The Wedding Secret

The Wedding Secret

by Michele Dunaway

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781460369968
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 09/15/2014
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Describing herself as a woman who does too much but doesn't know how to stop, Michele teaches high school English, advises the school yearbook, writes for Harlequin, and raises two daughters and five spoiled housecats.

Read an Excerpt

He was the man she was fated to walk down the aisle with, a man she barely knew. As Cecile Duletsky took a steadying breath, she told herself she would not kill her sister.

At least not today, her wedding day.

Okay, if Cecile were honest, it wasn't exactly her younger sister's fault that in less than one hour Cecile would march down the long, white-runner-covered aisle of St. Donovan's Church on the arm of Luke Shaw, a man hotter than a summer day. A man who, when Cecile had first spoken to him last night during the rehearsal dinner, had made her feel undressed with just the twinkle of his blue eyes.

The way Cecile figured it, she should have been allowed to walk down the aisle by herself, as she had at any other wedding she'd been in. But no, someone higher up on her sister's wedding party chain of command had overruled Cecile in the interest of making the exceedingly long July ceremony all of two tiny minutes shorter.

Cecile figured the same higher-up had to have picked out the horrifying purple bridesmaid dress she was wearing. Her sister, Elizabeth, couldn't have become this tasteless in the eleven years the two sisters had been apart. Even the most uneducated fashionista would have known better.

But the hideously oversize bow settling directly over Cecile's bosom proved otherwise, especially as it smashed all of her assets into oblivion instead of enhancing them. The dress added ten pounds to Cecile's figure—the same ten that a daily workout regime assured never touched her slim hips.

The reality was that Elizabeth Duletsky's bridal party looked like grapes gone sour.

At least Cecile's long strawberry-blond hair was up, lifted and twisted just this morning into a high chignon that gave her the appearance of a long swanlike neck.

She'd refused to let the makeup artist hired for the occasion touch her face, opting instead to do her own makeup. Considering the blatant amount of kohl eyeliner on some of the bridesmaids, Cecile knew she'd made a wise choice. Her skin was pale and creamy, a blessing of Irish genetics somewhere in her very mixed lineage. She had green eyes—toss a green costume on her and she could pass for a cute leprechaun. She often had, twice a year—once for St. Patrick's Day and the other for Halloween.

"So are you nervous?" some silly bridesmaid tittered at Cecile's sister. The dark-headed one in the family, Elizabeth sipped her mimosa before shaking her head and replying, "No."

Cecile stood and stepped back from the scene unfolding in the church's anteroom. Unlike the rest of the bridesmaids, who were also all married, Cecile wasn't partaking in the champagne-and-orange-juice concoction the wedding coordinator had provided to settle any last-minute bridal party jitters. Besides, Cecile had always thought it wiser to drink after the event. Speaking of said event...

She glanced at her bare left wrist and sighed. No matter how pretty, she'd been told her Cartier watch didn't fit the wedding's dress code and so her favorite accessory was tucked away in her purse. Hopefully it was almost time for the evening nuptials to begin.

The bridal party had been secluded for the last hour, left to the mimosas and their own devices. Of course, the mother of the bride, the mother of the groom and the wedding coordinator and her army of assistants had kept popping in to make final adjustments to some imaginary something.

Cecile's parents, especially her mother, Clarann, were in heaven. Even the groom's family was thrilled. And each family had spent a small fortune for the nuptials to be absolutely perfect.

As for Cecile, she would have been satisfied watching the blessed event from a safe spot in a pew. But the wedding coordinator had insisted on Cecile's presence in the wedding party, saying it would be a major faux pas if the elder sister were left out.

So Cecile had been tossed into the proverbial mix, fitted for a purple dress and surrounded by five additional attendants, all friends of Elizabeth from her college days at Northwestern University. Elizabeth's best friend had garnered maid of honor duties, but Cecile really hadn't minded.

Heck, given her choice, if Cecile ever found the right guy, she'd take the money her parents were spending, elope and buy a sports car. Something cherry-red with a convertible top.

Cecile paced the small room, sending perfunctory smiles to anyone who happened to glance her way. All this money for one day seemed so...overblown.

Deep down she was happy for her sister, and Cecile berated herself as guilt crept in. Twenty-nine was too young to be this cynical, but she'd resigned herself.

