Wedding Day Curse

Book 1 in the Magical Love Series

I’m cursed to relive my sister’s wedding day.

Worse, I’m dangerously falling for the groom.

Hayden Clark.

The first time I met him, my heart tap-danced inside my chest, and a magical spark swirled between us.

I was convinced I had finally found the one.

He even asked me on a date; I was on cloud nine.

In my head, it was the start of a beautiful love story…until I learned he was on his way to a blind date with my sister. Imagine my shock!

So I stepped aside, and just like that, all my dreams came crashing down.

Fast-forward two years later…He’s getting married to my sister, but before he can say “I do,” he’s hell-bent on making sure I have no regrets whatsoever.

I’m pretty good at pretending he’s never meant anything to me.

If only that galling wedding day actually came to an end.

The problem is, I’m cursed to go through this day over and over again.

And it’s getting impossible not to fall in love with the groom.

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Wedding Day Curse

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Prologue

Two Years Ago

“Do you think blind dates often lead to happily ever afters?” I ask as I lay a red rose, tucked in a vase, on a table for two.

The nineteen-year-old barista chuckles, lighting up a candle and placing it next to the flower. “One in a Million, maybe.”

It’s quiet inside my bakery, except for the romantic songs swirling around the room and an elderly couple giggling like teenagers. Looking at them, I can’t help but wonder when I will finally meet the one, and if we will be as in love when we grow old.

“Nah, I have this feeling Brooke’s blind date is going to change her life,” I say as I put down a reserved sign on the round table.

My sister Brooke is meeting her date here, and I couldn’t be more excited for her. Mutual friends set them up, and as it turns out, the guy owns the shopping center where Brooke manages a clothing boutique. Only they have never met before, but my sister saw a picture of him and is already sweet on him. I can’t wait to see what he looks like and if they will fall madly in love with each other.

“Oh, your meeting for the cake tasting is about to start,” she says, cutting through my thoughts.

***

“Stop him!” I storm into the main room of the bakery, with the bride on my tail.

The groom stomps toward the exit at the same time a man, whose face I can’t see, steps inside.

“Let me pass!” the groom growls at the mysterious man who is now blocking the groom’s path.

“The lady spoke,” the stranger says, with a deep, sexy voice that rams through me and resonates deep inside. Wow.

The bride and I rush past a few customers until we finally reach her fiancé by the front door.

“Please wait,” I put my hand on the groom’s shoulder, and he turns around to face me, his jaw clenched in anger. “I know you’re very upset right now, and you have the right to be. But, please, don’t make any rash decisions. Let your fiancée explain herself first.”

“I don’t need an explanation,” he bites out. “She kissed my brother.

The wedding’s off.”

“No!” I let out. “It can’t end like this.” I was so convinced these two were endgame.

The bride grabs her fiancé’s hands. “It happened one boozy evening, before you and I met. After that, your brother and I agreed it was a mistake and—”

“Just a mistake,” I echo.

My gaze drifts to the stranger, still standing before the door. Chocolate eyes stare right back at me. Oh, dear God, he’s hot. He has a beautiful face that the Greek Gods would envy, black hair that kisses his forehead, and full lips that make my mouth water.

“Then I met you,” the bride continues, forcing me to shift my attention back to the couple. “From that moment on, nothing else mattered more than us.”

“You both belong together,” I add. “Just the other day, your fiancée told me that being with you is like the most beautiful place on Earth. And you remember what you told me? That she makes your heart beat like an upbeat love song.” The groom’s features soften, and stars dance in the bride’s eyes. “I’m telling you, that is true love. You can’t walk away from that.”

“I overreacted, I’m sorry.” The groom takes his fiancée into his arms. “Let’s forget about it all and move on, okay?”

The bride kisses her fiancé. “You’re the only person I will ever want, I promise you.”

The groom turns to me. “The cherry cake is my favorite, by the way.”

The bride has her arm wrapped around her fiancé. “You just saved our relationship. I can never thank you enough.”

“Anytime,” I say, relieved. Not only did I save a much-needed order, but this gives me hope that the love I’m looking for is still possible.

Sexy Stranger moves aside to let the soon-to-be newlyweds pass. “Hi,” Sexy Stranger says in his deep voice, making goosebumps trail

down the nape of my neck. His eyes trap me, and I have no desire

whatsoever to look away.

“Hi,” I stutter. “Thank you.” He winks at me. “My pleasure.”

Butterflies flutter in my belly, pretty damn quick. “What… what can I get you?”

“Oh, I’ll take care of him,” the young barista offers, as she wipes the countertop with a towel.

No way, lady, you’re not stomping on my move. “No! Go clean up the cake- tasting room.”

