Available in Mass Market Paperback March 27, 2012
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Ted Beaudine’s book is done! This is the book you’ve been demanding I write for years. The story of “little Teddy,” the nine-year-old heartbreak kid from FANCY PANTS and “young Ted,” the hunky new college graduate in LADY BE GOOD. Ted is all grown up now, and CALL ME IRRESISTIBLE is his story.
I’ve been trying to write this book for years, but I made a serious (and ultimately fortunate) miscalculation. I assumed Ted’s perfect match would be Lucy Jorik from FIRST LADY. You all loved the idea as much as I did. The only thing was... I couldn’t write the book. They were both so mature, so smart, so completely together. And, ultimately, so boring. They each deserved something more than a humdrum match.
I set aside “Ted’s Book” to mull it over and began working on WHAT I DID FOR LOVE, and that was when it happened.
Meg Koranda exploded into the room like a frisky young greyhound who’d been kicked out of obedience school so many times that her owners had given up trying to train her. In this case, her owners were her adoring parents, screen legend Jake Koranda and Fleur Savagar, the Glitter Baby.... ...Meg was spoiled and impulsive, five-feet-ten-inches of good times, good intentions, good heart, and almost total irresponsibility in her quest to outrun her famous parents’ legacies....
Who better to drive Ted Beaudine crazy? Except...
What about our beloved Lucy Jorik? That’s when things got really interesting, but this letter has gone on long enough. Ted and Meg’s book is everything I hoped it would be, and I’m already hard at work on Lucy’s story. You’re going to have to trust me when I tell you that I’ve made the right matches.
Thank you all for feeling so passionately about these characters and their stories. And now... Back to work.
More than a few residents of Wynette, Texas, thought Ted Beaudine was marrying beneath himself. It wasn’t as if the bride’s mother was still the President of the United States. Cornelia Jorik had been out of office for over a year. And Ted Beaudine was, after all, Ted Beaudine.
The younger residents wanted him to marry a multi-platinum rock star, but he’d already had that chance and turned her down. Ditto a reigning actress-fashionista. Most, however, thought he should have chosen someone from the world of women’s professional sports, specifically the LPGA. As it was, Lucy Jorik didn’t even play golf.
That didn’t stop the local merchants from stamping Lucy’s and Ted’s faces on some special edition golf balls. But the dimpling made them look a little cross-eyed, so most of the tourists who crowded the town to catch a glimpse of the weekend festivities favored the more flattering golf towels. Other bestsellers included the commemorative plates and mugs mass produced by the town’s Golden Agers, with the proceeds going to repairing the fire-damaged Wynette Public Library.
As the home town of two of the greatest players in professional golf, Wynette, Texas, was used to seeing celebrities walking its streets, although never a former President of the United States. Every hotel and motel within a fifty-mile radius was filled with politicians, athletes, movie stars, and heads of state. Secret Service agents had popped up all over, and way too many journalists were taking up valuable bar space at the Roustabout. But with only one industry to support the local economy, the town had fallen on tough times, and Wynette’s citizens welcomed the business. The Kiwanis had gotten particularly inventive by selling bleacher seats across the street from First Presbyterian for twenty dollars each.
The general public might have been shocked when the bride had chosen the small Texas town for the ceremony instead of having a Beltway wedding, but Ted was a Hill Country boy through and through, and the locals had never imagined he’d marry anyplace else. He’d grown into a man under their watchful eyes, and they knew him as well as they knew their own families. Not a soul in town could muster up a single bad thing to say about him. Even his ex-girlfriends couldn’t do more than muster sighs of regret. That’s the kind of man Ted Beaudine was.
Meg Koranda might be the daughter of Hollywood royalty, but she was also broke, homeless, and desperate, which didn’t exactly put her in the mood to be a bridesmaid at her best friend’s wedding. Especially when she suspected her best friend just might be making the mistake of a lifetime by marrying the favorite son of Wynette, Texas.
Lucy Jorik, the bride-to-be, paced the carpet of her suite at the Wynette Country Inn, which her illustrious family had taken over for the festivities. “They won’t say it to my face, Meg, but everybody in this town believes Ted is marrying down!”
