The Mistake (Bad Bridesmaids #1) by Noelle Adams




prologue




AMANDA GRIFFIN WAS all dressed up and had nowhere to go.

Okay, she wasn’t all dressed up. She was looking good but not overdone. After all, she had to walk the line between gorgeousness and date expectations.

Because this wasn’t a date. It was simply a meal with a friend. A really good friend. One of her best. Dave Williams. She’d gone to school with him at their upscale private school in Richmond since childhood, and they’d always been close. They’d studied for exams together. Gone to football games and concerts together. Hung out at each other’s homes. He’d helped her say no to her mother’s pressure to do beauty pageants and debutante crap, and he’d been at her side through her parents’ messy divorce.

They were twenty-four now. He was finishing law school, and she’d gotten an MBA and a great entry-level job in a marketing firm. They weren’t as close as they used to be since adulthood and their careers had created some unavoidable distance, but she still considered him one of her best friends.

The truth was she’d always wanted more from their relationship, and tonight felt like the moment the shift might happen.

When she told him about her new job, he’d been happy for her. He’d said they needed to go out to celebrate, so she’d suggested dinner at her favorite restaurant. They’d had to alter the date twice since he was overloaded with studying, but they had finally settled on tonight. She’d been hoping they could drive there together, but he’d said he had a study session that afternoon, so he’d just meet her at the restaurant.

That was fine. It wasn’t a date. He didn’t have to pick her up.

But it felt like tonight was going to be special. He’d been really sweet with her lately. She was sure she’d seen a new look in his eyes. He’d always been the prince of her daydreams, and now that they were all grown up, she had real hopes that her dreams might come to fruition.

So she was in a state of suppressed jitters as she waited on a bench outside the restaurant, three minutes before the time they were supposed to meet. It was a warm evening in June. She wore snug-fitting dark red capris and a sleeveless black top with a low V-neck. She looked good—but also mostly appropriate for a dinner with a friend.

She tried not to glance at her phone every few seconds. Dave was usually on time or a few minutes late, so no need to worry yet.

When her phone vibrated with a text, her heart stopped for a few seconds, but she let out a breath when she saw it was just a message from her mother to both Amanda and her younger sister, Stacey, complaining that she didn’t have anything to do this evening.

Her mother had always been needy, and the complaint was a hint for one of her daughters to come over and keep her company.

Got plans. Sorry, Mom! If Stacey is busy, maybe you can find a movie to watch. Amanda tapped out the text quickly, trying to get her response in first so she wouldn’t carry the burden of disappointing her mother.

I’m not doing much. I’ll come over! That was Stacey, right on the heels of Amanda’s message.

For a moment Amanda felt guilty. Yes, her mother was constantly whining and asking for attention, but she was still her mother. Maybe she should have been as willing as Stacey to come over at a moment’s notice and entertain her.

But she did have plans tonight. And she did a lot to help their mother—as well as their father and his new wife. She wasn’t a bad daughter. She didn’t have to drop everything the moment her mother fired off a complaint into the void.

Stacey was sweeter by nature than she was. Amanda had always had a quick tongue and sharp edges, but that didn’t mean she didn’t love her family.

But right now she was having a big dinner with Dave.

If he ever got here.

“Waiting for someone?”

The voice surprised her. It was vaguely familiar but definitely not a voice from her close circle of friends. Male and cool and articulate. Intelligent.

She raised her eyes to see Robert Castleman standing next to the bench where she sat.

She recognized him immediately since she’d met him for the first time a couple of months ago. He was the uncle of one of her good friends from school. He’d been living in Europe or somewhere for a long time but had recently moved back to Virginia. Amanda had met him for the first time at a cookout and encountered him a few times since then.

He was a handsome man. Mature and affluent-looking. Dark eyes and hair with a hint of silver.

Amanda had no idea how old he was. Definitely out of her range. He was someone’s uncle. Not friend material.