Sydney Winter’s wedding is in two weeks. But her wedding planner has closed shop and stolen her gown, her trousseau and all the money she’d given him to plan her perfect wedding. She hires Noah Sterling, an attorney, and the two of them chase the errant crook from urban Virginia to the mountains of New York State. Sydney wants to recover her stolen gown in time for her nuptials. Noah is determined to steal her heart away from her oh, so wrong for her, intended husband.
There is nothing quite like love on the run . . .
THE WEDDING GOWN CAPER
By Sandra Brown Rarey
Sydney followed Noah as he wound his way through the tightly packed tables toward a booth in the far recesses of the Albino Doe. She breathed deep of the aroma of stale beer and pretzels.
A musician tuning his guitar made a sound like a bullfrog. The murmur of voices, rife with camaraderie, floated through the dim room on a haze of cigarette smoke.
From around the corner where a stuffed bear stood sentry, the clack of pool balls mingled with good-natured jesting and laughter.
Sydney smiled. The only difference between this small bar in the Catskills and the nightclubs in her home town of Norfolk was the dress code. The men all looked like lumberjacks. The women wore mostly jeans, flat shoes and pull-over shirts. Her spirits lifting, she suddenly felt better about her own appearance. She was going to have fun tonight. Guaranteed.
As she and Noah slipped into their seats, the band broke into a wild version of Fat Bottom Girls. Sydney bounced her leg and drummed her fingers, shooting Noah a smile of invitation. She was disappointed to find his attention on two women dancing with each other. “Why do men get turned on watching women make out?” she grumbled, glaring at the girls, one in leopard spandex, the other in fringed leather shorts.
“They aren’t making out. They’re dancing,” Noah said.
“They have big hair.” Her tone left no doubt as to her opinion about the blonde tresses both girls were sporting. “And too much jewelry. And I’ll bet those nails aren’t real. Or their--”
“Jealous?” Noah asked, one of his eyebrows heading toward the ceiling.
“Because I don’t have a girlfriend? Huh!” Sydney twisted the skin on her ring-less finger then studied her nails. “So, exactly what are you thinking while you’re drooling over them?”
Noah grinned. “I’m imagining myself dancing with them.”
“Hmph! You know, they probably hate men.”
“Spoil sport. What’s the harm in a little fantasy?”
“I wouldn’t know,” she said. “I don’t do that.”
“What, you don’t fantasize?” Noah looked askance at Sydney. “You mean to tell me you never, ever, have fantasies about anything?”
“Well.” She shrugged as she tore a paper napkin into shreds. “I’ve been fantasizing about my wedding.”
“Not the same thing. That’s planning and dreaming. A fantasy is enjoying something in your mind that has no possibility of coming true.”
“And your big fantasy is being sandwiched between two bimbos on the dance floor?”
“Not exactly. My all-time favorite fantasy involves red stiletto heels and a red bow.”
“And what else?”
“Absolutely nothing else. Just the bow and the shoes.”
“Yeah. I can picture you in them. You didn’t mess with the shoes I left at your place, did you?”
Noah laughed. “I left out the most important part--the woman wearing them.” He poured Sydney a glass from the pitcher of beer the waitress had set in front of them. “Loosen up. Here, have something to drink.”
Sydney looked down at herself. “I’ll be right back.” She slid from the booth and elbowed her way to the bathroom.
Leaning over the sink, she peered at her reflection in the cracked mirror. Her head looked okay considering the circumstances.
There was nothing she could do about her old Nikes--sneakers she had worn because they seemed like a good choice for breaking and entering.
Her black capris looked a little wilted and bagged out at the knees. Her yellow Virginia Is For Lovers T-shirt, dried with a hairdryer borrowed from the proprietor of the Hillside, was wrinkled and sported unidentifiable stains the hotel soap wouldn’t wash out.
Sydney twisted her T-shirt into a knot, tucking the tail under her bra. Then she applied a double coat of cherry red lipstick. Her mouth turned down at the dark circles beneath her eyes and her winter-white skin. She needed a trip to the tanning salon. She rubbed some of her lipstick on her cheeks. It felt a little greasy but she looked better. Fishing in her purse, she found her spray bottle of Summer’s Eve and misted herself.
She returned to their booth, wondering if she looked improved or just pathetic.
Noah was dancing with one of the bimbos. He had her tucked into a close embrace even though the music was fast and furious. The way they slid across the sawdust-covered floor, they could have been dancing together for years.
Jealousy ripped through Sydney. He should have asked her first.
As soon as the music paused, Noah returned to their booth. “Come on, Sydney. Let's shake a leg.”
“No, thank you,” she said, primly. “I’d prefer to sit and watch, if you don’t mind.”
Noah grinned. “Don’t mind a’tall.” He was back on the dance floor before she could blink. This time with the other bimbo.
