Sample Sunday

I’ve never participated in a Sample Sunday before, but since I *just* finished the first draft of Three Girls and a Wedding and I’m really in love with it right now, I thought I’d share the first three (unedited) chapters with everyone! Hope you enjoy!!

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Chapter One

“Whether you are planning your big day yourself, or letting the pros handle it, a wedding can be a very stressful undertaking. The sheer number of details that must be accounted for could overwhelm even the most dedicated amongst us. It is essential you devote as much time as possible to planning—this is, after all, the biggest day of your life!”—The Bride’s Guide to a Fabulous Wedding!

 

It was 6:30 on Friday night, and I wanted to go home.

It had been a long day—a long week, really—and all I wanted was to be out of the office and back home, preferably in comfy clothes with a glass of wine in my hand. Unfortunately, we were all stuck here for the foreseeable future.

“Any word yet, Jen?”

I looked up to see Amanda, a junior account manager in my department, leaning in my doorway.

“Nope,” I replied, leaning back in my chair. “Haven’t heard anything.”

Amanda sighed and walked into my office—and I use the word office here figuratively. Closet, or cubby hole, would have been more accurate. Amanda plopped herself into the chair opposite me and promptly put her head on my desk.

“It’s going to be Jason,” she moaned. “I just know it.”

“You’re probably right,” I agreed sadly. “Little bastard that he is.”

“I’ve been here four months longer,” she exclaimed angrily, sitting up straight and brushing her curly blond hair out of her face. “It’s just so unfair.”

Amanda had a point, and I could commiserate with her. But, disloyal though it may be, I also felt that she wouldn’t have much chance of beating someone like Jason even with years of seniority on her side. In the decision of who to make a senior account executive, Jason was a natural fit.

Amanda was good at what she did, sure, but she didn’t possess that killer edge that our bosses seemed to love so much in a guy like Jason.

“He’s just so…so smarmy!” I could tell Amanda was starting to get worked up, so I settled back and tried to get comfortable. We’d been down this road before. “Who would want someone like that planning their event?”

“A lot of people wouldn’t,” I soothed her. “That’s where you and I come in.” I didn’t add that the big money accounts were the ones perfectly suited to the Jasons of our firm.

I had been at NoLimits, the premiere event planning firm in the Metro Detroit area, for nearly two years now, a few months less than Jason and half a year a shy of Amanda’s tenure. In that time I had seen two people promoted from junior manager to senior account executive. It wasn’t hard to get the lay of the land around here—Jason was a shoo-in.

And, as such, I was beginning to get pretty irritated that I was stuck here, on a Friday night, awaiting the partners to make their final decision. I knew it wasn’t going to be my name that was announced, or even Amanda’s, my closest friend here, so what was the point in waiting around? The thought of congratulating Jason, of sipping champagne while everyone plastered fake smiles on their faces and pretended they weren’t dying of jealousy, was not my idea of fun.

“What does he have that I don’t have?” Amanda muttered, once again laying her head flat on my desk.

“Balls?” I suggested. Amanda only sighed. “Oh come on, I don’t even get a sympathy laugh for that one?”

Amanda looked up from her pillow of files on my desk. “Seriously, Jen. What’s holding me back?”

It was my turn to sigh. How could I tell her what I really thought? Amanda was adorable. Much shorter than me, she was also somewhat round, with rosy cheeks and a perpetually cheerful demeanor—with the exception of this evening. She was best suited to smaller, more intimate events—definitely an important part of our business, but she hardly brought in the kind of money that impressed the partners.

I, on the other hand, played the game—or tried to. I studied what the partners seemed to be looking for, and I emulated it. I dressed in simple, sophisticated clothes. I kept my dark brown bob sleek and my makeup impeccable. I never left the house with my feet in anything but heels. I went out to the lunches, to the drinks after work, to the parties and the swanky dinners. Did I enjoy any of it? Hell no. But I was willing to put in the time now if it would get me where I wanted to be.

Loathe though I am to admit it, I guess I was more like Jason. But hopefully much less of a douche bag.

I was saved answering Amanda’s question by the ringing of my cell. I glanced at the display and smiled. “Hey, sweetie,” I said into the phone.

