This youtube site is a hoot. Several members of the group play pranks on the unsuspecting public:
Charlotte Hughes admits she is not a qualified therapist, psychiatrist, or even someone you'd want to take advice from. She is simply sharing what she has learned in years of therapy and self-help books. Therefore, if your life is screwed up, she suggests hiring a professional. By reading the information, you agree not to sue her.
This youtube site is a hoot. Several members of the group play pranks on the unsuspecting public:
In celebration of the release of Tall, Dark, and Bad! this week, See Bride Run! will be discounted at Amazon to only 99 cents from Sunday through Thursday. On Friday the price will return to its current price.
Click Here for the Deal (if it’s Sunday-Thursday)
An excerpt from the romance
Tall, Dark, and Bad
Available February 13th, 2015
Digital on Amazon Kindle
Trade Paperback everywhere
Summer had worked most of the night; as a result, her brain felt as if it had been stuffed with cobwebs. As she sipped another cup of coffee, she tried to find the file she had last worked on. It was nowhere to be found.
The trash! She vaguely remembered tossing a stack of newspapers into a Hefty bag before before carrying it out to the Dumpster. Could the file have been under the papers? She groaned and grabbed a flashlight from the kitchen.
Arriving at the Dumpster, she found at least two dozen bags just like the one she’d tossed in. She sighed and muttered a four-letter word as she tucked the flashlight beneath her jaw and climbed the metal ladder leading to the opening. She wrinkled her nose at the smell of old food. Had the file not been so important, she would have given up. Instead, she jumped and landed in a mountain of plastic bags. After searching diligently, she found the bag containing her file. She tossed the bag through the opening of the Dumpster and shined her flashlight about, trying to find a ladder that would lead her out.
Nothing. Not even a foothold. There was no way out, and nobody would think to look for her in a Dumpster, not even the security guard she’d passed on her way.
Time crawled by. She called for help. What if nobody showed up to empty their trash? What if she were forced to spend the rest of the day and even the night inside the metal container? What if– No, she wouldn’t allow herself to think about the possibility of rats or cockroaches. She waited.
She thought she heard a lawn mower. No, wait a minute. That was no lawnmower it was a motorcycle! The engine died, and all was silent. “Help!” she cried. “Is anybody out there?” A second later, Cooper peered into the opening.
“Well, would you look at that,” he said. “Somebody has gone and thrown away a perfectly good woman.”
Just in time for Valentine’s Day! The novel, Tall, Dark, and Bad
a contemporary romance, is available from Amazon in
Kindle format and most everywhere in print:
Summer Pettigrew is in desperate need of a fiancé, a temporary job, mind you . . .
One Thing on His Mind
Charlotte says: “I have to admit this is one of my sexier books, the hero exudes sensuality on every page.”
To find out more click here for the digital book on Amazon. The plan for other platforms (Nook, Apple, Google, etc.) is to publish more widely in about 6 months, meanwhile the trade paperback version is available at Barnes and Noble and other retailers.
I’m sure a lot of you have heard of the laughter clubs, but I only recently learned that the process is called Laughter Yoga. It actually started in India.
To find out more and actually see how these clubs work, check out the links below. You can actually watch various groups interact, some are hilarious! So if you don’t have a club near you, you can still get a laugh with your morning coffee by clicking on these links.
See Bride Run! Discounted from $5.99 to 2.99 for a limited time on Kindle starting Feb 2,2015. Buy it?
“They want to buy you a drink. Several, in fact. What’ll you have?”
“I don’t want anything right now,” Annie replied as politely as she could, considering her head felt as though it was ready to split open. “Would you happen to know where my friend went?”
“She left with that other feller. Said to tell you’d she’d be back in a jiffy.”
“When you see her, would you please tell her I’m waiting for her in the car?”
“What do I look like, Western Union?”
“I’m sorry to impose—”
“I’m just havin’ fun with you,” he said, his chubby face breaking into a grin. “I’ll tell her.”
Annie made her way out the door, leaving a good portion of the noise inside. She passed a couple of men sitting on the
tailgate of a truck but pretended not to see them.
“Hey, baby, you lookin’ for some comp’ny?”
“No thanks,” she said, and kept on walking.
“Hey, that ain’t no way to be,” one of them said as he caught up with her. “What’d I ever do to you?”
“Please—” She stopped and turned. He was a beefy fellow but she wasn’t sure if she should be scared or amused. He
spit a wad of chewing tobacco on the ground, and she shuddered. “I have a splitting headache, and I just want to be
alone,” she said. She resumed walking. Where the hell had Darla parked?
“I got a headache powder in the truck.”
Sure he did, Annie thought. And she had a hundred dollar bill in her pocket.
It finally hit her that Darla’s car was missing, and the thought of being stranded at a place like Ernie’s almost made her
weep. Why would Darla have left her? Especially knowing she didn’t have a dime to her name? She didn’t even have
enough money to call anyone. Besides, who would she call?