She'd long ago pledged to have it all—she and her three friends Lisa, Tori and Joann had made a champagne pact upon graduation. But Cecile had quickly thrown off the naiveté and blinders of college. Over eight years later, Cecile hadn't reached the top and hadn't found the man of her dreams—most of them had been duds.

Her sister's nuptials were showing how flawed Cecile was, and she didn't like the exposure. Despite their not being close, Elizabeth was her sister, and today of all days Cecile should be consumed with overwhelming joy. But instead she was morbidly considering how her own life had gone astray.

To her disgust, she'd become like one of the guests on the talk shows she produced: "My sister married before me and I'm miserable."

"My sister has it all and I don't."

"My only consolation is that the dress is ugly!"

She did have to admit she was slightly jealous of Elizabeth and Devon, as well. Anyone could look at them and see how much they loved each other. Theirs was a marriage that everyone knew would last. Maybe that was what was putting Cecile into a slight funk, keeping her from being ecstatic that her little sister had found the man of her dreams.

Cecile couldn't even keep her live-in boyfriend, Eric, from straying. She'd been traveling and producing morning-show segments and had come home early one day to find him and another woman in her bedroom. It still bothered her that she could have misjudged their relationship so much.

Weddings also reminded Cecile that life was passing her by—that while perhaps she would have the great career she'd vowed to have, she might not necessarily have a man to go with it. Jaded by a string of wrong turns, she'd preferred relationships with a bunch of temporary, superficial Mr. Right Nows. Surface emotions were easier to handle, and it hurt less when the relationship ended.

Besides, after producing several "My husband cheated with my best friend and she's having his baby" shows, Cecile would rather be alone than become part of the half-the-marriages-fail statistic.

Cecile fingered the purple fabric that reflected the light worse than a cheap shower curtain liner. She and Elizabeth weren't exactly buddies—the five-year age difference between them had meant that Cecile had left for college before her sister had even started high school.

Cecile really did love her sister and wanted to grow closer, perhaps eventually as close as Cecile was to her three best friends, Joann, Lisa and Tori. They'd shared confidences since pledging the same sorority together: Rho Sigma Gamma—the Roses.

Now that Cecile had returned to her hometown of Chicago, maybe she and her sister could forge a real friendship that didn't just involve swapping obligatory Christmas and birthday presents. Maybe they could find some common ground.

Cecile had been gone a while. She'd left home at eighteen for the University of Missouri—Columbia's fabled journalism school—and after graduation she'd been working at a variety of television jobs.

Now she was back home, ready to start her new job as an assistant producer for The Allegra Montana Show, meaning she'd be responsible for producing one to two shows per week. While her title read assistant, that only applied to her pay. Aside from the show runner who oversaw all the segment producers, Cecile had the same production responsibilities as everyone else.

Allegra's talk show had been climbing in ratings and popularity for the past three years, especially after a former talk-show host had canceled his show to run for political office. Allegra, who served as executive producer and on-screen talent, had moved into both his vacant studios and his coveted afternoon time slot and never looked back. Her show covered everything from political commentary to celebrity cook-offs.

Chicago was home to many popular talk-show studios, and Cecile's starting date had provided her with just enough time to finish her former job in New York City and cram in her sister's wedding. She'd also managed to find time to rent a Cathedral District apartment which was undergoing some last-minute maintenance. While her stuff had been delivered, Cecile wouldn't occupy the place until Sunday.

At the corner of State Street and Superior, the fifty-two-floor building came complete with a whole-foods store, a pool on the seventh floor and a health club. While Cecile's unit didn't have a lake view, she'd fallen in love with the location, which was only a few blocks west of the Water Tower. She was still almost in the heart of downtown.

Cecile returned her attention to her sister. They were so different, both in looks and temperament. Elizabeth worked for a charity, doing communications work. She planned to work only until her first child, which she would start trying for immediately. Her husband was turning thirty-four in September. An up-and-coming orthopedic surgeon in an already-established practice, Elizabeth and Devon had bought a big house in Barrington a block or two over from both "Grandmas" and started renovations for when the stork arrived.

That was one area of which Cecile wasn't envious. Even though she'd be thirty August fifteenth, no biological clock ticked in her head. Women in their forties had children. Heck, women had children without men. She'd produced a show on the very subject only a few months ago.

"Whose phone is ringing?" someone suddenly asked, jarring Cecile's reverie. The bridesmaids, happily buzzed on mimosas, chimed "Not mine" one after the other.