Lucy looked so upset that Meg wanted to hug her, or maybe she wanted that comfort for herself. She vowed not to add her own misery to her friend’s distress. “An interesting conclusion for these hayseeds to make considering you’re only the oldest daughter of the former President of the United States. Not exactly a nobody.”
“Adopted daughter. I’m serious, Meg. The people in Wynette interrogate me. Every time I go out.”
This wasn’t entirely new information since Meg talked to Lucy on the phone several times a week, but their phone calls hadn’t revealed the tense lines that seemed to have taken up permanent residence above the bridge of Lucy’s small nose. Meg tugged on one of her silver earrings, which might or might not be Sung Dynasty, depending on whether she believed the Shanghai rickshaw driver who’d sold them to her. “I’m guessing you’re more than a match for the good citizens of Wynette.”
“It’s just so unnerving,” Lucy said. “They try to be cagey about it, but I can’t walk down the street without somebody stopping to ask if I happen to know what year Ted won the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship or how much time passed between his bachelor’s and master’s degree—a trick question because he earned them together.”
Meg had dropped out of college before she earned even one degree, so the idea of earning two together struck her as more than a little demented. Still, Lucy could be a tad obsessive herself. “It’s a new experience, that’s all. Not having everybody suck up to you.”
“Believe me, no danger of that.” Lucy pushed a lock of light brown hair behind her ear. “At a party last week, somebody asked me very casually, as if everybody has this conversation over a cheese ball, if I happened to know Ted’s I.Q., which I didn’t, but I figured she didn’t know either, so I said one-thirty-eight. But, oh no... As it turns out, I made a huge mistake. Apparently Ted scored one hundred and fifty-one the last time he was tested. And according to the bartender, Ted had the flu or he’d have done better.”
Meg wanted to ask Lucy if she’d really thought this marriage-thing through, but, unlike Meg, Lucy didn’t do anything impulsively.
She and Lucy had met in college when Meg had been a rebellious freshman and Lucy a savvy, but lonely, sophomore. Since Meg had also grown up with famous parents, she understood Lucy’s suspicion of new friendships, but gradually the two of them had bonded despite their very different personalities, and it hadn’t taken Meg long to see something others missed. Beneath Lucy Jorik’s fierce determination to avoid embarrassing her family beat the heart of a natural born hell-raiser. Not that anyone would know that judging from her appearance.
Lucy’s elfin features and thick, little girl eyelashes made her look younger than her thirty-one years. She’d grown out her shiny brown hair since her college days and sometimes held it back from her face with an assortment of velvet headbands that Meg wouldn’t be caught dead wearing, just as she’d never have chosen Lucy’s ladylike aqua sheath with its tidy black grosgrain belt. Instead, Meg had wrapped her long, gangly body in several lengths of jewel-toned silk that she’d twisted and tied at one shoulder. Vintage black gladiator sandals—size eleven—laced up her calves, and an ornate silver pendant she’d made from an antique betel nut container she’d purchased at an open air market in central Sumatra rested between her breasts. She’d complemented her probably fake Sung Dynasty earrings with a stack of bangles she’d bought for six dollars at TJ Maxx and embellished with African trade beads. Fashion ran in her blood.
And travels a crooked path, her famous New York couturier uncle had said.
Lucy twisted the strand of demure pearls at her neck. “Ted is... He’s the closest the universe has come to creating the perfect man. Look at my wedding present? What kind of man gives his bride a church?”
“Impressive, I have to admit.” Earlier that afternoon, Lucy had taken Meg to see the abandoned wooden church nestled at the end of a narrow lane on the outskirts of town. Ted had bought it to save it from demolition, then lived in it for a few months while his current house was being built. Although it was now unfurnished, it was a charming old building, and Meg didn’t have any trouble understanding why Lucy loved it.
“He said that every married woman needs a place of her own to keep her sane. Can you imagine anything more thoughtful?”
Meg had a more cynical interpretation. What better strategy for a wealthy married man to employ if he intended to set up a private space for himself.
