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The (Not So) Perfect Day

The (Not So) Perfect Day

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Ellie’s planned the perfect wedding, just...with the wrong groom.

Bride-to-be Ellie Thatcher is in the final stages of preparing for her wedding day, and it's supposed to be perfect, right? But it isn't. It can't be. Not without her best friend Ian by her side. Her perfect day would be ruined if he's not there to share it with her. The invitations all went out weeks ago, and the clock is ticking. So where is he already?

And more importantly, why are all her thoughts about Ian when she's on the verge of marrying another man?

Main Tropes

  • Friends to More
  • He Falls First
  • Forbidden Love

Intro Into Chapter 1

Three weeks until wedding day…

Ellie Thatcher would be the first to admit that she had a tendency to be distracted, even on the best of days. She was used to her friends waving a hand in front of her face to get her attention, sometimes even shouting her name to bring her back to the present.

Even so, she was not accustomed to being jabbed with sharp objects. 

“Ow!” Ellie looked down and found Grace Roberts scowling at her around a mouthful of pins as she worked her magic on the waist of Ellie’s wedding gown.

Grace didn’t apologize. Grace was Friar Hollow’s answer to Tim Gunn from Project Runway, though a good deal younger and dressed in stylish A-line dresses rather than suits. Other than that, she had the Tim Gunn vibe down to a tee. 

Grace gave Ellie a menacing glare when she shifted again. Scratch that. The town’s best seamstress was more like a cross between Tim Gunn and Gordon Ramsay.

Stylish, elegant, and completely terrifying.

“Hold still,” Grace said. It was a marvel how she could speak so clearly when pins were pinched between her teeth. Years of practice, Ellie supposed.

Ellie offered her a tentative smile. “Sorry.”

Grace grumbled something about brides and their diets. While it was true Ellie had lost several pounds since her initial fitting two weeks ago, she hadn’t been on a diet. She’d just been…preoccupied. 

Again, preoccupation was nothing new for Ellie and she’d been more distracted than ever these past two weeks. As an entrepreneur, she often had her mind on business while her body was otherwise occupied. While posing for a dress fitting, for instance. Add wedding planning to Ellie’s normal work insanity and it was a wonder she’d remembered to throw on pants before she’d left the house today.

Ellie tried another smile but it seemed to make the older woman even crankier.

“If anyone can make these alterations work, it’s you, Grace.” Angela darted over from where she’d been watching in the corner. For what felt like the millionth time since she’d announced her engagement, Ellie’s best friend was rushing to her rescue. Best female friend, to be precise. This was an important note of distinction and the loophole which enabled Ellie to declare both Angela and Ian as her two best friends. 

As they’d each pointed out way back in high school—there can’t be two bests. But there could be a best guy friend and a best girl friend, and fortunately for everyone Angela possessed just the right chromosomes to fit the latter. 

“Ellie, you look beautiful,” Angela said before turning back to Grace with more compliments designed to soften the notoriously easy-to-offend seamstress.

Ellie eyed her reflection, pulling up her long blonde hair in a pale imitation of the style she planned to wear on the big day, which was now… Oh goodness, was it really only three weeks away?

Thank heavens for Angela. Ellie felt a rush of gratitude that made her dizzy—or maybe that was her unintentional diet at work. When had she last eaten a proper meal? She watched her petite redheaded friend enchant the feisty seamstress with the sort of friendly smile and wide-eyed look of innocence that softened even the hardest of hearts.

Well, Ian’s other best friend Griff still hadn’t quite softened after all these years, but he seemed to be the anomaly. Everyone else in this little hamlet in Upstate New York had fallen head over heels for Angela from the moment she’d moved to town when she was fifteen.

Sure enough, even Grace’s scowl crumpled in the face of Angela’s angelic smile. 

“We can’t thank you enough for squeezing Ellie’s dress fittings into your packed schedule,” Angela continued, her hands clasped before her as though she were offering up a prayer of thanks right then and there.

Ellie bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing at Angela’s melodramatics. The reason Angela was so likeable was because it was all genuine. The girl didn’t have a dishonest bone in her body and she truly was grateful. If anyone else had offered up such over-the-top declarations of gratitude, the seamstress would have scoffed. With Angela…? Grace touched her up-do hesitantly. “Yes, well. It’s the least I can do.”

It was, in fact, the least she could do. Especially considering Ellie was paying nearly double Grace’s normal rate due for the quick turnaround. Most brides-to-be gave Grace months to finalize a dress. Ellie had given her weeks. In her defense, Ellie had only given her fiancé and herself a matter of weeks to prepare, as well.

Still, even if Ellie hadn’t been willing to pay more, Grace probably would have done this job at Angela’s request. While Grace might have had the finest sewing skills in town, Angela’s bakery rarely, if ever, was anything but packed to the rafters, with a line trailing down the block. 

Because Angela’s cakes were in demand for weddings, her advice was often sought by overwhelmed brides-to-be and their mothers. Inevitably, when it came to talk of wedding dresses and bridesmaids’ gowns, Angela always sent them to Grace. 

As this was the first favor Angela had asked in return, it seemed to Ellie that this was indeed the least Grace could do.

“You may change,” Grace said to Ellie with a magnanimous wave of her hand toward the dressing room. “But don’t lose any more weight.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Ellie muttered as she squeezed past the older woman with careful movements to avoid any more stabbings. She was all for a hand-tailored wedding dress, but she had little desire to be Grace’s very own pincushion.

Angela followed her behind the drapes and got to work unbuttoning the long row of tiny, perfect buttons as Ellie eyed herself critically in the mirror. “I don’t know…” 

Angela’s hands stilled on the dress before she got back to work with a sigh. “Ellie, you were in love with this dress two weeks ago.”

