Bulletproof Bride - By Diana Duncan

Chapter 1

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"You have stolen my heart with just one glance of your eyes."

—The Song of Songs

"Another bad omen. You have to call off the wedding!"

Tessa Beaumont glanced up from her desk in alarm as her best friend and maid of honor, Melody Parrish, stormed into Tessa's office at Oregon Pacific Bank, a large garment bag flung over one shoulder. Tessa's stomach pitched. What now? "Mel? What's wrong?"

Her sapphire eyes snapping, Melody shoved the door closed with her foot. "Every time you progress with your wading plans, something terrible happens. A freak fungus down south wiped out the orchid farm. Your photographer slipped on a stray gefilte fish at a bar mitzvah and broke his arm. The caterer went belly-up after food poisoning flattened three hundred gastro-enterologists at a hospital benefit."

"Coincidences," Tessa soothed, setting her paperwork aside in a neat pile. "Stuff happens. And we found replacements."

Melody thrust the garment bag under Tessa's nose. "You think so? Well, maybe this will convince you."

Tessa glanced at the clock. It was after 1:00 p.m. They'd been two tellers short all week, and she hadn't taken a break or even lunch in days. She rose and circled the desk. "Ten minutes, then I have to get back to work."

Mel unzipped the bag. With a flourish, she whipped out two dresses and hung them on the brass coat rack beside the door. "I hope you haven't eaten."

Tessa's jaw dropped. Speechless, she stared at the ugliest ruffled white monstrosity she'd ever seen, accompanied by a hideous bluish-purple bridesmaid's dress. "Wha—what's that?"

"Lucille changed your order. Imagine my surprise when I picked up our dresses today."

"Oh, no!" Tessa hurried over to finger one of the hundreds of flounced organza ruffles on the horrible bridal gown. "I'll look like a refugee from Gone With The Wind. A hoop skirt, for Pete's sake. One misstep, and I'd give a whole new meaning to the term flash photography."

"Not if you were Little Bo Peep." Mel snickered. "At least your fashion holocaust is white. My 'elegant eggplant' number looks like a black eye. What was Lady Stalin thinking?"

"I don't know, but she went too far this time." With quick, efficient movements, Tessa zipped the awful dresses back into the bag. "These are going right back. I jumped at Lucille's offer to help with the wedding because my mother couldn't care less. But I refuse to let her bulldoze me."

"Yeah. Your future mother-in-law has the personality of a Zamboni."

"Well that's no reason to meekly lie down and let her shave my … ah … ice." Tessa tucked a wayward auburn curl into the gold clip at the nape of her neck. "I hope the bridal shop can deliver our original choices in less than two weeks."

Her friend grew somber. "That's the least of your worries. You know, you still have plenty of time to change your mind."

Tessa winced. "You think I should? I chose the candlelight empire satin gown because of the high waist, but I was afraid my big caboose sticks out way too far anyway."

"You've been comparing yourself with the models in those bride's magazines again, haven't you? There is nothing wrong with your butt." Mel sighed. "Not the gown. The wedding. Please don't marry Dale just because you think he'll give you the security you crave. Do you really want to spend the next twenty years trying not to rock the boat with Lucille?"

For a moment, the only sound was the muted hum of voices from the outer lobby. Then Tessa shuddered and forced a strained laugh. "You know better than to mention boats to me."

"Don't change the subject. You don't really love him. Admit it."

"I do love him. For two years, Dale has been my closest friend, besides you. The wild, passionate version of 'love' is just an attack of raging hormones. Ten minutes of pleasure—a lifetime of consequences. My mother for instance—"

"Yeah, you had a new 'uncle' every time you phoned home, but Vivienne is a bad example. Lots of actresses have revolving doors on their bedrooms."

But Vivienne's unfaithfulness had caused the death of the only person who had ever loved Tessa. Her dad. Her mother's flighty lifestyle was the reason Tessa had chosen a financial career. Numbers never lied, never changed and never let you down. "Dale and I are perfect together. He's an accountant and I'm a banker. We both enjoy books, music and playing in Lucille's charity concerts."

Mel snorted, making her short blond locks bounce. "I admit, I've never had a relationship longer than two