“Where are you?” Ginny, my best friend and roommate, sounded irritated.

“They’re announcing the promotion tonight,” I answered. “We’re all stuck here until they’re ready.”

“Is it Jason?”

“We think so,” I replied, trying to keep the bitterness out of my voice.

“Well, kick him in the nuts for me.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “I don’t think that will help my chances for next time.”

“It will be you next time,” Ginny said seriously. “I know it.”

“Thanks, Gin. How’s the baby?”

“Oh Jen,” she squealed, her voice lighting up with excitement. “He walked around the entire couch today!”

“Well done, Danny,” I smiled. Ginny’s son, nine month old Danny, had recently started to take a few steps—while holding onto something.

“Anyhow,” Ginny said, with obvious restraint—she was liable to go on about Danny uncontrollably when prompted, “Josh will be here soon to watch the baby, so please try and hurry, okay? We’re going dancing tonight if it kills me.”

“I’ll do my best, hon,” I said. Just then, Thomas, our administrative assistant, popped his head in the doorway, gesturing us out into the hallway. “Gotta go, Gin, I think they’re ready for us.”

“Good luck,” she said. “See you soon.”

I ended the call and stood, pulling on Amanda’s arm as I went. “Come on. Let’s get this over with.”

***

I pulled into the driveway of the little yellow house we were renting about an hour and a half later. There were already three cars parked outside—Annie, my other roommate, must have already gotten home. Josh’s car was there too. I sighed as I climbed out of my Jeep. They were probably all inside waiting for me.

I opened the front door and was immediately hit by a rush of noise. Danny was crying, loudly, from the kitchen. Over his yelling I could hear Ginny talking in a calm, measured voice, as if reasoning with him. In the living room, Annie was sitting on the couch, purposefully avoiding looking at Josh, who was typing something on his laptop. Annie appeared to be watching TV and had the volume up full blast. I sighed again.

“Hello,” I called out, over the noise. Josh looked up at me.

“Hey, Jen,” he smiled.

“Hey.” I raised my voice even louder. “Hello, Annie!”

She waved without looking at me. Rolling my eyes I headed into the kitchen, where Ginny was trying, with little success, to feed Danny some gloppy looking beige mush.

“They at it again?” I asked, sitting next to her at the table.

“Of course,” she muttered. “I’ve had about enough of it, too.”

“I’ll talk to her,” I promised. “Hey, Danny-o!” The baby flashed me a huge, toothless grin, and I leaned over to kiss him, messy face and all. “What the hell is your momma trying to feed you here little man?”

“It’s cereal. It’s supposed to be good for him. And no swearing by the baby,” Ginny commanded, spooning up another glop of mush and holding it up to Danny’s mouth, which he promptly slammed shut. Ginny sighed. “I give up.” She scooped up the bowl and took it to the sink.

“So, was it Jason?”

“Yup. We all had to stand there and pretend to be happy for him while he smarmed around. Jackass.”

“Sorry, hon.” Ginny grimaced at me as she attacked Danny’s face with a wet washcloth, making him squirm in his chair. “Wanna talk about it?”

“Nah, thanks though. I don’t want to think about work at all for the rest of the weekend.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Ginny finished cleaning up the baby and went back to the sink to wash his dishes. Danny grinned at me again and I decided I needed to get my hands on him. I unbuckled him from his chair and snuggled him close to me, breathing in his baby smell and trying to force the stress of the day away.

It was hard for me to believe that Danny was only nine months old. It felt like he had been with us so much longer than that. The baby had been unexpected, to say the least. The day Ginny had discovered she was pregnant was, without a doubt, the single most shocking event of my life.

Ginny, Annie, and I had moved in together shortly after we had graduated from college. We had been best friends ever since freshman year of high school, and we had always wanted to be roommates. It probably never would have happened though, if not for Josh.

Josh and Ginny had dated for years, and had lived together at school. It was a forgone conclusion that they would get married after graduation. Instead, they broke up. According to Ginny, it was a long time coming, but to us, it was very much a surprise. So instead, the three of us moved into this little house in our home town and got to the business of starting our real, grown up lives.

