Authors: Samantha Chase
Friday Night Brides
By Samantha Chase
FRIDAY NIGHT BRIDES
All Rights Reserved © 2016 by Samantha Chase
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher.
Published by Samantha Chase
Back when I was younger, we were friends with a family who owned a bridal shop and I used to go to the shows they put on. I knew some of the models and used to wish I could be up there on the stage with them – modeling the beautiful dresses. I never hit that point, but it was always a great memory for me and something I never forgot. It was one of the main inspirations for this story.
So, Doll – and you know who you are – thank you. Not only for so many years of laughter, but for being an inspiration.
Writing about strong friendships is something that I love to do and I have been blessed with having some of the greatest friends in my life. Whether we’ve known each other since forever or only for a few years, you’ve all been a part of making this particular book possible.
For Linda, Lisa, Lori, Kim and Cheryl – you ladies made my childhood and teen years something that I can always look back on and smile. You’ve seen me at my best and at my worst and yet you’re all still here laughing with me.
For Christine, Angie and Ann – you all came in to my life when I needed you most and have encouraged me and lifted me up when all I wanted to do was curl up in the fetal position and cry. There aren’t enough words to thank you for that.
So this book is dedicated to all of you. Someday, I hope to have all of us in the same room together for the greatest picture ever. Love you all.
Ten years ago…
“I totally felt like a princess tonight.”
“Is it wrong that I didn’t want to put my street clothes back on?”
Hailey James shook her head and laughed. She still couldn’t understand what the big deal was. Or maybe she could. The first time in a wedding gown is always a big deal. Well…at least that’s what she’d learned after going to work with her mom every weekend at her bridal boutique, Enchanted Bridal, since she was five years old. Maybe she had just become desensitized to it all.
Sitting at a table with her three best friends at their favorite café at eleven on a Friday night was the perfect way to cap off the night. Hailey shook her head and smiled as her friends continued to gush about how exciting the night had been.
Every Friday night, Enchanted Bridal held a fashion show—sometimes they were big events at convention centers or hotels, and other times they were scaled back and small and held at the boutique itself. Tonight’s was at the boutique and it was the first time in the thirteen years Hailey and her friends had been modeling in the show that her mother let them be brides. They’d started out as flower girl models when they were five so maybe she just figured it was time.
Maybe it was a big deal, she thought. After all, modeling wedding gowns rather than bridesmaid dresses made them the focus of the entire show. As much as Hailey hated to admit it, it had been kind of cool. Even though she’d been playing dress-up in some of those wedding gowns for years, it was completely different when you walked out onto a stage—with a super-hot guy pretending to be your groom—and having everyone’s eyes on you.
Okay, yeah, it was exciting.
Hailey sighed. Every weekend she helped brides pick out their dresses and listened to them talk about how happy and in love they were and how wonderful their futures were going to be. It wasn’t that she doubted the sentiment, but personally, she had never experienced those overwhelming feelings. And while putting on a dress that made you feel beautiful—like a princess—was great, what Hailey really wanted was to meet a guy who would make her feel like that.
And if it could possibly be one of the many hot models her mother always seemed to find each season, even better. Seriously, her mother had a knack for finding the most amazing looking men. Tonight Hailey had walked with Terrance Adams. He was twenty-three and completely hot. He’d been very nice to her but she got the impression that he looked at her like she was just a kid. So while he was nice to look at, he wasn’t going to be her Prince Charming.
But she had no doubt these Friday night shows were going to be the key to finding a hot groom of her own and her ultimate happily ever after.
Resting her cheek in her hand, she laughed as Angie bragged about how great her boobs had looked in her dress tonight. Hailey would never consider talking about her boobs in public, but Angie had no filter. The four of them around this table were as different as night and day and yet…they clicked. It had been that way ever since the first day of kindergarten.
Angie was the loud one.
Becca was the shy one.
Ella was the sweet one.
And Hailey? Well, she was the sensible one. And sensible, she realized, was really just another word for boring or uptight.
Either way, it worked for them.
“You know what I think?” Becca asked them. “I think this is the start of something big for all of us. I think tonight marks our own journey toward getting to wear one of those gowns for real.”
“Ugh…” Angie moaned. “We’re only eighteen. Do we need to start thinking about our own weddings? Can’t we just get through prom? That’s causing me enough grief.”
“Stop being so cynical. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about or just pretending that we know what our future is going to be like,” Becca admonished. “So…who’s going to go first? Where do you see yourself in say…ten years?”
Even though she thought it was ridiculous, Hailey was the first to play along.
