Miss match a lauren holb.., p.1
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       Miss Match: a Lauren Holbrook novel, p.1

           Erynn Mangum
 
Miss Match: a Lauren Holbrook novel


  MISS MATCH

  a lauren holbrook novel

  erynn mangum

  MISS MATCH

  For a free catalog

  of NavPress books & Bible studies call

  1-800-366-7788 (USA) or 1-800-839-4769 (Canada)

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  TH1NK

  P.O. Box 35001

  Colorado Springs, Colorado 80935

  © 2007 by Erynn Mangum

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without written permission from NavPress, P.O. Box 35001, Colorado Springs, CO 80935.

  www.navpress.com

  TH1NK is an imprint of NavPress.

  TH1NK and the TH1NK logo are registered trademarks of NavPress. Absence of ® in connection with marks of NavPress or other parties does not indicate an absence of registration of those marks.

  ISBN-13: 978-1-60006-095-3

  ISBN-10: 1-60006-095-1

  Cover design by studiogearbox.com

  Cover image of girl by Johner/Getty

  Cover image of coffee cup with writing by studiogearbox.com

  Creative Team: Melanie Knox, Susan Martins Miller, Kathy Mosier, Arvid Wallen, Kathy Guist

  Some of the anecdotal illustrations in this book are true to life and are included with the permission of the persons involved. All other illustrations are composites of real situations, and any resemblance to people living or dead is coincidental.

  All Scripture quotations in this publication are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® (NIV®). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

  Mangum, Erynn, 1985-

  Miss Match : a Lauren Holbrook novel / Erynn Mangum.

  p. cm.

  ISBN 1-60006-095-1

  1. Dating (Social customs)--Fiction. I. Title.

  PS3613.A5373M57 2007

  813’.6--dc22

  2006034502

  Printed in the United States of America

  3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 / 11 10 09 08

  To my mom, Susan Elaine Terry Mangum, who holds many titles in my

  life: Mom, Adviser, Co-conspirator, and, best of all, Friend. I can’t even

  imagine a more amazing mother. I want to be like you when I grow up. I

  love you!

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Dedication

  Acknowledgments

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  About the Author

  Acknowledgments

  To God. Lord, this book is all for You. What an incredible journey we’ve had thus far — I can’t wait for the rest. Thank You! To You alone be the glory!

  Thanks also to:

  Mom — I don’t have the words! I am eternally blessed to have you as my mother, my encourager, and my friend. Thank you so much, Mom, for all the time, effort, advice, suggestions, and travel you have poured into this whole process. This book is more yours than it is mine. I love you.

  Dad for telling me I could be a writer — without ever reading my work! The faith you have in me has made me work even harder. Thank you for providing me with everything I needed to write this story and for celebrating the milestones with me. I love you!

  Bryant, who came up with the original title — again, without reading the book! Thank you for encouraging me in this and bearing with me all these years. I love you, brother.

  Caleb, who by the sweetness of his heart read this very chick-lit story and didn’t hate it. Thank you for going above and beyond your call of duty as my brother! I love you.

  Cayce, my favorite sister. Not only did you read my story, correct it, and discuss the characters with me, but you’re a much more talented writer than I am. I look forward to reading one of your books someday. I love you!

  Nama, my amazing grandmother, who has read my stories from the time I was very small. Thank you so much for calling and e-mailing about the characters: “I still think Brandon’s going to marry Laurie!” I love you!

  All my extended family and friends — you know who you are. Thank you so much for the prayers, encouragement, and (okay, I’ll admit it) the fodder for this story. I’m so thankful for you!

  NavPress for taking a chance on an unknown kid, to borrow a common phrase. You guys are wonderful! Melanie Knox, Susan Miller, Kathy Mosier, Kate Epperson, and all who have pushed and stretched this manuscript to make it the best it can be — thank you! You all are amazing!

  The Christian Writers Guild for their fabulous writing course, their incredible conferences, and, mostly, their friendship. My mentors, Terry White and Brandilyn Collins — I have grown so much because of you! Thank you!

  Wikipedia and WebMD — two priceless online resources!

  Starbucks for inventing two drinks that fueled much of this story: The Mocha and the Caramel Frappuccino.

  Costco for selling dog food–sized bags of Starbucks French Roast. This book was finished in part because of them.

  And Jane Austen. Much of the inspiration for this book came from her incredible masterpieces Emma and Pride and Prejudice.

  Prologue

  “Jingle allll the waaay!”

  It is one week until Christmas. My soon-to-be-retired boss, Mr. Knox, sighs as I come in the door.

  “Don’t take this the wrong way, Lauren, but I’d stick to photography.”

  I toss my backpack in the general direction of the pointless secretary’s desk. Pointless because we don’t have a secretary nor a use for one.

  “Has anyone ever told you how great you are with compliments?” I say.

  “Do you mind taking my eleven o’clock appointment?” Mr. Knox asks, tucking his pencil behind his ear, as is his custom. Mr. Knox is in his midsixties, is maybe five foot eight — barely two inches taller than me — and has balding hair the exact color of Nilla Wafers.

