Finally A Bride - Colleen Charles



Ah, how I love December weddings. Boughs of holly with tiny crimson berries. Wreaths of coniferous pine complete with fragrant cones. Flecks of fake snow twinkling under the fairy lights. Winter white and red satin. Sweetheart trees decked out in all their snowy splendor. Silky faux fur wraps over antique lace bridal gowns. Grooms wearing bright bow ties and cummerbunds.

But as much as I admire the theme and the décor… the love… I don’t want it for myself. Not anymore. Those dreams that I used to fantasize about as a little girl when Barbie married Ken – they’re gone. Long gone. Fading away on the gently falling snow outside the stained-glass windows. And that’s why I can’t believe I find myself in this position standing in front of the double doors to a church.

With an aisle.

With a handsome man who says he loves me.

With pews overflowing with our friends and family.

With the cutest flower girl in the history of the world who already threw velvety red rose petals in my honor.

But I don’t want it, because I know something they don’t. Well, one – make that two – other people know too.

The carved oak doors with huge brass handles call to me, but I refuse to answer because I don’t love that handsome man inside breathlessly waiting on his already late bride.

Holding the note in my trembling hand, I shove down the bile that burns the back of my throat. I blink to avoid the inevitable tears that threaten as my heart pulls at the emotion swirling through me.

I will not cry.

And the more I think about it, the more I come to the unavoidable decision that I have to leave this place without a word. Without closure. Without any thought to the values my parents raised me to believe and follow. Because in the end – no one is going to miss me.

Not really.

Not him.

Least of all not her.

Like removing a thorn or a hornet’s stinger, it will be a relief to everyone inside if I disappear. I’ve been a pain in everyone’s ass since the day I was born – unplanned and unannounced. And living down this latest fiasco and humiliation will be far easier for all of them if I’m not around to remind them of how bad it really is.

The idea of running gains momentum like a bullet shot from a gun. I can do it. Vanish into thin air. Take on a new identity. Go someplace where no one will even know my name or know what kind of disaster I’ve already made of my young life. Where no one will know about my embarrassment – my shame over the ultimate betrayal.

And that place has to be a place without men. That will be my number one prerequisite for living there. Anything with a Y chromosome is the reason I hate myself right now. I’ve made an ass out of Angelica Amor for the last time over the males of the human species. There has to be someplace in the great US of A where there aren’t a lot of humans armed with rogue penises.

I glance down again and shiver. My shoulders sag even as I beg them to stay strong.

Dravon and I had sex the night of his bachelor party, Angelica. And it wasn’t the first time. I just thought you should know who you’re marrying.

Not Alaska.

Surely not Texas.

As my mind races, I steel my spine. Tears prick my eyes, hot rivers of pain pooling at the corners.

But I’ll find it – I’ll find the place for a new start.

Come hell or high water – I’m over men.


Chapter One


I push open the door to Cool Beans and stomp the snow off my boots. The sudden warmth and twinkling lights that seem to be strung on every available surface sting my eyes. Yanking off my gloves and hat, I head to my favorite booth in the back away from the fray and the prying eyes of people I don’t really want to talk to. The coffee shop is filled to overflowing with customers sipping cherry mochas and munching on brightly decorated cookies in the shapes of hearts and cupids. Valentine’s Day is approaching fast – not that I care. Lord knows I haven’t had a special someone in years. But there’s not much else to do on a blustery day in Sweetheart Hills – except drink hot coffee and maybe scroll social media without interruption.

A few heads turn when I walk by. None of the men