The Backup Bride Proposal

The Backup Bride Proposal

by Jaci Burton
The Backup Bride Proposal

The Backup Bride Proposal

by Jaci Burton



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The next installment in the bestselling Boots and Bouquets series from New York Times bestselling author Jaci Burton

Bellini Weddings has agreed to allow a production company to film a movie at Red Moss Vineyards. It will be great PR for both the vineyard and the wine and wedding businesses. Mae Wallace, who works for the Bellini family, is thrilled with the possibility of new business. What she isn’t thrilled with is actor Kane August, who she finds crashing one of the weddings. He tells her it’s research for the movie, but she finds him overconfident and annoying.

Kane August is rarely surprised by anything—until he meets Mae Wallace. She’s sharp, just a bit on the snarky side, and the most refreshing woman he’s had the pleasure of meeting. She constantly challenges him, and he can’t remember having this much fun on a movie set. He takes every opportunity to spend time with her, peeling back layers until he gets to the heart of who this amazing person really is. And, unexpectedly, he realizes that he’s letting her in, too, something he hasn’t done with anyone before. However, they live very different lives and he’ll need to be careful around Mae, because she’s someone he could see a future with. But can she see the same thing?

When Kane takes her to his family’s ranch in Texas, Mae discovers a whole new side to him, learning about the heart and soul of a kind and gentle man. And as they grow closer, her guard goes up. Once burned, she has no intention of falling in love ever again, despite this very hot and sexy guy who’s trying his best to turn her world upside down and work his way through the steely wall she’s built. Kane is determined to show her he’s the one man she can trust with her heart. If only Mae will allow herself to fall.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593439661
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/23/2024
Series: A Boots and Bouquets Novel , #4
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: eBook
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 11,593
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Jaci Burton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Brotherhood by Fire series, the Hope series, and the Play-by-Play novels.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Mae Wallace loved weddings, which was fortunate, since she was in the wedding business. She loved the flowers and the twinkling lights and the smiling faces of the wedding party, the way the groom teared up when the bride walked down the aisle, the way they clasped hands so tightly she just knew they were clutching each other at the altar out of sheer nervousness. It was adorable.

And receptions were the best. The food, the cake, the music and the dancing. And, oh, the men. This wedding in particular was blessed with a plethora of fine-looking men. Mae loved men. All men. All shapes and sizes and colors and all their vivid personalities. And by loved, she meant enjoyed, not love in the heart kind of way.

Because while men were fun and all, she didn't want to keep any of them. She was more of the catch-and-release type of woman. Date them once, have sex with one every now and then when the urge struck, then let them go. Because she'd caught one once, had almost married him, in fact. Until she discovered he was a serial cheater. Heart broken, end of love story. At least she'd found out before the wedding.

She was grateful, really, because it had taught her a valuable lesson.

Men couldn't be trusted. Sure, they were hot and great in the sack and fun to talk to and go out with. They were good for entertainment purposes. But marry them? Not on her life. After that colossal mistake she'd almost made with Isaac, she vowed to never fall in love again.

"Isn't this one of our wildest weddings ever?"

Mae looked over at Honor Bellini Stone, her friend and coworker, and smiled. "Everyone seems to be having a very good time."

Honor was the youngest of the three Bellini sisters. The sisters and their parents owned and operated both Red Moss Vineyards, where the weddings were conducted, and Bellini Weddings, which Mae was lucky to be part of.

Honor slipped her hand through Mae's arm. "And to think, after this wedding, the film crew arrives."

Mae wrinkled her nose. "Right. I hope they don't trample over everything that's beautiful about this place."

"I think we've made it very clear that they need to step cautiously around the vineyards and our wedding business."

"Let's hope so."

They walked outside the barn, where the reception was still going strong despite the late hour. Honor led Mae to the main house, where Honor's parents lived.

"Are you sure we should disappear like this?" Mae asked.

Honor shrugged. "Erin and Brenna have got it. And my feet hurt. I need five minutes with my shoes off."

Mae laughed and followed along. They stepped through the back door and Honor pulled out a pitcher of lemonade, pouring two glasses for them. They took seats on the back porch and Honor slipped her heels off, groaning at the same time.

Mae sipped the lemonade, enjoying its tart sweetness. "You know, you could wear flats."

"I could, couldn't I? Normally my feet are fine, but this wedding has had me running."

"It's a wild one, for sure. I'm pretty sure all the groomsmen are drunk."

Honor smirked. "They were drunk before the ceremony. I'm surprised the bride hasn't kicked the groom's ass from here to Texas by now."

"She's saving face. I don't envy that guy once the bride gets him alone later."

