Falling snow, sparkling champagne and an ex that Libby would rather forget…
Everything was in place for Libby’s own wedding day – the ancient church with roses around the door, the frothy white wedding dress of her dreams… That is until her Mr Right, Rufus, turned out to be Mr Wrong and dumped her out of the blue. For her cousin.
Six months later, Libby is the chief bridesmaid for her best friend Willow in a Christmas Eve wedding at stately home Lovage Hall. Despite having to wear an enormous fuchsia dress, Libby knows she has to look her best, as the wedding is the first time she will see Rufus again…
As the guests sip champagne at the beautiful reception, and Libby does her best to avoid her ex, the snow outside falls faster and faster, making it impossible for the guests to leave. Snowed in at Lovage Hall, Libby is charmed by American Noah with his dark cropped hair and dimpled cheeks, and the two of them share their dreams and a very passionate kiss.
But when the morning comes, and the snow melts, a shocking revelation about Noah comes to light and Rufus reveals a devastating secret. Can Libby trust her heart to make the right decision for her own happy ending?
A gorgeous, romantic heart-warming read with characters that will find their way into your heart and stay there. Perfect for fans of Jill Mansell, Shari Low and Jenny Colgan.
What everyone’s saying about Tilly Tennant:
‘Simply delighted me… Warmed my heart… Their story tugged on my strings of emotion, making me feel all gooey and mushy… A beautiful read!!’ Book Reviews by Shalini, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Once I started reading, I simply couldn't stop… Had me laughing, crying and swooning over that cute guy waiting on the corner for the girl of his dreams. I loved everything about this book and I cannot recommend it enough.’ M's Bookshelf, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Wow, the emotions in this novel, ups and downs, highs and lows, it has it all. Wonderful story, I didn't want to put it down and I wish it didn't have to end.’ Goodreads reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘I loved every minute of it … I was glued to my Kindle for a few days that's for sure!... A really brilliant read that will leave you hooked even after a few pages.’ The Cosiest Corner, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Literally couldn’t put it down!… makes you laugh and tugs at the heartstrings, all in one go!... absolutely perfect!... breath-taking… made me cry and it made me laugh… filled me with festive warm feelings… Love love LOVED it!!’ Stardust Book Reviews, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Put a smile on my face!... I've LOVED it!..…
Release date: October 8, 2021
Print pages: 350
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My Best Friend's Wedding
Occasionally she’d catch the cry of a market-stall vendor from the street below, and the cars up and down the high street were a constant accompaniment. In a short while she’d run to fetch her lunch and eat it out on the grass of the park that sat in the centre of the town and admire the rectangle of fragrant roses, now at their finest, maybe slip off her shoes and dangle her feet in the brook that ran through it. She might see someone she knew who would stop for a chat if she was lucky, and if the ice-cream cart was out, she’d treat herself to one before heading back to work. Libby was a woman who didn’t want or need much in life; she was happy with the simplest of pleasures, and her home town offered plenty of those.
But right now she had to concentrate, and thoughts of the glorious sun outside weren’t helping. It was Libby’s job to run the old tailoring shop that had graced the high street of Wrenwick for over a hundred years, a place of oak panelling and Minton-tiled floors that had withstood many attempts to modernise, and where the staff were still expected to address customers as sir and madam. Libby had a wonderful team of workers there with decades of experience between them and the kindest souls, so it was no hardship to manage them at all.
She also had duties that included payroll and buying, which meant choosing and ordering the stock they would be selling season to season. Not that the suits they sold in the summer were hugely different from the ones they sold in the winter, except that more of what they sold in the summer would be worn at weddings, and – apart from the sun outside – this fact was proving to be Libby’s second stumbling block.
She’d have to run her choices by the owner of the shop, of course, the great-great-grandson of the founder of Swift’s Formalwear, but as she usually played it safe and traditional – pinstripe, plain, the occasional houndstooth or tweed – the owner would have no qualms releasing the budget for her to put her order in. She loved old Mr Swift and she loved running his store, which was just as well, because he loved the golf course a lot more than he did the shop that paid for his membership there. He was perfectly content to sit back and let Libby organise it for him and didn’t really care how it was done. And if she was perfectly honest, Libby appreciated the trust he placed in her and was conscientious enough to repay it handsomely.
