Today's Reading

Slumped in an oversize armchair, with his dirty-blond hair in disarray, the groomsman burps and shrugs his shoulders. "We were drunk. What can I say?" He turns his bloodshot eyes toward the groom. "Sorry, man."

I stride across the room and bend to the caveman's eye level, my hands clenched into fists as a preventive measure. "Sorry? That's all you've got? There's a bride out there who's been dreaming about this day for months. She wants it to be perfect. She wants to remember it for years to come. Now she'll remember it as the day she married a man with the skin of a newborn hamster above his eyes. And sorry is all you have to say?"

Jaslene clutches a stretch of fabric on the back of my dress and pulls me upright. "Lina, this isn't helping the situation."

I bite the inside of my cheek as I compose my face into its usual cool- calm-and-collected expression. "You're right. Okay. I'll be back in a sec."

Internally cursing the brotherhood of asinine groomsmen worldwide, I leave the room, dash down the stairs, and race to my car. Once inside my rusty-but-mostly-trusty Volvo, I rummage in the back seat until my hands land on the emergency kit. I pop it open, rooting around to confirm my makeup supplies are inside.

I return as quickly as my legs and sensible pumps allow, once again not daring to look at any of the wedding guests mingling in the foyer. When I reenter the room, I spy a woman who apparently joined the entourage while I was gone. I don't bother to ask who she is or why she's here. Chitchat won't fix the groom's brows, so I have no time for it.

After laying out the contents of my makeup kit on the dressing table, I drag a chair to the full-length mirror and pat the seat bottom. "Sit," I tell Ian.

He regards me with a wary expression. "What are you going to do?"

"Do? I'm going to fix the mess your groomsmen created, of course."

"Will it work?" he asks.

Probably not, but part of my job is to project confidence in challenging situations. I raise a small vial in the air. "This is
fiber fill. It's meant to enhance eyebrows, not create them out of whole cloth, but I'm hoping it'll do the trick. Won't be pretty. Still, you'll have something up there when you say 'I do.'"

Resembling a pack of hyenas with their tongues hanging out, the groomsmen huddle together and guffaw at Ian's predicament. With friends like these, who needs jackasses? When I direct my death stare at them, they straighten and study the floor again.

Ian peers at the vial more closely, then gapes at me. "My hair's brown. That's blond."

"Yes, well, grooms whose buddies shave off their eyebrows the night before their wedding don't get to choose from an array of hair color options. It's either this stuff or a Sharpie. I can cover the blond with brow powder closer to your natural hair color afterward. We don't have much time, though. What'll it be?"

He swipes a hand down his face. "All right. Let's do this. But don't make me look like Mr. Spock, okay?"

"Got it." With a shake of my head, and a prayer to the wedding gods, I get to work, holding in my laughter as best I can. He should be so lucky.

Needless to say, my job's ridiculously messy—and I love it.

* * *

Standing in a corner of the outdoor tent, I watch the guests mingle and dance, secure in the knowledge that I've averted another crisis. Yes, the groom appears to be sporting carpet scraps above his eyes. And okay, the flower girl 'did' blurt out, "Hey, he looks like one of those Angry Birds." Nevertheless, my clients are happy, and in the end that's what matters. Considering I was literally working with nothing, I'm calling this Browtox procedure a win.

Now I can enjoy my favorite part of the reception: the phase after the couple honors their chosen traditions and there's nothing left for me to do except watch for last-minute glitches. This is when I finally relax a bit. Not too much, though. Many a wedding has been destroyed by the effects of an open bar. My skin still crawls when I remember the groom who removed his new partner's underwear instead of her garter. Gah.

"Nice save back there," someone to my left says.

I turn my head and survey the person, instantly recognizing her. "Thanks. You were upstairs in the dressing suite, right?"

"That's right," the woman answers.

"Related to the groom?"

Nodding, she presses her lips together, then lets out a resigned breath. "Ian's my first cousin."

"He's a nice guy," I say.

The woman raises an exquisitely arched brow and snorts. "A nice guy who loses his appeal whenever he's around his douchebag friends."

As if on cue, one of the groomsmen bares his overbite and begins to gyrate his hips as he passes us. Another one drops to the ground and inches his body along the parquet dance floor like a worm. Yet another does the Robot.

I watch them impassively even though her assessment is spot-on. "I can neither confirm nor deny."


This excerpt ends on page 15 of the paperback edition.

Monday we begin the book Someone to Remember by Mary Balogh.
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