“Me,” she said. “In ten years, I imagine myself being madly in love with one of those hot male models Mom always has in the show. They’re perfect—and look great in a tux!”
They all laughed. “Way to be superficial,” Angie teased.
Hailey shrugged. “I can’t help it if I want a man who looks good.”
“Me next!” Ella said excitedly. “In ten years I know I’m going to be married to Dylan. We’re going to have the perfect, small and intimate wedding I’ve always wanted with just you guys and a handful of family with us.” She sighed happily. “I can’t wait!”
“Ten years?” Becca said with disbelief. “You’ve been dating for years already. Why wait that long?”
Ella shrugged. “Well, hopefully we’ll be married by then but we really want to be financially set before we get married.”
“So practical,” Angie sighed. “What about you, Becs?”
“All I want is to have my own little café and be married to a man who treats me like a princess,” she said dreamily. “I’ve heard there are guys out there who do that—treat girls like that. I just wish I could find one.”
“Yikes. You’re only eighteen, you know. Give it some time,” Angie said. “You all are acting like you need a man to make you happy! You don’t!”
“Really? So where do you see yourself in ten years?” Ella challenged.
“I’m going to grab the world by the balls and do whatever it is I want to do because I don’t need a man to define me,” she challenged.
Everyone went silent.
“Until some guy comes and sweeps you off your feet when you least expect it,” Ella said and then giggled. “It’s going to be the most fun to prove that you’re no different than the rest of us.”
“Bring it, bitches,” Angie said with a grin.
“Seriously, babe. What were you thinking?”
For a minute, Becca could only stare. Was he joking? Had he been paying attention at all? “I…I thought you’d want to come and see the show. That’s why we agreed to meet here,” she said slowly. Unfortunately, she wasn’t sure who she was trying to explain it to—Danny or herself. “You’ve never come to one and…I don’t know…I just thought…”
He held up a hand to stop her. “Becs, look…I think you’ve got the wrong idea here. I’m not interested in going to some…bridal show. I mean…why would I?”
Her shoulders sagged and she gave him a patient smile as she reached for one of his hands. “Danny, this is something that’s really important to me. I’ve been doing this since…forever! I tell you about these shows all the time and it would really mean a lot to me if you came and saw me model.”
The loud bark of laughter was not was Becca was expecting.
“Um…Danny?” But when he continued to laugh, Becca pulled her hand away and began to nervously look around the parking lot. There weren’t many people around at the moment—a couple of the florist trucks were parked by the curb and the delivery guys were too busy moving flower arrangements around to notice Becca and Danny—and there was some hipster-looking guy standing on the sidewalk checking something on his phone.
Clearing her throat, Becca took a step back and glared. “I don’t see what’s so funny about this,” she said defensively, her arms crossing over her middle.
Danny McDowell had been Becca’s ideal guy since the tenth grade. Of course back in high school, he never paid any attention to her. When they’d run into one another at a club six months ago and Danny asked for her phone number, Becca thought she’d died and gone to heaven. She knew part of it was because she looked a heck of a lot better at twenty-five than she had at sixteen—she had more confidence and had lost some of the weight that haunted her all through high school. Just thinking about how excited she’d felt when Danny actually approached her still made her a little giddy.
As time went on, however, she sort of found herself finding all kinds of things that really irritated her about him. Things she never really noticed back in school—he was extremely self-centered, kind of a loud-mouth, and he never wanted to do anything Becca did.
For a while she thought she could let it go, but tonight’s show was important to her. Enchanted Bridal was celebrating their twentieth anniversary and it was something she had wanted to share with Danny. And she thought he’d want to share with her!
“Come on, Danny,” she began, “you know why this is a big deal for me. Mrs. James is like a second mom to me and Hailey, Angie, Ella, and I have been in every show since the beginning. We’re going to celebrate afterwards—cake and champagne and…it’s going to be great.” She reached for his hand and gave him what she hoped was a sexy smile. “I really want you there with me.”
He sighed loudly and pulled his hand away before he walked around her and started to head back to his car. Becca frowned and went after him. The florist vans were pulling away and only the hipster was still around. When she caught up with Danny, she did her best to keep her voice down as she tried to figure out what was going on.
“Um…excuse me,” she said. “But I’m standing here talking to you and you just walk away? What’s going on, Danny?”
Stopping and spinning around, Danny raked a hand through his dark hair and stared down at her. He was easily six inches taller than Becca and normally it was something she loved, his looking down into hers. But right now, there was nothing sweet or sexy about his expression.
