Her garden gloves are off ... this heroine is no pansy!
Gretchen Benton is the maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding when she gets drunk, says exactly the wrong thing and feels alone in the midst of all the couples. She can’t avoid weddings—she’s a florist. She also can't avoid the thugs who break into her shop and assault her the following night. To combat her fear after her attack, Gretchen enrolls in karate classes at a local dojo. Soon she's caught between her handsome martial arts instructor and the cute cop assigned to her case. As she begins mastering the basics of karate (while sweating enough to make her mascara run), Gretchen learns that kicking like a girl doesn’t imply weakness, it means striking hard and striking with style.
Read an excerpt:
Chapter OneThe appropriate response in situations like this was to smile graciously and say in the warmest possible tone of voice, “That’s wonderful! I hope she’s a nice girl and makes him happy.” That’s not what came out of Gretchen Benton’s mouth.
“I hope she makes his life hell and every day he regrets breaking it off with me, that two-timing man-whore.”
She blamed the vodka gimlets for that comment the following morning.
An audible gasp reached her ears and Gretchen pressed on, swaying slightly and reaching for the back of a chair to steady herself. The elegant chandeliers of the Hawthorne Ballroom dimmed while the four-piece band started playing Natalie Cole’s I Wish You Love. Wedding guests paired off, embracing while they spun in slow circles around the dance floor. “You do the math. He’s engaged three months after we break up. Can anyone say rebound?”
Horrified, Libby Calaway dropped her bridal bouquet and grabbed at Gretchen’s arm, but Gretchen wrenched it free with indignation. She glared at the faces of her former high school classmates. Gretchen found them as insufferable as she had ten years ago when she was forced to pass them five days a week through the halls of Charlesville High School. “We were together for three years. Bet she’s pregnant. That’s got to be it.” She calculated in her head and shrugged. “Dave’s a lying bastard.”
Finally getting a grip on Gretchen’s arm, Libby put all 137 pounds of her weight into the effort and successfully jerked her maid of honor away from the circle of shocked expressions.
“Gretchen! What are you thinking?” Libby pleaded, leading her across the reception hall and around a group of sock-footed children playing tag along the fringe of the dance floor. She glanced over her shoulder to see the circle tighten, already picking over Gretchen’s tirade like crows attacking fresh road kill. Libby steered Gretchen around a tuxedoed groomsman carrying a tray full of shot glasses, the Technicolor orange liquor sloshing as he stepped back to let them pass.
“Vodka gimlets. Man, they’re yummy. You should try one. Want a sip?” Gretchen held her glass towards Libby’s mouth.
Libby shoved her friend’s hand aside, stepping back when the cocktail spilled onto the floor, just missing the hem of her white organza gown. “I asked, ‘What are you thinking?’ not ‘What are you drinking?’”
“Oh. Sorry.” Gretchen smiled and shrugged. “Not sure.” The band struck up another song while the emcee called all the single men to the dance floor. “What were we talking about?”
Libby surveyed her best friend since ninth grade, sniffed in disgust and guided her to an empty table at the edge of the banquet hall. She’d rescued Gretchen the first day they’d met—pulling her aside to whisper in her ear that her button fly Levis weren’t buttoned up—a second before the Varsity football team strutted past them in the hallway. Gretchen had had time to slide her notebook over the gaping fabric where her hot pink undies were on display. But Libby wasn’t fast enough to rescue Gretchen tonight. “You sure gave them something to talk about. Sit here, I have to enjoy the next wedding ritual.”
“They can all go straight to hell.” Gretchen gritted her teeth, still seething. She had to pull herself together. It was Libby and Shawn’s wedding day, a happy occasion. How had it turned into another reminder of the fact that she was growing old alone while everyone else was connected to somebody? Gretchen looked across the dance floor and saw Shawn’s best man dancing with his wife. As maid of honor she hadn’t needed an escort tonight. The best man was by her side for all the required photographs. She knew no good ever came of bringing a date to a wedding, but she didn’t even have any prospects to ask. Across the room she saw her roommate, Sylvia Madison, accept a drink from one of the ushers while flipping open her cell phone. Her cousin, Donna, dressed in a matching pink satin gown, hollered encouragement to the single men lining up to catch Libby’s garter. Gretchen sighed and smoothed the front of her very expensive cocktail dress, thankful that Libby hadn’t forced her to wear a hideous bridesmaid dress. She looked more like an extra from a scene in Mad Men than an old maid. Deciding to skip out on the set of slow dances the band had begun playing, Gretchen headed to the ladies’ room.