LUCK BE A LADY by Cathie Linz
It was the perfect day for a wedding. Thank God the groom showed up this time. Megan West couldn’t deal with a repeat of her cousin Faith’s last attempt to get married, when the groom took off.
But that was then, and this was now. A new groom made all the difference in the world. Now former Marine Caine Hunter would be at Faith’s side. Megan was so pleased Faith had found Caine – the man of her dreams.
“You were smart to come here to Las Vegas and have a small ceremony with only a few close friends and family,” Megan told Faith as the two of them completed their final preparations for the big event. “And having it here at the Venetian was brilliant.”
Faith grinned. “I thought so.”
Megan was determined that everything go right this time around. And the magical location sure helped. The instant you entered the Venetian’s lobby, with all the mosaic Italian marble floors and the colorful fresco ceilings, you knew you were somewhere special. And that was a good thing because Megan fiercely believed that Faith deserved the best.
Faith was like a sister to her. They’d been born two days apart and grew up two blocks apart. Even now, back in Chicago as adults, they lived within walking distance of each other in their Streeterville neighborhood. But now Faith was going to become a married woman. And Megan wasn’t.
Megan told herself it was natural to be emotional leading up to today. Not that she gave any sign of what she considered to be her inner wimp. That wasn’t her way.
Instead she focused her energies on making this day the best of Faith’s life. And after that…well, there were plenty of things for a non-gambling librarian like Megan to do while here in Vegas. Plenty of things for her to do right here at the Venetian – the unique stores, the singing gondoliers, the gelato, the Hermitage art museum adjacent to the lobby. Megan would be able to check them all out later this weekend. First she had to get Faith safely married to Caine.
“We’re actually a little ahead of schedule, if you can believe that,” Megan said as she checked her appearance in the mirror on the wall. She and Faith were waiting in a small room designed for brides just off the wedding chapel area. Like the rest of the hotel it was elaborately decorated in creams and gold.
“The Venetian was one of my favorite places when I lived here in Vegas and worked at the library,” Faith said. “And since Caine and I met in Italy, it seemed like a nice vibe to add to the ceremony without having to return to the Amalfi Coast. Not that I wouldn’t love to go back there. But this time we’re honeymooning in New Zealand. And I’m not honeymooning alone. Not that I really was alone last time because I met Caine there on my supposed honeymoon trip that I took on my own. I’m babbling, right? Yes, I’m incoherently babbling. I babble when I’m nervous. But I’m not really nervous. Should I be nervous? Are you nervous?”
“I’m not nervous,” Megan said.
“Because you’re not the bride and you’re the optimist in the family.”
“No, because I know Caine would never let you down.” Megan was getting tired of being the optimist in the family but it was hard to change her image after all this time. Sure, Faith had become a blonde with an edgy look but that wasn’t Megan’s style.
One former beau had described Megan as the girl-next-door type with her dark brown hair, blue eyes and freckles. Megan wasn’t sure she liked being a ‘type.’ She knew one thing for sure – her fashion style was vintage. The classic 1950’s dress she was wearing as a bridesmaid was a perfect example. The pintucked black taffeta and velvet dress had a scooped neck and full skirt that made it both classic and elegant.
Faith looked beautiful in her wedding gown, a simple strapless design. She’d chosen a black-and-white theme with red rose accents for her evening ceremony.
Staring at their side-by-side reflection in the mirror, Faith said, “When we were growing up on the South Side of Chicago did you ever think we’d end up here with me getting married at The Venetian in Las Vegas?”
Megan grinned. “Sure. Didn’t you?”
“I knew we’d both be librarians when we grew up.” Faith grabbed Megan’s hand before turning to face her. “You know you’re more like my sister than my cousin right?”
Megan blinked away the tears. “Yeah, I know. Now don’t make me cry.” She waved her free hand in front of her face. “My mascara will run.”
“Oh, no. What would Jane Austen say?” Faith teased her.
“Funny how you ended up going back to Jane Austen after trying to come up with some other incarnation,” Megan said.
“Funny how you didn’t have a similar identity crisis.”
Megan had learned early in life that a crisis was not a good thing. Just one of the ways that she and Faith were different. Faith had grown up with both parents. Megan hadn’t. Sure, her dad had done his best to be there for her, but he couldn’t replace a mother. Faith’s mom had done her best too and Megan loved her to bits for trying. But it wasn’t the same.
As if on cue, Faith’s mom entered the room. “How are things going in here? Everything under control?”
“Absolutely.” Today Megan was all about control. The music, the flowers, the seating arrangement for the ceremony, the meal afterward. She’d checked and double-checked it all.
