minutes to spare. Unless we're lost. Which, come to think of it, we just might be. I think I might have missed a turn a mile or so back, when I was trying to dislodge my numb feet from the
cramped space between my purse and the glove compartment.

Jack's getting crankier by the second, I have to pee, and we're both scanning the sides of the road as if any second now we might see a picturesque white steeple poking up amidst the concrete-block-and-plate-glass suburban landscape.

"What's the name of the church again, Tracey?" he asks, apparently thinking we might have somehow overlooked a place of worship nestled in the shadow of Chuck E. Cheese.

Without checking the invitation again, I quip, to break the tension, "Our Lady of Everlasting Misery."

Jack laughs. "Really? I thought it was Our Lady of Eternal Damnation."

I giggle. "Or Our Lady of Imminent Sorrow." Then, the nice Catholic girl in me adds, "We probably shouldn't be making jokes like that."

"Sure we should. If Mike's asinine enough to get married, we can make jokes about it."

Okay, here I go again.

But the thing is . . .

Jack didn't say, If Mike's asinine enough to get married to Dianne.

He said, If Mike's asinine enough to get married.


Which makes me wonder if he thinks only the Asinine exchange vows.

It's not as if he's ever said anything to the contrary.

"What's wrong?" he asks, looking over at me.

"I have to pee."

"Are you sure?"

I squirm and struggle to cross my legs beneath the skirt of the slinky red cocktail dress he earlier admired but callously didn't remember to relate to the slinky red cocktail dress I was wearing the magical night we met at the office Christmas party, lo, twenty months ago.

"Am I sure I have to pee?" I echo, irritated. "Of course I'm sure."

"I mean, is that all that's wrong?"

No. I have to pee and there's no room in this car for leg crossing and I'm doomed to bitter spinsterdom, thanks to him.

My mother and sister were right. I should never have moved in with Jack so quickly.

Mental note: Next time you are cordially invited to live with someone, request ring and wedding date prior to signing of lease.

Dianne might be a bitch, but she's a brilliantly strategic bitch. Here I am wedged into a citrus-scented Kia, sans ring or any hope of one, while she's lounging in a stretch limo in a tiara with a glass of champagne in one hand and a prayer book in the other, serenely contemplating happily-ever after with the man she loves.

Yes. Or, more likely, she has her ever-present cell phone wedged under her illusion-layered headpiece as she curses out some hapless florist who dared to put one too many sprigs of baby's breath into the bridal bouquet.

Regardless, what matters — at least to me, and, undoubtedly, to her — is that she's the one who's getting married today.

"Hey, is that it?" Jack asks suddenly, pointing out the window at, you guessed it, a steeple looming above not Chuck E. Cheese, but T.J. Maxx.

That's it, all right. Our Lady of Everlasting Misery is decked out with floral wreaths on the open doors, long black limousines parked out front and elegantly dressed Manhattanites milling alongside the white satin runner stretching down the front steps.

Ah, weddings. Gotta love them.

Grow old along with me . . . the best is yet to be . . .

How romantic is it to stand up in front of everyone you ever knew and vow to be with one person all the days of your life?

I experience a glorious flutter of anticipation until I remember that I'm not the bride here. That I may never be the bride anywhere. Not if I stick with Jack.

Given that the alternative to sticking with Jack is breaking up with Jack, and that I happen to be head over heels in love with Jack, my flutter of excitement swiftly transforms into something that calls for Maalox.

"This is going to suck," Jack mutters as we pull into the crowded, sun-steamed parking lot beside the church.

I'm not sure whether he's referring to the challenge of finding an empty space or the big event itself, but in either case, I couldn't agree with him more.

Meet the Author

Wendy Markham is a pseudonym for bestselling, award-winning novelist Wendy Corsi Staub, who has written more than 40 fiction and nonfiction books for adults and teenagers in various genres--among them contemporary and historical romance, suspense, mystery, television and movie tie-in, and biography. She has coauthored a hardcover mystery series with former New York City mayor Ed Koch and has ghostwritten books for various well-known personalities, including the cover model Fabio.

