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Baiting the Maid of Honor

By´╝ÜTessa Bailey

 Chapter One
 
A relaxing, six-day mountain retreat at the exclusive Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado, followed by
 
her best friend’s wedding—what could possibly go wrong?
 
Julie Piper tipped her champagne glass to her lips and smiled at the women conversing animatedly
 
around her. She’d selected the resort’s tasteful Osprey Lounge as the venue for Kady’s bachelorette
 
party and if her friends’ rapidly increasing inebriation served as any sign, it had been a darn good
 
choice. Predinner drinks, a light meal, and a loose seating arrangement had been meticulously planned
 
to make the evening a success. Now she could sit back and enjoy the delicious buzz working its way
 
through her system. It had been far too long since she allowed herself to relax, but there was
 
something soothing about being with three best friends who’d borne witness to four years’ worth of
 
triumphs and tragedies in her life. Also known as college.
 
Kady, the first of them to get hitched, had called with the news of her engagement a year prior,
 
tearfully asking Julie to be the maid of honor. She’d agreed without hesitation. Among the eclectic
 
mix of four friends, Julie had garnered a reputation as the planner. The maker of pretty things.
 
Energizer Barbie. Not exactly a flattering nickname, but apt nonetheless. She smiled, she mediated,
 
and she decorated. Making people happy was her top priority.
 
If her smile felt like it might shatter on occasion, well then she supposed even the ceiling in
 
Barbie’s Dream House sprang a leak now and again.
 
Through an avalanche of email and hysterical phone calls between Kady in Colorado and herself in
 
Atlanta, the wedding had been planned down to the tiniest of details. Ask her anything about floral
 
arrangements or canapés and she could dish for days. As she watched Kady show off her ring to the
 
tray-carrying waitress, smile beaming from ear to ear, Julie was reminded why she adored planning
 
and preparation. The end result never disappointed.
 
Regan, her sorority sister and current New York City headhunter, leaned across the table toward
 
Kady, artfully highlighted hair falling in a wave beside her face. “So does Colton know he’s marrying
 
the legendary Tri Delt who once rode a mechanical bull in a bikini and chaps, or did you neglect to
 
mention it?”
 
“Oh, I told him.” Kady sniffed proudly. “He asked to see pictures.”
 
Regan saluted with her glass. “Now there’s a man worth giving up casual sex with strangers.”
 
“I seem to remember you taking a turn on that bull, Julie,” Kady pointed out.
 
“I may or may not have pictures of that night,” Christine said on Julie’s left, saving her from having
 
to respond. “And I may or may not have brought them along with me to torture you.”
 
Kady’s mouth dropped open. “I should have known, Miss Investigative Journalist. Even in those
 
days you were never without your camera.”
 
Christine brushed her bright-red hair over her shoulder, looking quietly pleased. “Always
 
prepared.”
 
“I shudder to think what photographic blackmail you have on me.” Regan winced. “I seem to recall
 
some flashes going off the night I scaled the Chi Omega sorority house to steal their mascot off the
 
roof.”
 
Julie nodded sagely. “Mmm-hmm. And nothing between you and the Lord but a smile.”
 
“That’s right. I was butt-ass naked.” Regan flounced back in her chair and shrugged. “Hey, I didn’t
 
hear any complaints from below.”
 
As they all groaned over Regan’s statement, a new arrival in the lounge caught Julie’s eye. Looking
 
horribly out of place, a young woman clutched her purse strap, eyes scanning the room. A vague
 
familiarity about her tipped Julie off. “Kady, is that Colton’s sister?”
 
Kady craned her neck to look toward the bar. “Ooh, yes. Julie, can you go get her?”
 
Julie had already left the table and was halfway across the room before Kady finished making her
 
request. She flashed her most welcoming smile at a wide-eyed Sophie and pulled her into a hug,
 
laughing when the other girl automatically stiffened like a board. Taking pity on her, Julie moved
 
back a step. “Now, don’t let the hugging scare you off, Sophie Brooks. That’s just how we do things
 
in the South. Come on over and let’s get you a drink. Are you hungry? They have the most delicious
 

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