They’ve helped orchestrate the perfect day for countless couples. Now twelve new couples will find themselves in the wedding spotlight in the second Year of Weddings novella collection.
April knows her job as maid of honor is to fulfill her sister’s every wish—whatever the bride wants, she will have. Unless it involves Jack Vaughn.
April Quinn loves her sister and wants to make sure the week of her wedding is the happiest of her life, even if it means putting up with Kristin’s every crazy whim. But when Kristin hires Jack Vaughn as the wedding singer, all sisterly devotion flies out the window. No way will she work with Jack after what he stole from her.
Jack Vaughn is supposed be beyond these small gigs. After all, he’s on the cusp of launching his first headlining tour. But accepting the job was a spur-of-the-moment decision, and it will mean seeing April again. Surely she has forgiven him for that one lapse of judgment so long ago—the decision that shot him to stardom and left her behind, writing songs and waiting tables.
As April and Jack keep appearances for the sake of Kristen’s happiness, they rediscover a chemistry that never quite fizzled out. But will they be able to rewrite two solos into a timeless duet?
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In Tune with Love
A Year of Weddings Novella
By Amy Matayo
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2015 Amy Matayo
All rights reserved.
Three years later
"I just don't see why it matters," April said, trying to remain diplomatic. Trying not o unleash a torrent of words all over her sister's head. "The dresses are yellow, Kristin.
Yellow. It's not like pink clashes with it, so who cares?" Her sister's almond-shaped eyes narrowed to resemble hot, burned pumpkin seeds. April had never seen eyes shrink and change that fast. Clearly one of them cared.
"Who cares? Doesn't matter?" Her sister's arms flew upward, automatically tossing the volume of her voice higher with it. "I asked the wedding coordinator to keep the color pink out of this wedding, and I meant out of it. It's so cliché. It's so overdone. It's so generic."
April didn't think now was the time to point out that all those words meant exactly the same thing. She bit her lip and commanded the grammar nerd inside her to shut up.
"When we were little, pink was your favorite color, so maybe it's a sign."
Kristin glared at her. "A sign of what—that I'm no longer four years old? Thanks a lot for pointing out that I'm getting old."
One—Kristin was twenty-five. Exactly three years older than April.
Two—this conversation was stupid.
But Kristin didn't think so. "I'm so angry with her right now I could scream!"
Which was exactly what she was doing. April glanced behind her to see people all over the Target parking lot staring at them. She gave a little wave and a pathetic smile and turned back to her sister.
"Well then, the good news is the coordinator quit so you'll be able to avoid any more screaming for today. There's always an upside."
"You're not helping, April." Kristin's head came down to rest on the car door. April heard a sniffle, then another.
Yelling and crying—this day just kept getting better and better. "How could she quit on me four days before the wedding? It's four days before the wedding!"
April stepped forward and patted her sister's back. What else could she do? She was trying to give comfort, trying to be supportive, trying not to think of the fact that it was nearly three o'clock in the afternoon and she had lyrics to write and coffee to drink and a pedicure appointment in an hour, and of all the things on her list of things to do she could not miss that. Her feet were embarrassing, her toenails chipped and jagged, and she would not walk down the aisle as the maid of honor with gross feet. She would, however, rethink the color she'd already mentally chosen. Pink was not the way to go in this situation.
"Because she's rude and thoughtless and completely unprofessional, that's why," April said. She didn't add that her sister was also rude and overbearing and ridiculously demanding and if she, herself, had been the wedding coordinator she would have quit months ago. There was nothing wrong with the color pink. Or with omitting the receiving line—no one liked those anyway. Or with doing away with the traditional cake and replacing it with cupcakes. But her sister had dismissed every creative idea the lady came up with. Not surprising since Kristin was currently studying for the state bar exam, and lawyers were some of the most unimaginative people April had ever met, if her father and his friends were any indication.
So, truthfully, April was a little proud the coordinator quit. Still, she had to help somehow, if only to make her sister feel better.
"If there's anything you need me to do, just let me know." She checked the time on her phone. Forty-nine minutes and counting.
She almost didn't notice when her sister's head snapped up. "Really? Because you could do it."
April squirmed against the tightness in her chest. It squeezed her like a snake intent on swallowing her for dinner. "I could do what?" Denial. Denial was her friend.
"You could be the coordinator. It's just for four days."
Just four days. That was like saying the Battle of the Alamo was just four days. Like saying God created the heavens and earth in just four days. April wouldn't survive. She couldn't work as fast as God, and even if she could, she would end up killing her sister. And as much as she needed some alone time to write, solitary confinement in a prison cell wasn't currently on her bucket list of things to do.
"Um ..." she studied her fingernails. "I don't know. I'm a little busy right now and—"
Kristin huffed. "Busy doing what?"
"Busy working. Writing songs. Trying to land a record deal. It all takes time, and I just don't see how—"
"You've been doing that for over three years now." Kristin made a disgusted sound. "It's about time you accepted the fact that it will probably never happen. I need your help. You can go back to writing your little jingles on Monday after the wedding."
