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About the author:
When Courtney isn’t writing, she enjoys photography, sailing, and reading. She can never resist a craft store. After an early stint as a Disney cast member, she is a life long Disney addict. She’s also an avid fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Sherlock, Harry Potter, Buffy…just to name a few.
What inspired you to write your book?
During my family’s annual trip to Myrtle Beach in 2014, my sister, a bridal makeup artist, and I chatted about recent wedding trends and she mentioned the new trend toward hiring professional bridesmaids. Within a few days of splashing in the surf, Erin Delaney and her merry band of professional bridesmaids were chatting away and I was taking notes and along for the ride.
Here is a short sample from the book:
“I know it’s not until Saturday, mama,” Matthew Westbrook said into his phone as he stepped up to the gleaming chrome bar in Chicago’s O’Hare airport. His fool brother set his wedding date for this Saturday, causing Matthew to have to do some fancy schedule-shuffling to head home on short notice. Thankfully, mid-December was a slow time of year for architects. “I can’t believe you let it get this far. You always said you made a mistake with daddy.”
“Do not take that tone with me,” his mother snapped, her tone frostier than the tarmac outside.
“Yes, ma’am,” Matthew said, grinding his teeth. “I’m not going to let him make the same mistake I did. Mama? Hello? She hung up on me…” He pulled the silent phone away from his ear and muttered. “The battery. Damn.”
“Need to borrow this?” Next to him, a slim, perfectly-manicured hand held out a lipstick-sized portable phone charger in Barbie pink.
“Thanks. But I don’t think it’ll fit my phone.” Matthew slapped his dead phone onto the bar and raked his hands through his hair.
Arguing with mama was always an exercise in frustration. Might as well beat his fool head against the wall. He glanced at the darkening sky. Ominous clouds churned, gray-black and heavy, dimming the concourse interior. Maybe I can still make it out tonight…
Delays, cancellations, and infrequent boarding announcements boomed over the tannoy. Defeated, tired travelers, accompanied by their carry-on luggage, bloomed like wild mushrooms across the lounge, as they staked out their territory for what could be a long wait.
“Try this one.” The woman next to him hopped off the barstool and bent over her bright red and black polka-dotted suitcase, opening the top flap. Inside, in clear plastic travel cases, the woman appeared to have the entire contents of several emergency kits—chargers, spare cords, batteries, Band-Aids, lotions, granola bars. She handed him a different portable charger, still in eye-searing pink, and climbed back onto the barstool. He raised his gaze to her face.
Bright blue eyes, the color of a clear September sky over Georgia, dominated her heart shaped face. Plush pink lips curved into a lovely smile. And her peaches-and-cream complexion complimented her honey-blonde hair, styled into a long ponytail, with tendrils curling around her face.
Wow. Simply gorgeous.
She smiled at him before ordering a coffee. Extra cream, no sugar.
“Why do you have a charger for my type of phone?” Matthew asked as he plugged his dead phone into the bright pink charger and set it on the gleaming bar.
“I’m a bridesmaid.”
“You seem to be taking your duties very seriously.”
“A professional bridesmaid.”
“I get it,” he laughed. “Seems like all my friends got married at once…”
“No.” She shook her head, making her ponytail sway, the sun streaks in her hair glinting in the low light. “That’s my business. Being a bridesmaid.”
“Bridesmaids R Us?”
“Nah, I went with MaidMart.” She grinned, her impish smile lighting up her whole face and crinkling her adorable nose. He laughed again. She really was lovely. “No, it’s called Always a Bridesmaid.”
“I see. So how did you become a professional bridesmaid, Ms…?”
“Erin Delaney.” She stuck out her hand and he shook it, locking on her blue eyes, surprised at how aware of the simple contact he was, the press of her soft, warm palm in his hand sending tingles up his arm.
“Well, Mr. Westbrook, it’s a bit of a long story.”
“Matthew, please. And it looks like we’ll be stuck here a while.” He waved to the steadily darkening cloud cover, beginning to drop fat, fluffy snowflakes across the greater Chicago area. The weather report indicated an oncoming storm but he’d hoped to fly out before it started. She glanced out the windows and shivered, looking away, biting her lip. “So, about being a professional bridesmaid?”
“When I graduated college, I couldn’t find a job right away.”
“So you invented your own?”
“Everyone I knew was getting married. Every weekend there was some bridal or wedding event. Sometimes more than one. One of my sorority sisters asked me to be her bridesmaid but, at the time, I was living on mac and cheese and PB and J. My big night out was a hamburger. So I told her I couldn’t afford to do it.”
“Go to the wedding?”