A small-town girl at heart, she was born and raised in Dunkirk, New York, on the shores of Lake Erie and the heart of the western New York snowbelt. Wendy was in the third grade when she declared that she intended to become an author when she grew up.

With that unwavering goal in mind, encouraged by her remarkably supportive parents, she moved alone to Manhattan at 21. Wendy worked as an office temp, freelance copywriter, advertising account coordinator, and book editor before selling her first novel, which went on to win the Romance Writers of America RITA Award for Best Young Adult Book. She has since received numerous positive reviews and achieved bestseller status, most notably for the psychological suspense novels she writes under her own name.

Very happily married with two children, Wendy now writes full-time and lives in a cozy old house in suburban New York, proving that childhood dreams really can come true.

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2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
PITTgirlTN More than 1 year ago
This book was great just like the other two before it! I didn't want to put it down and it kept me laughing. Great read!
Lindsie More than 1 year ago
I love this series! This book was just as funny as the first two novels. While some may believe that a lot of women aren't as crazy about becoming engaged, I have to disagree. I have seen many a woman become very excited and silly pre-engagement; especially when they know its coming but continue to wait. This book is witty, laugh out loud funny, and so very true for some women. Looking for a light read that makes you laugh? Pick this book up. You won't be disappointed! A++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved the first two but that is where it stops. I was very disappointed in Slightly Engaged. I have to agree with the other reviews. Women are NOT this insane about getting waiting for a man to propose to you. Wendy keeps repeating the same lines throughout the whole book. I wanted to scream 'Enough already we get it!' But what would be the point. It didn't seem like Wendy's writing at all. I hope she makes it up in the 4th one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved Slightly Single, and thought Slightly Settled was pretty good, but this is by far the worst of the three. If you are a woman like me, who could care less about getting married, this is NOT the book for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was mediocre at best. I normally love red dress ink books, but this one just...for lack of a better word annoyed me. If I had to read the sentences 'if Jack would only propose then everything would be fine', or 'if he's got the ring why doesn't he just do it already and make everyone happy' I would have thrown it across the room.
harstan More than 1 year ago
All her friends seem married except her. Instead Manhattanite Tracey Spadolini lives with her lover Jack, but he seems to suffer from commitment phobia. The worst incident occurs at the wedding of Jack¿s former Brooklyn roommate Mike Middleford, Tracey¿s boss at Blair Barnett Consulting, to nasty Dianne. Not only did Jack not want to go he is negative about tying the knot in general. Tracey is mortified as she wants to be Jack¿s wife.----- Tracey gains some hope when Jack¿s mom tells her that her son has taken out a family heirloom ring that he will surely give to her as an engagement ring. Tracey is excited because she loves Jack and wants to raise a family with him, but days turn into weeks and finally months with no ring forthcoming. Tracey has lost all hope and wonders if she must move on beyond the man she loves.----- Jack¿s ¿blindness¿ to Tracey¿s concerns make for a fine chick lit tale even though the heroine¿s grieving over her single status can send the audience wanting to smack her oblivious beloved that is until the readers learn we don¿t know Jack. The story line centers on Tracey¿s lament as the last single in Manhattan. Wendy Markham provides a lighthearted romp starring a young woman wondering why everyone but she and Jack assume she is on the verge of becoming engaged.----- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
One more friend getting married begins a spiral of emotion for Tracey. She's been living the Jack for some time now, and he shows no sign of making it legal. Even after she gets a huge tip off from his mama that he might be thinking that way, no ring is forthcoming. Tracey does all she can to give him hints, to make things ideal for the big event, but Jack seems oblivious. Is she on her way to being a Missus, or is her romance just a big miss? ................. The author gets points for admitting that living together is not the same as marriage, but the fact that she seems to validate Tracey's gay friend marrying his lover is jarring. However, there are funny, real moments throughout the narrative, though not too much characterization beyond Tracey herself.