Not the marrying kind...When a mix-up leaves Cinnamon Scott with a gorgeous wedding dress instead of a ball gown, she can't resist trying it on. MacKenzie Grier appears at her door to retrieve his sister's missing gown, only to be floored by this angelic vision and his own deepest longings. Sparks fly, and soon some enterprising folks are conspiring to give Cinnamon the perfect wedding--all she needs is a groom. Mac had sworn off commitment. Then the Washington, D.C., journalist sees beautiful Cinnamon wearing white. Still, a man reluctant to believe in love is going to need a lot of sweet persuasion to get him to the altar. Luckily, Cinnamon's already got the dress....
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May 31, 2008
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Excerpt from Wrong Dress, Right Guy by Shirley Hailstock
She knew it was wrong.
Even as she stepped into the center of the cloud of fabric and pulled the dress up over her body, Cinnamon Scott knew she shouldn't do it. But the wedding gown was just too beautiful not to try on. Too irresistible. Pulling the gown up, she buttoned the long line of buttons that adorned the back of the dress. Looking in the long mirror in her bedroom, she gasped at her image. That couldn't be her.
The image stared back at her. White lace with flowers. The neckline was scooped and the sleeves extended to her fingers. She turned all the way around, staring at herself, admiring the dress and how it made her feel. She felt more than excitement. The dress symbolized promises, vows and the glow of love.
Then the doorbell rang. Cinnamon jumped, startled by the sound. Her stomach dropped as if she'd just plunged down a steep roller coaster.
The delivery man was back!
Her hands went to steady her stomach. Before the sound finished reverberating through the house, she was already reaching for the buttons on the back of the dress. Fumbling to undo the small pearl orbs, her fingers kept sliding off them. The bell rang again, this time the man punched it several times, causing the sound to start and stop as if it were hiccupping. Cinnamon worked the twenty-two inches of buttons as fast as she could, but they were insistent on remaining within their minuscule loops.
On the bride's wedding night, these might be fun for the groom to undo one at a time as he kissed his way to her skin, but at this moment she wished they would just open the way a normal button would.
"Damn." Cinnamon cursed as the stuttering bell sounded again. Thirty seconds and three rings later, she gave up. Hiking the skirt up above her bare feet, she headed for the stairs. Her feet made rapid whispering sounds as she ran. The bell continued to ring.
What was wrong with the guy? she thought. Anger ripped through her. He had her so rattled, she nearly yanked the door off its hinges.
There was a man there, but not the young delivery guy who had dropped off the wrong dress.
This man had his back to her. The delivery guy had been muscular, wearing jeans and a golf shirt with the bridal shop logo on his breast pocket. This man wore jeans and a short-sleeved shirt. He was tall with short hair and a posture that said either FBI or military personnel. Drill sergeant flew into her mind. What did he want? He couldn't be here about the dress; why would anyone send the FBI for a wedding gown?
Cinnamon mentally shook herself. What was wrong with her? A TV weather girl from Boston shouldn't be thinking military or FBI just because she was now located within a breath of the District of Columbia.
"May I help you?" she asked the man's broad back.
Her words and the man turning were simultaneous. His hand had begun its arcing movement, poised and ready to accost the bell for another set of rings. He stopped, staring at her. His gaze seemed to envelop her.
He was definitely not the delivery man. That man had had a welcoming smile on his face as he presented her with a dress bag from Amanda's Bridal and Tuxedo Shoppe. She'd returned his smile. Accepting the dress bag, she'd run up the winding staircase. Her dress had finally arrived! She'd ordered the gown almost as soon as she'd discovered the shop. She'd come down from Boston and loved the beautiful quiet village the moment she'd seen it. It wasn't the same as she remembered from her childhood.
The alterations were complete and Cinnamon felt like a teenager preparing for her first party, even though the ball was a full month away.
Mary Ellen Taylor, a friend from college, was giving her annual Start of the Summer Ball and Cinnamon had promised to return to Boston for it. Moreover, Wesley Garner had asked her to go with him and she wouldn't give up the chance to hang on his arm. Eye candy didn't even come close to describing how gorgeous he was.
This man wasn't as physically good-looking as Wesley, but he still stopped her heart. Then she saw the anger in his eyes as they came level with hers. His mouth opened, but the moment he noticed the dress, he stopped. He looked her up and down as if she'd robbed him of the ability to speak English. His face went from a normal shade of brown to a dark raging red. Cinnamon stepped back to get out of the way of the heated fury she saw there. Without invitation, he opened the screened door and stepped inside.
"You have got some nerve," he said. "What were you thinking?"
"I beg your pardon?" Cinnamon said.
"That is not your dress." He pointed toward her.
How did he know that?
"What gives you the right to put on someone else's wedding gown?" he continued.
She looked down at herself. It was then she noticed the white dress bag over his arm, the bridal shop logo clearly visible on a square of clear plastic. This bag was identical to the one lying open on her bed upstairs.
"This is your dress." He dropped the bag on the sofa.