“You can drink it down with a cold beer, and that headache’ll be history.”
Annie saw a car turn off the highway into the parking lot, and she prayed it was Darla’s. She almost went weak with
relief when it turned out to be a Jeep driven by Sam Ballard. He pulled up beside her.
“Out slumming tonight, Annie?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“If you’re looking for trouble, this is the place to find it.” Sam slammed the Jeep into park and climbed out. Annie
noticed the stranger’s friend had come up and both of them towered over Sam.
“I asked you what the hell you’re doing and who these men are?” he almost shouted.
Annie’s jaw dropped. “I don’t have to take this—”
The man next to Annie nudged her. “Do you know this guy?”
“I happen to be her husband,” Sam said, his words clipped and precise. “She has a new baby at home waiting to be
nursed. She told me she was running to the store for disposable diapers.”
“Oh, well—” The man looked from Sam to Annie and back to Sam. “Hey, man, we don’t want to cause no trouble
between married folks. Me and my brother was just passing through town.” He regarded Annie. “You should be home
with your kid, lady.” He looked at the other man. “C’mon, let’s get outta here.”
Annie was glad it was dark and nobody could see the crimson color on her face. “That was despicable,” she told Sam.
“Would you rather see me get beat up by the rhino brothers?” He didn’t give her time to answer. “Where’s Darla, and
what the hell are you doing in a dark parking lot with some men you don’t know?”
“I don’t know where Darla is, and I don’t have to answer your questions.”
“Great. Then I’ll just leave you here to fend for yourself.” He turned and climbed back inside the Jeep.
“Wait!” Annie hurried over. “Darla’s car is gone. She took off with some guy named Hank.”
“So you decided to wait for her in a parking lot filled with drunk rednecks and bikers. Great idea, Annie,” he said,
sarcasm ringing loud in his voice. “Now I see why your father had to make your decisions.” He regretted his choice of
words the minute they left his mouth, the very second he saw Annie’s face fall. But, dammit, she could have gotten in
bad trouble there.
Sudden tears stung her eyes. “You can just go straight to hell for all I care.” She started walking.
He pulled up beside her. “I’m sorry, Annie. That was a lousy thing for me to say. Get in the car, and I’ll take you back
“I’d rather walk.”
“You can’t walk. It’s dangerous this time of night.”
“I can take care of myself. Contrary to what you might think,” she added angrily.
They had reached the highway. “I’ll bet you don’t even know how to get to Darla’s trailer.”
Annie wasn’t listening. It had been such a miserable day, not to mention humiliating as hell, and her head felt as
though it would explode. She had spent the better part of the evening wondering what she was going to do with her life
and cursing the fact that she hadn’t taken charge long ago. The last thing she needed was for Sam Ballard to show up
and rub her nose in it.
“Annie, I’m warning you, either get in the Jeep, or I’ll personally put you in.”
She kept walking.
Sam gunned his engine and parked a good distance ahead of her. He climbed out, then slammed the door so hard, his
Jeep rocked on its wheels. Teeth gritted, he closed the distance between him and Annie, then, without warning, hefted
her up and threw her over his shoulder. She kicked and squealed like a stuck pig.
“Shut up, dammit!” he ordered. “Folks’ll think I’m kidnapping you.” She screamed louder, and he gave her a sound
whack on the behind.
Annie saw red. She kicked her legs and flailed her arms and finally grabbed a handful of his hair. Sam let a few
obscenities fly before he realized someone had pulled up behind them. He turned but was blinded by headlights. He
blinked several times before he realized it was the highway patrol.
“Dammit to hell, Annie, look, what you’ve done now.” He heard the door open and close, was barely able to make out
the silhouette of a patrolman.
“What’s going on here?” the uniformed man said.
Annie continued to pummel Sam in the back but glanced around at the sound of another’s voice. “Oh, Officer, thank
God you’re here. I’m being abducted.”
“Abducted, huh?” The patrolman spit what looked like a wad of chewing tobacco on the ground, and Annie wondered if
everybody in Pinckney chewed it. “Well, we don’t put up with the likes of that in Pinckney, Georgia ma’am.” He reached
for his gun. “I reckon I don’t have any choice but to shoot him.”
In disbelief, Annie watched the patrolman pull his gun out of the holster and aim it at Sam. She screamed. “No, wait!”
“Put her down, pal,” the armed man said. “I’m warning you, I got this sucker aimed right for your goozle.”
Sam sighed heavily and dropped Annie to the ground. She landed in a heap.
“Now move away, lady, so I can finish him off.”
“Officer, please let me explain,” Annie cried, crawling along the gravel as fast as she could. She pulled herself up by the
man’s pants leg. “He, uh, Mr. Ballard here, was only offering me a ride. I was lying about being abducted.”
“He probably told you to say that, didn’t he?” The patrolman pushed her aside. “You need to turn your head, miss. I’ve
done this sort of thing before, and it ain’t a pretty sight.”
