Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Book Blast + #Giveaway: The Bridesmaid's Checklist: Natalie's Wedding (book 3) by K.T. Castle @KTCastle_author @GoddessFish

The Bridesmaid's Checklist: Natalie's Wedding
(book 3)
by K.T. Castle
GENRE: Contemporary Romance


Kassandra never thought she’d be in another committed relationship, but now she’s living with her boyfriend Josh. Things can’t get any better. But they can get worse.

Natalie has dropped a major bomb on her, confessing she believes her husband is having an affair. Kassandra is always ready to help a friend, but accepting that one of their marriages isn’t working goes against everything she believes about the people she loves. Wanting to help their friend overcome this difficult situation and provide Natalie the support she needs, Kassandra and the girls pull a lot of strings to help Natalie uncover the truth. In the process, Kassandra discovers remarkable similarities between Josh’s recent changes and those in Natalie’s allegedly cheating husband. She’s always been an independent woman who prides herself on her own success, and when she digs up one dirty secret after another, she can’t help but wonder if her man’s womanizing days are really behind him.

Sometimes, love makes us twist reality to avoid hurting those we hold closest to our hearts. Join Kassandra and Natalie as they struggle to reconcile their fears in love with the truth.

Saturday morning, Josh headed out for a photo shoot he expected to last all day. He didn’t usually work on weekends, but it happened from time to time. It still bothered me a little that his job involved being surrounded by beautiful young women so he could capture that beauty, but whenever I dropped by for a visit, everyone knew who I was and what I meant to him. That made it easier for me, and I knew it made it easier for Josh. He loved working for himself and had grown JAG Modeling Agency from the ground up.

Since I’d be on my own for the day, I decided to take advantage of the situation and invite the girls over for a chat with Natalie. She had asked me not to intervene in her situation with Andrik, and while I respected her wish of me not talking to her husband, I knew she needed support from her friends.

I’d asked them to be at my place around nine and to leave the children at home with their fathers. We needed some girl time alone. Then I tried to cover all my bases with breakfast—fresh juice and fruit in case anyone was on a diet, spinach omelets without cheese for those who avoided dairy, and pancakes just in case someone needed something a little stronger. I also bought some high-quality steak cuts, potatoes, onions, and corn, thinking that if our meeting ran too long, my friends’ husbands would show up and turn our breakfast meeting into a barbecue. Even though all my friends had the space and furniture to throw these get-togethers in their own homes, Josh and I had taken on the role of hosting them every week since we’d moved in together a month ago. I wondered how much longer we’d be able to keep up that kind of consistency.

Marisol and Laura showed up early, and I gave them a small briefing on what the gathering was about. The news shocked them, too, and they wanted to try to convince Natalie that it had to be something else. While they helped me set up, I reminded them that we needed to be delicate and careful not to overwhelm her.

Natalie arrived not much later, looking far less than her normal, glamorous self. Her bleach-blonde hair was now long enough to pull back into a messy ponytail, and I wasn’t sure the look suited her; we were used to seeing her with a little more care given to her appearance. She wore beige capris with a floral, short-sleeve shirt—something much more suited to Marisol in her mommy role. The little changes Natalie made now leaned more toward comfortable and away from posh, and I knew it was because she was unhappy. She’d never let being a wife and a mother distract her from presenting herself as if she were about to make her way down a catwalk. She still looked good, but it wasn’t her.

We sat on my terrace around the glass table Josh and I had added to the patio furniture. I was happy to see that everyone seemed to enjoy the food, and the conversation was amicable. But it didn’t flow or feel comfortable. I guess we were all waiting to see who would bring up the elephant in the room first.

“I still can’t believe you let Josh adopt a dog,” Marisol said as she crossed her legs in her chair, doing her best to avoid the beautiful American Pitbull licking her toes.

“Let?” I asked. “This is his house. How could I say no? Besides, have you looked at this guy? He’s gorgeous!” I called the goofy mutt by offering him a piece of bread. Josh was adamant about only feeding him the holistic dog food and healthy treats, but I couldn’t resist. “Come here, Jagger.”

Josh and I had fallen in love with him the day we stepped into Malibu’s Pet Shelter. Someone had found him in one of the parks around our neighborhood, and we helped the people at the shelter look for his owners; someone had to be missing him dearly. Sadly, no one responded to the ads we posted on social media or the flyers we handed out at the park, so we took him home. Jagger was perfect for us. His coloring was a soft silver that reminded me of Josh’s eyes, and oddly enough, Josh had said the dog’s blue eyes reminded him of mine. In that way, bringing Jagger home meant we had officially started our own family. I never had any pets as a child; Babushka never allowed it, even when I almost convinced Dzed to get me one. I started out not knowing exactly how to take care of a dog, but I sure was having fun learning. Josh adored animals, and his nephew Elliot wanted to come live with us to spend as much time as possible with Jagger.

