Read an Excerpt
Wedding Date for Hire
An Anyone But You Novel
By Jennifer Shirk, Stacy Abrams, Lydia Sharp
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Jennifer Shirk
All rights reserved.
It was official. She really was cursed.
After losing her job and her boyfriend, being asked to be maid of honor for two weddings was the final twist of the middle finger her life seemed to be giving her this year.
Maddie McCarthy took a deep breath to steady her anxiety, only to have the seamstress at the Sew What? dress shop take full-on advantage and yank her dress in another inch.
"You, how you say, have a good baby-making hips, yes?" the seamstress said, bobbing her head up and down.
Maddie held in a sigh. Lovely. Now she wasn't going to be able to eat until after the wedding day on top of everything else. Forget the middle finger. Life was giving her the Kim Kardashian special. Thank goodness her mom offered to pay for half of her dress — her savings were meager enough. But if it wasn't for her cheating ex-boyfriend spreading lies about her to the owner, she'd still have her job as head pastry chef at The Ripe Tomato in Boston.
The seamstress gave one final tug then spun her around. Maddie gasped as she took a good hard look at herself in the mirror. She had to admit the charcoal satin gown her sister picked out for her looked pretty darn good against her blond hair. She jumped to the side to inspect herself better. Yep, stomach looked flat, too. No doubt about it. Her sister loved her. The one positive thing going in her life right now.
"Oh, sweetheart," her mom said, walking up to her. "The dress looks beautiful on you." She swatted the seamstress's hands when the woman started to grab more pins. "No. It fits perfectly. You know, Madeline, you could even stand to gain a few pounds."
Maddie rolled her eyes, banking down any and all thoughts of the weight problems she had in high school. She wasn't Fatty Maddie anymore. Thank goodness by the time she'd graduated and gone off to school, she'd grown a few more inches and lost the fifteen pounds of what her mom fondly called "baby fat."
"Thanks, Mom. You look wonderful, too." In fact, her mother looked downright radiant. The best she'd seen her in ages. After years of it being just the three of them — Maddie, her sister, and her mom — one was finally leaving the nest. Louise was getting married. Which would leave Maddie at home with Mom — and, of course, the family curse.
The curtain behind them swung away with a flourish, and Louise stepped out. Maddie's breath caught, and tears began to well in her eyes. Gorgeous. Most people called Louise, who was four years younger than Maddie, a beauty, but dressed in her full bridal gown and veil, she looked absolutely stunning.
Louise wrung her hands. "Well?" she asked, her gaze swinging back and forth between them.
Her mother took a few hesitant steps closer, looking almost afraid to touch her own daughter. "I can't believe my baby will be married in two weeks."
Maddie's heart dropped. Two weeks. Her sister would be starting a new chapter in her life with her new husband. While she was beyond ecstatic for Louise, she still couldn't help wondering ...when was it going to be her turn? If it would be her turn. The older, wiser, more experienced sister's turn. When would her life come together? So far, she hadn't been able to keep a relationship going for longer than a month. Heck, she couldn't even hold on to a job.
No doubt about it. The curse.
No, no, no. That was silly. Impossible.
She mentally shook herself. "Louise, you are the most beautiful bride I've ever seen in my life."
"Oh, please. I bet you said the same thing to Sabrina when she got married four months ago."
Maddie's best friend, Sabrina, had married Jack Brenner, son of Sabrina's boss at Brenner Capital Investments. Maddie had been the maid of honor in her wedding, too. Sabrina had used Jack in a scheme to make Sabrina's ex-fiancé jealous, but they ended up falling in love with each other for real in the process. As much as she'd wanted to enjoy the day for her friend, Maddie couldn't help feeling a twang of envy, especially since she hadn't even had a date for it. Now it was déjà vu. Only this time she was odd woman out at her own sister's wedding. How pathetic.
Maddie stepped off the platform in front of Louise. "No, Louise," she said affectionately. "Of course you're the most beautiful bride. You're my sister. We share the same genes."
Louise's lips quirked. "So in essence, you're giving yourself a compliment by complimenting me."
Their mom chuckled. "Both of you are welcome, then."
Louise group-hugged them. "I love you guys so much." But then she pulled back, gazing at Maddie with concern filling up her blue-green eyes. "I just wish ..."
Her sister let the sentence die a natural death. Thank goodness. It was understood. Louise wished Maddie was getting married, too. Or at least had a steady boyfriend. But at this point in her thirty-year-old life, Maddie would settle for a steady job and a place of her own.
Their heads turned in the direction of the feminine voice. Her cousin, Veronica, stood in the doorway of the dress shop with her dark hair pulled back in a bun and her blood-red glossed lips poised in a sassy pout, as if she'd just walked off the set of a Robert Palmer video. "Michael will not make it long past the reception when he sees you in that dress, Louise," she added with a shark-like grin.
