BRIDE and DOOM (The Wedding Planner Mysteries Book 2), страница 1
BRIDE and DOOM
The Wedding Planner Mysteries 2
J E A N I N E S P O O N E R
KITTY SINCLAIR, The Wedding Planner Mysteries
Love, Laughter, and Murder Ever After
Bride and Doom
Murder At The Altar
Engaged to be Murdered
A Match Made In Murder
Copyright © 2015
All Rights Reserved.
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, contact the publisher at [email protected]
This is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to events, businesses, companies, institutions, and real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cover Design By: Nieves Barreto
Table of Contents
She couldn’t get him off of her mind. He was her first thought when she got up in the morning, lazing in the soft sunlight that poured through her bedroom window and drew her into gentle wakefulness. When she put herself into bed at night, after showering and lathering herself up in creams and salves, she had him on her brain. It didn’t matter how busy Kitty was or how bored, she couldn’t get Sterling out of her head.
Lost in the thought of him, Kitty realized she needed to hop to it or she’d be late. She sprang from bed, leaving the cool sheets behind, and shuffled to her closet where she’d arranged her summertime dresses by color. Avoiding the blacks and dark colors—it was much too hot out there to survive wearing such shades—she glanced through her pink dresses and then the yellow ones. She found a frilly number with an asymmetrical hemline, snatched it from the rack, and then made a beeline for the bathroom. If she hustled, she could be out the door in thirty minutes.
As she lathered under the hot shower stream, Sterling entered her thoughts for the millionth time. His dark eyes that turned green in certain light, the tattoos that covered his arms and crept up his neck—from where, she’d never gotten the chance to see, his gray messy hair and the strong line of his chiseled jaw, all of it arrested her.
Why had he left?
And more importantly, why was she drawn to the wrong men? Where was this bad luck coming from and what could she do to change it?
She didn’t know, and the best she could do was swear off men and focus on her store, her clients, and on being the best wedding planner Greenwich, Connecticut has ever seen.
Kitty worked styling gel into her wet hair then blow-dried her brown, choppy locks into place. She applied her makeup with a minimalist touch then threw on the yellow dress, grabbed her purse from the kitchen table, and was out the door with her white wedge heels clicking over asphalt as she made her way down to her Fiat.
He’d left the day after the von Winkle - Astoria wedding. He hadn’t even said goodbye.
As she started the engine, Kitty resolved not to give Sterling her attention for the rest of the day , but it was a halfhearted promise she wasn’t sure she’d keep. She was furious at him and yet she longed for him, and the constant assault on her emotions seemed beyond her control.
It had only been a month, but the breezy spring air had turned hot and muggy when summer sprang, making any amount of time spent outside uncomfortable. From inside her car, however, the little town of Greenwich that she’d called home her entire life looked beautiful. The sky was bright and blue and the sun golden. And the landscape was a tapestry of the most brilliant green grass and luscious treetops, textured by splashes of color the flowers provided.
As she pulled up to the valet outside the Delamar Hotel, a five-star luxury establishment that sat on the Greenwich Harbor and had views to die for because of it, Kitty commended herself for not thinking about Sterling the entire drive, then quickly realized she’d done just that. (Darn!)
She hopped out of her Fiat, tossed the keys to the valet, which would’ve gone better had the young man realized that’s what she was doing, and hurried off through the entrance as the college kid in a red vest crawled around on his hands and knees in search of her spare key.
She was due to meet her clients in the lounge, but when she entered the plush room that had lofty ceilings, red couches and chairs flanked by oak tables, and a terrace view of the harbor, Kitty realized she was the first to arrive.
She sighed a breath of relief, noted the hotel guests scattered sparsely through the space, and spotted the area she’d reserved, tucked in the far corner where floor-to-ceiling glass provided a stunning view of the marina and its wealth of yachts.
Before getting settled, she stopped at the bar where the bartender, a dashing middle-aged man who wore a black suit, was lazily polishing a glass. His brows lifted as Kitty approached, checking her wristwatch to find that it was well enough into the afternoon to have a cocktail.
“Bellini, if you would please.”
He nodded and began muddling peach puree.
Kitty glanced down the bar when she felt eyes on her and was immediately struck by the good looks of the man staring back. Tall, though he was seated, the man appeared to be roughly her age. He wore a breezy suit, the tie of which had been discarded, the jacket slung over the seat next to him. His blue eyes caught the light and a smile worked its way across his face. He carried himself like a confident ad man from the ‘50s, as he made his way down the bar to where Kitty was standing.
“Beautiful afternoon, wouldn’t you say?” he asked in a strong Australian accent.
Her heart was pounding, but she managed to say, “If you like the heat,” and then smiled.
“I love the heat,” he mused; his gaze wandering down the length of her in a way that felt like a compliment. “What brings you to Greenwich?”
