The Wedding Game
- Book info
- Author updates
USA Today bestselling author Meghan Quinn's latest bauble is the charming story of a crafting queen battling a jaded divorce lawyer on a wedding reality show.
Luna Rossi is a veritable crafting genius-she can bedazzle and bead so hard her Etsy site is one of the hottest in the world. So it's only natural that Luna would convince her brother and his husband-to-be to compete on The Wedding Game, a "do-it-yourself" TV show, for the title of Top DIY Wedding Expert.
As a jaded divorce lawyer, Alec Baxter scoffs at weddings and romance. But when his recently engaged brother begs him to participate in The Wedding Game, Alec grudgingly picks up a glue gun and prepares for some family bonding.
Both fierce competitors, Luna and Alec clash on national TV as harsh words and glitter fly with abandon. But as they bicker over color swatches and mood boards, they find themselves fighting something else: their growing mutual attraction. While Luna is torn between family loyalty and her own feelings, Alec wonders if he might have been wrong about love and marriage all along…
Release date: March 1, 2021
Print pages: 397
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Listen to a sample
The Wedding Game
First things first: this story isn’t about me.
Well . . . technically, it is about me, but it isn’t about me.
It’s about my brother, Alec Baxter. Ever hear of the gorgeous bastard? He’s the top divorce lawyer in New York City.
Cunning, devilishly handsome—just like me—has big hands, and scowls at almost any mention of a hot dog. Not a fan—he doesn’t get it, never will.
He’s my best friend, my partner in crime, the guy I look up to, and my one and only hero . . . despite talking to him maybe every three months, barely seeing him on holidays, and waiting weeks just for a simple response to a text message.
Sounds like a one-sided brother-ship, right? Kind of is, but hey, that’s okay. The man is busy. And he spent most of our childhood making sure I wasn’t completely scarred by our parents and their inability to shield their children from their awful marriage. They really had a habit of airing out their grievances like dirty panties on laundry day.
I can still remember Alec charging into my room whenever our parents started going at it, then leading me down the fire escape of our Park Avenue apartment and taking me to the bakery down the street. We would share a cannoli and just stare at each other, both knowing what was happening a mere block away but never talking about it.
But enough with the sob fest—that’s not what this story is about. No, it’s about the complete and utter betrayal I’ve suffered at the hands of the aforementioned brother. My own kin, my own blood, my hero . . .
He may be my best friend, but he’s betrayed me in every way possible.
Hefty words, right?
Well, I speak the truth.
What happened? Let me give you a little prelude to the disaster that my life has turned into.
It all started when I found out my beautiful fiancée, Naomi, is pregnant. I had to make some hard decisions, and the wedding of my dreams—yes, my dreams—had to be swapped out for a wedding on a budget. I needed to save for a home, not the event of the century.
It was a tough pill to swallow. I may have hyperventilated into the drawer of my office desk a few times as I tried to come to terms with it all.
But then one day, after a good breathing session into beautifully stained mahogany, I thought of something: freebies.
I’m a corporate-event planner for Golf Galaxy, Manhattan’s premier golf range and party center for executives. For all your corporate-event needs, please contact Thaddeus Baxter.
I rub elbows with the wealthy on a daily basis, and I figured, why not take advantage of that. Ask around, see if I can find any perks from my job.
Unfortunately, all the asses I’ve been kissing for the past few years want nothing to do with me. Can’t possibly see why. I’m charming—slightly dramatic, perhaps—but I can make the best margarita when pressed to, and I’ll even shake my maracas when handing it over. And when I say maracas, I mean my burly balls. Ahem, my nutsac.
An absolute delight of a gentleman. That’s me.
So, once again reduced to a deeply depressed state, I found myself hunched over my computer—leftover margarita from an event in hand, scanning through wedding websites—when I saw it.
The answer to all my prayers.
It was as if God had parted the clouds and, with his lightning-striking finger, booped me on the nose and pointed me in the right direction.
The Wedding Game was casting.
