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Once Upon a Wedding by Joann Ross (1)


ONCE UPON A TIME, in the early 1900s, a newly married royal couple of a small European principality decided to take a tour of America on their honeymoon. When the King and Queen of Montacroix had learned of the lush green majesty of the Olympic National Monument from their friend former President Theodore Roosevelt, they’d added it to their itinerary. As soon as that news reached Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, the residents of the once prosperous but dying Victorian seaport town nestled up against the mountains had immediately voted to rename the town Honeymoon Harbor in hopes of using the royal visit to garner publicity.

It worked. As the years passed, the town became a popular wedding and honeymoon destination. Honeymoon Harborites had long grown accustomed to seeing brides decked out in white princess dresses and grooms in tuxedos exchanging vows in the town center’s lacy white Victorian gazebo, on the sand beside impossibly blue water, and barefoot in mountain meadows carpeted with wildflowers dancing on the breeze.

But they really perked up when the couples were locals. And any wedding became an event when it involved the Mannions or the Harpers, whose feud, mostly long past—but still occasionally simmering—had begun when Nathaniel Harper was the sole person to vote against the name change. Or, as some old-timers claimed, when Nathaniel and Gabriel Mannion were both courting the same woman, who’d ended up choosing Gabriel.

Today’s wedding between Kylee Campbell and Mai Munemori involved both families. Seth Harper had remodeled the Folk Victorian house for Kylee and Mai to live in, and they had chosen the back garden as the perfect location to exchange their vows. Meanwhile Seth’s fiancée, Brianna Mannion, had stepped in as wedding planner when the couple found attempting to coordinate events while learning the ropes of mothering their newborn adopted daughter more time-consuming and exhausting than they’d expected. Although the last wedding Brianna had organized had involved two King Charles spaniels, as a former executive concierge to the top rollers at the Las Vegas Midas Resort and Casino, she had no doubt that the small, intimate garden wedding would go off without a hitch. Little did she realize that she was about to learn the unfortunate lesson of best-laid plans.

* * *

DESIREE MARCHAND HAD loved baking ever since she’d been old enough to stand on a stool in her grand-mère Dupree’s kitchen, learning the many variations of French pastry dough, beginning with the basic distinction between viennoiserie and patisserie. “The Viennese may have given us pastry,” her grand-mère would say, “but we French are the ones who put the magic into the dough.” According to family lore, an old-line Creole ancestor, who could trace his roots directly back to France, had started the family’s first boulangerie in 1736, making bread for the patients at New Orleans’s Charity Hospital, which had continued to operate until Hurricane Katrina.

Today Desiree was in Kylee and Mai’s kitchen, singing to herself as she put together the happiest of pastries, a wedding cake. She was spreading French buttercream frosting on the three layers of cake, when an all-too-familiar baritone voice from her past began singing along. Spinning around, she found herself looking straight into a pair of dark chocolate-brown eyes.

“What are you doing here?”

Bastien Broussard lifted his hands. “Apparently I’m here to get stabbed with whatever that weapon is that you’re holding.”

She glanced down at the stainless-steel bench scraper she’d been using to smooth the buttercream. And lowered her hand. “I meant here.” She inadvertently swung it again as she waved her hand around the kitchen. “In this town. In this house.”

Before he could answer, Brianna came rushing into the kitchen, appearing nearly as flustered as Desiree felt. “Don’t tell Kylee and Mai, but we have a problem.”

She was not alone. What was the man Desiree had loved with all her heart, then walked away from, doing here, in the far northwest corner of the country?

“What is it?” she asked, trying for a reasonably calm voice. But from the way a corner of Bastien’s mouth quirked, he knew that he’d rattled her. As he’d always been able to do. In so many ways.

“We’ve lost our musician.”

“Lost, lost? As in you can’t find her? Or lost as in she’s not showing up?”

“The second. She’s in the hospital getting stitches for a cut she got opening a can of dog food,” Brianna answered on something close to a wail. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, seemed to be counting to ten, then opened her eyes again. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’ve dealt with being stuck in an elevator with snarling little dogs trying to rip each other’s tulle bridesmaid’s dresses off. I don’t know why I’m panicking over a musician.”

“Because this wedding is personal. Kylee’s been your friend all your life. You want everything to be perfect.”