She stops in her tracks, a frown wrinkling her features. “What about your meeting with the accountant?”

Oh, shoot. “Um, actually, she… postponed the meeting.”

“Oh, okay.” She walks away, her red hair swaying around her heart- shaped face.

Phew.

“I’d like a black coffee, please,” Sexy Stranger says.

“Please have a seat wherever you like. I’ll be right with you.”

He settles on a high-backed stool that lined the counter. “Looking forward to it.”

A grin I can’t stifle settles on my lips.

As I step away, I take a quick peek at the other customers. One woman, looking to be in her twenties, savors her apple raisin cake and furtively glances at a young man seated three tables from her. He reads on his cell phone, unaware of the woman so close to him.

I approach his table and say discreetly, “It looks like you’ve caught someone’s eye. Grab that chance.”

The young man follows my gaze, and a gleam of desire comes into his eyes.

I move away and go around the counter, passing behind Sexy Stranger, my hand sliding over the countertop. There’s a lightness in my body, a lightness I have never felt before.

Sexy Stranger’s dark gaze stays on me, and the curl of his lips makes my heart swing with happiness. “Is that a daily occurrence of yours? Playing matchmaker and couples counselor?”

“Just giving a hand.” “They’re lucky,” he says.

I reluctantly turn my back to go and prepare his drink, and even then, my being is, in a strange way, fully aware of his presence. Is he staring at my back or already doing things that have nothing to do with me? While his coffee brews, I command my heart to calm down, but it won’t listen. Instead, I’m standing on a fluffy pink cloud and imagining all the pet names I could give him. Sexy Stranger. Gorgeous Chocolates. Heart-stopping Smile. I wonder what his name is. Bet he has a sexy name. Shoot, the meeting. I need to cancel it. I fish out my cell phone from my pants pocket and call my accountant.

When she answers, I whisper into the phone, “Hey, Mrs. Hochler— um… Mrs. Hochstetler, I unfortunately won’t make it to our meeting this afternoon. I’m sorry. Can we reschedule?”

“Are you sick or something? What is it?” Mrs. Hochstetler asks through the phone.

I cup my mouth not to be heard. “No, I’m good. I… I’m in a meeting right now that’s dragging on longer than I expected. I don’t want to keep you waiting.”

“Can you come on Monday at 2:00 p.m.?” She asks, sounding slightly annoyed, but, well, it’s not every day one meets their Sexy Stranger.

“Perfect, I’ll be there.” I press the end call button and put down the phone by the coffee machine. Nice job, Kelsey!

I slide the steaming cup toward Sexy Stranger, not being ashamed to stare too much. An amused smile appears on his lips.

“What?” I ask, confused.

“You just canceled your meeting. Why?” he asks as he stirs his coffee.

He heard! Heat rushes to my cheeks.

“Um… Um.” I look away, shifting my focus on something else. “Would you like some cake? I have lemon cheesecake, apple raisin cake, red velvet cake, and raspberry chocolate cake.”

Sexy Stranger lets out a chuckle, amused by my discomfort. Oh, gosh, I would crawl under the floor if I could. “Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me.”

He’s mocking me, and I don’t enjoy it. “Would you like a cake or not?” I ask, a little too harshly.

His brows smash together at my tone. “Hey, my apology if I overstepped.”

I wipe the counter with a towel. “No, it’s fine. I’m sorry.” “Which one’s your favorite?”

“Um… the raspberry chocolate one.” “I’ll have a piece of that one, then.”

I lay a piece of raspberry chocolate cake on a small purple plate and push it in front of him. I dart a glance at the other customers in the room to make sure they’re not watching us. Good! They’re too busy being in love, I guess, to pay attention to me and my new crush. I bend toward Sexy Stranger, my upper body pressing on the counter. He widens his beautiful eyes in surprise, putting his fork back on the plate.

I whisper inches from his ear, struggling not to be overwhelmed by the coconut-sea scent that spins around me and makes me want to be cocooned in it: “It’s on the house.”

As I straighten up, his smile brightens, understanding that I didn’t want the other customers to hear. He crooks his finger, signaling me to lean closer. You don’t need to ask me twice.

As I breathe in his sweet scent again, he whispers, “I won’t tell a soul. I’m enjoying being privileged too much. And I’ll definitely come back.”

I lean back, his words coating my skin like melted honey on the tongue.

He takes his first bite, then beckons to me. I do as asked, my chest brushing the counter again. “I’m paying for it. It’s too delicious,” he says, his voice wrapping around me like silky velvet.

Tingles of happiness spread across my body. “Thank you.”