It wasn’t the golf course, or Eric Swift’s lack of interest in his shop, or even the weather outside that had Libby currently staring into space. It was the fabulous yet totally different to Swift’s Formalwear’s standard aesthetic suit she’d just seen in one of their trendier (largely unused) supplier catalogues. It was electric blue, slim-cut and very much consuming her current thoughts. Or rather, what was consuming her thoughts was what her own Prince Charming would look like in it. With only three weeks to go until her own wedding, she found herself imagining what Rufus might look like in rather a lot of the suits she saw.
She’d always been a sucker for a man in a well-tailored garment, which was rather serendipitous considering the job she’d ended up in, and the catalogues she was expected to trawl through as part of her duties were proving to be like catnip to the bedraggled moggy that often sat by the back door of the shop waiting for her to sneak a saucer of milk out there. This particular suit was very fitted, meaning it would show off his toned physique perfectly, and the shade would accentuate the blue of his eyes to such an extent they might pierce the very soul of anyone who happened to gaze into them (and Libby hoped very much that would only be her).
It hadn’t all been plain sailing with her and Rufus, and the previous few months had been especially traumatic as they’d lost… well, she didn’t want to dwell on that now. They both knew what they’d lost and the pain didn’t need saying. The point was, Libby hoped, above all else, that their wedding would signal they’d finally come through it and that they’d finally be able to move on to the next phase of their lives together. She was forced to admit they still had a long way to go to full healing, but she was happily optimistic that married life would hurry that along nicely.
The wedding ceremony was due to take place at the prettiest church in a nearby village. In fact, it was the village where Libby’s grandma had grown up, the same church where she’d been christened, where she’d married Libby’s granddad and where Libby’s great-grandparents were both buried. It was more of a chapel really, built from the same grey stone that characterised much of the Peak District, surrounded by rolling hills and majestic crags, with a churchyard shaded by oaks and horse chestnut trees, where bluebells grew in secret corners and poppies and marguerites lined the paths.
Libby’s grandma had been blessed with the happiest marriage, and it was only the untimely death of her husband that had cut it short. Libby had hoped, in having her ceremony at the same church, she and Rufus would be blessed with a marriage that happy too. Libby’s grandma had been thrilled with the choice, and Rufus hadn’t minded where the wedding took place as long as they were getting hitched, so she’d eagerly arranged for the traditional reading of the banns which he’d attended without complaint and then the date had been set.
There would be ups and downs and trials in their future – there had already been enough – but their marriage would be a fresh start, Libby was convinced of that. They could look forward, build a life together, maybe even try for another baby… though the last part was a discussion they hadn’t been able to have yet and Libby realised Rufus was going to take some convincing. She had to admit to being nervous herself, but if they wanted to start a family they were going to have to deal with the loss of their first child or they’d never do it.
Whenever Libby thought of that event, the sky seemed to darken a little. The fact that the accident which had caused it had happened here in Swift’s sometimes threw a shadow over her working life too, but her job was so important to her, so much a part of who she was, that she’d fought hard not to let that drive her out. It could have happened anywhere, she’d told herself, on any set of stairs. And, at the end of the day, she was convinced there were no colleagues anywhere who would have looked after her the way hers had in the weeks afterwards. If ever there was a reason to rail against her instincts to leave, it was that.
Libby tried not to dwell on that now. What mattered was that she and Rufus were finally making a promise to each other. For a while, when their grieving was new and raw and things were at their darkest, Libby had been afraid she was going to lose him. But now they were getting married and everything was going to be good again. She had to believe that, and holding on to that hope was the thing that had ultimately got her through the heartbreak she’d been forced to endure.
Libby’s mobile was on the desk, and it pinged a message. She looked and smiled – talk of the devil… her grandma.
