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Father of the Groom (Love and Care Book 1) by Silvia Violet (1)















CHAPTER ONE

Avery


I rushed down a hallway in the Misty Mountain Lodge, trying not to let myself get distracted by the eclectic mix of paintings—modern art, Victorian ladies taking a stroll, something vaguely cubist—or the delicious smells coming from someone’s room service cart. I was already late, and Felicity was going to murder me if her makeup wasn’t perfect for her big day. I’d meant to leave work earlier than I had, but the salon was always crazy on Fridays, so now I was running late.

I still couldn’t believe Felicity was actually getting married today. In just a few hours, actually. I felt like we’d been planning and stressing—and laughing at how much we were stressing—about this wedding forever.

I had to be close to her room; I was almost at the end of the corridor. Three sixteen. Three eighteen. There it was. Three twenty. Of course it would be on the corner. She and Carter had reserved an enormous suite since they were spending their wedding night here before heading to a resort in Trinidad. I wasn’t sure they’d really make use of the space, though, not like I would. Carter seemed so vanilla. Though for all I knew he was hiding some dark secrets behind that khakis-and-polo facade. Whatever they did in bed, Felicity loved him. I was sure of that. Not that I’d ever admit it to her, but I was all kinds of jealous. I could get all the sex I wanted—kinky or otherwise—as long as I put a little effort into it, but love was something that had eluded me.

I knocked on the door and Christy, Felicity’s roommate, yanked it open a few seconds later.

“Avery, you’re finally here!” Felicity shrieked. Christy grabbed my arm, and I basically fell into the room.

“I’m not that late,” I huffed.

“Not by your standards, but there are three of us who need makeup, and I know you like to take your time and—”

“Shhh.” I kissed her cheek. “It’s all going to be fine.”

Brandy, a friend who worked at the Oasis Asheville with me, had already fixed Felicity’s and her bridesmaid’s hair. She was the queen of updos, and while I still loved styling hair, I was focused more on makeovers these days.

“Have you seen Carter?” Felicity asked as I opened my bag and started taking out my supplies.

“No, haven’t you?”

“No!” Her volume was back to the screech she’d used when I’d first arrived. “A bride doesn’t see her groom on their wedding day. What are you thinking?”

“You told me, and I quote, ‘I don’t go in for all that superstitious wedding bullshit.’”

“So I changed my mind, what of it?”

Yikes. She had her scary face on; no way was I going to argue. “Nothing. Nothing at all. Change your mind whenever you like.”

“Fuck right I will.”

Christy’s phone chimed and she picked it up. “Wren says their dad’s finally here. He was stuck in traffic driving up from Charlotte.”

Felicity sighed. “I really hope this goes all right.”

Wren was Carter’s younger brother. Their dad had come out as gay seven or eight years ago. The divorce was ugly, and Carter’s mom still didn’t speak to him. She’d done everything she could to prevent Carter’s dad from seeing him, Wren, or their sister, Mandy. Carter had been estranged from his dad for years, but they’d repaired their relationship a few years ago, when Mandy came out as a lesbian and their mom reacted badly. Things with Carter’s mom were still strained, and the whole situation was rather volatile.

“How worried should we be?” I asked.

Felicity was busy fiddling with a pin that had slipped out of her hair, but Hillary, her other bridesmaid, answered. “Mandy stopped by earlier and said her mom was in a better mood since their dad skipped the rehearsal dinner, but Carter is about to lose his mind over whether they can keep it together through the whole ceremony.”

“Mandy was here?”

“Yep. You just missed her.”

“Dammit. Is she dressed already? I wanted to see her in her tux.” Mandy was Carter’s best woman, and when I’d found out she was going to dress like the rest of the groomsman, I’d considered wearing a bridesmaid dress for my role, which Felicity liked calling Twink of Honor, but since I wasn’t used to walking in heels, I decided not to risk falling on my way down the aisle. 

“So Carter’s parents still haven’t spoken?” I asked.

“No,” Felicity said. “And if you see them on a collision course, please do anything you can to stop it.”

“Anything?” I raised a brow.

“Okay, maybe that was too far.” 

“It won’t be easy for me anyway, since I don’t know what his dad looks like.”

“He’s way hot,” Christy said.

Hillary nodded vigorously. “He totally is.”

I looked to Felicity for confirmation. “Fine. They’re right.”

We were going to talk later about why she’d never mentioned this. “Okay then. How’s your mom? Is she here?”

Felicity’s mom, unlike Carter’s, was awesome. She’d never had any problem with me being exactly who I was. She’d raised Felicity on her own, and I knew she was as proud of the woman Felicity had grown into as I was.

“She’s great. She’s picking up Grandma and then she’ll be here.”

“Great. Should we get started?”

