Swinging on a Star (Weddings by Bella Series #2)by Janice Thompson
Take a huge wedding, add a Hollywood hunk with the paparazzi on his tail, and you've got a recipe for disaster--and a lot of laughs. This hilarious romantic comedy is sure to delight.See more details below
Take a huge wedding, add a Hollywood hunk with the paparazzi on his tail, and you've got a recipe for disaster--and a lot of laughs. This hilarious romantic comedy is sure to delight.
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Swinging on a StarA Novel
By Janice Thompson
RevellCopyright © 2010 Janice Thompson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHigh Hopes
If Aunt Rosa hadn't landed that gig on the Food Network, I probably wouldn't have ended up on the national news. And if their pesky camera crew hadn't shown up at our house on one of the most important days of my life, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been hauled off to the Galveston County jail. Unlike my brother Armando, I'd never aspired to get arrested or have my face plastered across the television screen on the evening news. But thanks to Aunt Rosa's homemade garlic bread, I found myself facing both of these things ... and in exactly that order.
When the call came last Tuesday from the powers that be at the Food Network, the entire Rossi family went into a tailspin. Aunt Rosa's recipe had been chosen from among thousands to be featured in an upcoming episode titled Italian Chefs from Coast to Coast. This was a great honor, of course, but the timing couldn't have been worse. After all, I was right in the middle of coordinating my first-ever medieval-themed wedding at Club Wed, our family's wedding facility. I was up to my earlobes in castles and moats. Who had the time-or patience-for television crews?
I pointed out my concerns to my mother just a week and a half before the big day as sheprepared to leave for the opera house. She'd only just started applying her makeup, a process that usually took a good hour or more, so I knew I had plenty of time. Pacing around her oversized bathroom, I spoke my mind.
"Mama, you know what I'm up against. This wedding is so important. Everything has to be perfect. The bride has had this one planned out since she was a little girl, and the best man is coming all the way from California. It's a huge deal, and if I can manage to pull it off, it'll be a great promotion for Club Wed."
"You've coordinated weddings before, Bella," Mama said with a wave of her hand. "What's so different about this one?"
"It's a themed wedding, Mama. Medieval. I've never done one of those before, so I'm nervous."
"You worry too much, honey." She squirted lotion into her hand and then smeared it on her face, working it into every pore. "Remember how you fretted over the country-western themed wedding, and it came off without a hitch?"
"You call Uncle Laz's parrot stealing a toupee from one of our guests 'without a hitch'?" I sighed, not even trying to hide my frustration. "And what about the part where our caterer's eyebrows got burned off while he was barbecuing the beans?" After a pause, I added, "Besides, I'm not trying to worry, but there's so much to think about. I'm transforming the whole gazebo area into a medieval wonderland. The bridesmaids and groomsmen are wearing Renaissance costumes and dressing up as ladies-in-waiting and knights in shining armor. Doesn't that sound awesome?"
"We're even having horses and trumpeters and a court jester-the whole thing. And Laz, Jenna, and Nick are serving authentic foods from the Middle Ages. I've put a ton of work into this. It's a really big deal."
My mama's perfectly sculpted eyebrows arched, and I could sense a lecture coming on. I'd gotten pretty good at reading her thinly plucked eyebrows. "Well, I hate to burst your bubble," she said, "but Aunt Rosa's debut on national television is a pretty big deal too. I'm surprised you're not more excited for her." As she pulled her dark hair back in a cloth headband, the tiny wrinkles around her eyes lifted. With rehearsed flair, she reached for a bottle of liquid foundation and gave it a good shake.
"I am excited for her," I said. "But, you realize the camera crew is set to arrive the day before the wedding, right? This is going to be a fiasco of major proportions!" Surely she could see my point. After all, we would be smack-dab in the middle of the wedding rehearsal at that time, and I didn't want any disruptions. If the street happened to be filled with Food Network trucks and the like, it would, at the very least, spoil the ambience. My clients had paid good money to have this wedding come off without a hitch. I couldn't let them down.
"I, for one, think it's perfect." My mother poured a dollop of foundation into her open palm. "It's a great way to promote the family business and give Rosa the attention she needs." Mama jabbed her slender, beautifully manicured index finger into the gooey liquid, then began to place dots of the flesh-colored stuff all over her face. Soon my polka-dotted mother turned my way. "I think you're missing a great opportunity here, Bella. Think about it."
"I guess I'm just not seeing it." I closed the lid on the toilet and sat down, feeling defeated. "It's going to be a huge distraction-a great way to draw attention away from the wedding facility. I'm afraid that's what's going to happen, not the other way around."
"Don't be silly. And remember, this isn't about you, Bella Bambina," she chastened me. "This is about your aunt. She's worked all her life for a moment like this. We can't rob her of this chance to shine like the star she is."
"No, of course not," I said. "It's just that ..." I sighed, unsure of what to say next.
