High-Heeler Wonder

By: Avery Flynn

To the fab Mr. Flynn who does not understand why I own so many shoes, but loves me anyway.

Chapter One

“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”

—Marilyn Monroe

Harbor City, New York

Sylvie Bissette squeezed her arms tight around her middle in a vain attempt to halt the inevitable. She was going to puke all over her sister’s wedding dress right here in the bride’s dressing room at St. Basil’s. Anya would never forgive her, especially since she was swathed in the ivory gown their fathers had designed.

Too bad it was too late.

Clamping her hand over her mouth, Sylvie twisted away from her baby sister and clenched her jaw tight enough to crack a tooth. She sucked in a deep breath through her teeth until her lungs were the size of the Goodyear blimp, then exhaled slow and controlled. What little stomach lining remained after she’d guzzled whisky like water last night burned and twisted.

God, if you’re listening, let me get through this and I swear I’ll stick to my regular glass of white wine. Two max. Okay, three, but no more, I promise.

Her red eyes itched. She hadn’t passed out with her contacts in and her shoes on since college. All that had changed a mere twelve hours ago at the rehearsal dinner when she’d gotten lost on her way to the bathroom and found her boyfriend of two years going down on a waiter.

The images still played in her head like a movie she couldn’t turn off. Daniel begging her to listen. The other man zipping his black pants closed. Daniel blathering, “…other brokers wouldn’t understand…up for a big promotion…never meant to hurt you…” Weaving through the throngs of rehearsal guests. Swiping the biggest bottle of Glenlivet XXV single malt on the bar and hollering over her shoulder to charge it to her room. The first swig burning its way down her throat. The thirtieth swig barely causing a flinch. Hoisting the bottle high and toasting the scorched carcass of her love life and wondering how a woman raised by two fathers had missed the fact that her long-term boyfriend was gay.

No shit, Sherlock.

Blinking away the images as another wave of nausea slammed into her, Sylvie locked her gaze on her sister.

“What is going on with you today?” Annoyance sharpened Anya’s voice as she fluffed her spectacular boobs until they nearly spilled out of the strapless wedding gown. Anya and their fathers, Anton Bissette and Henry Collins, turned their gazes toward her. Anya held up a hand and addressed Henry’s frowning disapproval. “I know, I know. I’m not supposed to say anything about her being weird for some mysterious reason, but come on. She has got to pull it together. It’s my big day.”

Sylvie fought down another attack of bile. Squeezing her eyes shut, she promised to give away her Hermes Kelly Bag if the minister could just hurry up and get here already so they could start the damn wedding.

“First you locked Daniel out of your hotel room last night,” Anya persisted. “You totally clammed up when anyone asked why. And now you look positively green.” Her eyes widened. “You’re not gonna… Oh my God! Get away from me!” With the kind of ninja acrobatics known only to bridezillas and squirmy three-year-olds, Anya flew out of the way just in time.

The indoor Meyer lemon tree wasn’t so lucky.

“Well, no one will be making lemonade for a while.” Henry picked up the three-foot-tall tree in its urn with the same ease he hauled around bolts of fabric and hefted it out to the hall.

“Are you okay, sweetums?” Anton rubbed the small of Sylvie’s back in solid little circles, returning her to the days when eating too many licorice drops caused all her stomach aches.

What she wouldn’t give for that to be the source of her pain at age thirty-two. Looking into her father’s sweet brown eyes, all scrunched up with concern, she almost told him everything. Then an ivory cloud floated down beside her.

“I’m sorry,” Anya said. “I’m acting like a total bitch. How can I help?” She pressed a soft, cool cloth to Sylvie’s clammy forehead.

The truth was, none of them could help and she sure as hell wouldn’t be the one to ruin her sister’s wedding day by announcing that Daniel preferred buff waiters to his own busty girlfriend. She managed a shaky smile. “How about a glass of water? I’ll touch up my makeup, pop a mint, and be ready to strut my short self down the aisle.”

Henry, Anton, and Anya all looked skeptical, but acceded without an argument. After twenty years as a family, they knew each other too well by now to waste time beating their heads against a wall. Anya would always be the life of the party and the eternal optimist. Her fathers would forever worry about their little girls and try to fix their problems like they would a torn seam. And as for her, well, she’d ever be Sylvie the Bulldog—and she had the hand-painted coffee mug to prove it.

Anton smoothed her bright yellow chiffon bridesmaid’s dress, his long fingers warming the material. “Honey, if this is about that weirdo who keeps e-mailing, you really should know that Henry and I—”

“Are worried, I know.” She took several cleansing breaths. She’d been practicing yoga breathing a lot the last few months, what with all of Daniel’s late nights at the office. “But the guy is just some Internet troll who gets his kicks from frightening people. Even the cops agreed. They said to be cautious, but that most of the time these creeps needed the anonymity of the Internet and never take action offline.”

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