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About the author:
After years of ghostwriting and signing over copyright to her clients, Inez Colbert has decided to strike out on her own and stake a claim on her talent.
She writes about the things people don't usually talk about and relishes in pushing boundaries. She believes that going where no one else dares is the key to unlocking what's really at the core of our existence.
Combining topics that could be considered as too delicate for an everyday conversation with the popular tropes of the Erotic Romance genre, Inez Colbert breathes new life into the way stories are told and comes with a fresh perspective, challenges her readers to live vicariously, and offers an invitation to color outside the lines.
When she's not writing, Inez Colbert is a mother, a lover, and a tea aficionado. She reads, she cooks, she creates a home, and takes pride in the small things.
What inspired you to write your book?
I started out as a ghostwriter and spent a lot of time writing books for others people, signing over copyright. It took a while before I became confident in my abilities and was able to link my own name to it.
Yours Truly, in particular, started in 2016 as a story that tested the boundaries and challenged the limitations I had grown up with in a very religious household. It was an exploration of a side of myself that I hadn't been able to acknowledge before. Since then, the story had morphed and changed quite a bit to what it is today. It not only allowed me to be myself, but it broke open a new world where I felt my work was good enough for the world to discover it. Yours Truly, to me, is a symbol of breaking free.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Chapter 1 – Vivian
It was the end of July and a heatwave had settled on the East Coast. Despite the sweltering heat, all the guests were dressed to the nines. Lazy fans turned in circles, a last-minute attempt to cool the waiting guests. Women fanned themselves with their programs. Men tugged at their ties or flapped their blazers.
The music started. The doors opened. Everyone stood and turned to face the back, waiting for the bride to appear.
Except she didn’t appear.
Damn it. I should have known something like this was going to happen.
I shoved my phone into my pocket and hurried to a back room. This was not happening now. It was the worst time for the bride to go MIA. If we had a groom left at the altar, they were going to point fingers at me. As one of the most popular Wedding Coordinators in Lancastle I just wouldn’t live something like that down.
And I’d thought we’d gotten over the worst. She’d been hesitant twice already, but we’d gotten through it. I’d gotten us through it.
“Where is she?” I asked, crashing into the room and nearly knocking over a plant.
Megan turned to me, her shoulders pulled up in the I-don’t-know I was hoping I wouldn’t get. She had pins pinched between her lips and silk flowers in her hands, fastening them to the chair covers in the reception area. She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand.
“Damn it,” I said. “Everything was going so well.”
“She had cold feet before. If anyone can save the day, it’s you.”
“Let’s hope,” I said.
I ran toward the closest bathroom. Cold feet last minute? This was where I would hide. If she wasn’t there, I would have to start in one corner and work my way through the hotel. It was a big hotel. Fuck.
“Sarah?” I called, walking in.
She was there, thank God. She stood in front of the mirror. She looked at her reflection like she’d never seen herself before. Or like she would never see herself again. Either way, it was distraught and confused and the last look I needed to see on my bride’s face.
“They’re waiting for you, the ceremony has started.” I walked to her with measured strides, the way you approach a scared animal that might bolt if it feels cornered.
“Matt’s waiting for you, honey.”
I had a panicking bride on my hands. The only way I was going to calm her down was to not panic myself. That wasn’t so easy now that we’d run out of time, but I’d spent six years in the business practicing my game face. If I didn’t have it down now, I never would.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” she said to me, eyes glistening. “I shouldn’t have let it get this far.”
If she cried, her makeup was going to smudge. I wanted to grab her by the hand and drag her out of the bathroom, forcing her to walk down the aisle and stick to the schedule. Instead, I leaned against the marble basin with my hip and told my hands not to fidget.
“This is marriage, Viv,” she said. “It’s not just a boy asking me out, the thrill of the chase, all that. It’s so permanent.”
What a day to have an epiphany.
I sighed. “Honey, you’ve been worried about this from the start, but every time we get to this point, you know you can’t live without him. You keep telling me that. Remember what we said? It’s the big day you’re worried about, the fuss and the scene and what everyone is going to think of your arrangements.”
“You’re right,” Sarah said.
“And that’s all set up. We made it incredible.”
I’d been planning the wedding with this bride for almost a year now. A year where she had the time to consider if this was what she wanted. She’d wanted the glitz and the glamor and everything that cost money so her family would approve. And she scared herself in the process by overcommitting to a second mortgage. Just to get the nod of approval.