Louise gathered up her gown and rushed over to her. "Thank you, thank you," she sang, her voice giddy and happy. "I'm so glad you can make it for all the festivities next week. Michael's parents are really outdoing themselves."
Veronica smirked. "I'll say. But they can afford to."
They sure can, thought Maddie. Louise's fiancé, Michael, came from a very well-to-do family in New England. Although, Michael had made a name for himself and was practically considered royalty in the Boston area, since he was the new franchise owner of the Red Sox. His parents owned a huge estate in Newport, Rhode Island, and planned a week of events there for family and all the bridal party along with their dates. Several guesthouses were on the grounds, so housing would be available for everyone.
Maddie's mom gave Veronica a kiss on the cheek and a light pat on her shoulder.
"Good to see you, Vonnie," Maddie offered.
And by "good to see you" she meant "tolerable to see you." She and her cousin Veronica never really got along when they were young — or now, even. The general air of hostility between them probably had more to do with that giant stick up her cousin's butt than anything else, but it was hard for Maddie to say for sure.
Veronica let her gaze travel the length of Maddie's gown. "Glad you went with that color, cuz. Makes your skin look so much less ashen."
Maddie bit her tongue, choosing to give her a tight smile instead for Louise's sake. The long wedding week ahead just grew about ten times longer.
The seamstress finished writing her notes and stood. "I go and grab other bridesmaid dress from back now."
Veronica held up a hand, stopping the woman in her tracks. "I ordered a black Nicole Miller cocktail dress. Make sure you bring that one out, too." After the woman scurried away, she added to Maddie, "I want to make sure I look my best for the rehearsal dinner. I'm bringing someone I've been seeing for some time now, and I hope to spur wedding ideas of his own."
"Way to think ahead, dear," her mom offered politely.
Veronica's eyes widened. "Aunt Kathy, women in our family have to think ahead, what with the curse and all." She glanced at Maddie, then covered her mouth with her hand. "Oops," she said, not looking the least bit contrite. "But at least one of your daughters seems to have broken the curse. Although I suppose anything can happen between now and the wedding."
Louise frowned, and Maddie gritted her teeth. Their cousin should have known better than to mention the curse at a time like this.
The infamous "curse" her cousin referred to — also known as the WD-40 Effect — was a bit of an inside family joke. It was not real. Although, as with all good jokes, of course, there was just a teensy shred of truth to it. The curse was called WD-40 after the lubricant product used to displace moisture and great at removing dirt and residues. The women in Maddie's family seemed to share that specialty, as they were equally as effective in the removal and/or displacement of all men in their life.
Maddie's father disappeared from their lives when Maddie was seven, and her grandfather left when her mom was just in high school. Maddie's great-grandmother and four generations back before then went through the "Effect" as well. She hoped things would be different for her sister and Michael. It seemed to only affect the firstborn women in the family, but Louise still got a little jumpy whenever anyone mentioned the curse, especially with her wedding just weeks away. Veronica's insensitive comments appeared to already have flustered her.
Their mom wrapped an arm around Louise's waist. "Veronica's just kidding about the curse, honey. You and Michael are going to do great."
Veronica batted her eyelashes innocently. "Oh, of course. Not you, Louise. I was talking about Maddie here. I mean, she hasn't had a man in her life since the best man dumped her."
Maddie went very still. Then her gaze cut to Louise. "Ryan is the best man?"
Her sister cringed. "I was going to tell you before the wedding. Honest. I just wasn't sure how to break the news."
"Oops again," Veronica said, smothering a smile.
Maddie felt ill. If enduring Veronica's endless jibes about being cursed and having to spend the entire wedding week alone wasn't bad enough, her ex had to be the best man on top of all that.
God, take me now.
Veronica opened her purse to pull out a tube of lip gloss. "Poor Maddie," she said, dabbing more red gloss on her already painted lips. "Looks like the WD-40 Effect lives on."
"That's ridiculous. There's no such thing as a curse," Louise fumed.
Veronica shrugged. "I suppose that's debatable. But it sure seems like there's one in your sister's case."
"There's no curse," Louise insisted. "Maddie has just been under a bit of a dry spell as far as dating goes. Being an old maid doesn't matter to her, anyway."
That did it. Maddie saw red — and it wasn't the goo being globbed on her cousin's lips. She was sick of the jibes. And although Maddie knew her sister meant no malice in her innocently thrown comment, she was sick of the pity, too. Sick of being the one with no job, no man, and no future. But most of all, she was sick of hearing about that stupid curse.
"You're all wrong," she blurted. "I do have a boyfriend."
Her sister, mom, and cousin all froze and stared at her.
Oh dear Lord. Boyfriend? What am I saying?
But then she remembered Veronica's "poor Maddie" remark and it renewed her resolve. "I — I've been seeing someone for several months now."
"Months?" Louise asked, clearly as shocked as she was.
"Um, yes. I met him right after Sabrina's wedding. He's unbelievably handsome." Unbelievably handsome? That remark might have been pushing it. But apparently handsome wasn't all he was because, like her own personal Amtrak line, the words kept coming out of her mouth full steam ahead. "He adores me."