“You two.” Faith’s mom blinked back tears, unable to continue and instead simply cupped their cheeks.
Megan was well aware that the number two was a recurring theme in her life. She and Faith were born two weeks apart and lived two blocks apart. Megan’s dad was two years younger than Faith’s dad and two inches shorter. Megan’s mom had died when she was two. She’d only had sex with two men in her life.
Okay, she was so not going there today. This was all about Faith, not her. The only setback in the wedding plans had occurred when Caine’s best man had to have emergency surgery two days ago and hadn’t been able to make the trip. Again with the number two. Megan and Faith’s paternal grandmother was dating crusty private investigator-retired cop Buddy Doyle, who’d stepped in as a last-minute replacement. Otherwise everything was going smoothly.
Which was the way Megan liked it. Maybe it was the librarian in her, wanting to keep things orderly. She didn’t subscribe to the Chaos Theory in life. To her way of thinking, things were always better when they were organized and categorized. Like this wedding…
“Are you ready?” Megan asked.
“Okay then.” Megan handed her the colorful Romanza bouquet of fresh red-tipped roses and greenery. “Let’s go.”
Faith’s dad met them right outside the Venetian’s Wedding Chapel. This was no Elvis impersonator drive-through wedding location. This was the elegant side of Las Vegas.
Megan walked toward the front of the room to the accompaniment of the Pachabel Canon. There were about two dozen guests present.
Megan’s eyes teared up again when she saw the look of love on Caine’s face as he got his first view of his bride-to-be. The two of them were meant for each other.
The ceremony was simple but moving. The minister said, “I now pronounce you—”
The doors at the back of the chapel flew open and a man ran into the room to bark out an order. “Stop the wedding!”
* * *
Logan Doyle hadn’t slept in thirty-six hours. He’d just worked a double-shift before hopping a plane to Vegas at his family’s insistence. Did they care that he was sleep-deprived? No. He had a job to do and they expected him to do it.
Logan stared at the people gathered at the front of the room. Two women, two men and a minister. The brunette in a black dress was the first to react. She marched up to him while the others momentarily stood in stunned silence.
“I don’t know who you are and I don’t care. You are not ruining my cousin’s wedding. She’s been through enough shinola. Leave right now.”
Shinola? Logan frowned. Who said shinola anymore? No one outside of his grandfather’s age group.
“Gramps, you can’t do this,” Logan called out.
“Who are you calling Gramps?” the groom growled.
“Him.” Caine pointed to Buddy. “My grandfather Buddy Doyle. I’m Logan. Logan Doyle.”
All eyes turned to Buddy whose face was flushed. “You’re ruining my surprise.”
“What surprise?” Megan demanded. She was not having another wedding go down the drain. Her cousin deserved better.
“Ingrid has agreed to marry me,” Buddy said defiantly. “And we thought since we’re here in Las Vegas we’d tie the knot.”
“Wait your turn,” Megan growled. “This is Faith’s wedding. Faith and Caine’s. No one else’s.” She turned to the bemused minister. “Finish what you started.”
“I now pronounce you man and wife,” he said hastily. “You may kiss the bride.”
Everyone applauded while Caine took his time kissing his new bride.
“You two…” Megan grabbed Buddy’s arm with one hand and Logan’s with the other. “Come with me.”
She marched them both outside onto the nearby terrace with its soothing fountain. “Talk about stealing the limelight, Buddy. What were you thinking?” She didn’t give him a chance to answer before turning her wrath on Logan. “And you. What were you thinking barging in the middle of a wedding and trying to stop it? What have you got against your grandfather getting married?”
“Who are you?” Logan said.
“I’m the woman who is going to make your life miserable if you don’t answer me.”
Logan was impressed by her cleavage and her long legs but mostly by her moxy. She was tall but still a good five or six inches shorter than his 6’2” frame, yet she stood toe-to-toe with him, refusing to back down despite his cop look, the one that got criminals to nervously back up.
“She’s Ingrid’s granddaughter, Megan,” Buddy said.
Logan frowned. “I thought the bride was the granddaughter.”
“Ingrid has two beautiful granddaughters,” Buddy said. “This is Megan. I’ve been trying to get you two to meet for months but you’re both stubborn people.”
“He may be stubborn,” Megan said. “I’ve been busy.” She pinned her disapproving gaze on Logan. “You’re a cop so maybe you’re used to intimidating people and ordering them around. But you have no authority here.”
So the brunette with the great breasts had a thing against cops, Logan noted. Interesting. She was practically bristling with indignation, which automatically made him get calmer. Appearing detached no matter the circumstances, no matter what he was feeling inside, was a critical requirement of a police officer and one that Logan had long ago perfected. “I have the authority of making sure Buddy doesn’t make a big mistake.”
