Stacy Belmont was "just" the housekeeper's granddaughter, according to the social snobs in Tabor Heights, and all during their school years, Gretchen Crenshaw fought to "put her in her place" and away from Dinah Ashcroft.
Time, careers, and distance created silence between Stacy and Dinah, who had once vowed to be each other's maid of honor. When Dinah eloped with her Marine hero, Gretchen took over to help plan the blow-out reception of the decade -- and keep Stacy out in the cold.
Drake came home from seminary for the party and knew something was wrong when Stacy left Dinah's present on the back step. When he set out to right a wrong -- Stacy was practically family, after all -- he discovered how important she was to him, and not just as his sister's best friend.
"Gretchen never called me." Stacy stopped at
the head of the stairs.
"You just said you heard from her--"
"No, I overheard her in the store, loudly telling her cronies how she's
the maid of honor and Dinah is depending on her for everything."
only in her really warped imagination." He caught hold of her hands between his,
and she realized how much her hands shook and felt icy. "Just this morning, Di
said if this was her wedding, you'd still be her maid of honor."
"Really?" No way was she going to let those tears come, but it was a
"Yeah, and she's been wishing she never hooked up with
Gretchen down in Virginia. You should have heard the fight they had over the
favors. Di insisted on peach candy sticks and doves, but Gretchen kept saying
bells and almonds are in. What doesn't she get that this is Di's party and not
"She's using the peach sticks and doves?"
Stacy lost the
fight with the tears. The next thing she knew, Drake had his arms around her and
she was soaking his shoulder.
"Hey, it's okay, I'm here to make sure
everything works out." He sighed and tipped his head so his cheek pressed
against her temple. "I know everything's a big mess right now, but honest,
Stace, it's all a big mistake. We didn't mean to leave you out. Mom put your
name at the top of the guest list and Di swears your name was the first one on
the sheet of address labels."
"I guess I was kind of stupid, just
sitting and waiting. I could have asked." She sniffled and thought about
stepping out of Drake's arms, but she was afraid her wobbly knees might just
fold underneath her. Besides, he smelled heavenly, spicy and warm and clean, and
she would probably never again have a chance to be held tight against him like
this. "I should have known your family wouldn't just shove me out in the cold,
"Like Gretchen has been saying we should do since you guys
were in fourth grade? Yeah, like we'd let her tell us what's right and wrong?"
Drake chuckled, and the sensation of his chest vibrating against her was
"Come on, Stace, you gotta come to the party. I mean, if not
for Di, then for me."
"You?" A giggle burst out of her. She nearly
lifted her head from his shoulder to look at him, positive he was teasing her.
"Yeah, you gotta save me. Gretchen is trying to make sure I'm her date,
and I'd rather get the plague than spend the evening with her. Do it for me?"
"Oh, of course, I have to defend your honor." Stacy sniffed and raised
her head. She knew better than to look into his eyes as she reluctantly stepped
out of his arms. Wiping her eyes, she managed a smile. "Don't you know I'd do
anything for you, Drake Ashcroft?"