Rochelle Alers' "Stand-in Bride"
Savannah wedding planner Katherine Langdon agrees to coordinate the "wedding of the season" between a spoiled debutante and her French fiance for one reason--the gorgeous father of the bride. Now she hopes that the wedding won't be the only occasion worth remembering...
Gwynne Forster's "Learning to Love"
Working for the United Nations has given Sharon Braxton a passion for other cultures--and for a Nigerian prince. What can stand in the way of their love besides two vastly different worlds? The other bride his father has arranged for him to wed...
Donna Hills' "Distant Lover"
Can anything be more glamorous than a job that takes career-minded Mia to the Caribbean? Yes! A hot, sexy hunk from Barbados, who wants to sweep her to the altar, but his old-fashioned values keep driving them apart. And the intense passion is too irresistible to ignore...
Francis Rays' "Southern Comfort"
A bridesmaid for the eight time and not the bride, political fundraiser Adrienne Summers is fed up. Worse, she finds a major problem at this wedding--the Best Man. They're fighting about her clothes (too sexy), her behavior (too flirty), and his macho views (wives shouldn't work). it sounds like they just might be falling in love!
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
|File size:||481 KB|
About the Author
Rochelle Alers is the author of over eighty books and winner of the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award and Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award, among others. She is one of the most prolific and popular African American authors of romance and women's fiction, making regular appearances on the Essence bestseller lists. Her books include the Hideaway series and the Blackstones of Virginia series. Alers lives in Long Island, New York.
Gwynne Forster is co-author of Going to the Chapel.
Donna Hill, author of books including Divas, Inc. and In My Bedroom, lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has more than fifty published titles to her credit, three of which were adapted for television. She has been featured in Essence, the Daily News, USA Today, Today's Black Woman, and Black Enterprise, among many others.
Francis Ray (1944-2013) is the New York Times bestselling author of the Grayson novels, the Falcon books, the Taggart Brothers, and Twice the Temptation, among many other books. Her novel Incognito was made into a movie aired on BET. A native Texan, she was a graduate of Texas Woman's University and had a degree in nursing. Besides a writer, she was a school nurse practitioner with the Dallas Independent School District. She lived in Dallas. "Francis Ray is, without a doubt, one of the Queens of Romance." --Romance Review
Read an Excerpt
Going to the Chapel
By Rochelle Alers, Gwynne Forster, Donna Hill, Francis Ray
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2001 Rochelle Alers Gwyendolyn Johnson-Acsadi Donna Hill Francis Ray
All rights reserved.
Kindergarten teacher Lisa Barnett could hardly contain her joy. It radiated from her large, clear brown eyes; was mirrored by the grin curving her wide, lush mouth; and it was apparent from her jaunty step as she pushed through the revolving door leading into the Barnett Savings and Loan Company.
The lending and mortgage institution had been a financial landmark in Savannah, Georgia, for three-quarters of a century. Her grandfather, Albert James Barnett, had petitioned the state for a charter to establish a bank for the city's African-American population, because most of them had opted to save their money in strongboxes or tin cans rather than deposit their meager savings in the city's White-owned banks. The charter was granted, and what had begun with half a dozen depositors the first month had grown to more than twenty thousand over seven decades, with assets totaling more than one hundred million dollars.
As a Savannah Barnett, thirty-year-old Lisa had grown up with every comfort her family lineage afforded. She had attended private schools, was presented to Savannah's Black society, and had graduated at the top of her class from an elite private women's college. She was well traveled, having visited more than a dozen African countries, as well as most countries in Europe and Asia.
But it was France that had enthralled her: the country, its people, the food, the language—and Sebastien deVilliers. She'd met the tall, spare, bookish-looking Frenchman the summer she turned twenty-seven. She wasn't certain why she was drawn to him, because he was the antithesis of the men she'd dated back home. Sebastien was charming, sensitive, sensual, and artistic. But what mattered most was that she had fallen in love with him. And it had taken three years for her to conclude that she loved him enough to accept his proposal of marriage.
Her peach-colored leather sandals made soft slapping sounds on the cool marble floor as she made her way past the tellers, customers, and the young man and woman sitting behind massive mahogany desks on the platform. She nodded to both, her smile still in place. At that moment nothing could dispel her ebullient state of mind.
