Novella three in the new Bridesmaids Series!
Long before Scarlet became a Bonander of the New York Bon-Bon Chocolate Bonanders, she grew up on the wild side of the Appalachians. Now this country girl turned debutante needs to head to the wilds of Ecuador to find her cousin’s missing groom in time for the wedding. All she’s got is her toothless Uncle Cletus, a beat-up motorcycle with a sidecar, and the sexy best man, Mike Romero to conquer rough terrain, territorial spiders, and one nasty drug lord who bears a striking resemblance to Mike.
Heat level: PG
The man with one-eye was bluffing.
He ran a finger beneath the edge of the black eye-patch – again – and stared at Scarlet Kuhn Bonander with a dark eye that seemed to see everything she wanted to hide – her measly pair of twos, the too-stiff padding in her wondrous bra, and the two lies she had to live by to stay in the Bonander family.
“I’ll see you a Goober. And…” Mike Romero of the eye-patch spoke in that larger than life voice of his. It went with his broad shoulders and bulging biceps and the by-the-way-I’m-bigger-than-everyone attitude. And by bigger, he obviously meant better. He’d been looking down on Scarlet since they’d met an hour ago.
They played poker with vending machine candy in a scarcely populated VIP lounge at the Las Vegas airport, waiting for Jackson Hardaway’s flight to land from Ecuador for what was supposed to be ten days of pre-wedding festivities. However, Mother Nature had ruined their plans.
On television, the muted news report showed updates on the earthquake in that far away land – buildings collapsed on Ecuadorian streets, people being rescued from the rubble, and an ever-increasing death toll. Next to her, Tiffany, the bride and Scarlet’s cousin, watched the news feed and sat as tensely knotted as a stale pretzel, ready to snap. There’d been no word from Jackson, the groom, since the earthquake two days ago. If they didn’t hear from him soon…if he wasn’t on the plane arriving shortly…Tiff might break.
Hence the poker game with ridiculous stakes, the kink in Scarlet’s neck, and the contortion of catastrophe burning up her stomach.
“And…” Mike-the-bluffer said with a raised eyebrow. “I’ll raise you a pack of chewing gum.”
“You’ve got nothing.” Scarlet didn’t hesitate. She tossed a pack of gum on the low table, thus depleting her pot. “Nicole, loan me another death by chocolate cookie so I can raise the stakes.”
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough?” Nicole, a bridesmaid and master baker, snapped the lid on her Tupperware cookie-keeper closed. She and Scarlet were bridal party acquaintances, not close to the bail-me-out level of friendship.
“This hand is over.” Mike made to lay his cards down.
“Wait.” Scarlet never gave up, even if she had to bluff. She glanced at Tiff. “I know you keep breath mints in your purse.”
“You only play desperate when you have nothing,” Tiff said without tearing her gaze from the television. But she said it with a half-smile.
Scarlet would take half-smiles over tears any day of the decade.
“I didn’t think it could be done.” Groomsman Shane crowed and slapped Mike on the back. “You cleaned Scarlet out.”
“Not so fast.” Scarlet snapped her cards on the table. “I call.” Let Mike prove he had something in his hand to beat her.
“Twos?” Nicole wrapped her arms around the Tupperware. You’d think the contents were made from gold. “I gave you a cookie for a pair of twos?”
Scarlet shushed her. “Let’s see what you’ve got, big guy.”
Mike stared her down. His face was stony. Not the plump, pale planes of a classic marble statue. His face was tan and rough-hewn. A hard chin. Bladed cheek bones. An eye as dark as an Appalachian cave. And that eye-patch. It was equal parts bad-ass, villain, and pirate, and gave Scarlet the me-man-you-woman tummy tingle.
Mike fanned his cards across from hers. “A pair of – ”
“Threes?” Shane flipped over the hand he’d folded with. “I had a pair of eights.”
He’d bankrupted Scarlet with a pair of threes? She clenched her cavity-free teeth.
The Story Behind the Story
Contrary to what you might have heard, I’m an author who keeps an open mind to reader feedback. Some of the excitement from the first book was the exotic location (Ecuador, with its bugs and snakes) and the trio of elderly nuns. This wasn’t part of my plot for the next Bridesmaid book. But the more I thought about the idea, the more ideas came to me.
In all my books, the supporting characters provide a lot of the comic relief. I needed someone to tag along on the rescue and Uncle Cletus walked on the page with missing teeth and a toupee. I had no idea why he was so rickety and broken down until I flipped through a picture of my sister-in-law in the last few months of her battle with cancer. This once beautiful woman was in her fifties. She walked as if she was 90 and had few teeth left. A bit of Carrie lives on in Cletus and I couldn’t be happier. I only wish she could have beaten cancer the way Cletus did.
While writing the story, I needed a way to get from the airport to the orphanage where Jax was hiding. I kept seeing the Can-Am Spyder commercials (a motorcycle with 3 wheels, 2 of which are in the front). This odd version of a motorcycle wasn’t universally accepted by traditional motorcycle riders, including my husband, who once said “You might just as well ride with a sidecar. All the maneuverability is gone, along with the manliness.” Hence, the motorcycle and sidecar. And yes, I looked up some sidecar rider stories. All stunts conducted by my hero/heroine with the motorcycle were attempted by others in real life (if you believe everything you read on the internet – lol).