His penetrating gaze makes the ground shake under my feet. Or is it my body? I. Cannot. Tell.

“Did you bake it?” he asks.

“I did.” Never has a man stared at me this way. Is he already falling for me, the same way I am for him?

“May I ask your name?” he says between bites. “I’m Kelsey.”

“Kelsey… ” His tongue glides over my first name. Best. Sound. Ever. “I predict that if you continue baking like this, lines the length of Wilshire Boulevard will be waiting outside your bakery.”

His words turn me into a squishy marshmallow under the tongue. “Th—Thank you.” I clear throat. “May I… What’s your name?”

“I’m Hayden Clark.”

Hayden.

Hayden and Kelsey.

Could he be the one I’ve been searching for my whole life? Could it finally be the day?

Oh, no. She’s coming back. My employee saunters in our direction. “Are you done?” I ask her.

“Yes, Miss Williams,” she says proudly.

“Are you sure you cleaned every corner of the room thoroughly?” “Yes, Miss Williams.”

Damn, she’s gonna shatter my chances. “You need to go back in there,” I say.

“Really?” Her lips jut forward into a pout. “What do you want me to do?”

“Well—” I scratch my head, searching for an idea. “Oh! Why don’t you try to bake a cake?”

“Really? You hated the one I made last week.”

The cake she attempted to make was so bad it was not edible, and normally I wouldn’t let her get close to the kitchen. “It takes practice. Don’t burn it this time. Dazzle me.”

Her face lights up with excitement, and she saunters away.

Ah, alone again with my Sexy Stranger.

Hayden sips his coffee. “So if I wanted to dazzle you, should I bake you a cake too?”

Warmth settles on my cheeks, and I feel lightheaded. A sensation of peace so pure nothing can touch it. “Is it your first time here?”

“First time, yes.” He takes a sip of his coffee. “Is someone already dazzling you, like a boyfriend, fiancé, husband?”

“Not at the moment, but I’d love to be dazzled. Why are you asking?

Are you… are you offering?” O.M.G. I can’t believe I just asked that.

“I might. What are you looking for?” “True love.”

His little finger calls out to me again, and I recline against the wooden surface, breathing in his addictive scent. He leans closer to my ear, his breath tickling my skin as he speaks. “I’m already dazzled. By you.” He settles back against the back of the barstool, staring into my eyes. “Can I take you out for dinner sometime?”

Oh. Yes. Please. “I’d love to.” I’m so happy, my body seems like a hot- air balloon floating into a sweet breeze. I fish out a business card from my pants pocket and hand it to him. The card sways through his fingers as if he were hesitating to take it, then he stares up at me. “I need to be honest with you. I’m actually waiting for my date. But—”

Disappointment crashes into me. “What?” He rubs his chin. “I’m on a date.”

“Oh.” I need space.

Hayden reaches out for my hand over the counter before I can step back, intense heat spreading through my body.

“Kelsey.” His gaze implores me, “It’s just a blind date. I’ll cancel.”

Shock zips through me. “A blind date? What’s, uh… what is the name of your date?”

“Brooke Williams. Why?”

My heart free falls to my feet into a mashed heap of strawberry puree. I snatch the card from his hand and put it back into my pants pocket. “Brooke’s my sister.”

Hayden blinks as he registers the news. “Kelsey. Please. I won’t see her after today.”

“My sister’s already smitten with you.” Hayden breathes out. “And I am. With you.”

“Hayden!” Brooke’s cheery voice bursts through our little bubble, and she appears next to Hayden in no time. Her dark green eyes sparkle with excitement. “I can see you’ve already met my sister.” She turns to me. “Hi, sis.”

“Hi, Brooke. Um. Your table is over there, in the corner.” I point to the table I set specifically for my sister and her blind date, who turns out to be the man I just had a crush on. It was too good to be true, I guess.

“Are you coming?” she asks Hayden as she slides her thin fingers into her long copper hair.

Above their table hangs the poster of a couple kissing, with the quote “Seize the day.” I scoff. Yeah, well, if you really wanted me to seize the day, God, you shouldn’t have made me crush on my sister’s date.

“Give me a second, will you?” Hayden says to Brooke. “Sure.” She nods, then heads for their table.

Hayden turns back to me. “Give us one chance.” My burning throat tightens. “I’ll pass.”

His face is a mirror to what I feel inside. Emptiness. And. Despair. But I don’t have a choice. Stepping aside is the only way.


Chapter One

Present Day—Saturday, June 22

My “I’ll Never Love Again” ringtone snatches me out of my sleep, forcing my eyes open. I grab my cellphone from the nightstand and click “accept.”