Jingles. And this is how her family saw her, every last one of them. As if it was her fault she hadn't yet been discovered. Her fault that the right place and right time hadn't yet surfaced for her. Her fault that a guy she worked with had ripped off one of her lyrics three years back and made a huge success of himself while she still passed out drinks and peanuts at the same stupid dive bar.
April took a deep breath and forced herself not to hate Jack Vaughn. As always, it took work, especially considering she'd heard a rumor he was in town for a few days. The idea alone sent a ripple of anger up her spine, one she quickly commanded to go away. To think she once had a ridiculous crush on him. April nearly gagged just thinking about it. Besides, Kristin needed her. They were sisters—and friends. And despite their differences in opinion, they really did love each other.
"Okay, I'll do it."
The relieved look on Kristin's face made relenting worth it. "Thank you. You won't regret it, I promise."
"What do I need to do?" April asked.
For the first time all day, her sister smiled. "Really, not that much."CHAPTER 2
If ever she had cursed her belief in humanity and the truth behind a spoken word, it was now. Not that much, her sister had said.
Not that much, her butt.
April blew a strand of hair out of her face and tied another ribbon around a bag of birdseed, holding the yellow silk ball and stick in place so it would stop leaning to the side for the love of all things holy while she tried once again to keep all of it together. She wasn't sure who came up with the idea, but she knew one thing: whoever decided birdseed bags needed to resemble cake pops should be required to put these together themselves. But it was up to April. Everything was up to April.
For fifteen solid hours now, wedding crap was all she'd had time for.
"Are you almost done with those?" Kristin popped her head around the corner, a giant look of concern crinkling the space between her eyebrows as she took in the stack of unfilled cloth and bucket of birdseed. "Because I need help with the place cards and you have better handwriting than me."
And this was the excuse for all the work she'd been doing unassisted since she accidentally fell into the job of wedding coordinator yesterday afternoon. April was apparently better at everything. Better at making birdseed bags. Better at polishing bridesmaids' shoes. Better at stacking monogrammed matchbooks inside clear glass hurricanes. Better at everything.
And now better at writing names on place cards so that everyone in attendance could sit at chairs preassigned by Kristin. April didn't care where anyone sat. April didn't care if anyone sat at all. At this point, April didn't care if her sister flew away to Jamaica or Aruba—wherever crazy, high-maintenance brides went to elope with their poor, unsuspecting husbands-to-be.
But as had become customary, she smiled. Sucked it up. And answered. "I'll be done in just a minute and then I can help you."
"Okay, thanks." Kristin waved her fingers and walked away, only to pop her head in a second later. "Oh. One more thing."
Something about the way she said those three words made April's blood run cold. Maybe it was the slight lilt in her voice at the end brought on by the artificial effort to sound casual. Maybe it was the way each word was carefully enunciated, as though Kristin needed extra time to really make sure her sister knew what came next was important. Or maybe it was the simple fact that every piece of bad news Kristin had ever delivered in life began with those same words. When April was seven: one more thing, your goldfish died. When she was ten: one more thing, Santa Claus isn't real. When she was sixteen: one more thing, I accidentally made out with your boyfriend. And when she was nineteen: one more thing, Jack Vaughn's song "Confidence" hit number one on the country charts.
April was sick of One More Things, and it was about time her sister knew it. She tied a bow around another bag and tossed it in a box. "What did you do now?"
Kristin's eyes went wide, the picture of false innocence. "What makes you think I did something?"
"I know you did something. Spit it out, Kristin."
She shifted in the doorway. "The wedding singer quit this afternoon."
April blinked, waiting for the rest of the story. She would like to say the news surprised her, but in reality she was shocked the whole hired staff hadn't quit by now. Kristin was a diva. Verged on a tyrant. Would probably go down in the books as the worst bride ever in the history of brides, and she'd seen the movie Bride Wars so this was saying a lot.
"I'd like to say I'm surprised, but then that would be a lie and lying is a sin and—oh my gosh, do you want me to sing? Because I'll do a lot for you, Kristin, but I'm not singing in your wedding." April flattened another piece of material and spooned a small pile of birdseed in the middle of it.
"No, I'm not asking you to—wait, why wouldn't you sing in my wedding?" Kristin crossed her arms and glared down at her. "It's not like you don't sing in public all the time. And don't tell me you've developed a sudden case of stage fright because I won't believe you. You sing for a living, April. And you're telling me you wouldn't sing in my wedding if I needed you to?"
Her sister, ever the drama queen. April sighed. "I don't have stage fright, but I do have a very real fear of crying in public. So if you don't mind, I'd really rather not look like a sobbing idiot in front of three hundred people while I sing twelve stanzas of 'Wind Beneath My Wings.'"
"Aw, you think you'll cry at my wedding? That's so sweet."
"Of course I'll cry. You're my sister and I love you. Plus, I cry at Hallmark commercials."