“Pretty incredible,” was all she said. “I can’t wait to meet him.” She cursed the series of personal and financial crises that had kept her from hopping a plane months ago to meet Lucy’s fiancÚ. As it was, she’d missed Lucy’s showers and been forced to drive to the wedding from L.A. in a junker she’d bought from her parents’ gardener.
With a sigh, Lucy settled on the couch next to Meg. “As long as Ted and I live in Wynette, I’ll always come up short.”
Meg could no longer resist hugging her friend. “You’ve never come up short in your life. You single-handedly saved yourself and your sister from a life in foster homes. You adapted to the White House like a champion. As for brains... You have a master’s degree.”
Lucy leaped up. “Which I didn’t earn until after I’d gotten my Bachelor’s.”
Meg ignored that piece of craziness. “Your work advocating for kids has changed lives, and in my opinion, that counts for more than an astronomical I.Q.”
Lucy sighed. “I love him, but sometimes...”
Lucy waved a freshly manicured hand displaying fingernails polished the palest blush instead of the emerald green Meg currently preferred. “It’s stupid. Last minute jitters. Never mind.”
Meg’s concern grew. “Lucy, we’ve been best friends for twelve years. We know each other’s darkest secrets. If there’s something wrong...”
“Nothing’s exactly wrong. I’m just nervous about the wedding and all the attention it’s getting. The press is everywhere.” She settled on the edge of the bed and pulled a pillow to her chest, just as she used to do in college when something upset her. “But... What if he’s too good for me? I’m smart, but he’s smarter. I’m pretty, but he’s gorgeous. I try to be a decent person, but he’s practically a saint.”
Meg tamped down a mounting sense of anger. “You’re brainwashed.”
“The three of us grew up with famous parents. You, me, and Ted... But Ted made his own fortune.”
“Not a fair comparison. You’ve been working in non-profit, not exactly a launching pad for multi-millionaires.” But Lucy still had the ability to support herself, something Meg had never managed. She’d been too busy traveling to remote locations on the pretext of studying local environmental issues and researching indigenous crafts, but really just enjoying herself. She loved her parents, but she didn’t love the way they’d cut her off. And why now? Maybe if they’d done it when she was twenty-one instead of thirty she wouldn’t feel like such a loser.
Lucy propped her small chin on the edge of the pillow so that it bunched around her cheeks. “My parents worship him, and you know how they are about the guys I’ve dated.”
“Not nearly as openly hostile as my parents are about the ones I date.”
“That’s because you date world class losers.”
Meg couldn’t argue the point. Those losers had most recently included a schizoid surfer she’d met in Indonesia and an Australian rafting guide with serious anger management issues. Some women learned from their mistakes. She obviously wasn’t one of them.
Lucy tossed the pillow aside. “Ted made his fortune when he was twenty-six inventing some kind of genius software system that helps communities stop wasting power. Do you have any idea how many patents Ted holds? No? Well, I don’t either, although I’m sure every grocery store clerk in town does. Worst of all, nothing makes him mad. Nothing!”
“He sounds like Jesus. Except rich and sexy.”
“Watch it, Meg. In this town joking about Jesus could get you shot. You’ve never seen so many of the faithful who are armed.” Lucy’s worried expression indicated she might be concerned about getting shot herself.
They had to leave for the rehearsal soon, and Meg was running out of time for subtlety. “What about your sex life? You’ve been annoyingly stingy with details, other than the stupid three-month sexual moratorium you insisted on.”
“I want our wedding night to be special.” She tugged at her bottom lip with her teeth. “He’s the most incredible lover I’ve ever had.”
“Not the longest list in the world.”
“He’s legendary. And don’t ask how I found that out. He’s every woman’s dream lover. Totally unselfish. Romantic. It’s like he knows what a woman wants before she does.” She gave a long sigh. “And he’s mine. For life.”
Lucy didn’t sound nearly as happy about that as she should. Meg pulled her knees under her. “There has to be one bad thing about him.”
“Backward baseball cap. Morning breath. A secret passion for Kid Rock. There has to be something.”
“Well...” A look of helplessness flashed over Lucy’s face. “He’s perfect. That’s what’s wrong.”
Right then, Meg understood. Lucy couldn’t risk disappointing the people she loved, and now her future husband had become one more person she needed to live up to.
