The BEauty of a Second ChanceChapter 1

(Links to Chapters 2 and 3 at bottom of page)

16 years later

STAR STUDIED THE BEAUTIFUL BRIDE staring back at her in the full length mirror. “Why am I so nervous, Jenny?” She placed a hand over the bodice of her satin gown and felt her heart pounding under the lace.

A brunette woman wearing a purple chiffon dress turned away from a window overlooking rows of folding chairs on the South Hampton lawn below. “Could it have something to do with the fact you’re getting married for the first time at thirty-four, or that you’re wearing a white dress when you lost your virginity over two decades ago?”

“Screw you for bringing up the first question and screw anyone who thinks about the second one.” Star smiled as she tucked a wisp of blonde hair behind the diamond headband holding her veil in place. “Maybe I’m just excited I can finally stop worrying about money and relax with my soon–to–be husband.”

“Since Larry proposed, you have been obnoxiously happy.” Jenny stepped into heels dyed to match her dress. “You haven’t lost your temper with slow waiters, or taxi drivers that pass by your waving hand, and you haven’t threatened to punch anyone in months. It’s almost like I don’t know you.”

Star picked up a bouquet of tea roses and stared at the delicate flowers. “What if it doesn’t last?”

“What?” Jenny attached pearl studs to her earlobes. “Happiness?”

“No. Feeling safe.”

“Relax.” Jenny fluffed out the hem of her gown. “ Unless your fiancée drops dead from a heart attack in the next twenty minutes, you should be fine.

An elegantly attired Asian woman rushed into the guest room. “Agnes insists on speaking with you before the ceremony.”

“Are you serious, Tessa?” Star tapped the bundle of roses against her leg, causing several petals to flutter to the floor. “Did she say what she wanted?”


“Then tell her I’ll talk to her after the ceremony. I’m in no mood to deal with her right now.”

The wedding planner answered her cell phone, listened a moment, and slapped it shut. “It’s too late. They’re on their way up.”


A silver-haired man opened the door and stood off to the side. An elderly woman dressed in a black Chanel skirt suit entered with the help of an ornate cane, and stopped in the center of the room. “I want to be alone with the bride.”

Star’s crystal blue eyes met her future mother-in-law’s faded gray irises. “What’s up, Agnes?” The woman’s fragile appearance hid a strong personality she had learned to avoid at all costs.

“We need to discuss family business,” Agnes replied.

Tessa glanced at her watch. “You have five minutes.”

“I will take as long as I want,” Agnes shot back.

Jenny made a squawking gesture with her hand as she followed the wedding planner out the door.

“What about him?” Star pointed to the man removing papers from a leather briefcase.

“Gerard stays.” Agnes nodded to her companion. “He has a document you need to sign before I let you marry my son.”

The man approached a vanity table covered with cosmetics and brushed the articles aside to set down a piece of paper.

Star ignored the Mont Blanc pen held out to her and read the top line. “Is this a joke?”

“No.” Gerard’s stern expression did not waver. “Mrs. Smyth wants you to sign a prenuptial agreement in order to protect the assets of her son.”

Star looked out the window. Her fiancée stood under a gazebo laced with lavender flowers, laughing with guests. “Does Larry know you’re doing this?”

“Of course not,” Agnes huffed. “Why would I ruin my only child’s wedding like that?”

The threat of tears surprised Star. She didn’t have anyone to make sure her big day was a happy one. Her father—the bastard—had abandoned her when she was a child, and her mother died last year from drinking too much cheap vodka. With no family or close friends to rely on, she had hoped Agnes would embrace her as a daughter when they met several months ago at Larry's favorite New York restaurant, but the evening ended with the old lady muttering, ‘I don’t like you’, under her breath as they parted ways. “I’m not going to sign that.”

“You will if you don’t want Larry to lose his trust fund.”

“Go ahead and take it.” She pushed the paper away. “We don’t need it.”

The old woman studied her intensely. “Where do you think my son gets the money to buy you things?”

“From his company. MediaMatters. Larry’s the president.”

“Did he mention I am the sole investor and own fifty-one percent of his company?” A tight smile appeared among the wrinkles and held steady. “Did he tell you I’m on the board of directors and determine how much salary he receives?”

“No, but…” Star leaned against the vanity table to steady herself. “Larry told me he has a huge savings account somewhere.”

“His account is tied to the trust fund which I control and will continue to control until the day I die.”

Thump. Thump. Thump.

The cane stopped inches from where Star stood.

“It’s my duty to make sure my son’s inheritance stays intact.” Agnes tapped her finger on top of the document. “I have no intention of leaving this room until you make a decision.”