Cecile blinked. By now everyone was staring at her, and she realized it was her cell phone loudly trilling "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." An avid sports fan, the jingle had been the perfect download.

All the bridesmaids had been given matching purple sequined purses, and Cecile squatted down to remove the phone from the bag resting at her feet. The custom ringtone meant one thing—the caller was one of her three best friends. She glanced at the number. Lisa. A very welcome intrusion.

"Excuse me," Cecile said as she straightened, the floor-length fabric rustling. "I need to take this call. I'll only be a moment."

She ignored the group's speculation and opened the heavy wooden door. The church hallway was cool, and as she stepped onto the marble floor, she could see guests arriving in the church's narthex. Cecile pressed the talk button, catching her former roommate's call before it rolled to voice mail.

"Hey, Lisa, what's up?" Cecile said. "You just saved me from sitting any longer in a room full of tipsy bridesmaids. Please tell me we weren't like that when we were twenty-four."

"I don't think so," Lisa said. "At least not all the time.

But you're busy, so, Cecile, I'll make this quick. You won't believe it, but Mark and I are getting married!"

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The Wedding Secret (Harlequin American Romance #1144) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The weekend before eagerly starting her new job as an assistant producer for the hottest talk-show on television, Cecile Duletsky serves as a bridesmaid in her much younger sister¿s wedding. Cecile attends the wedding alone, having just moved back to Chicago to start her new job, get closer to her family, and to forget her cheating ex-boyfriend. At the wedding, Cecile finds herself paired with Luke Shaw, a groomsman also tempting fate by attending the wedding alone. Attracted to each other and both susceptible to ¿wedding magic¿¿that unpredictable desire to hook-up at weddings when one is unattached¿Cecile and Luke end up spending the rest of the weekend together. Cecile leaves Luke¿s condo without saying goodbye or writing down her number. After all, the hook-up was only supposed to be a temporary wedding-induced insanity. Moreover, she doesn¿t want to seem pushy, and she knows that Luke can contact the bride and groom to get her phone number if he truly wants it. Except that when she arrives at work on Monday, she discovers Luke is her new supervisor. Luke, having sworn off pointless relationships, is seriously irritated that Cecile disappears while he¿s sleeping. It must be her way of indicating it was just a one-night stand. But Luke realizes that he¿s unintentionally committed a cardinal workplace sin¿participation in a co-worker romance. Although he immediately confesses to his boss that he¿s violated the no fraternization policy, he¿s told that if the relationship continues, he¿ll be fired. The only problem is that he feels a real connection to Cecile. The Wedding Secret meshes the perils and joys of moving closer to one¿s family, identifying one¿s true priorities, and determining what one is willing to sacrifice for even the possibility of love. This, the second installment in Dunaway¿s ¿American Beauties¿ series, explores the choice between the unquestionably great job and the mere chance for a great relationship. I was compelled to go buy the first in the series, The Marriage Campaign, and am eagerly awaiting the third.--Reviewed by Regan Loyd
Guest More than 1 year ago
The second of the American Beauties Series, Sorority Sisters, Friends for Life series, this one features Cecile Duletsky. Cecile is returning to her home town of Chicago, having landed a job as a producer for a rising local talk show, and acting as bridesmaid in her younger sister¿s wedding. Her goal is to have it all ¿ if only she could find ¿Mr. Right¿ instead of ¿Mr. Right Now.¿ Enter Luke Shaw ¿ groomsman, and total hunk. The attraction between the two is instantaneous. And after a Wow factor post wedding get together, he¿s startled to find Cecile has left ¿ without a note or a goodbye. Though he¿s tempted to call his friend, and Cecile¿s new brother in law, he has work waiting in the form of a file for his new employee. The shock comes when he find the new hire is none other than the very woman who rocked his world only hours before. Thanks to a non-fraternization policy of the show¿s host and executive producer, Luke and Cecile are forced to put business first. However, the attraction grows and both have to come to find a way to balance their career goals, their desire for `having it all ¿ career, hearth, home and family¿ and their own fears ¿ especially Cecile. With the help of friends, courage and love, the two find a way to keep their secret from their boss and co-workers, until the pressure becomes too much. Michele has done it again with a wonderful story ¿ the sizzle is intense, the emotions are strong, and the humor is terrific! Don¿t miss this one ¿ it¿ll warm your winter night and keep you turning the page!