The elderly woman who sat at a desk outside Gerald Barnett's private office looked up from her typing. Peering over the top of her glasses, Ethel Woodson recognized her boss's daughter.
"Good afternoon, Lisa. Looking for your daddy?"
Lisa nodded. "Good afternoon, Mrs. Woodson. Do you think he can spare me a few minutes?"
Mrs. Woodson glanced at the buttons on her telephone. "He just finished with his call. Do you want me to tell him that you're here?"
"No, thank you. I'd like to surprise him." What she didn't say was that what she wanted to tell her father would not only surprise him, but probably also shock him.
Rapping lightly on the door, she pushed it open, and walked into a large office carefully decorated with massive mahogany pieces of furniture from a bygone era. Though the bamboo mini-blinds were partially closed against the strong rays of the late-May afternoon sun, the diffused light still bathed the teak-paneled walls with a warm golden glow. Ribbons of gold formed a halo around the head of the middle-aged man sitting at a conference table.
Gerald Madison Barnett rose to his feet, when he saw his daughter walk into his office, extending his arms. Since Lisa had only recently moved out of the house they'd shared for nearly three decades, he marveled at how adult she now appeared. He had hoped she would set up her own residence after she'd graduated college, but she had balked, saying she didn't want to move out and leave him because she feared he'd be lonely. What his only child hadn't realized was that even though he'd been divorced for twenty-eight years and hadn't remarried, he may have been alone but he definitely wasn't lonely.
Lisa moved into his protective embrace, her arms going around his trim waist over a crisp, stark white shirt. Raising her chin, she smiled up at her father. And it wasn't for the first time that she could not believe how handsome he still was. He would celebrate his fifty-fifth birthday in December; he controlled his weight by carefully monitoring his diet and swimming laps year-round in the enclosed pool he'd built adjoining a wing of the house. Although she had moved out of the expansive house and set up her own co-op in downtown Savannah, she returned to take advantage of the pool at least twice each week.
Gerald's deep-set dark brown eyes crinkled as he smiled. "I thought we were scheduled to share dinner tomorrow."
Pulling back in her father's protective embrace, Lisa tilted her delicate chin. "We are. But I couldn't wait until tomorrow to tell you my news."
Lifting an eyebrow, Gerald let his smile fade slightly. Lisa's expression was so like the woman he had once fallen in love with, married, and subsequently divorced when their daughter was only a few weeks past her second birthday. She bore an uncanny resemblance to her mother—a woman who had walked out of their lives, never to return. He had become mother and father to his daughter, permanently sacrificing female companionship to remain a single father.
"What news?" His soft, deep voice was layered with a drawl that had come from his spending all his life in the South.
Her gaze shifted to the middle of his chest. "I'm getting married."
His grip on her tightened before he pulled back, his eyes widening in apparent shock. Running a large, well-groomed hand over his face, he shook his head. "To whom?" he asked through his fingers.
Gerald's hand dropped to his side. "Who the hell is Sebastien?" His voice was dangerously quiet.
Lisa felt her joy dissipate as if someone had poured a pitcher of ice water over her head. Her father had never raised his voice at her—he didn't have to. Whenever he spoke through clenched teeth, she knew he was angry. Very angry.
Taking a step backward, she lifted her chin in a gesture of defiance. At thirty she didn't need Gerald Barnett's permission to marry. All she wanted was his blessing.
"He lives in France."
Gerald felt his knees shaking, and managed to retreat to the chair he had just vacated. Sitting down heavily, he stared at the stack of papers awaiting his signature on the highly polished table. He forced himself to unclench his teeth.
Waving a hand, he indicated a chair facing him. "Sit down, Lisa. I think I'm missing something here."
She complied, taking a matching leather chair and resting her elbows on the smooth, curved mahogany arms. The ribbons of light threading through the bamboo slats cast a golden glow over her pecan-hued face and glinted off the golden streaks in her light brown, chemically relaxed, shoulder-length hair. The warm, flattering light fired pinpoints of amber glints in her large expressive eyes.
