Warrior Girl by Melissa Belle

 

Chapter One

Macey

Three hundred seconds shouldn’t be enough to turn someone’s world upside-down.

And yet, Logan Wild just did. He absolutely flipped my damn life from—if not bright and happy, at least expected and normal—to a freaking blender of darkness.

And he did it all with one simple word.

“Engaged!” Ginny squeals later that day at Darcy Bridal Salon. “I mean, is Logan Wild freaking out of his mind? You two aren’t even divorced yet!”

I shrug as I glance in the four-way mirror at the ugly green floral bridesmaid dress Mrs. Rattles insisted would be perfect for my figure. Ginny tried to choose something else for me, but her mama had the last word. “Engaged is what he said.”

I resist the urge to punch the mirror until it shatters everywhere.

But I clench my teeth together and force a smile in Ginny’s direction as she tugs at the shoulder straps of her bridal gown. Her mother is huddled in a corner of the store with Eloise, blissfully far away from us at the moment.

“Macey, are you okay?” Ginny purses her lips. “This must be hard—you were planning to ask Logan if he wanted to date like normal people.”

Yes, I was planning to do that. But I’m used to life throwing me curveballs.

“I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” I say. “I was too late.”

Ginny puts her arms around me. “I don’t know the last time you’ve looked so sad.”

If I have to answer her, I’ll start to cry. So I pull back and bend down to fiddle with the clasp on the three-inch heels I can hardly walk in without stumbling.

“I’ve been literally locked up with Mama since I saw you earlier today,” Ginny whispers. “She unexpectedly took me to a spa to get us ‘in the spirit of relaxation and spiritual cleansing’ before my final fitting.”

“Wow,” I say. “That must have been—”

“Torture,” Ginny concurs. “You have no idea. Do I have mud on my hairline still? Because I’m certain it didn’t all come off, and she refused to let me stop at home. Something about ruining those good vibes we absorbed at the spa. I had to pee the whole time. Being pregnant makes you pee like crazy. Anyway”—long pause—“we all know you and Logan have always had intense chemistry.” Another long pause. “But you also had a mutual pact to never marry and all that. So why the heck did he go and get engaged? He’s always felt the same way as you about commitment, hasn’t he?” Her voice lifts nervously at the end of the question.

“He always did,” I say slowly. “But I guess he found someone who changed his mind.”

And it wasn’t me.

God, this dress is so wrong for me. I hate the color, I hate the length, I just hate it.

“Macey?” Ginny touches my arm. “Maybe working on your novel will help distract you.”

I stand up straight. “Exactly. I need to focus on me. Rather than dwelling on Logan and his love life, I’m going to put myself first.”

“That’s a great idea. But you know what I think might help you to move on? Going through your diary.”

I suck in a breath. “I don’t know, Gin.”

“Logan’s probably in there a lot, right?” She pats my arm. “I think you need to purge the past. And sometimes the only way to do that is to look it right in the face and let it go.”

Let Logan go. I don’t know if I can do that.

“I guess I don’t have a choice, do I?” I glance over at a roaming Mrs. Rattles. “Your mom sure looks frustrated.”

Mrs. Rattles is pacing impatiently around the store, pulling at every dress within her grasp.

“Eloise! Any one of these options would look better on Ginny! Whatever did you do to Virginia’s dress?” Mrs. Rattles’ red pants suit stands out like a magic marker against the sea of white gowns lining the racks. She runs her manicured nails through her over-the-top permed hair that fans her head like a lion’s mane. “Those shoulder straps you altered—my daughter is not an Olympic swimmer!”

Eloise heaves her large frame off her wooden chair and sighs. “Helena, I will do what I can. But not everyone is blessed with your oldest daughter’s bone structure.”

Sweet Lord.I whip my head back to a red-faced Ginny, who quickly whispers to me, “Mama’s extra stressed out. She’s having doubts about us marrying at The Cowherd.”

That…will suck if Ginny’s wedding is pulled from the schedule.

“But I really want to marry there,” she says, reading my eyes. “And Mama’s thinking that Dave—she refers to him as David now because it sounds more heroic—and I must be the couple to save Jane’s ghost because we happen to be marrying right before the legend’s deadline. She thinks we’ll become super famous, and you know, so will she.”

I nod slowly. “Well, maybe. I mean, the whole thing’s a bit ridiculous, but—”

Mrs. Rattles steps up on the platform next to us and grabs me hard by the arm.

I smile politely as I attempt to disengage my bicep from her death grip. “Something wrong?”

“Of course there is. When is there ever anything right with my youngest daughter’s wedding? First, we’ve got the unplanned bun in the oven, and who knows when that bun will start popping if you know what I mean.”