“Oh, my God, no!” Annie threw herself in front of Sam, acting as a shield.
Sam stood there with his arms crossed over his chest, the lines in his face tense, as if holding himself in check while
Annie sobbed and carried on like a character in a bad soap opera. “Okay, Buster, you’ve had your fun. I’d like to go
The other man chuckled and stuck his revolver back in its holster. “Listen, Sambo, you’re going to have to learn to start
charming the ladies a little better. You can’t just throw a woman over your shoulder like a sack of taters and haul her
off. You have to buy them flowers and candy and—” He paused and looked around as though wanting to make sure they
weren’t overheard. “You might have to write a few lines of poetry. It don’t matter if it don’t rhyme.”
Annie’s head swiveled from side to side. “Excuse me, but do you two know each other?”
Sam looked at her. “This is Johnny Ballard, my cousin. Folks call him Buster. He’s a real prankster.”
“So all this was just a big joke at my expense,” she said. She glared at Sam. “You let me grovel and beg for your life like
some idiot nutcase. How dare you!”
A car screeched to a halt, and Darla jumped out and came running. She looked panicked. “What’s wrong? Is somebody
“Well, now, ain’t you a sight for sore eyes,” Buster said. “Why don’t you and me go for a spin in my patrol car. I’ll even
let you play with my siren.”
“Annie, what’s going on?” Darla asked.
Annie tried to explain everything that had happened since she’d last seen her friend. It was all she could do to get the
words out, what with her stammering and sputtering. Her heart was still racing.
“Didn’t the bartender give you my message?” Darla asked. “Hank needed cigarettes. I told the bartender to tell you I
was going to the convenience store not far from here, and that I’d be right back. Only, I didn’t know Hank was going to
hang around and look at dirty magazines.”
“Would you please take me home?” Annie asked, realizing that she was trembling. “You’re welcome to go back to
Ernie’s and stay as long as you like, but I’m exhausted.”
“Sure, honey. We can go.”
“I’ll walk back,” Hank said, having come up in the meantime. He kissed Darla on the cheek. “I’ll call you, babe.”
Buster put his hand on Annie’s shoulder. “I hope I didn’t scare you, young lady. Sam and I are always cutting up.”
“Actually, I think the whole scene was disgraceful,” she said. “I hope you have your little notebook handy because you
need to file assault and battery charges.”
Buster looked startled as he reached into his pocket. “Is this for real?”
“I’ll let you decide,” Annie told him. She balled her hand into a tight fist, swung around with all her might, and
slammed it into Sam Ballard’s face. Sam, caught off guard, reeled back, lost his footing and sank to the ground.
When I wrote my last blog, Laughing Out Loud, I did not know all the health benefits derived from chuckling to guffawing. I already knew that laughter released endorphins, which makes you feel good. It improves your outlook. Your husband might appear better looking, for example.
The Big Wow is how it can reduce heart attacks, and the Bigger Wow is to what extent it can reduce the risk of SECOND heart attacks. Check it out from CNN:
I know that I’ve been MIA for quite some time now. As someone who is trying to pass herself off as a comedy writer, I debated sharing “non-comedic” information; but I hope to reach out to those of you who might need a bit of Christmas cheer in your stocking.
After a long battle, I lost my mom—my best friend—to cancer on March 25, 2011. The details aren’t important. What is important is how I got through it and how others who have written to me got through tough times as well.
We looked for reasons to laugh.
I published my first book in 1987, and since that time I have received hundreds of letters from readers who have suffered hardships—illness, death, divorce, unemployment—you name it, and they thanked me for making them laugh during those bleak periods.
When it was time for me to move on, I could not wrap my head around writing a 90K-100K word book. Fortunately, I was offered a position with a very nice agent; critiquing, line-editing, and mentoring new authors, which I did for a couple of years. I’m glad I had the opportunity because anyone who has ever tried to write a book knows how isolating the task. That was the last thing I needed. I found working with new authors very therapeutic, and I made a number of friends in the process.
Once I decided it was time to get back to the business of writing, I discovered the market had changed drastically and e-books were very popular. So I pulled out a couple of old romances and began the process of updating, revising, polishing, and more revising. At times it was tedious, but I realized something I had forgotten. I was pretty damn funny. As in laugh-out-loud, belly-busting, stitch-in-the-side funny. It sort of made up for all those blasted revisions. (Big eye-roll.)
It felt good to laugh. It felt wonderful! The dark clouds above me parted, and I was suddenly surrounded by pure sunshine. (Okay, I’m exaggerating. The only thing that reminds me of pure sunshine is laundry detergent with a bleach alternative, but this is my article, even if some of it is over-the-top.)
My romances will never earn a Pulitzer or hit the NY Times, but they weren’t meant to. They were written to entertain.