Are you still coming for tea after work?
Libby’s smile grew. Her grandma was no dinosaur when it came to using her phone and she had the very latest model, but she’d still take a voice on the line over a text any day. She was only texting Libby now instead of calling because she knew her granddaughter would be at work and possibly not available to chat. So, instead of replying by text, Libby picked up her phone and dialled her grandma’s number.
‘I was just thinking about you,’ she said as her grandma answered.
‘I thought my ears were burning. I hope it was good.’
‘It was. Actually, I was just thinking about St Dom’s.’
Her grandma chuckled. ‘So you weren’t thinking about me really; you were thinking about your wedding.’
‘Yes, but I was thinking about how lovely it is that you got married there and soon I will too. So in a way it was about you.’
‘I’ll believe you, though thousands wouldn’t. So, are you still coming to tea or not?’
‘Will Mum be there?’
‘No, it’s just us.’
‘Try and stop me then!’
‘You’re terrible,’ her grandma chastised, but there was humour in her tone. ‘It’s lucky I don’t tell her what you say about her.’
‘Aww, Grandma, you know we just clash,’ Libby sighed. ‘She’s been at it again, trying to lecture me, telling me I should be doing this for the wedding and that for the wedding and how perfect and so much better hers was to my dad. I mean, I’m sure it was lovely at that big church in town but it’s just not for me and Rufus. Your little chapel is way cuter and far more romantic.’
‘I know, my love. She tries to lecture me and I’m her mother. I don’t know how she turned out so uptight because she certainly doesn’t get it from me or your granddad.’
‘That I can vouch for – you’re a sweetie and so was Granddad. So yes, count me in for tea but please don’t wear yourself out – you know you have to take it steady.’
‘Ever since I was diagnosed with this bloody disease everyone treats me like I’m made of glass. I can still make a cup of tea and put some sandwiches out… as long as I take my time doing it.’
‘Well, I’m sure that’s true but I’d hate to think of my visit wearing you out. It’s not just any bloody disease, it’s Parkinson’s and it’s a big deal. It’s no wonder we treat you like you’re made of glass… you kind of are now whether you like it or not.’
‘Don’t remind me. Every time I hear that name I feel like punching a wall. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to struggle with things you used to find easy.’
‘I’m sure it is, but that’s your reality now and we all just want to know that you’re taking care of yourself.’
‘Well, I am. So you can come for tea and I won’t be a bit worn out. If I can’t make a sandwich and get some cake out of a pack for my granddaughter then I can’t see that life is worth living anyway.’
‘Don’t say that.’
‘It’s true. So I’ll see you at six thirty and you can tell me all about how the wedding plans are going.’
‘Well, I can but there’s not much more to tell you than last time we caught up. Everything is more or less organised – has been for months. I’m just doing a few last-minute things now…’
Her gaze went back to the open catalogue on her desk. They’d already purchased Rufus’s morning suit, of course, and that was now hanging in his wardrobe ready for the big day. In fact, as she’d told her grandma, they’d purchased everything they’d need, including Libby’s gown and a dress for her best friend and bridesmaid, Willow. Libby had decided she was going to wear her dress for the entire day, and they certainly didn’t need the expense of another suit for Rufus, but the idea kept on coming to her of another, less formal, edgier version for him to wear to the evening reception. Her eyes returned to the blue suit in the catalogue. Not only would Rufus look amazing in it, but he’d probably be more comfortable in it too, and Mr Swift was bound to be OK with her ordering it – in fact, he’d probably gift it to her if he learnt it was for the wedding.
‘If you’re busy I’ll let you get on,’ her grandma said into the pause.
‘OK, I’ll see you later. Want me to bring anything?’
‘Right.’ Libby smiled. She always asked her grandma if she ought to bring anything and her grandma always replied in the same way. Libby had no doubt it was how things would always be. ‘See you then. Love you.’
‘Love you too.’
