Here is the first chapter (though not the final edited version) of my new Contemporary Romance Thriller, The Passion Brokers, Honeymoon Beach:
Chapter One – Kind of a Bad Day
“Oh, I’m still getting married. Just not to you.”
The words sounded to the bride, Logan, like they were spoken off the cuff—made up—but then not really. It was like John, her fiancé, had thought about them—given them a good going over in his head until they came out just like he wanted them to be heard—the syllables sounding like bullets smashing through the bones of her soul—and he’d said them with just the right amount of haughty inflection in his voice so that they’d inflict maximum damage to her psyche.
And then, as Logan was collapsing into the couch in the bride’s dressing room in the back of the church, he’d been watching her, studying her face for the signs of pain and hurt.
“Oh,” as in, that’s right, good question, let me think about that for a split second…there, I’ve thought about it—the answer is, surprisingly, for you, “I’m still getting married,” why would you, my naive former bride-to-be, know otherwise? So here’s the part you don’t know about—yes, I’m getting married, “Just—not—to—you.”
It was that calculated.
And Logan stood from the couch and the room began to spin and she fell hard toward the floor, but her Maid of Honor, her best friend, Courtney, caught her at the last moment and changed the direction of the collapse away from the floor and toward the couch again, where Logan plopped, butt first, like a Victorian-era lady might would faint.
In the back of her mind this embarrassed Logan, but she was too shocked to care.
She shook off the light-headedness, waited a moment to steady herself, and stood quickly. She gathered her nerves, and looked deep into the back of John’s eyes as she said, “I’m standing here dressed in a bridal gown, ready to walk down the aisle of this church and marry you on an altar before God and dedicate my life to being with you—to being your wife. And you come in here and say that! What does that mean, ‘Just not to you’? You asked me to marry you last year, begged me, said you would die without me in your life and then the next day you asked me to marry you in front of 75,000 people at a Carolina football game and I said, yes. And now…you…you want out? What does that mean, Just not to you? Tell me!”
John was smiling, standing arrogant and aloof. Behind him, his wing man, his best friend, Jake, stood in support.
John answered, “I met someone. She blew my world last week when I went to Vegas on my bachelor party and I asked her to marry me. My family is paying for this wedding. I’m the money here. You have none, just that little chocolate shop of yours, so I want you and your friends to leave. I’m getting married today—just not to you. I’m sorry, Logan, there’s been a change of plans and you aren’t a part of them anymore. Things happen. This is for the best, my mother said you’d never fit in our social circle anyway. I’m just keeping you from embarrassing yourself later. This is good for you too.”
Logan stood before John, her wedding dress now soaked with sweat, and she began to say something when the door to the dressing room opened and a woman, her hair thick, shining like polished silk, curled, dark, and flowing over the back of her dress (her white wedding dress, Logan noticed) came into the room.
She was gorgeous, with long thin arms, a high waist, large breasts, and a perfectly shaped rear. Also, her face looked like it was softly etched from gemstones and she shined with a beauty that was overwhelming to the beholder.
Behind her were her own bridesmaids. They stood in the hall, trying to peer over her shoulders into the dressing room.
“John, you said she’d be gone. I told you I wanted this room empty of all of this drama for us. We have much to do and little time to do it,” this other bride said.
John turned to her, his eyes lit with the same fire and passion for this woman as he’d had for Logan just days before when he and Logan had agreed to stay away from seeing each other until the wedding and he’d gone on his bachelor party in Vegas. He wanted her, this new woman, and he made no effort to hide it from Logan. It was like Logan was no longer in the room.
Logan looked at the woman and the woman smiled and in an unfamiliar accent said, “John said you’d be gone. I was afraid you would be intimidated by my looks, most women are, men too, so I was hoping to spare you the shock. But you are beautiful as well, I could be jealous if John wasn’t marrying me now instead of you. So you are beautiful and you will do fine with your life. I won’t worry about you anymore. You should leave now. I have a wedding to finish preparing for.”
“Who are you?”