I was so thrilled to realize I had not forgotten to smile or laugh that I purchased a whole slew of old Archie and Jughead comic books! I put them in a basket beside my bed, and I actually read them. What a great idea! Instead of watching the eleven o’clock news and hearing all the awful stories—believe me, those stories will still be there in the morning—I had a blast reading about Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica.
Despite times of sorrow, we eventually have to get back to the task of living our lives. I don’t know about you, but I would rather do it with a smile on my face.
Buy the book in Kindle format from Amazon
Sam Ballard had just accused his head waitress, Darla Mae Jenkins, of cheating at cards when she suddenly noticed the commotion in front of the Dixieland Café.
“Great balls of fire! Would’ja get a load of that!”
Sam swiveled around on the red vinyl counter stool and gave a low whistle at the sight of the white stretch limo sitting in the middle of Main Street. “Well, now. I wasn’t aware of any celebrities visiting Pinckney. Must be here for the Okra Festival,” he added. He’d barely gotten the words out of his mouth before he noticed smoke seeping out from beneath the hood. “Uh-oh, looks like trouble in Tinsel town. I’d better go see about it.”
“Hey, wait for me,” Darla said, following him out of the restaurant. A number of people had already gathered on the sidewalk, including Mott Henry, the town drunk. From the looks of it, he hadn’t shaved or bathed in days. He watched the excitement for a moment, then turned and moseyed down the sidewalk toward the liquor store, obviously more interested in buying his next bottle than the commotion in the street. The Petrie sisters, still spry in their eighties, stood at the edge of the crowd, each holding a brown sack from Odom’s Grocery. They craned their necks to see over a group of teenage boys. “Is anyone in there?” a man in the crowd called out. “You can’t see diddly with them tinted windows.”
“I can’t figure it,” Darla said. “Why would anybody put tinted windows in a danged limo? Shoot, if I was riding in one of those suckers, I’d want the whole world to see.”
Sam was amused by the town’s response to the limo. One would have thought a flying saucer had just landed on Main Street, and everybody was waiting for the hatch to open. It just proved the town needed more in the way of entertainment. Mechanic, Bic Fenwick, owner of Fenwick’s Towing and Garage, happened by at that moment in his tow truck. He parked on the side of the street, climbed from his truck, and hurried over. “What’s goin’ on?” he asked Sam.
Sam shook his head. “I just got here. Darla and I saw smoke coming from beneath the hood. I figured I should investigate.”
Bic knocked on the driver’s window. “Hey there, did you know you got smoke comin’ out from under your hood?”
Sam chuckled. “I’d say it was a given, Bic.”
“Well, you never know what people can see with them tinted windows,” Bic said. He pressed his face against the window and squinted. “You want me to take a gander at what’s under your hood?” he shouted, as if the tinted windows might interfere with the person’s hearing as well.
Sam figured whoever was in the limo was having a good laugh. The window whispered down some five or six inches. Sam found himself looking into a pair of incredibly pretty green eyes, so pretty, in fact that he tried to think of the exact color and decided they must be what people referred to as Kelly-green. Her face was equally pretty, framed by hair the color of ripened wheat. Some kind of net clung to the fat curls, and Sam thought he caught sight of a pink tiara. He leaned forward. “Excuse me, miss, but you can’t leave this thing sitting in the middle of the road. You’re blocking traffic.”
As if to prove his point, a man in a pickup truck blew his horn. Sam waved him around. Annie gave an enormous sigh. As if her day had not been bad enough. She had spent the last half hour trying to make it from the interstate to the town of Pinckney before the limo died because she could not bear the thought of walking eight to ten miles in her wedding gown. Not only that, she was furious with Snedley. How could a paid chauffeur not know the limo was on the verge of having major problems? She supposed she should cut him some slack because his prostate problem had probably garnered much of his attention.
“Did you hear me, miss?” Sam asked. “You’re going to have to move your vehicle. You’re blocking traffic,” he repeated.
Annie could not hide her annoyance. Did the man think her daft, for Pete’s sake? She knew she was blocking traffic, but there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it. “Thanks for your input, Einstein,” she said loudly, “but it won’t budge so I don’t have much choice in the matter.”
Bic looked at Sam. “Einstein?” he repeated. “I don’t think she appreciated what you said.”
“Well, lucky for me I’m not trying to win a popularity contest,” Sam told Bic, even though he was peeved that the woman had resorted to name calling. “I need for it to be gone before my early bird customers arrive,” he added.
“How come you’re worried about people parking at the curb?” Bic asked. “You’ve got that big parking lot on the side and back of the restaurant?”
“Because a couple of my early bird customers are in wheelchairs, and some of the others just have a hard time getting around. It’s easier for their families to park in front of the restaurant and help them to the door.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Bic said. “Maybe I can figure out what’s causing all that smoke.” He addressed the woman inside of the car. “Miss, do you see a hood release in there?” he asked and told her where to look for it. He glanced at Sam and rolled his eyes. “’Least that’s where you’d find a hood release in most cars. No telling where they put ‘em in these big suckers.”
