“It doesn’t matter. Granny James—”

“I’m not asking Granny James,” Dora interrupted. “I’m asking you. For once, Harper, tell us what you want.” When Harper hesitated, wringing her hands, Dora nearly shouted, “Where’s your spine, girl? Damn the torpedoes.”

“Yes!” Harper shouted back at her. “All right? Yes, I wish I was getting married at the plantation. So what? All this talk of a switch is nothing more than crazy.”

“Why is it crazy?” Carson grinned happily. “Come on, Harpo. This is our adventure, right? Our weddings. We’ve never been afraid before. Let’s not start now. Like you said, the future begins today. Okay, Brave New World.” Carson straightened her shoulders. “I want to get married on the beach.”

Harper dropped the manuscript, she was so shaken. She stood, hands at her side, wide-eyed, frozen in indecision. She looked at Atticus for guidance, her large blue eyes limpid in fear.

Atticus shrugged and shook his head, indicating this was her decision to make. He’d led her to this point, but could go no further.

“It’s time to put the mouse to rest,” Dora said to her gently. “You’re not that little girl anymore.”

“If I do this, I’ll feel like a rat.”

Carson and Dora laughed.

“You’re going to be a mother,” Dora said. “You’re a lioness.”

Carson put out her hands to capture Harper’s. She gave the smaller hands a squeeze. “What do you say, Sis? You and me again on another adventure on Sullivan’s Island. Will you switch with me? Do you dare?”

Harper’s eyes flashed and she smiled a crooked grin. “You bet I do.”

Chapter Twenty-Three

In nothing does the present time more greatly differ from the close of the last century, than in the unreserved frankness of young women and men towards each other.

—Etiquette, 1951 edition, Emily Post

Dora fluttered about her sisters like a mother hen, giving orders, creating new to-do lists. It seemed to Atticus that she’d found a new calling as a wedding planner. And speaking of wedding planners, they’d called the wedding planner, Ashley Rhodes, and, after assuring her that, no, they had not lost their minds, filled her in on their plan to swap wedding venues.

“I’m a professional and managed countless weddings, but I have to tell you, this is one for the books.” Ashley released a muffled laugh over the wire, one tinged with resignation. “But, okay, if it’s what you want to do. My duty is to make my brides happy.”

Mamaw and Granny James were not so amenable.

“But you can’t!” Granny James exclaimed. “I planned every detail. My guests are arriving from Europe!”

“Exactly,” Mamaw told her in no uncertain tone. “You planned everything. Your guests are arriving. What about Harper? It’s her wedding, after all.”

“And you didn’t plan Carson’s wedding?” Granny James fired back.

“I absolutely did. Every detail.” Mamaw turned to Carson. “Though why in merciful heaven didn’t you tell me what you wanted sooner?”

Carson shrugged sheepishly. “The same reason Harper didn’t. You were having such a good time, and I felt I owed it to you to plan the wedding. And I was living under the delusion that it didn’t matter where I got married. But I was wrong. It does.”

“Blake can’t be happy about this,” Mamaw said with import. “His family has been married at the Legare Waring plantation for generations.”

“Oh, he’s happy about it.” Carson grinned. “He loves the beach as much as I do. It’s where we fell in love.”

Mamaw harrumphed. “Well, his mother won’t be happy, that’s for true and certain.”

“But you, Mamaw?” Carson asked with trepidation. “Are you okay with it?”

Mamaw stepped forward and captured Carson’s face in her hands and kissed her soundly. “I just want you to be happy.” Mamaw dropped her hands and repeated the gesture with Harper. “And you.” She turned to look at Granny James. “Imogene and I will move mountains to make it happen. Won’t we?”

Imogene didn’t smile but she lifted her hands in surrender. “I’ll agree on one condition. Taylor must agree.”

“He will,” Harper said readily.

“And, in the future, when we look back on this weekend as the wedding debacle, you will both admit you were wrong.”

Mamaw laughed lightly. “Oh, that is easy to agree to because I’m never wrong.”

Granny James threw her hands up in the air. “Oh, sod it. I agree.”

“Oh, Granny, thank you!” Harper exclaimed, homing in to her grandmother’s arms to kiss her cheek.

Granny James accepted her kiss and put up a good front of refusing to be mollified. “Though I can’t imagine what I’m going to tell the guests.”

“We’ve thought of that already.” Harper hurried to her desk to grab her omnipresent clipboard. “Everyone is gathering here tomorrow night for the rehearsal dinner. We simply hand out new printed programs informing each of them of the change in venues. It will all be clear as day.”

“Printed? On that copier with the cheap paper?” Granny James asked, horrified. “But we already have the most beautiful programs. With gilt edging.” It was more a whine of regret than a serious complaint.

“They won’t care if the printout doesn’t have gilt,” Harper said gently. “And after we make the announcement, they’ll just be happy to know where to show up.”

“You make it sound so simple.”

“Because it is. It’s done, Granny. You simply have to accept it, and the rest comes easily. If it hadn’t been for Atticus making us realize how we truly felt, this farce would have continued, and neither Carson nor I would have looked back on our wedding day with the complete and utter joy that it was everything we both wanted. And now we will.” Harper looked at Atticus. “We owe a lot to him.”

“So you’re the instigator of this conspiracy?” Granny James skewered Atticus with a look where he was lounging on a chair, happy as a clam.

Atticus grinned. “Guilty as charged.”

Granny James narrowed her eyes. “Of course. You’re a Muir, too, I understand.”


Tags: Mary Alice Monroe Lowcountry Summer Romance
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