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Authors: Deanna Lynn Sletten

Destination Wedding ~ A Novel (4 page)

BOOK: Destination Wedding ~ A Novel
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As the plane landed in Marsh Harbour, James decided he'd keep his divorce to himself for as long as he was able. There was no sense dumping that information onto a fun family vacation and Mandy's special day. He'd make up an excuse for Diane's absence. He was pretty sure that no one was going to miss her anyway. He sure as hell knew he wasn't going to.

 

Chapter Four

 

 

There was a bustle of activity once the plane landed in the small Bahamian airport in Marsh Harbour. The group disembarked, picked up their carry-ons, then waited while the larger bags were unloaded. Soon they were going through customs where two pleasant local men asked them a few questions before sending them on their way. Throughout it all, Claire was near the front of the group and Jim was at the back, so there was no time for them to exchange words.

Taxis in the form of minivans waited outside to take people to their next destination. Their group needed to get to the ferry that would take them to the tiny island in the Abaco chain where they were staying. Claire, Mandy, Craig, Kaylie, Mark, Glen, and Lisa squeezed into one van while the others all piled into another. After a short drive, the friendly woman driver deposited them at the ferry office.

Claire took charge and bought tickets for the group to ride the ferry. Everyone left their luggage for the handlers to load onto the ferry and they all went outside into the beautiful Bahama sunshine to enjoy the warm weather. After coming from mucky snow and forty-degree days, the eighty degrees here was a welcome relief to them all. Everyone's spirits were rising at the idea of spending seven full days in paradise.

They all walked down to the dock and that was when Claire noticed Jim for the first time. He came bounding down to the dock and wrapped Mandy into a big bear hug.

"Dad! Finally," Mandy squealed. Father and daughter hugged, which made Claire's heart swell. True, she wasn't thrilled he was here, but she was happy he was here for Mandy.

As they hugged, Claire discretely looked around for Diane. Claire wondered where she was hiding.

"Hello, Claire," Jim said, coming up beside her. They hugged awkwardly, more for show than from affection. Claire felt how solid and in shape he was.

"Hi, Jim," was all Claire managed to say.

Jim went around the group saying hello, shaking hands with Craig and his parents, and giving out hugs to Lisa and Kaylie. Glen slapped him on the back as a good natured greeting.

"So, old man, how are you doing?" Glen asked. Both men were of almost equal height and equal age and both had easy-going personalities. When they were married, Claire and Jim had always had a fun time visiting with Glen and Lisa.

"Old man, eh?" Jim replied, grinning at Glen. "You're just as old as I am, so watch it."

Claire frowned as she watched the two men interact. She suddenly realized just how much she missed family get-togethers like this, and it made her sad that they weren't the same anymore since the divorce.

"Just like old times, isn't it?" Lisa said to Claire as she came up beside her.

Claire smiled over at her sister-in-law. Lisa was the same height at Claire, but her hair was dark brown and cut at chin length for ease of style. Lisa lived the San Diego lifestyle to the fullest when she wasn't working as a paralegal in a law firm. She ran every day and played tennis and surfed. Her lean, muscular body showed how much work she put into it.

"Yep. Just like old times," Claire said, wrapping her arm around Lisa's waist in a hug.

A ferry worker announced that they'd be leaving in five minutes. The wedding group came together at the end of the dock to board.

"Daddy? Where's Diane?" Mandy called out to her father. Claire looked up in time to see an odd look cross Jim's face. He walked over closer to Mandy. Claire inched over toward them to hear what he was saying.

"I'm sorry, honey, but she decided not to come," Jim told her quietly.

Claire almost clapped her hands in delight, but then decided that wouldn't be appropriate and stayed still.

"Why not?" Mandy asked, apparently not willing to let the subject go.

Jim took a deep breath. "Well, sweetie, I just think she didn't feel comfortable spending an entire week with our family."

"That's ridiculous," Mandy shot back. "We've done everything possible to make her feel welcome. What more does she want?"

Jim stepped closer to Mandy. "Don't let it upset you, dear. It's not about you, believe me. Let's not let her ruin our good time here, okay?"

Mandy nodded then turned toward Craig and walked away. It was obvious she wasn't happy with this new development. Claire understood how she felt. After all, everyone, Claire included, had been kind to Diane despite the situation. How dare Diane act as if she were the persecuted one.