Brain, derail my mouth right now.
"And he's rich," she added.
I mean it, brain! Knock it off.
Her sister threw her arms around her, for which Maddie said a prayer of thanks because it managed to shut her big trap from saying anything further about her adoring, rich, unbelievably handsome — and more importantly fake — boyfriend.
"I'm so happy for you," Louise squealed. "But why didn't you tell us?"
Veronica folded her arms. "Yes, Maddie, why didn't you mention him before?"
She gulped. "I didn't mention ..." Good grief, the boyfriend doesn't even have a name. "I didn't mention him before because I didn't want to jinx the relationship and had to make sure he was a keeper. You know because of the whole" — she swallowed — "curse thing."
Her mom kissed her on the cheek. "Well, that's wonderful, dear. I knew you'd find someone in your own time."
"So, dish. How did you meet him?" Louise asked, rubbing her hands together.
She blinked. Good question. Yes, we had to have met. Somehow ...
"What's his name?" Veronica asked.
She blinked again. His name. An even better question.
Maddie's brain scrambled to come up with the answers. But it suddenly felt as if all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room, and her mind couldn't shift out of park. Was it too late to plead mental illness or just plain stupidity? Probably not. Plus, she wasn't sure she'd be able to stand the smug I-told-you-so look on Veronica's face if she admitted she'd lied about being in a relationship.
"I don't want to spoil it. You guys will get to meet him soon enough," she said with a half laugh, half choke.
Louise chuckled. "You're such a tease, Maddie. I think I'm more excited now about meeting your new guy than I am to walk down the aisle."
"Yes," Veronica added, narrowing her eyes. "I look forward to meeting him as well. He must be something for you to keep him under wraps from even your own mom and sister."
Balls of nausea began to take shape in her stomach, but she managed a bright smile. "Yeah, he's something else. Just know that he's great. Really, um, great."
Louise smiled dreamily. "Well, I know he has to be special if you've been seeing him for so long."
A nervous laugh bubbled from her throat. "Oh, he's special." And nonexistent.
Maddie turned away, pretending to see a smudge on her dress. If she could have punched herself in the mouth right then and there, she would have. She had completely lost her mind along with everything else she'd lost lately. What the heck was she going to do? She couldn't face her family without a man on her arm. She had to find herself a wedding date now. And not just any wedding date. A special-really-something-else-handsome-rich wedding date.
She was doomed.
As if wedding dates like that just hung out at the supermarket checkout line. But if she didn't find one, she'd be the laughingstock of her family. Well, even more of a laughingstock. She couldn't bear that.
Her mind raced with potential candidates. And came up with exactly none. She didn't have any handsome or rich male friends she could call. Since she wasn't working, she didn't have any work-related acquaintances she could go to, either. Sabrina's husband Jack tried to set her up with a broker he knew, but that ended up being a complete and utter disaster. She was so screwed!
"Oh, Maddie, look," Louise called to her. "This is how I want the hairdresser to do my hair."
"That is so you," her mom commented.
"Nice," Veronica said. "Very Carrie Underwood-esque."
"What do you think, Maddie? Maddie," her sister called again.
Her throat was dry, like someone had stuffed it full of cotton then stuck her out in the sun for a few hours. She finally turned to face them, fighting off hyperventilation. "Y-yes," she croaked. "Of course, let me see."
Louise held out the magazine to her, and she took it from her outstretched hands. The model's hair was pulled back loosely with wispy tendrils and flowers tucked around the bun. Maddie could picture how lovely Louise would look with her long blond hair pulled back in such a style. She was just about to tell her that, but an ad at the corner of the page caught her eye.
Match Made Easy is for people tired of the struggles of single life. Whether you're looking for a lasting relationship or just a companion for a corporate event or wedding, we'll save you the time and headache. Just answer our simple questionnaire and you'll be assigned your own personal matchmaker. Making your Match is that EASY.
Give us a call or send us an email and start taking control of your love life today!
Maddie blinked. Yes, she could take control of her love life — or rather, have them take control of her love life. This was the answer to her big-fat-mouth prayers. An escort service.
"Well?" Louise nudged her with her elbow. "What do you think of the hairstyle?"
"Hairstyle?" She looked at her sister blankly. "Oh, it's very ni — Uh, I mean, I hate it."
Louise and her mother frowned at her.
"What are you talking about?" her cousin asked. "That's the perfect hairdo for Louise."
"Oh, no, she can do better. Much better." Then to further prove that point and save the website information, she ripped the page from the magazine and shoved it down her dress.
"Maddie, what on earth is wrong with you?" her sister asked, planting her fists on her hips.
"You mean besides the obvious?" Veronica muttered.
Excerpted from Wedding Date for Hire by Jennifer Shirk, Stacy Abrams, Lydia Sharp. Copyright © 2015 Jennifer Shirk. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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