My lovely readers!
I get asked again and again to write more for Garrick and Bliss, and while that’s not currently in my plans…
TODAY YOU’RE IN LUCK. While in the process of cleaning out my email inbox (which is a terrifying place), I came across this bonus scene that I’d COMPLETELY forgotten I had written! It was originally sent out as a bonus incentive for people who pre-orderd All Lined Up, so you might have read it a couple of years ago – but I wanted to share it with everyone.
This takes place some time after the events of Keeping Her, and is unedited – so my apologies for any mistakes. Enjoy!
Of Mishaps and Moms
A Garrick/Bliss Bonus scene
I dropped the fake smile from my face and escaped into the oversized dressing room with Kelsey.
“I swear to God,” I whispered. “I’d rather spend the day with Prince Joffrey than deal with one more hour of my mother and Garrick’s mother in the same room.”
Kelsey laughed. “Dude. Those women could make that crazy bastard curl into the fetal position and weep.”
I sank onto a frilly little settee in a bridal shop that was painfully overpriced and opulent. Neither set of parents seemed to understand that Garrick and I didn’t need to be in more debt than we already were. My mom refused to accept that the both of us would continue on in theatre. It baffled her that we would spend our lives on careers that had very little chance of advancement or a decent paycheck.
“You okay?” Kelsey asked. “You look like you’re two seconds away from meltdown.”
I scrubbed my hands over my face and sighed. “If I were a superstitious person, I would say that the world really doesn’t want me and Garrick to get married.”
Kelsey rolled her eyes and eased herself onto the love-seat across from me. Only three months pregnant, and she was already walking like someone had shoved a bowling ball up… well, somewhere bowling balls should not be shoved.
If you had asked me a year ago, I would have told you I couldn’t ever picture Kelsey being pregnant. Now I know that was because I never pictured her pregnant and scowling.
“Bullshit.” She shifted, grimacing as she tried to get comfortable. “You’ve had the longest effing engagement in the history of the world. So, you’ve definitely thought this all the way through. That guy would move freaking mountains for you. You’re so perfect together that I could vomit. Or maybe that’s the morning sickness. Hard to tell.”
I threw my hands up. “There’s a typo on our invitations! You can’t tell me that’s not the worst wedding fail possible.”
She shrugged. “One measly letter.”
“It says we’re engaged to be marred!”
“Yeah. Okay. So that’s kind of bad. But now you’re trying on your dress, and it’s going to be awesome, and everything else won’t matter.”
“Don’t make me boob punch you. I have very little patience these days. We’ll do those shabby chic handmade invites you found on Pinterest. Garrick and I will run mom-interference. Everything will work out.”
“When did you get to be so positive?”
She thought for a moment. “Is it cheesy if I say I found myself?”
I raised my eyebrows and said, “Yes, it is.”
“Fine. Then I got my shit together. And Jackson helps. But don’t you dare tell him that, his head is big enough already.”
I laughed. “That sounds more like you.”
She gestured for me to stand up. “You just shut up and concentrate on looking gorgeous.”
“Let me just add gorgeous to my to-do list right quick.”
“Boob punch. It’s coming if you’re not careful.”
I stood, and she slowly did the same.
“Is it really that bad?” I asked, eyeing her slightly rounded stomach.
“There’s something growing inside me that has more control over my stomach and bladder than I do. What do you think?”
“You’re happy though, right? You and Jackson? I know it wasn’t planned but you’re…”
“We’re happy.” One side of her mouth lifted in a reluctant smile. “Scared shitless. But very happy.”
And that was all the reprieve we got as the door opened, and the seamstress bustled in with both mothers hot on her heels.
Kelsey went off to run interference as promised, and I focused on the seamstress as she retrieved my dress. It was the one thing about all this planning mess that had gone unequivocally right. It was this gorgeous mix of vintage and modern. The bodice was a slim-fit with boning like a corset. It wasn’t just for support though. They’d stitched it so you could see the vertical lines, and they flowed with the body. The bottom of the dress was made up of gorgeous pieces of chiffon of varying lengths, and they softened the effect of the very structured top.