Lucy’s mother, the former President of the United States, chose that moment to stick her head in the bedroom. “Time to go, you two.”
Meg shot up from the couch. Even though she’d been raised around celebrities, she’d never quite lost her sense of awe in the presence of President Cornelia Case Jorik.
Nealy Jorik’s serene patrician features, highlighted honey brown hair, and trademark designer suits were familiar from thousands of photographs, but few of them showed the real person behind the American flag lapel pin, the complicated woman who’d once fled the White House for a cross country adventure that had led her to Lucy and her sister Tracy, as well as Nealy’s beloved husband, journalist Mat Jorik.
Nealy gazed at them. “Seeing the two of you together... It seems like yesterday you were both college students.” A sentimental wash of tears softened the steely blue eyes of the former leader of the free world. “Meg, you’ve been a good friend to Lucy.”
“Somebody had to be.”
The President smiled. “I’m sorry your parents couldn’t be here.”
Meg wasn’t. “They can’t stand being separated for long, and this was the only time Mom could get away from work to join Dad while he’s filming in China.”
“I’m looking forward to his new movie. He’s never predictable.”
“I know they wish they could be here to see Lucy get married,” Meg replied. “Mom, especially. You know how she feels about her.”
“The same way I feel about you,” the President said, too kindly, because in comparison to Lucy, Meg had turned out to be a major disappointment. Now, however, wasn’t the time to dwell on her past failures and dismal future. She needed to mull over her growing conviction that her best friend was about to make the mistake of a lifetime.
Lucy had elected to have only four attendants, her three sisters and Meg. They congregated at the altar while they waited for the arrival of the groom and his parents. Holly and Charlotte, Mat and Nealy’s biological daughters, clustered near their parents, along with Lucy’s half-sister Tracy, who was eighteen, and their adopted seventeen-year-old African American brother Aaron. In his widely read newspaper column, Mat had stated, “If families have pedigrees, ours is American mutt.” Meg’s throat tightened. As much as her brothers made her feel inferior, she missed them right now.
Out of nowhere, the church doors blew open. And there he stood, silhouetted against the setting sun. Theodore Day Beaudine.
Trumpets began to sound. Honest to God trumpets blowing a chorus of hallelujahs.
“Jesus,” she whispered.
“I know,” Lucy whispered back. “Stuff like this happens to him all the time. He says its accidental.”
Despite everything Lucy had told her, Meg still wasn’t prepared for her first sight of Ted Beaudine. He had perfectly bladed cheekbones, a flawlessly straight nose, and a square, movie star jaw. He could have stepped down off a Times Square billboard, except he didn’t have the artifice of a male model.
He strode down the center aisle with a long, easy gait, his dark brown hair kissed with copper. Jeweled light from the stained glass windows flung precious gems in his path, as if a simple red carpet weren’t good enough for such a man to walk upon. Meg barely noticed his famous parents following a few steps behind. She couldn’t look away from her best friend’s bridegroom.
He greeted his bride’s family in a low-pitched, pleasant voice. The trumpets practicing in the choir loft reached a crescendo, he turned, and Meg got sucker punched.
Those eyes... Golden amber touched with honey and rimmed with flint. Eyes that blazed with intelligence and perception. Eyes that cut to the quick. As she stood before him, she felt Ted Beaudine gazing inside her and taking note of everything she worked so hard to hide—her aimlessness, her inadequacy, her absolute failure to claim a worthy place in the world.
We both know you’re a screw up,” his eyes said, “but I’m sure you’ll grow out of it some day. If not... Well... How much can anyone expect from an overindulged child of Hollywood?
Lucy was introducing them. “...so glad the two of you can finally meet. My best friend and my future husband.”
Meg prided herself on her tough veneer, but she barely managed a perfunctory nod.
“If I could have your attention...” the minister said.
Ted squeezed Lucy’s hand and smiled into his bride’s upturned face, a fond, satisfied smile that never once disturbed the detachment in those tiger quartz eyes. Meg’s alarm grew. Whatever emotions he felt for Lucy, none of them included the fierce passion her best friend deserved.
