What a Tangled Wed
…but the stuffed partridge glued to her shoulder blocked his view.
Pierce Grayson, Engineering Genius, a man who repairs disaster zones as easily as most make a cup of coffee, just destroyed his best shot at True Love.
A string of hopeful Mrs. Graysons (who take the term "chained to my desk" a bit TOO literally), make the billionaire appreciate the rare intelligence and selflessness of gifted muralist Allison Stanford all the more. (Allison's a woman so loyal, she's willing to humble herself in the World's Most Ridiculous Maid Of Honor Outfit at the wedding of the season for an impish little sis with an axe to grind. It's a fashion disaster but worldly wise Pierce is smitten by her golden heart!
Pierce messes up big time with Allison and rushes to apologize …right in the middle of her date with another guy on the biggest night of her career!
Allison’s not one to drop people (or business commitments) just because some hunky rich guy wants to horn in and puts him off. Undaunted, Pierce arrives at her home, flowers in hand but neither of them expects him to end up facing off with an angry grandmother guarding Allison's threshold (and her heart).
Mema takes a fancy to the lovelorn exec but decides he needs special education on women in general (and Allison in particular) before he can earn a second chance with her granddaughter. She puts Pierce through his paces and suddenly the man who helps OTHERS for a living is in need of aid! (The feisty granny parlays her brief tutoring session into a free, extended, 5-star French vacation with ALL the perks ...without explaining her sudden disappearance to anyone, including her panicked granddaughter!) Certain Mema wouldn't vanish unless something bad was afoot, cash-strapped Allison chases after them to rescue her from whatever scheme the business magnate is plotting ...all as covertly as possible so as not to embarrass her 'helpless' grandma.
From Georgia's laid back vacation coast, to the French countryside, the glitter of Dubai to the exotic streets of Nepal, Mema puppet masters the two headstrong young hotshots into Happily Ever After before they know what hit them.
(With only minor damage).
If Pierce and Allison were half as smart as everyone thinks they are, they'd just surrender to Mema's will from the start. When they don't, it's a laugh out loud, ride on the romance train; or, as Mema would say,
"trickier’n carvin' a turkey with three dogs underfoot".
Snuggle up and escape the craziness of modern life as you join Pierce and Allison while they navigate the insanity of theirs in this smart, clean, read suitable for all audiences from tweens to twilight years who can tolerate a smooch or two and understand Mema Knows Best!
Available in ebook and paperback!
(includes coupon codes!)
The soft, lumbering moans of the pipe organ curled around Pierce’s independent spirit like acrid black smoke snaking off burnt sugar. Perhaps it was the way it sat in his stomach; heavy, sweet, and in no hurry to move along. Maybe it was the haunting similarity in tone and rhythm to funeral music. The polite smile plastered on his face disappeared as he cracked his neck, tugged his ascot, and looked around at the well-dressed people in the church narthex.
No one else seemed adversely affected.
--Not surprising. Pierce’s discomfort, while not unique, is situational. As a single and reasonably attractive, and worse, prosperous “nice guy” he’s a prize target for every well-intentioned matchmaking relative, (and quite a few free-lancing future Mrs. Graysons), who cross his path. The few women who could get to know him as a person are quickly educated by others of just what a catch (and whose) he is. The long term effect of this situation has left Pierce gun-shy of women in general, both married and single, and especially highly educated ones, lawyers, engineers and the like, whose tactics would make any Wall Street trader beg for mercy (and pointers). He understandably developed outright allergies to weddings, especially big church affairs.
At least Kekoa didn't show.
Fortunately, no one seemed to notice him at the moment. Pierce edged to a corner where a tall pedestal supported a huge spray of mixed flowers, heavy on the roses and orchid stems, and perfumed by the dry, papery scent of florist’s ribbon. Propping one elbow on the stand, he shifted his weight and tried flexing his toes. Somewhere underneath the shiny black patent leather boa constrictors passing for footwear, he believed blood still nourished his joints with sufficient oxygen to perform the task of standing, even if he could no longer feel them.
