A blizzard wedding, p.1
A Blizzard Wedding, page 1
A Blizzard Wedding
By Gay N. Lewis, Carlene Havel, Bonnie McCune, Trinity Hart,
Karen Cogan, Jayna Morrow, Linda Carroll-Bradd & Kimberly B. Jackson
Copyright 2012 Prism Book Group
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Cover Art by Joan Alley
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are the product of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
Published by Prism Book Group
First Edition, 2013
Published in the United States of America
Contact info: [email protected]
Thank you for downloading A Blizzard Wedding, the conclusion of Lightning Strikes and After the Storm. If you haven’t read Lightning Strikes or After the Storm yet, please download it from our website. This short story was written in round-robin style by numerous Prism Book Group authors during a promotional event. Each contributor had the opportunity to add a section, and take the story where they chose. The authors had a good time pulling this together! Now that the event is over, they are offering it free of charge for readers who would enjoy the opportunity to read it. It is meant as fun, merely to showcase various writing styles, and is not intended as a novel. Visit our website for all of Rachel and Luke’s free short stories!
Rachel wheeled her suitcases through the airport terminal, pausing when she realized she’d no idea where she was going. The flight had landed a little over schedule, but by only fifteen minutes. That was an additional half an hour ago.
How she’d missed Luke in the short, two-day separation. She’d been eager to throw herself into his arms at the gate, relieved her flight hadn’t been canceled when the impending snow storm had interfered with so many others’ plans.
Instead, her fiancé was nowhere to be found. Even after she’d visited the baggage carousel to claim her luggage, he wasn’t answering her calls. Not to his lodge room, nor his cell phone. Maybe he was just late, but that wasn’t like him.
A glance through glass doors revealed heavy snowflakes falling and beginning to accumulate on the sidewalk. Rachel rolled her luggage to a nearby bench and sat. Was Luke okay? While she’d wrapped up ends on a last-minute story, he’d left early to ensure all was prepared for their weekend wedding in the Sky Ridge Mountains. The affair would be simple, involving only immediate family, and of course, the best man and maid of honor. Rachel couldn’t have been more panicked when the news began warning of bad weather, worried she wouldn’t make it.
But where was he?
Merely late, of course. Something was holding him up. She was simply spoiled by Luke’s usual promptness, but he’d be here. Luke never let her down. Never.
He was the most trustworthy, dependable man on the planet. And she was the lady lucky enough to be marrying him.
Her mind flicked back in time to his romantic proposal. As if she could have said no! After months of dating, she’d picked up a fresh-off-the-press copy of The Week, the magazine where he was publisher, and she worked as one of the editors.
She always liked to review the final product and often did so while taking a morning break at her desk. Banana in hand, fresh cup of coffee still steaming, she perused the interior. There, on page sixteen, was an article written by Luke Ashton entitled The World’s Most Beautiful Woman. It went on to enumerate the many things he loved about Rachel, from the shape of her ears, to her dedication to work, to the way she sighed and her big, big heart. A hundred different qualities.
At the end of that long list, he proposed marriage.
Tears in her eyes, she’d looked up from her desk to find him standing in her doorway, a huge diamond ring glittering in an open black velvet box. Her assistant, she found out later, had tipped him off that she was reading the article.
Luke walked to her side, dropped to one knee and proposed.
The answer had been a quick, certain yes, and they’d agreed they didn’t want the wait of an intricate, large wedding. Simple, swift, and sweet. So here she sat. Alone, not certain what to do, watching the snow fall heavier and heavier.
* * *
A shriek from across the concourse jarred Rachel out of her brooding. A young woman, a near twin to Rachel, barreled down the aisle at top speed and flung her arms around Rachel’s neck. A yellow nylon tote bag dropped on Rachel’s toes and a wheeled suitcase spun away to hit a row of chairs next to them.
“Cousin Ivy!” Rachel crowed, jumped up, and hugged back. Now that her maid of honor was here, everything would be fine. “I was starting to worry your plane wouldn’t get in from Boston before the blizzard settled.”