"I'm sorry," she said, inadequately. "It's so beautiful." Cinnamon ran her hands on the delicate fabric. "Before I knew what I was doing, I had it on." She looked down at the dress again.
It was truly the most beautiful dress she'd ever seen. It was beautifully jeweled with tiny pearls and lacy flowers delicate enough for a queen. She remembered her image in the full-length mirror in the bedroom. She'd never felt so...she could hardly think of the word--happy. Tears misted her eyes as she saw herself as a bride.
"You must be the worst kind of airhead."
The man's words snapped her back to the present. "Excuse me," she said, making no attempt to keep her voice low or to hide the anger in it. "Who the hell are you, anyway?"
"MacKenzie Grier," he stated as if she should recognize his name.
Cinnamon raised an eyebrow.
"Brother of Allison Grier," he continued.
"And she would be..."
"Oh" was all Cinnamon could say. "I'm sorry, I haven't met her. I've only actually been in the house a short while. I wondered who the gown belonged to."
"Does that make it better? If you don't know the bride, is it easier to wear her clothes?"
"I said I was sorry. What do you want, blood? It's not like I've ruined it or anything. And don't go saying anything about bad luck because that's a crock and I'm sure you know it."
If his face could get any darker, Cinnamon would be surprised. She knew trying on the dress wasn't something she should have done, but his reaction was totally over-the-top.
"Just take the dress off so I can get out of here." His voice was tight, and he spoke through clenched teeth.
"With pleasure," Cinnamon said, directing a hard stare at him. It was lost, she thought, on the equally hard look he leveled in her direction.
She turned and headed for the stairs, holding the dress up and mindful of her bare feet. His eyes bored into her. She felt the weight of his stare and remembered the dress wasn't totally closed at the back. A wave of heat went through her and she caught herself before tripping on the stairs.
In her room she tried to open the buttons, but got nowhere. The more she worked the length of buttons, the shorter her arms seemed to get. A full ten minutes had gone by when she heard his voice from below stairs. "What's taking so long?"
"I can't get the buttons open," she shouted back.
"I'll help." She whirled around a moment later as the sound of his voice was much closer. He stood in her bedroom doorway. Her hands hung in the air as if she were practicing to be a contortionist. Stepping back, she nearly tripped over her feet.
"What are you doing here?" she asked. It was a stupid question. She heard herself right after the words left her mouth. He hadn't been in the door when he'd shouted that she was taking a long time. So he had to have come up the steps after she answered.
"Look, do you want my help or not? One way or another you're getting out of that dress."
For a charged moment they stared at each other. Neither moved nor said a word. "I know how I came on downstairs," he finally said. "But I assure you I am not a rapist. I only want my sister's dress."
"And I have only your word for that."
"You tried on the dress to see what you'd look like in it--and I have only your word for that."
Somehow one didn't have anything to do with the other. Cinnamon knew the ball was in her court. He had not moved from the doorway and appeared to have no intention of stepping across the threshold without an invitation. After a long moment she pushed herself toward him.
Cinnamon couldn't put her feelings in perspective. MacKenzie unnerved her, but she felt more was going on than that. She felt some invisible tension between them; she wouldn't say connecting them. But it was there and it made no sense.
She didn't know him, had never laid eyes on him until a few minutes ago, yet he was somehow familiar and she knew his hands would be hot and electric if they touched her. When she was close enough to him she turned around.
And held her breath.
"At least tell me your name," he said. "I should know whose body I'm about to put my hands on." Heat flashed through her like an exploding volcano. It wouldn't surprise Cinnamon if she looked down and found the fire inside her had changed the gown's color from white to crimson-red.
"Cinnamon Scott." She gave him her name.
"You're Zahara Lewis's--"
"Granddaughter," she finished for him.
"I'm sorry about her passing. I really liked her. She was very kind to me."
He touched her skin and Cinnamon jumped. "Thank you," she said, trying to cover her reaction. She swallowed hard to get her voice back. "I didn't know you knew her." She felt his hands. They were large and sure and warm against the exposed skin of her back. He leaned down to look at the buttons and she felt his breath on her neck. Her eyes closed and she wanted to lean into him, feel the sensations that rioted through her when his breath caressed her skin. She wanted to savor the warmth of it, inhale its sensual scent. Just in time, she caught herself, snapping her eyes wide open and forcing herself to remember where she was.
Cinnamon didn't understand her reaction. She concentrated on her breathing to take her mind off the feel of his hands. Her breasts grew heavy and she put her hands up to keep the dress from falling off her shoulders. It seemed to take him an eon to finish the buttons.
"Everyone knew Zahara. She was a pillar in this community," he was saying when her mind returned to her surroundings.
"I know. I have some letters from her." Cinnamon had only read the letters recently. Her grandmother's words prompted her to refuse an offer to sell the house and made Cinnamon decide to move into the house herself. Securing a job at the National Weather Service capped the decision.
"Why didn't you ever visit her? She has pictures of you, but only as a little girl. I don't remember ever seeing you here or her saying you'd been here."