Jilted Groom

By: Mia Carson

Chapter 1

String music filled the old church. Edmund Eastwood tugged at his bowtie as he prepared to start the rest of his miserable life with a woman he didn’t want to marry. The soft music drowned out his pounding heart but did nothing to dry his sweaty palms. His best bud since they were kids, standing next to him in dress greens as the best man, nudged him with an elbow.

“What?” Edmund hissed out of the side of his mouth to Tommy.

“You look ready to keel over,” Tommy observed with a grin. “I have the keys to the car. You want them?”

“Not funny, man,” Edmund replied as a nervous laugh escaped him. The priest shot them both a frown, and he mouthed an apology. “We’re supposed to be serious right now.”

“Hey, you’re lucky I even made it.”

Edmund turned and held out his hand. “I know, and I don’t think I had a chance to thank you this morning, for everything.” They shook hands like brothers, and Edmund pulled him into a quick one-armed hug.

“Thanks, Ed, really,” Tommy said then choked on a laugh. “Your mom’s glaring at me.”

“Good,” he muttered. “Let her glare. This is all her fault anyway.”

“You could’ve joined up when I did,” Tommy reminded him.

“If I could’ve, I would’ve,” he agreed. At the time of Tommy’s enlistment, though, Edward, Edmund’s dad, was sick—too sick to work, and his mom, Sarah, was beside herself. Edmund ran the family businesses until his dad was back on his feet, almost six months later, and by that time, Tommy was gone. Now, he was trapped in a life his parents had planned for him since the second he popped out and said hello to the world.

The music changed tune, and the doors at the rear of the church creaked open. Edmund refused to force anyone else he knew to be in his wedding, so the seven bridesmaids walked down the aisle single file, alone. Jenny, his wife-to-be, had argued until she was blue in the face, but Edmund stood his ground. He didn’t like any of her friends, and the glares they shot him led him to believe the feeling was mutual. They reached the steps to the altar and walked to the left side, lining up as they were instructed. Jenny’s niece stepped through the door next in a frilly white dress, carrying a small basket of red rose petals. She ran more than walked down the aisle and reached her parents as she upended her basket at the end of the aisle. Edmund laughed with everyone else then straightened as the music changed again.

“This is it, man, last chance,” Tommy urged, but Edmund couldn’t back out.

The music played on, but Jenny didn’t appear at the rear of the church. He shifted on his feet and tugged at his bowtie as the seconds ticked by, then minutes. Sarah stood and, giving the church apologetic smiles, rushed towards the back with Jenny’s mom. The people murmured to each other in the pews, shooting Edmund pitying glances, and he plastered a confident smile on his face. With everyone staring at him, he fought the desire to haul ass out of the church and take off. Being the center of attention might be something his parents enjoyed, but he despised it. His goal was to not be suckered into the gossip of their white-collar world. Today, however, he was the main topic.

“I sense trouble,” Tommy said and stepped down from the altar as Sarah marched towards them. She held a piece of paper in her hand, and if looks could kill, half the church would be on the floor. Tommy stepped out of her path as she reached Edmund and thrust the paper at him.

“Here,” she snapped. “It appears we were wrong about your sweet Jenny.”

Edmund read the words on the note, and his heart lifted in relief as he sat down hard on the steps. “‘I’m saving us both. Go live. Jenny,’” he read aloud for Tommy. “She’s gone, then?”

“Took off ten minutes ago in her daddy’s Porsche,” Sarah huffed. “That insolent little girl! She thinks she can just take off and ruin our big day!”

“Maybe she wasn’t ready,” Edmund suggested as he folded the note and tucked it away.

Sarah’s eyes narrowed, and suddenly, she burst into tears, lunging forward to hug her son as if he was a toddler who had scraped his knee. “My poor baby boy! She broke your heart, didn’t she? I’m so sorry she ran off. I know how much you cared about her.”

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