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In a moment of total panic, Brendan left Alyssa at the altar. What will it take for him to win her back?
When Brendan Meyers became a “runaway groom,” Alyssa Pennington’s heart broke. But she’s returned the unopened gifts, exchanged the dress, and is ready to get on with her life…and forget Brendan.
The problem is, Brendan can’t forget. He can’t forget the love he and Alyssa shared and can’t forgive himself for what he put her through on their wedding day. He can never undo his actions, but at least he can try to win Alyssa’s forgiveness. And maybe, someday, another shot at her love.
Dalton Landreth was the only person not disappointed about that botched wedding. He had been eyeing Alyssa since high school—with his gorgeous, magnetic blue eyes—and when Brendan ran out the church doors, Dalton heard opportunity knocking.
Within months of being jilted at the altar, Alyssa finds herself being simultaneously wooed by the love of her life and the best-looking man she’s ever seen. Not bad for a small-town girl with a broken heart.
About the Author
Bestselling and award-winning author Beth Wiseman has sold over two million books. She is the recipient of the coveted Holt Medallion, a two-time Carol Award winner, and has won the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award three times. Her books have been on various bestseller lists, including CBD, CBA, ECPA, and Publishers Weekly. Beth and her husband are empty nesters enjoying country life in south central Texas. Visit her online at BethWiseman.com; Facebook: AuthorBethWiseman; Twitter: @BethWiseman; Instagram: @bethwisemanauthor.
Read an Excerpt
A July Bride
A Year of Weddings Novella
By Beth Wiseman
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2014 Beth Wiseman
All rights reserved.
Alyssa lifted her wedding dress onto the counter and handed the hanger to Loretta Klatt, swallowing back the lump in her throat.
"Hon, are you sure 'bout this? You love this dress. You've been eyeing it for years, and it fits you like a dream. Sure you don't want to keep it, just in case?" Loretta draped the dress over one arm and sighed as she glanced up at the wall. Hundreds of photos hung there, all brides that Loretta had dressed and sent down the aisle in the forty years she'd owned the shop. Alyssa had assumed her own bridal photo would be hanging there by now.
"No, thank you." She nodded to make it definite. "It's been two months. I'm not getting married. Not to Brendan anyway. Maybe never." She pulled her eyes from Loretta's and hung her head for a few moments before she looked back up to see Loretta hanging Alyssa's beautiful dress on a rack behind her. She blinked a few times, resolved that there would be no more tears. She took a deep breath and forced a smile. "Thank you, Loretta. For taking the dress back."
Loretta stuffed her hands into the pockets of her jeans, her plain white button-up shirt straining against a full bosom. For someone who made a living dressing people in wedding attire, Loretta was not exactly a walking advertisement for her business. Her long gray hair hung to her waist, and her short cropped bangs were cut high above gray eyebrows.
"I'm just so sorry about what happened. I've seen my share of couples, believe you me, and I really thought you and Brendan were the real thing. If ever a man was crazy about a girl ..." Loretta shook her head and frowned, bringing together a road map of wrinkles.
Alyssa wasn't sure how much more pity she could swim in. She was drowning in it. Forcing a smile—again—she said, "Evidently not." She gave a quick wave before she walked out of the shop. As the bell on the door clinked against the glass, she was reminded how many times she'd been in and out of Loretta's store for fittings, to choose bridesmaid dresses, or just to chat with Loretta about her wedding.
Her wedding to Brendan Myers. The only man she'd ever loved. But now hated.
* * *
Brendan counted out the last of three hundred dollars to Rudy Schmutz.
Rudy shook his head. "I'll take your money, but I can't promise it'll do any good." He stuffed the bills into one back pocket and pulled a can of chewing tobacco from the other. He put a pinch between his cheek and gum. "She ain't gonna get back with you, fella. You humiliated that girl in front of the whole town."