“Do you think I’d let something as minor as a storm keep me from your one and only wedding?” said the dark-haired gamine. Although her hair, clipped short and shag, was different from Rachel’s, her petite features, flashing eyes, and slim frame were near-duplicates.
The two women stepped back and looked at one another. “You look great!” they said simultaneously.
Rachel tugged Ivy to the side of the concourse to avoid other passengers. “Sit, sit,” she said as she lowered herself back onto the bench. “Did you find a dress you want to wear?”
“Yes, but I still don’t understand why you’re low-keying such a momentous occasion as your wedding.”
“Luke and I love each other. Our relationship is so special that we don’t need all that hoo-haw. That’s why I told you just to find a nice gown.”
“Speaking of Luke…” Ivy’s head swiveled from one side to the other. “Where is the man? I thought you two were inseparable.”
Rachel remembered her earlier concern and began to panic. “I don’t know. He came first to make final arrangements. I thought he’d meet me here, but no dice. I tried the lodge and his cell phone, but no responses. What can be wrong?”
“I’m sure it’s nothing. You know how bad reception can be in the mountains. But I do think we should make our way to the lodge.” Ivy flashed a glance outside where snowfall now was covering the street. “At least we’ll be able to relax and get ready. Isn’t there a shuttle that goes to all the hotels?”
With a flurry of activity, the two shrugged on coats, hats, scarves and gloves, then positioned their pieces of luggage for maximum efficiency. They made their way outside to the transit lane to join a few winter enthusiasts also waiting for transportation. One of these was a tall man toting not only two suitcases but also ski equipment, a guitar case, a laptop carrier, and a cell phone, on which he kept punching numbers with one gloved finger.
“There’s someone who doesn’t know how to pack,” murmured Ivy to Rachel.
As the green-and-white shuttle pulled under the roofed parking lane, clearing a bit of the snow from the road, the man joined the two to wait for the door to open. It swung ajar, and all three attempted to enter at once.
“Excuse me,” the man said with a sweeping bow. “Ladies first.”
Rachel flicked him a smile, but Ivy frowned and whispered, “What a phony.”
As Rachel found two seats near the front of the shuttle, she reproached Ivy. “Come on, Cuz. The guy was being polite. Don’t jump to your usual conclusions.”
The two settled in, and the man passed them in the shuttle’s aisle. His skis knocked Ivy’s shoulder, and he lost a grip on his phone, dumping the instrument into her lap. “Watch it, buster,” she snapped.
The trip to the ski lodge gave the cousins time to giggle over the upcoming Valentine’s Day wedding, Rachel to expound on Luke’s many virtues, and Ivy to provide an update on her latest adv
“So that’s my report,” Ivy sighed. “All the men out there are hopeless. Most have no jobs or lousy ones, they were raised by wild animals, they rarely bathe, and all they’re interested in is reality television shows and sports. You’ve got the only good one. If he is, indeed, what he seems to be.”
Rachel got annoyed. “I’ve told you how wonderful he is; and you’ve met him twice when you came into town for business.”
“Sure. That’s why he met us at the airport,” Ivy said.
“Enough, enough. I know you were burned, but stop with the snide comments.”
The rest of the short drive was silent. In front of the lodge, the cousins got off and collected their luggage. They paused momentarily to look at the front of the ski lodge, a charming interpretation of a Swiss villa, surrounded by evergreens and decked with miniature flashing white lights around the eaves.
“Nice,” Ivy said.
“Yes, and small enough to be intimate and friendly. Let’s check in.”
At the registration desk, Rachel stepped forward. Before she could sign in, she heard Ivy behind her. “Oh, no. Look who’s followed us here.” Their fellow shuttle passenger had dumped his things at the side of the desk and stood a few feet from them.
Rachel turned back to the clerk. “Checking in for Rachel Harmon and Luke Ashton’s party. Two of us.”
“Make that three of us.” The man from the bus stepped forward. “You must be Rachel,” he continued. “I’m the best man, Joshua Muro.”