“No, dog. Go to Kassie... Shoo.” Laura swatted at him after he went for her toes next. Surprisingly, she was rather warm toward him, but she didn’t seem excited about all the drool.

As I went to get him some water, Natalie called the pup to her and scratched him behind the ears. Jagger would do about anything for a little love and affection. “How are you, big guy?” she asked. “I’m bringing Ella to meet you soon. Yes, I will. Yes, I will.” She rubbed his chin. “You better be nice to her.”

“Aren’t you worried she’ll be afraid of him?” Marisol asked with a frown. “Michael thinks Micah would adore him, but I think he’d scare Maya too much. He’s huge!”

“He’s not. He’s perfect.” I corrected her. “He’s as gorgeous as Josh.”

“Don’t pass your fear on to your children,” Natalie explained. “They’ll be just fine. And believe me, you’d rather bring Micah and Maya to visit Kassie and Jagger than have a dog at home. Think of it as practice.”

“Oh, no way! We’ll never have a dog,” Marisol replied. I blamed Mama Tina for her reaction; no one in that family had ever been allowed to bring home a pet. “Michael has two children. That should suffice.”

“I’m sure he’ll find a way to convince you, Sol,” Laura said. She’d said very much the same thing to me some time ago, hinting that Josh had sexed me up perfectly to convince me to get a dog. He had, although he didn’t have to try too hard.

As soon as Jagger saw me place his water bowl on the floor, he ran to me. Then I laid out some of his toys to distract him from my friends’ toes. This dog was the start of a completely new adventure in my life with Josh, but talking about him only moved us further away from the reason we were all here.

 “Okay, I’ve had enough.” It didn’t surprise any of us that Laura took the plunge. “We all know the food is good. Micah, Maya, and Ella are doing great. We all look like freaking supermodels.” She grabbed her glass and refilled it with orange juice. “And Kassie and Josh’s house is homey and warm. None of us can believe Josh found a way of convincing Kassie to have a dog, and we all think this means he’s a sex god...” As she spoke, she waved her hands about in exasperation and splashed her drink all over the deck. “But what the fuck did you mean when you told Kassandra you think Andrik is having an affair?”

“God, Laura.” I took the glass from her hand and placed it on the table. “We agreed we would take it easy.”

“Yeah, we did. But not talking about it at all isn’t enough,” she said, raising an eyebrow and glancing at me. “I can’t believe it, Natalie. Andrik is not that kind of man.”

“Why did you have to tell them?” Natalie looked at me, hurt and disappointment overflowing in her eyes, and her whole body tensed, her back growing rigid and protective. That look was exactly why I’d asked the girls to take it easy. I should have opened a bottle of wine for Laura.

“‘Cause she knows we’re your friends and you need us right now,” Marisol interjected and grabbed Natalie’s hand.

Natalie sat with perfect posture that reminded me of a ballet dancer—back straight, shoulders squared, head held high, so very proper and untouchable. “I don’t think I’m ready to talk about this.”

“Well, I’m not ready, either, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s cheating on you, does it?” Laura countered, giving our friend exactly what she needed to confront her demons.

“I guess not.”

“So start speaking, Little Angel.” Laura had been using this nickname for Natalie since they were roommates in college. Neither of them had ever explained its origin, but Laura was the only one to this day who ever used it.

“We just want to know how we can help,” Marisol added.

“I don’t think there’s much you can do about it. I just have this feeling in my gut that Andrik’s cheating on me.”

“So it’s just a feeling?” Laura leaned forward, and I knew she’d take this on as her own side project. When Laura decided to take matters into her own hands, there was no rest for the wicked. Never thoughtful or delicate, she operated boldly and directly; she could have been a Sergeant at times. And even if her tactics didn’t work for the faint of heart, her aim was to help her friends no matter what.

“You haven’t talked to him yet?” I asked, surprised after the conversation Josh and I had had with her.

“I tried to talk to him about it when I left your house the other night, but I just couldn't find the words. How could I even start?”

“You just grab him by the balls and ask him what the fuck is going on,” Laura almost shouted. Marisol placed a hand on Natalie’s knee the same time I did. Our friend needed the opportunity to vent, and we all knew pushing her to do things with force never worked for her.

