From Ex to Eternity(2)

By: Kat Cantrell

But the Asian-themed dress called Mulan wasn’t too small for Cara.

The curse of average breasts.

Meredith had gotten Mama’s gorgeous Chandler mahogany hair, the voluptuous Chandler body and the gracious Chandler mannerisms. Cara favored Harris blood, and Daddy was well-known for brains and business savvy, not his beauty. Neither Cara nor her father was dog-show worthy, but Cara certainly couldn’t have claimed the Miss Texas crown like Mama and Meredith.

Cara staggered to her feet. “I’ll wear it.”

She’d worn it in the past. Not one dress with her name on the label escaped the Cara Test. When she finished the initial piece-together, she stood in front of the full-length mirror and said, “I do.” If the words brought misty tears to her eyes, then the dress was right.

Except she always cried, because she created fantasies of lace and silk and happily-ever-after for someone else. Cara was just a glorified seamstress. A single seamstress.

She left Meredith and the chattering models in the pavilion and tottered through the sand to the concrete path leading into the heart of the resort. Twin five-story buildings lay on the outer perimeter and an enormous infinity pool dominated the space between. The pounding clamor of hammers rent the air, and scores of workers shouted to each other as they put the finishing touches on the renovations being executed for the resort reopening at the end of the week. The bridal expo was only a part of the festivities.

She skirted the pool, waited five minutes for the elevator, gave up and climbed the three flights of stairs to Jackie’s room, near her own. Cara fetched the miserable girl some soda from the mini-fridge, then slipped into the dress flung haphazardly on Jackie’s bed. Cara bit her lip and didn’t say a word. Morning sickness sucked, and a dress that had taken Cara countless hours to envision and create likely rated pretty low on the list of Jackie’s concerns.

The dress fit. Jogging, a low-carb diet and an extreme amount of willpower for everything except cabernet kept Cara’s weight rock-steady. Cabernet calories didn’t count.

The mirror taunted her but she didn’t glance in it. Couldn’t. Her reflection would only show what she already knew—she was always the bride, but never married.

Cara returned to the pavilion—barefoot, because her feet were already killing her and the broken elevator clearly hadn’t been fixed yet despite the manager’s promises. Cara had worn stilettos all day. Heels were as much a necessity as makeup and jewelry. A Chandler-Harris female did not leave the house unless fully dressed. But after the many problems she’d dealt with today, the last thing she wanted to do later was climb stairs in heels again.

She spent the next few minutes demonstrating to the girls how they should walk down the runway. To their credit, no one made a crack about how modeling was their job. If anyone had dared give Cara design instructions, she’d tell the person where to go, how fast and what to do upon arrival.

This was her life, her career, and nothing was going to keep her from replacing her dream of getting married with a flourishing wedding dress design business.

As Cara stood at the end of the runway going through a couple of more points, the girls shifted restlessly.

“Yummy,” Holly whispered to Meredith, her eyes trained on something over Cara’s shoulder. “That is one very well-put-together man.”

Meredith’s eyes widened to the size of salad plates. Cara spun, an admonishment on her lips designed to rid the pavilion of Yummy Interrupting Man. Whatever she’d been about to say died in her chest, and its death throes nearly coughed up her breakfast.

“Uh, Cara,” Meredith whispered. “About that thing I did. The one you didn’t know about... Surprise!”

Keith Mitchell, the devil in a dark suit, stood in the middle of her pavilion. He crossed his arms and cocked his head. His piercing gaze swept Cara from head to bare feet, lingering on the wedding dress. “Now, this looks familiar.”

“Well, well, well. As I live and breathe.” Cara fanned herself in mock Scarlett O’Hara style and did her best cat-with-a-canary smile. Stretching those particular muscles stung her face. “It’s my very own runaway groom. Still got on your Speedy Gonzales shoes?”

Keith glanced at his fifteen-hundred-dollar Italian lace-ups. “They’re functional.”

“Lucky for you, sugar.” She nodded. “There’s the door. Use it.”

He grinned, white teeth gleaming. “Sorry to disappoint you, honey, but I’m afraid this is my show.”

“What show?” She waved at the wedding dresses and swallowed against the grapefruit in her throat. Keith Mitchell. What in the world was he doing in Grace Bay? “You’re here to volunteer as my replacement model? I might have a dress in the back in your size.”

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