Only a few months later, Ginny dropped the bombshell: she’d had a rebound hook-up with Josh and had gotten pregnant. Since Josh was out of the picture by that time, Annie and I stepped in to help Gin with all of it—the pregnancy, the birth, having a newborn to take care of. It changed our lives, all three of us, immensely.

The best part, of course, was that we ended up with Danny. I know that I’m prejudiced and everything, but Danny is perfect. He’s adorable and sweet, and clearly very bright for a nine month old. I love him to bits.

Luckily, Josh does too. It took him ages to find out about the baby (long story), but when he did, we couldn’t get rid of him. Eventually, he and Ginny decided to give it another go and they seemed to be really happy.

But tonight was supposed to be a girl’s night—no boys allowed, including Danny. I walked him out to his daddy and plopped him in Josh’s lap, right on top of his computer. The two broke into identical grins at the sight of each other. I had to admit, it was pretty cute.

“Annie, you need to get ready,” I said loudly, over the noise of the television. She turned it off without a word, got up from the couch, and walked to her bedroom.

“Nice talking to you, Ann!” Josh called out sarcastically.

“Knock it off,” I muttered. “You two are driving Ginny nuts.”

“Hey, I’m not the one who—”

“I don’t care. Just try to get along with her.”

Josh huffed and turned his attention back to Danny.

“Ginny, come help me pick out clothes!” I called to her. “Josh will finish the dishes.”

I smiled sweetly at him as he flipped me off, then headed to my room. I was tired, my feet hurt, and I was fast developing a headache. But it was the weekend. I didn’t have to think about work, or Annie fighting with Josh, or any of the other things that usually stressed me out. I was going to put on a cute dress, fix my makeup, and go dancing with my two best friends.

Chapter Two

It took forever to get out of the house. Three girls getting ready was never going to be a fast process. By the time we were all tarted out and Ginny had kissed the baby about a million times—and instructed Josh on how to deal with every tiny detail of Danny’s night—it was nearly nine.

“Where to, ladies?” Ginny asked, as she maneuvered out of the driveway. One great thing about Ginny having a baby: so long as she was breastfeeding she had to keep her drinking to an absolute minimum. Annie and I had had a built in DD for more than a year.

“I’m starving,” Annie said. “Where can we go that has food?”

“There’s that place in Royal Oak,” Ginny said. “You know, the Spanish one. They do dancing, don’t they?”

“Yeah, salsa dancing,” I replied.

“Well, that sounds fun!”

“Ginny, do you have any idea how to salsa dance?” I demanded.

“No, but how hard can it be? Besides, they serve sangria there. Sangria makes everything easier.”

“And more fun,” Annie agreed seriously.

I laughed. “Alright, salsa dancing it is.”

Finding parking in popular Royal Oak on a Friday night was no easy feat, but Ginny got lucky, and in no time at all we were settling into a tiny table in the bustling restaurant. We could hear the salsa beats and energetic conversation of the dancers emanating from the second floor, but it was quiet enough downstairs to carry on a conversation. I looked over the menu and immediately knew that we were going to make huge pigs out of ourselves. This restaurant specialized in tapas, little plates of food perfect for sharing. There were at least half a dozen things I wanted to try and I had a feeling I would before the night was over.

We put in our order and the waiter brought us a pitcher of Sangria. It was heavenly. Annie and I gulped down a full goblet within minutes.

“So, Jen,” Annie began as she poured herself a refill. “What’s the deal with that Jim guy?”

“There is no deal with Jim,” I said. “It was only four dates. Nothing came of it.”

“But he was so cute!” Ginny exclaimed.

I shrugged, trying to avoid their eyes.

“Okay, what?” Annie demanded.

“What, what?” I asked, trying to play innocent.

“I know that look, Jen. There’s something you’re not telling us. What is it? Was he a secret cross dresser? Did he have a collection of porcelain animal figurines at home?”

I rolled my eyes but refused to answer.

“Was he a civil war re-enactor?” Ginny supplied. “Did he sleep with a teddy bear because it was a gift from his mommy?”

“Did he wear a banana hammock to the beach?” Annie asked seriously.