The groom’s parents were hosting the rehearsal dinner, a lavish barbecue for one hundred, at the local country club, a place that represented everything Meg detested—over-indulged rich white people too fixated on their own pleasure to spare a thought for the damage their chemically poisoned, water-guzzling golf course was inflicting on the planet. Even Lucy’s explanation that it was only a semi-private club and anyone could play didn’t change her opinion. Secret Service kept the international press corps hovering by the gates, along with a crowd of curious onlookers hoping to glimpse a famous face.
And famous faces were everywhere, not just in the bridal party. The groom’s mother and father were world renowned. Dallas Beaudine was a legend in professional golf, and Ted’s mother, Francesca, was one of the first and best of television’s celebrity interviewers. The rich and prominent spilled from the back veranda of the Antebellum club house as far as the first tee—politicians, movie stars, the elite athletes of the professional golfing world, and a contingent of locals of various ages and ethnicities: school teachers and shop keepers, mechanics and plumbers, the town barber, and a very scary looking biker.
Meg watched Ted move through the crowd. He was low-key and self-effacing, yet an invisible klieg light seemed to follow him everywhere. Lucy stayed at his side, practically vibrating with tension as one person after another stopped them to chat. Through it all, Ted remained unruffled, and even though the room hummed with happy chatter, Meg found it increasingly difficult to keep a smile on her face. He struck her more as a man executing a carefully calculated mission than a loving bridegroom on the eve of his wedding.
She’d just finished a predictable conversation with a former television newscaster about how she didn’t look anything like her incredibly beautiful mother when Ted and Lucy appeared at her side. “What did I tell you?” Lucy grabbed her third glass of champagne from a passing waiter. “Isn’t he great?”
Without acknowledging the compliment, Ted studied Meg with those eyes that had seen it all, even though he couldn’t have traveled to half the places Meg had visited.
You call yourself a citizen of the world, his eyes whispered, but that only means you don’t belong anywhere.
She needed to focus on Lucy’s plight, not her own, and she had to do something quickly. So what if she came across as rude? Lucy was used to Meg’s bluntness, and Ted Beaudine’s good opinion meant nothing to her. She touched the fabric knot at her shoulder. “Lucy neglected to mention that you’re also the mayor of Wynette...in addition to being its patron saint.”
He didn’t seem either offended, flattered, or taken aback by Meg’s crack. “Lucy exaggerates.”
“I do not,” Lucy said. “I swear that woman standing by the trophy case genuflected when you walked by.”
Ted grinned, and Meg caught her breath. That slow grin gave him a dangerous boyish look that Meg didn’t buy for a moment. She plunged in. “Lucy is my dearest friend—the sister I always wanted—but do you have any idea how many annoying habits she has?”
Lucy frowned, but she didn’t try to derail the conversation, which spoke volumes.
“Her flaws are small compared to mine.” His eyebrows were darker than his hair, but his lashes were pale, tipped with gold, as if they’d been dipped in stars.
Meg edged closer. “Exactly what would those flaws be?”
Lucy seemed as interested in his answer as Meg herself.
“I can be a little naive,” he said. “For example, I let myself be roped into the mayor’s job even though I didn’t want it.”
“So you’re a people pleaser.” Meg didn’t try to make it sound like anything other than an accusation. Maybe she could rattle him.
“I’m not exactly a people pleaser,” he said mildly. “I was just taken by surprise when my name showed up on the ballot. I should have anticipated.”
“You’re sort of a people pleaser,” Lucy said hesitantly. “I can’t think of a single person you don’t please.”
He kissed her on the nose. Like she was his pet. “As long as I please you.”
Meg left the border of polite conversation behind. “So you’re a na´ve people pleaser. What else?”
Ted didn’t blink. “I try not to be boring, but sometimes I get carried away with topics that aren’t always of general interest.”
“Nerd,” Meg concluded.
“Exactly,” he said.
Lucy remained loyal. “I don’t mind. You’re a very interesting person.”
“I’m glad you think so.”
He took a sip of his beer, still giving Meg’s rudeness serious consideration. “I’m a terrible cook.”
“That’s true!” Lucy looked as though she’d stumbled on a gold mine.
