A Handful of Hope
A Handful of Hope
Taste of Romance book 4
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She's been broken too many times and their terrible date sure doesn’t help her want to try again. Can he make her feel valuable and loved?
- Friends to Love
- He falls first
- Workplace romance
She wants to be worth loving.
Repeated heartbreak has convinced Jen Andrews she’s unlovable. When the groomsman she’s paired with at her best friend’s wedding shows interest, she wonders how long it will be before he realizes his mistake.
David Pak is ready to settle down with the right woman. After a disastrous first date with Jen, he’s determined to look elsewhere. But he’s haunted by the wounded look in her eyes.
How will David set aside his hesitations and see past Jen’s barriers to find love? And if he tries, will she let him?
A Handful of Hope is the fourth book in the Taste of Romance series of contemporary Christian romance novels set in the metro Washington, D.C. area. If you like stories of love and hope in the fast-paced modern world with realistic characters and heartwarming romance, then you’ll love Elizabeth Maddrey’s latest journey with this beloved circle of friends.
Intro into Chapter One
Intro into Chapter One
Jen Andrews turned her back to the mirror and craned her neck around. Unfortunately, the back of her dress hadn’t miraculously decided to fit. It still made her butt look big. She sighed. Why weren’t bridesmaid dresses designed to be flattering? Sure, the bride needed to be the star of the show, but couldn’t the attendants at least feel good about themselves? At least the shoes were pretty. She was totally going to wear them again, even if the dress was a waste of a hundred and fifty bucks.
“You look amazing.” Sara shut the door to their shared hotel room. She circled her finger in the air.
Jen groaned but circled. “This is not what amazing looks like. Did Rebecca actually think cranberry red was going to look good on us?”
“I think she just got caught up in the whole Christmas Eve wedding thing. Red, green, holly in the bouquets.”
Sara nodded. “So watch your fingers, ‘cause I pricked myself about twelve times trying to get them out of their box. I don’t understand why the florist didn’t trim the pointy bits, but they didn’t.”
Great. “At least the blood won’t show on these dresses.”
Sara laughed. Sara slid the closet door open and pulled her dress out. “They’re not that bad. And like I said, you’re stunning. Have you met your groomsman yet?”
“Not yet. I was surprised when Rebecca said she’d asked Amy and Paige to be in the wedding party, too. I guess it makes sense, sort of, but was there really a problem with you and me walking down the aisle with Jackson and Zach? It’s like five minutes, total. Who has—or wants—five attendants?”
“Who knows? I think I caught a glimpse of the two guys. They looked a little familiar. Maybe they were at the party where Ben and Rebecca got engaged?”
Jen shrugged. “Like I said, five minutes max, right? It’s not as if we have to become friends. How come you look so much better in this dress than I do?”
“Please.” Sara smoothed her hands down her hips. “I thought the A-line was supposed to be flattering, all it does is highlight the fact that I haven’t been making time for the gym like I used to. It looks the same as it did on the mannequin on you.”
Jen turned sideways and studied her reflection. Maybe Sara was right. She’d never been the best judge of her appearance. Wasn’t everyone their own harshest critic? Regardless, she’d managed to drop seven of the fifteen pounds she was working to get rid of. It was a start, at least. “The shoes are killer though.”
“Killer’s the right word. I don’t know why I let you talk me into agreeing to these. I wear sneakers to work. The last time I wore heels was probably my senior prom. And even those weren’t three inches high.”
“Nothing to it. Just glide.”
Sara shook her head. “Right. Or, you know, pray that you don’t fall on your face. At least the aisle is very, very short.”
“Do Rebecca’s parents know this wedding is happening? I know they were planning on it being a surprise, but something like this is bound to slip out, isn’t it?” Jen frowned and turned away from the mirror. Why was she obsessing about it anyway? She was here for her friend. Period. If it meant wearing an ugly dress, then so be it.
“As far as I know they’re still in the dark. Her mom was just excited to have been able to spend the day at Montepelier and then eat somewhere fancy enough that Rebecca suggested dressing for dinner.”
Jen snickered. “That’s one way to make sure her mom doesn’t end up getting angry about being under-dressed in photos.”
“Our gal’s a cagey one, that’s for sure. And now, we’d probably better high tail it down to the restaurant so we can get the show on the road.”
Jen laughed and scooped a small, silk clutch off the bed. “After you.”
Sara pulled open the door to their room and Jen followed her into the narrow hallway of the 1700s plantation manor-turned-B&B. The dark espresso stain on the wood floors was polished to within an inch of its life and Jen’s heels slipped to the side with each step. She shortened her stride. No point wiping out and giving Sara a reason to laugh and say “I told you so.” They went down the narrow, back stairs, avoiding the main lobby where Rebecca and Ben were planning to meet up with their parents. Everyone had agreed that girls showing up in matching dresses would be more of a giveaway than was warranted. Of course, Rebecca’s parents were going to have to find out at some point. Wasn’t sooner better than later? Jen shrugged. Not her problem.
