#1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts cordially invites you to meet childhood friends Parker, Emma, Laurel, and Mac – the founders of Vows, one of Connecticut’s premier wedding planning companies. After years of throwing make-believe weddings in the backyard, flowers, photography, desserts, and details are what these women do best: a guaranteed perfect, beautiful day full of memories to last the rest of your life. With bridal magazine covers to her credit, Mackensie “Mac” Elliot is most at home behind the camera – ready to capture the happy moments she never experienced while growing up. Her father replaced his first family with a second, and now her mother, moving on to yet another man, begs Mac for attention and money. Mac’s foundation is jostled again moments before an important wedding planning meeting when she bumps into the bride-to-be’s brother...an encounter that has them both seeing stars. Carter Maguire is definitely not her type: he’s stable, and he’s safe. He’s even an English teacher at their high school alma mater. There’s something about him that makes Mac think a casual fling is just what she needs to take her mind off dealing with bride-zillas and screening her mother’s phone calls. But a casual fling can turn into something more when you least expect it. And with the help of her three best friends – and business partners – Mac must learn how to make her own happy memories...
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Nora Roberts is the number-one New York Times-bestselling author of more than 190 novels, including The Search, Black Hills, Tribute, High Noon, and many more. She is also the author of the bestselling futuristic suspense series written under the pen name J.D. Robb. Roberts has more than 400 million copies of her books in print.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
By the time she was eight, Mackensie Elliot had beenmarried fourteen times. She’d married each of her three bestfriends—as both bride and groom—her best friend’s brother(under his protest), two dogs, three cats, and a rabbit.She’d served at countless other weddings as maid of honor,bridesmaid, groomsman, best man, and officiant.Though the dissolutions were invariably amicable, none ofthe marriages lasted beyond an afternoon. The transitory aspectof marriage came as no surprise to Mac, as her own parentsboasted two each—so far.
Wedding Day wasn’t her favorite game, but she kind of likedbeing the priest or the reverend or the justice of the peace. Or,after attending her father’s second wife’s nephew’s bar mitzvah,the rabbi.
Plus, she enjoyed the cupcakes or fancy cookies and fizzylemonade always served at the reception.
It was Parker’s favorite game, and Wedding Day always took place on the Brown Estate, with its expansive gardens, prettygroves, and silvery pond. In the cold Connecticut winters, theceremony might take place in front of one of the roaring firesinside the big house.
They had simple weddings and elaborate affairs. Royal weddings,star- crossed elopements, circus themes, and pirate ships.All ideas were seriously considered and voted upon, and notheme or costume too outrageous.
Still, with fourteen marriages under her belt, Mac grew a bitweary of Wedding Day.
Until she experienced her seminal moment.
For her eighth birthday Mackensie’s charming and mostlyabsent father sent her a Nikon camera. She’d never expressedany interest in photography, and initially pushed it away withthe other odd gifts he’d given or sent since the divorce. ButMac’s mother told her mother, and Grandma muttered and complainedabout “feckless, useless Geoffrey Elliot” and the inappropriategift of an adult camera for a young girl who’d be betteroff with a Barbie doll.
As she habitually disagreed with her grandmother on principle,Mac’s interest in the camera piqued. To annoy Grandma—who was visiting for the summer instead of being in herretirement community in Scottsdale, where Mac strongly believedshe belonged—Mac hauled the Nikon around with her.She toyed with it, experimented. She took pictures of her room,of her feet, of her friends. Shots that were blurry and dark, orfuzzy and washed out. With her lack of success, and her mother’simpending divorce from her stepfather, Mac’s interest in theNikon began to wane. Even years later she couldn’t say whatprompted her to bring it along to Parker’s that pretty summerafternoon for Wedding Day.
Every detail of the traditional garden wedding had beenplanned. Emmaline as the bride and Laurel as groom would exchangetheir vows beneath the rose arbor. Emma would wear the lace veil and train Parker’s mother had made out of an oldtablecloth, while Harold, Parker’s aging and affable goldenretriever walked her down the garden path to give her away.A selection of Barbies, Kens, and Cabbage Patch Kids, alongwith a variety of stuffed animals lined the path as guests.
“It’s a very private ceremony,” Parker relayed as she fussedwith Emma’s veil. “With a small patio reception to follow.Now, where’s the best man?”
Laurel, her knee recently skinned, shoved through a trio ofhydrangeas. “He ran away, and went up a tree after a squirrel.I can’t get him to come down.”
Parker rolled her eyes. “I’ll get him. You’re not supposed tosee the bride before the wedding. It’s bad luck. Mac, you need tofix Emma’s veil and get her bouquet. Laurel and I’ll get Mr. Fish out of the tree.”“I’d rather go swimming,” Mac said as she gave Emma’s veilan absent tug.
“We can go after I get married.”
“I guess. Aren’t you tired of getting married?”
“Oh, I don’t mind. And it smells so good out here. Everything’sso pretty.”
Mac gave Emma the clutch of dandelions and wild violetsthey were allowed to pick. “You look pretty.”
