A Fool's Gold Wedding by Susan Mallery

CHAPTER ONE


            “SO THERE’S THIS GUY.”

            Abby Hendrix didn’t bother looking up from the tiny flower-shaped bead she was carefully gluing onto the printed place card. Her sister’s wedding guest list had ballooned yet again. The increase in guests meant an increase in costs and Melissa was determined to do all she could to save money. Abby—the proud owner of a brand-new teaching certificate—was home for the summer and had offered to help with any DIY projects. She had applied tiny flower beads to forty-four place cards and was hoping to get through all three hundred and five by the end of the day. Or possibly by tomorrow.

            “There’s no guy,” she said, before blowing on the bead to set the glue. “I know there’s no guy because I know you’d never cheat on your fiancé.” She looked up and smiled at her sister. “You love Davis. I have total confidence that you two will have a long, happy life together. So there.”

            “I do love Davis. Very much. But there is a guy. Joaquin.”

            The name was familiar. Abby set down her tweezers and leaned back in her chair. She’d definitely heard the name before. He was...

            “Davis’s brother,” Melissa said with a sigh.

            “Right. The mysterious, icky brother.”

            “He’s not icky.”

            Abby grinned. “Uh-huh. Sure he’s not. So why, exactly, were you whining about him being the best man? You said, and correct me if I’m wrong, but you said he had the personality of a window frame, which was an impressive analogy, if you ask me.”

            “Thank you and icky is still the wrong word. He’s...”

            “Difficult? Socially awkward? Very, very tall? Allergic to shellfish?” Abby tried to remember what she’d heard about him. “Oh, wait. He’s supersmart. Like scary smart and he thinks the rest of us are dumb.” She laughed triumphantly. “He loathes that we are lesser mortals. That’s it, right?”

            Melissa, the beauty of the family, sighed again. “Not exactly how I’d phrase it—”

            “That’s because you’re a fancy lawyer. You’d have to use the word allegedly like fifteen times.”

            “Can I talk?”

            Abby batted her eyes. “I don’t know. Can you?”

            “When did you get annoying?”

            Abby was unfazed by the question. “I’m the little sister. Just doing my job. I am, after all, a hard worker. Not as hard as you, but close.”

            Abby knew her place in the universe and it was a really good one. She was Liz and Ethan’s adopted daughter, Melissa’s full sister, Tyler’s cousin and a soon-to-be third grade teacher at Ronan Elementary School. If Melissa was annoyingly beautiful and a little bit smarter, Abby was okay with that. Melissa had always looked out for her, even after they’d finally found a family. They were a team. If her sister needed a kidney or a lung, Abby was all in. If three hundred and five place cards would be happier with little flower beads on them, count on her to get that done.

            Now she made an effort to control her naturally irreverent personality and address the topic seriously.

            “You knew Joaquin was coming to the wedding. He’s the best man. So what’s the problem? He doesn’t like the tux? And I can’t help repeating myself by asking about the shellfish.”

            “Would you stop with the shellfish?” Melissa asked, obviously trying not to laugh. “This is serious.”