  I know this because I discreetly compared the two just the other day.

  He’s also the only person other than my oldest sister who calls me by my full name, Lauren. Most people call me Laurie.

  “Sure, I can take it,” I tell him, pulling off my gloves and hat, which makes my hair crackle with static.

  Mr. Knox is giving me his classic How-Did-I-Get-Stuck-with-Her? look. “Your hair is a wreck, Lauren.”

  “Once again, the compliments just overwhelm me.” I try my best to smooth my hair.

  He frowns at the failed effort. “Go look in the mirror. And hurry. It’s three minutes until eleven.”

  The studio is basically a big square building someone added interior walls to in order to make it seem more complex. One corner of the building is the front room with the useless secretary’s desk. The four portrait studios are right behind the desk. There’s a long hall with one office, a room for people to change clothes, a bathroom, and a tiny employee lou
nge alongside it. The studio is extremely well-respected — we get business from all over the area.

  I half-skip down the hall. It is, after all, one week until Christmas — the most wonderful time of the year!

  My best friend and Mr. Knox’s grandson, Brandon Knox, is sitting in the employee lounge, guzzling a Coke and staring at the clock.

  I poke my head in. “Hey.”

  He swallows. “Hi, Laur. Two minutes and thirty-three seconds.”

  “Until what? The Ghost of Christmas Future?”

  “Worse.”

  “I don’t know, Brandon. The Christmas Future ghost was pretty scary.”

  “The Rawleys.”

  “Okay, never mind. You win.” The Rawleys have seven kids who don’t know the meaning of the word discipline. A part of me wants to throw the book of Proverbs at them each time they come in.

  Brandon finishes the Coke and grabs a Dr. Pepper. He’s combating the Rawleys the only way we know how — loads and loads of caffeine. “Your hair looks great,” he says between swallows.

  “Thanks, I’m about to go spray it so it’ll stay like this.” I riffle my hand through it. “How do you think I’d look as a blonde?”

  Slurp. “I prefer you as a brunette.”

  “Even if my eyes were blue?”

  “They’re not, so I don’t know why we’re having this conversation, Nutsy.”

  Don’t ask. It’s a nickname dating to the first time we watched Robin Hood together.

  “Gray is close to blue.” I bat my eyelashes at him.

  “It is not.”

  “Is too.”

  “One minute and eleven seconds.”

  I grab a can of Dr. Pepper for myself. “You’re in my prayers, Brandon.”

  “I’m in my prayers too.” He moans.

  I grin at him, duck into the bathroom, and comb down my hair, and I’m back down the hall just as an average-height guy with short, spiky brown hair gelled to perfection comes through the door. He’s wearing a nice suit and looks like he could quote me the stock exchange numbers for Procter & Gamble off the top of his head.

  Mr. Knox has left apparently, but there’s one of his blue sticky notes on the desk. His name is Nate Kennedy. Hope you fixed your hair.

  “Hi, Nate,” I say, smiling nicely. “I’m Laurie. I’ll be taking your picture.”

  “It’s for my business cards.” He says this very loudly, as if my now-combed-down hair has clogged my ears.

  “Oh yeah? What do you do?” I point toward Studio One and he follows me in. I bite back a grin as I see the Rawley’s fifteen-passenger van pull up.

  “I’m a stockbroker.”

  Man, I nailed his job.

  “Neat.”

  “I just moved to town. I got transferred here to Colorado from Arizona.” He looks around the small studio, stopping at the bright green piece of paper I have taped to the door. It has my favorite verse written on it: Psalm 37:4.

  “Are you a Christian?” he asks.

  I plop a chair in front of the camera for him. “Yep.”

  “Really? Wow, this is great. Me too. I’m actually looking for a church.” He sits in the chair.

  I go around to the other side of the camera. “Well, you can try my church. They only tar every third visitor, and I think that happened last week, so you should be good.”

  He starts laughing right away. A nice laugh.

  I smile, squint through the lens, and suddenly have a very realistic daydream.

  Lexi wearing a white slip dress, carrying a bouquet of red tulips, walking down the aisle to Nate.

  Lexi? My older sister? Marrying this up-and-coming stockbroker?

  I half-gasp.

  “What?” Nate yells.

  I decide he cannot lower his voice to save his life. “Come to church on Sunday. You’ll like it. I promise.”

  “Uh. Sure.”

  Sunday morning dawns sunshiny and bitterly cold. I am standing just inside the front door of my church, shivering. The things I do for my sister’s future happiness.

  Nate comes through the door and I yell, “Nate! Hi, remember me?”

  His face splits in a grin. “Um. Yeah, of course I remember you.”

  “Good. How was your week?”

  “Fine.”

  He looks like he’s going to go on into the service, so I need to distract him. Lexi has no sense of punctuality at all.

  “Tell me about the stock exchange. I’ve been thinking about investing.”

  “Really? Well, that’s good because right now . . .”

