“It wouldn’t dare,” her mother assured her. “Don’t worry, Shannon.”

She wasn’t, but from the way Corrie was twisting the ring on her finger, the bride was.

Shannon had learned that brides came in a few categories. Bridezillas . . . much like the TV show. Excitedly nervous. Or passively quiet when in the presence of their overcontrolling mothers.

Corrie was the latter.

“How many people are in the wedding party?” Shannon asked.

“Six. Three on each side.”

“Since your fiancé isn’t here, can you describe your dress?”

Mrs. Harkin quickly pulled out her phone. “It’s beautiful.”

Shannon caught Corrie’s tight smile. For a brief moment, Shannon thought she’d be seeing a dress three decades too old. One her mother held on to so her daughter could wear it.

The second Shannon saw miles of billowing tulle, she faked a smile. The dress would be a nightmare at a beach wedding. Even a slight breeze would make this dress dance. Heaven forbid there was an updraft of any kind. The layers would catch. Shannon made a note to bring double-sided clothing tape to attempt to hold the tulle down.

“She’ll look like a princess,” Shannon said despite the doom in her mind.

“It’s beautiful.”

“What about your bridesmaids’ dresses?” Please don’t say tulle.

“The same, only in a soft gray and shorter.”

All Shannon could see were pictures with women holding skirts to their legs for fear of showing the world their Spanx.

More tape, she wrote on her notepad.

“Where is he?” Corrie removed her phone from her purse.

“Don’t bug him, darling. If he can’t make it, we’ll plan this without him.”

Mrs. Harkin placed a hand over Corrie’s phone to keep her from texting her fiancé.

“Ideally, I like to take pictures of you and your bridesmaids while you’re getting ready, if you’re open to it. Then once you’re all perfect, we’ll take several preceremony pictures to avoid making your guests wait for hours after the ceremony and before the reception.”

“We’re having a cocktail hour set up for pictures,” Mrs. Harkin told her. “Corrie’s fiancé and the groomsmen are all staying at the neighboring resort so there won’t be a threat of him seeing Corrie before she walks down the aisle.”

“Did you nail down a guest count?”

Corrie opened her mouth to answer, and her mother cut her off. “A hundred and twenty-six. So many people weren’t willing to fly to Mexico for a wedding.”

“Which is what we wanted. A small wedding.” Corrie offered a strangled smile.

For several minutes, Mrs. Harkin expressed her great knowledge as to why larger weddings were better. Corrie sat back and listened. Nearly twenty minutes later, Corrie’s cell phone rang, and she excused herself to answer it.

“Where are you? Did you forget?” Shannon heard the tightness in the bride’s voice.

Mrs. Harkin directed Shannon’s attention back to her. “We’re so pleased you could squeeze us into your busy schedule. I hope it’s not too inconvenient to fly all the way to Tulum for us.”

“It’s my pleasure. I plan on taking a couple more days while I’m there to soak up some local color.” Not to mention fine-tuning her flirting skills with eligible bartenders.

“I’d be happy to extend your days at your resort.”

“That won’t be necessary. I’ve already booked another location after the wedding.” If she did find a baby daddy, the last thing she needed was the Harkin family getting in the way of being anonymous.

“He’s not coming,” Corrie announced when she sat back down. Moisture gathered in the corners of her eyes. “He’s stuck in a meeting and asked me to handle this.”

“You’re marrying a wealthy man, Corrie. He didn’t get that way talking to photographers.” Mrs. Harkin stopped herself, smiled. “No offense.”

“None taken.”

“I’m sure he has every confidence in your ability to manage the wedding.”

Considering Corrie was all of twenty-five years old and still lived with her parents, Shannon doubted her ability to plan much of anything.

“We’re just about done here, anyway,” Shannon told them.

Corrie blinked several times without comment.

Shannon asked a few more questions, which Mrs. Harkin answered, and then drew their meeting to a close. When Mrs. Harkin excused herself to the restroom, Shannon took the opportunity to talk quietly to Corrie.

