Daring Brides

By: Ava Miles

Her red hair lay in curled waves down her back. Putting it up in some coif wouldn’t have been her, and no one would have recognized her in the pictures. The pink blush on her cheeks made the hollows look a little more pronounced, like she had more prominent cheekbones. And her signature Hale green eyes—well she wasn’t too shy to admit they looked like sparkling emeralds.

“You’d better call a plumber,” she called back. “My engagement ring fell off my finger when I was flushing, and it went down the toilet.”

“What?” her sister and a few of her cousins called out.

She opened the door with a smirk and held her left hand up so her ring glinted in the light. “Gotcha!”

Her mother, Linda, fanned herself. “Jill Marie Hale. I swear. Sometimes you give me heart palpitations.”

Since Jill’s dad had recently experienced heart palpitations and then some, her smirk faded. “Sorry, Mom. I was just responding to what Meredith said about me falling in. Jeez. Can’t anyone go to the bathroom in peace anymore?”

“You were in there forever,” Meredith said.

“Natalie,” she said to her cousin, “was she timing me?”

The brunette tapped her watch face. “No, but I was. Jill, you told me to keep you on schedule. You said, and I repeat, ‘You know how I am.’”

Which is why Natalie was always in charge of the wedding emergency kit at family weddings. Unlike a normal kit with red-eye drops or moist towelettes, hers included saltine crackers and sparkling water, which always settled her stomach.

“Good point.” She did know how she was. If there had been a high school yearbook category for the Woman Who Will Most Probably Be Late For Her Own Wedding, she would have swept it. She had always been way too spontaneous for her own good.

“Let’s get a move on then,” her cousin, Moira, said, picking up the plastic garment bag holding her dress. “I have the dress.”

“I have the makeup bag,” her other cousin, Caroline, said.

Her mom rushed up and gave her a big hug. “And I have you, Jillie Bean.”

Meredith bustled in and hugged them both. “Me too.”

Seconds later, her cousins joined in, and it was a giant hug fest. When they pulled apart, Peggy McBride’s face was pinched tight since Jill had pulled her in. Okay, more like dragged her in.

“This is a little too much girl bonding for me.”

“Well, you are the deputy sheriff of this town,” Jill said to pacify her discomfort. “You don’t want to ruin your rep.”

“Let’s go,” Meredith said, picking up her purse and Jill’s overnight bag.

She and Brian had spent the previous night apart so that they could reflect on how far they’d come together before the big day. And of course…as Brian had said in a husky tone, so they could both imagine the wedding night. It was still pretty weird to be horny and pregnant, she had to admit, but she was willing to get used to it. With a cherry on top, she might add.

They hustled out of the girls-only house. All men had been banned the previous night for a Hale sleepover. Even poor Tanner and his and Meredith’s dog, Hugo, since he technically had a weenie.

To Jill’s horror, Brian’s SUV came rumbling down the driveway just as she was opening the passenger side of her sister’s car.

“Groom alert!” Meredith called out.

The women started to shriek. Peggy even ran toward the SUV with her hands held out like a traffic cop’s, prepared to stop him with her flinty cop look.

That didn’t deter Brian. No, he cut the engine and hopped out.

“Hello, ladies,” he drawled, acting like he wasn’t breaking the biggest rule on the planet.

“Get back in the car, McConnell,” Peggy said in her meanest voice ever, “before I cuff you and take you downtown—to the church where you belong.”

“Yeah, Brian,” Moira said, hiding the wedding dress, which thankfully could not be seen through the garment bag. “Shoo.”

He laughed and headed directly toward Jill. She knew that look. He wasn’t going to be stopped, not even by the hen house he now faced.

“What are you doing here?” she asked in total exasperation. “You aren’t supposed to see me before the wedding.”

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