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ER nurse Darcy Cavanaugh is sailing the high seas again–adrift as a bridesmaid on a wedding cruise complete with raucous firefighters who have a taste for practical jokes and raunchy ties. Cruising up the West Coast, Darcy tries not to panic about one curious ring-sized box hidden in her boyfriend's pocket. But a poet-stalker obsessed with her feet, a stressed-out wedding planner, and her hunky ex-boyfriend are keeping Darcy on alert for more than the free mimosas!
When the prankster firefighters start dropping like flies, "I do" becomes "I didn't" as the entire wedding party is held onboard and questioned one by one. Between bouts of killer staples, interrogations by the FBI, and one mortifying polka-dot bridesmaid dress, Darcy wonders if she'll ever be ready for the tumultuous tides of marriage.
Click here to download Book Club Questions for Aye Do or Die, prepared by author Candy Calvert!
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Registered nurse Candy Calvert (Texas) is experienced in emergency medicine. She is a contributing author to the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul and has won honors in writing competitions sponsored by Writers Digest and others.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"So, is there a time limit on boob scratching before I go certifi-ably nuts?" I asked as I glared into the cabin mirror and daubed calamine lotion around a dozen spot-size Band-Aids above my cleavage. "You're . . . umm . . . way beyond it, babe."
Marie Whitley's reflection slid into view from behind me, dark brows raised as she mumbled around the slim cheroot pinched between her teeth. "Light years maybe."
"Great." I moaned and inspected the Band-Aids; not the trendi-est accessories for cruise wear but maybe–oh jeez. A long strand of my coppery hair stuck to the calamine and I picked at it while fighting yet another tidal wave of itching. A rash from "nervous anxiety"? No way. Did that dermatologist forget that I was a trauma nurse? Darcy Cavanaugh, Emergencies "R" Us, that's me. And, bet your sweet ass, we ER nurses wear our nerve like boxing gloves. So it's not like a little . . . life stress would give me blotches.
I peered at my pathetic reflection and sighed. Maybe I did have a few things weighing on my mind, but it wasn't anything I couldn't handle. This five-day wedding cruise would give me the time I needed to–I raised my brows at my best friend's deepening smirk. "Well?" I whirled to face her. "C'mon, tell me the truth here. What are you laughing at, the Band-Aids or this pink gunk?"
Marie took a quick drag on her cheroot and exhaled, flicking a spray of ashes from the front of her polka-dot bridesmaid's gown. "Neither. Sorry." Her gray eyes squinted under a curly fringe of bangs while cherry smoke wafted into the air, mingling with the scent of my calamine. "It's these dresses.
?Vintage'? Would you just look at us?"
She wrestled with her matching dotted belt as the ship's whistle began a series of blasts. "You realize that in a couple of hours we're sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge and right into a freaking re-run of I Love Lucy?" Marie rolled her eyes. "I'm forty, not vintage. And these dots do scary things to my hips. I feel like Ethel Mertz."
I looked back at our dual reflections and shook my head. Navy polka-dot dresses, shoulder pads, white cuffs, scarlet lipstick, and polish. I glanced at my reddish curls top-knotted with a silk scarf high above my itchy skin and then opened my green eyes wide. Marie had nailed it. We were the wacky duo for a new millennium: Itchy Lucy and Gay Ethel. And we were traveling with a group of practical jokers that made even those endless reruns look tame. Horny firemen and traveling nurses. Not a good combo, trust me.
I glanced toward the cabin window as a roar of laughter preceded the hollow thunder of Conga drums. We'd barely survived squirting cameras and blue-dye chewing gum; could whoopee cushions be far behind? Lord help us. The sail-away party had begun.
"How the hell did I get shanghaied into this clown gig?" Marie grumbled.
"For Patti Ann, of course," I said, tossing lotion-soaked cotton balls toward a wastebasket. One pink blob missed and stuck to a banana in the complimentary fruit basket. "We're her ?dearest and closest gal friends.'"
Marie stared at me. "We've known her for exactly nine months, Darc'." She picked the cotton off the banana and wrinkled her nose. "Nine months does not a bridesmaid make. Not with polka dots. You're way too easy."
I shrugged and felt the Band-Aids strain. "Okay, maybe her closest friends geographically." It was true. Patti Ann Devereaux, cruise ship bride, was from Mobile, Alabama, and had been a traveling nurse in our Morgan Valley Hospital for nine months now. Three tours. Tours? Like com-bat? Maybe so. Working with someone in the trenches of a trauma ward with short staffing, rerouted ambulances, mandatory over-time, and the occasional crackhead armed with a knife did make for wartime camaraderie among nurses brave–or foolish–enough to stay enlisted. Like Marie, and like me, too. Eight years. Couldn't be-lieve I was still there. No, not true. What I still couldn't believe was that I'd almost left it last year to sell orthotics for a podiatrist. Burn-out can do that, but the job definitely made for some interesting moments. Like zipping you into a polka-dot, high-seas nightmare.
