Authors: Kitty Bucholtz
A Very Merry
A Very Merry Superhero Wedding
, Published by Daydreamer Entertainment, 3520 Overland Avenue, #A-121, Los Angeles, CA 90034. Copyright © 2014 Kathleen Bucholtz
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Making or distributing electronic copies of this book constitutes copyright infringement and could subject the infringer to criminal and civil liability.
Cover design by John Bucholtz
Cover graphic of wedding invitation © Depositphotos.com/Ivan Baranov
Cover graphic of red bow © Depositphotos.com/Jinru Huang
Cover graphic of snowflakes © Depositphotos.com/Evgeny Illarionov
Edited by Marcy Weydemuller
This book is available in print at most online retailers
Holland and Brenna Aubrey,
and all my writing friends —
Thanks for helping me believe I could do it!
TWO things always surprised Joe Clarke in December: the weather, and the people of Double Bay.
Some years the snow would start falling by Halloween. Thanksgiving would be a day to have a plan B in case you couldn’t make it to Grandma’s house due to blowing and drifting snow. And Christmas would be both beautiful and frustrating with every outing marred by icy roads and fresh piles of snow to clear off the car.
Other years, like this year, there were a few snow showers, but hardly any of the snow stuck to the ground. The ski slopes were covered with machine-made snow. Shopping and traveling were a breeze.
And tracking potential home invaders proved more difficult.
Ah, yes, the wonderful citizens of Double Bay constantly surprised him. The young man he tracked now — that is, that his alter ego Superhero X tracked — really put the “dumb” in dumbed down. Not only was he peeking in windows in the fading light of the afternoon rather than waiting for the full dark that would fall over the city by dinnertime, but he wasn’t paying attention to the security signs.
This particular yard sported a bold red and white sign near the front door — MGV Security. The sign wasn’t hidden by snow either. What, did the guy think it was a Christmas decoration? Superhero X shook his head and waited. When the young man took out a pocket knife and pried the screen off one of the windows, Superhero X moved closer and cleared his throat.
The man jumped and dropped his knife. His eyes widened as he looked up — way up — into the superhero’s face. “Oh! I-I-I was just…I mean, I…I live here…”
X raised his eyebrows skeptically. “What’s your address?”
“It’s, uh, let me think, I just moved here and…” The man looked around the yard and at the other houses nearby, searching for a helpful clue.
Taking a long black zip tie from a pocket of his super suit, X gestured. “Hands.”
The man sighed heavily and sagged against the siding. “You’re not going to call the cops, are you?” He held out his hands. “I didn’t take anything.”
X tied the man’s hands, then pressed a button on the wrist of his suit. “Superhero X to dispatch,” he said. He gave the address, dispatch assured him that a police car would be there soon, then he marched the would-be Christmas thief to the sidewalk.
Pressing another button, he winced at the time. He’d have to hurry home to change after the police picked up the wannabe burglar. His fiancée, Tori Lewis, would be waiting for him — that is, fo
— to pick her up from her last day at work. He didn’t live far from here since this was his regular patrol neighborhood, but he still wanted to hurry.
Superhero X kept his facial expression impassive, but on the inside he could feel a grin. In five days, on Christmas Eve, he would finally marry the girl he rescued Halloween night. He could hardly wait.
Afraid a smile would break through and spoil his stern superhero expression, he brought his mind back around to work. He pressed a different button on his wrist and recorded a message with the time, the date, and the address of the house that had been broken into. Someone at MGV Security would get the information and call the homeowner to make a report.
“Someone” who was not Joe Clarke. MGV Security was a real security firm, but it was also Joe’s cover job. A cover job from which he was technically on vacation for the next two weeks. Owned and operated by Joe’s friend and fellow superhero Mickey Valient, a.k.a. Tick Tock, MGV provided professional security services to all of its clients, but there were also more
…services they provided the city.
A snowball whizzed overhead.
Superhero X turned to look down the sidewalk. Two boys around eight or ten years old stood frozen in their snow suits, mouths gaping. They’d collected what little snow was on their lawn and made a half dozen little snowballs, piled at their feet. X smiled and gave them a little salute. They whooped and jumped up and down. X grinned. He loved his job.
A Double Bay police car pulled up to the curb. Time to finish up work for the day and hightail it over to get his girl.
TORI Lewis felt butterflies square-dancing in her stomach. In a few minutes, she’d be off work to finish planning her wedding — and then she’d be away on he
. It almost didn’t seem real.
For the last ten years or so, she had lived a quiet, semi-solitary life. Her mother Dixie and older sister Lexie were living proof that women in her family didn’t make good choices when it came to men. Dixie’s marriage to Tori’s biological father had ended so badly that Dixie was still angry about it nearly twenty-five years later, even though her second marriage to Danny Lewis was filled with love and respect. Lexie had finally turned her life around a few years ago and found a “good” man to share it with. Then he broke it off and left when he found out she was pregnant. With those examples always on her mind, Tori had been afraid to chance the heartbreak and disaster she was sure would accompany a profession of love.
There was something about Joe Clarke that called to a place deep within. It was like he’d opened a tiny door inside her, and Tori was finding all kinds of treasures — a joyful hope, love without worry, a peaceful sense of relief that she could let down her guard and relax and be herself.
With Joe, she felt safe in a way she never had before. Since Danny became her dad, he’d provided a sense of security when the world tumbled crazily around her, but then Joe came along and Tori felt like everything was finally going to be all right.
No, not just all right
Her life felt beautiful all of a sudden.