TV’s favorite wedding reality show was looking for couples to take on the challenge of creating a wedding on a budget. Tulle, roses, bunting, tea lights, tuxes—all there, ready to be pulled together into the best wedding ever.
Sign me up.
But being in the spotlight of every bridezilla’s dream wasn’t my main reason for filling out the application.
You can bet your belly button–caressing tits there was a prize.
You’ll never guess what it was. I’m not even going to give you a chance to figure it out.
It wasn’t your typical Sandals destination honeymoon with all-you-can-eat buffets.
Nope. It was a GD penthouse in New York City.
The dream of all dreams.
Before I even read the fine print, I had the application filled out and ready to send.
So what does this have to do with the kind of betrayal that would make the Game of Thrones cast blush?
The number one rule of The Wedding Game: you have to have at least one family member on your team. Given my childhood’s emotional baggage, there was only one person I could rely on.
And that, my friends, is where the betrayal comes in.
Don’t believe my brother could be so coldhearted as to deceitfully ensnare his own flesh and blood?
Just see for yourself . . .
“Look out, she’s coming in hot . . . with the glue.” I chuckle as I squeeze my glue gun, releasing the smallest dollop of glue before applying a bead to a vest I’ve been working on for the past twenty-four hours.
I’m not normally one to glue-gun beads. I like to sew them in like the proper crafter I am, but when your favorite waiter down at the singing diner begs you to jazz up his vest on short notice for his first solo performance, you break the rules.
“Ouch!” I yelp when the glue singes my already-calloused fingertips. You would think at this point in my life I would have no nerves left in the tips of my fingers, but apparently there are still some in there. “You little beaded bastard,” I whisper to the vest as I sit back to evaluate my work.
Not too shabby for a quick glue job. I still have some gold beads to add around the collar, which I’ll need my special glasses for, but before I snap those on, I need a tiny break.
I lean back in my chair and grin when I see what time it is. Six thirty means only one thing: The Crafty Duo is on.
After locating the remote in record time, I flip the TV on and change the channel from Bravo (my roommate Farrah’s favorite) to the DIY Network. Farrah and I have been best friends since high school. We have one giant thing in common—a passion for expressing our creativity, Farrah being in fashion—but that’s pretty much it. In every other way, we’re polar opposites. I tend to try to bring joy to every aspect of life, while she can be rather aggressive but also outgoing. The great thing about our relationship is we can take my “glass half-full” attitude and mix it with her “glass half-empty” one and offer a full glass of life to the world when we’re together. So when we both decided to move to New York City, we couldn’t think of better roommates than each other.
The show comes on, and the theme song rings through the living room. I shimmy along while I prepare myself for the next round of beads.
I love crafting.
Actually, that’s a lie: I don’t just love it. I live for it.
You know the saying “jack of all trades, master of none”? Well, that’s me, except I’m the jack of all trades, queen of every one.
Need me to crochet, knit, needlepoint, sew? I’m your girl.
Looking for someone to bead, bedazzle, jewel, mold? Call me up.
In search of a seamstress, an embosser, a lettering expert? Hey, right here! *Waves*
I am multifaceted, talented in every way, and I have creativity spilling out of my pores, begging to be used every day. It’s why I own one of the top Etsy shops in the world, why I’m the first crafter under thirty to win a Webby for my outstanding YouTube channel, why I can afford an apartment in Manhattan, and why I’m highly sought after to bedazzle showtime vests in a matter of twenty-four hours.
I slip on my glasses and, like a grandma, flip over the magnifier that’s attached so I can get a much closer look at the work I’m doing.
This is a typical Friday night for me: hunched over my craft desk, glasses strung around my head, TV on in the background, tea at my side. I don’t get out much, I definitely don’t date much, and I sure as hell can’t remember the last time I saw a naked man, but that’s okay, because I’m thirty, not really flirty, but I’m glittery and thriving.
“Are you getting married in the next few months? Are you crafty? Do you have what it takes to plan a wedding on a ten-thousand-dollar budget in New York City?”
I know that voice.
I crave that voice.
My head pops up from the vest, and I lift my glasses to focus on the TV.
