Fast. Powerful. Deadly. With bitchin' highlights.
Ah, weddings--every single woman's reminder that she'll probably die alone, covered in cat hair and dressed in unflattering sweatpants. And as far as bad wedding experiences go, my friend Stacy's could take the cake. 1) I'm dateless 2) I'm a bridesmaid, and 3) Someone just attempted to whack the groom in the middle of the ceremony. Whoa...hang on. Anyone who tries to ruin a girlfriend's big day by bumping off her true love will have to go through me first.
So now I, assistant hairdresser Jenny Branch, am helping to hunt down a real-life bad guy, and the prime suspect is Kevin Stone, who claims to be working undercover for a group called Covert Ops Protection. Riiiight. All of this is hard to believe--especially the way this unbelievably sexy villain/double agent/whatever Kevin is makes every (and I mean every) nerve-ending tingle the second he comes into view...
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Kensington Publishing Corporation
December 07, 2010
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Excerpt from Drop Dead, Gorgeous by MaryJanice Davidson
The Grand Hotel Minneapolis, Minnesota
Jenny Branch watched as her boss was gently restrained from committing homicide. "I have to do it now," Caitlyn James cried. "If I don't do it now, they'll--ugh!--do it. Do you know what that means?"
"They'll be husband and wife, pet," Caitlyn's husband, Dmitri, replied, catching her small fist and kissing it.
"Don't say that. Like they haven't already been doing it. Because they have! I had to gouge out my retinas when I accidentally walked into the kitchen at the wrong moment." Caitlyn seemed unaware that her husband had picked her up by the elbows and held her effortlessly off the ground as her small feet swung and kicked. "But that was sex. Nightmarish, disgusting sex. But still. The sex I could tolerate."
"What a charming liar you are, my love."
"Well, I was almost getting used to it. A teensy bit used to it. But marriage? Him? Marrying my best friend? No chance in hell. If I was ever going to kill him, I've got to do it now. So put me down already."
Jenny sighed again, and they both looked. "Sorry," she covered. "I love weddings." In fact, she hated them. Just what every single woman needed: a reminder that she would die alone, until the cats found her.
She was reminded, again, of her favorite movie, When Harry Met Sally, and the lines she thought applied to her in particular: "Suppose nothing happens to you. Suppose you live out your whole life and nothing happens. You never meet anybody, you never become anything, and finally you die one of those New York deaths which nobody notices for two weeks until the smell drifts into the hallway."
Not that she was from New York; she was a small- town Minnesotan, born and bred.
(Who's going to want you?)
But the rest of it applied to her.
(You're not smart enough for college--stick with modeling.)
It's why she was a dog person.
She shoved her thoughts from unnpleasantries and focused on the wedding, and her friends. Not that Dmitri was really anyone's friend--not even Caitlyn's, she sometimes thought.
But it didn't seem to matter; Dmitri and Caitlyn were so perfect for each other. And they would have the most glorious children. And Caitlyn hadn't even been trying to get married! She had loved being single, especially after getting free of her parents like that. Jenny suspected that was why she had been drawn to the tall, sarcastic, sometimes- annoying owner of Mag, the super-salon in St. Paul. They both had something in common: rotten parents.
Then Dmitri practically falls into Caitlyn's lap at her new job--or maybe she fell into his, Jenn never got all the details--and boom! A big, expensive wedding. In Lithuania!
Followed, in an annoyingly short time, by Jessica's wedding to The Boss.
It just wasn't fucking fair, and she knew it was petty, but it was in her own head, and she was allowed to be petty there if nowhere else, right?
"I'd love it if you tried to make me put you down." Dmitri was breathing that sexy European accent right into Caitlyn's ear, and she was liking it plenty, too, the whore, but at least she wasn't screeching anymore.
"You guys, I don't really think--" Jenny peeked through the curtain again. The use of a curtain, rather than a door, to separate the bridesmaids (to wit: Caitlyn) from the groom (to wit: The Boss) was making her nervous. "I don't think Dmitri's supposed to be back here."