Kristin made a face. "You're so emotional. But 'Wind Beneath My Wings'?" Kristin made an unflattering noise. "As if I would choose that overdone song. But I don't need you to sing. I hired someone."
"Then why are we having this conver—wait. You hired someone already?" There was no way—no way—Kristin could have hired someone that fast. Aside from April, she knew no one in the music scene, and a replacement that fast would have to be done on a favor. But who owed her a favor?
"Um ... it was more like a chance encounter than anything else." April watched while her sister reached up for a strand of hair and began twirling. Twirling, twirling, twirling. And more than the One More Things and fake smiles and all the other regular habits Kristin used to mask guilt, hair twirling was the biggest sign of wrongdoing. Always had been. She raised an eyebrow at her sister and repeated the question. "Kristin, who agreed to sing last minute? Because I can't imagine that anyone around here would—"
Then she knew. Like a cat knows when someone is dying and a child senses stranger danger, she knew.
And just like that, prison found its way to the top of her bucket list, because this was totally and completely and entirely grounds for murdering her sister.
* * *
"Has anyone seen my brain? I can't seem to locate it," Jack said, raking his hands through his hair before burying his face in his palms. "What the heck possessed me to agree to sing in that wedding? I don't even like that chick, but it was almost like my mouth opened up on its own and said yes before I could stop it. I'm a musician—I have a great career-so how in heaven's name am I suddenly playing the part of Adam Sandler in that lame nineties movie?"
"The Wedding Singer?" His manager, Brian, peered at him over his laptop screen. They sat at Jack's mother's kitchen table drinking coffee. Jack always made a point of stopping in to see his mom when he rolled into town. With a rare weekend off and the new tour kicking off next weekend, neither he nor his manager were in a hurry to do much of anything else. "I think that movie came out in the early two-thousands."
"Whatever. I'm still starring in it. Will probably be forced to wear some blue tuxedo with a puffy ruffle shirt and sing some cheesy ballad." His head came up, eyes wide with horror. "If she makes me sing 'Wind Beneath My Wings'—"
"She wouldn't dare," Brian said. "Besides, I saw that chick in her tight blue skirt. I'm not surprised you said yes. Not surprised at all."
"Please," Jack said, "You don't know this girl. She could have been standing there in a fringe bikini and I still would have found her repulsive. I only said yes for one reason." Guilt. Guilt and a fair amount of self-loathing. Pair those two attributes with a healthy dose of shame and a guy could be talked into just about anything. But he didn't say that. In fact, he said nothing. It took Brian a minute, but eventually he caught on.
"And the reason is ...?"
"I owe her sister something." That was as close to the truth as he dared to admit. He couldn't tell his manager his entire career was launched on a stolen song. It didn't matter that he didn't know it was stolen until exactly four weeks after it was released and playing on an hourly basis on the radio. It didn't matter that over a month of television appearances had gone by before April began to flood his phone with text messages demanding an apology, a retraction, money. It didn't matter that Jack spent the next two months panicking before he finally sucked it up and called her back, or that she had subsequently ignored all his calls—at that point likely too angry and hurt to bother acknowledging him. It didn't matter that she'd written only four lines and Jack had built an entire song around them—he'd spent three years rationalizing that pathetic idea—but his conscience wouldn't let him deny the hard truth that stealing a little was the same thing as stealing a lot. People went to jail for both.
Sometimes Jack suspected jail was where he belonged. Despite the poor conditions or the fact that he might be eye candy for the sexually frustrated, he wondered if landing his butt in solitary for a few days would make his guilt magically disappear.
It was a long shot, he knew, but he still couldn't help consider the possibility.
"You owe who something?" His mother walked in, the picture of health and stability and normalcy—something he appreciated more and more as life got crazier. She wore her usual uniform of mom jeans and pullover sweater. No matter how many times Jack encouraged her to go shopping and treat herself to something more than JCPenney or Sears, she wouldn't do it. There were definite benefits of having money, but other than this house that Jack purchased for her last year and a cleaning lady who came once a week in spite of his mother's objections, she didn't bother enjoying any of them.
"No one, Mom. I was just filling Brian in on the history of this town." Not exactly a lie; just a few details left out to protect the less-than-innocent. Namely, him.
"Oh, tell him about the Belle Meade Plantation," she said, fishing a black mug out of an upper cabinet and setting it beneath a shiny chrome Keurig, a purchase Jack had made the last time he visited. "It's one of the most beautiful landmarks in Nashville. You should take him to see it while you're here."
And this is what his mother did. Made plans for Jack to tour the city every time he came into town, despite knowing he had only two days set aside before a grueling concert schedule took over every second of the next seven months of his life. Sightseeing was the last thing he wanted to do. But ever the dutiful son, he agreed.
"Sure thing, Mom. I'll try to fit it in."
Excerpted from In Tune with Love by Amy Matayo. Copyright © 2015 Amy Matayo. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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