From Ex to Eternity

By: Kat Cantrell
One

Even the sandpipers were getting more action than Cara Chandler-Harris.

But she was working at this Turks and Caicos resort instead of frolicking in the crystal-blue surf with a nearly naked, oiled companion. Cara would be the sole designer showcasing her fairy-tale-inspired wedding dresses to two hundred industry professionals at a three-day bridal expo. The wedding-dress fashion show was one of the premier events and Cara Chandler-Harris Designs, which was still in its fledging stages, was poised to explode with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for exposure.

Adding testicles into the mix would only drive her to drink.

Cara swept a glance over the woman in white silk standing before her in the Ariel wedding dress and repositioned the model to face forward. Wincing as she knelt for the four hundredth time, Cara stuck another pin through the lace-trim edging of the mermaid skirt.

“Don’t forget her heels will be five inches. Not four,” her assistant, and sister, Meredith, reminded Cara as she handed her another pin. “And yes, I checked with the airline again. The missing bag with the shoes in it will be here by four o’clock.”

“Thanks, honey. I took her heel height into account. Is Cinderella ready to go?” Cara glanced at her sister.

Meredith nodded and flipped her long ponytail over her shoulder. “Won’t need more than a slight waist alteration. I did good matching the models with the dresses, don’t ya think?”

She had and knew it. Meredith wore her designer’s assistant role like a second skin. Cara smiled. “Worried I’m going to fire you for ripping Aurora’s sleeve?”

“Nah. I’m more worried about stuff I’ve done you don’t know about yet.” With a saucy, cryptic grin, Meredith handed Cara the final pin and hummed under her breath as she tapped out something on her phone.

“You know I hate that song,” Cara mumbled around the pin in her mouth.

“That’s why I sing it. If little sisters aren’t annoying, what are we good for?”

“Herding the rest of the girls into place. We only have three days until the expo starts and we haven’t even done one run-through.” Her lungs already felt tight to be so far behind schedule. Good God Almighty. Missing luggage, torn dresses and a room with a faulty air conditioner. And it was only their first day in Grace Bay. “Why did I let you talk me into this?”

Cara had no idea how her name had come up to the powers that be who’d selected her for this event. Yes, a small handful of Houston brides had marched down the aisle in her dresses in the eighteen months she’d been in business, and yes, all of them had graced the pages of glossy society magazines. Yes, Chandler and Harris were both names everyone in Houston knew. But still. Grace Bay was a long way from Houston.

“Because you recognize my brilliance. Stop stressing. Plans can be altered.”

“Dresses can be altered. Plans are carved in granite, and hell has a special level for those who mess with mine.”

Meredith waved in two more visions in white who had appeared at the entrance to the pavilion, both barefoot, like the others. All of the models’ shoes were in the missing bags.

“Where’s Jackie?” Cara glanced back at the empty entrance.

“Puking her guts out,” one of the girls responded with a ladylike shudder. “I told her not to drink the water.”

Cara frowned. “The resort water is purified.”

“Then something else is wrong with Jackie,” Meredith said and rubbed Cara’s shoulder. “A virus. It’ll pass.”

“It better. She has to be on stage in six days.” A virus. Which could easily be transmitted to everyone else. Cara eyed Jackie’s roommate. “How are you feeling, Holly?”

The willowy blonde in the French-lace concoction called Belle stared at Cara blankly. “It’s not catching. Jackie’s pregnant.”

Now seemed like a really good time to sit down. Cara dropped onto the heavy tarp covering the sand, while the other girls squealed over Holly’s announcement.

Meredith settled in next to Cara. “I didn’t know. About Jackie. I would have—”

“It’s not the end of the world. Women get pregnant. Women work while they’re pregnant. All the time.”

Her sister hesitated and then said, “I’ll wear the dress for the run-through.”

Thank God Meredith hadn’t asked if Cara was okay. She’d had her fill of those kinds of questions two years ago, after her own pregnancy fiasco. Designing dresses had pulled her out of that misery and she didn’t ever want to talk about it again.

“You can’t wear it. The bust is too small and I can’t alter it that much. Not here. Not in a few hours.”

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