“Good morning, Kelsey!” Brooke’s cheery voice stabs at my sluggish state. “Today is the most wonderful day, isn’t it?”

If it weren’t for my sister, I would have gladly stayed in bed all day. So no, for me, it doesn’t really feel like the most wonderful day. The truth is, every mention of her wedding makes my heart bleed, reminding me over and over again that I still haven’t found the one, and there’s a good chance that I never will.

I used to believe that it was every person’s destiny to find their soulmate. I used to believe that it was mine too and that the hole in my soul, that missing piece inside me, would fill up the second I’d met the love of my life. And then, somehow, at some point, that conviction crumbled into dust, and I realized in the last two years that not everyone was meant to ever encounter their soulmate in their lifetime. And I’m one of them.

“What time is it?” I ask in a drowsy tone, arching my body in a stretch and yawning. My turquoise gown is hanging on the closet door, ready to be worn.

“Already seven,” she says, excitement coating her voice. “Is the wedding cake ready?”

I reluctantly get out of bed and drag my feet out of my room and into the living room. “Almost. I’ll bring it later directly to Ingrid and Richard’s house.”

“Great! And what time are you coming over?”

“Um… Around noon, I guess,” I say as I pass the living room area on the right.

The bridesmaids and I are meeting with Brooke at our parents’ house to have our nails and hair done before the start of the ceremony at 3:30p.m. I couldn’t care less about pampering myself today, though.

“Can’t wait,” she says. “Oh, and Mom wants to introduce you to Ingrid’s godson.”

“What? No! I don’t want to meet that guy.” My mother won’t rest until I find someone. The problem is, there might not be anyone.

“Good luck with that. Mom’s pretty determined. See you later. Love you, sis.”

“Love you, too, Brooke.” I end the call and flop onto the corner sofa.

One hour later, showered and dressed in blue jeans and a dark gray T- shirt, I adorn the three-tier white wedding cake with small, golden, heart- shaped designs. Will I survive today? Will my lonely heart handle the joy it will witness? Will

The intercom buzzes. After washing and drying my hands, I put the receiver against my ear. I wonder who that can be.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Kelsey.” His voice tears through my body like a lightning bolt. Stealing my breath. Rendering me stunned. “It’s Hayden.” Still no reaction from me. “Kelsey?”

Is it getting hot all of a second, or am I having a fever? “What… what are you doing here?”

“Can you buzz me in?” His voice entices me, but I can’t let him up.

I struggle to breathe out, my heart thumping in my chest. “But why?” “I was passing by and thought I’d say hi.”

I have no clue what he wants, but inviting him in doesn’t seem like a good idea. “I need to finish the wedding cake and all.”

“I won’t be long.”

And he persists. A little voice in my head shouts not to do it. And yet, I do it anyway. I breathe in and press the button to let him inside.

He’s never been here to my place. We’ve never found each other alone. Since… that day at the bakery. Dreading seeing him, I walk slowly to the door and open it slightly. Hayden appears before me, wearing black jeans and a light gray T-shirt. Short dark hair framing his face, and chocolate eyes fixed on me.

“Hi.”

“Hi, yourself,” I reply without making any move to invite him in. His lips turn up, I guess at my reluctance. “Can I come in, Kelsey?”

I push the door wider and stride into the kitchen, turning my back to him. If he imagines he can show up unannounced and disrupt my schedule…. Without bothering to ask him what he wants, I wash my hands again before going back to the cake decoration.

He leans his body on the side of the island while I stick a golden fondant to the cake, trying to ignore his presence.

“Kelsey?” he starts. “Can you stop for a moment so we can sit and talk?”

What the heck does he want? “I gotta finish this, Hayden,” I say, pointing at his wedding cake.

“Five minutes, Kelsey. It’s all I’m asking.”

“Fine.” I put down the fondant on the counter. “I’m thirsty. Are you thirsty?” I open the fridge before he can answer.

“Sure.”

I grab the pitcher of homemade lemonade from the fridge and pour the yellow refreshment into two wine glasses. He is already standing next to me, wrapping his fingers around one glass.

Oh, dear God, too close. “Let’s go over there,” I say, pointing in the direction of the living room and taking a few steps back, with my drink in my hand.

Hayden settles comfortably on the night-blue corner sofa and puts down his drink on the glass coffee table before him. I sit poised on the edge at one end of the sofa, the farthest possible from him.

He chuckles, then slides closer. Not enough to touch, but way enough to bother me. His scent, a mix of coconut and sea breeze, wafts all over me. Not at all my cup of tea. I sip my lemonade, trying to pretend that Hayden is not here.

Silence dances around us, and it seems like an eternity.

He gulps down a drink of his lemonade. “So, how are things with you?”