I choked on my sangria as Ginny started laughing. “Or did he have a Winnie the pooh tattoo on his ass?” she asked.

We were all cracking up now. “Okay, okay,” I groaned. “I’ll tell you. But it isn’t nearly as funny as any of that. He was a terrible kisser.”

Annie made a face. “That sucks. Well, you made the right choice then.”

“Come on,” Ginny argued. “There was nothing you could have done? Maybe talked to him, or given him time to learn from your example?”

“No way,” Annie said firmly. “Bad kissing is a deal breaker.” Ginny looked dubious.

“Gin, every time he kissed me I had a layer of spit a full inch around my lips.”

They both squealed. “Eww!” Ginny cried.

“You’re telling me,” I muttered. “It was disgusting.”

Ginny looked sadly down at her empty glass. “I wonder how much it would actually hurt Danny if I got really drunk tonight…”

I couldn’t help but laugh at the hopeful look in her eyes. “Do you have any milk in the freezer?” Ginny used a pump so that Danny would have milk when she was at work or when Josh was watching him.

Her entire face lit up. “Oh my God, that’s it!” she exclaimed. “I have, like, a week’s worth of backup! I can totally get smashed tonight!” She looked like a little kid on Christmas morning.

“How are we gonna get home?” Annie asked.

“Josh can pick us up,” Ginny said, unconcerned, as she quickly filled her wine glass.

“Won’t Danny be asleep by then?” Annie was making a face, I’m sure in reaction to the idea of spending time in a car with Josh.

“If Josh is careful he can get him into the car seat without waking him,” Ginny said. Catching the look on Annie’s face she quickly continued. “Annie, I don’t give a shit, okay? I haven’t been drunk in a year and a half. I’m going to drink as much sangria as I want.” As if to prove her point, she knocked back half the glass in one gulp.

I laughed. “Let her have fun, Annie,” I suggested. “When’s the last time we did this?”

“Well,” Annie muttered, refilling her glass and raising it for a toast. “I guess if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!”

Chapter Three

“Jen, can you come into my office please?”

It was Monday morning and I had barely settled myself at my desk when the slightly husky voice of my boss, Jacqueline, boomed from the speaker on my phone.

I set the files I was carrying down on the ever-growing pile on my desk with a sigh. I wasn’t really in the mood for Jacqueline first thing in the morning, and I had a lot of work to get through. But I knew from experience it wouldn’t be worth it to be late, so I grabbed my coffee and headed down the hall.

Jacqueline was sitting behind her desk, talking rapidly to someone on the phone. When I first met Jacqueline Weinberger I was incredibly intimidated. She’s a very tall woman, at least six foot, and strikingly thin. Her features are dark, harsh. She wears her black hair in a severe bob—I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single hair out of place. Jacqueline has a way of looking at you that makes you feel like she can read your mind. It’s not pleasant. Now, nearly two years after being hired, I still find myself ridiculously intimidated in her presence.

Jacqueline motioned for me to sit down across from her as she barked orders into her phone. “You need to find out who they’re using,” she said into the receiver. “No, I don’t care about that…No. Just find out who they’re using, I can take it from there. Okay…Thanks.” She hung up and looked at me, sighing.

“We’re getting to the busy season, huh?” I asked, smiling.

“It would certainly seem that way. Now, Jen, tell me what accounts you’re working on in the next three months.”

I was caught off guard. “Well, there’s the Jenkins engagement party…the gallery opening…that leukemia benefit. And there’s a few small birthday parties coming up.” As I spoke Jacqueline made notes in her ledger.

“Good, good,” she murmured, picking up a large, leather bound file. “All of those can be redistributed out.”

I felt a spasm of fear clutch my stomach. Why was she redistributing my accounts?

“Why,” I began, but my throat had gone quickly dry. I cleared it and tried again. “Why, do you need to take me off my accounts?”

“Jen, an opportunity has come up that I think would be perfect for you,” she looked at me over the file in her hand. “But it will be rather time consuming, so we’ll need to clear your schedule.”

“What’s the event?”

“Are you familiar with Jonathon Barker?”

