Read Terror in Taffeta Online

Authors: Marla Cooper

Terror in Taffeta

 

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To Kay Bauer, who loved a good mystery and would have been the most excited of all

 

CHAPTER 1

The sea-foam green bridesmaids' dresses had been a mistake. Not for the obvious reason—that sea-foam green bridesmaids' dresses are almost always a mistake—but because they added a sickly tinge to Nicole Abernathy's three very hungover bridesmaids.

I'd warned them not to overindulge the night before the wedding, begged them to have their bachelorette party back home instead of waiting until they got to San Miguel de Allende, but no one listens to the wedding planner when it's time to start drinking.

“Kelsey, I don't feel so hot,” Nicole said, as I helped her step into her wedding dress.

“I'm not surprised,” I said. “You've barely eaten all week.”

“I've barely eaten all month,” she said, studying herself in the mirror. “But at least the dress fits.”

I laughed. Nicole couldn't have been any more than a size 6, and the forgiving corset dress she'd chosen would have fit even if she'd binged on cupcakes all month. “What are you talking about? It looks amazing on you. Always has. Promise me you'll eat something at the reception?”

“I should be hungry, but the thought of food right now … ugh.” Nicole clutched her stomach and shook her head. “I should have listened to you and had the bachelorette party back in San Francisco.”

“That's okay,” I said with as chipper a smile as I could muster. “Being sick on your wedding day is good luck.”

“Really?” Nicole's big brown eyes searched mine.

“Sure,” I lied. “Now hold still.”

I felt bad for her, and I tried to be extra gentle as I tightened the satin ribbons that crisscrossed the back of her dress.

“Owww,” Nicole whined.

Okay, so I wasn't gentle enough.

“Sorry. Warn me if you're going to pass out or something.”

“No, that's okay.” Nicole took a deep breath. “Pull tighter.”

After two or three more tugs, I tied off the ribbons and tucked them down into the dress, leaving behind a tidy herringbone pattern.

I spun her around for a final inspection. Her freshly highlighted honey-blond hair was pulled into a perfectly executed chignon, and the makeup artist not only had made her look downright dewy but had hidden all evidence of the dark circles under her eyes.

“Well, you might not feel well, but you look amazing.”

As Nicole turned to admire herself, Zoe Abernathy ducked between the bride and the full-length mirror.

“Hey,” Nicole said. “Move it, lady.”

Zoe laughed as she checked herself in the mirror. “Maid-of-honor privileges. Or sister privileges. Or, I don't know, hungover-person privileges.” She tried to smooth her short, messy hair, but her surfer-girl layers could not be repressed. “Did I mention I'm never drinking again?”

“Only about thirty times,” said Dana Poole, a testy redhead who'd been hogging the other mirror while she applied the finishing touches to her makeup. The girl had been peevish all week, and the hangover wasn't exactly bringing out her best qualities.

“Well, I'm gonna say it thirty more times, so get used to it.”

“I don't even want to hear it,” Dana said, pointing her mascara wand accusingly at the bride's sister. “It's your own fault, you know.”

“What do you mean?” Zoe said, batting her eyelashes innocently. “Nicole wanted a bachelorette party. And you can't have a bachelorette party without a cocktail or three.”

“Yeah, but we're not in college anymore. We could have done without that last round of shots.”

Zoe shrugged. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Dana scowled as she screwed the cap back on her mascara and tossed it into her makeup bag. “Well, next time, keep your good ideas to yourself.”

“C'mon, Dana,” said the bride, taking a playful tone with her cranky friend. “You have to admit it was pretty fun.”

Dana shrugged. “I guess so. Kelsey, will you get us some sparkling water? San Pellegrino, preferably.”

Wait—was she really demanding that I drop what I was doing and go find refreshments? “Sorry, I've kind of got my hands full here, but there's some flat water over there in the cooler.”

“Whatever,” she sighed.

Dana had been a late addition to the wedding party, having originally turned down the invitation to Nicole's destination wedding altogether. But after Dana found a last-minute plane ticket to Mexico, Nicole said
of course
it wasn't too late to join the bridal party.

I'd spent way too much time the previous week hunting down an extra bridesmaid dress and having it FedExed to the villa we'd rented to house the bridal party for the week. Plus, we'd had to promote one of the guests to groomsman, because the bride's mother thought an uneven number of attendants would be “tacky.”

Of course, no one would ever know how hard I'd worked to pull it all off. I was the magical fairy who made things happen, and if magical fairies do their job right, everyone has a great time and the bride has a perfect day.