He placed the back of one foot in front of the toe of the other, freed his suffering foot, and scanned his companions again. A procession of best-dressed guests entered the building, strolled to the archway, took the elbow of one of several of his tuxedoed twins, and quietly, calmly, casually, chatted their way into the central chamber as if occasions like this happened every day. He shifted his weight to his back foot, held his shoe to the floor and lifted the heel of his forward foot until cool air rushed into the void and teased his crumpled toes back to life.
“Mr. Grayson! There you are!” Mary-Louise Hampton, Wedding Director, one daughter in medical school (the lively wit), and another (the intense, somber one with a showing of her innovative performance art next fall, for whom Pierce now somehow possessed not one, but five copies of her business card), clamped a perfect manicure around his morning coat’s sleeve and propelled him towards the Final Portal. Pierce’s height gave him the length of stride sufficient to keep up with the tiny powerhouse while dragging his errant shoe along with one surprisingly agile big toe. “Mr. Wilson here has an important delivery for the bride, but must get dressed for the ceremony.”
Wilson, a wiry, balding redhead with scarred fingertips and an elf’s mischief about him, held a zippered suit bag matching the one stashed in Pierce’s trunk in one hand, and in the other, a round, white, ribbon-topped box the size of a nine-layer cake. “It’s delicate,” he cautioned.
Pierce slammed his toe forward in his shoe and lowered the weight of his heel, grimacing as the back of the loafer crumpled beneath his weight and flattened against the insole. Wonder what the market for rental slippers is these days. He raised his foot in a modified stork position and extended an index finger with the intent of using it as a makeshift shoehorn.
Hampton seized it (and his other cuff as well), extending Pierce’s reach almost beyond his balance.
Perched on one foot like a hunchbacked flamingo, his fingers stayed curled around the smooth, hard, finish of the box, but just.
“Two hands, Mr. Grayson.” If Mary-Louise Hampton, Wedding Director, was not a kindergarten instructor, then she surely filled in on Sundays on a regular basis. “The band is still using the back hall to deliver their equipment. You’ll have to cut through the sanctuary.”
Sanctuary. There’s a misnomer if I ever heard one.
Tiny, birdlike pincers propelled him through the double doors and Pierce hopped twice on one foot in an attempt to stop what would surely be the most spectacular swan dive in wedding history. He exhaled, pulling the box closer to his chest and lowering his dangling ‘slipper’ to the carpeting.
You’re thirty-two years old. You vote, pay taxes, and donate to charity. You’ve erased poverty in three cities so far and had lunch with Presidents. You are not going to let this--.
“No time to dawdle Mr. Grayson.” Mary-Louise’s tight soprano sliced through the melancholy tones of the hall like a laser. Several well-coifed heads turned to observe the action. Pierce started to confront the little dictator, but faced Wilson’s retreating back as the poor man was towed by his garment bag towards the gentlemen’s dressing suite. A slight pause preceded one perfectly penciled brow arch making itself Known over her captive’s shoulder; silently threatening Pierce with a fate worse than death if he should dare to entertain such grandiose notions as self-determination.
The Wedding Director has spoken.
I’m thirty-two. I vote, pay taxes, donate to charity, dine with Presidents and I AM going to let this--.
Pierce realized eyes in the pews ahead of him were supposed to be facing forward. The lilting, ephemeral notes of a quartet of harps performing “Air on a G String” filtered through the room as he tried to add nonchalance to his reconstructed polite grin, and step-shuffled the loose shoe down the aisle. The guests, most of the guests anyway, were too preoccupied or polite to snicker as he lumbered through the dignified hall with all the grace and decorum of an ice skater wearing a full body cast.
Mercifully, he reached the far exit and disappeared from view.