Jim just stood there, looking lost. For some unknown reason, Claire felt badly for him. She walked over and spoke quietly. "I'm sorry Diane isn't coming."

Jim turned to Claire and tossed her one of his rakish grins. "Are you? Really?" he asked. Then he winked, turned, and followed behind Mandy and the rest of the group.

Anger rose inside of Claire. Here she was, trying to be nice, and he had the nerve to question her sincerity. And with that damn grin of his. No man, especially one his age, had the right to look so damn cute when he was pissing her off. He was intolerable.

They all finally boarded the ferry, which was packed to the brim with people and luggage. All four rows of padded bench seats were full by the time everyone sat down. Jim had been one of the last men on because he played the gentlemen and helped the ladies in their group step up on the unsteady ferry. When he offered Claire his hand, she'd accepted, rolling her eyes. She didn't want his help, but she also didn't want to slip and fall into the water, either.

Their group sat together in a line, each couple sitting together. By the time Jim came to sit, the only spot left was next to Claire.

"Do you mind?" he asked, pointing to the small spot left on the end of the bench beside her. "Looks like it's the last seat on the ferry."

Claire sighed, but scooted over as close as she could next to Mandy. Everyone on the bench shifted to make room.

"Thanks," Jim said with a smile.

The ferry took off and was soon speeding out in the open ocean, heading to the island. Everyone in their group started to get excited about seeing the little island for the first time. When Mandy and Craig had chosen to be married in the Bahamas, neither one of them had ever actually visited there. They'd first thought of going to a large resort, but then abandoned that idea when they found this lovely little island with a charming resort and adorable village. The island was only five miles long and half a mile wide and there were stretches of white sand beaches all around it. The couple had loved the idea of enjoying a quiet island experience instead of a busy, all-inclusive vacation resort. Claire had like it, too, the first time she'd seen photos of it online. It was the exact type of place that suited Mandy's low-key personality, and Claire understood why they'd chosen this out-of-the-way place.

Throughout the ride, Claire was extremely aware of how close Jim sat next to her. His leg kept brushing against hers and their hips touched every time the boat hit a wave. Try as she might, Claire couldn't move any closer to Mandy to get away from Jim. Finally, she crossed her right leg over her left to avoid his leg rubbing hers. Mandy had looked over at her with a puzzled frown, but didn't say anything.

The island finally appeared and soon they pulled through a channel into a natural harbor that was surrounded three-quarters of the way by land. On one side stood a candy cane striped lighthouse and on the other were buildings and docks set among the lush vegetation. The ferry stopped at several large docks to let passengers disembark before it finally arrived at the Harbour View Lodge's dock where Claire and her group were staying.

Once Claire stepped off the ferry onto the dock, she looked around in utter amazement. After having just come from Minnesota with the snow still on the ground and the grey, wet days, the contrast of this lovely jewel of an island was breathtaking. Lush, green plants grew in abundance with flowers of bright pink, yellow, and red blooming profusely. Palm trees, both short and tall, swayed in the gentle breeze, and all the buildings were painted cheery tropical colors of aqua, yellow, blue, pink, and green. Golf carts sped down the narrow streets, because cars were not allowed on the island. To call this place paradise was an understatement. It felt more like Heaven.

"Amazing, isn't it?" Jim asked as he came up beside her. Claire turned and nodded, smiling, until she realized who she was smiling at.

"Yes, it's beautiful," she said, letting her smile fade. She wasn't going to waste a good smile on him.

"Come on, Mom, Dad," Mandy called, waving them up the dock. "The lodge is this way."

"After you," Jim said, sweeping his arm in front of Claire. Claire walked ahead of him and caught up with the group right behind Janice and Carl. They crossed the street and walked under the painted archway that quaintly announced Harbour View Lodge, and then headed up the flight of cement stairs that led up the hill to the resort. Employees from the resort drove their luggage up and around the back and would carry it to their rooms.