Libby ended the call and stretched, sending her gaze up to the skylight. It really was a glorious day, a sky of the deepest, clearest blue, the sort of day on which jobs ought to be banned so the whole country could sit in a park or on a beach somewhere soaking up their vitamin D while they sucked on an ice lolly. Maybe she could finish her ordering after lunch; the temptation to sneak out early was definitely hard to resist right now.
No sooner had this thought occurred to her than the old Bakelite phone on the desk rang with a strangely melancholy tinkle. It was an original, maybe made in the forties or fifties. It had been in use when Libby had first taken her job at the shop (over twelve years ago), and as long as it continued to work, Libby suspected it would be in use for a good many years to come. That it worked at all in the age of 4G and Wi-Fi was a minor miracle in any case, though the only calls it really dealt with now was the shop floor contacting Libby in the office when they needed her or the odd supplier with a direct line to the beating heart of Swift’s admin. Libby picked it up.
‘Oh, you haven’t gone for lunch yet then…’
Melanie, one of Swift’s sales assistants, was on the other end of the line.
‘I thought I hadn’t seen you go out,’ she continued, ‘but I wasn’t sure.’
‘No, I’m still working through these catalogues. Everything alright down on the shop floor? Not getting too rushed off your feet?’
‘No, it’s fine here. So you’re up there getting distracted by suits for Rufus again?’
Libby couldn’t help a light laugh. ‘Why do you have to know me so well?’
‘Because you’ve pretty much talked about nothing else since the new season catalogues arrived,’ Melanie said with a tone that suggested she was wearing a cheeky grin at the other end of the line. ‘Anyone would think you were excited about this wedding or something.’
‘Really? How on earth would anyone get that impression?’
‘I can’t imagine,’ Melanie said wryly.
‘So, is there something you need me for, or have you just phoned to take the piss?’
‘Actually, there’s someone asking for you in the shop. Your cousin, I think. Says she needs a quick word.’
Libby frowned. As cousins, she and Kylie were reasonably close, both in age and in personality, and they got along as well as any cousins did, but Kylie had never come to the shop asking for her before. For a start, she worked at the snooker hall at the other side of town and it was quite a trek to come over to see Libby during work hours. And secondly, if it was a social call, surely she’d wait until Libby had finished work to see her. Rufus wouldn’t have minded her coming to the flat – he quite liked Kylie and they always had a laugh whenever they ran into each other. In fact, he’d taken up snooker since meeting her and they had regular chats at the snooker hall when he went to practise with his friends, so there was no reason at all for her to worry about seeing Libby at home.
‘I think that’s her name. You only have the one, don’t you? A very pretty blonde girl, softly spoken.’
‘That sounds like Kylie. It’s definitely not Craig and he’s my only other cousin. He’s not blonde or pretty and he’s as gruff as they come.’
Melanie laughed lightly. ‘Shall I bring her up to the office?’
‘That’s OK – I’ll come down. You’re right, I am due to get lunch so I might as well see her on my break.’
A couple of minutes later Libby was on the shop floor. She fully expected to see her usually gregarious cousin chatting away to Melanie, but instead she found Kylie standing in a corner looking at her phone with an anxious expression. Libby’s cousin had blonde hair far lighter than Libby’s auburn, and she was much slighter too, petite and slender with wide blue eyes that were clearer and gentler than Libby’s own. But they shared the same heart-shaped face and the same full lips. As Libby greeted her, she rushed to stash her phone in her handbag.
Straight away Libby could see her cousin’s eyes were red and swollen.
‘Hey.’ Kylie tried to smile but it only made her look more pained. ‘Sorry to bother you at work but… well, it just couldn’t wait any longer.’
‘It’s alright, I’m due on lunch. I’m going to get a toastie and a drink from the coffee shop on the corner. I may be paying a king’s ransom on a wedding but I’m sure I can manage to treat my favourite cousin to a coffee too if you want to join me. I thought I might sit in the park to eat if you fancy it.’
