Monday Sampler: Destination Wedding by Deanna Lynn Sletten

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In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Monday’s Sampler is an excerpt from Destination Wedding, a novel of love and second chances by Deanna Lynn Sletten.

As one reviewer said: This is a wonderful love story about a twenty year marriage that ended in divorce coming back for another try.

The Story

Life is full of surprises…

Claire Martin’s life is perfect, or at least she tells herself it is. She owns a successful clothing boutique, has a steady, dependable boyfriend, and a beautiful grown daughter who is about to be married. Sure, Claire’s husband of twenty years left her for a younger woman four years ago, but that is all in the past.

Now, Claire is looking forward to her daughter’s Bahama wedding and spending a week in paradise. The only thing Claire dreads is her ex-husband and his wife will also be on the island. Claire is determined to make the best of it, though. What Claire doesn’t realize is ignoring her ex-husband for the week is going to be impossible.

James Martin’s life is a mess. His wife of less than four years has made him the most miserable man on earth and now they are in the middle of a messy divorce. He’s happy that he can forget her for a week as he goes off to the Bahamas to attend his lovely daughter’s wedding. Jim is embarrassed to admit to his daughter and his ex-wife, Claire, that he made the biggest mistake of his life when he left her for another woman, so he makes up a story as to why his new wife didn’t come along.

When he and Claire are unexpectedly forced upon each other, Jim soon realizes what he’s lost and he begins to wonder if he can find a way back into Claire’s heart.

The Sampler

Deanna Lynn Sletten
Deanna Lynn Sletten

Claire Martin discreetly glanced at her watch with one eye as she watched her customer with the other turn this way and that in front of the three-way mirror. Claire had to be out of the shop in five minutes or else she’d be late meeting with her daughter, and she didn’t want to be late. Today was important.

Claire smiled and nodded at the woman in front of her, agreeing that the long-waisted sweater did make her look thinner and the dark, skinny jeans were perfect with it. Claire didn’t want to be rude. After all, this lady was a regular customer at Claire’s clothing store, the Belle Boutique, and regular customers were important for business. But she did wish the woman would hurry up and pick an outfit.

Claire absently pushed a stray strand of her sandy blond hair behind her ear and then began twirling the charm bracelet on her wrist round and round. She glanced at herself in the floor-to-ceiling mirror to check her appearance. Her hair was still neatly in place and her makeup still fresh looking. She plucked off a stray strand of string that had somehow come to rest on her sleeve. Perfect.

Finally, the customer decided that she loved the outfit she had on, and Claire politely excused herself and said that Ariana would ring up her purchases.

Claire rushed to the back room and into her office, slipped off her pumps, and pulled on a pair of knee-high, leather boots over her leggings. Today, she was dressed warmly despite the fact that it should already be spring outside. Unfortunately, spring in Minnesota could come as early as March or as late as May, and this year it chose the latter. Wearing a sweater dress and leggings in April seemed ridiculous, but not when the temperature was in the forties outside and snow was still on the ground. Grabbing her red, wool coat off the back of the office chair, Claire walked swiftly through the store and up to the front counter where her Assistant Manager, Ariana Flores, stood behind the register.

“Did she buy the sweater and jeans?” Claire asked, noting that the customer was no longer in the store.

“Yes. And the dress and brown trousers, too. I rounded it all up nicely with a set of bangle bracelets and earrings,” Ariana said.

Claire smiled at Ariana as she slipped on her coat. Ariana had been working for her for almost five years and Claire didn’t know what she’d do without her. Ariana was in her mid-forties, just as Claire was, but where Claire was tall with light skin, hair, and eyes, Ariana was the exact opposite. Ariana’s Hispanic heritage shined through with a golden-brown complexion, big, brown eyes, and straight black hair that she usually put up in a twist. She was shorter than Claire, which she made up for by wearing very high heels. And Ariana always dressed with a vibrant style, showing off the clothes they sold in the most flattering way. Most of all, though, Ariana was loyal and a good friend who sometimes teased the very serious Claire mercilessly when she felt like it.

“Wonderful,” Claire said. “I should hand all my customers over to you so you can add accessories to their purchases.”

Ariana shrugged. “It’s what we do. By the way, Steven-not-Steve called again to remind you that you are having dinner with him tonight.”

Claire held back the chuckle that threatened to escape her lips. Steven Sievers, the man she was dating, did not like being called Steve, and had bluntly reminded Ariana of that the one time she called him Steve. Ever since then, Ariana referred to him as Steven-not-Steve.

“Why in the world does he think I’ll forget? I’ve never forgotten before.”

Ariana waggled her eyebrows. “Maybe he doesn’t want you to forget because he’s hoping for a little nookie tonight.”

Claire rolled her eyes. “You’ve been reading too many of those Fifty Shades type books. They’re tarnishing your good sense.”

Ariana laughed. “You’d better go or your daughter will be angry with you.”

Claire waved goodbye and hurried out the door into the dreary, gray day. She picked her way across the parking lot that separated the strip mall where her boutique was located from another long strip of shops. Claire’s boutique was just one of many in the Ann Arbor Shopping Center in the town of Maple Grove. Everything from clothing, jewelry, and shoe stores to pet supplies and craft stores filled the strategically arranged buildings with restaurants and hotels sprinkled here and there. It was a busy place to say the least, and the perfect spot for Claire’s business.

The parking lot was splattered with muddy, mushy snow that was melting away and leaving dirty puddles in its wake. Claire stopped at the busy intersection that separated one shopping area from another and waited for the traffic signal to change so she could cross. She pulled her coat tightly around her against the chilly breeze. One thing was for certain, she was looking forward to leaving town for a week and getting away from this awful weather.

After crossing the intersection, Claire walked down another strip of shops until she came to her destination. Stepping inside Marissa’s Bridal Shop, Claire almost ran into her daughter, Amanda, and her daughter’s best friend, Kaylie Thompson, in the entryway.

“Am I late, Mandy?” Claire asked, out of breath from her trek across the shopping compound.

Mandy shook her head, her hair swishing back and forth from the movement. “No, we just got here.”

Claire hugged both Mandy and Kaylie in turn. The girls had been best friends since middle school, and Claire felt like a second mother to Kaylie. The two girls were the exact opposites in size and looks. While Mandy was tall and lean with chestnut brown hair cut into a sensible bob and had dark blue eyes, Kaylie was shorter and petite with long, straight, blond hair and light blue eyes. But their personalities had always meshed well and they had been the best of friends for so long that they might as well have been sisters.

Claire looked around the bridal boutique with raised brows. “Is it just us or will Janice be joining us?” she asked Mandy. Janice Fisher was Mandy’s soon to be mother-in-law.

“Janice said she’d rather be pleasantly surprised on the day of the wedding,” Mandy replied with a sarcastic emphasis on the word pleasantly. She shrugged. “So, yes, it’s just us.”

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