In all, it felt like the perfect choice for me.
The seamstress was a petite Asian woman, and by her expression, she had about as much patience for the moms as I did.
“You ready?” She asked, stepping away from where my mother was clucking about how she still couldn’t believe I’d chosen such a simple dress.
To me, it was anything but simple. But I guess for Mom, anything without a massively poofy skirt or long train wasn’t good enough.
“I mean,” My mother said as I stepped behind the screen to change into the lacy, itchy undergarments. “It’s a lovely dress. Don’t get me wrong. But it more like a nice dress you’d wear to a party or a special occasion. Not a wedding dress.”
It was also one of the only affordable dresses in this place she’d insisted on taking me to.
“Mom, we’ve been over this. Those other dresses just aren’t me. This one is perfect.”
“Perfect certainly isn’t the world I’d use, but I suppose if you’re happy…”
I was pretty sure the end of that sentence was supposed to be then I’m happy, but she didn’t say it. And she sure as hell didn’t look it.
Garrick’s mom was looking between the two of us with an almost gleeful smile. In the beginning, that woman had terrified me. Still does, really. But then we kind of hit it off and worked some things out. But she despised my mother, so she was happiest when the two of us were at odds. Which was a lot these days.
I called out to the seamstress, “I’m ready.”
She handed the dress over to me, and I slipped it over my head. All the little pieces of chiffon got bunched and stuck as I pulled it down, so I stepped out from behind the screen to get some help. Kelsey worked on pulling all the pieces of chiffon loose so they hung properly while I slipped my arms through the tiny straps. The seamstress stepped around me to start zipping up the bodice while Kelsey finished. She got it halfway done before the metal whine of the zipper began to slow and then stopped all together.
There was an ominous pause, and then she pulled on each side of the top, smooshing my breasts tightly against the bodice, and trying again.
She got another inch or so, but I could feel her straining behind me, and the pinch of the boning around my waist.
Mom stepped up to help, and the first thing out of her mouth was “My goodness, Bliss. What have you been eating since your last fitting?”
Under my breath, I mumbled, “My feelings.”
Kelsey was below me, still adjusting chiffon, and she snickered.
Mom helped her pull, and together they zipped the dress up all the way, until I felt like one deep breath might do the whole thing in.
Mom sighed. “That’s not going to work. Bliss, really. What have you been eating?”
“I don’t know. Stuff.”
Chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
“Are you pregnant?” Mom’s voice was stern, accusatory.
“You’re certain?” Garrick’s mother asked, one sculpted eyebrow raised. She’d seen me through one pregnancy scare when we visited London. She was going to think I was a hot mess if I had another.
“Yes, I’m certain.”
Mom rounded me to look me in the eye. “If you’re pregnant, we’ll need to move up the wedding. No daughter of mine is having a child outside of wedlock.” She belatedly glanced at Kelsey who’d moved back to the love-seat and offered an unfeeling smile. “No offense, sweetheart.”
Kelsey raised her hands in a shrug and said, “None taken.”
I would have been absolutely livid, in fact, I was livid for my friend. But Kelsey wasn’t bothered in the least.
“I’m not pregnant, Mom. Not that it would be a bad thing if I was. I’ve just been stressed. I’ll cut back, and everything will be fine.”
Mom hummed and said quietly, “It certainly wouldn’t kill you to eat a little healthier.” I closed my eyes and resisted the urge to lash out. She gestured for me to step up on the round platform they use to fit and hem the dress. I made eye contact with Kelsey, and she gave me a reassuring grin accompanied by a supportive eye roll.
I took the seamstresses hand, and she helped me step up onto the platform. Garrick’s mother placed a pair of heels in front of me, and I slipped them on. A piece of chiffon got stuck in the left heel, and I reached down to pull it loose.