“Marrying my grandmother is a not a mistake. If anything, she’s too good for him. No disrespect, Buddy.” She paused to give him a hug.
“None taken. I totally agree.”
“Well, his family doesn’t,” Logan said.
“What possible reason could they have to disapprove?”
“The fact that he’s still married.”
“His first wife passed away. That’s what you said, right Buddy?”
“I’m not talking about his first wife,” Logan said. “I’m talking about his second wife.”
Megan blinked. “Second wife?”
“That doesn’t count,” Buddy said. “It only lasted 48 hours before I annulled it.”
“See, here’s the thing,” Logan said. “She didn’t annul it.”
“She signed the papers.”
“No, she didn’t.”
Buddy tugged on his tie. “I thought she did.”
“You thought wrong.”
“Are you sure?”
Megan stared at Buddy in stunned surprise. First off, why hadn’t he ever mentioned being married a second time? And secondly, he’d made a big deal out of giving up cursing forever yet he’d just slipped up, for the first time since Megan had met him five months ago.
“You can’t be engaged to one woman and still married to another,” she said.
“I know that.”
“And you certainly can’t commit bigamy,” Logan said.
“I know that too,” Buddy growled.
Megan stared at Logan as if searching for answers. He didn’t appear to have any, but he did have the kind of dark good looks that no doubt had women swarming over him at cop bars all over the city. Black Irish some called it with black hair and moody blue eyes. It didn’t matter. She was immune.
Megan was the first to admit that she had a chip on her shoulder where cops were concerned. She had good reason, not that it was any business of Logan’s.
“How do you know the annulment papers weren’t signed?” Megan said.
“Because my dad just ran across the unsigned papers on Buddy’s desk at his home when he was there to give Mouse his shot.”
“Who’s Mouse?” Megan said.
“His diabetic cat,” Logan said. “He needs an insulin shot every twelve hours. Gramps left the directions on his desk but the cat messed up the papers.”
“Maybe there’s another copy of the annulment papers that were signed?” Megan asked. Damn, but those decades of her being an optimist were hard to give up.
Buddy shook his head. “There was only one set of papers.”
“If they were on your desk, you must have known that they weren’t signed.” She directed her comment to Buddy.
Logan answered. “You’d have to see Buddy’s desk to understand. He’s got piles of stuff dating back decades.”
“Paperwork,” Buddy muttered under his breath. “Damn paperwork will do you in every time.”
“Everything okay out here?” Caine had his war face on as he stepped out onto the terrace.
“My grandson Logan is a Chicago Police Detective,” Buddy said proudly.
“Caine is a former Force Recon Marine,” Megan said. “He’s not impressed that Logan is a cop.”
“Yes, I am impressed,” Caine said.
“Whose side are you on?” Megan said.
“Caine is a former Force Recon Marine,” Buddy said. “He’s on the side of the United State of America.”
“The U.S. has no stake in this matter,” Megan said before telling Caine, “Go back to your bride, please, Caine. I’ve got this under control.”
Caine raised an eyebrow at her confident claim but did leave after saying, “Just shout out if you need any help.”
She smiled and nodded before turning to glower at Buddy. “How could you make such a mess of things?”
“Hey, listen up buttercup—“ he protested.
She interrupted him. “No, you listen up!”
“Logan, are you going to stand there and let her talk to me like that?” Buddy demanded.
Logan just nodded.
“I had no idea you had such a temper,” Buddy told Megan. “She must have Irish blood in her,” he added for Logan’s benefit.
“No doubt,” Logan agreed.
“I don’t believe you two. This is serious.”
“What’s serious?” Gram asked as she came onto the terrace. “Buddy, is there a problem?” She came to stand by his side, a concerned look on her face. Even though she was in her mid-seventies, Ingrid West was not your typical senior citizen. Her blue eyes and high cheekbones proclaimed her Scandinavian heritage while her gelled spiky haircut revealed her rebel nature. Today she was wearing one of her Chanel suits with a large red lapel flower and a Save the Polar Bears pin. “It’s not the Swedish mob, is it?” she said in a semi-whisper. “Are they here in Las Vegas?”
“Gram, there’s no such thing,” Megan began when Buddy interrupted her.
“No, the Swedish mob has no foothold here.”
“Swedish mob?” Logan frowned.
“That’s right,” Buddy sounded defensive. “Tell her they aren’t here in Las Vegas.”
“I have connections,” Gram said.
“To the Swedish mob?” Logan said.