“I live here,” she said softly then jolted when the bartender popped open a bottle of Prosecco for her drink.
“Visiting the spa?” he guessed, being acquainted with the Delamar’s many amenities.
She smiled. “No actually, I have a meeting.”
“This is a great place to meet,” he commented, drawing his Old Fashioned to his straight mouth then taking a sip.
The bartender placed Kitty’s Bellini in front of her and she was quick to open her purse.
“I’ve got this,” said the man.
“Oh, no,” she objected. “I couldn’t let you.”
“Please,” he said, brushing her off. “Put it on Rivett,” he told the bartender then added, “Room 218,” glancing Kitty’s way as though she might have reason to use the information in the near future.
It was flattering to be certain, but Kitty had a different agenda.
“Rivett?” She asked, turning the surname over in her mind.
“Michael,” he offered.
“That’s a nice name,” she mentioned, taking a cautious sip of her Bellini. Bubbles tended to go straight to her head and she’d have to keep her wits about her if she wanted to turn this budding conversation in a direction that would best serve her goal.
“Catherine,” she supplied. “But my friends call me Kitty. Kitty Sinclair.” She h
“That’s adorable.” He held her hand a bit too long, which caused Kitty to blush. “Sounds like you walked straight out of a storybook.”
“I don’t know about that,” she said then took on a more serious tone. “Are you involved?”
“Involved?” His brows raised and his voice turned lustful with intrigue. “No, Kitty, I’m very much a single man.”
“Are you looking?”
“Something tells me I might not have to look any further.” He was leaning toward her, imposing his masculine height into her personal space, but Kitty was oblivious to the impression she was giving off.
“You don’t!” she said, excitedly.
“Forward girl. I like it.” He grinned.
“I’ve never been afraid to be forward,” she agreed. “My friend Trudy would absolutely love you.”
His eyes shifted with disappointment, but he recovered quickly. “Do you suppose Trudy’s friend Kitty would also love me?”
“Oh! No,” she laughed. “Trudy’s friend Kitty is taking a break from dating. But Trudy is single and ready to mingle!”
“Playing matchmaker, are you?” he teased. “Tell you what, you bring Trudy by and we’ll all get a drink.”
“Sounds good!” she said taking his business card.
He knocked back the rest of his drink and then set the glass on the bar. “You have a lovely day, now.”
She nodded as she watched Michael round the bar and disappear into the hotel lobby.
“Can I have three Bellinis sent to the reserved area over there by the windows?” she asked the bartender, who obliged without hesitation.
Just then Kitty’s clients entered the lounge, so she tucked Michael Rivett’s business card into her purse with visions of Trudy’s happily ever after wafting through her optimistic mind.
“Mandy,” she smiled, taking the woman into a warm hug.
“We’re not late are we?” asked the bride.
“Not at all,” said Kitty as she hugged Erik Coburn, and then led them to the back of the lounge where a server was waiting with three Bellinis on a silver tray.
Mandy Maple was a knockout. At 5’10”, her stature and grace rivaled any top model this side of New York, and her sense of fashion was just as fierce. In the years Kitty had known her, Mandy was often mistaken for a Victoria’s Secret model. Her blonde locks cascaded in perfect waves down her lean frame. She had the eyes of an angel and the lips of a temptress, and men from all walks of life swooned when she entered a room.
Mandy plucked two flutes from the tray, passed one to Erik, and then lowered into her seat so demurely that the hint of sex in her curves drew all eyes to her.
Erik sat as well, cozying up to his fiancée on the red loveseat, and finally Kitty nestled into an adjacent chair.
If the bride was drop dead gorgeous, the groom was her perfect match. A star basketball player during their years in college, Kitty had noticed Erik her sophomore year when the statuesque athlete swaggered across campus one sunny autumn day. And sitting across from her now, Erik looked no different than he had all those years ago.
His eyes held the kind of smoldering intensity that could make a woman weak in the knees, and when paired with a slight curl of his lip, Erik had the ability to get anything from anyone. He’d once asked to borrow Kitty’s car during a snowstorm when they were half a year from graduating, and she'd handed over the keys without a second thought. When he’d totaled her vehicle beyond repair, she was only happy to have another five minutes in his presence as he explained how the accident was entirely his fault. Quite frankly, she hadn’t been completely listening. He was that good looking.
Erik ran his long fingers through his dark hair, and his arm flexed with the kind of nervous excitement grooms tended to feel as their wedding day neared. He drew in a deep breath, which Kitty savored, but didn’t exactly pick up on.
“Your dress is being altered,” she told Mandy, as she opened a binder that had sketches of the bridal gown juxtaposed to photographs she’d snapped of Mandy wearing it. “The neckline is being lowered as we discussed and the tailor is adding a layer of lace over the bodice.”
“It’s going to be beautiful,” said Mandy, pouring over the sketches.
Again, Erik sighed, to which Mandy patted his leg to quell him and then turned the page.
