The Reluctant Bride

The Reluctant Bride – a Lake Willowbee novella

Claire Woods and Jimmy Tyler were high-school sweethearts with a marriage proposal on prom night. Ten years later and they are no closer to the altar than that far away romantic night, thanks to Claire’s family. Traits run in families, divorce runs in Claire’s own. Her parents have eight marriages and numerous divorces between them. And her siblings aren’t much better, with her twin sister, Corrine, ready to walk down the aisle for marriage #5. But is she?

Jimmy Tyler has a plan and with the help of Claire’s family and friends he may just get his reluctant bride surprised, ambushed, and to the church in time.

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Chapter One

“I’m getting married.”

Claire Woods glared at her identical twin, Corrine, as if the woman had lost her mind…yet again.

“You can’t get married another time. What would this be? Number four?” she spat out in disgust.

“Actually, number five. Don’t forget Billy in high school. The one mom and dad had annulled because we were underage.”

She ground her teeth until they cracked in her jaw. “That one doesn’t count, it was annulled.”

Corrine smiled and Claire’s mouth dropped open. “Billy was too sweet not to count. It was consummated and everything. Damn, that boy was good at consummating. Wish I could have kept him.”

Whispering, with gritted teeth, Claire tried to keep her temper in check. Something that was doubly hard with her twin. “His parents moved him as far away as they could from you, Lake Willowbee, and California. They sent him to college in Maine.”

Corrine pouted and flounced to the couch as if she were sixteen again instead of twenty-seven. “You don’t have to be mean, Claire. We don’t all find Mr. or Ms. Right the first time.”

She sat down and wrapped an arm around her sister’s shoulders. “How do you know Jimmy Tyler is Mr. Right?”

Corrine leaned into her. “Well. You’ve had him for ten years, you won’t marry him no matter how many times he asks, and he still sticks around. He is either perfect or stupid. And Jimmy Tyler is not a stupid man.”

She sighed. No, Jimmy wasn’t a stupid man. He was a wonderful man. So why couldn’t she just say yes to marriage?

Corrine grabbed her arm and snuggled into her. “I can hear that brain of yours going a mile a minute. If you think any harder, the gears will fly out the back of your brain.”

Laughing, she squeezed her sister’s hand. “Just wishing life was easier. Or different. Or something.”

“Or that our family wasn’t the poster child for Divorces For Us?” Corrine added.

“Well, there is that.” She leaned her head back and closed her eyes to stop the tears forming and threatening to roll down her face. Her parents had started the divorce roller coaster when she and her twin had been ten years old. After that they had accumulated eight more marriages between the two of them, one even a remarriage to each other before another divorce a year later. Her siblings weren’t much better. Corrine could be walking down the aisle for number five, their baby sister, Elise hadn’t any same-sex marriages yet since California couldn’t decide from day to day if they were legal or not, but she went through partners like the rest of the family, and brother, Daniel was on marriage number two and family gossip had it on shaky ground at not even the one-year anniversary.

Enough morbid thoughts. She shook her head to clear it. Turning to Corrine, she plastered a smile on her face and tried to think of happy thoughts. “What is Prince Charming’s name?”

Her sister sat up with a deer-in-the-headlights look on her face, her eyes all wide and white.

She laughed. “He does have a name, doesn’t he? Spill. I want details. Who, what, where, when, and how.”

Corrine glared at her. “I hate when you go all police officer on me and do the interrogation thing.”

She glanced down at her Lake Willowbee police uniform. “Let me get changed and we can talk.” Claire stood and strode into her bedroom, peeling off the khaki uniform as she went. A sniff told her this one was ready for the cleaners tomorrow. She threw it into a pile by the hamper and grabbed shorts and a T-shirt that she pulled on as she walked back to the living room.

Corrine stood with her back to Claire, whispering into her cell phone. “…talk later.” She turned off the phone and shoved it into her pocket.

Claire coughed and Corrine whipped around with her face bright red. “Was that lover boy?”

Corrine swallowed and starting coughing. “Yes…Yes it was.”

She rushed over and pounded her sister’s back. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Corrine whispered as she pushed the hand away. “Let’s just get the interrogation over with.”

She marched to the couch and threw herself down, and Claire followed, sitting next to her sister and taking her hand. “I didn’t mean to upset you. But if you’re getting married, I want to know these things.”

Corrine shook her head and dark hair flew into her face. “It’s just…just all so new. It happened so fast.”

Claire’s gaze shot to her sister’s flat abdomen. Corrine laughed and slapped her leg. “Not that fast, silly.”

She caught her breath, her racing heartbeat slowing back to normal. “Thank God, Mom and Dad would have a cow.”

Corrine rolled her eyes. “Yeah, like Abraham and Betty have any room to talk. We were ‘preemies’, remember.” She did the air quotes with her hands. “Right. Like all preemies weigh six pounds apiece, and twins to boot. I’m surprised Mom didn’t bust her dress open on her wedding day.”

“Nice change of subject, Sis. But, we were talking about you and the mystery guy.”

Corrine started twiddling her fingers in her lap and looking everywhere but at her sister’s face. Claire’s bullcrap antenna went up and her lie detector senses went into full alert. Something was going on here and she didn’t like it.

“His name is Joe…Joe Smith. I met him at work. He’s one of Dr. Barnes’s patients. He came in for a dental cleaning, and we talked while he was waiting and we just hit it off, and we started dating, and I like him and he likes me, and he asked me to marry him and I said yes.” Her words came out in a breathless, rapid-fire manner.

“You’ve never mentioned him before and now you’re marrying this stranger? Why hasn’t the family met him? He’s married, isn’t he?”

Corrine’s brow shot up. “I’m not stupid. He is not married. I wouldn’t do that.”

“Again,” Claire added.

“Yes. I wouldn’t do that, again,” she spit out between gritted teeth.

“Okay,” she said softly, reaching for her twin’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure. I couldn’t go through seeing you in that much pain again.”

Corrine stared her in the eye. “I’m totally sure. This will be the perfect wedding and the perfect marriage. This one was meant to be.”

* * *