In the next room, Guido-the parrot my uncle had adopted from his mob friend Sal-began to sing "Amazing Grace." I'd grown accustomed to his morning ritual, but it was starting to get a little old. Or maybe my patience was just wearing thin. Living in a house with so many relatives could do that to a person, particularly when there was so much work to be done. Still, I needed the grace that Guido was singing about-and I needed it now.
A rap at the bathroom door caught my attention. Aunt Rosa stuck her head inside and flashed a shy smile when I looked her way. She wore her hair pulled up in a loose bun. Her housedress was the same one she'd worn a hundred times before over the past several years. So was the apron, which was covered in flour. Unlike Mama, Rosa didn't believe in wasting money on new things. Or makeup. Unless she had a man to impress, of course. Lately I'd begun to suspect she'd found one. I'd caught her wearing lipstick on at least three occasions.
"Bella, there's someone at the front door for you." My aunt brushed her palms against her apron. "He says he's with the Stages Set Design Company."
"Ah." The guy we'd hired to turn the gazebo area into a castle and moat for the big day. The bride's father had instructed me to spare no expense, and I wasn't taking his words lightly. The construction of the castle would cost over ten grand. Oh, but how glorious it would look! I could almost picture it now ... minus the Food Network trucks in the background, of course. The upcoming medieval evening would draw a whole new clientele to the wedding facility. I hoped.
I looked at my Aunt Rosa-standing there with her face still beaming from the news about her television opportunity-and immediately felt shame and remorse for voicing any complaints. If anyone deserved this, she did.
Lord, I'm sorry. I'm letting my worries about this wedding spoil my aunt's once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Forgive me?
As he whispered a gentle "Of course," I reached to hug Rosa, who flashed an embarrassed smile. "We're so proud of you, Rosa," I whispered in her ear. "If anyone deserves a chance to strut her stuff, it's you. You're the best cook in the world."
"Thank you." She giggled like a schoolgirl. "But I can still hardly believe they picked me! This is the most exciting thing that's happened to me since I got off the plane from Napoli. I'm going to be on my favorite channel of all-the Food Network." She reached for her St. Christopher medal and began to praise all of the saints at once. I couldn't help but smile as her chorus ushered heavenward in lyrical Italian.
In the meantime, I slipped past her and down the stairs. My aunt had a cooking career to build. Me? I'd better get busy building a castle.
Chapter TwoLost in the Stars
I spent the next two hours tagging along on the set designer's heels as he measured the area behind the wedding facility for the incoming castle. The inside space would accommodate 150 people, he assured me, and would have a dance floor and stage for the musicians, the juggler, the court jester, and the sword-swallower. My throat hurt just thinking about that last one.
As we talked things through, I could almost picture the space filled with guests, instrumentalists, and caterers. Not to mention the bride and groom dressed as queen and king.
By the time he left, I'd had all my questions answered. Well, most anyway. I still couldn't quite figure out the whole moat thing. Was he planning to put in a river? In our backyard? Fill it with faux crocodiles, perhaps?
I pondered all of these things as I made my way inside the wedding facility. Traveling through the large ballroom where so many lovely receptions had taken place, I paused for a moment to reflect on God's goodness. Over the past few months, he'd certainly made me feel like a princess at the ball. Given me the family business to run. Sent me the man of my dreams ...
I released a happy sigh as I thought about D.J. Neeley, my honey. What had I ever done to deserve him? Surely if I behaved myself for the rest of my mortal life, I still couldn't earn such a gift. No, only the Lord could have accomplished this-bringing together an Italian girl from Galveston Island with a handsome country boy from Splendora, Texas. A cowboy, no less.
I glanced at my watch, surprised by the time. D.J. had promised to pick me up for lunch. We were going to Parma John's, of course, my uncle's pizzeria on the Strand. It was our favorite hangout, and the food was fantabulous. D.J. should be here within the hour, and I could hardly wait.
When I arrived in my office, I made my way through the ever-growing stack of papers on the desk. How had things gotten so out of control? I'd better get busy-pronto. I began to organize everything in tidy piles-bills in one and letters of agreement in another. That left me with a large miscellaneous pile. No problem. I could shove that stack in my desk drawer to be dealt with later.
I looked out of the window, noticing Eugene, our UPS guy, getting out of his big brown truck next door. He carried a package to the front door of our house. I knew what would happen, of course. Rosa would meet him there with a bright smile. Laz would peek through the window, watching as she took the package from Eugene. As was so often the case, he wouldn't look happy.
All of this transpired just as I'd guessed. Then Rosa invited Eugene in for a glass of tea, her usual gesture of thanks for his deliveries. Oh, I couldn't hear her asking from the window, but that didn't matter. The routine was always the same. Eugene would come in. Rosa would flirt. Laz would get miffed. And Guido would take to singing "Amazing Grace."