"I'm not giving up. Ever." Brendan looked up at the blue sky above, imagining the banner trailing behind Randy's crop duster and the look of surprise and wonder on Alyssa's face. "Now remember what I said. You gotta fly over Monument Hill at two o'clock next Saturday. That's when they start the reenactment. Alyssa will be there for sure. Her dad makes sure the family goes to that stuff."
Rudy shrugged his broad, bony shoulders. "Whatever you say." He spit out a brown stream, then raised his bushy brown eyebrows. The guy was about fifty, but he looked more like eighty to Brendan. His face was weathered, he walked with a limp—supposedly from falling off a bull—and he was always scowling. But he was the only guy with a Pawnee crop duster who was willing to take the job at a price Brendan could semiafford.
Brendan had gotten back the deposit he'd put down on a small house for him and Alyssa, but he'd given it to his parents on top of the rent he already paid them. At the time, that had seemed like the right thing to do, especially since his mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. But based on the amount of booze in the house, he didn't think the extra money was going toward his mother's health care. He'd already started putting money away for another deposit. Rentals in small towns didn't come along often, but he wanted to be ready when one did. He really needed his own place. Another reason he shouldn't be spending money on stuff like banners.
Not that that would stop him.
"I have to get back to work before Lenny gets back from the Lions Club meeting." His rancher boss was a great guy, but Lenny expected a full day's work for a fair wage, and Brendan had always given Lenny a hundred percent. It wasn't just a matter of being a good employee. Brendan loved the work, especially tending to the horses.
Rudy chuckled as he limped back to his truck. "Shoulda just married the girl when you had the chance."
Brendan pushed back the rim of his Stetson, a Christmas gift from Alyssa. "I know that, Rudy. And I aim to get her back before it's too late."
* * *
Alyssa found Sherry at the back of the café in the booth where they always sat. Her blond hair was braided into pigtails, which only made her chubby cheeks look even rounder. She waved and then stood awkwardly to greet Alyssa with a hug.
"Are you okay?" Sherry eased herself back against the bench seat and folded her hands across her enlarged belly. "That couldn't have been easy, returning the dress." Sherry still had another few weeks until her due date, but Alyssa's lifelong friend looked like she was about to pop any minute.
"It went pretty much like I expected. Loretta tried to talk me out of it, but she took the dress back in the end. That dream is over. Every wedding gift has been returned, every last wedding detail undone. That was the last item on the list. Time to move on." Alyssa slid into the seat and put her purse beside her. "What about you? You look miserable." She picked up one of the paper menus that was already on the table. Not that she needed it. She always ordered the same thing—a tuna melt with a side of fruit.
sherry sighed. "All that stuff they say about glowing during pregnancy ... well, it's not true. The first four months, I threw up. And the last four, I've spent unable to see my toes and with a waddle that would make any penguin proud."
Alyssa grinned. She knew lunch with her former matron of honor would be the perfect thing to do after returning her wedding dress. "Well, you don't have much longer. Another few weeks and we'll be holding Monroe Junior."
"You do realize how much I love my husband, don't you? Why else would I let that man name our firstborn Monroe?" She shook her head. "I'm afraid li'l Monroe Modenstein is going to be teased his entire life."
"I doubt it. He'll probably be a big boy like his daddy. No one will pick on him." Everyone in town loved Sherry's husband. He was six foot seven and a tad heavy, a size that had served him well on the football field all through high school. He was a big old teddy bear, though, and he adored Sherry, who barely reached five foot tall.
"I'll have a double cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate shake." Sherry spieled off her order to the waitress. From the time she'd found out she was pregnant, Sherry had taken that as the go-ahead to indulge in all the dietary luxuries she'd never allowed herself before. "Oh, and one of those brownie parfaits."
Alyssa slapped her menu closed. "I'll have the same."
Sherry's eyes widened. "You're not pregnant too, are you?" She giggled. Alyssa's best friend knew good and well that Alyssa and Brendan had never done the act.
"It's time for some changes." Alyssa sat taller. "I'll start slow with a new lunch selection."