People were idiots. But the brides get lost in the fairytale. Sometimes reality slips by unnoticed.
But they were good together. He doted on her, and when she had a meltdown, he picked her back up as if it was exactly what he’d been born to do.
“This is a mistake,” she breathed.
“Are you saying you don’t want to wake up next to Matthew every day for the rest of your life?”
She hesitated before she shook her head. “I’m not saying that at all. It’s just… a lot.” She took a deep breath.
“When it’s all over, the wedding will be a good memory and you’ll have brilliant photos,” I said. “You and Matt will be together.”
“That’s what I want. I want us.” She nodded, confirming it to herself in the mirror.
I knew that she knew what she wanted. She just needed to take a step back and remember what all this was for. We had this.
“Honey, you look beautiful. The man of your dreams is waiting for you in there. He adores you. You’ll never be happier. Every bride feels like she’s been hit by a bus on her wedding day. Do you know how many brides I deal with every year?”
Sarah nodded. She’d read every testimonial on my webpage. She knew exactly what I could pull off by way of big fantasy weddings. That was what she’d hired me for.
“Well, then you’ll know how many Happily Ever After’s I see.”
She blinked fast to get rid of the welling tears and nodded, looking at herself in the mirror again. She took a deep breath and nodded again, to herself.
“You’re right,” she said. “You would know.”
I nodded and smiled.
I didn’t know, but she didn’t need to know that. She didn’t need to know that just like every other couple I’d gotten down the aisle over the past six years, after tonight she would be another testimonial, another portfolio piece, and I wouldn’t know what happened to them. It wasn’t my job to follow up. And I didn’t want to know, either. I didn’t believe in love. Not in theirs, and not in anyone else’s.
It was wonderful that they did. I was glad that people out there could find their happiness. I would be out of a job if everyone felt the way I did.
But just because I knew how to put on a show, didn’t mean I had to believe in love myself, and just because it didn’t exist for me didn’t mean that someone else wouldn’t be happy if they did. And Sarah and Matt were happy.
“Come, honey, Matthew is waiting for you,” I said and nodded slightly, encouraging, hoping it won her over. If I pushed her, she would push back.
“You believe it will work?” I asked.
“I believe in you and in Matt and the way the two of you can do anything you set your hearts to as long as you are together.”
She’d told me those exact words. She’d believed them and right now, I was willing to believe it for as long as it took to get her down the aisle.
She gave me a ghost of a smile and let me escort her out of the bathroom. I didn’t breathe a sigh of relief, I didn’t fist-pump. I walked next to her, making sure she wasn’t going to run. Her father was at the door, looking worried.
“Just a makeup emergency,” I said and smiled.
I was going to see her through those doors, watch her walk to the altar before I would relax. Her father hugged her and she smiled, looking happy. He glanced at me, a silent thanks, and the music started.
It was beautiful. It was a picture of bliss and there were no signs of the narrowly avoided disaster. They said their ‘I do's,’ and when she turned, she glanced at me and smiled. It was done. They were married.
“Crisis averted, I take it?” Megan said, appearing at my shoulder.
She had bits of twine on her clothes. I nodded and turned to help her pick it off.
“Barely, but she made it out there. Have you finished?”
“Reception room ready,” she said and smiled.
“Thanks. You’re a star.”
“Maybe a raise?” she said and nudged me. I smiled. That wasn’t going to happen but we all smiled on a wedding day.
I’d been a Wedding Coordinator for the last six years, and I loved it. Every day was filled with meeting brides, choosing wedding themes, tasting cakes, arguing about prices for napkin rings.
Megan was my assistant. She’d started as an intern and after two months I’d hired her. She was my clone when it came to work ethic. It worked because she worked. Hard. We’d been working together for two years, and she’d been promoted from assistant to friend. If there was anyone that knew me, it was Megan, and not only because we spent so much time together. She understood my flaws and she wasn’t scared to point them out.
And I paid her to keep doing it because I would take the head off anyone else who was so bold with me. What could I say? I’d come to love the girl.
“They look great together,” Megan said when we stood in the reception area.
“It will make for good photos,” I said. My online gallery was my most important tool for pulling in new clients.
“I meant as a happy couple,” Megan said.