It was invariably true. Emma’s dark, shiny hair tumbled underthe white lace. Her eyes sparkled a deep, deep brown as shesniff ed the weed bouquet. She was tanned, sort of all golden,Mac thought, and scowled at her own milk white skin.
The curse of a redhead, her mother said, as she got her carrotyhair from her father. At eight, Mac was tall for her age andskinny as a stick, with teeth already trapped in hated braces.She thought that, beside her, Emmaline looked like a gypsyprincess.
Parker and Laurel came back, giggling with the feline bestman clutched in Parker’s arms. “Everybody has to take theirplaces.” Parker poured the cat into Laurel’s arms. Mac, you needto get dressed! Emma—”
“I don’t want to be maid of honor.” Mac looked at the poofyCinderella dress draped over a garden bench. “That thing’sscratchy, and it’s hot. Why can’t Mr. Fish be maid of honor, andI’ll be best man?”
“Because it’s already planned. Everybody’s nervous before awedding.” Parker flipped back her long brown pigtails, thenpicked up the dress to inspect it for tears or stains. Satisfied, shepushed it at Mac. “It’s okay. It’s going to be a beautiful ceremony,with true love and happy ever after.”
“My mother says happy ever after’s a bunch of bull.”
There was a moment of silence after Mac’s statement. Theunspoken word divorce seemed to hang in the air.“I don’t think it has to be.” Her eyes full of sympathy, Parkerreached out, ran her hand along Mac’s bare arm.
“I don’t want to wear the dress. I don’t want to be a bridesmaid.I—”
“Okay. That’s okay. We can have a pretend maid of honor.Maybe you could take pictures.”
Mac looked down at the camera she’d forgotten hung aroundher neck. “They never come out right.”
“Maybe they will this time. It’ll be fun. You can be the official wedding photographer.”
“Take one of me and Mr. Fish,” Laurel insisted, and pushedher face and the cat’s together. “Take one, Mac!”
With little enthusiasm, Mac lifted the camera, pressed theshutter.
“We should’ve thought of this before! You can take formalportraits of the bride and groom, and more pictures during theceremony.” Busy with the new idea, Parker hung the Cinderellacostume on the hydrangea bush. “It’ll be good, it’ll be fun. Youneed to go down the path with the bride and Harold. Try totake some good ones. I’ll wait, then start the music. Let’s go!”
There would be cupcakes and lemonade, Mac reminded herself.And swimming later, and fun. It didn’t matter if the pictureswere stupid, didn’t matter that her grandmother was rightand she was too young for the camera.
It didn’t matter that her mother was getting divorced again,or that her stepfather, who’d been okay, had already moved out.It didn’t matter that happy ever after was bull, because it wasall pretend anyway.
She tried to take pictures of Emma and the obliging Harold,imagined getting the film back and seeing the blurry figures andsmudges of her thumb, like always.
When the music started she felt bad that she hadn’t put onthe scratchy dress and given Emma a maid of honor, just becauseher mother and grandmother had put her in a bad mood. So shecircled around to stand to the side and tried harder to take anice picture of Harold walking Emma down the garden path.It looked different through the lens, she thought, the way shecould focus on Emma’s face—the way the veil lay over her hair.And the way the sun shined through the lace was pretty.
She took more pictures as Parker began the “Dearly Beloved”as the Reverend Whistledown, as Emma and Laurel took handsand Harold curled up to sleep and snore at their feet.
She noticed how bright Laurel’s hair was, how the sun caughtthe edges of it beneath the tall black hat she wore as groom.How Mr. Fish’s whiskers twitched as he yawned.
When it happened, it happened as much inside Mac as out.Her three friends were grouped under the lush white curve ofthe arbor, a triangle of pretty young girls. Some instinct had Macshifting her position, just slightly, tilting the camera just a bit.She didn’t know it as composition, only that it looked nicerthrough the lens.
And the blue butterfly fluttered across her range of vision toland on the head of a butter yellow dandelion in Emma’s bouquet.The surprise and plea sure struck the three faces in thattriangle under the white roses almost as one.
Mac pressed the shutter.
She knew, knew, the photograph wouldn’t be blurry and darkor fuzzy and washed out. Her thumb wouldn’t be blocking thelens. She knew exactly what the picture would look like, knewher grandmother had been wrong after all.
Maybe happy ever after was bull, but she knew she wantedto take more pictures of moments that were happy. Because thenthey were ever after.CHAPTER ONE
On January first, Mac rolled over to smack her alarmclock, and ended up facedown on the floor of her studio.
“Shit. Happy New Year.”
She lay, groggy and baffled, until she remembered she’dnever made it upstairs into bed—and the alarm was from hercomputer, set to wake her at noon.
She pushed herself up to stagger to the kitchen and the coffeemaker.Why did people want to get married on New Year’s Eve?Why would they make a formal ritual out of a holiday designedfor marathon drinking and probably inappropriate sex? Andthey just had to drag family and friends into it, not to mentionwedding photographers.
Of course, when the reception had finally ended at two a.m.,she could’ve gone to bed like a sane person instead of uploadingthe shots, reviewing them—spending nearly three more hourson the Hines- Myers wedding photos.
But, boy, she’d gotten some good ones. A few great ones.Or they were all crap and she’d judged them in a euphoricblur.
