The man youll marry, p.1
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       The Man You'll Marry, p.1

           Debbie Macomber
 
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The Man You'll Marry


  Praise for the novels of Debbie Macomber

  “Charming and funny, the latest installment of the Blossom Street series has many touching moments, too. Here’s to the adventures of Lydia and her friends continuing for a long, long time.”

  —RT Book Reviews on Summer on Blossom Street

  “Macomber’s assured storytelling and affirming narrative is as welcoming as your favorite easy chair.”

  —Publishers Weekly on Twenty Wishes

  “Macomber spins another pure-from-the-heart romance giddy with love and warm laughter.”

  —BookPage on The Snow Bride

  “Debbie Macomber has written a book that is absolutely unputdownable…one of the most compelling books I’ve read in a very long time.”

  —The Best Reviews on Changing Habits

  “Even the most hard-hearted readers will find themselves rooting for the women in this hopeful story while surreptitiously wiping away tears and making their own list of wishes.”

  —Booklist on Twenty Wishes

  “Debbie Macomber writes characters who are as warm and funny as your best friends.”

  —#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs

  Debbie Macomber “can weave a story that will keep you enthralled for hours, not wanting to put it down.”

  —RomanceJunkies.com on 8 Sandpiper Way

  “Debbie Macomber is…a bona fide superstar.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  Also by Debbie Macomber

  Blossom Street Books

  The Shop on Blossom Street

  A Good Yarn

  Susannah’s Garden

  Back on Blossom Street

  Twenty Wishes

  Summer on Blossom Street

  Cedar Cove Books

  16 Lighthouse Road

  204 Rosewood Lane

  311 Pelican Court

  44 Cranberry Point

  50 Harbor Street

  6 Rainier Drive

  74 Seaside Avenue

  8 Sandpiper Way

  92 Pacific Boulevard

  A Cedar Cove Christmas

  The Manning Family

  The Manning Sisters

  The Manning Brides

  The Manning Grooms

  Christmas Books

  A Gift to Last

  On a Snowy Night

  Home for the Holidays

  Glad Tidings

  Christmas Wishes

  Small Town Christmas

  When Christmas Comes

  There’s Something About Christmas

  Christmas Letters

  Where Angels Go

  The Perfect Christmas

  Angels at Christmas

  (Those Christmas Angels and Where Angels Go)

  Dakota Series

  Dakota Born

  Dakota Home

  Always Dakota

  Heart of Texas Series

  VOLUME 1

  (Lonesome Cowboy and Texas Two-Step)

  VOLUME 2

  (Caroline’s Child and Dr. Texas)

  VOLUME 3

  (Nell’s Cowboy and Lone Star Baby)

  Promise, Texas

  Return to Promise

  Midnight Sons

  VOLUME 1

  (Brides for Brothers and The Marriage Risk)

  VOLUME 2

  (Daddy’s Little Helper and Because of the Baby)

  This Matter of Marriage

  Montana

  Thursdays at Eight

  Between Friends

  Changing Habits

  Married in Seattle

  (First Comes Marriage and Wanted: Perfect Partner)

  Right Next Door

  (Father’s Day and The Courtship of Carol Sommars)

  Wyoming Brides

  (Denim and Diamonds and The Wyoming Kid)

  Fairy Tale Weddings

  (Cindy and the Prince and Some Kind of Wonderful)

  Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove Cookbook

  DEBBIE MACOMBER

  The Man You’ll Marry

  Dearest Friends,

  It’s hard to believe I wrote these two stories for romance “bridal collections” back in the early 1990s. My daughter Jenny had recently become engaged and while I did research for her wedding I made copious notes regarding these stories. In the years since, Jenny and Kevin have given my husband, Wayne, and me three adorable, talented and highly entertaining grandchildren. As a bonus, their daughter Maddy just happens to have been born on my birthday. My daughter always did have a wonderful sense of timing.

  I don’t remember how I came up with this romantic comedy idea of a supernatural wedding dress. What I do remember is that writing The First Man You Meet and The Man You’ll Marry brought back some hilarious memories of my own wedding to Wayne. It all started with the bachelor party. My father and brother took Wayne and his friends out for a night on the town and then in the wee hours of the morning they invaded the kitchen. My mother and several of my aunts had spent days preparing traditional German dishes for the wedding dinner. As you might have guessed, the members of the bachelor party arrived ravenous and my father ever so generously emptied the contents of two refrigerators. The men promptly devoured a good portion of what was intended for dinner that day. It took Mom years to forgive my dad for that one.