"Same." Honor wiggled her toes. "I guess it's time to get back there."

"Yes, before your sisters kick both our asses from here to Texas."

Honor laughed. "You're right about that."

They went back to the wedding party, which was in no way winding down. At least they were getting their money's worth, which Mae couldn't blame them for. Erin had charged the couple a premium for extra guests and longer reception time and they hadn't even balked. Mae was glad that they'd hired more than the usual amount of help, not only for wrangling the guests and serving but also for cleanup, because right now the barn looked more like the aftereffects of a major frat party than a wedding reception.

She wandered around, checking on the staff to be sure they didn't need any assistance. She also kept her eye on the guests because a free-for-all with a lot of inebriated people could get out of hand in a hurry.

"Anything going on?" Erin asked as they ran into each other.

"Nothing but a lot of heavy drinkers. Everyone's partying hard, but so far it's under control."

Erin wrinkled her nose. "I'll be glad when this one's over."

"You and me both."

They parted and Mae continued her sentry duties. She'd noticed a guy walking around. How could she not notice him? Extremely tall, well built, wearing a cowboy hat worn low on his face. As she wandered, she kept her eye on him, noting that he didn't interact with anyone, instead just wandered alone, a beer in his hand.

They'd had wedding party crashers before, people thinking they could slide in unnoticed, grab some free food and drink and slide on out. Big events like this one were popular with the interlopers, but they'd all learned to recognize the ones who didn't belong, because at weddings, you interacted with your friends and family members.

This guy? Mae would bet he didn't know a single person here. She intended to find out about him right now.

If there was one thing Kane August had learned to do from an early age, it was to blend in without being noticed. And being an actor, and a fairly recognizable one? That not-being-noticed thing sure came in handy.

He'd gotten here to Red Moss Vineyards early, wanting to get a feel for the layout without people fawning all over him. Since he'd be filming here for a couple of months, he wanted to see how the staff operated, how they interacted with regular people. And, fortunately, this being Oklahoma and all, him sliding in wearing a cowboy hat that shielded his face came in handy. He'd shown up late to the reception and been able to blend right in without anyone recognizing him.

His agent had already given him the lay of the land as far as who was who. Brenna and her father, Johnny, ran Red Moss Vineyards; Erin was all about the business end; and Honor Bellini was the main wedding coordinator, assisted by Mae Wallace, who wasn't a member of the family. He'd asked around while grabbing a beer and both Erin and Mae had been pointed out to him, so he knew who to avoid and who to keep an eye on. So far, so good.

"Has anyone ever told you that you look an awful lot like Kane August?"

He cringed and turned around to see one of the bridesmaids, a pretty blonde who appeared to be extremely drunk.

He smiled and pulled out the Texas drawl he'd worked hard to lose when he'd started acting. "I get that a lot. I wish I was him. Then I'd have all his money."

She snorted, weaving unsteadily on her heels. "Yeah, I wish you were him, too, honey. But you're still hot as hell. Wanna dance?"

"Oh, thanks, but I'm here with my . . . wife."

"Too bad." She wandered off unsteadily and Kane relaxed.

"Are you friends with the bride or the groom?"

Damn. He'd gone this far without having to talk to anyone. He turned around and . . .

Crap. Mae Wallace. He offered up his most charming smile, hoping to keep his face partially hidden. "Groom. Steve and I went to college together." At least he'd remembered to read the names of the bride and groom on his way inside.

She eyed him suspiciously. "Really. And what college is that, exactly?"

"Uh, University of Oklahoma."

"Wrong. Steve and Evie met at Oklahoma State University." She reached up to tip his hat back and that was when he knew she'd recognize him. She blinked, but then shook her head. "Nice try, but you're done here, bud. You'll have to crash a different wedding."

"I was not-"

She gave him a critical gaze, and he had to admit that even frowning and irritated, she was beautiful, with brown curly hair, chocolate-brown eyes and the kind of curves that always set his pulse racing. And instead of squealing in excitement about who he was, she motioned for two burly-looking guys standing at the entrance to the barn.

Kane didn't know whether to be pleased or pissed. But rather than worrying about his bruised ego, he was focused on being thrashed by the two bodybuilders headed his way. He raised his hands. "Tossing me isn't necessary. I'm on my way out."

"Oh, we'll make sure you make it all the way out, won't we, guys?"

"You bet we will," one of the well-muscled guys said.

He turned and made a fast exit, getting into his rental at the far corner of the parking area and driving off.

So Mae had no idea who he was. That kind of thing rarely happened to him these days. Kind of refreshing, actually.

This shoot should be a lot of fun.

