In Sickness and in Elf
by A.E. Jones
Paranormal Wedding Planners #1
Publication Date: May 2, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Paranormal
First in a new series from RWA Golden Heart® Winner and RITA® Finalist, AE Jones. Meet Alex Bennett—wedding phobic in a family of wedding planners. Not the best combination, but being left at the altar can wreak havoc on one’s self-esteem. When Alex’s grandmother requests her help with a high-profile wedding, Alex sets aside her fears to attend. But when the bride runs away, and her grandmother’s business faces ruin, Alex will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth. Even when the truth leads to sabotaged weddings and a runaway bride who isn’t human. The last thing Alex needs to deal with is the overbearingly handsome man brought in to lead the investigation. Meet Devin Cole—a paranormal with no powers. Guilty until proven innocent, his powers have been rescinded until his upcoming trial, which he should be preparing for. He doesn’t have time for a runaway bride case. But the bride is a supermodel who also happens to be supernatural, so he and his team must handle damage control. The last thing Devin needs to deal with is a tempting woman who insists on being part of the investigation…and has half the horny supernatural male population chasing after her. But with humans and supernaturals bent on destroying each other, Alex and Devin must put aside their differences and work together. Can Devin protect Alex and defeat the enemy without his powers? And now that Alex knows supernaturals do exist, can she once again believe in a fairy-tale happily ever after?
It was time. Alex peeked out the door of the inn and clutched the bouquet of orchids to her chest to hide her trembling hands. Hundreds of guests were perched on white wooden chairs in the grass. Many of them, celebrities included, turned frequently to glance back at the inn, hoping to catch the first glimpse of the wedding party. Excitement buzzed in the air as a small group of invited paparazzi circled the crowd like gnats, snapping pictures.
The inn was the spot in San Diego. The timeless stone and wood inn overlooked the steep cliff, while waves crashed below at the perfect volume—not so loud as to drown out the string quartet, but in the background as an important part of the ambiance.
Her grandmother made sure the wedding was all about ambiance.
Alex took a deep breath and tried to remember the relaxation techniques Dr. Jennings taught her. Nothing. Two years of counseling and she was drawing a blank. Her heartbeat sped up, the pounding so loud it pulsed in her ears. Alex switched the flowers to one hand and wiped her sweaty palm on her dress. The movement stirred the petals, perfuming the air with a hint of vanilla. She sucked in another deep breath and concentrated on the flowery fragrance.
She could do this. She owed it to her grandmother. Heck, she owed it to herself.
She checked the clock in the entryway. Three minutes and counting. Her friend Peggy walked toward her, smiling.
“Is everything ready?” Alex blurted.
“Of course. Your grandmother is in charge.”
The crowd let out a collective gasp when Bradley took center stage. His dark Armani suit fit his toned, fit body to perfection, and his blond hair was cut short and styled flawlessly. He looked like a movie star…which made perfect sense, since he was a movie star.
Alex giggled. Oh, no, there would be no uncontrollable giggling, laughing, or guffawing. Although inappropriate laughter would be a far better choice than projectile vomiting. Alex bit her lip to stifle another giggle from erupting.
Peggy leaned closer, nudging Alex’s shoulder with her own. “He’s downright edible.”
“Peggy!” Alex released the breath she’d been holding. Everything will be fine. It is all going as planned.
Only one thing was missing…
As if on cue, supermodel Sydney Thompson descended the staircase of the inn with her entourage of three bridesmaids, a hairstylist, and a makeup artist in tow. Alex’s grandmother, Lorinda Bennett, wedding planner for the ridiculously rich and fabulously famous, completed the procession.
The group swarmed the lobby, making tiny adjustments here and there to assure Sydney looked her best. They didn’t need to worry. Statuesque and almost otherworldly, Sydney glowed. Her strapless mermaid gown hugged her curves, and her long, blond hair hung in loose waves around her shoulders.
Lorinda’s regal voice broke through the high-pitched chatter. “Alexandra, the bouquet.”
Alex maneuvered through Sydney's anxious entourage and handed her the flowers. “You look amazing.”
Sydney flashed her gorgeous, insured-by-Lloyd’s-of-London smile. “Thanks.”
The music changed, signaling the bridal party’s entrance, and Lorinda took over, reminding Alex of a symphony conductor. Grandmother was in her glory, as well she should be. Landing the Bradley Prentice and Sydney Thompson wedding had been a coup of epic proportions.
Alex slipped outside with Peggy to watch the bridesmaids proceed down the grassy aisle.
Peggy patted her shoulder. “It’s good to have you here today, Alex.”
Alex nodded, since her voice had deserted her. She hadn’t been to a wedding in two years, not since her own almost-wedding. And she wouldn’t be here now if this wedding wasn’t so important to her grandmother and to Bennett Bridal, Incorporated. Working the ceremony today was her first step toward becoming the old Alex Bennett again. The one her grandmother would be proud of.
In the middle of her thought, irrational fear wrapped its icy fingers around her spinal column and squeezed, and she had to lock her knees to keep from sprinting for cover.
Peggy continued, “This is a huge day for the business. It’s icing on the cake to have you here to help us.”
Alex smiled, although she imagined it looked a tad maniacal. Peggy was Bennett Bridal’s office manager and she was always in control. These days Alex was never in control. It was quite annoying, really.
The Wedding March swelled, and Alex swallowed hard, as if each chord was a new lump joining the growing pile in her throat. For her, attending a wedding was as much fun as a root canal without Novocain. But she couldn’t bring herself to confess her phobia to Peggy or her grandmother, or tell either one about her panic attacks. Rational human beings didn’t have wedding phobias.
Growing up a TV junkie, award winning author AE Jones oftentimes rewrote endings of episodes in her head when she didn’t like the outcome. She immersed herself in sci-fi and soap operas. But when Buffy hit the little screen she knew her true love was paranormal. Now she spends her nights weaving stories about all variation of supernatural—their angst and their humor. After all life is about both…whether you sport fangs or not. AE lives in Ohio with her eclectic family and friends who in no way resembles any characters in her books. Honest. Now her two cats are another story altogether. AE won RWA’s 2013 Golden Heart ® Award for her paranormal manuscript, MIND SWEEPER. She is also a 2015 RITA® finalist for Mind Sweeper for both First Book and Paranormal Romance. AE is a member of Romance Writers of America ® (RWA), North East Ohio Romance Writers of America (NEORWA), The Golden Network, and Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal (FF&P).