She shook her head a little as she filed the last of the papers on her desk. She was being silly, all head-in-the-clouds like a Disney princess. That’s apparently what love did to people.
It wasn’t the drugs. A niggling doubt squirmed in her head, trying to get her attention and ruin her day. No, it wasn’t only that she wasn’t taking her medications anymore. She’d started Operation Freedom in September. She’d been working toward finding her real self when she met Joe just after Halloween. He seemed so strong and sure of himself, it gave her strength to push forward and make new choices.
And when he proposed on Thanksgiving Day, Tori knew the time had come for Operation Freedom’s grand finale. No more Dr. Huntington and his drugs. No more kowtowing to her mother.
Yes, she’d been feeling better since she stopped taking the pills, but that couldn’t account for how she felt about Joe. From the moment they met, they’d had a connection that was…well, it defied explanation. They both felt like they reall
each other. In sync, on the same wavelength, whatever you wanted to call it. And it seemed to grow stronger every day.
Tori let her worries fade as she shut down her computer. It was almost five o’clock. Joe would be here any minute. They had one more quiet evening together before the final rush toward Christmas Eve and their wedding. Her stomach felt the butterfly gymnastics again and she let out a soft giggle.
This was real. She and Joe loved each other with an urgency and earnestness that made people fear they were merely infatuated with each other. But she knew — they both knew — it would last. They saw the world in similar ways. They believed in the same things. They’d prayed, together and individually, about the decision to get married. Waiting would only prove to others that they were ready. And they had nothing to prove.
“Oh, Tori,” one of her co-workers singsonged nearby, “Someone’s here to see you.”
Tori’s gaze flew to the doorway. There he stood. She sucked in a breath. His wavy brown hair was mussed, giving him a little boy look. So adorable. A knit cap stuck out of the pocket of his down-filled coat, and his scarf hung a foot longer on one side. Every time she saw him, he looked taller and more muscular than before. Every time she saw him, his smile made all of her nerve endings fire. Every time she saw him, she stopped breathing for a moment.
He grinned his lop-sided grin and chuckled. He always laughed when he saw her looking at him this way. Tori giggled and sighed. She knew he loved it, though. He’d told her no one had ever looked at him like she did.
Joe walked toward her and Tori felt a kind of tunnel vision come over her whole body. Every cell focused on him. And then he kissed her, and every cell burst out with a shout of joy.
Interrupted by the sound of laughter and clapping.
“Hello, beautiful,” Joe whispered in her ear before he pulled away.
Tori felt her blood make a mad dash for her face. She’d never been so public in her displays of affection before Joe walked into her life. She’d been taking down Halloween decorations outside when he wandered by on a Sunday afternoon. They’d started talking and laughing and then they went for a walk together. Before she knew it, they were sharing a pizza. Then meeting again the next night, and the next.
And now here he was, staring down at her like he’d found a treasure he couldn’t believe was his to keep. Tori realized she was grinning up at him only when more laughter and ribbing caught her attention.
She stepped back and said, “Let me get my stuff and I’ll be ready.”
“Not so fast, lovebirds,” called her boss, Faith Borden. “We need to send you off in style.”
Faith pulled out a foil-covered tray and another co-worker cleared a space on a worktable. As Faith pulled off the foil, all the ladies broke into the “Happy Birthday” tune but with the words “Happy Wedding to You.” On the tray were homemade Christmas cookies, each with a letter in icing spelling out “Congratulations Tori & Joe!” M&M’S candies, Tori’s favorite stress reliever, decorated the tops.
Tori laughed and squeezed Joe’s hand before she reached over to hug Faith and the others.
“Thank you, Faith,” she said as she squeezed the woman who’d become a new friend. “This is wonderful.”
“Good heavens, lady,” Faith said in an undertone, “When you said he was gorgeous, I thought you were using hyperbole like every other bride. He’s stunning!” She giggled.
Several similar comments followed, all in whispers hidden by the hugs. One woman offered to babysit any time Tori was out of town. Tori laughed and shook her head.
She looked over her shoulder at Joe talking to Faith. It was fun to be the envy of all the women in the room, but she didn’t care much what other people thought. She knew Joe was a good man, decent and kind and hard-working and funny. He’d made her laugh more in the last seven weeks than she could remember laughing in the last couple years.
And he made her feel safe. And strong. Kind of like the Zorro character who’d helped her on Halloween after she’d been mugged. Zorro had joked about being a superhero and Tori had laughed and said, there’s no such thing as superheroes, it’s an anti-crime publicity stunt by the city. He’d argued with her, presumably because he was staying in character as a defender of the defenseless, and Tori had argued back. The spark she’d felt that night seemed to lose some of its fire after that.
Then she’d met Joe two days later. At first, she thought maybe he was Zorro. But when she asked him, he laughed and said he was just an ordinary, everyday, average Joe. She’d thought that was funny. The more she got to know Joe, the less she thought about Zorro. The spark that night was nothing compared to the blazing fire that sprang up between her and Joe.
Studying him now, she knew nothing would ever put out that fire. Not the Lewis women’s family curse. Not other people. Not time and old age. In five days, Joe’s dad, Pastor Owen Clarke, would say the words, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” And that would be that.
For now, she needed to stop worrying that something would happen between today and Wednesday.
Joe caught her eye and nodded. She nodded back. Time to go. Tonight was the last night they would have alone together before they got married. Between the wedding and Christmas, it had been a busy month, and it would only get busier.
They said their goodbyes, Joe quickly accepted the rest of the cookies, and they made their way out to Joe’s truck.
“They seem nice,” Joe said. “Too bad you won’t be working there again after the honeymoon.”