Keep It Together - By Lissa Matthews Page 0,1

the outward appearance.

“It’s time we made a statement to your guests.”

Chrissie bit down on her tongue and counted to ten before she spoke. It wasn’t the time or place for her sarcastic self to step into the limelight. “What type of statement would you like us to make, Mama?” She wanted to applaud herself. She was being jilted, left at the altar, and she was struggling to hold herself together. The hurt was trying to bubble up, and she couldn’t let it yet. The pissed off was trying too, but she was keeping a lid on that as well.

There would be a time and place for her to let both emotions loose to run free and unencumbered by a church, a whole town, and a few small-time reporters. Being the mayor’s daughter carried with it a modicum of duty-bound dignity and poise.

“Russell will not be coming to marry you today.”

Chrissie bit down on more than her tongue at those words. “Has someone heard from him? Is he all right? Do we need to postpone?” She knew the answers to her own questions, especially the last one. Something had been nagging at her all week, but she hadn’t been able to put her finger on what it was. Every time she brought it up to her mother, the older woman had remarked that it was nothing more than nerves and cold feet. Chrissie knew it had been more than that, that the source of her unease hadn’t been coming from herself but rather from Russ. Even when she’d brought it up to him, he’d shushed her. He’d been as bad as her mother with the placating. Now she knew why she’d been feeling all that uncertainty. He never meant to go through with it.

In that moment, she’d have given anything to be able to get her hands on that new Remington her daddy had given her as a wedding present.

“I don’t know, but the time for answers will come later. All that matters right now is that we present a calm and collected face to your guests. They deserve to be given some kind of an explanation and sent home with a good, positive feeling that this is for the best. We’ll be returning the gifts first thing on Monday.”

“Calm. An explanation. Positive feelings.” Chrissie repeated those words to herself several times, hoping that for once she could be like her mother in a crisis. Myrtice Browning was all those things and more. Chrissie, on the other hand, was fly-off-the-handle, kick some ass, and get all kinds of dramatic. “I’m sorry, Mama. I don’t think I can do that.”

“There is no think, Christina. There is only do, and that is what you will do. That is what all of us will do. Is that clear? You will not embarrass yourself or this family. You will also need to return his ring.”

“Like hell I will,” she muttered under her breath. It would serve him right if she hocked it and went on their honeymoon alone and spent all the money on herself. She wouldn’t do that, though. She would return the ring. It had belonged to his mother, but the thought of returning it to Russ left a bad taste in her mouth. She wanted to hold on to it out of spite. Just, at the moment… No.

“Mind your tongue, young lady. You’re in the house of God. You will return the ring to Russell, and in time we will forget this whole debacle. Now,” Myrtice said, smoothing out an imaginary wrinkle in her midnight-blue silk mother-of-the-bride gown, “I will expect to see you in the chapel in five minutes. Pull yourself together, Christina.”

* * * *

The sunshine streaming in through the windows seemed a little out of place to Chrissie’s way of thinking. It should be dark and overcast with thunder rumbling in the distance. That would fit her mood better than birds chirping and clear skies and bright sunlight.

There shouldn’t be someone knocking on the door either. It was only fuck-you-o’clock in the morning. Didn’t whoever it was know she’d been jilted at the altar? ’Cause her whole damn hometown of Pembroke, Georgia, a mere thirty miles to the west of Savannah, had been invited and had been there to witness her humiliation when her groom decided not to show up.

She fumbled with the locks, and for good scare-the-shit-out-of-her-unwanted-guest measure, grabbed up her brand-new rifle, and threw open the front door. She barely stopped it from banging against the wall