Steaming, Sydney ran her fingers up and down her icy glass, dabbing her wet fingertips on a cardboard coaster with a picture of a white deer.
The band played Dueling Banjoes, Wipeout and Orange Blossom Special. On the floor, couples gyrated wildly to the flashing lights and frenetic music.
Sydney took a gulp of beer and then grimaced. Ugh. It was horrible. Bitter and yucky. But the Albino Doe didn’t serve wine and she couldn’t very well get looped on Coke. She took another sip and pushed her glass away.
The music finally ended. But the next dance was a slow, sexy ballad and Leopard Bimbo claimed Noah right out of the arms of Cowgirl Bimbo.
According to the neon clock behind the bar, Noah had been dancing for twenty-two minutes.
Sydney glanced around the packed place. What was wrong with all the men? Several had sent her interested glances but not one had asked her to dance. Did she look that bad?
It didn’t really matter. She wanted to dance with Noah. She wanted his arms around HER, not some strange woman who looked like Sheena of The Jungle. Maybe, when this dance ended, he would remember she was sitting here all alone, take pity on her and ask her again.
But Cowgirl Bimbo was waiting and had Noah’s attention occupied as soon as the next song started. It was another romantic slow dance. His hands rode low on the woman’s hips as they rocked their bodies in perfect synchronization.
His hands. Sydney remembered how they felt on her body. She pictured Noah touching those girls the way he touched her in the car. She thought about the condom she'd found tucked away in his wallet.
After one more gulp of beer for courage, Sydney stomped up to Noah. His eyes were closed and his chin rested atop a mound of big yellow hair. Sydney tapped his partner on the shoulder hard enough to knock her off step. “I’m cutting in,” she said.
“Uh, uh,” Bimbo replied, clutching Noah tightly.
“Uh huh!” Sydney huffed, tugging at the girl’s fringe.
“Let go of me!” The girl yanked her fringe from Sydney’s grasping fingers. “What’s the matter with you?”
“I want to dance with him.” Sydney injected as much sugar into her tone as she could manage. “He’s here with me.”
“Yeah, I know.” The girl inspected the condition of her fringe, fingering it lovingly. “He’s your attorney.”
“Noah, I want to leave,” Sydney whined.
“What? We just got here. I’m having a good time. And I asked you to dance. You turned me down,” he said pointedly.
“I don’t feel so good.”
“I think I’ve had too much to drink.”
Noah glanced at their table. “The pitcher is still half-full. So is your glass.”
“I can’t help it if I’m a lightweight drinker. I have to go back to the hotel.”
Noah fished in his pocket and pulled out the room key. “Come on, I’ll walk you back.” He smiled at the girl. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Sydney’s mouth dropped open. “You’re not staying with me?”
“I’d like to come back if you don’t mind. Are you going to be okay if I do?”
“I’m suddenly feeling better. I think I’ll just go sit down.”
“All right. Come get me if you feel worse.” Noah smoothly swept his dance partner into his arms and across the room.
Sydney followed. She tapped Noah’s shoulder this time. It was like rapping on a rock. “I changed my mind. I think I’d like to dance now, Sweetheart. This is our honeymoon, after all.”
Noah smiled at his partner. "Excuse me for a moment, darlin'." He yanked Sydney out the front door onto the sidewalk. “What in hell are you doing?"
"Why did you call her darling?"
"Why did you tell her we were on our honeymoon?”
“I want to dance.”
“I asked you to dance. You turned me down.” He raked his fingers through his hair, making it stand on end. “Look, I need to wind down. In the past twenty-four hours I’ve been arrested twice, almost lost my dog, and tore up a car that doesn’t belong to me.”
“It hasn’t exactly been a picnic for me,” she mumbled.
“I’d like to have a good time tonight, Sydney, but guess what? The woman I’m with isn’t mine. You belong to Tim and I have no right wanting to do the things with you I want to. So I’m passing time, dancing with a couple of nice women.” Noah ran his knuckles lightly down her cheek and then wiped them on his pants. “If that upsets you, we can both leave right now.”
"I guess it doesn’t. But--but, you should have asked me to dance again.” She sniffed.
“Now, don’t start crying. I’m not a mind reader. And I don’t like rejection enough to ask for seconds.” He fished a hanky from his pocket and handed it to her. “Why don’t I just walk you on up to the room and then come back here for a while? All I’m doing is dancing.”
Sydney wiped her nose and handed Noah the crumpled hanky. “Okay.” She turned toward the Hillside Hotel. “Come on.” She had about five minutes to figure out her next move. Because once she got Noah back to the hotel room, there was no way she was going to let him leave.
Coming soon . . .
Content copyright February, 2014 by Sandra Rarey
All rights reserved.