Ellie craned her neck so she could see her friend. “I know, but—”

Angela clamped a hand over her mouth and nodded toward the curtain—or rather, to the seamstress beyond who was armed to the teeth with sharp objects. “Later,” she whispered. 

Ellie obediently kept mum for all of thirty seconds. “Maybe I should have gone with something a little more—ow!” This time it was a pinch rather than a stab, but painful all the same. “Why did you—”

Angela nodded toward the curtain once more.

“Oh right. I forgot.” She turned her back and shimmied out of the dress, reaching for her own casual shift to pull over her head. The moment she was done, Angela pulled her out of the dressing room and dragged her out onto the street. “Okay, now you can talk.”

Ellie drew in a deep breath and let out all her concerns in one breath. “…and there’s too much lace, don’t you think? And fabric. I think there’s too much of a train, right? I mean, what am I supposed to be, a bride or a tablecloth?”

When she paused to take another breath, Angela arched her brows. “Are you finished?”

Ellie slumped forward and wrapped her arms around her smaller friend’s neck. “Yes. And thank you.”

Angela patted her back. “You’re just lucky I deal with crazy brides on a daily basis.”

When she pulled back, Ellie caught her friend’s teasing grin. “You’re the best, you know that?”

“I do. Yes.” Angela gave an emphatic nod as they headed down Main Street toward Max’s, their favorite little bistro where Ellie was supposed to meet her fiancé Marcus.

“Well, as long as you know,” Ellie teased. “Seriously, I have no idea how I’d be doing all of this without you.” She turned to her friend. “What was I thinking? I mean, what kind of masochist only gives herself weeks to prep for a wedding?”

Angela laughed. “The same kind of person who gets engaged to a guy after dating for three months.”

Ellie rolled her eyes at the millionth reminder of how quickly she was moving. “His proposal was—” 

“Impulsive?” Angela finished.

“Romantic.” Ellie shot her friend a sidelong look. “You think I’m nuts for throwing a wedding so quickly, don’t you?”

Angela grinned over at her. “Of course not. You wouldn’t be you if you didn’t leap into the next adventure headfirst.”

Ellie sensed a ‘but’ yet the ‘but’ never came. Still, even a silent ‘but’ made her squirm, and that feeling hadn’t gone away by the time they’d reached the bistro. The little restaurant’s storefront was floor-to-ceiling windows so it was easy to tell at a glance who was there and who wasn’t.

“Looks like we beat Marcus here,” Angela said. 

Ellie smiled at the sight of a familiar face. “But Griff is here.”

“Ugh,” Angela groaned as she followed Ellie’s gaze. “Maybe we should wait out here.”

Ellie rolled her eyes and tugged Angela into the restaurant. “Come on, he doesn’t bite.”

“Are you sure about that?” Angela muttered.

Ellie ignored her. Angela and Griff were forever bickering but there was no real animosity behind it. They’d been at odds ever since Griff first visited Friar Hollow. He and Ian had been roommates at NYU and he’d joined Ian for a visit home over break. He’d decided then and there that he wanted to make this town his home after he finished law school. He’d said he didn’t want to deal with the hustle and bustle of the big city, since he’d been born and raised in New York City.

Angela contended that he’d just smelled opportunity, like a shark scenting blood. After all, divorce attorneys were in demand in small towns as much as big cities—and it just so happened that Friar Hollow’s sole family practice attorney had been on the verge of retirement.

“There’s my favorite bride-to-be,” Griff said as he watched them walk over. 

Ellie laughed as he kissed her cheek. “I’m the only bride-to-be you know at the moment, aren’t I?”

Griff gave her a lopsided grin, his dark eyes warming with laughter. “That doesn’t change the fact that you’re my favorite.”

Angela rolled her eyes, but Griff gave her a wink in return. “Angie, always good to see you.”

“It’s Angela.” 

This was how it always began. Ellie took a step back. Let the bickering commence

Angela smiled sweetly, which in turn made Griff’s cocky grin falter and fade. “Tell me, Griffin, have you ruined any marriages today?”

“I’ve saved a few poor souls from a life of misery, if that’s what you mean,” he returned with a smirk. “Speaking of marital bliss,” he said, turning back to Ellie. “How are the wedding plans going?”

Ellie shrugged. “Good. I mean…they’re okay. Actually…” She winced. “It’s a disaster.”

Angela wrapped an arm around her as she spoke to Griff. “Don’t listen to her. All brides get a little crazy before the big day.”

This was probably true, but Ellie had never thought she’d be one of them. She developed new startups for a living, for crying out loud. Planning one semi-formal, intimate event should not have been such a hardship. “I just…” She swallowed and tried again, hating this squirmy feeling that had taken hold that made her want to crawl out of her own skin. Or maybe just take a nap. 

Yes, a nap would definitely help this situation.

Not that there was a ‘situation.’ She was marrying a man who loved her. A man who was solid and dependable, yet passionate enough to propose after only three months of dating. It wasn’t his fault that the caterer’s menu suddenly seemed all wrong, or that her dress had inexplicably gone from her dream gown to an absurd costume piece. 

If she could just make a decision about the musicians, that would be a start. 

“It’s just that I can’t seem to make up my mind about anything right now,” she said. “And that’s so not like me.” She looked from Angela to Griff and they wore matching expressions of sympathy.

“Planning a wedding is overwhelming for everyone,” Angela said. 

Ellie nodded. Her friend was probably right. It was just the enormity of it all, plus the limited time factor, plus… Ian wasn’t here. She drew in a deep breath as she thought of the one person who could help make all this right. “I just…It’s just…I just need…”

Ellie swallowed, hating herself for nearly admitting the truth.

I just need Ian

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