  Then, the morning of the wedding, I discovered to my horror that my dress no longer fit. I’d given up eating lunch in order to save money and my lovely wedding dress hung on me like an oversized burlap bag. (I should be so lucky now!) Between them, my mother and aunts managed to adjust it with safety pins so that it was presentable. I remember Mom circling me as my aunts fidgeted, mumbling in German with her hands over her mouth in horror. Later at the dinner—and yes, there was still plenty of food after some frantic grocery shopping and last-minute menu revisions—Wayne and I headed for a mountain resort where we were to spend our wedding night…only there was a girl tucked away in the trunk of the car! It was a joke that quickly brought us back to the reception—where everyone was waiting for our return. Oh, the memories…

  I hope you’ll enjoy the story of Great-Aunt Milly’s infamous wedding dress and what happens when Shelly Hansen receives it, knowing the family legend that she’ll now marry the next man she meets. Then the dress goes off to Jill Morrison and the magic starts all over again. And if it so happens that reading these two stories stirs up a happy memory of your own wedding or someone else’s, all the better. Sit back, reminisce and enjoy!

  Warmest regards,

  CONTENTS

  THE FIRST MAN YOU MEET

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  THE MAN YOU’LL MARRY

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  THE FIRST MAN YOU MEET

  For James Jordan Buckley,

  the other writer in the family.

  One

  It had been one of those days.

  One of those nightmarish days in which nothing had gone right. Nothing. Shelly Hansen told herself she should have seen the writing on the wall that morning when she tripped over the laces of her high-top purple running shoes as she hurried from the parking lot to her dinky office. She’d torn a hole in the knee of her brand-new pants and limped ingloriously into her building. The day had gone steadily downhill from there, with a packag
e lost by the courier and—worst of all—the discovery that her bank account was overdrawn because a client’s check had bounced.

  By the time she returned to her apartment that evening she was in a black mood. All she needed to make her day complete was to have her mother pop in unannounced with a man in tow, convinced she’d found the perfect mate for Shelly.

  She could only hope that wouldn’t happen, but it was exactly the kind of thing Shelly had come to expect from her dear, sweet desperate mother. Shelly was twenty-eight now and still single, and her mother tended to view her unmarried status as a situation to be remedied. Since her father had decided not to retire, and her two brothers were both living out of state, Shelly had become the focus of her mother’s obsessions. Marriage, closely followed by grandchildren, were the first and second items on Faith Hansen’s agenda for her only daughter.

  Never mind that Shelly felt content with her life just the way it was. Never mind that she wasn’t interested in marriage and children…at least not yet. That time would come, she was sure, not now, but someday soon—or rather, some year soon.

  For the moment, Shelly was absorbed in her career. She was proud of her work as a video producer, although she continually suffered the cash-flow problems of the self-employed. Her relaxation DVDs—seascapes, mountain scenes, a flickering fire in a brick fireplace, all with a background of classical music—were selling well. Her cat-sitting DVD had recently caught the attention of a major distributor, and she couldn’t help believing she was on the brink of real success.

  That was the good news.

  Her mother hounding her to get married was the bad.

  Tossing her woven Mexican bag and striped blue jacket onto the sofa, Shelly ventured into the kitchen and sorted through the packages in her freezer until she found something that halfway appealed to her for dinner. The frozen entrée was in the microwave when the doorbell chimed.

  Her mother. The way her day was going, it had to be her mother. Groaning inwardly, she decided she’d be polite but insistent. Friendly but determined, and if her mother began talking about husbands, Shelly would simply change the subject.

  But it wasn’t Faith Hansen who stood outside her door. It was Elvira Livingston, the building manager, a warm, delightful but insatiably curious older woman.

  “Good evening, dear,” Mrs. Livingston greeted her. She wore heavy gold earrings and a billowing, bright yellow dress, quite typical attire. She clutched a large box protectively in both hands. “The postman dropped this off. He asked if I’d give it to you.”

  “For me, Mrs. L.?” Perhaps today wasn’t a total loss, after all.

  Elvira nodded, holding the package as though she wasn’t entirely sure she should surrender it until she got every bit of relevant data. “The return address is California. Know anyone by the name of Millicent Bannister?”

  “Aunt Milly?” Shelly hadn’t heard from her mother’s aunt in years.

  “The package is insured,” Mrs. Livingston noted, shifting the box just enough to examine the label again.

  Shelly held out her hands to receive the package, but her landlady apparently didn’t notice.

  “I had to sign for it.” This, too, seemed to be of great importance. “And there’s a letter attached,” Mrs. Livingston added.

  Shelly had the impression that the only way she’d ever get her hands on the parcel was to let Mrs. Livingston open it first.

  “I certainly appreciate all the trouble you’ve gone to,” Shelly said, gripping the sides of the box and giving a firm tug. Mrs. Livingston released the package reluctantly. “Uh, thanks, Mrs. L. I’ll talk to you soon.”

  The older woman’s face fell with disappointment as Shelly began to close the door. Obviously, she was hoping for an invitation to stay. But Shelly wasn’t in the mood for company, especially not the meddlesome, if well-meaning, Elvira Livingston.

