Good morning. Welcome back to Tuesday Tales, the blog where a select group of authors share their works in progress with you. I’m continuing with my contemporary romance, Wedding Bell Blues, the tile inspired both by a sketch I saw and a song from my youth by the same title. Today’s excerpt is just under 1500 words–a little long, I know, but … Enjoy!
Given this new information, the move to Watertown and the new job made sense. A guy like Mark wouldn’t be able to stop from spreading lies and gloating. Regardless of what he’d done, he’d never let anyone believe she’d dumped him. It was all about character and honor, and when it came to that guy, he had none.
“Mark had Mom eating out of his hand,” she continued, “and while Ron was dead-set against our relationship, he was traveling a lot for work, and that put a strain on his marriage. He was transferred to Buffalo last year, and things are fine now. He’s the only one who didn’t give me brief about the break-up.”
“I don’t believe that. Your mom would have been on your side.”
“Nope. I didn’t tell her what happened. Carla’s the only one—and now you—who know how he humiliated me. Mom’s worried about the possibility that I’ll end up an old maid,” she said bitterly. “Even you mentioned my age, and the fact I’m unmarried seems to be some kind of sin.”
He groaned. “Would you like to hit me? You can if it’ll make you feel better.”
She giggled. “I thought about kicking you, but I was in sandals and didn’t want to break my toes. Besides, but I was afraid your dog would make mincemeat out of me.”
Paul laughed, pleased to see her smile if only for a moment. “That big guy is a real pussycat. He chases the squirrels in the yard, and when he’s got one cornered, he runs away from it. I think he sees it as a game, but I’m not sure the squirrel does.”
“Poor squirrel. Oh God,” she paled, grabbing the turquoise crystal pendant on her necklace like a talisman.
“Carla suggested I sell the vacation on eBay. Can you imagine what might’ve happened if I’d done that? I could’ve gone to prison!” She shuddered. “The only thing I can do is suck it up, take that boat in the morning, and camp out at the airport until I can get a flight home. I swear I’ll never do another impetuous thing again.”
She lifted her glass and sipped.
“Explain something to me. Why do you think Mark would’ve gone this far to get this vacation? What he’s done, if he’s done it, is criminal. You could charge him. He stole six thousand dollars from you and used your identity to do it. That’s fraud.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, by canceling the reservation, he implied he was you, which he wasn’t, and did it without your consent, knowing you’d probably show up here and have no room, which would cause you financial and emotional injury.”
“I hadn’t considered that. As far as wanting this particular vacation, I’m positive he did it because of the treasure hunt. We watched a program about Lacorneille, and he went on and on about how wonderful it would be to find the treasure. I didn’t really give it much credence, but he was obsessed with the idea. Somehow, he must’ve found out about Leroux because the next thing I knew, he told me to book the honeymoon here and the exact dates he wanted. We hadn’t even scheduled the wedding yet, which was why we ended up with a Friday evening rather than the traditional Saturday or Sunday in the Greek Orthodox Church.”
“That figures. He always was a greedy son of a bitch. Listen, no matter what, you can’t let him win. Don’t leave tomorrow. Stay here with me, and we’ll join the treasure hunt. Stealing it from under his nose would be the best payback he could get, and if he somehow owns up to what he’s done, you could sue him, too. I’ll help you. I’m a criminal investigator. I know exactly what to do to nail his ass.”
* * * *
“Stay here and join the treasure hunt? You can’t be serious,” MJ said, not sure she’d actually heard Paul correctly. “I’m trying to hide for heaven’s sake, not draw attention to myself.”
“Which is exactly what he wants. This isn’t a mistake, it’s fate. According to Lucette’s grandmother, my coming here was written in the stars, so yours must’ve been, too.”
“Fate? I don’t understand,” MJ said, her brow furrowed. “What does the bartender’s grandmother have to do with any of this?”
“Her grandmother’s a Quimbois priestess. That’s the nature religion practiced on Martinique. Before you arrived today, Lucette and I were chatting at the bar, and she asked me how I’d come to be here alone. I told her about buying the trip. Curious about me, she asked her grandmother to look into my future by throwing the bones. Apparently, the old woman told her I wouldn’t be alone much longer.”
“Seriously? And you believe this stuff?” she asked skeptically, reaching for her crystal pendant Carla had given her once more and dropping it self-consciously. If she was willing to accept the power of crystals, why not Quimbois magic?
“I don’t, but they may make a believer out of me yet. You have to admit this is one hell of a coincidence. The woman made her predictions, and here you are. Apparently, the woman’s never wrong. She said I was destined to come here and find my heart’s desire.”
MJ stopped eating, her heart pounding out a mad staccato.
He chuckled. “Who knew my fondest wish would be to help out a friend and get even with a jerk who’d made so many people miserable fifteen years ago?”
She swallowed her disappointment. For a moment, she’d thought he’d meant she was his heart’s desire. Obviously, the alcohol had gone to her head.
“I need to go to the washroom. I’ll be right back.”
The fact she made it to her destination without crying was a minor miracle. She splashed water on her face to keep the tears at bay. The last thing she needed was to turn into a maudlin drunk. For less than a minute, she’d been on top of the world, but then Paul had spoken again and disabused her of that notion.
What the hell’s wrong with me?
Until last week, they hadn’t seen one another in fifteen years, and it was highly unlikely he’d fallen head over heels in love with her—hell, he hadn’t even fallen in lust. He still called her kid, for God’s sake. How humiliating was that?
Realistically, her new-found fascination with the man had to be based on her old crush and the fact she hadn’t had sex, even disappointing sex, in six months. Coupled with the emotional turmoil of this latest disaster was his attempt to come to her rescue.
Paul’s only doing this because he hates Mark and wants to get back at him for the things he’d done to others. He feels sorry for me.
If there was anything she didn’t want, especially from Paul, it was pity. Accepting help, even when she needed it, wasn’t easy for her to do. Mom claimed she’d inherited the Summers’s family pig-headedness, but she preferred to think of it as her desire for independence and her determination to persevere alone against all odds. She’d learned to stand on her own two feet years ago. If she needed a crutch at the moment, it was because Mark had all but destroyed her self-esteem.
The more she thought about Markos Theopolis, the harder it was to figure out how she’d ever gotten involved with him. She’d always known love was blind; she just hadn’t realized it was deaf, dumb, and brain dead, too. The nickname, Achilles Heel, suited him well.
While she doubted anyone would ever cast her as Helen of Troy, if Mark was Achilles in this farce, then Paul had to be Paris, the hero who’d defeated him. Mark’s weak spot might not be his heel, although he’d certainly behaved like one. She’d like nothing better than to give his ego a mortal blow and make sure everyone in Stilton saw him for what he was—a greedy, vain bastard who still enjoyed bullying and humiliating people. But as far as charging him went, that would mean confessing what a fool she’d been in all of this. If her pride had kept her from telling people what he’d done in January, she was pretty sure it would keep her from admitting this latest fiasco.
The word of a Quimbois priestess?
Wouldn’t Carla have fun with this? As superstitious as her friend was, she’d have a field day with the whole idea. Carla would be the first to buy into the premise of a fated encounter and kindred spirits out to right the wrongs in this world. Wasn’t the damn crystal supposed to bring her true love?
That’s it for now. Please take the time to check out the other Tuesday Tales.