Stopping at a stairwell to properly refit his shoe, he straightened his shoulders and headed for the ivory painted six-panel cross and book style door with the polished brass marker reading “Bride’s Rooms”. He understood why a woman might need a higher power and reference material under such circumstances, but why she required a suite of rooms, while a line of groomsmen changed in what amounted to a carpeted gym locker, was beyond Pierce’s understanding.
(The mystery would remain unencrypted. Pierce was not so clueless as to go asking any wedding related questions.)
A cloud of perfumes seeped out of the chamber, and he paused, trying to decide if the aroma sought to escape the overwhelming force of estrogen contained within, or if it assumed the role of Siren Song, calling out, luring the weaker sex to his doom. He straightened his ascot and ran his hand along the back of his head, smoothing any errant strands of his short cut hair. He inhaled one last unscented breath, and knocked on the door.
The high pitched murmur on the other side continued unabated.
Pierce waited. Perhaps no one is free to come to the door. Perhaps I should just discreetly leave the package on the first available table, explain who it is for, and return to the gentler duties of escorting doting aunties to their seats.
The perfume laughed at him. He pictured a headline: “Peeping Tom Crashes Bride’s Attendants”, with a picture of him cringing under the hostile force field of Mrs. Wedding Director’s arching eyebrows, or worse, lurching down the aisle.
He cleared his throat and knocked again.
“Somebody get that.” Somewhere deep in the bowels of this private sanctum, Mary-Louise had an organized sister at heart …a tired, somewhat frustrated sister. At least someone heard him this time.
“Wait Celia! I’m half-dressed.”
“Oh please, Priya. All you have left to do is finish your hair.”
“Anybody got any nail polish? My hose has a run.”
“Here.” Mary-Louise’s twin maneuvered her way through all this charming chaos. Her voice now came from just on the other side of the door. The knob turned, and what would have been a profile view greeted Pierce, if the unflinching beaded stare of a stuffed game bird didn’t hide her.
Startled, he stepped back and waited, mouth agape, eyes trying to identify the creature in question. A pheasant, if I’m not mistaken. He shook his head and blinked.
Two birds flanked her, actually. One perched onto each shoulder of an otherwise perfectly acceptable evening dress. A V-neckline edged a modest quantity of laced-covered satin that just managed to restrain a pleasing and generous body curvature. The trim bodice and dropped waist enhanced the hour-glass affect while a full skirt left the lady’s legs a mystery for further exploration. All in all, an enchanting fairytale package, if it weren’t for those parasite packing pheasants perched on either side of the wearer’s head. Pierce’s damsel rescuing instincts usually lay quite dormant, but if he had a machete handy, he wouldn’t hesitate to slay the beasts for her.
“Gone with the Wind.” The middle head stated, as if those four words explained everything. The smaller heads wobbled as she turned, almost as if in protest.
“I, ah,” Pierce tried to stifle a laugh, and failed. What is that on her shoulder? Iridescent blue chest plumage shimmered in the light and gave the neck and cheeks of the central (human) head a post-mortem cast.
No deathly hallows shadowed the eyebrow she arched with a stern censure that would make Mary-Louise sit up straight. “The night he proposed, Peter took Jenna to see Gone with the Wind.”
“Gone with the Wind?” Pierce tore his gaze away from the brilliant red-ringed eyes staring at him from her left and right. He nodded, tried to ignore the twin golden brown spikey crown feathers extending up higher than Sis’s head and hoped the mantra would somehow enlighten him.
The door opened wide and he stepped into the room, aware of a growing circle of femininity surrounding him. “I’m sorry. I still don’t get the reference. Is this a reproduction of what Belle Watling wore as they burned Atlanta?”
Sis started to smirk, but checked it, careful to ensure the young woman in white had not caught her expression. Satisfied the bride remained preoccupied with fitting her headpiece, she turned her attention back to Pierce. “Think Scarlett, as in, Scarlett and Rhett on their romantic honeymoon in New Orleans.”
