Nice girls dont bite the.., p.20
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       Nice Girls Dont Bite Their Neighbors, p.20

          part  #4 of  Jane Jameson Series  by  Molly Harper / Fantasy / Romance & Love
Page 20
Author: Molly Harper

“Good, then you’re prepared to deal with my mother. ”

“I don’t understand. She sounded perfectly nice on the phone,” Iris said, her brow creased.

“On the phone?”

“Yes, she called me this morning to talk about your preferences for the flowers. She’s planning to meet us at the bridal shop later. Your sister is planning to be there, too. ”

I groaned, covering my face with my hands. “Isn’t there such a thing as planner-client privilege?”

“Well, no, not unless you warn me of meddlesome relatives beforehand. Also, she called me, so I assumed that you had already talked to her about my involvement in the wedding plans. ”

“Well, I didn’t. I don’t know how she finds these things out. She just does. It’s her evil power. ”

Iris seemed to sense my panic and that we weren’t off to a great start to our relationship. She squared her shoulders and made another little note in her folio. “I’ve dealt with difficult family members before, Jane. It won’t be a problem. From now on, we’ll have a password. Any changes to wedding plans or meeting times will require the password before I give anyone the information. Also, I’ll let the vendors know that any changes require password confirmation. ”

I tried to make my patronizing smile a bit more pleasant. “We’ll talk on the way to the bridal shop. Once you have the background information, I think you’ll agree that a password’s not going to do you much good. ”

It might have seemed odd to drive more than an hour to Murphy with Jolene and Andrea in tow, but there were very good reasons that I could not go to the only bridal shop in the Hollow, the Bridal Barn. Those reasons were that it was (a) hopelessly stuck in the 1980s, with scary shoulder pads and neon-colored layered chiffon creations, and (b) run by Jolene’s aunt Vonnie, who had hated me since my involvement in Jolene and Zeb’s wedding. I didn’t think it would be wise for me to get anywhere near her while she was holding scissors or pins … or large-gauge sequins.

On the way, I gave Iris a sort of highlight reel of Mama’s most memorable antics. It wasn’t that my mother didn’t love me. Sure, it had taken her a while to get used to the whole vampire-daughter thing. And for a while, after she realized that I would never give her grandchildren, she took to her bed. But she soon snapped out of it, joined the FFOTU, and tried to force-feed me pot pies for my own good. The problem was that she’d seen my wedding in her head for so many years that I knew that any deviance from that vision would just not be accepted. She honestly believed that my opinions were just weak protests, cries for help for Mummy to come along and fix everything. Then again, Mama thought I would be marrying Zeb—best friend since babydom—someday, which showed how much she knew.

“So she washed all of the dirty clothes in your luggage, then decided that the clothes in your closet weren’t clean enough and washed them, too?” Iris marveled as Jolene described Mama’s response to my returning from vacation with Gabriel last year.

“And then she ironed all of her jeans. ” Andrea hooted.

“With starch,” I added, turning Big Bertha on to Yancy Street toward the Bridal Dreams Boutique. The name of the shop alone was enough to have me looking for U-turn options. I was not one of those women who dreamed of poofy designer silhouettes and exotic beading. I was a realist. My pale skin didn’t look good against white. Mermaid skirts made me look like a snowman. And butt bows made me break out in hives.

It was nearly two hours after the shop’s closing time, but Iris had arranged for us to have the place to ourselves, for a handsome “viewing fee. ” Through the front window, I could see that Mama and Jenny had arrived before us and that someone had given Mama one of those rolling racks, upon which she had already hung a half-dozen frou-frou princess nightmare gowns.

“Andrea. ” I whimpered, lowering my head to the steering wheel.

“Yes, Jane?”

“There’s a stake Velcroed underneath your seat. I want you take it out and shove it into my chest. Tell Gabriel I died bravely, in defense of democracy and fluffy kittens. ”

Andrea snorted. “That seems a little dramatic. You’re a dog person. ”

“Why do you have a stake Velcroed under your seat?” Jolene demanded. “We agreed that you would tell us when you have concealed weapons. ”

I felt a gentle nudge at my shoulder. Iris was holding a flask in front of my face. A flask completely encrusted with pink crystals save for the little yellow crystal bee on the front. She flipped the cap open, and I could smell the vodka fumes rolling over the lip.

“This is not my first rodeo,” she said, shaking her head.

“I think we’ve just been replaced as best friends,” Jolene muttered to Andrea.

If the liquid courage didn’t secure her place as my newest closest companion, Iris’s masterful handling of my mother sealed the deal. The first thing Iris did as she came through the shop door was exclaim over my mother’s wonderful taste in dresses. Then she managed to whittle down Mama’s selections by asking if she preferred the A-line skirt with the floral motif or the ball gown with the ribbon sash. Did she like this full tulle skirt or the cathedral train? Before Mama knew it, she’d been talked out of half of her picks, seated in one of the uncomfortable little tea chairs by the dressing rooms, and eclipsed as the organizer of this gathering.

Jenny just sat back and marveled. “Where was she when I was planning my wedding?”

Iris wandered around the shop selecting dresses that were a little closer to my taste. I didn’t know how comfortable I was mixing my supernatural friends and my family. I mean, sure, my parents had hosted a beautiful baby shower for Jolene. But at the time, they didn’t know that she was a werewolf. And Andrea had been human then. Now that my family was aware of my friends’ “unique” nature, I expected it to feel different.

