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Authors: Mary Kay Andrews

Spring Fever

BOOK: Spring Fever
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For Griffin, the new kid on the block, with a heart full of love

 

 

Acknowledgments

 

The author wishes to thank:

Thomas Norris for explaining tricky legal stuff. If I got it wrong, it’s not his fault.

The Ritchie family of Salisbury, North Carolina, and the fine folks at Cheerwine for explaining how you make and market a delicious regional soft drink. If I got it wrong, it’s not their fault.

Jack Reimer and Sharon Stokes and Beth Fleishman and Richard Boyette, who let me run away to their mountain cabins to work on the book, and who helped with some more stuff. I don’t know what happened to all the good wine you guys thought you’d hidden, but it could be my fault.

Meg Walker, of Tandem Literary, who told me about marketing stuff, and who, in fact, is a genius at what she does.

The aptly named Grace Quinn, who keeps the wheels from falling off the bus on a weekly basis.

The Women of Weymouth: Alexandra Sokoloff, Bren Witchger, Diane Chamberlain, Katy Munger, Margaret Maron, and Sarah Shaber—and honorary chair Nancy Olson—who are absolutely essential to the writing process, and who beat me at Scrabble every time.

The divine Jennifer Enderlin, who somehow managed to slap me and my manuscript into some kind of shape. Again. Huge thanks also to the whole team at St. Martin’s Press. If the book works, it’s definitely your fault.

Stuart Krichevsky, the best damn agent in the business. Here’s to more ice cream and roses.

My family, listed last, but first in my heart. Tom, Katie, Mark, and Andy. Nothing works without you.

 

 

Contents

 

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgments

 

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Epilogue

 

Also by Mary Kay Andrews

About the Author

Copyright

 

 

1

 

From her seat in the sanctuary of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Annajane Hudgens wondered if there had ever been a more flawless day for a wedding.

Spring had arrived spectacularly early in Passcoe, North Carolina. Only the first week in April, yet the dogwoods and azaleas were already burst into bloom, and the weeping cherry trees lining the walkway to the church trailed fingertips of pale pink onto a blue and white carpet of violets and alyssum.

It was as if the bride, the equally flawless Celia Wakefield, had somehow managed to
will
perfect weather. Or perhaps she’d specified blue skies and color-coordinated bursts of blooms in one of her famously precise memos. If anybody could do that, Annajane mused, it would be Celia.

Could there be a more beautiful setting? Baylesses had been getting married at the Church of the Good Shepherd for nearly two hundred years. Not in this grand sanctuary, of course. The original church was a quaint, stoop-shouldered gray granite affair, with uneven oak floors, a single Gothic-arched leaded-glass window above the altar, and two rows of ten primitively wrought pine pews built by black laborers from the casket factory in Moore County, twenty minutes down the road.

Annajane could remember sitting beside her best friend, Pokey, in the Bayless family pew after countless Saturday-night sleepovers, back when they were both still in pigtails. By then, Pokey’s grandmother had already started her slow descent into senility, although Annajane had not known that. Miss Pauline, for whom Pokey had been named, seldom spoke, but she was content to sit in church on Sunday mornings and smile and nod to the hymns, dabbing at her cataract-clouded blue eyes with her ever-present handkerchief and patting Annajane’s hand. “She thinks you’re me,” Pokey would whisper, giggling at her grandmother’s confusion and grimacing and holding her nose when Miss Pauline passed gas, which she did frequently.

When the “new” Church of the Good Shepherd was built in the early ’90s, with reproduction Tiffany stained-glass windows, solid cherry pews, and a custom-built German pipe organ, the old church was renamed the Woodrow Memorial Chapel in memory of Pauline Woodrow, who died in her sleep the year Pokey and Annajane turned fourteen.

Annajane’s own wedding had been held in the chapel, the one concession her new in-laws made to what they considered Annajane’s “quaint” ideas. Since she’d paid for the wedding herself, she’d insisted on having an intimate affair, just family and close friends, fewer than forty people, with Pokey as her only attendant. It had rained the November evening of her nuptials, and at the time she’d considered it wildly romantic that the loud thrum of the rain on the church’s tin roof threatened to drown out the wedding march played on the chapel’s original wheezy pump organ.