“My mother was a lot like yours when I was your age,” Shannon said under her breath.

Corrie tightened her jaw. “It’s unbearable. She steamrolls over everything. I don’t have a chance to think, let alone make any decisions on my own. I don’t know a third of the people coming to the wedding.”

“That happens sometimes,” Shannon said, trying to be optimistic.

“You would think she’s the bride and not me. I’m not even sure I want to get married.”

That was not what Shannon thought she’d hear. “So why are you?”

“Oh, I don’t know . . . because I won’t do any better?” Corrie shook her head. “Never mind. I’m tired. Pissed off my fiancé can’t be bothered to show up. Angry that my mom is making this all about her.”

Mrs. Harkin walked back into the room.

Corrie closed her mouth and faked a smile. “Normal bride nerves . . . right?”

Nope. Not right at all.

Mrs. Harkin pushed her purse up to the middle of her forearm and held her hands together like the queen. “We will see you in three weeks.”

Shannon couldn’t help but think the wedding would be called off before she had a chance to board a plane.

Chapter Two

Shannon checked her phone one last time before switching it over to airplane mode and slipping into her first-class seat. The flight attendant offered a preflight cocktail while the other passengers boarded.

Shannon happily sipped a mimosa and leaned back for the five-hour flight into Cancun. From there she would take an hour and a half drive to her resort destination in Tulum.

The weather in LA had been unusually wet all winter, even the spring managed to get off to a damp start, so the white sand and sunshine were calling her name. She’d work for all of two days, barely making back what she would spend on her upgraded plane ticket and the postwedding accommodations. Her accountant would scoff at her again this year. She didn’t photograph weddings because she needed the money. No, her divorce from Paul had set her up with six million in the bank. All of which she bundled in investments that trickled out a sum of well over twenty thousand a month. Plenty to live her life, especially considering her home was paid for free and clear. Even the taxes on the home were taken care of by her ex for as long as she lived there.

Wedding photography kept her from boredom.

This week, it would pay for a much-needed vacation in a destination where she’d never been before.

As what appeared to be the last passengers filed into the plane, Shannon glanced at the empty aisle seat next to her. Not a normal occurrence in first class. Most of the time someone in the back attempted to upgrade their ticket for a fraction of what it cost her to guarantee a seat with more legroom and free drinks.

She opened the shade on the window after the attendant took her empty glass.

“I told you, I’ll be there on Tuesday.”

Shannon glanced up to find a man in a three-piece suit shoving a carry-on bag into the compartment above their heads while talking on his cell phone.

“No, no. I’ll take care of it.”

Trying not to stare, Shannon turned back to the window. All the while hearing every word the man said. As everyone within ten rows probably could.

Rude.

A briefcase landed on the seat beside her, making her glance over.

Tall, dark hair . . . probably close to her age, if not a little older. She didn’t make out his features as he shifted his phone and wiggled out of his jacket.

The flight attendant was right there, taking it from him and hanging it up in a forward closet.

Mr. Phone didn’t even thank the woman.

“Ladies and gentlemen. The cabin doors have been closed, and we’re asking for all of your electronic devices to be placed in airplane mode and all larger electronic devices to be stowed for takeoff.”

Several sets of eyes turned toward the man who flopped into the seat beside her.

She looked again and was met with a hand, a phone, and a partial profile.

“I’ll take care of it. Just make sure the contracts are on my desk Tuesday morning.”

“Sir?” The flight attendant approached Mr. Phone as the plane started to back away from the terminal.

“What?” he paused long enough to ask.

Someone in the seats in front of them said, “Oh, please.”

The attendant faked a smile.

That’s when Shannon spoke up. “Tell your Tuesday appointment you’ll call him when you land.”

Mr. Phone slowly turned his head toward Shannon.

Golden brown eyes narrowed against his tanned complexion. Strong jaw and a full mouth that opened ever so slightly. He was beautiful.

“I’ve got to go,” he said to whomever he was speaking with, and promptly hung up.

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