It’s her. The goddess of all crafts.
Heart eyes pour from me as I take in the one and only beautifully talented Mary DIY.
You know how Martha Stewart took the world by storm in the nineties? And then Chip and Joanna Gaines came along and enthralled us with shiplap and barn doors before conquering every Target in the country? Well, Mary DIY is the next trend. She rose from her humble beginnings as a Michaels employee, where she used her employee discount to try out every form of crafting there is. Since then, she has built an empire around her YouTube channel, Mary DIY.
She’s creative and talented, and I like to think—late at night, when my fingers are numb from needlepoint—that we’re best friends and frolic together in meadows of twine and lace. I know if we ever meet that we’d get along so swimmingly that we would exchange phone numbers and text each other funny crafting memes.
(I might have some saved in my phone . . . can never be too prepared.)
Despite Mary DIY being my soul sister—though she doesn’t know it—that’s not what has me turning up the TV. It’s The Wedding Game.
“We’re looking for fun, unique couples willing to put their relationship to the test while we put you through a slew of challenges to see if you and your family can create a beautiful wedding, under budget. America will vote for the winner, and the grand prize is a penthouse in the heart of Manhattan, the perfect place to start a family after the ‘I dos.’”
“Holy . . . hell,” I mutter, my heart racing, my mind swirling with ideas. “Cohen needs to apply.”
I pace the compact distance of my apartment, waiting for my brother and his fiancé to arrive, repeating my talking points over and over in my head.
This is the opportunity of a lifetime.
You can skip the courthouse wedding and actually have the wedding you’ve always dreamed of.
With my help, you can win.
You can get out of Queens, live near me, cut the commute.
You can start that family you’ve always wanted . . .
I can feel it in my bones: I was meant to see that commercial. And all the hand lettering I’ve been practicing has to have been for a reason.
I just have to convince Cohen first.
Yes, convince. Let’s just say my big brother keeps his feelings to himself, and he definitely doesn’t like attention.
But I also know his deepest desires when it comes to being a family man, getting married, and having that magical wedding that people talk about for years to come.
But because he’s in construction and his fiancé is a public school teacher here in the city, they decided to cut out the cost of a wedding and just get married in a courthouse.
Ugh, a travesty. Especially since I know that when my brother gets a shot of tequila in him, he unhinges his perpetually stiff shoulders and actually lets loose.
My head whips to the door and anxiety washes over me like a tidal wave, drowning me in shaky breaths.
Steal yourself, woman. This is just your brother.
My brother, who deserves this more than anyone, who’d win with my help. I have no doubt that I could create a wedding that not only America would love, but one that would reflect the strong, loving relationship that my brother shares with his fiancé, Declan.
With a deep breath, I open the door to find the two most important men in my life standing on the other side.
“Hey, sis,” Cohen says, stepping up and giving me a hug and a kiss to the top of my head. “How are you?”
I squeeze him back, loving how the top of my head just reaches the bottom of his chin, which makes for the perfect hug. “Great.” I step out of his embrace and quickly wrap my arms around Declan, squeezing him just as tightly.
I can still remember the day Cohen came out to me. It was a windy, rainy day in Connecticut, on the coast where our parents would take us to vacation. The wind was so harsh that it felt like the house was going to blow away. Lightning flashed and thunder roared like a war in the sky just outside our window, and in the midst of it all, while playing two-person Uno, Cohen paused, looked up at me, and said, “Luna, I’m gay.”
I was twelve; he was sixteen.
I blinked. His eyes welled up with tears.
I set my cards down. He set his down.
I pulled him into a hug. He cried on my shoulder.
I rubbed his back. He held on to me like a lifeline.
I don’t remember most of what I rambled in response, but I do remember saying “I love you so much” over and over again until he stopped crying and pulled away, eyes puffy and red.
He told me he was too afraid to tell Mom and Dad. I told him that no matter what, I would stick by his side—I would be his rock.
Cohen was gay. I never expected it. I never envisioned having that conversation with him, but in that moment, I knew I would do whatever it took to make sure the worry etched on his brow would never stop him from having the life he deserved.