‘No, I couldn’t, I—’
‘Kylie…’ Libby said gently. ‘You look as if you need one… and perhaps a friendly ear too. Something’s happened, hasn’t it? I did wonder when Melanie called me but now… Is it a family thing? Has something happened with your mum or dad?’
‘No, Mum and Dad are fine. It’s…’ Kylie glanced uneasily at the counter, but Melanie was chatting to Ernie, one of their oldest and most regular customers. ‘Could we go somewhere just to talk?’
‘But not the coffee shop?’
‘I mean, if you need to get your lunch I guess I could talk to you on the way.’
‘If you’re sure you don’t want to hang around and grab a drink with me then I suppose we could do that.’
Kylie gave a grateful nod and was already on her way to the shop’s exit door before Libby could suggest they leave. Libby followed her out onto a street so bright it caused her to squint until her eyes adjusted to the glare.
‘God, it’s gorgeous today, isn’t it?’ she said. ‘The sort of day where you wish you could give yourself instant time off.’
‘You’re the boss,’ Kylie said vaguely.
Libby smiled. ‘Not quite – at least, I don’t have that much power.’ She was about to make some more small talk – at least enough to see them the few hundred yards to the coffee shop – when Kylie spoke into the silence.
‘I can’t even begin to figure out how I tell you this,’ she said. ‘So I’m wondering if I should just come out with it.’
‘Tell me what? Kylie, what on earth is going on with you?’
‘I think I’m pregnant—’
‘Oh! Kylie… you don’t have to worry about telling me that! Just because I lost… well, I’m not going to be angry with you for being pregnant, despite whatever else has happened! Although I get the feeling you’re not happy about it… is that why you were so worried about telling me? Because it was an accident? I didn’t even know you were seeing anyone—’
‘The father is Rufus.’
Libby stopped dead on the pavement, and it took Kylie a full three seconds to realise before she stopped too and turned back.
‘We… we, um… We’ve kind of been seeing each other…’
‘Don’t be ridiculous. Rufus and me… we’re getting married – why would he be seeing you?’
Why was Libby suddenly feeling strangely detached? The street was real enough, and yet it felt as if she were standing on a hologram. She knew her cousin was telling her something monumental, something horrible, but she could barely take it in. Kylie was seeing Rufus? This couldn’t be real. This had to be some terrible nightmare. Surely Libby would wake in a moment, safe in her bed, shaken but with the memory of her dream already fading.
‘I know…’ Kylie began to cry. ‘I’m so sorry! I don’t know why I couldn’t stop myself, but he’s so… and I was lonely and he kept telling me how he needed some comfort because you… and I wanted to put a stop to it, I really did, and I tried and I told him he needed to concentrate on you and the wedding and… but I love him, Libby. I’m sorry but I love him and the wedding is almost here and I don’t know what to do. He says he doesn’t want to go through with the wedding but he doesn’t know how to tell you. He says he wants to be with me but the day keeps getting closer and he does nothing and I couldn’t stand it any longer and I just snapped and I’m sorry to tell you like this but you have to know because you’re my cousin and I can’t let you marry Rufus when he wants to be with me.’
Libby stared at Kylie as her words tumbled over one another like rapids over rocks, but nothing was going in.
‘I don’t understand.’
‘I’m sorry,’ Kylie said. ‘I’m so, so sorry… and I know you can never forgive me and I’m sorry for that too, because even if you never forgive me, I can’t give him up.’
‘My Rufus?’ Libby said slowly. ‘You’re talking about my Rufus?’
Kylie nodded. ‘Yes,’ she whispered.
‘I don’t understand.’
‘I know. I’m not sure I understand either.’
‘Rufus is in love with you? My Rufus?’
‘He says he is. He didn’t know how to break it up with you.’
‘And you’re having a baby? His baby? Are you sure it’s his?’
‘Yes… I mean… well, yes.’
‘Rufus’s baby? My Rufus?’
‘It couldn’t be anyone else.’
Libby looked at Kylie, barely able to form a coherent thought. The words were hitting her ears but their meaning was getting lost somewhere en route to her brain. ‘Why would you say this? I’m getting married in three weeks.’