Her delight amused him, and once again that slow grin claimed his face. “I’m not taking cooking lessons, either, so you’ll have to live with it.”
Lucy got a little starry eyed, and Meg realized Ted’s self-inventory of flaws was only making him more winning, so she redirected her attack. “Lucy needs a man who’ll let her be herself.”
“I don’t think Lucy needs a man to let her be anything,” he countered quietly. “She’s her own person.”
Which showed how little he understood this woman he was planning to marry. “Lucy hasn’t been her own person since she was fourteen years old and met up with her future parents,” Meg retorted. “She’s a rebel. She was born to cause trouble, but she won’t stir the pot because she doesn’t want to embarrass the people she cares about. Are you prepared to deal with that?”
He cut right to the chase. “You seem to have some doubts about Lucy and me.”
Lucy confirmed every one of Meg’s misgivings by toying with her lame-ass pearls instead of jumping in to defend her decision to marry. Meg dug in. “You’re obviously a terrific guy.” She couldn’t make it sound like a compliment. “What if you’re too terrific?”
“I’m afraid I’m not following you.”
Which must be a new experience for someone so crazy smart. “What if...” Meg said, “...you’re a little too good for her?”
Instead of protesting, Lucy set her mouth in her White House smile and fingered her pearls like they were prayer beads.
Ted laughed. “If you knew me better, you’d understand just how ludicrous that is. Now if you’ll excuse us, I want Lucy to meet my old Boy Scout leader.” He slipped his arm around Lucy’s shoulders and drew her away.
Meg needed to regroup, and she made a dash for the ladies room only to get ambushed by a short, fireplug of a woman with razor-cut vermillion hair and lots of carefully applied makeup. “I’m Birdie Kittle,” she said, taking Meg in with a sweep of her heavily mascaraed eyelashes. “You must be Lucy’s friend. You don’t look anything like your mother.”
Birdie was probably in her late thirties, which would have made her a child during the heyday of Fleur Savagar Koranda’s modeling career, but her observation didn’t surprise Meg. Everyone who knew anything about celebrities had heard of her mother. Fleur Koranda had put modeling behind her years ago to establish one of the most powerful talent agencies in the country, but to the general public, she’d always be the Glitter Baby.
Meg plastered on Lucy’s White House smile. “That’s because my mother is one of the most beautiful women in the world, and I’m not.” Which was true, even though Meg and her mother shared more than a few physical characteristics, mainly the bad ones. Meg had inherited the Glitter Baby’s marking pen eyebrows, as well as her big hands, paddleboat feet, and all but two inches of her mother’s nearly six feet of height. But the olive skin, brown hair, and more irregular features she’d inherited from her father kept her from staking any claim to her mother’s extravagant beauty, although her eyes were an interesting combination of green and blue that changed color depending on the light. Unfortunately, she hadn’t inherited either the talent or ambition both of her parents possessed in abundance.
“You’re attractive in your own way, I guess.” Birdie ran a manicured thumbnail over the jeweled clasp on her black evening bag. “Kind of exotic. These days they throw that supermodel word at anybody who stands in front of a camera. But the Glitter Baby was the real thing. And look at the way she turned herself into such a successful businesswoman. As a businesswoman myself, I admire that.”
“Yes, she’s remarkable.” Meg loved her mother, but that didn’t keep her from wishing Fleur Savagar Koranda would sometimes stumble—lose a top client, screw up an important negotiation, get a zit. But all her mother’s bad luck had come early in her life, before Meg was born, leaving her daughter with the title of family screw up.
“I guess you look more like your daddy,” Birdie went on. “I swear I’ve seen every one of his pictures. Except the depressing ones.”
“Like the film that earned him his Oscar?”
“Oh, I saw that one.”
Meg’s father was a triple threat. World famous actor, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, and best-selling book author. With such mega-successful parents, who could blame her for being seriously messed up? No child could live up to that kind of legacy.
Except her two younger brothers...
Birdie adjusted the straps on her heart-necked black sheath, which fit a bit too snuggly around her waist. “Your friend Lucy is a pretty little thang.” It didn’t sound like an accolade. “I hope she appreciates what she has in Teddy.”