"So tell me," Sherry said as she shifted her weight in the seat. "What has Brendan done lately to win you back?"
Alyssa slouched into her seat. "Can't we talk about baby clothes or diaper choices ... or anything besides Brendan?"
Sherry quickly covered her mouth, then burped. "Good grief. I've got more gas than a flatulent linebacker."
Alyssa laughed. "Or we can talk about your gastric issues."
"Ugh. Not a good topic. So are you going to tell me or not? You know I live to hear about Brendan's shenanigans."
Sometimes Alyssa wished she could leave La Grange, even if it was just for a while. She feared she would always be the girl who got dumped at the altar, and Brendan was only keeping the embarrassing story alive by trying to woo her back. "He's making a fool of himself," she finally said. "My dad went and talked to him last week and told him to quit sending things to the house."
Sherry smiled. "I think it's romantic, all those flowers he keeps sending."
"Last week he sent me a kitten with a note that said, 'You make my heart purr.' Can you imagine?"
Sherry laughed out loud. "He's so goofy."
Alyssa sighed. It was one of the things she'd loved about Brendan. "Well, he needs to stop, and that's what Dad went to tell him. To leave me alone." She paused. "What kills me is that he doesn't have the money to spend on things like that. Especially now that his mom is sick."
"Aw, poor guy. He's made it clear how much he regrets what he did. Can't you find it in your heart to forgive him and give it another shot?"
Alyssa shook her head. "I've forgiven him already. But I just can't trust him." She drew in a big gulp of air, then let it out slowly. "I just want to get on with my life, and he's making that impossible."
"Well, I think you're making a mistake. Monroe said that all the boys were ribbing him at the bachelor party, joking about the end of the good life and all that." She lifted one eyebrow. "Not my Monroe, of course, but the others. And you know how those boys get when they're together sometimes. Brendan was probably already nervous to be stepping up to the plate, but I'm sure those guys were partly responsible for running him off the field. And then there's Brendan's family situation."
Alyssa was well aware of Brendan's dysfunctional family. The whole town was. She and Sherry were quiet as the waitress set their food down. Then Alyssa said, "None of that is reason enough for leaving the woman you love at the altar. I don't care how bad the guys were trash talking about marriage. And I know how afraid Brendan was of turning out like his parents. We'd talked about that."
"I just think you're hurting yourself by not giving him another chance." Sherry took a giant bite of her burger and hadn't quite finished chewing when she added, "He's never gonna give up."
"Well, he's going to have to."
Alyssa was finally able to veer the conversation in another direction, and Sherry spent the latter part of their lunch talking about her upcoming labor and delivery. "Monroe knows I have a high tolerance for pain. I don't expect I'll be needing all those drugs they offer up."
"Maybe have them on standby. You know, just in case." Alyssa dabbed at her mouth with the napkin as she recalled Sherry's trip to the dentist last year. Alyssa had taken her to get a tooth extracted, and she wasn't so sure about Sherry's high tolerance for pain.
Alyssa let the last of the brownie parfait settle against her palate, savoring it, before they split the bill.
When they got outside, Alyssa hugged her friend. "I knew you would cheer me up, Sherry. Thanks for meeting me for lunch."
Sherry chuckled. "That's what I do, you know. I eat. All the time." She gave a quick wave and started walking toward the bank where she worked. Alyssa took off in the other direction, and she was almost to her car when someone called out her name. She turned around, brought a hand to her forehead to shield her eyes from the sun, and peered at the gorgeous man approaching her from down the block.
"Hey, Dalton," she said. "If you're looking for my brother, he's with Dad at the fairgrounds."
Dalton sauntered up to her. Her brother's friend was possibly the best-looking man she'd ever laid eyes on, and Alyssa had spent her first seventeen years on earth adoring him from afar. Until Brendan. Even now, the man could make her pulse quicken. He'd always been way out of her league, though. In high school he'd dated every cheerleader until he'd finally latched on to Pamela Herring. Gorgeous Pamela herring. They'd even kept dating when Pam went away to school in Houston.