"And I don't think this farce of a wedding is supposed to be taking place--there's only a million other nicer things to do in Minneapolis on a gorgeous day like today--but here we all are."
"It's pouring rain."
"Caitlyn, do we have to go through this again?" Jenny tried to keep the exasperation out of her voice. Caitlyn was, for all her faults, still the boss.
"I guess I'm the only person who sees all the unique horribleness in the situation," Caitlyn hissed, which made Dmitri snort briefly with laughter.
A new voice interrupted the faux fight. "Jimmy, hon, you are totally replaceable. You know that, right?"
Dmitri put down the maid of honor. Jenny turned. The bride was standing on the opposite end of the sitting room, just closing the far door behind her. The room itself, a plush, brocaded thing with too many chairs, looked far more dressed than the bride.
"Stop calling me Jimmy," Caitlyn said, newly distracted.
The bride ignored her. "I'm surprised you two didn't hear me clomping up the stairs--you got ears like hounds."
"We were a little preoccupied," Dmitri said, trying not to stare at the golden brown tops of Stacy's breasts, which were barely held in by the creamy bustier.
"Yeah, and now we're busy saving your life. Again! Though metaphorically this time."
"Actually, boss, more figuratively than metaphorically. A metaphor is defined as the substitution of an idea or an object with another idea or object. For example, 'the aggressive couple howled at the moon' would be a metaphor."
"Jenny, honey, I love you, but we got no time for your spooky smartness. I need help!" Stacy spoke gently enough, but her voice spiraled up into panic at the end. "The seamstress is late with my dress. My underwear is at least a size too small. And I just had to break up a fistfight between the caterer and one of the waiters."
"Nonsense," Dmitri, a man like all men in at least one thing, replied. "Your underwear is perfectly sized. Speaking on behalf of grooms everywhere, you don't need another stitch. Now go on out there and swear eternal love to the luckiest man on earth."
"That's going to cost you," Caitlyn muttered.
"Well spoken, my dear. Very well....to the second luckiest man on earth. The important thing is, you're dressed."
His wife elbowed him in the ribs. "I see your point, Stace. But maybe you should look at this as more like an omen, you know?"
Stacy crossed the room with terrifying speed. Given that she had no enhancement, technological or otherwise (she didn't even like to run on the treadmill), it was an impressive move.
She jammed a finger under Caitlyn's chin (the nail, Jenny noted, was painted bright blue) and said in a low, terrifying voice, "We've been over this. I'm marrying him. Now you can stand up or you can get out of my way. Don't make me go through this with you again."
"Okay," Caitlyn said with uncharacteristic meekness, but then, who wanted to get a bright blue fingernail jammed into their eyeball? And on such a shitty day? "Sorry. Don't, uh, do anything rash."
"Don't talk to me about rash, girlfriend. You don't know from rash."
"This is true," Caitlyn admitted and, for a wonder, had no further comment.
"While we're waiting for the seamstress, maybe we could touch up your hair a little," Jenny suggested. Among other things. The bride was looking a little stressed; Jenn could see the sweat beading her temples.
"I have to get dressed first. Besides, hon, I've got work for all of you," she added, nodding to Dmitri. "You need to go down to the kitchens and make sure no more fights break out."
"Hmmph," Dmitri said, allowing himself one last lingering look at her cleavage.
The bride ignored him. "The boneheads haven't frosted my cake yet, God knows why--"
Caitlin raised her hand like a kid in school. After a pause, Stacy said, "Caitlyn?"
"I've mentioned that all these things going wrong are an omen, right?"
"Shut up. Why don't you go down with Dmitri?"
"Why don't I?"
"And Jenny, I need you to track down the decorator, or whatever the cake-toppie-thingie-person is called. You can play with my makeup and hair after that . . ." she added, pointing to a perfectly beautiful, slicked-back ponytail with rich brown curls swinging at the back, curls that had been twined with ribbon the exact color of her missing dress. There were benefits to having friends who worked in a salon.
"Don't touch your hair," Caitlyn ordered.
"I'm not. And the dress will have arrived by the time she gets back. It will. And then the show will go on. God willing, the show will go on."
Given their marching orders, they all got to work.