Don't Kiss the Bride by Carian Cole

Chapter 1





Jude





The screech of tires and Meatloaf’s Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad blasting from tinny speakers pulls my attention from the blueprints I’m bent over. I frown at the silver ’75 Corvette speeding into the high school parking lot next door.

It’s one of my favorite songs, but not at seven a.m. on a Monday.

Until today, construction on this residential, two-story house has been quiet. No traffic buzzing by. No people milling around. Zero distractions. Exactly the way I like it. But that’s all gonna change now that summer break is over and kids are back in school. Rowdy and giggling teenagers have been traipsing past the job site for the last hour.

“Hot damn,” my foreman Kyle mutters under his breath and lets out a long, low whistle.

“What?” I follow his gaze to the school parking lot as I roll up the blueprints and snap a rubber band around them.

A young girl steps out of the ’vette, pushing aviator sunglasses up on top of her mane of wavy, waist-length blonde hair. She nudges the driver’s side door shut with a casual sway of her hip—a move that instantly makes my mouth go dry. The door hinges squeak from decades of rust, but she doesn’t seem to notice.

I push my hair out of my face, mesmerized by the fringe of the moccasins sashaying around her jean-clad calves. A black tee with a red kiss mark stamped across it peeks out from under a matching suede jacket. She struts away from the car with the attitude of a movie star who just stepped out of a limo and not a rusty old sports car that’s more than twice her age.

Did she fall into a time portal that sucked her out of the seventies and dropped her straight into today?

“The things I’d like to do to her…” Kyle says, licking his lips like she’s about to be his last meal.

My gut burns with a twinge of disgust and guilt as I tear my eyes off the girl. “She’s a teenager, man,” I say, giving his shoulder a hard shove. “Get back to work. I’m not paying you to ogle chicks.”

Laughing, he hitches up his tool belt and plants a hardhat on top of his head. “Teen my ass, Lucky. Girls sure as hell didn’t look like that when we were in high school.”

True. If they did, maybe I would have been more interested in sticking around. Instead, I dropped out six months before graduation to take a full-time job.

I glance at the darkening gray sky. “The clouds are rolling in. Let’s get some shit done before we get rained out. We can’t afford to lose any more time on this job.”

“You got it, Jude.” He leers at the girl one more time before getting back to work.

Grabbing my thermos of coffee, I scan my four-man crew and try to gauge our progress. We’re two days behind thanks to the homeowners’ asking for last-minute changes, but I think we can get back on track and move to the next job on schedule. Ending or starting a job late pisses off the customer, and I don’t need any ranting one-star reviews about my company plastered on the internet.

“Hey, Skylar!” a female voice yells. “The eighties called. They want their clothes and car back!”

I screw the lid back on my thermos as I’m sucked into the teen drama unfolding a few yards away. Three girls are laughing as they follow Corvette-girl to the rear entrance of the school. She suddenly stops, spinning around to face them in a whirlwind of blonde hair and suede fringe. They step back, bumping into each other.

“Wow.” She looks the girls up and down before zeroing in on the tallest and prettiest of the group. This one’s gotta be the head mean girl, based on all the movies I’ve seen. “Too bad your daddy couldn’t buy you some brain cells to go with that nose job, Paige. The car’s from the seventies.”

The girls glare at her, then simultaneously roll their eyes up to their eyebrows. She stays rooted to the sidewalk, forcing them to walk around her. A smirk tips the corner of her mouth.

As she turns to enter the school, she catches me watching her. Holding my gaze with her bright eyes, she flashes me a teasing smile, blows a pink bubble of gum at me, pops it, then disappears inside.

I quickly wipe the silly grin off my face with the back of my hand and refocus my attention on my job. Distractions aren’t a luxury I can afford. Especially feisty, cute ones with trouble stamped all over them.





“You need anything before I head outta here?” Kyle asks, glancing over the blueprints that are spread out on a table in the middle of the framed-in addition. We’ve known each other since high school, and he’s worked for me since I started the company ten years ago. He’s always the last of my crew to leave.