  My brain stops there and I keep eye contact and nod occasionally just so he thinks I’m still paying attention.

  The door opens.

  Remember those movie scenes where the hero and heroine finally meet and there’s this huge swell from an orchestra?

  You’re not going to believe this, but it does happen!

  The door opens; Lexi pops her incredibly gorgeous head in and doesn’t even glance in my direction as she half-runs to the sanctuary, pushing her earrings through her ears as she jogs.

  “Lex!”

  She turns, and right then is when the music director, David, starts strumming a sweet song on his guitar.

  Nate blinks at her, taken aback. Lexi is beautiful — long, long, long honey blonde hair, huge gray eyes, a perfect smattering of freckles across her adorable nose.

  “Hey, Baby,” she says to me. She smiles politely at the starched gent next to me. “I’m Lexi Holbrook, Laurie’s sister.”

  “I’m Nate.” Swallow. “Nate Kennedy.”

  They shake hands.

  I grin. Electricity is zipping through the air and it isn’t just from my again static-clung hair.

  “You’re welcome to sit next to us,” Lexi says, like I knew she would.

  “Sure. I’d like that.”

  They don’t even make sure I’m behind them as they disappear into the sanctuary.

  I try very hard not to burst into a happy song and dance. Well, moderately hard anyway.

  “Laurie?”

  I whirl, midtwist.

  Brandon comes down the hall, frowning. “What are you doing?”

  “Brandon, darlin’,” I drawl, grinning exuberantly, “I have discovered my life’s work.”

  “It’s not coffee drinking, is it? How many cups have you had today anyway?”

  “No, it’s not coffee drinking.” I wave my hands around. “Eight months, Brandon. Maybe less.”

  “Eight months until what?”

  I grin in the direction of the sanctuary doors and then smirk at Brandon. “First Corinthians 7:36,” I tell him, opening the door.

  He whips his Bible from his coat pocket, flips to the passage. I’m halfway in the sanctuary, the congregation is singing, and I can still hear his yell.

  “‘They should get married’? Laurie!”

  Chapter One

  Twelve Months, Three Weeks, and Nine Hours Later

  There comes a time in every woman’s life when she desperately desires to be married. At least, this is what I have always been told by my father. I am beginning to doubt his word on the subject. I am officially, as of one week, twenty-three years old and haven’t the slightest inkling of matrimony or desperation.

  I didn’t feel desperate at my friends’ weddings or even at my sister’s wedding, which took place just a few hours ago. My father did, however.

  “I can’t believe Lexi’s getting married.” This is all Dad said during Lexi’s six-month engagement. To be honest, I’m glad the day finally came so Dad can maybe get over it and move on with life.

  I shouldn’t be so optimistic.

  “I can’t believe Lexi got married.”

  The only change in the conversation is the tense.

  Dad is in his favorite chair, the red one with the plaid stripes, staring bleakly at the floor where Lexi’s dog, Muffin, blissfully chews the designer coffee table legs unhindered. Dad’s gray hair is still combed nicely from the wedding, but he’s changed into a
pair of khakis and a polo shirt.

  A fire is roaring in the massive fireplace, and all the lights in the house are off except the one lamp by Dad’s chair.

  “Dad, come on. You’ve got to move on now. Lex is married, to a wonderful guy I might add, and that’s that.” I lounge on the limited edition leather couch, still in my maid of honor gown. Lexi always dreamed of a fancy, black-tie-only wedding. Fortunately Dad could afford it. Dad told me he didn’t sell his Internet company just to sit on the millions of dollars, and Lexi told me to stand up straight every four minutes so I wouldn’t wrinkle the two-thousand-dollar dress.

  I’m having fun mashing as many wrinkles as possible into the hateful fabric.

  “Laurie-girl.”

  Dad turns woeful gray eyes at me, and I suddenly have the impression of staring at a humanized basset hound.

  “Yes, Dad?”

  “Don’t ever get married, Laurie-girl. I don’t think I can take you leaving me.”

  I laugh. “You have nothing to worry about, Dad. Even if I did want to get married, which I don’t, there aren’t any good men around anymore anyway.”

  “I feel the same way about women.” The voice is not my dad’s.

  I roll my eyes. “Can’t you ever knock?”

  Brandon strolls into the room like he owns the place. He stops by Dad’s chair. “How are you doing, sir?”

  “Not too good, Brandon.”

  “I was afraid of that.” Up to this point, Brandon hasn’t even turned in my direction. Now he winks at me. He is still in his tux, the tie undone, and his straight, short brown hair is no longer combed neatly. Brandon is tall, and his lankiness just makes him look taller. The tux kind of rounds him out a little bit.

  He’s still talking. “Lexi’s absence will be keenly felt, I’m sure.”

  “Oh brother.” I adjust my position so that I can attack the left side of the dress. “Why are you here, Brandon?”

  He hands Dad a box. “I found these after the wedding. I thought you might like them, Mr. Holbrook.”

  Unopened tea bags fill the box. Dad smiles for the first time that day. “Thanks.”

 
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