“Of course,” I replied, nodding. “I mean, I’ve heard of him, obviously.” Jonathon Barker was one of the wealthiest and most prominent businessmen in Detroit. He had risen to fame by developing a myriad of the city’s abandoned and derelict buildings into posh restaurants and hotels. His revitalization efforts had garnered him a huge amount of respect locally—and had made him wealthy, seriously, seriously wealthy.

“His only daughter is getting married,” Jacqueline said. “And they’ve contracted us to handle the entire event—engagement party, shower, rehearsal dinner, wedding. All of it.”

My heart started to thump rapidly against my ribcage. Could she possibly be asking me…?

“Of course, we’re very pleased to have acquired this client. It’s a major coup for us.” There was a glint in Jacqueline’s eye, and her voice shook ever so slightly. Wow. This must be a huge contract. I automatically began running through numbers in my head, and very nearly didn’t hear her as she continued.

“We’re giving the account to Jason.”

Damn. Damn, damn, damn. I should have known it was too good to be true. What had I been thinking? Of course they weren’t going to give me a contract of this caliber. I was a lowly junior executive.

“However,” Jacqueline continued. “As he is just starting out in his new position, and this is such an important event, we wanted to be sure that he had a strong number two to help him. I think you would be perfect for the job.”

Hmm. I hadn’t been partnered with a senior executive on an account in a long time. That was usually a position given to the junior staff, the people just starting out. But Jacqueline was right—this was a huge opportunity. And it was in weddings.

I will deny this fact if it ever gets out, but the truth is, I love weddings. Adore them.

My friends consider me the sophisticated one in our group, the collected, grounded girl with the fancy job. The type of person who would prefer to work on glam parties, club openings, that kind of thing. But they’re wrong.

When it comes to weddings, I’m a big old softie. I can’t help it. I love everything about them—the dress, the flowers, the promise of true love. No one knows this, not even Annie and Ginny, but sometimes, when I’ve had a really bad day, I stop at the drug store on my way home and buy as many bridal magazines as I can get my hands on. Then I shut myself up in my room and devour every detail.

The entire reason I got into event planning was so that someday I would get to plan weddings, maybe even start my own little firm.

And this sure sounded like it would be the wedding of the year.

“Of course,” I said to Jacqueline. “Of course, I would love to be a part of Jason’s team.”

“Good,” she said. “Oh look, here’s Jason now.”

I looked over my shoulder and saw Jason Richardson standing in the doorway to Jacqueline’s office. Jason was good looking, there’s no point denying that. His dark blond hair was, as ever, artfully and carefully tousled. Jason dressed impeccably, and always seemed to have a tan. Amanda and I had wondered, on many occasions, whether this was the effect of spending many hours outside or many hours in a tanning booth. We had a feeling it was the latter.

A lot of the newer girls in the office had a crush on Jason. I suppose I could see why—he did have a great body and a flirtatious nature. Plus, as one of the few straight guys in our line of work, he stood out. In my experience, however, most of the crushes petered out the longer you worked here—that is to say, the more you got to know what he was really like.

“Hey, Jackie,” Jason said, entering the office and coming around next to her, leaning down to kiss her cheek. “You look great today.”

I had a hard job refraining from rolling my eyes. This is what Jason was like 24/7, at least to the people he thought could get him somewhere. He acted like everyone was his best friend, like everyone would naturally be thrilled to be graced with his presence. Gag.

“I’ve just been filling Jen here in on the account,” Jacqueline said, a slight flush on her neck. Oh good Lord. What was she, fourteen?

“This is a pretty big shot for you, Jennifer,” Jason said, winking at me.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity,” I tried to sound pleasant, though I would have desperately loved to flip him off for his condescension.

“Well, familiarize yourself with the file,” Jason said. “We meet with the client for dinner tomorrow, seven p.m.”

“Sounds great,” I said, reaching out for the file as I stood. “I’ll get right on this.”

I began to head toward the door, but Jason stopped me. “I’d like a ten page summary of your initial ideas by tomorrow morning.” Inwardly, I groaned. It was common practice to come up with a list of ideas prior to a client meet up, but ten pages was way excessive. I hadn’t even met the bride yet.

“Sure, Jason,” I said sweetly. “No problem.”

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