  Shelly sighed. This was what she got for renting an apartment with “character.” She could be living in a modern town house with a sauna, pool and workout room in a suburban neighborhood. Instead she’d opted for a brick two-story apartment building in the heart of Seattle. The radiators hissed at all hours of the night in perfect harmony with the plumbing that groaned and creaked. But Shelly loved the polished hardwood floors, the high ceilings with their delicate crystal light fixtures and the bay windows that overlooked Puget Sound. She could do without the sauna and other amenities, even if it meant occasionally dealing with an eccentric busybody like Mrs. Livingston.

  Eagerly she carried the package into the kitchen and set it on her table. Although she wondered what Aunt Milly had sent her, she carefully peeled the letter free, then just as carefully removed the plain brown wrapper.

  The box was an old one, she noticed, the cardboard heavier than that currently used by stores. Shelly gently pried off the lid. She found layers of tissue paper wrapped around…a dress. Shelly pushed aside the paper and lifted the garment from its box. She gasped in surprise as the long white dress gracefully unfolded.

  This wasn’t just any dress. It was a wedding dress, an exquisitely sewn lace-and-satin wedding dress.

  Surely it couldn’t have been Aunt Milly’s…No, that couldn’t be…It wasn’t possible.

  Anxious now, her heart racing, Shelly refolded the dress and placed it back in the box. She reached for the envelope and saw that her hands were trembling as she tore it open.

  My Dearest Shelly,

  I trust this letter finds you happy and well. You’ve frequently been in my thoughts the past few days. I suppose you could blame Dr. Phil for that. Though now that I think about it, it may have been Oprah. As you’ll have gathered, I often watch those talk shows these days. John would have disapproved, but he’s been gone eight years now. Of course, if I wanted to, I’d watch them if he were still alive. John could disapprove all he wanted, but it wouldn’t do him a bit of good. Never did. He knew it and loved me, anyway.

  I imagine you’re wondering why I’m mailing you my wedding dress and what Dr. Phil and Oprah have to do with it. (Yes, that is indeed my infamous wedding dress.) I suspect the sight of it has put the fear of God into you. I wish I could’ve been there to see your face when you realized what I was sending you. No doubt you’re familiar with the story; everyone in the family’s known about it for years. Since you’re fated to marry the first man you meet once the dress is in your hands, your instinct is probably to burn the thing immediately!

  Now that I reconsider, I’m certain it was Dr. Phil. He had a show recently featuring pets as companions to the elderly, lifting their spirits and the like. The man being interviewed brought along a cute little Scottish terrier and that was when the old seamstress drifted into my mind. Her name was Mrs. McDonald—or was it McDonnell? At any rate, I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew the six-o’clock news was on.

  While I slept I had a dream about you. This was no ordinary dream, either. I saw you plain as day, standing beside a tall young man, your blue eyes bright and shining. You were so happy, so truly in love. But what astonished me was the wedding dress you were wearing.

  Mine.

  The very dress the old Scottish woman sewed for me all those years ago. It seemed to me I was receiving a message of some sort and that I’d best not ignore it. Neither should you! You’re about to embark on the grandest adventure of your life, my dear. Keep me informed!

  Believe me, Shelly, I know what you’re thinking. I well remember my own thoughts the day that seamstress handed me the wedding dress. I’d ordered something completely different from her—a simple evening gown—so I was shocked to say the least. Marriage was the last thing on my mind! I had a career, back in the days when it was rare for a woman to attend college, let alone graduate from law school.

  You and I are a great deal alike, Shelly. We value our independence. It takes a special kind of man to be married to women like us. And you, my dear niece, are about to meet that one special man just the way I did.

  All my love,

>   Aunt Milly

  P.S. You’re only the second person to wear the dress. Never before have I felt anything like this. Perhaps it’s the beginning a new tradition!

  With hands that trembled even more fiercely now, Shelly folded the letter and slid it back into the envelope. Her heart was pounding, and she could feel the sweat beading her forehead.

  The phone rang then, and more from instinct than any desire to talk, Shelly picked up the receiver.

  “Hello.” It hadn’t dawned on her until that moment that the caller might be her mother, wanting to bring over a man for her to meet. Any man her mother introduced would only add to the growing nightmare, but—

  “Shelly, it’s Jill. Are you all right? You sound…strange.”

  “Jill.” Shelly was so relieved that her knees went weak. “Thank heaven it’s you.”

  “What’s wrong?”

  Shelly hardly knew where to begin. “My aunt Milly’s wedding dress just arrived. I realize that won’t mean anything to you unless you’ve heard the family legend about my aunt Milly and uncle John.”

  “I haven’t.”

  “Of course you haven’t, otherwise you’d understand what I’m going through,” Shelly snapped, then felt guilty for being short-tempered with her best friend. Making an effort to compose herself, she explained, “I’ve just been mailed a wedding dress—one that’s been in my family for over sixty years—with the clear understanding that I’ll be wearing it soon myself.”

 
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