“Oh, Luke’s told me so much about you. I’m happy to finally meet you. And this is my maid of honor and cousin, Ivy Tower,” Rachel answered.
“We’ll have time for pleasantries later,” said Joshua. “Right now I need to talk to Luke. I’ve tried his cell so often, my finger’s sore. Where is he?”
“I don’t know,” said Rachel. “You mean you haven’t heard from him either?”
“Pardon me, miss,” the clerk said. “May I finish your registrations?”
Rachel nodded and returned to the duty at hand. “Has anyone else from our party arrived? In addition to my fiancé, I mean.”
“Sorry. I know we’re expecting eight or ten more, but the weather maybe delaying them,” answered the clerk.
Ivy and Joshua backed off and continued to chat in low tones. As Rachel finished and bent to collect her luggage, she couldn’t believe what she was hearing and seeing.
Ivy leaned forward and waved an index finger under Joshua’s nose. “And let me give it to you straight,” she was grousing in a low but strong tone. “If your friend gives my Rachel a minute of doubt or discomfort in this marriage, I’m coming after him myself.”
“Right back at you,” answered Joshua through clenched teeth. “If it turns out your wonderful cousin is getting married because she’s a gold digger or an overly ambitious writer, I’ll see to it that Luke drops her like a hot potato.”
“Excusssse me,” Rachel said to the combatants as she pretended she hadn’t overheard the accusations being tossed around like salad. “Are we ready to go to our rooms?”
As they followed the clerk’s directions to the elevator, Joshua trailed behind them. They held it for him as he piled inside with his baggage.
“We’re all on the second floor. I guess we’ll be neighbors,” he said.
Ivy sniffed. “I hope you don’t plan on playing your guitar at all hours of the night. Are you a musician or something?”
“I’m the music minister at my church.”
Ivy’s eyes widened, causing Rachel amusement. She poked Rachel in the ribs. “Did you know that?”
“Yes. Luke mentioned it.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You didn’t ask.”
Ivy stared up at Joshua. “You don’t talk like a minister. Don’t you have to turn the other cheek?”
“I’m human, too. I meant what I said about Luke. He deserves a fantastic wife.”
“He’s getting one,” Ivy shot back.
The elevator stopped and he smiled at Rachel. “I’m sure he is. Let me know if you hear from him, would you? I’m in 262.”
“I will. I hope it’s soon,” Rachel said.
The women entered their room. Wood paneling, exposed ceiling beams, a brick fireplace and wide plank hardwood floors gave the room a rustic feel. Comforters with pine tree décor completed the theme.
Rachel and Ivy set their bags on the floor. Rachel punched in Luke’s number again, only to get his voicemail. She was so distraught, she wanted to cry.
“Can you believe that guy, being a minister and talking to me that way?” Ivy asked.
“You started it,” Rachel told her. “Why don’t you like him? He’s a real hunk–tall, dark, and handsome.”
“I don’t know. He seemed pompous, like he looks down on us. He wears a leather jacket.”
“You’re reading too much into it. Lots of men wear leather jackets.”
Rachel’s phone buzzed and she grabbed it. “Yes?”
She sucked in her breath and Ivy grabbed her arm. “What’s wrong?”
Rachel ignored her and listened.
“A concussion? Are you sure you’re okay?”
She focused on his answer.
“I really want to come see you.”
She shook her head. “I know. The weather is bad. I’m just glad I know where you are. I’ll stay here and see you tomorrow morning. I love you.”
She sighed as she clicked off.
“Luke’s car spun out of control on some ice on the way to the airport. He has an injured wrist, likely sprained, and a mild concussion. Right now, they’re keeping him for observation and he’ll be released soon if everything’s all right. He didn’t want me to try coming to see him in this weather.”
“I’m so glad you heard from him. I’m sorry for the things I said about him not turning up for us.”
“All’s forgiven if you promise not to do it again.”
Ivy saluted. “Aye, aye.”
“I feel better, but I’m still worried about Luke.”
