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Saturday, June 28, 2008

WINNING THE SINGLE MOM'S HEART - Excerpt


This month we'll be previewing RITA nominee Linda Goodnight's addition to the Wedding Planners series, "Winning the Single Mom's Heart". Below is an excerpt. Don't miss Natalie, the diabetic cake fairy, her mischievous twins, and the doctor who just won't take no for an answer.....


Natalie Thompson felt a little woozy. In fact, she felt a lot woozy.
Wouldn’t it be just ducky if the cake artist collapsed on top of a vastly expensive five-layer-wedding cake?

“Not now, not now,” she muttered, blowing a strand of blond bangs out of her eyes. The chatter of wedding guests filing into the reception warned her to hurry.

Her fingers trembled as she made one last adjustment to the glittering cake topper. As a group of classy wedding planners, she and her best friends/co-workers, collectively known as the Wedding Belles, took pride in making other women’s dreams come true. Right now, her fondest dream was to remain upright for another ten minutes.

The air in front of her eyes danced with black spots. Ten minutes might be pushing it.

Why, oh why, hadn’t she taken time to eat something? With all the activity of setting up for today’s wedding, she’d used up every drop of sugar in her body. Now her insulin had kicked in, expecting to be balanced out with a meal.

Diabetes, the bane of her existence since she was seven, could be so unforgiving.

A mountain of sugar in front of her and she dare not snitch a bite lest she destroy the picture perfect confection that had taken days to create. Not that she was supposed to eat sugar in the first place.

Breath a bit short, she stepped back to survey the table. This was the first Christmas wedding of the season and in keeping with the holiday theme, the cake sat on a raised pedestal beneath a beribboned archway of twinkling silver, blue and white snowflake lights. Beneath them the cake’s frosting glistened like new fallen snow.

Draping the table in heavy white satin with wide blue bows and tiny silver bells tucked up at the corners had been Serena’s latest creation, an idea the Belle’s dress designer had brought back from the Northwest Bridal Extravangza. Natalie glanced around to find the cool, elegant blonde taking one last survey of the ballroom. Serena had also brought back something else from the Bridal Fair and subsequent plane crash which had scared them all to death. She’d brought back a rather wild and dangerous pilot, Kane Wiley, who had looked ready to eat her up like the last bite of creamy vanilla cheesecake.

Ah yes. Cheesecake. Sugar. Food. Her job and her dilemma.

Everything was ready for the reception right down to the fruit circling the dark chocolate groom’s cake. She’d spent hours dipping and decorating those strawberries to resemble tiny tuxedos. Nobody, not even her, was going to mess that up before the bride arrived. No matter how badly her knees wobbled.

“Natalie, are you okay? You look funny.” The speaker was Regina O’Ryan, Natalie’s good friend and the Wedding Belles’ exceptionally gifted photographer. Though she always complained about her generous hips and extra ten pounds, Regina looked great these days. Glowing, happy, fulfilled. Marriage to her very own Mr. Right had done that for the lovely brunette.

People all around Natalie were falling in love faster than she could pipe leaves onto a birthday cake. Natalie was glad for them, especially Regina after all she’d been through. Truly she was. Love was great until it let you down.

A too familiar pang of bitterness pinched the center of her chest. Right now was not the time to remember. It was also not the time to slither to the gleaming tiled floor like butter cream frosting on a July day.

She waved Regina away. The action took more effort that she’d like.

“Insulin crash. No biggie.” All Natalie’s friends knew about her unpredictable diabetic condition and fretted appropriately. She appreciated it, really she did, but she and Regina were both too busy at the moment to deal with her temperamental endocrine system. “The bride and groom cometh. Better get moving.”

Regina glanced in the direction of the arched doorway and her soft brown eyes widened. “Eek. Can’t miss the grand entrance.” She pointed at the fruit display across the room. “Go eat something. Now.”

Regina snapped one more shot of the bride’s table and then hurried off, Christmas red slippers clicking on white tile.

Eat something. Good advice. That’s exactly what Natalie had to do.

Oh, for a mouthful of richly frosted, sweet buttery cake. But she’d long ago come to grips with the fact that she could have her cake but she couldn’t eat it. Which was exactly why she was a cake artist, or cake fairy as she preferred to be called.

On the opposite side of the grand ballroom rows and rows of fruit cascaded around a tiered table. Strawberries, grapes, melon, pineapple all beckoned. The table looked miles away but fruit was one thing she could snitch without it being noticed. She edged in that direction, the wobble in her knees more pronounced. Usually careful about her diet, she’d been running late after the twins’ babysitter had canceled at the last minute, a victim of the evil twenty-four hour virus. With the scramble to get the girls dressed and driven to daycare, she simply had not had time to think of food.

But boy, was she thinking about it now. A cluster of big juicy green grapes practically screamed her name. Just as she reached for it, a male voice stopped her.

“Natalie!”

Like a kid caught stealing candy, she yanked her hand away and spun around. The room tilted.

“Hey.” A pair of powerful hands gripped her upper arms. “Steady there. Are you okay? Am I that much of a surprise?”

Surprise? What was he talking about? She blinked up at the expensive smelling guest. He was tall, but then everyone was tall in her world. At just under five feet, she was vertically challenged. The only people shorter were her eight-year-old daughters.

“Natalie?” The man’s voice reminded her of someone, but she was zoning out. She hated zoning out but that was the price she sometimes paid when her sugar levels plummeted. And were they ever plummeting! Any minute now she’d slide to the floor and make a spectacle of herself.