Felicity didn’t answer. Instead, she narrowed her eyes at me, studying me intently.

“What?”

“Did you have to make yourself look so good I can’t measure up?”

“I have no idea what you mean,” I said, summoning my best humble tone.

“You know you look amazing.”

I did. I’d started using an eyelash lengthening serum that worked like magic. My now-lush lashes looked amazing with the soft pink color I’d put on my lids. The brighter pink lip stain I’d chosen set off the look to make me extremely kissable. There wasn’t anyone at the wedding I planned to kiss, but I had every intention of finding someone at my favorite club once the reception wound down. Actually, that someone better do a hell of a lot more than kiss me.

“I look fabulous, but you will look even better, as is the bride’s prerogative.” I gestured toward the sofa. “Have a seat and let me find what I need.”

“All right. But do Christy and Hillary first; I’m too nervous to sit.”

I squeezed her hand. “This evening is going to be perfect.”

“You really think so?”

“I do. And Carter loves you so much. I see it every time he looks at you.”

Christy made gagging sounds, and I glared at her. “Do not interrupt me trying to cheer up the bride.”

“Enough cheering, more makeup sorcery,” Felicity demanded.

“Hmmm. Sorceress of Honor has a nice ring to it.”

Felicity shook her head. “Twink of Honor suits you much better.”

“No, I’ve got it. Queen of Honor. That’s it. That’s my title, or you can stand up there by yourself.”

Felicity glanced over at her roommate. “Christy, I’ve got a new job for you.”

I gave her a look of mock outrage. “Is that really how you want to talk to your makeup queen when he’s about to make you beautiful?”

She fixed me with her Scary Bride Stare.

“Fine. I relent, just calm down and let me work.”

By the time I’d finished with the makeovers for all three of them, I wished I’d done my own makeup last. I hadn’t realized how sweaty I’d get trying to keep Felicity calm and make everyone look perfect. At least I wasn’t dressed yet, so I could do a little refresh wash of the most pertinent areas.

“Did you bring your tux?” Felicity asked when I stepped out from the bathroom.

“Of course. Did you think I was going to get dressed with the boys?”

She huffed. “Obviously not.”

Next came a flurry of crinolines and hot pink retro dresses. Hillary was admiring herself in the bathroom mirror, so I slipped into the walk-in closet to change pants, since I planned to wear a jock strap instead of my briefs. No way was I going to risk lines marring the perfection of my tight tuxedo pants. The cut was the same as the groomsmen, but I had a hot pink vest and a pink polka dot bowtie as opposed to the classic black they’d be wearing.

Once I was fully dressed, Felicity fussed with my tie and tugged on the vest, saying it needed straightening. I let her “help” since I could tell she needed something to do. When she finished, I took her hands in mine. “Are you okay?”

She frowned. “I think so. Maybe.”

“You know Carter’s the one who ought to be nervous.”

“Yeah?”

“Sure. He’s going to have to put up with you for like decades.”

She shoved me away and held up her middle finger. 

“You know he’s right,” Christy said.

“Fine,” she huffed. “I’m a lot to take sometimes.”

“That’s for damn sure,” Hillary said.

“At least you don’t live with her,” Christy said. Then she frowned. “I guess I don’t anymore, though.” 

That statement made Felicity go all mushy, and I could see the threat of tears. “Don’t you dare cry. Not after all the work I’ve done.”

“It’s my wedding. Of course I’m going to cry. I already told you that. This stuff had better be waterproof.” She gestured toward her eyes.

“It is, but you can still smudge it. Can’t you at least hold off until you actually walk down the aisle?”

“Maybe.”

“How long before we need to be in our places?” Christy asked.

I glanced at my phone. “Thirty minutes.”

“Hmpf, that didn’t take as long as I expected,” Felicity said. “Avery, will you do me a favor?”

“Of course, my love, what do you need?”

“Go check on Carter.”

“We could just text Mandy or Wren.”

Felicity shook her head. “You’ll be able to tell how he’s doing a lot better in person, and once you’ve checked in on him, I need you to make sure everything is running smoothly with the caterers.”

I resisted the urge to remind her that she had a very expensive wedding planner whose job it was to do that. I also didn’t whine about how I’d rather stay with her and gossip, because that’s the kind of friend I was. “I’ll let you know once I’ve talked to Carter, okay?”

“Thank you.”

“Of course. Anything for you, especially today.” I would take care of her today, give her whatever she needed, like she’d done for me so many times over the years. I knew how good it felt to know there was someone you could count on to make sure things went just right for you. She had Carter now, though. And I would see her a lot less often. If only I had someone else to swoop in to make things right for me. Not that I wasn’t perfectly independent. I could take care of myself. It was just a drag to always have to.

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