Had it been only seven years ago? Sometimes she wasn’t sure any of it had really happened at all, that it wasn’t something she’d just remembered from a long-ago dream.

Today’s affair was nothing like Annajane’s modest wedding. The sanctuary was at capacity—beyond capacity, if you went by the county fire code, which said the church could hold five hundred people. It seemed to Annajane that every living person who had ever known or done business with the Bayless family, or even just sipped a bottle of their Quixie cherry soft drink, had crammed themselves into one of the polished wooden pews beneath the soaring exposed rafters of the imposing Episcopal church.

Annajane felt her eyelids droop now. It was too warm in the church, and the scent of the lilies and roses banking everything that didn’t move was overpowering. She’d had almost no sleep the night before, and not much more sleep the night before that. And, yes, she’d had herself a good stiff drink, Quixie and bourbon on the rocks, back at the house, after she’d finished dressing and before she’d left for the church. She closed her eyes, just for a moment, felt her chin droop to her chest, and the next moment, she felt a sharp elbow dig into her ribs.

Pokey had managed to wedge herself into the pew. “Wake up and slide over!” she ordered.

Annajane’s eyes flew open, and she looked up, just in time to see Sallie Bayless, seated in the front row, two pews ahead of them, turn and shoot Pokey a stern look of warning. Sallie’s gleaming auburn hair shone in the candlelit church. She was sixty-four, but still had the dewy complexion, sparkling brown eyes, and slender figure of a woman twenty years younger. Now, those eyes narrowed as they took in Pokey’s tardy and disheveled appearance.

Pokey gave her mother a grin and a finger wave, and Sallie’s head swiveled back around, eyes front, head held high, the Bayless pearls, a double strand, clasped firmly around her neck.

Annajane offered an apologetic smile to the elderly woman to her right. The woman frowned, but begrudgingly inched aside to allow the new arrival to be seated.

As usual, Pokey Bayless Riggs took no notice of the stir she’d caused. She’d been causing a stir nearly every day of her thirty-five years, and today, her brother’s wedding day, was no different.

The boatneck collar of Pokey’s expensive new red silk jacket had slipped off her right shoulder, exposing a leopard-print bra strap and an unseemly amount of cleavage. Little Clayton was two years old, but Pokey was still struggling to lose her baby weight. She’d managed to pop one of the jacket’s rhinestone buttons, and the tight silk skirt had somehow twisted around so that the zipper was now in the front, rather than on the side. She was bare-legged, which was a scandal in and of itself, but now Annajane noticed that her best friend had ditched the Sallie-mandated sedate dyed-silk slingback pumps in favor of a pair of blinged-out silver flip flops.

Pokey’s thin, poker-straight blond hair had already lost its beauty-salon bounce, and now hung limply on either side of her full pink cheeks. Her lipstick was smeared. But her eyes, her amazing cornflower-blue eyes, glinted with mischief.

“Busted!” Annajane whispered, not daring to look at her best friend.

“Christ!” Pokey muttered. “This is so not my fault. I couldn’t find a parking spot! The church lot’s full and the whole block is lined with cars on both sides of the street. I had to leave the Land Rover clear down the block in front of the gas station and run all the way here.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be up there with your mom and everybody else in the family?” Annajane asked. “I mean, you
are
the groom’s only sister.”

“Screw that,” Pokey said swiftly. “I refuse to make nice with that woman. Mason knows I don’t like her. Mama knows it too. I’m taking a moral stand here.”

“Who the hell are all these people anyway?” she asked, glancing around at the packed church and zeroing in on the bride’s side of the aisle. “Not family, right? Since poor lil’ Celia is an orphan, and the only family she could produce is that elderly great aunt staying over at Mama’s house. Did Celia charter a bus or something?”

Annajane shrugged. “You’re apparently the only person in Passcoe who
doesn’t
think that Celia Wakefield is the best thing since flush toilets and sliced store-bought bread.”

“Don’t give me that. You hate her as much as I do,” Pokey said under her breath.

BOOK: Spring Fever
4.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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