I nodded. I didn’t have to add what I really meant. Megan had been working with me long enough to know how I felt. This wasn’t about their emotions. It was about the paycheck. The wedding happened. I got paid. That made me happy. The success was what looked great.
Speeches were over. We blended into the background, watching the opening dance. They’d taken dance classes for three months to be able to do a three-minute number. A waste of money, but in my line of business, everything was.
“It almost didn’t happen,” I said. “We nearly had a runner.”
Megan scrunched her nose. She’d never had to deal with a bride that didn’t want to go through with it. I’d seen it firsthand. Once, but once was enough. When the bride ran it wasn’t only two broken hearts. Families were wounded, guests were left unattended, money washed down the drain. Paperwork had to be reversed.
It wasn’t pretty.
The couple completed a turn that looked professional enough for the guests to applaud and I was happy for them that it had worked out. I was also happy for myself. The reception hall looked beautiful. The event was a success. There was nothing as satisfying as a job well done.
“You think this one is going to last?” Megan asked.
“If they believe in love, it might,” I said and fished for my phone. My list had three more unchecked items before I was done for the day.
“Love is fighting, right?” Megan looked at me, head tipped slightly to the side.
“With each other?” I asked and chuckled.
She smiled at me. “I meant for each other.”
I didn’t answer. It was easier to swallow my cynicism.
Did I believe in happily ever after? Yes. But not with everyone. The right man, the right woman.
Not for me. I was happy doing my own thing. I didn’t need a man unless I needed to take the edge off and when that happened, there was a slew of men happy to oblige. Men preferred sex over commitment any day.
I got what I wanted, they got what they wanted.
Everyone was happy.
Megan laughed and shook her head. Her dark brown bangs fell into her eyes and she brushed them to the side.
“You’re in the wrong business for not believing in love.” She always said that to me.
“It’s about making money. I saw a gap in the market, I took it. Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Christmas. It’s all the same. Some people believe in it. Some people profit.”
I always said that to her, too.
I hadn’t dated since the first year I’d been a wedding planner. My hours were flexible. I made them fit the bride’s schedule. I was never home at the same time every day and I was married to my work.
The only marriage I believed in.
Casual dating wasn’t my thing either. I didn’t think it was fair to date someone only to break their hearts when I didn’t want more.
Men were simple things – they wanted sex. On my terms, I was willing to give it to them. For the rest, there were services. Plumbing to fix the toilet, delivery men to bring me food, and I didn’t need anyone on my arm at the events I attended. No one took a plus one as a wedding coordinator.
“One day, someone’s going to come along and change your mind,” Megan said.
I smiled. “This isn’t a Hallmark movie. You can go do whatever you like now. The job is done.”
I shook my head. “I’ve got it. I just need to put out the wedding favors and run by the mother of the bride for two small things, and then I’m headed out.”
Megan smiled and thanked me before disappearing into the crowds. She still enjoyed it. I used to join the wedding party in the beginning but I’d had too many champagne nights and happily ever after fantasies that weren’t my own.
I walked over to the table in the foyer and unpacked the two boxes of favors that we’d hidden while everyone walked in. On the way out they could each grab a little memento of the night. While I worked, Sarah appeared and she was glowing.
“Thank you so much, Vivian,” she said and pulled me into a hug. The bodice of her dress was hard against my body. I was glad she was the one wearing it. She smelled of alcohol, perfume, and happiness.
“It was beautiful. It’s a wonderful start to your life together,” I said and took her hand when she let me go.
“Thanks to you, it happened.”
I smiled. “We all have our moments of weakness. You’re not going to regret this.”
And I honestly believed she wasn’t. Happy endings were real if you believed in them and her faith in the fantasy hung around her like fog.
“I’m going to head out. The staff will deal with the rest and you don’t have to worry about a thing.”
“Oh no, Viv. Stay for the bouquet toss!”
I shook my head. “Oh, no. That’s not what I’m here for. I stay behind the scenes.” I’d seen vicious catfights over bouquets.
No, thank you. I was tired. I’d spent a whole day stressing about arrangements for a wedding that had almost not happened. I needed sleep. I needed to tick off the last things on my list and go.
“I’ll move it up, we can do it right now,” she said and hurried into the crowd giving me no chance to argue.
They parted like water around the wide skirt of her dress and a moment later she had the mic, calling all the women to stand in front. Megan caught my eye through the crowd and mouthed ‘come’ to me. Sarah beckoned wildly. Everyone turned to stare.