“Look, Becs,” he began, and none too softly. “I really have no desire to stand around with a bunch of losers who are looking to give up the single life. It’s a Friday night, for Christ’s sake! I’m meeting the guys down at BJ’s, I’m not hanging around while you parade around in a costume.”
She took a step back as if he’d slapped her. “A costume? Danny, I model wedding gowns! This isn’t some little game; it’s a fashion show. A real fashion show!”
He snickered again. “Come on…you’re kidding right?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she demanded.
“Becs, you are no model. I mean…look at you. You’re short, you’re not thin and…well…” he waved his arms around to pretty much indicate her entire body. “You’re just not model material.” He shrugged. “The only reason you’re in these shows is because you’re friends with Hailey. There’s no way anyone would actually choose you to be a model. Come on, blow this thing off and come to BJ’s with me. I’ll even let you win at darts.”
Cars were starting to pull into the parking lot and for all the open space, Becca felt very closed in. “I’m not going anywhere with you,” she hissed. “I’m serious, Danny. I can’t believe you could say those things to me! I thought I meant something to you! I thought this was going somewhere!”
He laughed one more time. “You do mean something to me, Becs. You’re fun. We’ve had some good times and the sex has been great but…”
But?! There was a but?!
She inwardly seethed.
“But this was never going to go beyond that. I thought you realized that. I’m not looking for anything serious and…well…if I were, you just aren’t my type.” He shrugged and pulled his keys out of his pockets.
“Not your type? How can you even say that?” she cried. “For months we’ve been sleeping together and you didn’t seem to mind…my type!”
He gave her another shrug and managed to look bored before his gaze landed on her chest. “What can I say? I’m a breast man.” And before Becca could even respond, Danny walked around to the driver’s side of the car and unlocked it. “It’s been fun, Becs, but…you know. I thought you understood.”
“Later,” he said as he climbed into the car.
Becca stood there and watched him drive away as tears welled in her eyes. When his taillights were out of sight, she let the tears fall for a minute before wiping them away. That was it? She’d invested six months with him and all that time he was only interested in her because of…because of her bra size? Becca’s mind raced with all of the degrading things he’d said and she felt like she was going to be sick.
Slowly she walked over to the sidewalk and sat down on the lone wooden bench. The parking lot belonged almost solely to Enchanted, so the only traffic coming and going was from the vendors for the show tonight. Hugging her middle, she bent forward and forced herself to breathe.
All of the excitement she’d been feeling about the show and the party and the anniversary was gone. Right now all she wanted to do was get in her car, drive home and curl up in the fetal position. God, was she so hideous that the only reason a guy would sleep with her was because she had big boobs? Is that what all her other boyfriends had thought?
Every insecurity she’d ever had was now spinning around in her head, mocking her. Becca had no disillusions about herself—she wasn’t classically beautiful like Hailey, or tall and glamorous like Angie. Hell, she wasn’t even girl-next-door cute like Ella. But hey, it didn’t make her some sort of troll either! And in her entire life, no one had ever said she wasn’t pretty enough to model in the bridal shows.
The only reason you’re in these shows is because you’re friends with Hailey.
Oh, God. What if it was true? What if Mrs. James was losing business because Becca was an ugly bride?
Glancing around, she noticed the girls weren’t there yet. If she could just get herself together, she could be out of here before they arrived and then call in sick. No one would have to know. There were no witnesses to her ever having been here! Part of her felt a little guilty because it was hard when a model didn’t show up, but they’d dealt with it before and she knew Mrs. James would be able to make it work if she weren’t there.
Scooping up her purse, Becca fished out her keys, stood up and wiped away the stray tears. She made it all of two steps before she tripped over her own feet and fell down on the pavement.
“Shit!” she cried. “Can I seriously not get a freaking break here?”
“Hey, are you all right?”
Oh great. The hipster.
“Yeah,” she murmured. “I’m fine.” Becca was surprised when he helped her to her feet and then bent over to pick up her purse and the items that had spilled out of it. When he stood back up and held her purse out to her, she was at a loss for words.
He was tall—not taller than Danny though—with the bluest eyes she had ever seen. He was wearing a knit beanie and from what she could see, his hair was a sandy shade of brown. He wore glasses and it should have made him look a little nerdy, but it didn’t. With a strong jaw lightly shaded with stubble and…yes…dimples…he was almost breathtaking.
With a shaky hand she took her purse from him. “Um…thank you.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“What? Oh…yeah. Fine. It wasn’t that bad of a fall. I’m more embarrassed than anything else.”