Pierce squinted. “The restaurant scene? Aren’t those supposed to be doves, then?” Yeah, now doves would make perfect sense. …Very Coco Chanel. This poor woman has crimson talons attached to her shoulder. He wiggled his numbed toes and thanked the Almighty he was born male.
Scarlett drew and released a tight breath. Her voice rose and fell in a pleasing, melodic fashion, even if she did suffer from lockjaw. “Yes. Only Jenna thought since Peter’s family name is--.’
“Partridge?” Pierce snorted, balanced his delicate cargo on one hand, and snared his handkerchief from his coat pocket. I guess it could have been worse. He could have been Peter Crow …or Buzzard. Peter Ostrich.
“…Crested wood partridges, to be specific.”
Sis stood deadpan while the image of two hulking vultures popped into Pierce’s head. They could all wear the vultures, and circle the groom…. He covered his mouth and nose, and tried to suppress a series of choked bursts of air. Tears blurred his focus on the blushing oval of flesh between the two deadpan wild fowl before him. He cleared his throat and squared his jaw in an attempt to at least look like a grown up. “Excuse me. I must be coming down with something.”
Scarlett checked the bride again and allowed herself to scowl. “Well, I’m not.”
He’d likely spend time in Purgatory for it, but Pierce couldn’t stop himself. “Maybe you’re a c-carrier?”
So worth it.
Scarlett grabbed his elbow and drew him aside, almost knocking The Box to the floor as she issued a threat between clenched teeth. “Any more pigeon remarks--.”
Pierce waved his white handkerchief in the air. “I surrender! You don’t have to henpeck--.”
Scarlett’s talons stopped the small tremor echoing down his arms from his shaking shoulders.
“I’m sorry. It’s not like I’m some loon.”
Scarlett’s gaze harpooned his.
Pierce coughed, and straightened his back. “I’m sorry. Really. I’m really sorry. Look, I come bearing gifts. A-- a guy named Wilson, hang on.” He drew a deep breath and blew it out with deliberate concentration, and coughed again. The trick is not to let the pointy red beaks distract you. “--said the bride needed this tout de suite.”
Scarlett sighed, unclenched his bicep, and took possession of his delivery.
Now’s the time to make your get-away.
Instead Pierce stood, transfixed. For the first time in his life, he finally understood why some people want all the gory details of a friend’s surgery. Why cars slow and even stop as they pass a horrific accident. Why the Thrill of Victory is always upstaged by the Agony of Defeat. Pierce just couldn’t quite bring himself to leave the scene. In the midst of a bevy of beauties, this lone figure, taller, older, more serene, almost authoritarian, was the only one to run afoul of a designer’s nightmare.
What a good sport.
“What crime did you commit to merit this sent--,” Pierce raised his voice and lightened his tone. “--sational distinction?”
“Is that from Charles?” The bride dropped her veil and vaulted over a machine resembling a vacuum cleaner, but it boiled water in its belly and spat steam into the air where it should suck dirt.
No doubt the repository for arched eyebrow victims.
She stood just behind Scarlett, but Pierce believed she missed his question.
“Maid of Honor, at your, and everyone else’s, service,” Scarlett drawled.
Pierce couldn’t believe his luck. The Maid of Honor; beautiful despite the excess plumage, smart, a darn good sport, and loyal to a fault…. Forget the bet! For once, I want to ask her out. His shoulders eased for the first time all day. Kama’s done me a huge favor.
Scarlett turned to the woman a few years her junior but obviously her sister. “Yes, Honey. It’s from Chuck. Did you ask him to make Peter a music box? What a lovely wedding gift!”
Pierce rechecked his polite smile. If you’re the kind of guy who goes for music boxes.
“Do straighten up, dear.” Pierce obeyed before he realized Scarlett was the target of instruction. A woman a head and a half shorter than Scarlett elbowed her way through the circle of women and gave Pierce a thorough once over. (The usual mother-with-unwed-daughters-at-a-wedding kind, the kind that makes a man wish he could find lead underwear.)