When he told our parents, I held his hand.
When they blinked a few times, I squeezed his hand tighter.
When they wrapped him up in their arms, I held on to him as he cried into my shoulder.
When they told him they would love him no matter what, I gave him a tiny “I told you so” nudge.
When he decided to move to New York City, I followed closely behind, with Farrah on my heels.
And when he introduced me to Declan, I pushed my brother to the side and welcomed the handsome Chinese American schoolteacher with a heart of pure gold right into my arms.
“How’s my favorite fifth-grade teacher?” I ask now, my mind returning to the present as I pull away from Declan.
“Good. I only had to break up one fight today during recess, so I call it a win.”
I usher them inside and shut the door. I watch as Cohen—like always—takes in my apartment, shaking his head.
“When are you going to hang pictures instead of ribbons on your wall?”
As everyone knows, Manhattan apartments aren’t very spacious, at least not the affordable ones. So when Farrah and I were looking for a place to live, all we cared about was scoring two bedrooms in a decent area. The rest we could figure out.
Which we have, but we’ve had to be creative.
Every inch of our walls is covered in shelves, dowels, and organizational storage, holding all my supplies in a decorative and stylish way. I’ve actually gained thousands of followers on Instagram for my creative storage techniques alone. Organizational hashtags are very popular.
But it drives Cohen crazy; he’s very neat and . . . plain when it comes to decorating. He and Declan are minimalists, to say the least.
“Leave my ribbons alone, unless you want me to go all the way to Queens and put glitter handprints all over your walls.”
“No crafts allowed,” Declan says, walking around me with a smile and going straight to a bouquet I’ve been working on for a bride. She sent me about a hundred acrylic flower brooches and asked me to make bouquets and boutonnieres for her vintage wedding. It’s been painstakingly hard—especially since I’m so particular about where each and every one of them is placed—but I’m almost done, thankfully. “This looks interesting.” Declan holds up the bouquet. “Still have fingers left?”
I lift my hands and wiggle my fingers at him.
Cohen heads to the kitchen, where I’ve prepared our favorite goulash dish. It’s his one request whenever he comes over.
He doesn’t turn to me to defend him when people take a second look at him and Declan. He doesn’t ask me to protest his rights with him, nor does he ever look for my help when I know he needs it. But when he makes the trek from Astoria to the Upper West Side to sit in the middle of a craft explosion for the whole night, he asks for our family’s special Italian version of hearty goulash.
He doesn’t even have to ask at this point. It’s my favorite too. Farrah is ravenous for it and usually has to fight Cohen for rights to leftovers. Farrah claims roommate privileges. Cohen slams down the sibling card. It’s an epic battle that I look forward to watching every time I hover over the pot as it cooks.
Declan glances in the pot and says, “Shocking, goulash again.”
“Hey.” I playfully push his shoulder. “Are you knocking an age-old recipe?”
“Age old?” Declan asks, a lift to his brow. He walks over to my sink and lifts up an empty jar of Prego. “When did jarred spaghetti sauce become age-old?”
“Prego is age-old, since 1981.”
“Holy crap, 1981? That’s unheard of,” Declan says full of sarcasm, making us all laugh. “If you want an age-old recipe, try my grandma’s recipe for egg drop soup.” He leans down and kisses the top of my head. “But I do love your goulash, even if you don’t slave over homemade sauce.”
He winks at me and I smile back. “One day, Declan. Also, grab that egg drop soup recipe for me.”
“It’s sacred, I don’t think grandma will hand it over too kindly.”
“Tell her it’s for your future sister in law who wants to honor your side of the family as well.”
“Well in that case, consider it done.” He gives me a side hug while Cohen walks over to the pot on the stove and takes in a deep breath.
“Smells good, Luna. Almost ready?”
“The big boy is hungry,” Declan says. “Was bitching the entire train ride over here that he only had a ham sandwich at work today.”
I glance over at my brawny brother and chuckle. He’s always had an appetite.
“Let me guess; it was a measly sandwich that barely sated your ravenous hunger?”