“Be a bridesmaid. It’s so expensive! With the dress and the shoes dyed to match and makeup and hair and nails and gifts. And sometimes travel too. Not to mention all the events leading up to the big day—showers, bachelorette parties, rehearsals… It’s insane.”
“But your friend wouldn’t take no for an answer?”
“When I declined, my friend said she’d pay me to come do it. So I did. While I was there, I defused a big family argument. And then her sister got married and I did the same thing…and it sort of snowballed from there. I mean, here I was with no job, a closet full of dresses, and lots of experience as a bridesmaid. What else could I do?”
“What does a professional bridesmaid do?” He liked listening to her. Her voice carried the hint of the South in it, reminding him of sunny, warm days at home on his mama’s porch, sipping peach-and-bourbon-laced iced tea.
“Whatever necessary to make the day as perfect as possible for the bride. Sometimes, I only consult and help with planning. Sometimes, I attend just the wedding and rehearsal. Sometimes, it’s all the events, like the wedding I’m going to now.”
“So you’re a wedding planner and a bridesmaid?”
Erin nodded. “Mostly, I act as a buffer for the bride’s well-meaning family and friends.”
“Don’t most women want their family and friends there? Isn’t that the point of the whole show? Why would anyone want a stranger to be their bridesmaid?”
“So says the person who’s never been a bridesmaid,” Erin smiled at him.
“The skirts make my hips look big,” Matthew winked.
She laughed then, crinkling up her nose. He wanted her do it again. He wanted to be the one to make her do it again.
“I’m the neutral party, smoothing things over, the mediator,” Erin continued, “I run interference a lot. The bride will tell me, ‘Oh I had to ask my sister or my cousin to be maid-of-honor or my mother can’t get along with my aunt or the other mom,’ or whatever.”
“So you coach them through the family strife.”
“Exactly. I’ll do anything to ensure the bride and groom get their special day, exactly as planned,” Erin nodded, sipping her drink. Her stomach grumbled and she pressed a hand to her belly. She rummaged in her suitcase again, coming up with a few crinkly wrapped granola bars. She held one out to him but he shook his head.
“You wanna share an order of something?” He offered.
“I have my protein bar, but thanks.” She shook her head and he ordered the nachos anyway.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
Erin shook her head. “I have a rule against drinking during the day. Though I really wanted one on my turbulent flight.”
“Do you do this bridesmaid gig alone?”
“No, I got so busy I hired my best friend too. She and I split the duties usually. Though she’s handling it all at home at the moment.”
“I went to school there. Great town. But you’re not from there originally.” When her forehead furrowed, he continued, “Your accent.”
“I grew up in Atlanta. Where I am flying to today. Or not.” She glanced out the window at the thick blanket of fluffy snow covering the runways. In unison, they both checked the departures display board above the bar.
“Flight 734 is still delayed.” She took a bite of the dry-looking granola bar.
“I’m heading to Atlanta too.” Matthew noted she didn’t wear a ring on her left hand. “What does your husband do while you’re off being a bridesmaid?”
She raised her eyebrows at the obvious ploy but said, “I’m not married. You?”
“Divorced,” Matthew said. “No boyfriend?”
“Don’t date much, to be honest.”
“You’re far too beautiful for me to believe that.”
“You are smooth, aren’t you, Mr. Westbrook?” She tucked a tendril behind her ear and took another sip of her drink, a light blush ghosting over her cheekbones.
He grinned at her. “You haven’t answered my question.”
“I’m working when most people my age are out on dates or clubbing. Most eligible men don’t want to meet for coffee when I’m not busy, like at noon on Tuesday.”
“But everyone says you meet people at weddings.”
“Yeah, if you’re not working at it. I’m too busy putting out fires. And I make it a rule never to hook up with anyone there. Far too messy.”
“You have a lot of rules, Erin Delaney.”
“You have no idea.” She smiled. He wondered what it would take to make her break those rules. “What do you do, Matthew?”
“I’m an architect. I specialize in modernizing historic buildings. It’s all I ever wanted to do.” He shrugged, picking at the too hot nachos when they arrived, tilting the plate toward her. “Want one? Looks better than that dry protein bar you’ve got there.”
She took one, toying with the chip. “Do you live here in Chicago?”
“At the moment. I’m doing a redesign of the warehouses along the waterfront.”
“They did that in Boston. Those spaces are amazing. Such beautiful views.”
“That was my graduate project at MIT.” Matthew couldn’t help the pleased jolt that went through him that the lovely Erin knew his work.
“Wow. I went to a wedding there a few months ago. So lovely and open. I loved seeing all the restored wood.” She checked the departures board. “Our flight is delayed again.”
He met her eyes, shocked at deeply he’d connected with her already. “Well then, since we’ve got nothing else to do, wanna play cards?”