Apparently, he passed inspection.
“Who is your man friend?”
“This is the UPS guy, mother.” Scarlett drawled.
“Mind your manners, missy. We have a guest.” Mother took The Box from Scarlett’s hands and returned it to Pierce. “Won’t you please set this on that table, Mr.--?”
“Grayson,” Pierce supplied, protecting the package as Mother O’Hara took his arm and “stumbled” him into Scarlett’s hip. Despite the obvious ploy, for some reason heat flushed through him and he lingered. The subtle scent of Scarlett’s perfume took such intimate contact to detect it. “Pierce Grayson,” he finished, shooting Scarlett his best James Bond gleam.
“Oh my, Mr. Grayson.” Mother cooed in a manner indicating she might not read the financials pages, but she knew well the local names driving a great deal of their content. “I do apologize. Are you all right?”
“Quite all right.” Pierce turned back towards Scarlett in time to catch the final arc of one very irritated roll of her eyes.
Well, at least the birds didn’t mind.
Challenged, even encouraged by her cold reception, he used his deepest, most rumbling voice, the one to give the best odds of making a female companion melt. “And you, Ms.--?”
“Congeniality,” Scarlett replied, apparently immune to his charms. She glared openly at Mother O’Hara. “I apologize for my mother, Mr. Grayson. She’s not as …stable as she used to be.”
Mother O’Hara opened her mouth to protest, registered Scarlett’s expression, and closed it again.
Congeniality’s sharp, too. “Pierce, please,” he replied, wondering who caused the blush of color on Scarlett’s cheeks, him or her mother, and how her words came out so clear when her lips barely moved.
And she hasn’t even checked my ring finger.
“Pierce,” she repeated, her tongue giving the word a subconscious caress he quite appreciated. “The last impression my mother wanted to make on Peter’s family and friends was that we make a habit of throwing ourselves at men. …Or one another right, Mother?”
“Oh, I’m not family,” Pierce replied, desperate for a change in subject. “I mean, I’m not a friend. I mean--.”
The arched brow returned, and Pierce swore he felt sweat beading under his arms. Maybe that’s where the steam in the rolling cauldron thing comes from. I’d rather be dangling from a four story scaffold than standing here.
C’mon, Pierce. You’re a grown man. You pay your taxes. You dine--. “I’m a business associate … of Peter’s dad’s,” he finished. “I’m pretty sure Talia asked for me just for the symmetry.”
“Symmetry.” Scarlett repeated him the same way a curious female tween pokes a jellyfish with a stick and makes intrigued but detached observations.
“As I understand it, I’m exactly one inch taller than Mark, and one inch shorter than--.”
“Pierce!” Talia Partridge’s shocked utterance could qualify as a curse word, if she weren’t too genteel to curse in front of anything but her mirror.
Pierce lost a full two and half inches of his previously boasted height. “Talia. Of course you’re here.”
“Pierce?” Talia stood beside him, managing to make his one syllable name a three syllable interrogation.
“I mean, you’re here! Talia!” Pierce bowed and offered an apologetic and submissive kiss to the woman’s hand, hoping the renowned harridan didn’t have a nail file palmed and waiting for his exposed back.
He raised himself upright just in time to catch Scarlett’s smirk as she turned back toward the mirrored wall of lights illuminating a counter hosting a series of twisted wire stools. Each sported heart patterns, and velveteen cushions.
“Oh, no!” The bride, Jenna Stanford, seized Scarlett’s shoulders and all but shoved her onto the stool closest to them. Jenna turned to Pierce and gestured at the table before Scarlett. “Will you put it over here?”
Maybe it was the perfume. Maybe it was the surfeit of estrogen, or the mysterious potions and devices lurking about the room. Maybe it was the daggered crossfire shooting between Scarlett’s gaze and her mother’s, or the admonishing cut of Talia’s, but the room felt smaller, and the box, The Box, was flat out starting to intimidate Pierce. Ridding it from his possession seemed a very good idea indeed. He crossed safely all the way over to a table in four short strides, and rested the beautiful package on the surface with care. Not until he returned to an upright posture did his lungs restart.
