The Wedding Guests: Excerpt

“I’m sorry, Ms. Russo,” the receptionist said with an apologetic smile, “I don’t have any reservations under your name.”

Genevieve had been anxious about coming to this wedding for a whole host of reasons, but not having anywhere to stay for the night wasn’t one of the scenarios she’d considered. “You’re sure?” she asked. She could have sworn that she’d booked a room at this hotel—the only one in this tiny mountain town—but it wasn’t entirely out of character for her to screw that up.

“I’m so sorry, ma’am.”

Ugh, I’m going to have to sleep in my car, Genevieve thought. It wouldn’t be the first time, but she was thirty-nine and there was a big difference between living out of her car for a couple months when she was sixteen, and trying to sleep in her car at nearly forty. She was going to have the worst stiff neck in the morning. “And there aren’t any other hotels nearby?”

Another apologetic smile. “Nearest one is almost a two hours’ drive from here.”

“Two hours. How is that even possible?”

“It’s Wyoming, ma’am,” the girl said with a shrug. “There’s lots of space between places.”

Genevieve sighed. “Well, thanks for your help.” Coming here was a dumb idea, she thought as she stepped away from the desk.

“Gennie!” someone called. Genevieve looked up to see the bride-to-be, Iolanthe Fairfield, making her way through the crowded lobby toward her. “I’m so glad you’re here,” Iolanthe said as she pulled Genevieve into a hard hug.

As Genevieve hugged the slender woman back, coming here suddenly didn’t seem quite such a bad idea.

Truthfully, when she received the invitation, she’d planned not to attend. But then Iolanthe had called. “You’ll be there, right?” Iolanthe had said over the phone. “Of all the stepmothers I’ve had, you’re still my favorite.”

Genevieve had laughed at that.

“If you’re worrying about seeing my dad,” she continued, “don’t. He’s not coming.”

What?!” Genevieve’s ex-husband was flaky, but she would’ve assumed he would at least show up for his only child’s wedding.

“He’s in Ibiza with McKayla.” McKayla was wife number eight. Or maybe nine. Who could keep track? Genevieve had been wife number three. “Mom’s not coming either. She’s at a retreat in Bali.” Iolanthe’s mother was wife number one.

What could Genevieve do? Of course she agreed to come.

Before they’d hung up, Genevieve had almost—almost—asked if any of Iolanthe’s uncles—if one particular uncle—would be there, but then decided against it. What would be the point? Surely whatever bizarre attraction she had felt for her former brother-in-law would have faded by now. It had been a decade and a half since she’d seen him, after all.

Genevieve’s eyes were wet when she pulled back. She and Iolanthe had stayed in touch over the years with frequent phone calls, emails, and social media, but in the last few years their in-person visits had been fewer and further between. When she’d heard about the wedding Genevieve had worried; would Iolanthe be happy giving up a promising PR career in New York to become a rancher’s wife in rural Wyoming? But seeing her in person put those concerns to rest—Iolanthe looked happier and healthier than she had in years.

“I can’t believe you’re getting married,” Genevieve said. It seemed not that long ago that Iolanthe was a dark eyed nine-year-old, giving nineteen-year-old Genevieve a suspicious stare as her father introduced them.

“You have a weird name,” Iolanthe had said.

“It is a weird name, isn’t it?” Genevieve had said with a smile. She’d managed to sound a lot calmer than she felt. “But you probably know what that’s like, huh?”

The smile Iolanthe had given her then was the same one she gave now: delighted, full of mischief. “You’d think my parents would have put me off the whole institution, huh?” grown up Iolanthe said. Then she snaked an arm around the waist of a lanky man in the cowboy hat. “This guy’s pretty glad they didn’t, though.”

“You must be Brandon,” Genevieve said. She’d wondered about the man who’d captured Iolanthe’s heart. Genevieve’s first impression was that he was quiet and solid, and that that was probably a good match for Iolanthe.

“Ma’am,” he said, holding out a hand to take hers. “It’s a real pleasure to meet you finally.”

They might have continued making small talk, but Iolanthe smiled at something over Genevieve’s shoulder. “Oh,” she said happily, “Uncle Nick’s here!”

Genevieve’s gaze snapped up as Iolanthe bounded away toward the door. It was him, Nicholas Fairfield, standing there in the doorway and looking as though he’d not aged a day since she’d seen him last. He still had the same golden blond hair swept back from his forehead. Still had those same heavy blond eyebrows, bright blue eyes, and high, slashing cheekbones, making him look like a particularly severe Norse god. His nose was still straight, and his jaw was still the squarest she had ever seen. She still thought his mouth was just a little too pouty for a man. And he still wore a suit like he was born to do it.

The sight of him still made her heart pound and her stomach flop over.

Another thing that hadn’t changed? Even though he was currently kissing his niece’s cheek, he still looked at Genevieve with the exact same hard-as-ice glare he’d always given her. Coming here might really have been a dumb idea after all.


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