“Everything’s great, Hayden.” I lift one shoulder. “Why wouldn’t it be? My sister’s getting married.” My lips attempt a grin. It’s a complete failure.

He tilts his head upward as if in disbelief. “Are you sure about that?” “If I’m sure that my sister’s getting married?”

His mouth twists into a grimace. “Are you sure everything’s great?” “What’s your point?”

He leans his back against the sofa. “I care.”

“You don’t need to,” I say in a detached voice, taking another drink of the lemonade.

“That won’t stop me from caring.” His gaze stays too long on me, luring mine to be trapped. How I detest the way he stares.

I shift my focus to my drink instead. “Fine. Do whatever you want.” “You bringing a plus one today?” he says.

Hurt slices through me, being reminded all too well that I still haven’t found the one.

“Is that a requirement to attend your wedding?” I snap.

“Kelsey, damn it. I didn’t say that.” His hands run through his hair in frustration. “Look, I’ve never seen you with anyone and—”

“That must be because I’ve never met anyone worth showing off. Do you have a problem with that?” I clutch a cushion tight. He’s digging a knife deeper into the belief that I’m not worth loving.

“Geez, Kelsey. No, I have no problem with that.” He grabs his drink from the coffee table and knocks it down in one gulp, his chest rising and falling fast. “Are you seeing someone at the moment?”

Detached, this is the way I need to behave around him. Being detached and not caring about whatever he has to tell me.

“Aren’t you a little nosy today?”

“Concerned,” he says.

I shake my head. “You don’t need to be.”

He leans forward, resting his arms on his lap, “I want to be.”

“Well, then, since you’re so concerned, I have no one at the moment. But according to some people, it might change by the end of the day. Isn’t that great? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to get done.”

I leap out of my seat and head for the kitchen. I can only take three steps when he grips my arm, the spot just above the elbow.

“I’m far from being done. Please sit back down.” “What else do you want, Hayden?”

“I haven’t even started yet.”

“Fine.” I yank my arm free and sit cross-legged on the sofa. He settles next to me, even closer than before.

Why doesn’t he just leave now?

“Do you remember?” he asks.

I frown. “What are you talking about?” “The day we met?”

I look away, my hand brushing the nape of my neck. Flashes of that day flood my mind against my will. His winking at me. His wicked smile. His intense stare. The beat of my heart when our eyes met.

“It’s quite a blur, to be honest,” I say, indifferent.

“A blur?” He sighs. “How can we have this conversation if you’re not honest with me?”

“It’s getting late; you should leave.”

“Fine. Let me cut to the chase then, Kelsey. Do you have any regrets about that day?”

I blink a few times before I can say a word. “What?” “Do you ever wish it’d turned out differently?” Scraps of memory emerge in my mind.

“Give us one chance.” He had said that first time.

“I’ll pass.” I still remember the lump clogging my throat as I said those words.

I push on the cushion and shoot to my feet. “This conversation is over.”

Hayden tugs my hand before I am fully up. I lose my balance and crash onto his lap. A scream escapes my throat. Our arms and legs tangle together, and I struggle to untwine myself from him while his arms keep me trapped against him.

“Damn it, Hayden. Get off me!”

He chuckles. “You’re the one on my lap.” “Help me up!” I order.

His arms wrapped around me, he brings us both to a standing position.

I sweep my hands over my top to smooth it back the way it was. “You need to go now.”

“Why are you so nervous?”

“I’m not nervous,” I say, my chest heaving at high speed. “Fine, then answer me.”

“Your question isn’t worth an answer.”

He invades my space, enveloping me with his intoxicating scent that I don’t like. At all.

“I’m about to marry your sister for life, so the least you could do is be open with me,” he says through gritted teeth.

I stride to the front door. “Nothing happened that day worth regretting.”

Before I can reach the door, he spins me around and pins me against it. “Since you seem to have forgotten what happened, do you need a reminder? You were so mesmerized by me that day that you couldn’t stop grinning

and—”

“Enough, Hayden!” I push him backward. “Why are you doing this?

Are you having cold feet? Is that it?” “This has nothing to do with Brooke.”

“Look, I admit that the first time I saw you, I said to myself, ‘Oh, wow. He’s hot.’ But I can assure you there was nothing more to it.” I fling the door open. “Now you better go and make my sister the happiest woman on Earth, and don’t you ever come back here again. It’s not appropriate.”

A pained glint appears in his eyes just before he turns his back and bangs the door shut behind him, leaving me stunned and upset at the same time.

end of excerpt

Wedding Day Curse

is available exclusively from Amazon

KSJ Publishing

Mar 25, 2021