Charlie rolled his head from one side to the other, straightened his shoulders, and then fought his way out of the shiny gold jacket. He slipped it on the hanger in the small dressing room behind the stage and then carefully closed the door. He stretched his arms and soaked in the bright winter sunlight streaming through the windows.
When his stomach growled again, he hit the door to the lobby with a stiff arm, set on getting back to his own schedule. After four determined steps, he stopped. He could see a line of light under the door to the bridal suite.
Charlie mentally cursed again. Something about that light told him this was going to be more trouble than a man who hadn’t eaten in over four hours should attempt to deal with. He’d sent his assistant for the day out to check on the bride and groom earlier. When she’d come back to say the rooms were dark, he’d sent her on to lunch. He should have followed, obviously. If that light represented his late bride and groom, his schedule would be off for the rest of the day.
After two perfunctory knocks, Charlie turned the knob and shoved open the door.
He froze on the spot when he saw the bride seated in a froth of wedding dress. Like a priceless work of art, she was lit by a spotlight that highlighted the flawless creamy skin of her bare shoulders, the gleam in her dark hair, and her bright red lips. When his eyes met hers in the mirror’s reflection, he couldn’t remember just exactly what he thought he might say to the inconsiderate bride or groom if he ever found either of them. His schedule was forgotten. He was lucky to remember to breathe in and out.
“Aw, crap, he ain’t comin’, is he?”
A small frown wrinkled the pale skin of her brow and something about her east Tennessee twang set everything back in motion.
He reached up to run his hand through his hair but hit crunchy product and decided to rub his neck like that was what he’d intended all along. “I was hoping that you could tell me. What happened to your groom?”
“Well, I can’t say I exactly expected this, but I ain’t as shocked as I should be either.” She gave him a wide smile that didn’t quite look genuine, but he liked it a whole lot better than tears. “Tommy Joe told me he’d meet me over here, knock on the door when he was ready. Since he’s always late, I expected to wait a bit but . . .”
She shrugged, and he had to bite his tongue to keep from being drawn back under her spell as light played across the pale skin of her shoulders and chest. She stood gracefully and smoothed the sides of her elegant wedding dress. Her hourglass figure was outlined faithfully by the dress and accented by dainty hands she propped on her hips. “He didn’t sound like a man looking forward to his weddin’. Cold feet set in, I imagine. My hook wasn’t set, and I guess he wriggled off.”
Charlie frowned as he considered her answer. He fought back the urge to ask what kind of fool would wriggle off her hook. A man might not know he was caught until it was too late . . . but what a way to go.