Chapter Two

They'd barely recovered from the circus that was the giant drunken wedding over the weekend, and now the big circus had come to town.

A movie production, of all things. Trucks had begun to arrive early Monday morning. Johnny Bellini, along with several of the vineyard crew, had made sure they parked all their trailers-and oh, dear God, there had been so many-in the designated areas they'd carved out for them.

Who knew that making a movie took so many people and so much stuff?

"It's a nightmare out there." Erin bounced her six-month-old son, JJ, in her arms while staring out the dining room window. "An actual nightmare."

"I know we're going to regret this," Brenna said, reaching over to play with JJ, who giggled in response.

"It'll all be fine," Maureen Bellini said.

Honor sighed. "Will it, Mom?"

"Yes, it will. We were very clear in the contract about where the crew can and cannot be, including stiff penalties for any damages to the property. They've assured me they'll use utmost care while prepping and filming. Johnny and I went over earlier this morning to meet the director, the crew and the actors. We brought wine, and everyone was very nice and accommodating."

"Hmph" was all Brenna had to say in response.

"I'll be interested to see what changes they make to the wedding area," Mae said.

Four sets of eyes turned to her. She grimaced. Okay, wrong thing to say.

"Anyway," Maureen said. "Back to today's agenda."

Since this was the first week of the film crew being on board, they hadn't booked any weddings. Wine harvest had already been done, so the crew wouldn't be in the way other than people who wanted to book an appointment to tour the wedding venue.

"Honor and Mae will handle tours, mentioning that filming will be taking place," Erin said, handing off a suddenly fussy JJ to Maureen, who smiled and made baby sounds to him. "Brenna, you and Dad will fiercely guard the vineyards."

"As if I'd do anything else," Brenna said.

Louise brought out breakfast. JJ grabbed for a potato, so Maureen gave it to him to munch on. Mae was amazed how the whole eating-solid-foods thing was going. Young mister JJ was a champion at it. An expert with sliced bananas, too.

"I also think it would be a great idea if Mae acts as our official liaison to the production company," Erin said.

Mae blinked. "What?"

"Oh, excellent idea," Brenna said.

"Agreed," Maureen said.

"Uh . . . what exactly do I need to do?" she asked.

Brenna shrugged. "You know. Just . . . be our point person with the production staff. Oh, and the actors. That way if they have questions . . ."

"Or if they step out of line," Honor added, "you'll be the one to tell them to knock it off."

Maureen nodded. "Agreed. I'll let them know to come to you with anything they might need."

"But . . ." She fumbled for some way out of this. "What about the Everson/Hones wedding? It's another large one. Plus, there's Brenna and Finn's upcoming wedding. I was going to handle-"

Honor waved her hand back and forth. "Don't even worry about it, Mae. I've got it all covered. And besides, the whole liaison thing isn't a full-time gig."

"It would be a huge help if you could handle it," Maureen said. "We need someone to get close to production, make sure they don't mess up our beautiful grounds."

"Or violate the contract," Erin said. "We know they'll try to cut corners."

"And there are so many people here already, Mae," Brenna said. "You're so good at managing. If anyone can do this, you can."

Well, crap. She knew this family. They weren't pushing this off on her, and they weren't blowing smoke. They trusted her to protect the vineyards and wedding venues. "Sure. Of course."

"Great." Honor smiled. "Though I will miss you at Bellini Weddings."

"Don't think you can get rid of me that easily. I can juggle all of my responsibilities plus this. Expect me at meetings. And weddings."

"We wouldn't have it any other way," Maureen said.

"Exactly," Erin said. "After all, we'll need regular reports about what the movie people are doing."

They put a plan together, and then Maureen contacted the director, Alexis Black, who set up a time today for Mae to meet with the team. After the Bellini meeting, Mae went into her office to go over her notes and plot her strategy. Also, to breathe, because she was nervous as hell.

She enjoyed the job she had, which allowed her to be more of a background player. She liked helping the wedding party with their special days, and also doing whatever she could to assist the Bellinis in whatever way they needed her. But this? This made her a key player, would put her front and center in a project that would give the Bellinis a serious amount of recognition.

She could not screw this up. She would walk over to the set, look around, start meeting people and get a feel for how it was going, and then she'd meet with Alexis Black and they'd gain an understanding.

She was so ready. Except she needed to step into the restroom and check her face and hair and outfit first. Hair, good. Face, outstanding. Outfit? Hmmm. It was a warm September day, and since it was Monday and meeting day, she hadn't planned to meet with anyone, so she'd worn capris and a short-sleeved top. It was hardly the outfit she needed to be wearing to meet a Hollywood director.

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