“Probably next to the wet bar and Jacuzzi,” Sam said quietly. The woman in the car might have the prettiest green eyes he’d ever seen, but damned if he was going to get involved in a verbal tussle with her. Sam heard a metallic click, and Bic opened the hood. Smoke billowed out like a mushroom cloud.
“Jeez, Louise!” Bic said, backing away from the vehicle and snatching a cloth from his back pocket which he used to wipe his face.
“What’s going on here?” a voice said. Sam turned and found himself staring into Sheriff Harry Hester’s face. He was so bald that most folks called him Howie—for Howie Mandel—behind his back.
Bic answered. “This here limo is putting out more smoke than a bonfire. I’m trying to figure out what’s causing it.” Sam leaned close to the sheriff. “There is a lady inside. I may as well tell you, she’s a bit mouthy.”
“Oh, yeah?” Hester said. “We’ll see about that.” Sixty-year-old Marge Dix elbowed her way through the crowd. Most considered her a sourpuss. “Would you just look at that?” she said, her voice bristling with indignation. “Here we have starving people in this world, and we got folks driving cars the size of mobile homes. I hope whoever it is doesn’t plan on settling in Pinckney. I just can’t abide such vulgarity. Makes me ill, that’s what it does.”
Darla, who had been quiet up to that moment, pretended to give Marge a sympathetic look. “Then I wouldn’t look if I were you, Marge, honey,” Darla said. “If something made me that sick, I’d march right home, lock the doors, and pull the shades.”
Marge regarded Darla. “The Bible says we should store our treasures in heaven.”
“Some of us don’t want to wait that long for nice things,” the waitress replied.
Sheriff Hester stepped closer to the limo and tried to peer at the woman through the crack. “Miss, I need to see your driver’s license,” he said, “and I may as well tell you, a little kindness goes a long way in this town so you might want to be a bit more tolerant of our citizens.”
“You go, Howie,” Darla said.
Hester shot her a dark look. “Watch it, Darla Mae, or I’ll write you a ticket for having an eighteen-wheeler parked in your front yard last weekend.”
Annie gave another sigh. She should have taken a chance and gone back inside the church for her purse. She wished she could magically disappear; instead, it looked as though she was going to suffer her share of indignities. “I’m sorry Sheriff, but I do not have my license with me.” Annie waited, knowing he would derive a great deal of pleasure from that fact.
“Oh, really?” Sheriff Hester looked about the crowd. “Seems these rich folks don’t have to follow the same rules as the rest of us,” he said.
“That’s precisely what I’m talking about,” Marge Dix said to Darla. “Some people think they are better than us normal folks.” Marge looked at the sheriff. “Driving without a license carries a stiff fine, doesn’t it, Sheriff Hester?”
Sam frowned. He’d never cared for Marge Dix who was the town busybody.
“A fine?” Hester said. “Oh, yes. Not to mention possible jail time.” A smile twitched the corners of his lips. He was obviously enjoying himself. “She’d better show me a registration for that thing, or there’ll be a hanging in the courthouse square.” Several in the crowd chuckled.
Darla threw up her hands. “I don’t believe what I’m hearing.” She looked at Sam. “Do something!”
Sam pulled Hester aside. “I would tone it down if I were you,” he told Hester. “You don’t want to get hit with a lawsuit. If someone can afford to drive a car like this they probably have enough money to keep a lawyer on retainer.”
Annie was past being angry; she was furious. The man was no better than her father; out to make people feel small and stupid. “Then get your rope ready, Barney Fife,” she yelled as loud as she could, “because I don’t have the registration either.”
Darla laughed out loud. “You go, girl!” Several of the onlookers cheered.
The sheriff colored fiercely. He stepped closer to the limo and leaned forward to get a better look at Annie. “Sam was right; you do have a mouth on you,” he said, “but as an elected official, sworn to protect the citizens of this town, I do not appreciate you acting disrespectful to me.”
“Let’s get something straight, Sheriff,” Annie said. “First of all, I’m no threat to anyone. I don’t own a weapon and never have. You are free to search my vehicle. “Secondly, I have the utmost respect for law officials, but I will not tolerate being publicly ridiculed just so you can look like a big shot. Further, I don’t know that you aren’t some kind of nutcase who would actually hang me in the courthouse square, shoot me, or lock me up for the rest of my life so I consider that a threat. However, I do have rights so I’m allowed to call my attorney, and when he is finished with you, you’ll regret ever laying eyes on me.” Annie smiled. So what’s it going to be, Sheriff?”
“She’s good,” Darla whispered to Sam.
Sam shrugged. “Not bad,” he said.
In a flash, Sheriff Hester’s demeanor changed. “How’m I supposed to know this automobile belongs to you?”
“You could give her sodium pentothal,” Marge suggested.
Annie didn’t hesitate. “This vehicle belongs to my father. I borrowed it.”