“I always expect everything to be perfect,” Brianna returned sharply, then pressed her fingers against the bridge of her nose. “I’m sorry. I’ve been working on that.” She took another breath. Let it out. “It’s not the end of the world.” Desiree couldn’t quite decide whom she was trying to convince. Her? Or herself? “If I can’t find a wedding singer in the next ninety minutes, I’ll simply have Seth figure out how to hook up my phone to a sound system. He’s a genius at that tech stuff. It won’t be the same as an actual performer, but it’s better than nothing.”

Do. Not. Say. A. Word. Desiree was afraid to even look at the man standing behind her for fear that he’d know that she knew what he was thinking, and she didn’t want to encourage him.

“What type of wedding singer was she?” he asked.


“Marian Oberchain’s very versatile. She can sing pop, the oldies, ballads, even country. She could also play a classical harp, an acoustic guitar and the ukulele, which I really wanted because Mai’s from Hawaii, and Marian was going to play the ‘Hawaiian Wedding Song’... I’m sorry. I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“I’m an old friend of Desiree’s,” he said. “Bastien Broussard.”

“You’re French?”

“Cajun.” He gifted her with one of his knee-melting smiles. Not the full-out sexy kind he used to turn on Desiree, but it was enough to bring a bit of color to the usually cool and composed Brianna’s cheeks. “A few centuries removed from France. But I have been living in Paris the past few years.”

As if that smile had emptied her head, a feeling which Desiree had experienced too many times in the past, Brianna appeared to have forgotten her immediate problem.

“Perhaps you’d better go find Seth so he can hook up that system,” Desiree suggested.

“I suppose I should. Oh, I’m sorry, I just realized that I was so distracted that I didn’t introduce myself. I’m Brianna Mannion.”

“And your family would have come here from the auld sod,” he said, somehow pulling off what sounded to Desiree like an actual Irish accent.

“Like yours, from a few generations back,” she confirmed. “It’s good to meet you, Mr. Broussard. Enjoy your visit. In fact, I just had a wonderful idea.”

No! Desiree begged inwardly. Don’t go there.

“Why don’t you stay for the wedding? I know Kylee and Mai would welcome having you here and that way you and Desiree can catch up.”

Damn. She’d gone there.

“I’d enjoy that,” Bastien said. “Although I’m afraid I’m not dressed formally enough for the occasion.”

Both women skimmed a look over him in his dark, slim-cut indigo jeans, a white button-down linen shirt worn open over a black body-hugging T-shirt, and cobalt-blue loafers that looked so soft they had to be pricey Italian leather to allow him to go without socks. He still looked like a Cajun bad boy blues rocker, but he had taken on a definite Parisian flair since she’d last seen him. His hair, as black as her own, was no longer down at his shoulders, but had been cut to a shaggy style that just reached his collar and begged a woman’s hands to run through it.

“You look great,” Brianna said. “We’re very casual here in Honeymoon Harbor. The only reason I’ll be dressing up is that I’m the maid of honor.”

Bien, then,” he said. “I’d be honored to accept your invitation. But I do have another suggestion that might solve your problem.”

“Oh?” Brianna lifted a perfectly arched blond brow.

“As it happens, I’m a singer. And a musician.”

“Really. What instrument do you play?”

“A tenor sax typically. Which is in my rental car. But I can also play the alto sax, keyboard and guitar. And once, while I was in Hawaii, I had a lesson in the ukulele. Coincidentally, it was the ‘Hawaiian Wedding Song.’”

In full official wedding coordinator mode, Brianna folded her arms. “I don’t want to risk insulting you, Mr. Broussard, but are you any good? Because this wedding is the most personal event I’ve ever planned.”

Je comprends. I’d feel the same way myself.” He reached into the pocket of his dark jeans, pulled out a cell phone and opened YouTube. “This was at a live concert in Australia.”

He hit Play and there he was standing alone in the spotlight onstage, wearing much the same outfit as he was wearing now, but with a black leather jacket and black rocker boots, his beautiful voice crooning a blues ballad about love and loss Desiree knew that he’d written about them. Bastien had played it for her in Paris, on the balcony of their room in the Hôtel Plaza Athénée with its perfect view of the Eiffel Tower their last night together.