I hadn’t counted on them bonding over their mutual exasperation with me. My clumsiness, my stubbornness, my ability to injure myself or others just by walking across a room. It was all the stuff of instant sisterhood.

“I never thought I’d see the day Jane would voluntarily go shopping,” Mama said, sipping the tea provided by a harried shop assistant named Claire. “I thought poor Andrea would have to use her vampire strength to hogtie Jane and put her in the trunk. ”

“I haven’t read many books on vampire wedding etiquette, but I think hog-tying the bride is rude in any culture,” I noted.

Andrea ignored me and said, “I practically have to force her at gunpoint to go with me to shop for jeans. She always finds cute stuff, with my guidance, but she acts like I’m torturing her. ”

“Well, to be fair, she has flashbacks,” my sister added, winking at me as she handed me a fluffy full-skirted gown.

“Jenny,” I said in a low, warning tone.

Mama looked at me quizzically and then burst out laughing. “Oh! I’d almost forgotten about that. ”

Jolene and Andrea exchanged glances, silently debating whether the potential hilarity could be worth suffering my wrath. They grinned simultaneously.

Shit.

“I hate you guys,” I mumbled as I strode into the dressing room and took the first of Mama’s dresses off the hanger.

As I wrestled my way into what felt like miles of tulle, Jenny was telling the story of Homecoming dress shopping with me my sophomore year. Jenny was nominated for the court, so Mama was insisting that I go to the dance to support her. Jenny, of course, had already picked out her gown before she was even nominated. But it was three days before the big event, and I was still lobbying to wear jeans and combat boots. Mama and Jenny had frog-marched me into the Tot, Teen, and Tween Shop downtown to find something “that won’t make you look like a motherless hobo,” as Mama had so gently put it. After a dozen ruffled, bow-covered nightmares, I’d decided I’d had enough. I yanked a dress over my head, forgetting about the zipper. The zipper got caught in my hair. I felt as if I was being attacked by the ghosts of evil prom queens and fought back. And because the dressing rooms were framed with curtains instead of doors …

“She came stumbling out of the dressing room into the shop with her panties bared and her dress over her head,” Jenny said, hooting.

Andrea and Jolene were falling all over each other laughing.

I glared at the lot of them. “I think I remember why I hate shopping,” I said, my hands on my hips.

“Oh, honey,” Mama murmured, her eyes misting. “It’s so beautiful!”

I turned toward the mirror and flinched. “I look like a bad meringue hallucination,” I said.

The skirt seemed to explode from beneath the bodice, making my hips look a mile wide. The hem was hovering about an inch off the ground and revealed my white gym socks. The sleeves were those padded “belle” sleeves, but they’d long since deflated and hung from my biceps like droopy balloons. Iris had stopped in her tracks across the shop and dropped the tiara she’d been holding.

“You look like Cinderella,” Mama cooed. Behind her, Iris, Jolene, and Andrea were shaking their head in sync.

“If she was doing the walk of shame home from the ball,” Andrea muttered. Jolene and Jenny snickered. I bit my lip to keep from joining in.

What? Even I can appreciate a good snark at my own expense.

“You couldn’t have worn nicer socks?” Mama asked. “Well, baby, I’d say you have a winner first time out. ”

I shrugged. “Mama, this is not the dress. ”

“But you look so—”

“Mama, I want you to close your eyes. And for just one moment, forget how excited you are about me finally getting married and how excited you are about finally seeing me in an actual wedding dress. Close your eyes, and really think about my body type and what looks good on me. ”

Mama complied.

“Now open your eyes,” I said.

Her eyelids popped open, and she scanned me from head to toe. She blanched and made her “I smell something” face. She shook her head, as if that would make the image go away. “Oh, honey, no. ”

I nodded, my lips tucked into a humorless grimace. “There we go. ”

“That is not the dress. ”

I shook my head slowly. “I would like this off of me now. ”

Claire helped me wrestle the skirt back into the dressing room. “Don’t feel bad, Miss Jameson, this dress has been here since 1992. It’s been forced on countless brides by their mothers. It’s still here. That should tell you something. ”

I thought of all of the women who had worn this dress before me and shuddered.

“We have it cleaned a few times a year,” she assured me.

The rest of the evening was a blur, as my friends and family argued over which silhouette suited me best. Jenny and Mama went to search in the back room, where the owner stored the dresses for brides with “problem areas. ” Iris had begun making notes on which manufacturers she could call for special samples.

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to the light blue-gray dress hanging on a rack near the register.

Claire laughed. “Oh, that’s a dress for the costume shop down the street. Our seamstresses do repairs and alterations for them all the time. DeeDee Wilkins-Reed dressed up as Elizabeth Bennet for some charity costume thing a few weeks back and split a seam. That just goes to show that dress clothes and a few dozen sausage balls don’t mix. ”

Andrea, Jolene, and I shuddered collectively.

I stepped closer to the dress. I lifted the plastic bag protecting the material and smiled. This was the sort of dress an Austen character would wear … in a highly sanitized, beautifully lit movie adaptation. And unlike every other dress in this shop, I could actually see myself marrying Gabriel in it.
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