The Convenient Groom
A Nantucket Love Story
Releasing April 2008
From Thomas Nelson
Dating is like shopping for a garment. Everything looks great in the display
window. Once inside the store, some of the dazzle disappears.
—Excerpt from Finding Mr. Right-For-You by Dr. Kate
The red light on Kate Lawrence’s cell phone blinked a staccato warning.
But before she could retrieve the message, her maid of honor, Anna Doherty,
waved her pale arms from the beach, stealing her attention.
Anna’s smooth voice sounded in her headset. “Kate, can you come
here? We’ve got a few glitches.”
“Be right there.” Kate tucked her clipboard in the crook of her
elbow, took the steps down Jetty Pavilion’s porch, and crossed the heel-sinking
sand of the Nantucket shoreline. In six hours, thirty-four guests would be
seated there in the rows of white chairs watching Kate pledge her life to Bryan
Montgomery under a beautiful hand-carved gazebo.
Where was the gazebo anyway? She checked her watch then glanced toward the
Pavilion where workers scurried in white uniforms. No sign of Lucas.
She approached Anna, who wore worry lines as naturally as she wore her Anne
Kline pantsuit. Anna was the best receptionist Kate could ask for. Her capable
presence reassured the troubled couples she ushered through Kate’s office.
Right now, Anna’s long brown hair whipped across her face like a flag
gone awry, and she batted it from her eyes with her freckled hand. “Soiree’s
just called. Their delivery truck is in for service, and the flowers will be
a little late. Half an hour at the most.”
Kate jotted the note on her schedule. “That’s okay.” She’d
factored in cushion time.
“Murray’s called and the tuxes haven’t been picked up except
for your dad’s.”
Bryan and his best man had been due at Murray’s at nine-thirty. An hour
ago. “I’ll check on that. What else?”
Anna’s frown lines deepened and her eyes blinked against the wind. “The
carriage driver is sick, but they’re trying to find a replacement. The
Weatherbys called and asked if they could attend last minute—they were
supposed to go out of town but their plans changed.”
Kate nodded. “Fine, fine. Call and tell her they’re welcome. I’ll
notify the caterer.”
“Your publicist—Pam?—has been trying to reach you. Did you
check your cell? She said she got voicemail. Anyway, your book copies did arrive
this morning. She dropped this off.” Anna pulled a hardback book from
under her clipboard. “Ta-da!”
“My book!” Kate stared at the cover, where the title Finding
Mr. Right-For-You floated above a cartoon couple. The man was on his knee
proposing. Below them, a colorful box housed the bold letters of Kate’s
name. She ran her fingers over the glossy book jacket, feeling the raised bumps
of the letters, savoring the moment.
“Pam wants a quick photo shoot before the guests arrive. You holding
the book, that kind of thing. You should probably call her.”
Kate jotted the note. While it was on her mind, she reached down and turned
on her cell.
“Ready for more good news?” Anna asked. Her blue eyes glittered
like diamonds. The news had to be good.
“The New York Times is sending a reporter and a photographer.
They want to do a feature story on your wedding and your book.”
Fresh air caught and held in Kate’s lungs. Rosewood Press was probably
turning cartwheels. “That’s fabulous. They’ll want an interview.” She
scanned her schedule, looking for an open slot. After the reception? She hated
to do it, but Bryan would understand. The New York Times. It would
give Kate’s initial sales the boost it needed. Maybe enough to make the
“Here’s the number.” Anna handed her a yellow Post-It. “That
tabloid guy has been hanging around all morning trying to figure out who the
groom is. I told him he’d find out in six hours like everyone else. The
rest of the media is scheduled to arrive an hour before the wedding, and Pam’s
having an area set up over there for them.” Anna gestured behind the
rows of chairs to a square blocked off with white ribbon.
“Good. I want them to be as inconspicuous as possible. This is my wedding,
and a girl only gets married once, after all.”
“One would hope.” Anna said. “Is there anything else I can
Kate gave her sideways hug, as close to an embrace as she’d ever given
her assistant, her fingers pressing into Anna’s fleshy shoulder. “You’re
a godsend. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“Oh! I know what I forgot to tell you. The gazebo. It should have been
here by now. I tried to call Lucas, but I got the machine, and I don’t
have his cell number.”
“His shop’s closed today, and he doesn’t have a cell.” The
man didn’t wear a watch, much less carry a phone. She should’ve
known better than to put something this crucial in his hands. Kate checked
her watch. “I’ll run over and check on it.”