Lisa folded her hands in her lap. She didn't know why, but suddenly she felt like a little girl instead of an independent thirty-year-old woman who had set up her own household, earned her own money, and answered to no one about her whereabouts. Yet Gerald Barnett's command that she sit down facing him harkened back to a time when he would chastise her for an action that went against everything she'd been taught as a Savannah Barnett.
"When did you meet this fellow?"
Her head came up quickly. "His name is Sebastien, Daddy. He's French—"
"I would assume that because of his name, and the fact that he lives in France," Gerald retorted, interrupting her.
Lisa's taut nerves tightened even more. "Please don't be rude, Father!"
Leaning forward, Gerald glared at her. His daughter only referred to him as Father when she was close to losing her temper. Well, it was taking all of his self-control to keep his own temper from exploding.
He nodded, acquiescing. "I'm sorry. Please continue."
Lisa pulled her lower lip between her teeth, chewing it until she was composed enough to form her thoughts. "I met Sebastien when I went to France three years ago."
"What does he do for a living?"
"Daddy," she wailed softly. "You promised not to interrupt."
Gerald's expression softened. "Sorry, Princess."
Letting out an audible sigh, Lisa smiled at her father. She had softened him up. Whenever he called her Princess she knew he would agree to anything she proposed.
"We hung out together that summer. He took me everywhere. We became wonderful friends. Yes, friends," she emphasized when a muscle in Gerald's lean jaw throbbed noticeably. "We kept in touch with phone calls and letters after I came back. Then we stopped communicating altogether about six months later."
"And now you're getting married?" Gerald asked after a pregnant pause.
She nodded, her professionally coiffed hair moving sensually over the shoulders of her peach-colored linen sheath dress. "We met again when I went to Rome last year during our winter recess. He was on holiday with his parents and sister—they had elected to spend Christmas in the Eternal City because they wanted to celebrate Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Square. We took it as divine intervention that we were reunited in time to spend New Year's Eve together. His family invited me to join them for a midnight dinner, but Sebastien and I opted to bring in the new year in a café not far from the Spanish Steps. We wound up strolling the streets of Rome until the sun came up. I was scheduled to return to the States on the second, so we decided to spend New Year's Day together.
"Daddy, he's the most wonderful, sensitive, caring man I've ever known. Except for you," she added quickly.
Closing his eyes, Gerald drew in a deep breath. "Do you love him, Princess?"
A bright smile softened her lush mouth. "More than I thought I could ever love a man."
He opened his eyes, the piercing dark orbs pinning her to the seat and not permitting her to move. "Does he love you?"
"More than anything or anyone in the world."
He smiled for the second time since his daughter entered his private sanctuary. "When and where is the wedding?"
"I want to be married here in Savannah."
Gerald nodded. "When?"
"The last Saturday in August."
"That's only three months away."
"I know, but it's the only time that Sebastien and his family can get away for holiday."
"You know I promised I'd buy you a house for a wedding gift. Three months doesn't give you and your fiancé much time to look at properties."
Lisa glanced over her father's head. She felt the heat of his gaze on her face. "I don't plan to live in Georgia. I'm returning to France with Sebastien. He's in the process of restoring a family-owned seventeenth-century château, which we plan to turn into a bed-and-breakfast."
Gerald's right hand came down hard on the tabletop, startling Lisa. "Dammit!" The single word exploded from his mouth. "How dare you come in here and tell me you're moving as if we were discussing the weather!"
She stood up, her own temper flaring. "I dare because I'm your daughter. I dare because I thought you would be happy for me."
Unable to stand, Gerald closed his eyes, shaking his head. He'd wanted to see his daughter married, but he never thought her becoming another man's wife would result in her living an ocean away, on another continent.
His shoulders slumped in defeat. It was the first time in her life that Lisa had seen him looking so wounded. Moving around the table, she knelt at his side and curved slender arms around his neck, pulling his head against her shoulder.
"Be happy for me, Daddy. Please."
Gerald savored her closeness, her delicateness. Didn't she know she was all he had? All he had ever had since his ex-wife, her mother, walked out on them because she did not want to be a mother?