“Calm down, Laura,” Sol said gently. “Not even you would do something like that.” I nodded.

“You’re right. But I wish I would,” Laura replied, her fire dying down just a bit. Everyone remembered the time Laura had found out an ex-boyfriend had been cheating on her when they were dating. It had completely devastated her when she’d discovered that her boyfriend had been sleeping around with the guy I was dating at the time. Things had gotten really ugly. “That’s what I should have done with Julian.”

I patted Laura on the back to let her know I understood exactly what she was talking about.

“It’s not as easy as you’d think,” Natalie replied, rearranging her hair. “I have so many things in my mind that I need to say. So many questions to ask. But when I’m alone with him, I can’t think straight. I can’t find my voice to say what I have to say. I just want to hug him and show him that I’m the one he should be with and not anyone else.” She hugged herself, looking down at her lap, and even though her baby-blue eyes were hidden, we could all see the tears falling from her face.

Marisol was the closest to her, and she rapidly moved her chair and placed her arms around Nat. I reached out to rub her thigh. Laura wasn’t close enough to offer physical comfort—maybe for the best. She remained in her chair with a vicious grip on her orange juice. Even Jagger offered his support, sniffing at Natalie’s toes and licking her pink-painted nails.

Everyone was silent when Denise arrived.

“Sorry I’m so late, you guys,” she said as she dropped her purse on one of my deck chairs. “I just had an argument with Clay this morning. Can you believe him?” Without realizing what was going on, she sat next to Laura and angrily piled everything edible on a plate, quickly throwing Jagger a small piece of pancake when he approached her to say hi. Josh was so going to kill me. “He finally got a job offer. After years! After five years of unemployment, he’s finally offered a job, and the idiot tells them that the salary isn’t enough. It isn’t enough! What the fuck was he thinking? Anything is better than nothing. Is he blind?”

Only Jagger looked up at her, probably waiting for something else to eat. When she finally took in the sight of us, she noticed Marisol holding Natalie in her arms and Natalie’s eyes flooded with tears. Natalie seemed to be crying harder now, either in solidarity with Denise’s story or relief that the topic had been changed, even if just a little. I was unable to decide which friend to comfort—the one who was apparently losing her husband or the one who was about to murder hers.

Finally, Denise asked, “What’s going on?” Laura grabbed her hand surprising me with the sympathy in her eyes.

“Andrik’s cheating on me,” Natalie said.

“Shut the fuck up.” Denise dropped her fork, along with the piece of pancake she was about to eat. “What’s wrong with men today?”

“Come on, Denise. I’ll tell you all about it.” Without releasing her hand, Laura stood and took Denise with her into the kitchen. “Kassie, I think we need a drink.” I couldn’t have agreed more.

Jagger followed them inside the house, and I hoped they’d remember to bring him back outside when they were done. He didn’t like to stay on his own for long.

It took a few minutes for Natalie to calm down, dry her tears, and start breathing normally again. When she was feeling better, continuing the conversation felt a little safer, especially with Laura and Denise out of the picture for the moment.

“So you aren’t sure?” Marisol asked. “Right now, you just think he might be cheating on you.”

“Why is it so hard to believe that he’d do that?”

“I told you before, Andrik seems so completely in love with you,” I said. She needed to see it from our perspective. It wasn’t hard to believe because we thought she was wrong; it was hard to believe because we put so much faith in the kind of relationship they had. “You’re the greatest couple. We all live by your example. It’s difficult for any of us to think that of him. I wouldn’t believe it of Michael, either. Would you believe Michael would cheat on Sol?”

“I guess I wouldn't,” Natalie confessed.

“It would be completely different if Laura suspected Edward of an affair…” Marisol said with a flippant wave of her hand. It probably still amazed all of us that their relationship was so functional despite their naughty quirks.

“I heard that, Sol. Not cool!” Laura stepped out of my kitchen and onto the terrace, followed by Denise. They had several bottles between them, one of which was vodka. My grandmother always said everything could be cured with a little vodka. “My man is completely satisfied, of that I’m sure.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.” Marisol was just being herself, which meant being completely honest, sometimes to a fault.

“Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if Clay was cheating on me,” Denise added. “He certainly has the time.”

“How can you say that?” Natalie asked. “Clay absolutely adores you.” Clay had loved Denise since high school. His lack of income had less to do with his faithfulness and more to do with him being a lazy ass.