I wanted to say no but I stepped forward, moving in between the men that had stepped back until I was at the back of the crowd of women.
Better get it over with fast.
Sarah had her back to us, and she was swinging the bouquet around. The bridesmaids squealed. Women cheered. I glanced behind me. Men around the edge looked nervous.
They all counted together, and the bouquet flew in a twist of white and red. Hands reached up and I took a step back so I wouldn’t be caught in the struggle. But the bouquet came right at me, further than the size of the crowd and over the outstretched arms. No, no, no. I was not next. But I couldn’t let it drop to the ground, either. That would be worse. I reached up into the air and grabbed it.
The woman in front of me looked disappointed. The men circling us looked relieved. Sarah turned and pointed, cheering for me. Megan shimmied up to me through the thronging women and squeezed my free hand, laughing.
“Guess you’re next,” she said.
“Not a chance,” I said and stuffed the flowers into her hands.
A bad mood was starting to creep in, and I was having trouble keeping my unfaltering smile in place.
I backed away before she could say anything. The music started and the bodies around me moved to the beat like one giant pulse.
I found Terri standing off to the side with a smile on her face. She fanned her face with a paper napkin.
“Congratulations, Mrs. Bauer,” I said to the mother of the bride.
“Thank you, Vivian.” She smiled warmly at me. “You’ve done so much, I don’t know how to thank you.”
“No thanks needed. Everything worked out perfectly and it's beautiful to see a happy couple surrounded by so many friends and family that support and love them.”
Terri Bauer nodded.
“I’ve set out the favors at the door,” I said. “When the guests leave, they can each take one to remember the night by. I told the DJ about it before the ceremony so he’ll let everyone know. And lastly, the caterer with the desserts is ready, so we’re right on schedule.”
Terri sighed in relief. “I don’t know how you do it.”
I smiled. “It’s my job to pull rabbits out of hats.”
She hugged me. “You’re a star. Thank you for everything.”
I kept my broad smile in place even though it wasn’t real until I turned around from Terri Bauer and made my getaway. I slipped through a side door, away from the crowd and the noise. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, letting the tension bleed out of my shoulders.
The evening air was crisp and cool, welcoming after I’d spent my day running around. My feet were sore. I wanted to get out of my heels, out of my clothes.
I got into my car and drove home.
At the door, I kicked off my kitten heels and walked to the kitchen in stockinged feet. I opened the fridge to find food and closed it again. I wasn’t actually hungry.
It was almost eleven, time for bed. But I wasn’t tired. I was on edge, wired. I hadn’t had alcohol on duty. I should have – I needed something to blur the lines around me a little. I felt on edge now that I was alone. I worked hard. I dealt with stress every day I kept all the balls in the air. And when it was all done and there was nothing left to do, I still couldn’t relax.
Work was a distraction.
The apartment was dark as I walked through it. It was a two-bedroom place with my office on the one side and my bedroom on the other. I switched the light on dim before sitting down in front of my desk. I opened my laptop and typed in my password. At the top of the list was an e-mail from a bride. She wanted something extravagant. Something memorable. Something expensive.
Five hundred guests.
I clicked the reply button and my nails clicked on the keys.
Of course, I was going to have an interview with her. Five hundred guests? Not only did that mean I was going to get paid more, but it meant creative freedom for the bride. These were my favorite weddings because we weren’t limited by a budget, so we could achieve exactly what the bride had always dreamed of.
After sending the email off and sending a link to my calendar where she could book a convenient time, I connected my digital camera and uploaded the photos of the wedding preparations throughout the day for my portfolio. Megan had taken most of them. She had a good eye.
I messaged her.
Photos are great. Meeting with a bride on Monday evening at six. Be there.
She replied two minutes later.
Still partying. Stop working, it’s Saturday!
I should have gotten in bed. My aching body needed it. My tired mind needed it. But my body hummed with need and my skin was hot. I felt feverish, anxious.
I sat on my office chair, knowing what I wanted. What I needed.
I picked up my phone and dialed Ben.
“Hello, Kitten,” he purred through the phone.
“Are you free?”
“For you, honey, always.”
I rolled my eyes. He was a booty call, he didn’t have to charm me.
“I’ll be there in half an hour.”
“I’ll be ready for you.”