“Has my maid of honor been in touch?” she asked, handing the binder back to Kitty.
“She has,” said Kitty. “We booked the suites, if you’d like to go up and see them now.”
Erik grumbled and made pained eyes at Mandy, to which she responded without a word, her own blue eyes widening as if to say we talked about this.
“I’m sorry, but I think it defeats the purpose of a bachelor party,” he stated.
“That’s what’s fun about it,” Mandy countered.
“But if the girls can just walk across the hall and invade the bachelor party, then the guys are going to be on edge. They’re not going to feel free to really party.”
Mandy turned cross. “You mean you aren’t going to feel free to party.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“What exactly are you hoping to do at your bachelor party, Erik, that you wouldn’t want me to walk in on?” she demanded.
Erik looked to Kitty for support.
“We are getting a really great rate on the suites,” she explained, siding with Mandy, and then added, “I’m sure the bachelorette party will be engaging enough that the girls won’t want to cross the hall.”
“I doubt that,” he muttered.
“Isn’t Becca scheduling a male stripper?” Mandy asked Kitty, as though that would set Erik’s mind at ease.
“A number of them.” Kitty had talked to Becca, the maid of honor, a handful of times, and quite frankly had been annoyed with the woman who was supposed to be organizing Mandy’s party as well as handling other details of the wedding. Every call with Becca seemed to result in Kitty taking on more and more responsibilities she didn’t have time for.
“What if we set a certain window of time where there could be a cross over?” Kitty suggested.
“You think anyone’s going to abide by it when they’re drunk?” Eric challenged. “I just have a bad feeling about this.”
Kitty rose from her chair. “Why don’t we go up and look at the suites? If you still feel that way then I can call the Hyatt across town and book your party there.”
Kitty could see that Mandy didn’t like that idea, but she held her tongue as she and Erik got to their feet.
“Isn’t Becca supposed to be here?” she asked Kitty.
“I thought so. I’ll give her a call.”
“And Johnny, too,” added Erik, referring to his best man.
“I’ll make a few calls,” she promised, as she led Mandy and Erik through the lounge to the lobby where the elevator bank was located.
They rode it up three floors then stepped into the marble hallway. Though the Delamare was a luxury hotel, it was also quaint with limited rooms, which added to its intimate setting. The third floor contained only two penthouses situated directly across the hall from one another.
Kitty used the key card she’d picked up with reception to unlock the western suite where she expected the bachelorette party would be held, no thanks to Becca.
“I’ll be right in after I make these calls,” said Kitty, as Erik held the door open for his bride to enter.
She gasped and marveled as they disappeared inside.
Kitty produced her cell and dialed at once, but it wasn’t Becca or Johnny.
“How’s life at the Delamare?” Trudy asked in an envious tone.
“I only have a second!” Kitty exclaimed. “I found you the perfect guy!”
“Oh Jesus, not again.”
“No, listen!” She said urgently. “He’s a gorgeous world traveler—and Australian.” She knew Trudy had a thing for accents.
“Kitty, I don’t know—”
“That’s what you said about the last guy—”
“But this one’s different!”
“Different like he isn’t a con artist or different like he doesn’t live with his mother?”
“Ok, I admit, I could’ve done more research on the others—”
“Are you trying to help me or trying to get back at me for Grant, Neil, and Sterling?”
His name pulled at her heartstrings, but Kitty shook the sting.
“I don’t want to see you moping around,” she said softly. “I worry about you.”
“It takes time to bounce back after a breakup,” Trudy stated.
Kitty wasn’t sure if she was speaking about herself or Kitty, but it was a good point. Not that Kitty broke up with Sterling, in fact she didn’t know what the hell happened, but time would heal it.
“If he’s a good guy,” Trudy went on. “Then you date him.”
“He’s not my type.”
“He’s male, right?”
“Oh my type is more specific than that!”
“How dare you!”
“Don’t you get snippy with me,” Kitty snipped.
“You’re the one getting snippy!”
“You’re coming to the Delamar! End of discussion!”
“Don’t you tell him I’ll meet him for a drink!”
“Hanging up now!”
Kitty killed the call then got Becca on the phone, who sounded like she’d just woken up.
As Kitty tempered her patience and explained that Becca really ought to get over to the Delamar ASAP, she was struck by her longstanding feud with the woman.
Rebecca “Becca” Motley could’ve been Kitty’s twin if she hadn’t been born with flaming red curls. They had the same angelic pout, the same big, round hazel eyes—though Kitty assured herself the golden flecks in hers were far more beautiful. They each were short in stature and plump in all the right places. And worse, they had the exact same taste in men.
During their four years together at the University of Connecticut, Becca had succeeded at usurping Kitty’s every romantic endeavor to the point where she began to think it was something of a practical joke. It wasn’t. And it certainly wasn’t funny.