“You borrowed it,” Hester said flatly. “Who is your father?”
Annie glanced at the woman beside him, Marge something-or-other, who was clearly the town gossip. “I would rather not say at this time.”
Hester seemed to understand. “Okay,” he said to the crowd. I want everybody to back away from the vehicle. Not you, Bic,” he added quickly. “You keep looking under the hood; see what you can find out.” Bic nodded and went back to what he was doing. “As for the rest of you, if you insist on hanging around you can stand on the sidewalk. You, too, Marge,” he added. He looked at Sam and Darla. “I would appreciate it if you two would stay put.”
“That’s not fair!” Marge said.
“They’re witnesses,” Hester said, sounding irritated with her, “not that I should have to defend my decision. Now move to the sidewalk or go home,” he added. Marge gave him a dirty look but did as she was told.
Sheriff Hester turned back to Annie. “I hope when you speak to your attorney you’ll tell him I did not drag you to the station for questioning, that I allowed you to sit in your daddy’s comfy limo with the window rolled down only a few inches, and that I assured you every word would be handled in the strictest of confidence. This is not how I normally conduct my, um, interviews.” He produced a small notebook and pen. “Now, then, where were we?”
“You asked me to give you my father’s name,” she said. “It is Winston Hartford. I am Katherine Anne Hartford, although I prefer to be called Annie since it is less formal.”
“And where are you from, Miss Hartford?” Hester asked. “Atlanta.” Sam let out a low whistle. Darla and Hester looked at him. “What? Hester asked. “Am I missing something?”
“Depends,” Sam said, not taking his eyes off Annie. “Your father wouldn’t happen to be in the iron and steel business?”
“Yes,” Annie said. “Very impressive,” Sam replied.
“Do you know her father?” Darla asked before Hester had a chance.
“I know of him,” Sam said. He looked at Hester. “Miss Hartford is heir to one of the biggest iron and steel companies in the southeast.”
Annie blushed. She always felt uncomfortable when people discussed the family finances.
Harry hooked his thumbs inside his belt. He seemed to ponder Sam’s words. “If that’s true, then I’m very impressed, but without a driver’s license or other form of ID, there’s no way to prove it.”
“You can’t disprove it,” Sam said.
“My father’s picture, as well as his business and other ventures are all over the Internet,” Annie said. “As is information about me.” She looked at Hester. “I would hope that would serve as an I.D. for now.”
“For now, what I’d really like is for you to step out of the car,” Hester said.
Annie paled at the thought. A number of people were still watching from the sidewalk, including the nosy blabbermouth, Marge. Annie would be the laughingstock of the town once they saw her in all her wedding garb. “I would rather not,” she said.
The sheriff looked surprised. “Is there a problem? Are you handicapped in some way? Do I need to send for a wheelchair?”
“No, nothing like that,” she said quickly. “It’s just—”
“I have been very patient with you, Miss,” he said. “Now, please remove yourself from the vehicle.”
Giving an enormous sigh, Annie hit the automatic door unlock and reached for the handle. The sheriff stepped back as she opened the door and tried to extricate herself from the front seat of the limousine. Her cheeks flamed a bright red as the crowd stared in disbelief.
The woman in the waitress uniform hurried over and tried to help her. Once Annie was out and standing among them, everybody stared. “Oh, my Lord,” Darla said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Annie longed to crawl beneath a large rock and never come out. Sam stared as well at what looked to be hundreds of yards of white satin and lace that made up the most elaborate bridal gown he’d ever laid eyes on. She still wore her veil although it hung askew, and her tiara looked as though it was barely hanging on. Seeing her face in the light was almost humbling. Her facial bones were delicate and very feminine, her skin flawless and glowing. Her mouth was full and sexy as hell. He could not help but stare openly.
From See Bride Run!
by Charlotte Hughes Buy
The wedding had the makings of a fairytale. The groom, Eldon Wentworth, was charismatic, movie-star handsome, and came from old money. Eldon had studied abroad, traveled the world, and was considered one of Atlanta’s most eligible bachelors.
Annie Hartford was lovely with her fresh-scrubbed look, large, Kelly-green eyes, and blond hair that tumbled past her shoulders. Her gown—an haute couture Oleg Cassini—was a stunner: a strapless ball gown with a jeweled bodice that shimmered when she moved. From the waist, creamy satin spilled down multi-layered crinoline, creating a voluminous skirt.
A frothy veil was fixed in place by a small tiara with pink diamonds. It had shamed even the larger tiaras with their ornate multi-karat white diamonds, all pulled from a safe in Tiffany’s and placed on a velvet tray for her perusal. Most people would not suspect how unique—not to mention costly—the pink stones were, but Annie had been raised in an environment where women recognized a precious stone at fifty paces, and most husbands purchased at least one ridiculously extravagant car.
That was Annie’s world. At twenty-nine years old, Annie Hartford was sole heir to a billion dollar empire.