“Hey guys. You’re looking great.” Jen waved to Ben’s roommates, Jackson and Zach, who huddled at the end of the hall with their fiancées.
Paige grinned. “You, too. Both of you. But Jen...I think you’re the only one of the four of us who can really pull off this dress.”
Sara’s elbow dug into her ribs. “Told you. She thinks she looks fat.”
Amy’s eyebrows shot up. “Seriously? Do you not have a mirror in your room?”
Jen hunched her shoulders, heat burning across her cheeks. Why couldn’t Sara keep her big mouth shut? Time to hedge. “Maybe it’s just that the color draws so much attention.”
Sara scoffed. “You do usually wear clothes that blend into the background. Anyone seen the other groomsmen? I thought I saw them somewhere, but I’d really like to at least say hi before we’re supposed to take their arm.”
Paige frowned. “David just ran back to his car for something. He’s not staying over, needs to be home for a big family celebration tomorrow, early. I’m not sure where Luc went.”
“Luc? Have we even met him before?” Jen sighed. At least David was semi-familiar. She’d heard his name and had probably chatted with him at the picnic in October. She could do this. It was an evening of pretending to be a cheerful person. She did it all the time. Why was it such a struggle tonight?
“I’m right here. And no, I don’t believe we’ve met.” Luc extended his hand, a dimple appearing in one cheek. “Luc Duval.”
The man was the spitting image of a young Denzel Washington. Jen blinked but the comparison remained. She hastily wiped her hand on her dress before taking his. “Hi. I’m Jen. This is Sara.”
He tilted his head and shifted his gaze to Sara. His eyes brightened when he saw her and he took her hand, bringing her fingers to his lips. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I understand I’m to be your escort.”
That figured. Though David wasn’t bad looking, if she remembered correctly. But of course Sara got the movie star look-alike with an exotic accent.
“How fun. You have to tell me about your accent. I’ll never be able to place it.” Sara’s eyelashes fluttered and Jen nearly choked. Laying it on a bit thick. Luc, of course, seemed oblivious.
“Have you never been to Martinique? It’s an island paradise and it will always be home.” Luc drew Sara’s arm through his and pulled her along the hall, still talking.
Jen raised her eyebrows at Paige. “So. I guess we should head to the dining room?”
“Should we wait for Davi—ah, here he comes.” Paige took Jackson’s hand.
“Sorry, sorry. I left my cell in the car and it isn’t that I’m planning on taking calls, but my mom worries and will probably text at some point. If I don’t answer, she’ll call in the cavalry.” He stopped and flashed a bright smile. “Jen, right? David Pak. Good to see you again.”
She chuckled. His chatter was warm, friendly, and calmed the conga line that had just started up in her stomach. It didn’t hurt that her shoes made her about an inch taller than him. They’d be basically eye-level on a normal shoe day. “Good to see you, too.”
“Ready?” He offered her his elbow.
“Sure.” She took his arm and walked down the hall to the main doors of the restaurant. Standing just outside the large room, she scanned the space. Rebecca and Ben were seated at a large, round table near the fireplace with both of their parents. What she could see of Rebecca’s dress was gorgeous. The style was similar to theirs, but the ivory color and beading on the bodice clearly labeled it a wedding dress. Had her mom really not figured it out yet?
The hostess lifted a finger. “I’ll go change the music. They know the cue.”
Jen nodded and stepped back, lest any of the parents look up. “It goes Sara and Luc, me and David, Paige and Jackson, then Zach and Amy, right?”
Everyone nodded and shuffled into roughly the right order. It didn’t matter, really. But that’s what Rebecca had said, so she wanted to at least try and do it right. The music changed from the quiet jazz that had been playing to a string quartet and Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Rebecca and Ben looked at each other, smiled, and pushed back from the table, moving to stand in front of the fireplace.
Sara and Luc started through the restaurant doors. Jen and David followed after they’d gone a few steps. Jen grinned as she saw Rebecca’s parents exchange a startled look before comprehension slowly dawned. Jen let go of David’s arm and moved to stand beside and slightly behind Rebecca with the rest of the bridesmaids.
“Mom, Dad, Mr. and Mrs. Taylor.” Rebecca paused and looked at Ben.
Ben took her hand in his. “Wedding planning was getting too complicated. So we decided to elope. But we also wanted you to be with us to celebrate and, more importantly, to witness our vows. Because our promises to God and each other mean more to us than any fancy party ever could.”
Rebecca reached out a hand to her parents. “We had a judge sign the marriage license yesterday when we picked it up—that’s why our errand took a little longer than we’d planned. But we were hoping, Dad, that you’d say a few words.”
Roland MacDonald scooted away from the table, pressing a kiss to his wife’s head as he stood. “I’d be honored. It happens that I’ve been paging through wedding services lately, hoping you’d ask me to do your ceremony. This...is perfect for the two of you. I’m grateful that you’d include us.”
Jen blinked away tears. It was good to see Rebecca and her dad working their way back to a less strained relationship. The fact that neither he, nor her mom, were upset was a good sign. She pulled her attention back to Rebecca’s dad, who had started speaking.