Life never changed much at the Rossi house. Nor did I want it to. No, with only a couple of minor exceptions, we Rossis lived a pretty comfortable, predictable life.
Now if only I could keep the family business from going under. Maybe then we could go on with our comfortable, predictable life.
I dove into my work, paying a couple of bills and then calling vendors. After that, I listened to voice mails, delighted to find one from a potential client. I made a note to call her tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I needed to reword some things in the Club Wed contract. Since we'd decided to take on themed weddings, the old wording didn't exactly work. I turned to the computer and pulled up the file, then started making adjustments.
When the phone rang a few minutes later, I was so focused on my work that it startled me. I reached for it without taking the time to look at the caller ID.
"Thank you for calling Club Wed, Galveston Island's premier wedding facility." I answered in my usual chipper voice, doing my best to sound professional. Didn't want potential clients to figure out that I'd only been managing the facility for a few months, after all. And if I came across as confident, maybe I'd start to feel that way.
"Bella?" I heard Marian Jarvis's cheerful voice over the phone line. "Are you there?"
I grinned, thankful this bride-to-be was always so upbeat and excited. "I'm here. What's up?"
"Just wanted you to know that Rob and I are on our way to pick up the best man from the airport." Her voice had a lilt to it beyond the norm. Almost as if she had something up her sleeve.
"The wedding isn't for ten days," I said, taken aback by her words. "Why so early?"
She giggled, and I knew something was up. "Oh, hon, do I have a lot to tell you! Are you sitting down?"
"Yes, I'm sitting down. Let me have it." I drew in a breath, anxious to hear her news.
"Okay, you know how I told you that Rob's best man-er, first knight-was from Los Angeles?"
"Sure." I'd heard about this elusive best man in snatches only. For some reason, Marian's stories about him were a little vague.
"Well, there's more to the story than that. You've heard of Brock Benson, right?"
"The actor?" I leaned back against the chair, instantly transported to a scene in Brock's latest action-adventure set aboard a pirate ship on the high seas. "Of course. Who hasn't? But what does he have to do with your wedding?"
"Oh, Bella, I've been dying to tell you this, but it's top secret information. Brock is Rob's best friend. They've known each other since they were kids in grade school together on the West Coast. Brock is flying in early so that he and Rob can spend some time together before the wedding."
"W-wait." I sat straight up, my heart going a thousand miles an hour. "A-are you telling me that Brock Benson, three-time Academy Award-winning Hollywood superstar, is the best man in this wedding, and that he's coming to Texas?"
Another giggle traveled across the phone line. "Well, technically he's already in Texas. He's been shooting a movie in the Austin area but is joining Rob for the next week and a half until the big day. But yes, he's the best man. That's where you come in."
"Where I come in?" Suddenly I could hardly breathe. Brock Benson was coming to Galveston Island to play the role of best man in the wedding I was coordinating? Was I dreaming this? If so, someone had better pinch me-quick!
"We're going to need a place for him to stay where the paparazzi won't catch up with him," Marian said. "I know it's hurricane season, so the reporters are out in full force as soon as they hear there's any sign of a storm. They usually stay at the bigger hotels down there, right?"
"R-right." Storm? Hotels? She'd lost me at Brock Benson-tall, dark, and handsome movie hero.
"Rob and I were thinking maybe you could help us find someplace more secluded, where reporters wouldn't happen to show up at a moment's notice. You know? Maybe a smaller hotel or even a bed-and-breakfast. Someplace like that."
"How long are we talking?" I asked, finally coming to my senses. "I mean, how long will he be on the island?"
"We're coming down in Rob's car tomorrow, and the guys will stay till the wedding. Now, we won't need a place for all of that time. Rob's dad has a yacht, and the groomsmen wanted to take a little fishing trip a few days before the wedding. In fact, my ladies-in-waiting are coming to the island a couple of days before the ceremony too. We'll be staying in a condo that I've rented. That way we'll all be close by for the big day. But I'm worried about hiding Brock from the media. He's pretty hot right now."
Um, yeah. Hot didn't even begin to describe it. Try sizzling. Like the proverbial cat on a tin roof. I felt a heat wave coming on even now as I thought about his gorgeous brown eyes and chiseled features.
Just as quickly, my thoughts shifted to the real man of my dreams-D.J. Neeley-my boot-wearin', country-western-song-lovin' honey. My knight in shining armor.
Determined to stay focused, I made a suggestion. "Let's put the guys up at the Tremont. Have you ever been there?"
"I think you would like it. It's a high-end hotel built in the 1800s. Reporters don't often stay there because it's a little on the pricey side. They usually pick one of the newer, bigger places on the seawall. If we put him at the Tremont, he'll be close to the wedding facility-just a few blocks away, in fact."
Excerpted from Swinging on a Star by Janice Thompson Copyright © 2010 by Janice Thompson. Excerpted by permission.
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