Double Dare

By: Rhonda Nelson

Chapter One




“Drive, Jaynes!”

In a blur of white satin and lace, Louisa Marie Honeycutt dove into the waiting limousine, slid across the expansive leather seat, then with a furtive look out the tinted window, issued the desperate order again.

Befuddled, her driver started to protest. “But—”

“Now!” Lou demanded, frantically battling the clinging net of her veil from her face.

Started by her vehemence, Jaynes’ usually light foot hit the accelerator hard. Tires squealed as Lou’s head snapped back from the unexpected jolt.

Lou blinked, then sighed with overwhelming relief as the big car swiftly lengthened the distance between herself and the church.

She’d done it! She’d escaped! Narrowly, and admittedly not by conventional methods, but the fact remained that she was free.

Giddy with a sense of liberation, Lou clamped a hand over mouth to keep a wicked giggle from escaping.

“Might I ask where we are going, miss?” Jaynes’s distressed voice asked hesitantly.

Lou frowned. Her mental cheerleading session came to a halt. “I haven’t gotten that far in my plan yet, Jaynes. Just get as far away from the church as you can,” she instructed grimly. The satin of her gown hissed as she shifted to a move comfortable position.

Eyes darting nervously between the road and the rearview mirror, her timid driver cleared his throat.

“May I be so bold as to ask a question, miss?”

In the process of removing the dratted veil from her head, Lou sighed patiently. Though she was certain Jaynes had played a part of spy for her exasperating overprotective father, Lou had always had a soft spot in her heart for the aging driver. For whatever reason, she had the uncanny notion he returned her feelings.

“Permission granted, Jaynes. Ask away.”

“I was, uh, curious as to the w-whereabouts of your, er…groom?”

Lou removed the last pin from the veil, wadded it up and banked it off the glass into the floorboard, then set about removing the pins from the elaborate knot of curls on her head. Excitement bubbled through her and she resisted the urge to do a wriggly little dance in her seat.

“I imagine he’s at the altar,” she replied matter-of-factly. “Where I left him.”

Jaynes’ eyes bugged and a little choking sound emerged from his throat. “Uh, miss. This— This is highly irregular. Your father will not be pleased. I must return—”

Lou’s grin disappeared and her gaze snapped to his. “You’ll do no such thing. As for my father, I’ll deal with him…at a later time.” An image of her intimidating sire flashed before Lou’s eyes, momentarily taking the starch out of her newfound spine. Lou winced. She’d also be forced to deal with her equally intimidating almost-mother-in-law, but she, too, would have to wait.

“For now,” she told Jaynes, “you’ll do as I say, and I say we will not be returning to the church. Understood?”

Jaynes nodded reluctantly. “Fine, miss.”

One more hurdle taken care of, she thought. Lou tugged the last pin from her hair, then shook it free and massaged her tender scalp. Now what? Now what? Now what? she wondered. She couldn’t go back to the house. Her father would surely find her, then drag her kicking and screaming back to the sacrificial altar of marital bliss.

Humph. Like hell.

James Whitehorn Honeycutt would simply have to find another way to merge Honeycutt Foods with Reedwater Snacks. Regardless of what her father thought, the merger wasn’t worth her freedom, or her happiness.

“Miss?”

“Yes, Jaynes?” Lou said absently, her mind occupied, her gaze trained on the changing sky—partly cloudy, partly clear—as they neared the downtown Atlanta area.

“Y-you realize, of course, that this is only temporary,” he offered hesitantly.

Lou met his gaze in the mirror and quirked a brow.

Jaynes reddened, but blustered on. “Your father and Ms. Reedwater will insist upon the match. They’ll chalk up your defection to pre-wedding jitters and will simply reschedule the wedding.”

A line of displeasure formed between Lou’s brows. Drat. Double drat. Jaynes was right. As soon as her father managed to find her, he’d do exactly as her insightful driver had pointed out. And undoubtedly Lou thought grimly, the second time around he would see to it there was no avenue for escape.

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