Logan turned around to the voice. It was Courtney—she was stepping toward the woman while grabbing the stems of a dozen long yellow roses from a large vase on the top of a table. She made to swing them at John’s new bride but John stepped in and tried to stop her. He mis-timed his reaching hand and Courtney struck him across the jaw with the flowers instead, the thorns digging deep into his handsome and strong face, and then she dropped the flowers and dove at the woman, screaming, “Not to my friend! No way you slimy bitch!” and as she tried to take down the woman Jake stepped between them and took the brunt of her diving tackle. Jake was a big man and Courtney struck him in the waist with her shoulder and landed hard on the floor at his feet, her baby blue bridesmaid dress cushioning her fall.
Gotta love Courtney, Logan thought to herself, then she asked the same question that Courtney had just asked, “Who are you? Why would you do this? This is supposed to be our day. Our best day ever.”
The room felt crowded. Between the woman’s bridesmaids, John, Jake, this new bride and her own bridesmaids, the room was full and Logan was getting hot. And her shock was turning to anger.
“This is Penelope and you should leave Logan. This is getting awkward,” Jake said as he stepped over Courtney and reached into his pocket and handed a handkerchief to John. “She messed you up with the roses, John. She got you good. Put this on it to stop the bleeding until we can go get some bandages on it.”
John’s face was pouring blood from the deep scratches of the roses and it was still Logan’s instinct to help John. She’d fallen hard for him in the last year and her heart was full up with him, with concern for him, with dreams of caring for him, giving herself to him on their honeymoon bed (they’d agreed to wait, indeed, she’d been waiting her entire life for her wedding night), having his babies (their babies) and being together with him through all the days of their lives.
Logan stepped toward him with the intent of healing him as best she knew how when Penelope stepped between them and did just the same thing. And in that gesture, in that revelation, Logan’s heart collapsed at what was now her new reality:
She was a jilted bride.
Not only that, her fiancé had brought her replacement to her wedding and asked her to leave. If she had a father and mother she would have run to them, but they were both dead. She had no brothers or sisters and she was alone but for her friends. There was no reason to continue to stay, to continue to be utterly humiliated, and so she helped Courtney up from the floor, heard herself apologizing to her bridesmaids, saw out of the corner of her eye her purse and the envelope she brought with her with the tickets and reservations for the honeymoon on the same table as where the vase of roses had been, and she stepped across the room and grabbed her purse and the envelope. She put her hand out to Courtney’s hand and held it tight as she walked out through the door, pushing her way through Penelope’s bridesmaids.
As they walked out of the church, the last thing both Penelope’s and Logan’s wedding parties heard was Courtney screaming back over her shoulder, “I hope you have the marriage from hell John—you and that bitch, Penelope!”
And with those words still echoing through the great halls of the church for all the wedding attendees to hear, Logan stepped into the limousine that was supposed to take John and Logan away on their honeymoon later that evening and said to the surprised driver, “To the airport please, but first take us to my friend’s apartment so she can pack a bag.”
“What are you talking about? Where are we going? You just got stood up in front of the world, Logan. Let’s go back and destroy that wedding, let them know who you are. I have lots of ideas, like let’s go poison the food at the reception. I promise I’ll hike this dress over the punch bowl and piss in it. How about it, Logan? I’m so angry I could kill John. And don’t get me started on that wedding crasher, that bitch Penelope. I will rip her eyes out one day and it may as well be today…”
Logan knew her friend hurt for her in the worst way. She knew she would do anything for her and she knew she meant every word she’d said about peeing in the punch bowl and she also knew that Courtney was just getting started, but revenge wasn’t in Logan’s heart. Humiliation? Yes. Embarrassment? Of course. Hurt? Certainly. Devastation? John had pursued her for three years and he’d won her heart in the biggest of ways. He’d become everything to her and words came endlessly short of what she felt as she was driving away from what was supposed to be the happiest day of her life—her wedding day in an historic Charleston church on King Street.