Reaching up, he covered both her hands with one of his. "I'm trying, Princess. You know I raised you to be strong, independent. But not so independent that you would consider moving thousands of miles away."
"It's only across the ocean." She dropped a kiss on the top of his thinning, graying hair.
"I'd have to sit up half the night to wait to call you."
"E-mail me, Daddy. That's what Sebastien and I do."
"It's not the same as talking to you," he said stubbornly.
"We'll still be communicating."
"I suppose you're right." Pushing to his feet, he pulled his daughter to his side. "Why the rush? Are you pregnant?"
A rush of deep color suffused her face. "Of course not."
"Well, I had to ask. After all, you did visit Europe during your Easter break."
She patted his chest. "We were very careful, Daddy."
Gerald stared down at her upturned face, knowing he could not stay angry at his own flesh and blood. "I wouldn't mind a grandchild or two."
Lisa laughed, the low, sultry sound reminding him of her mother. "Let me get married first."
"What type of wedding do you want? Large? Small?"
"I want something small and intimate. No more than sixty people. And I want Langdon Bridals to handle everything."
Katherine Langdon, owner of Langdon Bridals, was the most sought-after wedding consultant in the city. Most engaged women contracted with her more than a year in advance.
"That may not be possible, given the time frame," Gerald said.
"Please talk to her, Daddy. Tell her that I want it small, simple, but very elegant. I want my wedding to be the wedding of the season."
Gerald's lips parted in a smile under a neatly barbered mustache. "I'll ask, but don't get your hopes up. If she refuses, then you'd better have a backup plan."
"She won't refuse. What woman can refuse you?"
Throwing back his noble head, Gerald let loose a full, deep-throated laugh. "You really know how to get over on your old man, don't you?"
"I'm not trying to get over on you, Daddy. How many women in Savannah have tried to get you to marry them? The word is that you get more action than many men half your age. And don't tell me it's because you're a bank president. Just accept the fact that you're hot." Rising on tiptoe, she kissed his cheek. "Call me later and let me know when I can get together with Ms. Langdon."
Gerald stood motionless, watching his daughter walk out of his office. Within the span of fifteen minutes she'd turned his world upside down. He, Gerald Madison Barnett, who had maintained complete and utter control of every phase of his life, suddenly felt as if he were drifting in the middle of the ocean on a leaking raft.
His daughter planned to marry within three months and move with her French husband to Europe. Sinking down slowly to the leather chair, he braced his elbows on the table and covered his face with his hands. He sat in the same position for another ten minutes before he pressed a button on his speakerphone and asked Mrs. Woodson to get him Langdon Bridals.CHAPTER 2
"Mr. Barnett, I have Ms. Langdon's assistant on the phone. Her name is Rita Grady."
"Thank you, Ethel." He picked up the receiver to the telephone next to his left hand. "Good afternoon, Ms. Grady. May I please speak to Ms. Langdon?"
"Good afternoon, Mr. Barnett. I'm sorry, but Ms. Langdon is off on Mondays. Is there something that I can perhaps help you with?"
He'd wanted to speak directly to Katherine Langdon. "Is it possible for you to check Ms. Langdon's calendar for the month of August?"
"I don't even have to look at it because I know that she's booked solid for August." There was a slight pause and the sound of pages turning came through the earpiece. "She has one Sunday open in late October."
"That's much too late."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Barnett. But if you'd like to speak to Ms. Langdon, then I suggest you call her tomorrow morning. She's usually in before eight. Would you like me to leave a message that you called?"
Gerald's forehead furrowed in a frown. "No, Ms. Grady. That won't be necessary. Thank you."
"Thank you for calling Langdon Bridals. Have a good evening."
"You do the same." He replaced the receiver on its cradle, his lips compressed in a thin, hard line. Lisa was his only child, his princess, and from the day she was born he'd tried to give her everything she wanted—within reason, of course. And it was within reason to give his daughter the wedding she wanted—a celebration planned by the very best wedding consultant in the city.
Excerpted from Going to the Chapel by Rochelle Alers, Gwynne Forster, Donna Hill, Francis Ray. Copyright © 2001 Rochelle Alers Gwyendolyn Johnson-Acsadi Donna Hill Francis Ray. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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