Then like it was happening in slow motion. I felt movement at the back of my dress, a rush of air, and then the loud ripping sound seemed to follow behind a second later.
Everyone started yelling and rushing around. And I just froze, half bent over, my eyes screwed shut and my bottom lip pinned harshly between my teeth.
Surely not. It can’t be. I barely bent over at all. It’s not like I’ve gained THAT much weight.
But I couldn’t deny the brush of air across my lower back that should not have been possible in this corseted gown.
I would have stayed bent like that forever, trying to convince myself that this was another one of those wedding-themed nightmares that had been plaguing my sleep, but Mom gripped my arm and forced me to stand up right.
Her first words?
“If you had bought that princess dress that I liked we wouldn’t be having this problem.”
And that was the final straw for me.
“Out!” I yelled. “Get out! All of you. Go!”
Garrick’s mom looked pleased by my show of strength, but not impressed enough to move.
“Bliss, really,” Mom said. “We don’t need your dramatics.”
I picked up my skirts to keep from causing another wardrobe disaster, then I stepped off the platform and bolted for the bathroom in the corner. My hands were sweaty and slipped on the ornate knob, but I could hear my mother coming after me, so I focused enough to push the door open and slam myself inside.
Then I gave in to the inclination I’d been having from the moment I heard my perfect dress rip, and I screamed.
The screaming only lasted a few seconds though. Then the crying set in.
I wouldn’t open the door for anyone. Certainly not my mother. So when the door creaked open about half an hour later, I was shocked out of my depressed stupor. There, peeking into the room, was Garrick. It took his eyes a few moments to find me where I was sprawled on the floor.
Garrick took in my prone form, and a smile stole across his face for a few seconds before disappearing for another serious expression. With his mouth in a thin line, he raised an eyebrow and said, “Nice dress.”
Normally, I wouldn’t have let a single inch of this dress touch the floor of a bathroom, but this place was nicer than my apartment. And the floor was carpeted in the sitting area, so I figured I was okay.
But it occurred to me then that Garrick wasn’t supposed to see me in this dress. It was bad luck, and we definitely didn’t need any more bad luck.
The logical thing would have been to tell him as much. But I wasn’t much for logic at the moment, so instead I rolled over like hiding the bulk of the dress would help, all while screaming at him to get out.
He closed the door behind him, and I heard the soft fall of his footsteps across the carpet.
“You need to get up, love.”
“No. I don’t. I need to lay here and not think about everything that has gone wrong. And probably will go wrong. That or I need to get really, really drunk. Maybe I could get really, really drunk right here.”
“While we’ve had many a good experience in bathrooms, this one isn’t ours. Come on. Let me take you home.”
I didn’t remember that the back of my pretty, perfect dress was a ripped mess until Garrick knelt beside me and ran a finger down my revealed spine.
That’s when I started crying again.
I knew even as it was happening that I was a blubbering, unattractive mess. I knew I sounded pitiful and whiny, but I just couldn’t help it. When you love someone, everything about life should get easier. All we wanted was each other, so the rest of this stuff shouldn’t matter, but what did it say about us that we couldn’t even get married without a disaster? What did it say about me? Would my whole life be this way? Every big moment? Would I get arrested on our honeymoon? Give birth to my first child in the cab on the way to the airport?
How long would Garrick stick around for that?
His palm flattened against my lower back, and suddenly it was too hard to breathe. I needed this ruined dress off of me. I needed it gone. I needed to be away from this place with no talk of dresses or invitations or flowers or vows. I needed everything to be how it had been before.
I sat up, hiccuping out words from between sobs, and it took a few moments before Garrick seemed to understand what I wanted. I pulled the straps off my shoulders and started grappling with the zipper at the back, but the dress had ripped right next to it, so I had trouble getting the leverage to unzip it.