Ginny deflates, very much like a balloon does when it gets a hole in it. Amazing how a tiny tear can just knock all the air right out of it.

I put my arm around Ginny. “At least she has zero morning sickness.”

“True. And she’s slim by nature—two points in our favor,” her mother says. “But when my oldest got married, everything was perfect. The groom, the cake, the dress …” At the mention of the word dress, Mrs. Rattles looks back pointedly at Eloise. “And now we’re having sourcing problems. I told Ginny a hundred times, ‘Do not let the flowers slip through the cracks, Virginia!’ But she’s not a follow-througher! No follow-through at all.”

Ginny looks like if she continues not to move, this whole ordeal could turn out to be a nightmare and she can wake up and it will…poof!…disappear.

“But I’ve figured out a way to make it all right.” Mrs. Rattles exhales in relief. “I had a premonition that my Virginia and her David are the soul mates who will unlock that jail cell. I can feel it in my bones. And I’m never wrong.”

“That could be,” I say, trying to sound positive. “The legend is fictional, of course, but I suppose anything can happen—”

“Ginny told me she and Dave are currently the only couple on the saloon’s calendar between now and the deadline. Is that true?”

I nod. “We have you penciled in for July fourth.”

“I like that my daughter would have the place to herself. No competition is always good. But your family’s establishment is certainly the worse for wear. So I just don’t know if I can allow Ginny to hold her wedding there. Even if she is knocked up.” Mrs. Rattles sighs and eyes me for a moment. “Freeing the ghost would help you out too, though, right Macey?”

“In theory, yes,” I say. “Mayor Huggins said he’d think about letting my father run the bar again if Jane Austen’s ghost is freed. Not because he’s kind but because he doesn’t think there’s a chance in hell of that ever happening.”

“Oh, dear,” Mrs. Rattles says. “Seems you really are battling a curse.”

“Thank you,” I say curtly. “But there’s always tomorrow, so I will remain optimistic. And if you really think Ginny could be the heroine to free Jane Austen’s ghost, she should definitely marry at The Cowherd. It’s in the legend that the ghost must bear witness to the union.”

Mrs. Rattles thinks, and thinks again, and finally sighs. “Fine. The ceremony will take place at The Cowherd Whiskey Chapel with drinks afterward. But…” She continues on, ignoring my smile. “The formal reception will be at the inn on Main Street. It’s beautiful; it’s indoors so we don’t have to deal with the insufferable heat of July…” She pauses. “And it’s not at a run-down saloon.”

I gratefully take the deal. The Cowherd needs the business, and Ginny needs one less thing for her mother to be stressed about.

“And who are you taking as your date to my daughter’s wedding?” Mrs. Rattles asks me sternly. “You know he should be worthy of Virginia’s bridal party.”

Shit.Who the hell am I going to take with me? Because, now I have to take someone. Since Logan will be accompanied by his—fiancée. I can barely hear the word in my own head without puking.

I give Mrs. Rattles a vague shrug and glance out the window at the storefront’s Where’s Your Mr. Darcy sign blowing in the late spring breeze.

God, how stupid I must have sounded when I flirted with Logan earlier. I assumed nothing had changed since he went away, but clearly something has. Something major. Someone major. But, like Ginny pointed out, I never wanted to get married. So…

Why am I so upset?

Of course it hurts. It’s Logan Wild. My best friend. The guy I turn to for everything. And yes, marrying him for real, however dumb and impulsive it was, made me wonder about what life would be like if we were actually a couple.

But still, I shouldn’t care this much. Should I?

Mrs. Rattles wisely gives up on me providing a coherent response to her question. She leaves the mirrored platform to argue with Eloise over alteration costs.

Ginny lets out a little exhale. Not a big heaving breath like her mother would do. Just a typical Ginny “I’m upset but I don’t want to bother anyone” sigh.

And here I am, focusing on myself when my best friend is clearly suffering.

Trying to distract her, I hold up my phone and point at the three recently missed calls on my cell. “Logan’s trying to reach me.”

Like I hoped, the color returns to Ginny’s cheeks as she perks right up. “Let’s go over the details again—Logan’s only been away for a month and a half! Who could he possibly have met in that short a time?”

The tears start behind my eyes, but I fight them back.

“No clue.” I aim for a dumb joke. “You know boys. She must have big boobs.”

Ginny furrows her brow. “Maybe that would be true with some men. But I never thought of Logan as shallow before. Did you?”

No, I didn’t.

“Something does seem off,” I finally admit.

Ginny widens her eyes. “Like a mystery?”

“No.” I laugh at myself. “I’m sure I’m being overly-dramatic. Logan’s engaged. End of story. Right?”

Ginny raises her eyebrows. “I don’t know, Mace. I have a funny feeling this story is far from over.”