“That prenup would lock me into a future with no way to protect myself. If anything happened to Larry…” Star couldn’t bring herself to voice her worst fear. I’d be forced to find work as an aging model, or worse… an aging waitress… like Jenny.

“If you love my son, this won’t matter.”

Star’s gaze shifted back to the gazebo and the man she met last year at a Merlot booth while crashing a private wine tasting event at The Plaza. Larry’s thinning hairline and expanding waist did not catch her attention that day, but the invoice he signed to ship a dozen cases of a Napa Valley Reserve to his Central Park address did. She had quickly flashed him a dazzling smile that drew him into conversation. Her feigned interest gave way to genuine curiosity once she realized Larry was different from the other men she attracted. He didn’t bore her with his many acquisitions, or try to hustle her into bed. Instead, he told funny stories that made her laugh until a redhead with a possessive glare shot out of the crowd and headed their way. Undaunted, she had slipped him a napkin with her phone number and retreated. His call a few weeks later, explaining his newly single status, led to their first dinner date. Six months after that she moved into his apartment and three months ago she accepted his proposal. During that time, she never told her fiancée she loved him and yet… “Larry’s been my best friend since the day we met.”

Agnes pursed her lips. “If you don’t sign, I will severely curtail my son’s monthly withdrawals from the trust, curbing your present lifestyle.”

A soft knock sounded.

“Are you ready?” Tessa asked from the other side of the door.

Star noted her future mother-in-law’s determination.

Musical notes from Mendelsshon’s Wedding March floated up to the second floor.

The knocking got louder. “Star? Is everything all right?”

“I don’t know,” she whispered.

“Call the wedding off,” Agnes announced.

Tessa opened the door and burst into the room. “I can’t do that. You have over a hundred guests waiting outside.”

Jenny ran inside and tripped on the carpet. “Did you change your mind about marrying Larry?”

Everyone stared at her, including Agnes who seemed delighted over winning such an easy victory. “No.” Star grabbed the pen and signed the document—already thinking of ways to get rid of the prenup. “Let’s get this party started.”

*       *       *

“What a gorgeous dress,” cooed a woman on the groom’s side of the aisle as Star passed by.

“I love the flower appliqués on the veil,” murmured another guest. “And those diamond drop earrings look like Tiffany.”

“Rumor has it she used to be a model.”

A camera flash went off.

“Was she ever famous?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” came a snippy reply. “I’m still mad at my husband for agreeing to let them get married at our beach house. He told me he couldn’t turn down Larry’s request since they’ve been friends since college, but I’m sure this was her idea. Attractive women like her always get what they want.”

Star walked along the petal strewn path, oblivious to the comments following her progression until the music stopped and an unfamiliar voice made a comment from the front row.

“I’m glad that golddigger isn’t getting a dime of Larry’s money.”

Star swung around and met the cool gaze of Larry’s ex-fiancée. After throwing away every photograph featuring the redhead, she thought she’d never have to look at Elizabeth again, but the bitch was back and sitting next to Agnes.

“I give it a year at the most,” Elizabeth continued.

Both women grinned at her like Cheshire cats.

Star turned to her maid-of-honor for support.

Jenny fussed with the sash gathered at her waste.

The minister coughed into his fist.

Star shifted her attention back to the gazebo looming in front of her and stepped up next to Larry.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here on the tenth day of April to join…”

“Your mother forced me to sign a prenup,” she hissed out of the side of her mouth.

“What?” Larry lost the goofy smile and his fair coloring drained to a chalky white.

“She threatened to cut you off if I didn’t.”

The minister opened his bible. “Marriage is a covenant of faith that endures all things…”

“And she invited your ex.”

Larry glanced over his shoulder and released a groan. “Liz must be mother’s Plus One.”

“Lawrence Charles Smyth, do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife for richer, or poorer…”

A snicker sounded from the front row.

Star clasped the roses tighter against her waist to stop herself from throwing them at the redhead.

“…until death do you part?”

“I do,” Larry responded enthusiastically as he reached out to hold her hand.

“Star Analise Petersen, do you take…”

According to the fine print, she couldn’t take anything. Agnes had made sure of that.

“…this man to be your…”

Her glossy lips eased into a smile. Hold on a minute. Why am I panicking? I just have to wait…

“…until death do you part?”

“Yes,” she replied, thinking of her mother-in-law. “I do.”

<Prologue <Chapter 1 <Chapter 2 <Chapter 3

© 2014 Lori Jones. All Right Reserved