Reeling from a recent betrayal by the man she loved, April Jensen seeks answers for all of the questions she has been left with after his departure. And thanks to the expertise of skilled detective, Chad Wilkerson, she receives those answers. But much to her dismay, more information does not provide the closure she so desperately needs.
Chad has seen and dealt with many clients during his time as co-owner of H & W Investigative Services. But he can’t quite pinpoint what it is about April that pulls him in the moment she enters his office. And soon his fascination with this determined woman only serves to propel him further into her world than he’d ever intended.
It wasn't until the man she'd loved left her on their wedding day that April Jensen realized believing in true love was for fools.
That morning, April stood in front of the mirror admiring her reflection. She smiled as she took in the soft tendrils of hair framing her face and the large curls that grazed her shoulders. Her makeup was the epitome of perfection, imparting her deep brown skin with a gorgeous glow. It all felt surreal. She was really there, in the flowing, white limited edition ball gown wedding dress that she’d dreamed about for years---long before she’d even had a suitor, much less a fiance, to marry. But there she was, finally. And in just a matter of moments, she would be marrying her love, Phillip, and soon become Mrs. April Watson.
She’d been a bundle of nerves all morning as she raced to make it to the hairdresser on time, and then to get her makeup done, and back to the church's dressing room to slip into her gown with the help of two of her bridesmaids.
She ran her hand along the textured fabric and smiled. Everyone---her grandmother, her mother, even a couple of her friends---had voiced their concerns about her dress being a bit over the top; especially for a woman her age. But April had been adamant about the dress she’d chosen.
Even if she was older than the average traditional bride, she still wanted the fairy tale wedding, and she couldn't have that without a dress fit for a queen. She didn't care that everyone around her spoke in hushed tones about her being too old for all of that wedding day hoopla.
She was turning thirty-six in two weeks and had waited so long to find the man of her dreams. And since she'd found him, she refused to downplay her wedding just to appease a few naysayers. She was going to celebrate this day for all it was worth. After all, when her friends had all married in their twenties for the first time--many even for the second and third times-- had she criticized their wedding choices? No. Had she judged them? Not once.
She'd asked them where she could purchase the latest ruffled, hideous waste of cloth bridesmaid dress they'd chosen, smiled in their pictures and danced at their receptions, without complaint. Why couldn't they do the same for her?
She was lost in her own world as the dressing room full of bridesmaids, flower girls, and other members of the wedding party conversed and laughed around her. Entranced by the beaded bodice and the way that the light from the window shone on her full white gown, she'd hardly noticed when her closest friend and maid of honor, Tiffany Norris, entered.
Tiffany pushed through the dressing room door and rushed in, generating a gust of wind behind her as her flowing gold dress rustled and waved about with each of her frenzied steps.
April, however, was the only person oblivious to Tiffany's dramatic entrance, as everyone else had grown quiet, their eyes following Tiffany curiously.
"April," she called. April blinked, suddenly forced out of her blissful daze. “April," Tiffany said again, the panic in her voice now grabbing April's full attention.
"What? What's wrong, Tiffany?"
"The groomsmen. They...they're not here."
April blinked again, as if the action could elucidate just what Tiffany was trying to tell her. Why was she making such a big deal about it? "Okay. They're probably just late." April looked at the clock on the wall behind Tiffany's head. "I mean, we still have a half hour. "
"We tried calling them. No one's answering. Not even Phillip. Phillip’s phone is going straight to voicemail."
April's breath caught in her throat, but she remained even and cool. Being the lead actress for a local theater production company, which produced some of the most popular plays in the area, was coming in handy. She was forced to pull out all of her acting abilities to play it calm, when all she really wanted to do was run around the room screaming like a panicked lunatic.
April threw what she hoped was a convincing smile on her face and walked over to the armchair where she'd placed her purse. She fished her phone out and said, "I'll just call Phillip now and see what's going on."
But when she tapped her phone, illuminating the backlight, the first thing she noticed was an alert from her bank. Please confirm recent suspicious activity, it read. She'd placed her phone on vibrate before entering the dressing room and had missed the alert, along with three calls from an unfamiliar 800-number.
Her heart dropped to her feet as she swiped her phone, reading the message. This is to inform you of recent suspicious activity with your savings account. A substantial withdrawal in the amount of twenty-five thousand dollars has recently been removed from your account. Please call the following number to confirm.
April felt as if she'd received a blow to her chest as she struggled to breathe before dialing her voicemail. The computerized, recorded female voice of the operator spoke in her ear.
"Please call the following number as soon as possible to confirm recent withdrawal."
April pressed the End button to disconnect the call. She didn't know whether to call her bank first, or Phillip.
With a shaky finger, April pressed the preset contact to dial Phillip's cell phone. A beat later, instead of the ringing phone on the line, she heard a recorded female voice state, "We're sorry, but the mobile number you are trying to reach has been disconnected. "
A lump of anxiety lodged in her throat. She let out shallow, ragged breaths, ending the call just as the message began to play again.
She heard the staccato tap of Tiffany's heels against the wood floor of the church dressing room as she approached her. “Did you reach him?" Tiffany asked quietly.
April shook her head and turned to look at her friend, helplessness clouding her features. April pressed the button to dial Phillip’s number again and handed the phone to Tiffany. She watched as Tiffany’s face changed from confused concern to horrified disgust.
Tiffany's hand flew to her mouth and she ended the call, returning the phone to April. She reached out to squeeze April's trembling hand. Tiffany’s eyes watered, seeing her friend in distress, but she remained silent. No words were needed. Tiffany reached forward to pull April into a tight hug. "I'll handle this,” she assured April. “You just go.”
Tiffany looked out into the quiet crowd of puzzled faces. “Keisha," Tiffany called, motioning their mutual friend and her fellow bridesmaid, Keisha Covin, over to them. "Can you take April to the limo? "
As April filed out of the room with Keisha, a low rumble began from the barrage of questions that were tossed Tiffany's way. "Ladies, ladies, please. The wedding is off. I can't answer any questions now. I need to go to the chapel to tell the guests."
When April heard Tiffany's words as she rounded the corner to exit the church, her heart twisted in her chest. And each word seemed to sear her flesh, as if they were flung toward her, strapped to blazing hot daggers.
The wedding is off.
The phrase replayed in her mind, over and over, until the emotions she'd tried to suppress finally broke free.
The floodgates had been opened. Hot tears flowed down her face, streaking her flawless makeup; the same makeup that had taken the makeup artist an entire hour to perfect that morning.
As Keisha escorted her into the back of the limousine, April glanced down at the ball gown that she lifted to climb into the vehicle. It's a joke, she couldn't help thinking as she looked down at the tulle fabric that she'd once thought was so breathtakingly gorgeous. All of this is a joke. And I was stupid enough to fall for it.