Chapter One – Mandy
The ivory wedding invitations were mistakenly printed on indigo paper. That accident was the same color as the positive line on my secret pregnancy test.
The bride would flip out, and she was already a couple roses short of a bridal bouquet.
I had to fix it—and fast. My fingers shook as I pulled the invitation from the box.
The tissue paper wrinkled, crinkled, then ripped.
Uh-oh. Now they were the wrong color and wrecked. This was a disaster, but at least we ordered a printed sample of the invitations before we sent them out to the three hundred invitees.
The flaking purplish ink stained my fingers and did not bode well for the bride’s wishes or my likelihood of surviving her impending tantrum. Lindsey had been specific in her designs. It was a…delicate word to use in lieu of unrepentant bridezilla escaped from the clutches of Satan.
The devil reserved a special circle of hell for traitors, thieves, and wedding planners. While my sister wasn’t usually the biblical plague type, little things like the wrong color invitations or photographers who overused sepia tones triggered a furious nuptial wrath. At least she refused the outdoor venue we toured—less chances for a wave of frogs or locusts.
I sighed and tucked the invitation in the box. The Prescott/Harris wedding was one bad shrimp ring away from a nuclear meltdown. If carnations in the centerpieces were any indication of Lindsey’s mood, purple invitations would set the bridal party to DEFCON two.
I sighed. I probably couldn’t bleach the invitations before her inspection, and there wasn’t enough White-Out in the world to hide the purple. I’d have to tell her what happened.
I checked the calendar. Eight weeks until the wedding.
I swiped my phone. Eight minutes until her daily call at noon to discuss the wedding preparations.
Eight minutes it was then. I should have spent them actually doing the work my Dad and his advertising company paid me to do, but I collapsed at my desk. Pregnancy fatigue won out.
What I wouldn’t do for eight hours of rest. So far, the itsy-bitsy break was the only peace I had since I ripped open the pregnancy test one week ago and discovered I was now a Maid-Of-Dishonor.
Of all the complications in my life, I thought the worst would be getting hit by a bus or beat to death with the bridal bouquet.
But a baby?
I was twenty-three. Single. And my family was in full crunch-mode for a wedding that would rival Will and Kate’s royal shindig. The preparations were not going well.
The twice-baked-mini-sweet-potato appetizer nearly tore my sister and her fiancé apart, and Mom had cried for two hours about improperly dyed high heels. I was still apologizing to the caterers for Dad’s choice words about the impractical ice sculpture, and I owed the church one hell of a tithe after the accidental insult about the placement of an “unsightly” crucifix.
My family would spontaneously combust if I revealed the pregnancy now. So I wasn’t risking anything. My lips were zipped until after the wedding.
If I could hide it.
And if I could keep the secret from the baby’s father, Nate.
The agency’s main line rang. Dad grumbled from his office.
“Mandy, can you grab that?” The telltale rustle of a fast-food bag outted him. “Gotta finish this email.”
“Did that email come with onion rings?”
Dad hesitated. Like he’d ever get away with lying to me. “French fries.”
My best friend, Dad’s cardiologist, wouldn’t be happy about that. Rick did not order Dad onto any low salt diet that included a cheeseburger and chili fries with a giant Coke to wash down the coronary waiting to happen. Hopefully he’d just have heartburn by three o’clock. Luckily for us, I stashed a bottle of Pepto-Bismol in my drawer. I bought it when I still thought my nausea was just a little bug.
Boy (or girl?), was I wrong.
Well, I could cure Dad’s indigestion, but I’d never fit him into a tux before Lindsey’s wedding. Pretty sure she had finally re-invited him last week. I’d have to check. The tailor was on standby anyway.
The office line rang again. I answered the call with a glance to the clock on the wall. 11:55. Maybe I’d salvage five minutes of peace?
“Mandy!” Lindsey practically growled at me. I flinched, holding the phone away from my head in case my sister learned how to reach through the receiver. “Answer your freaking texts before I march down there and shove my veil down your throat!”
So…she wasn’t cheerful today. At least I knew how to deal with her. Lindsey had skipped the blushing bride phase and transformed directly to fire-breathing hell-beast, but she was family…
I had double-checked. After the engagement dinner debacle, I’d demanded to see our birth certificates.