An August Bride

By: Debra Clopton

Kyndall Paige—the newest joy of my heart—what fun adventures we will have . . .

I had a long and lovely acknowledgment written, and then I realized it would have taken up several pages of the e-book! So, I’ve condensed it but hope everyone knows how much I love and appreciate you so very much. Thanks always to God for loving me and giving me the gift of writing. To my editors on this novella, Ami McConnell and Becky Philpott: you ladies rock. I loved bringing my love of cowboys and the beach together in this story—and thank-you for letting me have the “Mule Hollow Matchmakin’ Posse” visit Corpus Christi for this story. I do believe readers are going to love it! And for letting me be a part of A Year of Weddings—I’ve loved it. Thanks to associate editor Karli Cajka for all you do, especially not letting me overlook things! And thanks to my fantastic agent Natasha Kern for your unwavering efforts on my behalf. And with all my love to my husband Chuck whose love of Tarpon fishing inspired me to bring cowboys, sun and surf to this fun story. And finally, thank-you to you, my dear readers. I couldn’t do this without you.

Kelsey Wilcox hated weddings.

But she loved her cousin. Loved her enough to endure a weekend of wedding torture.

Leave it to Tiff, though, to drag out the agony, opting for two days of wedding “fun,” starting with this fancy rehearsal party, complete with music and dancing. And romance.

Fun—like a toothache.

Kelsey tugged at her gold sequined dress and struggled to readjust her attitude—the floor-length dress wasn’t helping. She’d found it on the seventy-five-percent-off rack, refusing to pay more for something she’d never wear again. The thing itched, weighed a good ten to fifteen pounds, and was totally not Kelsey.

But Tiff had loved it.

So, here Kelsey stood, feeling like a total fake.

Come on, Kels, attitude adjustment, remember.

Right. Kelsey fixed her gaze on the vivid orange sun beginning to lower over the sparkling blue Corpus Christi Bay. She loved balmy August evenings.

Loved walking barefoot across the beach, the touch of the fading sun on her skin and the soothing sensation of warm sugar sand sifting through her toes. She drew on that now—needing every ounce of calm she could find before heading into the wedding party.

Good girl—calm, relaxed. Better, much better.

Her fingers tightened around the strappy heels dangling from her fingertips. “You can do this, Kels. For Tiff,” she said aloud to the seagulls playing on the breeze without a care in the world.

Determined, she hoisted the tail of her dress out of the sand, forced down the lingering jitters, and struggled to let the perfection of the setting sun settle more securely around her. This incredible beach had always been her haven. Her place of refuge. Tiff had understood this. She shared Kelsey’s love of the beach just as much. Her hope had been that this destination wedding, here where Kelsey had started her new life a couple of years ago, would help Kelsey. Even on Tiff’s special weekend, she’d been thinking of Kelsey’s feelings . . .

It was all the more reason for Kelsey to force a smile and be supportive. And she really was happy for her cousin. Steven Lucas was a great guy. Unlike—

Nope, you are not going there.

Only fifty yards or so down the beach that stretched out between her bungalow and the hotel, she paused and studied the very new addition to the Corpus Christi skyline. Like the boardwalk that housed her bistro and several gift shops, the Castle Hotel was only a few years old. It had been created to be a destination-wedding showplace. With its white gleaming walls and endless glass windows and stairways that flowed down to the sand, the Castle Hotel had succeeded. It was almost impossible to see where the white stairs ended and the white sand began. Looking at it, Kelsey half expected to see Cinderella and her prince embracing on the landing.

She thought of Tiff and her prince, and knew she could get through this. Inhaling one last calming breath, she headed across the sand toward the stairs.

“Yoo-hoo, Kelsey!”

Kelsey swung her gaze away from the hotel and a little farther down the beach. Instantly, her insides tensed.

The “posse” had arrived.

Yup, there they were—her redheaded aunt Esther Mae Wilcox and her two best pals, Norma Sue Jenkins and Adela Ledbetter Green. All three ladies waved wildly at her from the ocean’s edge. Their excitement made her smile, despite her misgivings. Millie, one of her aunt’s tiny black Yorkie-poos, dashed back and forth beside the sparkling waves, a blur as she chased the taunting seagulls, her shrill bark carrying on the breeze. The pup’s sheer joy made Kelsey chuckle. She waved the hand holding her shoes, keeping a firm grip on the long, heavy skirt of her dress.

“Kelsey!” Aunt E exclaimed again. Hustling forward, caftan flowing, she engulfed Kelsey in her yellow, floral-printed chiffon arms. “Aren’t you just a sight for sore eyes?”

“It’s good to see you too.” A lump lodged in Kelsey’s throat, and she hugged as good as she got. Though her aunt and her pals added to her trepidation because of their meddlesome matchmaking ways, her spirits lifted.

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