A coven of hair-sprayed, curlered, wet nail-waving women all paused in their incantations and peered in hushed expectation at the bride; surrounding the small, unassuming piece of furniture, and the suspiciously innocent, pure white curves of The Box.
“Open it,” the vision in white instructed Scarlett, who proved herself to be one brave cookie, not even flinching as she pulled the ribbon free, unleashing the lid.
“It’s beautiful, Jenna,” she whispered, lowering slim, elegant fingers into The Box and lifting a lacy glass concoction for all to see.
It was beautiful.
Pierce’s architectural sense appreciated the fine balance and symmetry of the hand-crafted piece. Tiny cupids chased mouth-blown hearts as they circled around on a spun glass carousel. The whole thing pivoted on a spire of a single, golden, thread of glass. Each love god carried a miniature wand in one hand, and supported a tiny dove behind with the other. Even the gentle motion of Scarlett’s fingers lifting the confection into the air caused the little messengers of adoration to waltz in a circle around the delicate, basket weave base. A series of interspersed vertical elements hung filed or polished into delicate prisms and split the cool fluorescent lighting into a rainbow of twinkling stars.
“Ssh!” Jenna ordered, and none thought to disobey. From the look on her face, Scarlett heard it first.
“Tara’s Theme.” Pierce exhaled, marveling as his second, closer, inspection revealed small cylinders of glass suspended from invisible threads under the carousel canopy. Like the cylinder of a music box turned on its side, the cherubs’ wands struck the glass rods in just the right sequence to repeat the theme song from Jenna’s favorite movie.
I guess a guy could appreciate this, after all.
“Honey, it’s beautiful! Simply beautiful,” Scarlett declared.
Everyone present murmured approval.
“I’m so glad you like it,” Jenna smiled.
Pierce turned away from the fantasy scene before him. Something in Jenna’s voice made the hair on his neck stand on alert as the “Agony of Defeat” ski jumper from “Wide World of Sports” flashed through his mind for the second time. He studied the scene to confirm his gut instincts. The sweet, ethereal bride grinned from ear to ear and surveyed her companions as if to ensure everyone in attendance paid appropriate attention. Scarlett, still flanked by her molting shoulder pads, sat in innocence, too mesmerized by the whirling cherubs to pick up on the new undercurrent.
Pierce suppressed the irrational desire to fling his body between her and whatever was coming her way.
And Scarlett’s the target, but how?
He studied the delicate glass confection in her graceful hands again, certain this innocent and delightful pleasure served as the instrument of whatever Doom Jenna had in store for her sister. He just couldn’t possibly imagine what that fate might be. As the glittering figures danced and played, he inventoried the artwork, noting two glass appendages laced onto the bottom edge of the basket weave base. A series of parallel tines, rather like an extra wide fork, or a very short wide-toothed comb, dangling on either side of the oval base. Pierce squinted, searching his memory. He’d seen something like them before….
“It’s your headpiece,” Jenna declared with the air of a Crown Princess accepting her reign. She produced a hand mirror with a flourish. “C’mon. Try it on!”
Of course! Hair combs! Pierced smiled, pleased he’d come so close to solving the mystery on his own.
He glanced around, and realized he and Jenna were the only ones smiling.
About K.D. Harp
WHAT A TANGLED WED-- a Book Worth Reading Again by K.D.Harp.
Native Atlantan K.D. hooked her own Georgia Tech engineer years ago and knows firsthand the off-beat workings of a mind that shapes the future, and how to bolster its heart! The author’s been recognized by international competitions/organizations as a GENESIS semi-finalist, honored by the Hook. Line & Sinker! Awards and listed among 'Most Popular Authors" and “Most Popular” titles on Goodreads!)
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