“Oh. Now I feel really foolish.” Brianna looked up at him. “You’re famous.”

He shrugged in that casual Gallic way he had. “A bit,” he allowed. “In my own circle. There’s no reason you should know of me.”

“He won a music award,” Desiree heard herself saying before she could stop herself.

“Three,” he corrected her with a self-deprecating grin that was sexier than any male swagger. “But who’s counting?” He turned back to Brianna. “If you’d like to give me the bride’s playlist...”

“It’s right here.” Brianna pulled it out of a white binder and handed it to him. “I’ll have to talk to Kylee and Mai, but I’m sure they’ll agree that you should feel free to play whatever you’d like. And what feels appropriate. I don’t know what you usually charge, but—”

“Consider it my gift to the happy couple,” he said. Then tilted his head and looked at Desiree, who knew very well what was coming. “Desiree sings, too. In fact, we were in a band together. She was the front singer, of course.”

“You were in a band?” Brianna looked at Desiree as if she’d been keeping some big secret from everyone in Honeymoon Harbor.

“It was a very long time ago. I was nineteen, working in my father’s bakery as an apprentice with plans to attend culinary school in France. Then I got sidetracked for a few years.”

Plans which she’d put off after Bastien had approached her in New Orleans’s Jackson Square, where she’d been singing Christmas carols with a choral group. And hadn’t her father exploded when she’d told him that she’d agreed to join the band of a stranger whom she’d met that very same night? That had caused a split between them for two weeks, until Augustin Dupree had thrown in the towel. Only after threatening to slice Bastien into pieces with a filet knife and feed him to the gators if he ever hurt his baby girl.

“I was three years older,” Bastien said. “Mood Indigo, that was our band. It was blues rock, but to be honest, we’d play whatever someone would pay us to play. Including our share of weddings, until Desiree decided that baking would provide her a steadier income. Which, at the time, she was correct about.” He touched her with his melting dark gaze. “What do you say, cher? Want to relive our young and foolish past for a couple hours?”

“Oh, that would be so romantic!” Brianna actually clapped her hands. The outward display of excitement from the warm but usually composed woman was like a brass Mardi Gras band marching through the kitchen. “Would you, Desiree? I know it would mean so much to Kylee and Mai.”

“Your cake appears nearly finished,” Bastien noted.

“It just needs the topper,” she said. “Which I’m going to wait to add until right before rolling it outside.”

“Wonder Women.” He nodded his approval, not that she needed it. “I like that.”

“You like all women,” Desiree retorted.

Brianna’s brow furrowed again. “Mr. Broussard—”

“Bastien,” he said easily.

“Bastien it is,” Brianna said in an outwardly casual tone that didn’t fool anyone for a moment. “Perhaps you could get your saxophone from your car while Desiree and I go over a few last-minute details about the cake cutting?”

“Fine.” He met Desiree’s gaze. “I’m parked down the street. I’ll be back soon.’

They both watched him walk away. “I’ve always been mad crazy in love with Seth,” Brianna murmured. “But looking never hurt, did it?”

“Every other woman always has,” Desiree said, sounding a bit too sharp to her own ears. “I’m sorry. That sounded snarky and I certainly didn’t mean it that way.”

“I’m the one who should apologize, inviting him to stay without talking with you alone first. Is there a problem?”

“No.” She wouldn’t allow it. “Don’t worry, nothing’s going to screw up Kylee and Mai’s special day.”

“You loved him,” Brianna guessed.

“Yes.” Desiree sighed. “I was young and naive.”

“I’ve been there. It’s hard. Are you sure...”

“It’ll be fine.” She forced a smile. “I haven’t sung in public for years. It could be fun.” Right up there with a root canal.

“Being a wedding, there are going to be a lot of love songs.”

“As long as I can avoid singing ‘Unchained Melody.’ Because that always makes me cry when I think of Patrick Swayze getting murdered.”

“You’re not alone. That one’s not on the list because Kylee cries like a baby whenever we watch Ghost. Jolene would be really upset if we ruin the makeup she spent so much time applying.”

“Then it’ll be fine,” Desiree said.

“Perhaps this could turn out to be a romantic reunion for the two of you.”

“Nope,” Desiree said as Bastien walked back into the kitchen, looking good enough to scoop up with a spoon. “Not happening.”



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