Signet Eclipse, March 2007. All rights reserved.
ISBN # 13: 978-0-451-22078-3
At least my wedding reception can’t get any worse, can it? Jen faked a serene smile and pretended not to notice that her groom was drunk. She turned away from the punch bowl and ignored the foreign object in it, as a demure bride should.
Chase, the best man, gallantly lifted the dripping ice-weenie with a pair of silver tongs and disposed of it before returning to his flirtation with Cousin Amy.
From the floor above came an ominous rumble which sounded an awful lot like God laughing–but surely it was just a rattling serving cart?
Jen told herself not to be ridiculous and endured a dance with Grandpa Marshall, thankful that the music segued into another song just as his gnarled, seeking fingers slipped under the bow on her butt. She pulled away with a little more force than necessary and thanked him sweetly for the dance.
She went in search of some water and watched, half amused and half disgusted, as Chase wove his web around Amy. Jen moved towards them, intent on saving poor Amy from romance with a reptile, when Chase’s eyes suddenly grew wide and fixated on a point over her shoulder. He said one word, and it was very impolite.
Amy’s gaze flew to his, shocked, as Chase pushed right past her towards whatever—whomever?—he’d seen.
Jen turned her head, searching the crowd, and found a face she’d never set eyes on before. That wasn’t unusual at a large wedding reception, even for the bride.
But the woman’s jaw-dropping beauty was unusual. She stood at least six feet tall in her heels and wore a body-hugging, backless, navy column dress that brought out the startling deep blue of her expertly made-up eyes. Her hair shone the color of sunlit wheat, her nose was perfection and her pale lips plumper than Jen’s couch cushions.
Every man in the room had begun to slobber onto his kneecaps. No wonder Chase made a beeline for her.
Except . . . he didn’t. Chase, in fact, avoided her and made a beeline for Tom, who’d stepped outside onto a balcony and remained oblivious of the newcomer’s presence.
Was this an ex-girlfriend of Chase’s? After the way he’d treated half the women of her acquaintance, he deserved whatever the blonde had in store for him.
Jen moved towards the woman, who was gazing right at her with a troubling expression. She tried to analyze it as she closed the gap between them. Was it contempt? Was it amusement? Jen didn’t know, but she didn’t think she cared for it.
She smiled at the blond woman and held out her hand. “Hello. Welcome. I’m Jennifer. I don’t think we’ve met?”
The woman smiled with great charm.
Wow, thought Jen, dazzled. Her cheekbones could double as javelins.
“I am Helena.” Her voice emerged higher than Jen had expected, almost kittenish with a foreign lilt. Was she Eastern-European? “And no, we haven’t met before now—-but we have such a lot in common. You can’t imagine.”
What could I have in common with this Amazon? “Oh?”
Helena nodded, lifted a golden eyebrow and plucked a glass of champagne off a roving waiter’s tray. She held it aloft, in Jen’s direction. “May your marriage last longer than mine, Mrs. Brookhaven.”
Jen had absolutely no idea how to respond to this. “I’m sorry,” she finally said. “Did . . . something happen to your husband?”
The blonde drank half the glass of wine, eyeing Jen over the rim. Then she smiled almost affectionately. “Why yes,” she said. “You did.”
“What?” Jen asked inelegantly, instead of the “I beg your pardon” that her grandmother had always tried to teach her.
“You happened to my husband,” Ms. Amazon repeated. “You broke up my marriage.” And so saying, she tipped the rest of the champagne down her throat. Then she handed the empty glass to Jen, who stared at her without comprehension.
“But—but I don’t even know your husband,” Jen said.
“You most certainly do. You just married him.”