“They’ll take good care of him.”
Rachel gazed out the window. “It’s snowing harder. I wonder if anyone else will get here tonight.”
“You have two days until the wedding.”
“And numerous people missing.”
“They’re probably stranded at the airport,” Ivy said. “Let’s go to supper. I’m famished.”
“I don’t feel hungry, yet I should eat something. All I had were peanuts on the flight,” Rachel admitted.
They took the elevator down to the restaurant and chose a cozy table near the fireplace. A friendly waiter delivered water and menus. After looking at the cuisine, Ivy said, “They specialize in steak and ribs. I’m going for the ribs.”
Rachel glanced up to see Joshua approach. “Have you heard anything from Luke?”
“Yes. I’m so sorry. I forgot to tell you. He was in a car accident and suffered a concussion and injured wrist. They’re keeping him for observation right now, and he’s waiting for the doctor to come around with the x-ray results.”
“At least he’ll be okay. I feared worse. However, I wonder if he’ll be able to get here. The storm is supposed to intensify.”
“That’s a comforting observation,” Ivy muttered.
Rachel nudged her under the table. To Joshua, she said, “Would you like to join us?”
He smiled. “That would be great. I hate eating alone.”
Rachel saw Ivy tighten her lips and wondered if she was employing a self-protective mechanism against a guy who was handsome and assured. Rachel wondered if she would ever break down the wall and allow herself to trust another man.
“Excuse me,” Rachel said, grabbing her ringing phone and retreating to the lobby.
“Hello, darling. I can’t wait to see you.”
“Luke! Are you all right? Has something else happened? Have they decided it’s worse than a concussion? Do you want me to come—”
“Hold on, one question at a time.” The sound of Luke’s laughter warmed her heart. “I’m fine. I promise, just a little banged up. Has Joshua arrived yet?”
“Yes, he’s here. His flight came in just after mine. As a matter of fact, my cousin Ivy and I are about to have dinner with him.”
“That’s a relief. He’s not answering his cell phone. I’d like to talk to him.”
“Just a minute,” Rachel said as she returned to the hotel restaurant. Handing her phone to Joshua, she said, “It’s Luke.”
“Hey, Buddy,” Joshua said. “Hang on while I go someplace where I can talk.”
Ivy’s eyes followed Joshua out of the restaurant. “I suppose he has to get away from us to have a conversation.”
“Would you prefer for him to stay here and disrupt the other patrons?” Rachel asked.
Ivy shrugged. “No. Since you ask, I’d like to see him perform a magic trick and make himself disappear.”
“Did he say something to upset you while I was gone?” Rachel asked.
“Not exactly.” Ivy buried her nose in the menu. “I may change my mind about the ribs.”
Rachel pulled Ivy’s menu down enough to see her cousin’s eyes. “What then?”
“Maybe the steak.”
“You know as well as I do that my question has nothing to do with food.”
“He’s just so self-assured. So…I don’t know what to call it.”
Rachel withdrew her hand and took a sip of water. “So much like Barry?”
“Shhh. Here he comes.” Ivy folded her menu.
“Thank you,” Joshua said as he handed Rachel her phone.
Not able to hide her disappointment, Rachel said, “You hung up. I wanted to talk to Luke again.”
“I’m sorry, but—”
The waiter cleared his throat. “Would you like a few more minutes?”
“No. We’re ready, and we’ll need separate checks,” Ivy answered. “I’ll have the ribs. Baked potato, house salad, and Italian dressing on the side.”
“Exactly the same for me,” Rachel said.
Joshua folded and re-folded his napkin. “I’ve decided not to have dinner,” he said. “I have an errand to run. Would you excuse me?”
“Just a minute.” Rachel put her hand firmly on Joshua’s arm. “My investigative reporter’s instincts are kicking in. You and Luke had a phone conversation, and you’ve suddenly decided to opt out of dinner. Then you make a lame excuse about an errand in the middle of a blizzard. Something’s going on, and I want to know what it is.”
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