“You seemed pretty upset,” he said softly. “You know…before the fall.”
Great. He’d seen that too. “I guess I’m just not having a very good night.”
He nodded. “Sorry about that.”
Becca wasn’t sure what she was supposed to say or do, but she really did want to escape before the girls got there. “I…um…I really need to go,” she said, carefully stepping off the curb and inching in the direction of her car. “Have a nice night.” With a small wave, she spun around and went to walk away.
“He was wrong, you know.”
Stopping in her tracks, Becca turned back around. “Excuse me?”
“That guy? The one who made you cry? I’m guessing he was your boyfriend or something, but whoever he was, he was wrong about you.”
Stepping back toward him, Becca wasn’t sure if she should graciously thank him or if she should be pissed at how he’d been listening.
She opted for pissed—with a hint of embarrassment.
“You were eavesdropping?” she asked incredulously.
He at least had the good sense to look embarrassed too. “It was kind of hard not to. You were standing right there.”
Even though she knew he had a point, it still irked her. “Yeah, well…you shouldn’t have. And you didn’t need to let me know that you did.”
This time he took a step toward her. “Look, maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. But I stood here and watched you cry and I knew it was because of what he said and I…I just couldn’t let you leave here believing anything he said.”
“What difference does it make to you?” she snapped. “You don’t even know me! How could you possibly say Danny was wrong?”
“Because I have eyes!” There was a hint of amusement in his tone. “I don’t have to know you to see that you’re a beautiful woman. And I highly doubt Mrs. James would let anyone model in her shows just because she felt an obligation!” He took a steadying breath before continuing. “Look, guys like that, they get off on putting other people down and it just ticks me off. There was no way I could just stand here and let you go home and cry some more because of that jerk. You were going to blow off the show and probably fake being sick or something and that’s not fair. Not to you. And not to Mrs. James.”
“How…how did you know that was what I was doing?”
He gave her a lopsided grin. “Really?”
She sighed and avoided meeting his gaze. “Okay, fine. That’s what I was doing. But can you blame me? I was just dumped by my boyfriend in the middle of a parking lot after being insulted in every possible way! I think I kind of deserve a little time off to lick my wounds.”
He shrugged. “Maybe. But that’s just giving him the power back. It’s letting him win. And believe me, guys like him do
deserve to win.”
Now it was Becca’s turn to chuckle. “You sound as wounded as I am. Did some jerk dump you today too?” He smiled. And Becca almost sighed at the sight of it.
“I’m Max, by the way,” he said, holding out his hand to her.
“Becca.” She put her hand in his and liked how big and firm his hand was. She smiled and gently took her hand back. “I think I’m still gonna bail. I’m not feeling very festive and I’m really not in the mood for any more witnesses to my humiliating night.”
“My lips are sealed.”
“Thanks.” She paused. “How do you know Mrs. James?”
“I don’t. I mean I do. Sort of. We just met a couple of days ago.”
Becca looked at him in confusion. “But…just a minute ago you said…”
“I’ve heard a lot about her. And I still firmly believe she wouldn’t have you in her shows, representing her business, if she didn’t want you there.”
“Oh.” With a sigh of resignation, Becca was just about to wish him a goodnight when she heard voices behind her. A quick glance showed her it was too late to run and hide. When she looked back at Max, she saw the knowing grin on his face. “Dammit,” she murmured.
“Don’t look at it as a bad thing. No one’s going to know what happened here unless you want to tell them.”
While she knew he was right, she knew that as soon as everyone was here, they were going to talk about it—because it’s what they always did. She had no secrets from her friends. Never had. And while she hated how Max had witnessed the entire scene with Danny, there wasn’t anything she could do about it. The only upside was that she’d most likely never see him again.
“I should go,” Becca said quietly. “The girls are all pulling up.”
Max nodded. “I hope you have a good night, Becca. Go out there and have fun and don’t let anything that jerk said ruin it for you.”
“Thanks, Max,” she said. “Have a good night, too.”
This time when she turned and walked away, she did make it across the parking lot. Angie was the first to arrive and, as usual, Becca couldn’t help but feel a little inferior to her friend. She was tall and curvy and confident and had a take-no-prisoners attitude toward everything.
Becca only dreamed of being so brave.
“Oh my God,” Angie said as she climbed out of her sporty convertible. “I swear, the traffic gets crazier and crazier all the time. What’s the point of having a convertible that lets the wind blow through your hair when you can’t drive at a speed that creates a damn breeze?” She reached out and hugged Becca. “I almost did donuts in the parking lot just to get out my frustration.”