But revenge was not in her heart and so she interrupted Courtney who was still talking one hundred miles to the minute as she was saying, “…not only that, I’ll put fleas in their wedding bed and a snake in it too, a real nasty viper, say a cobra. I will torment them until my dying day and then my ghost will haunt their asses until I see them going to Hell. Ditch my friend at the altar? We’ll see about that. I am steaming-hot pissed…”
“It’s okay, Court,” Logan said, “I have a better idea.”
She said again to the driver to take her to Courtney’s apartment and she provided him with the address herself since Logan was looking at her, rage still in her eyes, and the wrinkle of a question coming across her brow.
“Let’s get out of here, Court. Let’s take a trip and just go away. I’m too embarrassed to deal with what’s going on in that church right now. I suspect some of my friends are putting up quite the fight for me back there, I know Jimmy is…”
“That’s right, Logan. I should be there, fighting for my friend. I could so claw that bitch’s face, make her face look like John’s. Did you see what I did to him? I bet that hurts like crazy. Should make for some great wedding day photos. Logan, I’m sorry but I hate him now. I know you’re the forgiving type but…”
Logan laughed, “You nailed him, Court. I should thank you for that. I don’t go to revenge as my first emotion but I can sure laugh at the thought of his face torn to bits in his wedding album. There as a memory for all to see for the entirety of his marriage. You were great, you defended me and I will always remember what you did. But now? I just need to hide. And to heal. I need to get away and I want you come with me.”
“Where can we possibly go, Logan?”
“How about a honeymoon? John gave me his credit card before he went on his bachelor party last week and said to spare no expense on the honeymoon. He said to surprise him, so I was going to. I have two tickets to the Caribbean island of Bardayo for a week in a five-star hotel. What you say, girl? How about a trip to help heal your jilted friend?”
Logan saw the idea flash across Courtney’s face like pink lightning in a thunderstorm, and the rage in her eyes changed to excitement at the thought of getting away, “I can so help you get better, Logan. I can be there for you and we can start you over again. I’m so worried about you. I would crawl in a hole and die if this happened to me.”
“I might crawl in hole a for a day or two, but a hole in Bardayo just sounds nicer to me. How about we go find a hole on a beach in Bardayo and let me crawl inside it and get my heart and head right again. I feel black inside right now, Courtney.”
The limo driver was looking back in his mirror and listening to them. Courtney reached to the switch and raised the privacy glass while glaring at him in his rearview mirror and then she said, “I don’t blame you one bit, Logan, but I won’t let you go in to that hole too deep and I will show you a good time.”
The limo pulled up in front of Courtney’s apartment building and she said, “Do you want to come up? I don’t think you really need to. I only need ten minutes. How long does it take to pack a few evening dresses and some swimsuits?” She reached into an ice bucket that held the wedding champagne and popped the cork, sending foam and liquid all over the back of the limo. She poured the champagne into two glasses and handed one to Logan and then held her own glass up for a toast, “To my best friend. I love you, Logan. I’d die for you and I will do whatever it takes to get you better. My heart hurts for you.” She raised her glass to Logan and tears began to pour from her eyes.
Logan raised her glass, tinked it to Courtney’s, and then she also began to cry as they both took a drink from their glasses. She lowered her glass, looked into Courtney’s eyes, then she downed the remainder of her champagne and collapsed into her friend’s arms.
Courtney held her and let her cry and Logan cried almost as hard as when her parents had died in the car crash five years earlier. She’d had to start her life over then and Courtney had been there for her. Now, here Courtney was again, holding her, being the guiding hand that she could cling to through the darkness.
With this realization, Logan’s tears turned from sadness to gladness for her friend. Logan, but for Courtney and her family, had had to start her life over again from nothing after her parent’s death. But she’d leaned on her friend, and she’d made it to a happy place. It’d taken many years, but she’d made it, and with Courtney’s help, she knew she could do it again.
Forget John, she thought to herself, but that was easier said than done. What had happened? How could he have changed so much after just one bachelor party in Vegas? Logan wished whatever had happened in Vegas had just stayed there.