Gram nodded. “Why? Does Buddy have a problem? Do we need to call in the Swedish mob?”
“No, ma’am. I don’t think that will be necessary,” Logan said.
Gram gently socked his arm. “I’ve told you before to call me Gram, not ma’am. Were you feeling left out today, Logan? Is that why you stopped the wedding? You didn’t want to miss anything? I’m sorry you weren’t invited to the event.” She patted his shoulder. “That was wrong of us.” She turned to Megan. “Why wasn’t Logan invited to the wedding? He’s practically family.”
“No, that’s okay, really,” Logan hurriedly said. “I wasn’t feeling left out.”
“He’s a cop,” Buddy said. “Third generation. Logan isn’t all touchy-feely.” Buddy shuddered at the thought. “Not at all.”
“Then I don’t understand why he wanted to stop Faith’s wedding.” Gram paused as a thought occurred to her. “Unless you thought it was Buddy’s wedding to me. Is that what you thought?” Her expression reflected her hurt feelings. “I thought you liked me.”
“It isn’t about you. It’s about Buddy.” Logan said.
“What about Buddy?” Gram said.
“Are you going to tell her or should I?” Logan asked Buddy.
“I’ll tell her. We could use a little privacy here.”
Megan reluctantly stepped back inside but hovered near the doorway in case her grandmother needed her. Logan stood beside her. They were soon joined by Megan’s Uncle Jeff and her father. Jeff was the smooth, uber-workaholic and Megan’s dad Dave was the quiet, bookish accountant in the family. They both owned West Investigations, the largest private investigation firm in Chicago.
“Is somebody going to tell me what’s going on here?” Jeff demanded. “Why wasn’t I told that Buddy planned on proposing to my mother? I had no idea things had gotten that serious. They’ve only known each other a few months. I thought they were just…I don’t know…playing bingo together.”
“Strip bingo,” Logan muttered under his breath.
Megan elbowed him in his side.
“What was that?” Jeff said. “I didn’t hear you.”
“It was a mistake,” Buddy said in a loud voice from the terrace. “I didn’t know I was still married!”
“Still married?” Jeff’s face turned red with fury. “Did Buddy just say he was still married? The bastard. How dare he…” he sputtered.
Megan’s dad helped him out. “Tamper with our mother’s affections?”
Jeff nodded. “Yeah, that. I’ve got a good mind to—“
“Beat up a seventy-something-year-old senior citizen?” Megan said, irritated by all the testosterone swirling around her. She hadn’t missed the smackdown looks shooting between her uncle and Logan.
Her attention was diverted when Gram came into the room, tears running down her face. Megan’s dad put his arm around her and guided her from the room.
“You.” Jeff turned his wrath on Logan. “You couldn’t have made this info public sooner? Dammit, I should have checked out the guy myself but my mother made me swear I wouldn’t. And Faith did a preliminary check on him. Clearly she didn’t look deeply enough.”
“My grandfather thought he was free to marry Ingrid,” Logan said, sounding remarkably calm for a man who looked like he wanted to kill someone for a second there. Then he had his cop face back on. Megan recognized it because it was so similar to Caine’s war face.
“Does he have dementia?” Jeff demanded. “Is that it? He forgets he still has a wife?”
“No, he doesn’t have dementia.” Logan’s voice reflected his growing aggravation.
“So he just an old geezer who likes conning rich old women?” Jeff said.
“You take that back!” Buddy growled as he joined them. “Ingrid is not old and neither am I. I’m for sure not so old a geezer that I can’t take you, boyo.”
Megan put her hand on her uncle’s chest, stopping him before he could do something stupid. “There will be no fighting here.”
“Let’s take it outside then,” Buddy said.
“No fighting on the terrace either,” Megan said. “No fighting anywhere, period.”
“You stay away from my mother,” Jeff told Buddy, pointing an angry finger at him. “If I catch you anywhere near her, you’ll regret it.”
Buddy pointed an angry finger right back at him, with one digit bent.
“Did you see that? He just gave me the finger,” Jeff bellowed. “Get him out of here before I call security and have him tossed out.”
“You and what army?” Buddy growled.
“Come on,” Logan said, putting an arm around his grandfather’s shoulders and guiding him out.
Megan’s uncle followed them to make sure of their exit, leaving Megan alone in the room with the still-bemused minister.
“It was…uh…it was a lovely…uh…ceremony…for the most part,” the minister said, trying to be cheerful.
“Yeah, it was just peachy.” Megan said. The best laid plans of mice and men and librarians sometimes went to hell very fast. Little did Megan know that things were about to get much, much worse.