At least, that's how it's supposed to work.

Instead, Dana had been huffing around all morning, complaining about one thing after another. “Why do we have to get ready in this cramped little room?”
It's a two-hundred-year-old chapel, and it wasn't built for your convenience.
“Why don't my shoes match the other bridesmaids'?”
You're lucky to have shoes at all on such short notice.
“Why aren't there any vegan options on the menu?”
Um, because … shut up, that's why.

I'd managed to bite my tongue for Nicole's sake, but Dana was being a total bridesmaid-zilla.

From somewhere behind me, the third bridesmaid let out a moan. She'd been so quiet all week and had caused so little trouble, I was blanking on her name. What was it again? Kristen? Kirsten? Christy? Whatever it was, she put her head down on top of her folded arms and declared that she was dying.

“Okay, Pepto-Bismol all around,” I said, heading to my emergency kit. Wedding planners have to be prepared for anything—especially
destination
wedding planners. You can't just run to the nearest drugstore in a foreign country and assume you'll find what you need. I always made sure I had double-sided tape to hold errant straps in place, clear fingernail polish to fix runs in pantyhose, and anti-nausea medication for getting girls down the aisle after a night of drinking.

“Bottoms up,” I said as I passed out the tiny plastic dose cups. With a little luck and two tablespoons of the thick, pink syrup, they'd be able to get through the service.

Nicole scrunched up her face, looking as if she'd just knocked back another tequila shot.

“Sorry, Nicole.” I took the empty cup from her. “It'll all be over soon.”

Poor Nicole. I felt terrible for her, being sick on her wedding day. I genuinely liked the bride, and had ever since we'd met a year earlier, back in San Francisco.

The mother of the bride, Mrs. Abernathy, had dragged the young couple into my office against their will, thinking I'd be the perfect person to put together the exquisite wine country wedding she'd always assumed her daughter would have. I knew immediately that she wanted it to be elegant. A strikingly chic woman, she was perfectly put together, from her sleek bobbed hairstyle down to her high-heeled Ferragamos.

But when I mentioned that I'd planned weddings from Napa to Mexico to Europe, Nicole's face brightened and her fiancé, Vince Moreno, looked up from his iPhone for the first time since he'd gotten there.

“Mexico?” Nicole asked, as Vince's face broke into a grin.

“Napa!” her mom corrected, with a slightly sharper than necessary nudge and an “Isn't that what you meant to say” look in her eyes.

Mrs. Abernathy hadn't realized that Mexico was on the table—neither had I, frankly, until that moment—or she probably wouldn't have brought her daughter to me.

“Mexico would be so romantic!” Nicole squealed, exchanging excited looks with her fiancé and her sister, Zoe.

Zoe nodded enthusiastically. “And fun, too! Remember that time we went to Playa del Carmen?”

I pulled a fat binder from a shelf behind my desk and flipped through some photos. “You could get married on a Mexican beach, or you could go for a colonial town like San Miguel de Allende. It's really beautiful, very European.”

They looked through some glamour shots of the romantic, colonial town with cobblestone streets, and I showed them a thick notebook full of vendors I could personally recommend in San Miguel.

“Oh, these flowers look so … professional!” Mrs. Abernathy said. “Do they have, you know,
electricity
?” She whispered the last word to make sure she wasn't offending anyone.

“They have just about everything you could possibly need.”
It's Mexico, not Burundi,
I wanted to add but didn't. “And what we can't get there, we can have brought in,” I reassured her.

“That sounds good to me!” Nicole said. “Vince? What do you think?”

“As long as you're there, I don't care where we go,” he said, giving his intended a spontaneous peck on the cheek. “But Mexico does sound pretty awesome.”

Despite Mrs. Abernathy's initial misgivings, everything looked amazing now that the day had actually arrived. I'd peeked out earlier and seen the guests nodding their approval as they filled the wooden pews, taking in the charming, centuries-old church. The flowers were perfect, the groomsmen were all in place, and the tequila donkey was waiting patiently outside to lead the processional to the reception at the Instituto Allende.

Mrs. Abernathy didn't actually know about the tequila donkey yet, but the groomsmen had enlisted me to help pull off the surprise. She wasn't going to like it—having a burro laden with bottles of tequila being part of the proceedings—but since it was technically a gift for the newlyweds, she didn't get veto power. Personally, I couldn't wait to see her reaction; I'd told the wedding photographer, Brody Marx, who also happened to be a close personal friend of mine, to make sure not to miss the moment, under the threat of death.

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