Sample text for Shadow dance / Julie Garwood.
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This wedding was no small affair.There were seven bridesmaids, seven groomsmen, three ushers, two altar boys, three lectors, and enough firepower inside the church to wipe out half the congregation.All but two of the groomsmen were armed.
The federal agents weren’t happy about the crowd, but they knew it would be pointless to complain.The father of the groom, Judge Buchanan, wasn’t about to miss such an auspicious occasion, no matter how many death threats he received.The judge was in the midst of hearing a racketeering case back in Boston, and the federal agents assigned to protect him would continue their detail until the trial was over and a decision had been rendered.
The church was packed to capacity.The Buchanans were such a large family that some of the groom’s relatives and friends spilled over to the bride’s side. Most had traveled to the little town of Silver Springs, South Carolina, from Boston, but there were several Buchanan cousins who had come all the way from Inverness, Scotland, to celebrate the marriage of Dylan Buchanan and Kate MacKenna.
The bride and groom were deliriously happy, and their wedding was a joyous occasion, but it never would have happened if it weren’t for Dylan’s sister, Jordan. Kate and Jordan were best friends and had been roommates in college.The first time Jordan took Kate to her family’s home on Nathan’s Bay, all the siblings had gathered to celebrate their father’s birthday.Jordan certainly had no intention of matchmaking, and she definitely wasn’t aware at the time that there had been a spark between Kate and her brother Dylan, so years later when the spark ignited into a flame and the two became engaged, no one was more surprised–or thrilled–than she.
Every last detail of the happy event had been meticulously planned. Like Kate, Jordan was a great organizer, and so she was given the responsibility of dressing up the church for the occasion. Admittedly, Jordan had gotten a little carried away. She’d put flowers everywhere, both inside and outside the church. Raspberry pink roses and creamy white magnolias lined the stone walkway, their lovely scent greeting guests as they arrived. Pink and white roses delicately intertwined with baby’s breath in large wreaths with wide, lace-trimmed satin ribbons hung down on each side of the old weathered double doors. Jordan had actually considered giving the doors a fresh coat of paint but at the last minute had come to her senses and left them alone.
Kate had also asked Jordan to take care of the music, and Jordan had gone a little overboard on that assignment too. She’d started out with the notion of hiring a pianist and a singer for the ceremony and ended up with an orchestra.There were violins, a piano, a flute, and two trumpets. Seated in the balcony, the musicians played Mozart to entertain the gathering celebrants. When the groomsmen lined up in front of the altar,the music was to stop; the trumpets would then sound,the crowd would rise to their feet, and the pomp and splendor would begin.
The bride and bridesmaids waited in a dressing room just off the vestibule. The time had come. The trumpets should now be playing to begin the ceremony, but they were silent. Kate sent Jordan to find out what the delay was.
Mozart’s lovely notes covered the noise of the door squeaking as Jordan peeked inside the church. She spotted one of the federal agents standing in an alcove on the left side of the church and tried not to think about the reason he was there.The bodyguards weren’t really necessary, she thought, considering all the law enforcement professionals in her family. Of her six brothers, two were FBI agents, one was a federal attorney, one was a Navy SEAL in training, one was a cop, and the youngest, Zachary, was in college and hadn’t yet decided which side of the law looked more appealing to him.Also standing at the altar would be Noah Clayborne, a close friend of the family and yet another FBI agent.
The agents assigned to her father didn’t care how many others there were.Their job was clearly defined,and they wouldn’t be distracted by the celebration. Jordan finally decided that they were a comfort,not a hindrance,and she should focus on the wedding and stop worrying.
She spotted one of her brothers slowly making his way toward the back of the church. It was Alec, Dylan’s best man. She smiled as she watched him approach.Alec had gone all out for the wedding. He worked undercover, but he’d cut his hair for the occasion, an impressive consideration on his part to be sure. His job usually required that he dress and look like a deranged serial killer. Jordan had barely recognized him when he arrived at the rehearsal the night before.Now Alec stopped to speak to one of the bodyguards. She waved to get his attention and motioned for him to step out to the vestibule.
As the door closed behind him, she asked in a whisper,“Why aren’t we starting? It’s time.”
“Dylan sent me back to tell Kate that we’ll start in a couple of minutes,” he answered.
Alec’s collar was partially inverted, and she reached up to fix it. “Your collar’s folded over,” she said before he could ask. “Quit squirming.”
When she had finished with the collar and straightened his tie, she stepped back. Alec cleaned up nice, she thought. The funny thing was, Regan, his wife, loved him however he looked. Love did weird things to people, Jordan decided.