The drive to town was quick and effortless, but Kate’s mind swam with
a hundred details. She jotted reminders on her clipboard when she stopped for
pedestrians, occasionally admiring the cover of her book. She called Pam for
a quick recap about the New York Times reporter, and by the time she
hung up, she was pulling into a parallel slot on Main Street in front of Lucas’s
The sign above the picture window read “Cottage House Furniture.” On
the second floor of the Shaker building, the wooden shingle for her own business
dangled from a metal pole: “Kate Lawrence, Marriage Counseling Services.” She
needed to remind Lucas to remove it; otherwise he’d leave it hanging
for another year or until someone else rented the space.
Kate exited her car and slid her key into the rusty lock of the shop’s
door. Once inside, she passed the stairs leading to her office and walked through
the darkened maze of furniture to the back, where she hoped to find Lucas.
She bumped an end table with her shin. Ow! That would leave a mark.
The high-pitched buzz of a power tool pierced the darkness, a good sign. “Lucas?” She
rapped loudly on the metal door with her knuckles. The noise stopped.
She opened the door. Lucas Wright looked up from his spot on the cement floor
at the base of the gazebo, his too long hair hanging over one eye. He looked
her over, then turned back to the spindle and ran his thick hand over it as
if testing the curves.
“Aren’t you supposed to be at the beach?” he asked.
Kate crossed her arms. “I could ask you the same thing.”
He stood, agile for his size, and backed away from the gazebo. Sawdust from
the floor clung to his faded jeans and black T-shirt. “I was just finishing.”
“You were supposed to be there an hour ago. The gazebo needs to be put
in place before the sound system, and the florist has to decorate it, and there
are people waiting to do their jobs.”
He faced her, looking into her in that way of his that made her feel like he
could see clean through her. “Today’s the big day, huh?” Putting
his tool on his workhorse, he dusted off his hands, moving in slow motion as
though he’d decided tonight wouldn’t arrive until next week.
Kate checked her watch. “Do you think you can get this down to the beach
Walking around the piece, he studied it, hands on his hips, head cocked. “You
For the first time since the week before, Kate looked at the gazebo—the
white lattice top, the hand-carved spindles, the gentle arch of the entry.
At the top of the arch, a piece of wood curved gracefully, etched with clusters
of daisies. The gazebo’s simple lines were characteristic of Lucas’ work,
but she’d never known him to use such exquisite detail. The piece had
an elegance that surpassed her expectations. He did beautiful work; she’d
give him that.
“I do. I love the etching.” She sighed. Just when he irritated
the snot out of her, he did something like this, caught her off guard. She
always felt like she was tripping down the stairs when she was with him.
Focus! “It needs to find its way to the beach. Pronto.”
“Yes, ma’am.” His salute was unhurried.
Before she could offer a retort, her cell phone pealed and buzzed simultaneously,
and she pulled it from her capri pocket.
“Bryan.” Turning away from Lucas and toward the door, she eyed
a crude desk with a metal folding chair that bore countless rusty scratches. “Good
morning.” A smile crept into her voice. It was their wedding day. The
day they’d planned for nearly two years. “Did you sleep well?” She
hadn’t. She’d rumpled the sheets until nearly two o’clock,
but that was to be expected.
The silence on the other end, however, was not. “Bryan?” Had she
lost the signal?
“Um, Kate, did you get my message?”
There’d been a blinking red light this morning. She’d assumed it
was Pam’s voicemail and hadn’t checked. Suddenly, she wished she
“No. What’s wrong?”
“Are you sitting down?”
“No, I’m not sitting down. Just tell me.” An ugly dread snaked
down her spine and settled there, coiled and waiting.
“I’m on my way back to Boston,” he said. “I left a
message this morning. You must’ve had your phone off.”
Kate’s stomach stirred. She stared at the wall in front of her—a
pegboard with a zillion holes, metal prongs poking from it, tools and cords
everywhere. “What happened?” Some emergency, maybe?
What emergency could trump our wedding?
“I can’t marry you, Kate.”
The words dropped, each one crumbling under its own weight. The stirring in
her stomach intensified. “That’s not funny, Bryan.” It was
a terrible joke. He’d never been good with jokes. His punch lines left
you leaning forward, waiting for the rest.
“I’m in love with someone else.”
Pain. A huge wooden spoon, tossing the contents of her stomach. Her legs wobbled,
trembling on the wedge heels of her sandals, and she clutched the cold metal
of the folding chair. “What?” Was that her voice, weak and thready?
Someone had vacuumed all the moisture from her mouth, sucked the air from her
“I’m so sorry,” Bryan was saying. “I know this is awful.