I head to the tiny kitchen, where I lay out a few Campagna sea blue bowls—a gift from our Nonna before she passed--and ladle heaping servings into each of them, topping them with some freshly grated parmesan that I picked up at the delicatessen this morning.
Cohen takes two bowls from the counter and hands one to Declan. We all take a seat at the bar top, me on one side, the boys on the other, and we dig in.
Cohen closes his eyes and quietly moans to himself. “This is so much better than a ham sandwich.”
“Maybe you should try bringing more than just a sandwich to work. You do realize you burn a lot of calories with all the physical labor you put in.”
“We don’t have much time to take a break, so a hearty lunch isn’t easy to take down in the middle of the day.” Cohen scoops his goulash so fast into his mouth, and I have to chuckle as the broth drips down his chiseled chin. When you think of Cohen, think of the Italian version of the Brawny man—flannel and all with a hint of that heavy New York accent.
In a matter of minutes, Cohen is hopping off his chair and heading for seconds while Declan and I stare at each other in horror, both of our bowls still mostly full.
“Uh, slow down there, buddy,” I say as Cohen hops back up on his stool, bowl full.
Instead of responding, he starts in on his second bowl. “So, bouquets, huh?” he asks between gulps of elbow noodles.
Oh, Cohen. Goulash gets him every time.
“Yeah. Thousand-dollar commission. It’s taken me about two days so far. Put me a bit behind on my other projects and stock in the shop, but I really wanted the challenge. So, I’m okay with the minor setback. I’ll catch up.”
“A thousand dollars for two days of work, which you do from home, where you can watch TV all day.” Declan shakes his head. “Boy, did I go into the wrong profession.”
“What are you talking about?” I ask. “Sure, you get paid shit, come home with a head cold at least once a month, and have been kicked in the shin at least a few dozen times. But you get to shape the minds of future generations. How is that not rewarding?”
He laughs. “When you put it like that . . .”
“Did Declan tell you about the parent who’s raising a shitstorm with the principal?”
“Cohen,” Declan warns.
They have one of those silent conversations, using only their eyes—the kind of conversation only a couple that’s been together for years can have.
Leaning in, I break up the eye contact. “He hasn’t, but please, do enlighten me.”
“It’s nothing,” Declan says, going back to his spoon.
I sigh. “Declan, you can either tell me now, or Cohen can tell me when you’re not around. You know how things are with us. We share every last detail.” I raise an eyebrow. “Every detail.”
“Not every detail,” Cohen quickly says, placing his hand on Declan’s thigh, under the counter. “Trust me . . . not every detail.”
“Better not be. Some things need to stay between a man and a man, you know.”
I rest my chin on my hand and take in my favorite couple of all time. God, I love them so much. The give-and-take between them. The teasing, the little knowing looks, the silent exchanges. The comforting, loving touches here and there that I only get to see when we’re out of the public eye. They’re not in your face, but you can see it in their eyes, in the way they care for each other: they’re deeply in love—another reason I really want to make this wedding competition happen for them.
“This doesn’t need to stay between a man and a man, though.” Cohen turns toward me. “A parent in Declan’s class found out about the engagement party the faculty threw for Declan and me and flipped his lid.” Cohen’s jaw grows tight as he stares down at his bowl. “He doesn’t want his child being educated by a gay man.”
“Oh Jesus.” I roll my eyes, annoyed with the ignorance that still runs rampant in the world. Just absurd. I’m about to brush off my soapbox and go off, and then I realize that the last thing Declan and Cohen need is a tirade. They need someone to comfort them—and in the best way we know how. “That douche parent must have read that one article.”
Declan’s brow creases. “What article?”