Now, on her wedding day, Annie paced about in one of the church’s parlors—it was difficult to sit with all the crinolines—her thoughts swirling like confetti riding a wind gust.
Sitting on a velvet settee, the Hartford’s long time employee, Vera Holmes, fretted. At sixty-something, she was still attractive. She had decided on her sixtieth birthday to stop coloring her hair, and the soft dove gray color only emphasized her nice skin. She was usually calm, but not today. She had picked off most of the light pink polish on her nails.
The wedding planner, Susan, had gushed over the bridal gown and tiara before quickly going over what they’d practiced at the rehearsal. “My assistant will tap on your door once the last of the attendants get near the altar, and you’ll join your father in the narthex. Don’t worry; my assistant will see that your gown and veil are arranged perfectly before you make your way down the aisle. Also, do not let the number of guests intimidate you,” she added, “and remember to smile.” She hurried from the room.
Are you okay?” Vera asked.
“I’m perfectly fine,” Annie said. She knew the guest list of six hundred was her father’s way of showing off, as were the six hundred lobsters flown in from Portland, Maine during the night; and the small orchestra presently playing Mozart’s Eine Klein Nachmusik, to early arrivals. Winston Hartford did not want an old lady with blue-tinted hair playing the organ at his daughter’s wedding.
Annie glanced at the wall clock beside the door.
Forty-five minutes until show time . . .
Annie had not been looking for a husband when she ran into Eldon Wentworth at Hartford Iron and Steel, a 300,000 square foot facility of warehouse and processing center. The facility was massive by Atlanta’s standards and had grown from the small company her great-great grandfather founded in 1930. She and her father were meeting for lunch to discuss an upcoming conference.
Eldon had been at the plant looking at ornamental iron for a property he had purchased. When he spotted Annie, he hurried over and introduced himself. “I attended Duke University with your brother,” he’d said. “I spoke to you briefly at the funeral, but that was what . . . almost ten years ago? Hard to believe.”
Annie looked him over. Dark blond hair, perfect teeth, medium build. Snazzy dresser; Ralph Lauren cashmere sweater, designer jeans, and Armani loafers. He was good looking enough that, under normal circumstances she might have noticed and remembered him; yet unlikely at her brother’s funeral. She shook her head. “I’m sorry.”
“I completely understand,” he’d replied. “I just wanted you to know that I was proud to call Bradley a close friend.”
“Thank you,” Annie said.
Eldon had gone on to share funny tales of her brother’s antics. Annie felt Bradley was nearby, laughing right along with them. “I was the quiet, well-behaved twin,” she said, “and Bradley was the mischief-maker. Hard to believe we shared the same real estate for nine months.” Eldon looked surprised. “Did you not realize Bradley had a twin sister?” Annie asked.
He was prevented from answering when they heard a noise in the doorway. Winston Hartford stood there, looking from one to the other. Annie froze. Despite the passing years, Bradley was seldom discussed in her father’s presence. His death in an auto accident still held the man in a grip. Grief had changed the landscape of his face, scoring deep lines across his forehead and each side of his mouth. His heart seemed as brittle as the leaves on the azalea bushes after a freezing rain.
Annie had watched in disbelief as her father shook Eldon’s hand and invited him to lunch, where they shared stories of Bradley’s shenanigans. Annie could not help but wonder if Eldon was just a likeable sort or if her father was finally chipping away the wall that contained his anger.
Thirty-five minutes . . .
Annie and Eldon dated only three months before becoming engaged, at which time Winston Hartford began grooming Eldon for a managerial role at the plant. Annie had to bite her tongue. That her father did not think a woman capable of running Hartford Iron and Steel was a constant irritant.
With the wedding only weeks away, Annie ran into Bradley’s best friend from high school and college, nicknamed Jimbo. He had taken Bradley’s death especially hard.
“I heard you were engaged,” he’d said. “Who is the lucky guy?”
“Eldon Wentworth,” she’d said. “An old friend of Bradley’s. You should hear some of the funny stories he tells.” She noticed Jimbo’s frown. “What’s wrong?”
“Your fiancé is a liar, Annie. Bradley and Eldon were not friends,” he’d said. “To my knowledge, they never even spoke.”
Annie was stunned.
“Eldon wasn’t at Duke very long. He was expelled during the second semester for cheating on an exam.”
“Why would he lie?” she asked.
“It’s no secret that you are the sole heir to a mega fortune. You need to dump the guy as quickly as you can and be done with him.”
Thirty minutes . . .
Annie had called Eldon and immediately broke off the engagement. “You’re a pathological liar. You and Bradley were never friends. You did not even know he had a twin when we met, which I find odd since he and I spoke by phone almost every day. I also know that you were kicked out of Duke for cheating on an exam.”
“You’re overreacting,” Eldon had said. “Your dad loved hearing the stories and so did you. I gave you what you wanted.”
Twenty-five minutes . . .