“Is Kate worried that Dylan will take off ?”Alec asked with a glint in his eye that told her he was joking.They were only a couple of minutes late now.
“Not really,”Jordan answered.“She left five minutes ago.”
He shook his head.“Not funny,”he said,grinning.“I’ve got to get back.”
“Wait.You still haven’t explained why we’re waiting. Is something wrong?”
“Stop worrying. Nothing’s wrong.” He was about to go back inside but suddenly stopped.“Jordan?”
“You look nice.”
It would have been a lovely compliment from a brother who never gave compliments if Alec himself hadn’t looked so surprised by his observation.
She was about to return the favor when the outer church doors flew open, and Noah Clayborne came rushing inside tying his tie.
The man never failed to make a strong impression. Women loved him, and Jordan had to admit she could understand his appeal.Tall, athletic, outgoing, handsome–he was a man’s man and a woman’s fantasy. His sandy blond hair was always slightly in need of a trim, and his piercing blue eyes sparkled with mischief whenever he gave one of his devilish grins.
“Am I late?” he asked.
“No,it’s good,”Alec said.“Okay,Jordan,we can start now.”
“Where have you been?” she asked Noah, exasperated.
Rather than answering, he gave her a quick once-over, smiled, and followed Alec inside. Jordan felt like throwing her hands up. He’d been with a woman, she decided.The man was incorrigible.
She should have been peeved, but instead she laughed.To be that free, that uninhibited . . . Jordan couldn’t imagine what that would feel like. But Noah certainly knew the feeling.
Jordan hurried back to the waiting room, pushed the door open,and said,“It’s time.”
Kate motioned for Jordan to come to her.“What was the holdup?” she asked.
“Noah. He just got here. If I had to guess, I’d say he was with a woman.”
“That’s not a guess,” Kate whispered.“It’s a given. I had no idea what a playboy he was until I saw it for myself. He disappeared from the rehearsal dinner last night with three of my bridesmaids, and all three looked like they hadn’t slept when they got to the church this morning.”
Jordan crossed her arms as she looked around the room, trying to decide which of the bridesmaids had disappeared with Noah. “Shame on him,” she remarked.
“Oh,it wasn’t all his fault,”Kate replied.“They went willingly.”
Kate’s aunt Nora announced that they weren’t going anywhere until they heard the trumpets, and then she began to line everyone up.
Kate motioned Jordan closer.“I need to ask a favor. It’s kind of a tough one.”
Difficult or not, it didn’t matter. Kate had been there through thick and thin for Jordan, and Jordan would do anything she could to help her.
“You name it. I’ll do it,” she said.
“Would you please make Noah behave?”
Okay, maybe not anything. Jordan took a breath and whispered, “You’re asking the impossible.Trying to control him is laughable. It would be easier to teach a bear to use a computer. Give me that assignment, and I promise I’ll give it my all. But Noah? Come on, Kate ...”
“Actually, it’s just Isabel I’m concerned about. Did you see the way she glued herself to his side at the rehearsal?”
“Is that why you paired me with him in the wedding? To keep your little sister away from him?”
“No,”she said.“But after seeing Isabel in action last night,I’m glad I did.I can’t blame her.Noah’s adorable.Aside from Dylan,of course, I think he’s one of the sexiest men I’ve ever met. He oozes charisma, doesn’t he?”
“I don’t want Isabel to become another NCG,”she said.“And I don’t want any more of my wedding party to disappear suddenly.”
“What is an NCG?” she asked.
Kate grinned.“A Noah Clayborne Groupie.”
Jordan burst into laughter.
“You’re the only person I know who seems to be immune to his charms. He treats you like a sister.”
Aunt Nora clapped her hands.“Okay,everyone.It’s time to go.”
Kate grabbed Jordan’s arm.“I’m not budging until you promise.”
“Oh, all right. I’ll do it.”
The trumpets sounded again.Since Jordan was to be the first to walk down the aisle, she was nervous and clutched her bouquet to her waist with both hands. She’d always been known as the family klutz, but she was determined not to trip over her own feet today. She would pay attention and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.
She waited in the center of the doorway until she heard Aunt Nora whisper,“Go.”
She took a deep breath and started walking.The aisle seemed a mile long. Standing in front of the altar, Noah waited.When she was halfway there, he came toward her, looking amazing in his tuxedo. She relaxed. No one was paying her any attention. Every eye–at least every female eye–was on Noah.
She concentrated on his smile and took hold of his arm. For a brief second she looked into his eyes and saw the mischievous glimmer.
Oh, Lord, she had her work cut out for her.
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