Stacey Jerome always believed Zach Taylor only married her because she became pregnant, and her thoughts were confirmed when he left town to start a career as a race car driver right after she miscarried the baby. Having gone on with her life since then, Stacey moved to the big city and built up a business as a wedding consultant, giving brides the dream day she never had. Imagine her shock when a glance down the aisle during one ceremony finds her looking into the eyes of her husband, a man she hasn’t heard from in seven years!
Stacey Jerome checked her watch. Timing was perfect. With a quiet glow of satisfaction, she smiled at the bride nervously waiting. She reached out and twitched the gown into a perfect fold. The train was spread out behind, the lace and beading shimmered in the light.
The father of the bride cleared his throat. “Time?” he asked.
“In just a moment the organ will begin the wedding march, that’ll be your cue,” she said easily. After five years of managing weddings big and small, she was confident in all the plans made for this particular one.
Marcie Evans was radiant. Stacey felt a pang, as she did at almost every wedding, remembering her own hurried affair at Carson Valley City Hall. She’d always dreamed of a lavish wedding, complete with bridal gown, a half dozen bridesmaids and a celebration reception with family and friends that went on forever. She hadn’t had that, so she did her best to give a perfect day to every one of her clients.
The organist shifted from the music she’d played for the bridesmaids’ entry to Lohengren’s Wedding March. The familiar chords filled Grace Cathedral resounding loud enough to be heard outside by tourists and San Franciscans alike. Stacey smiled in reassurance.
“I’ll meet you right here after the ceremony,” she assured Marcie. “We’ll take photos at the altar and then head for the reception.”
As the bride began her walk down the long aisle of the old cathedral, Stacey watched from the door. The huge church was almost filled to capacity. Harry Evans was a City Councilman, a patron of the opera and one of the richest men in San Francisco. His only daughter was marrying a man he deemed worthy of her, so he had pulled out all stops.
Stacey’s gaze moved to the groom. His eyes were for Marcie only. She smiled again. This was going to be perfect. Her gaze drifted around the standing congregation. One man, near the front on the groom’s side, stood taller than the people surrounding him. He turned his head and his gaze locked with hers. For a moment Stacey’s heart stopped. It couldn’t be! She felt the church spin around her. It was a coincidence, someone who looked like Zach. He couldn’t be here. He was off daring death on his wild need to race Formula One cars at record speeds.
She almost marched down the aisle to him, but reason took hold. Then, with a wink, he turned to face the front.
Stacy forgot about the myriad details still remaining to ensure the wedding and reception progressed flawlessly. Her breath hitched. What on earth could Zach be doing here?
She’d often dreamed of running into him again. Sometimes she slapped him so hard his head snapped back. Other times, she pretended she hadn’t a clue who he was, and when reminded, feigned difficulty in remembering. Once in a while, she let herself fantasize his return was because he couldn’t live without her. But that was so far from reality she rarely let herself indulge in that particularly fantasy.
Stacey backed into the antechamber, wishing she could deny what she’d seen. There was no way the husband who had married her seven years ago and abandoned her two weeks later would show up out of the blue now.