When Annie arrived home several hours later, she was summoned to her father’s study. It reminded her of the time he had called Bradley and her in to announce their mother was leaving, and they would live with him. They’d been four years old at the time and did not quite grasp it until later.
“What do you think you’re doing breaking off your engagement?” he demanded.
“Eldon lied,” she said. “He never even met Bradley.” She filled him in.
“I demand that you stop repeating rumors about Eldon. He comes from one of the oldest, most well-respected families in Atlanta?”
“Pass the business to me, Father,” she’d said. “I know more about running Hartford Iron and Steel than most of your managers. I worked in the plant for five summers while growing up. I have ideas, good ones.”
“Your place is by your husband’s side, running the family estate, looking after the Hartford Foundation, and—”
Annie interrupted. “Giving dinner parties for your customers, sending hams to the employees at Christmas for ten years,” she added. “I deserve a chance to prove myself within the company.” She swallowed. “Or I quit.”
He looked shocked. “Do not speak to me that way.”
“I’m not going to marry a liar and a cheat just to make you happy,” she had said emphatically. “I refuse to be bullied by you any longer.”
Her father had slammed both fists on his desk. “You will marry Eldon,” he’d shouted. “You will walk down the aisle wearing the dress and tiara that cost me a fortune. You will not embarrass me in front of six hundred people, not to mention the media. Do you know how I know?”
Annie remained silent.
“I just got off the phone with my banker. I have frozen all your accounts and canceled your credit cards. Your fancy sports car is not available to you at the moment. If you leave this house it will be by foot and with only the clothes on your back. You will be homeless.”
Annie felt as though she’d been punched in the chest. She wondered if he had done the same thing to her mother or worse. That would explain why the woman had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth.
Ten minutes . . .
Vera and Annie gazed out the window of the church where her father’s white stretch-limousine was parked. The plan was, once she and Eldon had taken their vows and the photographer his pictures, they were to be driven to the St. Regis where three adjoining ball rooms would accommodate the reception and luncheon. She and Eldon were to spend the night and board a plane for Venice the following day.
“What are you going to do, Annie?” Vera whispered, bringing her back to the present.
Annie looked at her. “I’m not going through with it. I’d rather be broke and homeless than marry a man I detest.”
Vera smiled and said, “I knew that would be your answer. I slipped two thousand dollars inside your purse. I can drive you to a friend’s house. She will be a good friend to you as well, Annie.”
“Oh, Vera,” Annie said, feeling the sting of tears. “I can never thank you enough for everything.”
Vera was tearful as well. “Would you like for me to call your father in?” Annie dreaded it. Six hundred wedding guests. Her father’s wrath would fly into her face like a horde of angry hornets.
And then it hit her: Winston Hartford was too smart to take a chance on something like this happening. He had changed her entire life within three hours of her breaking off the engagement; he’d had weeks to come up with a plan should Annie try to weasel out of the wedding. But what else could he do to her?
She feared the answer was standing right in front of her. He would go after the only person she had left that she really loved.
Annie frowned when the chauffeur suddenly jumped from the limo and hurried toward the back of the church. “What’s wrong with Snedley?”
“He has prostate trouble, the poor man,” Vera said. “Runs to the men’s room every fifteen minutes.” She sighed and headed for the door.
“Wait!” Annie said. “Where does that door lead?” she asked, motioning to a solid oak door on the opposite side of the room.
“To the back of the church,” Vera said. “The Sunday school rooms and offices,” she added, “plus a big kitchen and a couple of dining rooms. Why?”
“Does Snedley ever leave the keys in the limo? Is there a spare?”
“I don’t know. Why are you asking?”
Eight minutes . . .
“I need for you to detain him when he comes out of the men’s room so I can get away.”
“Get away?” Vera frowned. “How?”
“I’m going to make a run for the limo.”
“Oh, Lord!” Vera said. She looked like she might faint.
“I don’t want you and Snedley to get into trouble. All you have to do is say you had no idea I was planning anything.”
Someone knocked on the door.
Five minutes . . .
“That’s the assistant,” Vera said. “Just a minute,” she called out softly. She looked at Annie. “Check the ashtray for keys. I seem to recall something about the ashtray. Now, listen carefully,” she said. “Take the interstate south to Pinckney, Georgia. It is three hours away. Find Lillian Calhoun. I’ll call you when I feel it’s safe. Your father will be watching me.”
Another knock, this one impatient . . .
Two minutes . . .
“I love you,” Annie said and kissed her on the cheek. She threw open the door, gathered an armful of satin and crinoline and raced toward an Exit sign. The limo was parked some thirty feet away. Fortunately, the media had set up their cameras at the front of the church. There was nobody in sight.
It suddenly occurred to Annie that she had left her purse inside the parlor. “Dammit!” she said. She had no money, no driver’s license or ID, no clothes, nothing! Just a stupid wedding gown.
She could not risk going back. It was now or never. To continue you can Buy See Bride Run!