"And besides," I said, smiling slowly, "she found that great wed-ding planner with a last-second discount on this cruise . . . San Fran-cisco, Seattle, and Vancouver Island–great places for a few hundred bucks. And you don't even have to work onboard this time. Pure relaxation. Can't complain about that."
"Watch me," Marie said, holding the full skirt out. "At least Carol's not here to witness this humiliation. If she weren't at that Book Expo, she'd have talked me out of cruising with you again." Marie narrowed her eyes. "She still has those issues about my get-ting too close to cross-dressers and kinky lingerie sculpture and dead bodies. Not to mention the torching of my favorite pair of spotted cow socks."
I crossed my arms. "It was one sock, and the FBI replaced it for you. Six months ago." FBI. My stomach did its roller-coaster plunge and I bit my lower lip to fight a sudden fireball of itching. FBI. Luke.
Marie nodded. "Only because you were about to hop in the sack with a federal agent." She raised her brows. "Which reminds me, are you still denying that this itch–pardon the word–to sail away into the sunset has nothing to do with running away from Luke Skyler?" She pursed her lips and gave a smug nod as I raised a fingertip to rub at a Band-Aid. "Right. And I'm also supposed to believe you forgot all about that little velvet jewelry box you found hidden under his stack of boxer shorts." She sighed. "So, are you going to tell me what happened with him last ni–"
A knock on the cabin door made us turn, and a chubby bru-nette bounced inside. Patti Ann Devereaux wore a dotted illusion veil and a tee shirt stretched taut across ample breasts, its hot-pink glitter letters proudly pronouncing, "I AM THE BRIDE."
"Oh my Ga-awd," she gushed, dark lashes fluttering."Don't y'all look just wooonderful?" She stretched her arms wide and launched herself toward Marie.
I smothered a laugh as Marie squirmed in the bride's arms. But mostly I studied Patti Ann. It had become like some weird hobby for me since she'd begun her wedding plans a few weeks ago. I'd been pretty close to obsessed with it since I'd accidentally found the jewelry box in Luke's dresser. I just didn't understand. How could someone only twenty-two years old be so certain that mar-riage was the right thing to do? For godsake, I was thirty and it had taken me weeks to commit to keeping my grandma's goldfish. This whole confusing mess had me close to tearing open boxes of macaroni and cheese. You know, that stuff you mix with milk and half a cube of hydrogenated oil and eat right out of the pan . . . this was a bad sign.
Patti Ann released Marie and raised her palms like the just-healed in a revival tent. "Oh Lord. Marie Claire, this is sooo be-yond perfect. You look exactly like one of our old photos." Her voice choked up and I bit my lip as Marie backed her polka dots into the fruit basket. "In Grandma's wedding picture? You are just the spittin' image of Great Aunt Ethel."
On deck, I smoothed my coral tee over my striped capris and watched Marie jab a paper umbrella into her drink like some psy-chotic Mary Poppins. If I called her Ethel again she was going to haul off and slug me. It had been hard enough to get her to agree to be a bridesmaid. Not that I blamed her since, frankly, hopping onboard a "Booze Cruise" with an uprooted Southern belle, her paramedic fiancé, and his half dozen firefighter cohorts wasn't my first choice of a getaway, either. But it was a getaway. And I needed to. Luke bought an engagement ring? And there was still that creepy problem with FedEx.
I slid my arms along the teak deck rail and nudged an elbow into Marie's L. L. Bean flannel. Beyond us, the San Francisco sky-line rose from a scattering of low-lying clouds and stretched up-ward toward the late afternoon sun, purple, silver, coral pink . . . and heart-rending familiar. I could tell you the exact mileage from my place to Luke's apartment near the Marina. And all the short-cuts I took when lust smothered my fear of speeding tickets. "At least Patti Ann's satisfied now, so we don't have to climb back into polka-dot hell until we walk down that aisle in Victoria Gardens."
I nodded toward Coit Tower, the Transamerica building, and the Bay Bridge in the distance. "And meanwhile, we've got the City by the Bay and–" Marie poked me with the umbrella stick. "Quit stalling and just tell me. What did you say to Luke last night?"
I took a deep breath of salty air and let my gaze drift away from the hubbub of the Embarcadero Pier and back out across the bay. A fishing boat, its deck stacked high with crab pots, chugged on toward Fisherman's Wharf with a flock of greedy gulls squawking overhead. Farther out, sailboats leaned into the breeze, and I won-dered if one of them was Luke's. The Shamrock Tattoo. I groaned. It shouldn't have surprised me that a guy who'd name a boat after my left breast was getting way too serious.
"Well?" Marie reached for another drink from a passing deck steward and sailed her paper umbrella overboard. "Did you tell him you'd move back East with him, or did you break the big fed's heart?" The itching on my chest was giving way to a strange achy feel-ing and I didn't know which was worse. I stopped watching the sailboat and turned back to Marie.