The stairs led them to an open patio area that was surrounded by palm trees and flowering bushes and overlooked the lovely little harbor filled with yachts and sailboats anchored of shore. Towering above the patio was the three-story lodge where rooms had both a harbor and ocean view. The building was painted white with a dark blue trim. It all had a feel of an old-time resort from the 1940s. There was a breezeway that went between the lodge and restaurant, and from there a cheery, round woman dressed in bright, tropical colors came out and welcomed them.

"You must be our Minnesota wedding party," she said. "My, my, but look at all the blonds and blue eyes we have here."

Everyone in the group laughed.

Another woman came out wearing a yellow, floral dress that made her brown skin glow. She carried a tray of filled champagne glasses.

"This is Aneese," the first woman said, "And my name is Sandra. Welcome. I'm the resort's manager. Feel free to come to me with any questions or concerns you may have. Aneese manages the restaurant and the bar. Why don't you all just sit out here and enjoy the champagne and I'll just talk to the bride and groom and their parents for a minute to get the rooms set up."

The group of young people along with Glen and Lisa all accepted a glass and Claire followed Mandy and Craig along with Jim and the Fishers into the office where Sandra had led them. Sandra sat down at her desk, and opened her laptop computer.

"Now, let's see. We have two cottages reserved, one cabana, and three lodge rooms," Sandra said, looking at her computer. "The bride and groom have a cottage and so do Glen and Lisa Goodwin, is that correct?"

"Yes," Mandy said. Sandra gave Mandy the keys for both cottages and told her where they were located, down near the beach.

"Now, Mr. and Mrs. Fisher. I take it you're the groom's parents?"

"Yes," Janice answered.

"I see you have a lodge room. Here's your key, it's on the second floor. It's a lovely room, I'm sure you'll be very comfortable there."

Sandra started handing out more keys to Mandy and Craig to give to their friends. Cameron and Angela had a cabana down near the pool and Kaylie and her boyfriend had a room on the third floor.

"Now," Sandra said, smiling up at Claire and Jim. "That just leaves the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Martin."

Claire frowned.
Why was this woman putting their names together?

Sandra handed Jim a key. "Your room is also on the third floor. It's 3A. You're going to love this room. It has a balcony and a lovely view of the ocean, and of course all the rooms have a harbor view as well."

Claire stood silent a moment.
What about her key?

"Well, that's it. Be sure to let me know if you need anything at all," Sandra said. "And tomorrow when you get a chance, pop in and we'll finalize the wedding plans for Saturday."

Claire looked over at Mandy. Mandy looked back at her, confused.

"Um, we need one more room," Mandy said. "My mom booked a third floor room, too."

Sandra blinked. She looked from Jim to Claire. "I'm sorry. Aren't you the bride's mother?"

"Yes," Claire said. "But I have my own room. It was booked under my name, Claire Martin."

Sandra walked back to her desk and peered at her computer. "It says here there is a room for Mr. & Mrs. Jim Martin. It was originally a cottage, but then Mr. Martin called to cancel the cottage and requested the room instead."

Mandy stepped over to the desk. "Yes, that was for my Dad and his wife. But my Mom also booked a room for herself. It was with the original room bookings."

Sandra stared at her computer as if an answer would come to her. She bit her lip. "I'm confused. Isn't Mrs. Martin your mother?"

"Yes, she is," Mandy said. "But my parents are divorced. There is another Mrs. Martin who was supposed to share the room with my Dad, but she didn't come after all. My parents need separate rooms."

Claire watched and listened to the whole exchange growing more and more nervous. She grabbed her charm bracelet and began slowly twirling it on her wrist.

"I'm sorry," Sandra said. "I'm not sure how it happened, but when Mr. Martin switched from the cottage to a room, it must have been assumed he would be in Mrs. Martin's room. We had no idea there were two Mrs. Martins."

Claire's eyes grew wider by the minute.

"Then we'll need another room," Mandy said calmly.

Sandra looked up at her with a strange look on her face. "You don't understand. We have no more available rooms. The lodge is booked solid for the entire week. We have three wedding parties here, and all the rooms, cabanas, and cottages are full."

Mandy looked over at her mom, a panicked look on her face. Claire stepped up to the desk. "Well, there must be something," she said. "I mean, you can't expect me and Jim to share a room. Are you sure you're booked full? Maybe there's just a mistake in the computer."

BOOK: Destination Wedding ~ A Novel
12.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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