“You know, the one about catching ‘the gay.’ Didn’t you read it? It was all about how if you’re touched by a gay man while he’s drinking a cup of tea, pinkie up, you can transform into one yourself. Devastating read. Looks like there was an outbreak of ‘the gay’ down in SoHo, at a poetry reading. Pinkie-up gays were attacking hipsters one at a time. Downright travesty. They had to shut down the snapping, hemp-loving tea shop, fumigate it with testosterone, and then reopen it as an exclusive biker bar slash fight club that no one is supposed to know about, but everyone knows about.” I take a bite as Declan and Cohen both fold their arms across their chests, grinning despite themselves. “You really didn’t catch that article . . . on your gaydar? Man, you guys must be getting old if you’re missing breaking news like that.”
Cohen frowns. “That’s not how gaydar works.”
“In my head it does.” I wink, and they both shake their heads at me as they go back to their dinner. “Don’t even worry about it, Declan,” I say, getting serious. “That parent is an idiot. At some point, he’ll realize his ignorance and then regret not only taking away an opportunity for his child to learn about the differences in humanity, but also not getting to know what a true gem you are.”
Declan softly smiles. “Thanks, Luna.”
I wink. “Anything for my future brother-in-law. Which brings me to the main event.” I rub my hands together, and Cohen’s eyes narrow.
“I don’t like it when you rub your hands together. Rubbing hands means trouble for me.”
“Not trouble, brother. Opportunity.”
“Opportunity equals trouble.”
“Just hear me out.”
His shoulders visibly tense. “Whenever you start a sentence with ‘Just hear me out,’ I know it’s going to involve working with a glue gun.”
He may have helped me on occasion when I’ve been behind on orders. That’s neither here nor there right now.
“This might involve a glue gun—”
“Count me out.” Cohen dismisses me with a shake of his head. “Not going to happen, whatever it is. Nope. Sorry, sis.”
“Just hear her out,” Declan says, nudging Cohen with his shoulder. And this is one of the many reasons I love the man so much. When Cohen gets salty or closed off, Declan has a way of easing him out of his shell.
Cohen picks up his napkin and wipes his mouth, then sits up, arms crossed. He gives me that look, the one that I grew up watching, the thoughtful but guarded expression as he waits for my next “madcap” idea—at least that’s what he calls it. “Okay, why am I firing up the glue gun?”
“Well.” I place my hands on the counter and lean forward. “You know how you guys have always wanted to live in Manhattan, in a large apartment, and start a family?”
“Yes . . . ?” Cohen drags out skeptically.
“What if I told you that you could win a penthouse in Manhattan, just by getting married?”
“I’d say, ‘Not interested.’” Cohen goes back to his bowl, not even giving me a second thought. Declan, the kind soul that he is, elbows Cohen, making my brother roll his eyes and say, “Spit it out, Luna.”
I guess it’s now or never. I prepare for one hell of an epic letdown and spill the beans.
“So. The Wedding Game . . . you know, the show on the DIY Network? It’s looking for contestants in New York City. You must be getting married in the next few months, you must live in New York City, and you must be willing to plan a wedding under ten thousand dollars. Winners are chosen by America—and just from the ruggedly handsome lumber-gay vibe you’ve got going on, the win is in the bag—then you go home with keys to a fantastic apartment to start your life in.”
Cohen stares at me.
Chews another spoonful of noodles and says, “No.”
“Ugh, why not?” I whine. “This could be your chance, Cohen. You could get the wedding you always dreamed of. Remember? You told me you don’t want a court—”
“Luna,” Cohen firmly says. “No.”
“You don’t want what?” Declan asks, turning in his chair.
Uh-oh . . .
Did Declan not know?
I shrink into my seat, trying to become one with my stool. Getting caught between my brother and Declan is never good. It never ends well, and I usually earn a good lecture afterward. From the way Cohen’s staring daggers at me, I should probably pencil in a ten p.m. bedtime lecture now.
“Nothing,” Cohen says through clenched teeth.
Maybe I should make it for nine thirty.
“You don’t want a courthouse wedding?” Declan asks, and Cohen looks over at me again, his eyebrows almost touching in the middle of his forehead.
Nine. Yup, it’s going to be a nine o’clock tongue-lashing.
With a deep sigh, he turns to Declan. “It’s nothing you need to worry about, and nothing Luna should be sticking her nose in. I said no, and that’s final.”
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...