"The Boston assignment starts in two weeks and I told Luke that I don't see how I can go with him." I glanced down, avoiding Marie's eyes, and cleared my throat. "I mean it's not like I can just pick up and traipse across the country, you know. My grandma's in that legal mess, and how would the ER replace me on such short notice and . . ."
The ship's horn blasted, drowning my pathetic and well-re-hearsed litany. The horn repeated three more times and then a deafening chorus of taunting laughter and hoots replaced it deci-bel for decibel. I turned and shook my head. "Great. Looks like our groomsmen are in fine form."
"Yup." Marie rolled her eyes. "And here comes the reason."
Sure enough, the firefighters' heated response had announced the entrance of Patti Ann's twenty-three-year-old wedding plan-ner, Kirsty Pelham. The tall, leggy blonde in black-framed glasses and crisp green Ann Taylor linen marched along the deck, taking the whole thing in stride just the way she did everything else. Cool as a celery stalk in ice water. Could anyone really be that calm and organized? It was a good guess that "itch" wasn't even in her vo-cabulary. You could bet that a little thing like a black velvet jewelry box wouldn't send her off the deep end. Maybe studying the bride was the wrong thing to do. I needed to be more like this woman.
"So do you think Dale Worley will make it under that limbo bar while he's ogling our wedding planner?" I asked, nodding toward the groomsmen gathered around the pair of stewards holding a bamboo pole. A forty-something man, with a handlebar mustache, silk shirt, and way-too-tight leather pants, leaned precariously back-ward. He aimed a toothy grin toward Kirsty.
Marie grimaced."I think his pelvis is in serious jeopardy–eew!" She shielded her eyes as the man managed to spread his legs wider and began bobbing his butt like a bumblebee. "Who the hell is that guy?"
I frowned. "?Worley's Wheels.' You know, that car dealer who has the commercials with the talking animals."
"No way–the llama wearing lip gloss and a bustier?"
"That one. Anyway, Dale's also a volunteer firefighter and pretty damned proud of it. Not that he ever gets near any flames. But he does love to ride the truck and handle the horn."
"Yes." Marie shuddered as we watched Worley stand upright and smooth the front of his leather pants.
"I can see that he does. Let's go get something to eat before I'm tempted to push him over the rail."
We maneuvered through the partygoers to the opposite side of the deck, and Marie munched a shrimp-on-sourdough canapé while pointing toward Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate beyond. The sky was turning a rosy gold as the sun sank toward the sea. My gaze lingered over Sausalito and Tiburon in the distance. I'd just caught a glimpse of a sailboat tacking toward the pier with a blond-ish man at the tiller, when the band suddenly stopped playing and people began to scream. And then a shout erupted behind us.
The ship's horn began an ominous series of blasts.
"What the hell?" Marie stepped forward into the swarm of pas-sengers surging toward the opposite rail, and I followed. It was im-possible to see what was causing the commotion. I leaned my head around a deck steward and saw that a line of uniformed crewmen had formed a human barricade, arms extended to keep the crowd back, while a trio of others grasped at a man's hands clinging to the far side of the teak rail. The crowd parted enough so that I could see Patti Ann and her groom, "Cowboy" Kyle, watching in horror.
I inched forward, squeezing between people until I was beside Patti Ann, just as the crewman hauled the victim onto the deck. The crowd gasped in relief and a crescendo of applause began. Dale Worley.
Why wasn't I surprised?
"Oh my Lord," the bride whispered, covering her face with her hands. "I knew he was going to fall, the fool. Drinking all that rum and then trying to climb up on the rail like a scene in the Titanic movie." Patti shook her head, short curls bobbing. "King of the World, my Alabama ass! And just look what a jerk he's making of himself now."
I strained to see as the crew attempted to disperse the crowd. I stood on tiptoe, swayed, and then almost bumped into Kirsty Pel-ham who was entering notes into her ever-present Palm Pilot. Her voice was cool as the glass on a mai tai.
"One hundred and six feet," she murmured, nodding her head with authority. Her pale hair skimmed her shoulders, then swung back into place with military precision.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"The distance from that rail to the cement pier below," she said like she was figuring the cost of little ribbon-tied sacks of Jordan Almonds. She sighed and pressed the stylus pen to the buttons for another note. "That . . . um . . . ," Kirsty glanced down at her PDA, "that Mr. Worley is going to be a challenge.
There's no room for practical jokers in a wedding party." She sighed and tapped her heavy-framed glasses. "Still, he's here as a guest of the groom; what can I do? Make adjustments that's all." Kirsty flashed me a warm smile. "I'm glad I can count on my bridesmaids to behave themselves."
Behave? Oh jeez. I smiled back like an idiot, fighting a stupid memory of plaid skirts and nuns and my dubious distinction of be-ing the only six-year-old ever suspended from Holy Spirit School. But, in my defense, the kid I'd fought with had mooned me and dissed my grandma. I'd kick his butt again. Marie arrived at my side just as a British voice spoke calmly over the PA system and the band began to play once more.
"This is Captain McNaughton with a reminder that we are to set sail for Seattle at nineteen-hundred, in exactly thirty-fiv...
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