I pulled too hard, and I heard another rip, and I couldn’t even form words anymore.
Garrick’s hands caught mine, and with our fingers laced together, he sat down behind me, wrapping both of our arms around my middle, trapping me against his body.
“If you’ll calm down for me, I’ll help you take the dress off. Then we’ll give it to the seamstress, and she can fix it.”
“How do you know? You don’t know anything about wedding dresses!”
“I know that if this one is ruined, we’ll get another just like it.”
“We can’t afford that.”
“Stop being so nice to me. I’m going to ruin our wedding.”
Garrick chuckled and dipped his head to press a kiss to my shoulder. “The only way you could ruin our wedding was if you didn’t show up. Whatever else happens that day won’t matter. As long as you walk down that aisle and stand with me.”
“What if I trip down the aisle?”
“Then I’ll make sure to trip down the aisle on our way out so we’re even.”
I laughed in spite of myself.
I hated that this kept happening. I was always the one falling apart, and he was always the one putting things back together. That was another thing that couldn’t last. I had to learn to hold my own in this relationship. I had to be better.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
He hummed, bending his head and grazing his cheek along the slow of my shoulder.
“What are you sorry for?”
“For being such a mess. For making you come out here to deal with me.”
“You know that’s not a hardship, right? I like dealing with you.”
As if punctuating his point, his hands released mine to trail up my sides, tracing the lines of stitching on my dress.
“Now you do,” I mumbled.
“Hey.” He caught my chin, and pulled me to face him. “None of that. If you want to doubt something… doubt the fish at the rehearsal dinner, doubt whether Rowland and Graham will be able to hold their liquor during the festivities, doubt our mothers’ abilities to stick to friendly conversation. Don’t doubt us. We’re beyond that, you and I. You keep acting as if I don’t know who you are. That I’m going to wake up one day, and decide these little mishaps aren’t worth all the rest. But you have to remember… I love you. Mishaps included. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have made it past the imaginary cat.”
“Don’t say you’re sorry. Just kiss me instead. Every time you feel like apologizing. Let that be the first rule of our marriage.”
I sniffed. “Sounds like a pretty good rule.”
“Indeed, it does.”
“What happens if I’m really sorry?”
“I’m sure we can come up with a few ideas.”
“And what if one of us is angry? Or sad? Or anything else?”
“Same rule applies.”
He pulled my chin forward, tipping my mouth up toward his, but I hesitated.
“My mom thinks I’m getting fat. And I couldn’t even bend over in my dress without ripping it.”
His big hands slid up to take hold of my ribcage. “You’re not fat, Bliss. And I for one happen to like your curves.”
“Curves is just a nice way to say I’ve gained weight.”
“You have gained weight.”
Punch to the solar plexus right there.
“And it looks good. I, for one, like the fuller look on you.” He trailed one finger along the top of my bodice, and the cleavage that it pushed up above the neckline. Had those gotten bigger too? He said, “Now stop worrying. That falls under marriage rule number one, too.”
This time when he tilted my chin up, I didn’t resist. He covered my lips with his, and I opened up to the taste of him. My stomach swooped the way it always seemed to when he kissed me. Never would I have thought that such an unsteady feeling would be the thing to ground me.
His fingers continued their light stroking over the top of my breasts. And slowly, his mouth teased mine until everything else disappeared. The ripped dress. The invitation mistakes. Even our mothers. And let me tell you, it takes quite a kiss to make those two fade into the background.
But I was soon to be Mrs. Garrick Taylor.
And yes, it was easy to get swept away with all the mishaps and the planning and the stress. But when he was in front of me, touching me, his forehead resting against mine… none of those other things had any kind of pull on me. Because the gravity I felt toward him would always be stronger.
With him, I’d always be stronger too.
Remember, you can read all of the Bliss and Garrick bonus scenes (as well as bonus content from my other books) on my Extras page!
In Awkward Love,