But gorgeous Pamela, apparently, had dumped Dalton sometime in the spring—and by text message. Alyssa remembered thinking that was really cold. And who would dump Dalton Landreth in the first place?
"I wasn't looking for Alex." Dalton smiled. "But I'm glad I ran into you. I was going to call you."
"I was wondering if you'd like to go out with me next Saturday."
"Uh, I ... uh ..." Despite everything with Brendan, it felt like a betrayal to even consider a date with another man.
"Just dinner." Dalton took a step closer. "We can see how it goes. I know we're both coming out of something, but ..." He shrugged. "I'd really like to take you out."
Alyssa wanted to say yes. And that was confusing. Shouldn't she still be mourning the demise of her relationship with Brendan? But then she remembered. "Oh, I can't. The whole family promised my dad we'd go to Monument Hill next Saturday for Texas Heroes Day. You know, they're having the battle reenactment, and I think the county judge will be there, and the high school band, and ..." She paused. "It goes on all weekend, but I think we're leaving the house around one on Saturday. It usually runs into the early evening. Anyway, I can't miss it."
"Well, maybe we could go there together and get dinner afterward."
Hmm. Here they were, both single for the first time since junior high. She thought for a few moments. Why not?
"Yes. I'd like that," she said. Maybe Dalton Landreth was exactly what she needed to put Brendan out of her mind. Maybe even for good.CHAPTER 2
Dalton walked along the sidewalk of the town square toward the bank. Twice he'd turned back to sneak another look at Alyssa before she got into her car. Finally, a real date with her. so many times he'd had dinner with Alex, Alyssa, and their parents, and in the past few years it had been torture to watch Alyssa leave to go meet Brendan Myers later in the evening.
Everyone had been devastated the day Brendan left Alyssa at the altar. Everyone but Dalton. And he planned to give it everything he had to win her over.
He glanced at his watch and realized he only had ten minutes before the bank closed. He picked up his pace and hurried into the building, glad to see that sherry was working today. He placed his paycheck and deposit slip on the counter and wondered if sherry knew about the dab of ketchup on her chin. He smiled as he touched his own chin. "You've got, uh ..."
She quickly swiped at the ketchup with her hand. "Well, that's what I get for inhaling my food." she logged Dalton's deposit and handed him the receipt. "I don't usually take a lunch on Saturdays since we close at one, but this small person inside of me was hungry." She pointed to her tummy and smiled. "So I grabbed a quick bite with Alyssa."
"How's she doing?" Dalton knew Sherry was Alyssa's best friend. "Do you think she's over Brendan yet?"
Sherry was quiet as she finished the transaction, then said, "She'll never be over Brendan. I don't care what she says." She shook her head as she handed him a receipt. "And Brendan is certainly going to extremes to try to win her back."
Dalton had already heard about Brendan's tactics to win Alyssa back. He was a good guy, but he'd had his chance. "Well, I'm going to hope you're wrong about her never being over the guy, because I'm taking her to Monument Hill next Saturday and then to dinner afterwards."
Sherry's eyes widened. "Really? She didn't mention that at lunch."
"I just asked. And she said yes."
"Huh. I didn't know you had an interest in Alyssa."
Dalton smiled. "I've always had an interest in Alyssa. The timing just hasn't ever been right."
Sherry grunted. "I'm not sure the timing is good right now either." She smiled. "Sorry to tell you that, Dalton, but I don't want you to get your hopes up where Alyssa is concerned."
"It's just one date. No big deal." He tried to sound casual, even though his hopes were definitely up. It was unforgivable what Brendan had done to Alyssa, and Dalton wanted to help her get over it. He grinned at Sherry. "Aren't you due like any day now?"
Sherry scrunched her face into a scowl. "Dalton Landreth, I know I'm huge, but that is not something a lady wants to hear. I have a few more weeks."
Excerpted from A July Bride by Beth Wiseman. Copyright © 2014 Beth Wiseman. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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