You don’t deserve this, but I can’t marry you. It happened slowly,
and I didn’t realize what was going on until recently. I tried to put
it out of my mind, but I just can’t. And I can’t marry you knowing
how I feel. I’m so sorry, Kate.”
“What?” It was the only word her mind could form at the moment.
“I know there’s no excuse. I should have told you before now, but
I thought it would go away. I thought I was just having cold feet or something,
but it’s more than that.”
“We’ve been together for two years, Bryan.”
It was a stupid thing to say, but it was all she could think of. Memories played
across the screen of her mind in fast forward. The day they’d met in
line at Starbucks in downtown Boston when Kate had gone there for a conference.
Their first date at the Colonial Theatre. The long-distance courting and weekend
visits; the e-mails, the phone calls, the engagement, the book. It all whizzed
by, coming to a screeching halt here, at this moment. Here, in Lucas’s
dusty workshop. Here, in front of the special gazebo they were to be married
“I’ve already called my family and told them. I know there’s
a lot to do, and I’ll help any way you want me to. And then there’s
your book . . . I’m so sorry.”
Sorry. You’re sorry? She pictured the precise rows
of white chairs, the tent being erected as they spoke, the photographers.
The New York Times.
She closed her burning eyes. Everything would have to be cancelled.
At that thought, humiliation arrived on the scene, sinking in past the pain
of betrayal. The weight of it pushed at her shoulders and she grabbed the hair
at her nape. Think, Kate! This is no time to lose it.
“Stop, Bryan. Just stop and think about what you’re doing. Maybe
you’re letting your issues with your parents’ divorce affect your
decisions. This kind of fear is perfectly natural before a wedding, and maybe—”
“No, it’s not that—”
“How do you know?” She forced reason into her tone. Used her soothing
voice—the one she put on when things got heated between one of her couples. “We
love each other. We’re perfect for each other. You’ve said it a
“There’s something missing, Kate.”
She wobbled again and steadied herself with a hand on the chair. “Something
missing”? What was that supposed to mean?
As her mind grappled with that seemingly unanswerable question, she felt a
hand at her back, leading her into the chair. She was sitting, her head fuzzy
as a cotton-candy machine, her emerald-cut engagement ring blurring before
“What do you mean there’s something missing? The only thing missing
is the groom. For our wedding that starts in five hours. Five hours,
Bryan.” Now she felt the hysteria building and took a full breath, nearly
choking on the way the oxygen stretched her lungs.
“I’ll help in any way I can.”
“You can help by showing up for our wedding!”
Her mind ran through the list of people she’d have to call. Her dad,
the guests, her publisher. She thought of the money Rosewood Press had spent
on this elaborate beach wedding. They’d flown in friends and family from
all over the country, paid for the photographer, flowers, caterer, the wedding
attire. Kate had only wanted a simple wedding, but with the release of the
book, the marketing department had other ideas. “An elegant wedding
and a surprise groom just as the book releases. Think of the publicity, Kate!”
A knot started in her throat and burned its way to her heart.
“I’ll always care about you,” Bryan said.
The words fell, as empty as a discarded soda bottle on a deserted beach.
The adrenaline coursing through her veins drained suddenly, leaving her once
again weak and shaky. She couldn’t talk to him anymore. She wasn’t
going to break down on the phone, wasn’t going to beg him to come back.
It wouldn’t accomplish a thing anyway. She’d heard this tone of
Bryan’s voice before. He was a man who knew what he wanted. And what
he didn’t want.
And he didn’t want Kate. She suddenly knew that fact as surely as she
knew tomorrow would be more impossible to face than today.
She cleared her throat. “I have to go.”
“Kate, tell me what I can do. My family will pitch in too. I want to
help fix things.”
She wanted to tell him there was no fixing this. There was no fixing her heart
or the impending collision of her life and her career. Instead, numb, she closed
the phone, staring straight ahead at the holes on the pegboard until they blended
together in a blurry haze.
He was leaving her. The man she loved was walking away. This wasn’t supposed
to be happening. Not to her. She’d been so careful, and for what? A hollow
spot opened up in her stomach, wide and gaping.
Instead of the headlines reading “Marriage Expert Finds Her Mr. Right,” they
would read “Marriage Expert Jilted at the Altar.”
Kate had never
considered herself prideful, but the thought of facing the next twenty-four
hours made cyanide seem reasonable. How could this be happening? To her, of
all people? She’d written a book on the subject of finding
the right mate and had managed to find the wrong one instead. Tomorrow the
whole world would know.
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