Meg worked at keeping her composure. “I’m sure she appreciates him just as much as he does her. Lucy is a very special person.”
Birdie jumped at the opportunity to take offense. “Not as special as Ted, but then you’d have to live around here to understand.”
Meg wasn’t getting into a spitting contest with this woman, no matter how much she wanted to, so she kept her smile firmly in place. “I live in L.A. I understand a lot.”
“All I’m saying is that just because she’s the President’s daughter doesn’t mean she’s got anything on Ted or that everybody’s going to give her special treatment. He’s the finest young man in this state. She’ll have to earn our respect.”
Meg struggled to hold on to her temper. “Lucy doesn’t have to earn anyone’s respect. She’s a kind, intelligent, sophisticated woman. Ted’s the lucky one.”
“Are you saying he’s not sophisticated?”
“No. I’m merely pointing out—”
“Wynette, Texas, may not look like much to you, but it happens to be a very sophisticated town, and we don’t appreciate having outsiders come in and pass judgment on us just because we’re not big Washington hot shots.” She snapped her purse shut. “Or Hollywood celebrities.”
“Lucy is not—”
“People have to make their own mark here. Nobody’s going to kiss anybody’s bee-hind just because of who her parents are.”
Meg didn’t know whether Birdie was talking about Meg herself or about Lucy, and she no longer cared. “I’ve visited small towns all over the world, and the ones with nothing to prove always seem to welcome strangers. It’s the down and out places—the burgs that have lost their luster—that see every new face as a threat.”
Birdie’s penciled-in russet eyebrows shot to her hairline. “There is not one thing down-and-out about Wynette. Is that what she thinks?”
“No, it’s what I think.”
Birdie’s face pinched. “Well, that tells me a lot, now doesn’t it.”
The door flew open, and an older teen with long, light brown hair stuck her head in. “Mom! Lady Emma and the others want you for pictures.”
Darting Meg a last hostile glance, Birdie shot out of the room, primed to repeat their conversation to all who would listen.
Meg grimaced. In her attempt to defend Lucy, she’d done more harm than good. This weekend couldn’t be over soon enough. She retied her dress at the shoulder, ran her fingers through her short, crazy hair cut, and forced herself back to the party.
As the crowd raved about the barbecue and laughter spilled over the veranda, Meg seemed to be the only one who wasn’t having fun. When she found herself alone with Lucy’s mother, she knew she had to say something, but even though she chose her words carefully, the conversation didn’t go well.
“Are you really suggesting that Lucy shouldn’t marry Ted?” Nealy Case said in the voice she reserved for the opposition party.
“Not exactly. Just that—”
“Meg, I know you’re going through a difficult time, and I’m truly sorry about that, but don’t let your emotional state casts a shadow over Lucy’s happiness. She couldn’t have chosen better than Ted Beaudine. I promise, your doubts are groundless. And I want your promise that you’ll keep them to yourself.”
“What doubts?” said a voice with a faint British accent.
Meg spun around to the sound of a faint British accent and saw Ted’s mother standing at her elbow. Francesca Beaudine looked like a modern day Vivien Leigh with a heart-shaped face, cloud of mahogany hair, and moss green wrap-dress hugging her still trim figure. For the three decades that Francesca Today had been on the air, she’d challenged Barbara Walters as queen of the prime time celebrity Interviewers. While Walters was the superior journalist, Francesca was more fun to watch.
Nealy quickly smoothed over the waters. “Bridesmaid jitters... Francesca, this is the loveliest evening. I can’t tell you how much Mat and I are enjoying ourselves.”
Francesca Beaudine was no fool. She gave Meg a cool, assessing look, then led Nealy away toward a group that included the red-haired fireplug from the ladies room and Emma Traveler, the wife of Ted’s best man, Kenny Traveler, another of professional golf’s superstars.
After that, Meg sought out the most unsuitable guest she could find, a biker who professed to be one of Ted’s friends, but even the distraction of a great set of pecs couldn’t cheer her up. Instead, the biker made her think about how overjoyed her parents would have been if she’d ever brought home anyone remotely resembling Ted Beaudine.
Lucy was right. He was perfect. And he couldn’t be more wrong for her.