‘He doesn’t want to get married.’
‘But we have to – everything’s booked and the invites have gone out and—’
‘Are you even listening to me?’ Kylie cried, causing several passers-by to stare. ‘He doesn’t want to marry you, and even if you went ahead it would be a terrible mistake!’
Libby shook her head. ‘We have to get married – everything’s ready.’
Kylie grabbed Libby by both hands and held her in a strong but tear-filled gaze. But she winced as Libby snatched her hands away.
‘Please, Libby… don’t make this harder than it is already. I’m trying to save you. I watched everything progressing and I thought I could ignore it, that things would work out, that Rufus would do something to stop it, but now that the day is so close and I can see that he’s not, I have to. This is the worst conversation I’ve ever had with anyone in my life, but now I’m pregnant, it’s one I can’t avoid any longer. Hate me if you want, and you’d have every right to, but if I can do one thing for you, it’s this, so let me do it.’
‘But you’re my cousin!’
‘And he’s my… my Rufus!’
‘I know that too.’
‘I was supposed to spend forever with him!’
‘I’m so sorry. Believe me, if I could change what’s happened I would, but I can’t and I can’t change that I love him too.’
Libby turned to walk back to the shop, numb, blank, unable to compute anything she’d heard. How could a day of such ordinary contentment suddenly turn into this?
‘Libby!’ Kylie called after her. ‘Please… talk to me. Slap me, cry, react… say something!’
But Libby carried on walking. The sun was shining and the town was buzzing with shoppers, cars speeding up and down the main road, market traders calling, children squealing and laughing, the scents from the florist catching the breeze as she passed it. Everything was good in the town of Wrenwick and life carried on as it always did.
But not for Libby.
What was Libby supposed to do now?
Libby frowned at her phone as she stood outside the door of the coffee shop, the very same coffee shop she’d been on her way to when Kylie had given her the news that had turned her life upside down almost six months before. Today there was no sun, only freezing rain beating at her umbrella as she stood at the door, poised to go in. Lunch breaks were brief and, sometimes, as manager, Libby didn’t get one at all, but today, she made certain to take the half hour she was entitled to. Something had been on her mind from the moment she’d gone to bed the night before, had kept her awake for a large part of it, and had still been troubling her when she’d woken this morning. It wasn’t a conversation she wanted to have with her best friend and certainly not one she could have in earshot of her colleagues in the shop, but, in the end, she’d felt there was no other choice so had ducked out to have a quiet word at the same time as she grabbed a sandwich.
She read the text that had come through that morning once more with a heavy sigh. She might have known it wouldn’t last, given the nature of its beginning, but she couldn’t help but be annoyed that her entire life had been turned upside down for what had amounted to a brief summer fling between two people she ought to have been able to trust. Somehow, the fact it hadn’t lasted made things worse. If it had been true love, if it had ended up standing the test of time, at least her own heartache wouldn’t have been in vain. Now, it all seemed like such a waste. She’d cut ties with a cousin she’d been very fond of and lost a man she’d loved and all for nothing. In the end, there hadn’t even been a baby – Kylie’s pregnancy, the thing that had forced her hand and made her reveal the affair to Libby, had been a false alarm. Libby had to suppose, in light of Rufus and Kylie splitting up, that was probably for the best, but it hardly helped.
Please, we need to talk. Kylie’s gone for good, and I swear I’ll never do anything like that again if you’ll only give me one more chance to prove it.
It wasn’t the first text or phone call from him since the one from Kylie breaking the news that she’d left Rufus. She’d read that one so many times it was indelibly etched into her memory:
I’m so sorry, Libby. I’ve left Rufus; I thought you ought to hear it from me before anyone else told you. It wasn’t working, and I realise you may be angry with me about how we went through all that heartache for nothing, but I hope one day you can forgive me. X
Phone calls from Rufus were easy to ignore, of course, but his texts lingered, the temptation to open the messages too great and then, once opened, the words right in front of her and more difficul. . .
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