“Fruit,” she whispered, knowing she’d feel like an idiot later, but right now she had to have food. “Diabetes.”

The stranger didn’t hesitate. With rapid efficiency, he slid two pieces of the sweetest, most heavenly melon between her lips. Then, arm around her waist, he guided her onto a chair against the wall. If she hadn’t felt so awful, she might have enjoyed having a man take such good care of her again.

Well, on second thought, maybe not. The one thing in her life she’d sworn never to do again was depend on anyone, especially a man, to take care of her. Once burned, twice warned, as they say. Not that Justin hadn’t loved her. That was the problem. He’d loved her too much. So much that she’d depended on him for every single thing.

A stab of loss penetrated the fog of diabetes.

“I’d forgotten you’re a diabetic,” the deep gentle voice rumbled as he poked more fruit into her mouth. The brush of manly fingers against her lips could be erotic in another setting.

He’d forgotten? Who was this guy?

She tried to look at him, but her eyes wouldn’t open.

She chewed and swallowed, chewed and swallowed, grateful to whomever he was.

In the background, the reception was in full swing, the sound muffled by the roaring in her head. The DJ announced the first dance, and a sexy version of “Let’s Get it On” filled the air.

Natalie thought it an odd choice for the first dance. If she was the one getting married, she’d have chosen something sentimental and romantic. But then, she was never getting married again. Mr. Right came along only once if a girl was really lucky. She’d had her chance and look how that had turned out.

“Natalie,” her rescuer said, tapping at her lips. “One more bite.”

Like an obedient bird, she opened her mouth. Her heart wasn’t racing quite as fast now and her head had begun to clear.

The fructose was doing its job.

She raised her eyelids, blinked them clear. Concerned eyes as warm and rich as chocolate ganache stared back. Familiar eyes. Familiar face. Dressed in a dark suit, he crouched in front of her, one hand balancing a plate of fruit on a muscular thigh.

Natalie’s thumped once, hard.

“Cooper?” she gasped. “What are you doing here? Is that really you?”

Dr. Cooper Sullivan flashed the wide, sexy grin that had stolen the hearts of any number of coeds in college. “It was me a few minutes ago when I looked in the mirror.”

“But you’re in California.” She set up straight, shaking the cobwebs out of her head.

Cooper looked around, mouth quirked. “I am?”

“Well, you’re obviously here, but I mean…” She was making a total idiot of herself. That’s what she meant. But then she could always blame the sugar drop. The truth was, she hadn’t seen the man in years, but articulating that sentiment didn’t seem possible at the moment.

Cooper let her off the hook. “Right now, I’m attending a colleague’s wedding. Mutual friends perhaps?”

“No, no. Clients. I’m working.” She nodded toward the bride’s table where a gorgeous redhead in ice blue satin served wedding cake to a parade of guests. “Only I should have been gone by now. The cake fairy does her job and gets out of the way. Usually.”

One of Cooper’s dark, slashing eyebrows hiked. “Cake fairy?”

She nodded, gaining strength and clarity by the moment. No matter how long she dealt with diabetes, she was always amazed at how quickly she could crash and recover. “I design cakes for a local wedding planner, the Wedding Belles.”

She was good at it, too. She could turn any idea into a fabulous cake. Justin had laughed when she’d taken up cake design but she thanked God every day she had. Otherwise, she and the twins would be sponging off relatives. She shivered at the thought. Even now, finances were incredibly tight.

“Feeling better?” Cooper pushed to his feet and towered over her.

“I am. Thanks.” Emitting a shaky breath, she ran a hand across her forehead. “I know better than to scrimp on lunch. But sometimes I can slide by.”

“Not today. You were as white as the bride’s dress.” He sat down in the chair next to her as though he was in no hurry to join the rest of the wedding guests. “Does Justin know about these episodes?”

Misery swept through her. He didn’t know. Cooper Sullivan had been Justin’s friend and closest competitor all through college and medical school but they’d gone their separate ways after graduation. Actually, after Justin and Natalie married. More than ten years had passed since she’d last seen the darkly handsome doctor.

A lot can happen in ten years.

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11 Comments:

Blogger Cheri2628 said...

I love this excerpt. It sounds like a wonderful story!

June 27, 2008 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger Julie Hilton Steele said...

I LOVED this book...having a sister who is diabetic and makes Christmas candy every year for us, that she can't eat, I immediately was hooked by this ironic little twist. Get it, read it and then read it again!

Peace, Julie

June 28, 2008 at 2:21 AM  
Blogger Sarita Leone said...

What a great way to begin the weekend, with a smart, interesting excerpt. Thanks for sharing!

June 28, 2008 at 5:02 AM  
Blogger Myrna said...

Linda, what a wonderful beginning! I'm in love with Cooper already.

The pictures are great (Reese is one of my favs).

June 28, 2008 at 6:12 AM  
Blogger Ellen said...

OK now I absolutely have to read this book!!

June 28, 2008 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Brandy said...

I'm going to be looking for this book! Loved the excerpt, thanks!

June 28, 2008 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger Virginia said...

Love this excerpt! This book sounds great. I will be looking for it.

June 28, 2008 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger Lily said...

Can't wait for this one :)

June 28, 2008 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger Nathalie said...

Thanks for the excerpt!

and I have to say... I love the heroine's name ;-)

June 28, 2008 at 7:50 PM  
Blogger CrystalGB said...

Great excerpt. :)

June 30, 2008 at 6:59 AM  
OpenID asdf963 said...

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March 23, 2011 at 9:13 PM  

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