Denise just rolled her eyes and drank whatever was in her glass.

“It’s so hard for any of us to believe Andrik’s cheating on you. We all know how much he loves you,” I repeated, trying to avoid derailing the conversation yet again.

“I wouldn’t be saying any of it if I didn’t believe it.” Natalie seemed calmer now, but she still couldn’t make eye contact with anyone. She tried to hide it and pretended she was focused on playing with Jagger.

“Then what makes you think he is?” Marisol asked.

“I’m not stupid.” Natalie’s eyes flashed up to meet Marisol’s, her face flushing in anger. “It’s something you just know.” Her words came out clipped and harsh. “Especially when he leaves early in the morning to go to work. He doesn’t have time to come home for lunch. Not even to text a complete sentence and let me know he isn’t coming home to eat. And especially because he comes home late at night, takes a shower, and falls asleep.”

We were all quiet; it didn’t sound good now that she’d explained it. I said a little prayer for her and hoped I never saw myself in the same situation.

“But that could just mean he’s super busy at work, not that he’s cheating,” Marisol said. “Sometimes Michael has loads of work and needs to stay long hours. He tells me about it, and it's disappointing, but I just deal and wait till he’s done before we can spend some time together.”

“We don’t spend any time together,” Natalie replied.

“I believe she means sex, Nat,” Laura bluntly explained.

“That’s what I meant, too.”

Silence fell all around us once more. Now we knew he spent a lot of time out of the house, supposedly working, and they didn’t have sex. Fuck. That didn’t look good at all.

“There must be more to it than that,” Denise said, trying to sound reassuring. “Clay and I have been married for almost ten years. And we’ve been through some dry spells in our marriage. I’m sure that now that you have a baby, it isn’t as easy as it was to have sex. Or am I wrong? Sol, are you and Michael getting at it all the time?”

“Well, we do have sex,” Sol explained with a small, shy shrug. “When it was only Micah, it was a bit easier, but now that we have Maya, it’s more complicated.”

“See, it’s not only about not having sex,” I told her. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a baby and try to maintain a healthy sex life, but I was grateful Sol was here to help with that.

“I’m telling you, Nat, Andrik isn’t cheating on you. When I was with Julian, there was more to it than just his lack of interest in sex. He had mood swings, and he was secretive about some parts of his life. Especially his finances. He was always hiding his phone and computer, and when I asked him about it, he explained to no end why he was so private about them. I should have known.”

“But Julian wasn’t just cheating on you, Laura. He was also gay.” Yes, Denise was dealing with her own issues, but she could have saved that comment.

“I remember clearly, Denise. I was there,” Laura said with a pert shake of her head. I’d been there too, when she and I walked in on her boyfriend sucking off my date at Marisol’s wedding. “What I’m trying to say, Natalie, is to give Andrik the benefit of the doubt until you find something that proves he’s cheating on you.”

“How am I going to do that?” Natalie shyly asked.

“Find proof? Don’t worry, baby. I got your back,” Laura said with a confident smile. “Leave it all to me.”

I just rolled my eyes at Laura’s evil grin, finding it only too easy to imagine what was going through her mind. “Talk to him, Natalie,” I reminded her. “There’s no better way to find out than to ask him directly and see how he reacts.”

“I can be there if you want me to,” Laura offered.

“So can I,” Marisol said quickly behind her.

“Me too,” Denise added.

“We’re always here for you,” I finally said. If Natalie needed her friends behind her, she certainly had us.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

K.T. Castle loves reading, writing, and painting. She's on a quest to find the words, forms, and colors to materialize the worlds and people of her imagination. She loves reading Romance, especially Young Adult, New Adult, Contemporary, and Paranormal. She never saw herself as an incurable romantic, but lately, that's what she finds herself musing about. Love is found everywhere, regardless of whether it comes from a nice person or an ass—mundane or even vampire.

When she's not busy with work, in front of a computer placing many thoughts in order, she does her best to be creative or relax with a good TV series and snacks. Some of her favorite characters are Lucifer, Jace, Clary, Affton, Cable, Poppy, Zack, Maleficent, and Ariel.

Social media links:

Goodreads ~ Instagram ~ Website ~ Mailing list

Book Links:

The book will be $.99 for a limited time.

Amazon Kindle


$10 Amazon or B/N GC


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

K.T. Castle said...

I'm so happy to be visiting again!!!

And in such an special day, the release of my third book.

Thank you so much for having me here today.

I'll be around in case anyone has questions for me :)


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