No, they were good shots.
She added three spoons of sugar to the black coffee anddrank it while standing at the window, looking out at the snowblanketing the gardens and lawns of the Brown Estate.
They’d done a good job on the wedding, she thought. Andmaybe Bob Hines and Vicky Myers would take a clue from thatand do a good job on the marriage.
Either way, the memories of the day wouldn’t fade. The moments,big and small, were captured. She’d refine them, finessethem, print them. Bob and Vicky could revisit the day throughthose images next week or sixty years from next week.
That, she thought, was as potent as sweet, black coffee on acold winter day.
Opening a cupboard, she pulled out a box of Pop- Tarts and,eating one where she stood, went over her schedule for the day.Clay- McFearson (Rod and Alison) wedding at six. Whichmeant the bride and her party would arrive by three, groom andhis by four. That gave her until two for the pre- event summitmeeting at the main house.
Time enough to shower, dress, go over her notes, check andrecheck her equipment. Her last check of the day’s weathercalled for sunny skies, high of thirty- two. She should be able toget some nice preparation shots using natural light and maybetalk Alison—if she was game—into a bridal portrait on the balconywith the snow in the background.
Mother of the bride, Mac remembered—Dorothy (call meDottie)—was on the pushy and demanding side, but she’d bedealt with. If Mac couldn’t handle her personally, God knewParker would. Parker could and did handle anyone and anything.Parker’s drive and determination had turned Vows into one ofthe top wedding and event planning companies in the state in afi ve- year period. It had turned the tragedy of her parents’ deathsinto hope, and the gorgeous Victorian home and the stunninggrounds of the Brown Estate into a thriving and unique business.And, Mac thought as she swallowed the last of the Pop- Tart,she herself was one of the reasons.
She moved through the studio toward the stairs to her upstairsbed and bath, stopped at one of her favorite photos. Theglowing, ecstatic bride with her face lifted, her arms stretched,palms up, caught in a shower of pink rose petals.Cover of Today’s Bride, Mac thought. Because I’m just thatgood.
In her thick socks, flannel pants, and sweatshirt she climbedthe stairs to transform herself from tired, pj- clad, Pop- Tart addictinto sophisticated wedding photojournalist.
She ignored her unmade bed—why make it when you werejust going to mess it up again?—and the bedroom clutter. Thehot shower worked with the sugar and caffeine to clear out anyremaining cobwebs so she could put her mind seriously to today’sjob.
She had a bride who was interested in trying the creative, apassive- aggressive MOB who thought she knew best, a groomso dazzling in love he’d do anything to make his bride happy.And both her B and G were seriously photogenic.
The last fact made the job both plea sure and challenge. Justhow could she give her clients a photo journey of their day thatwas spectacular, and uniquely theirs?
Bride’s colors, she thought, flipping through her mental fi lesas she washed her short, shaggy crop of red hair. Silver and gold.Elegant, glamorous.
She’d had a look at the flowers and the cake—both gettingtheir finishing touches today—the favors and linens, attendants’wardrobes, headdresses. She had a copy of the playlist from theband with the first dance, mother- son, father- daughter danceshighlighted.
So, she thought, for the next several hours, her world wouldrevolve around Rod and Alison.
She chose her suit, her jewelry, her makeup with nearly thesame care as she chose her equipment. Loaded, she went out tomake the short trek from the pool house that held her studio andlittle apartment to the main house.
The snow sparkled, crushed diamonds over ermine, and theair was cold and clean as mountain ice. She definitely had to getsome outside shots, daylight and evening. Winter wedding,white wedding, snow on the ground, ice glistening on the trees,just dripping from the denuded willows over the pond. Andthere the fanciful old Victorian with its myriad rooflines, thearched and porthole windows, rising and spreading, soft blueagainst the hard shell of sky. Its terraces and generous porticoheralded the season with their festoons of lights and greenery.
She studied it as she often did as she walked the shoveledpaths. She loved the lines of it, the angles of it, with its subtletouches of pale yellow, creamy white picked out in that soft, subtleblue.
It had been as much home to her as her own growing up.Often more so, she admitted, as her own had run on her mother’scapricious whims. Parker’s parents had been warm, welcoming,loving and—Mac thought now—steady. They’d given her acalm port in the storm of her own childhood.
She’d grieved as much as her friend at their loss nearly sevenyears before.
Now the Brown Estate was her home. Her business. Her life.And a good one on every level. What could be better than doingsomething you loved, and doing it with the best friendsyou’d ever had?
She went in through the mudroom to hang up her outdoorgear, then circled around to peek into Laurel’s domain.Her friend and partner stood on a step stool, meticulouslyadding silver calla lilies to the five tiers of a wedding cake. Eachflower bloomed at the base of a gold acanthus leaf to glimmering,elegant effect.
“That’s a winner, McBane.”
Laurel’s hand was steady as a surgeon’s as she added the nextlily. Her sunny hair was twiste...
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Book Description Brilliance Corporation, 2009. MP3 CD. Book Condition: Brand New. mp3 abr edition. 7.75x5.50x0.50 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # 1423368711