Savour the moment, p.17
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       Savour the Moment, p.17
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         Part #3 of Bride Quartet series by Nora Roberts
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  there’s such a big difference between cares a lot and loves. It’s scary, which is the way I’m told it’s supposed to be, but that doesn’t make it less scary.”

  “He’d never hurt you. And that’s the wrong thing to say,” Parker realized immediately. “Don’t you want him to know you’ve got all that in you for him?”

  “Can’t. Because he’d never hurt me, and he’d try so hard not to.”

  “Which would hurt more.”

  “Oh, yeah. I’m doing my best to just stay in the moment. I think it’s working. Most of the time. Still, I can’t help looking for the trapdoors and trip wires.” And pianos over my head, she thought.

  “Sensible advice back at you. Sometimes you look for the trapdoor and run into a wall instead.”

  “I wish I didn’t know you were right. Okay.” Laurel waved her hands as if clearing a board. “I’m in the moment. I’m practically Zen.”

  “Stay that way I’m going to call Mac and get things set up for later. Six okay?”

  “Six is perfect.”

  Parker stood up, then blew out a breath. “Give me just a taste of that, will you? It’s cruelty otherwise.”

  Laurel got a spoon, dipped it into the warm cream, then offered.

  “Oh God.” Parker closed her eyes. “It was worth every whisk. Shit!” she muttered as her phone rang.

  “Do you ever think about just not answering?”

  “Yes, but I’m not a coward.” She checked the readout as she walked out of the kitchen. “This is Parker at Vows. How are you, Mrs. Winthrop?”

  Parker’s voice had barely faded away when Del came in from the other direction.

  “Well, this is a popular spot today.”

  “Why have I never noticed how sexy you look in an apron?” He leaned down to kiss her—but she saw his move toward the bowl of cream and slapped his hand away.

  “Do you want to get me in trouble with the board of health?”

  “I don’t see any agents around here.”

  She got out a spoon, gave him the same taste as she’d given Parker.

  “Good. Really good.You taste better.”

  “Very smooth, but that’s all you get.” She moved the bowl out of reach. “I thought you were going to the game with your little pals.”

  “I am. I’m meeting up with Jack and Carter here, then we’re swinging by to pick up Mal.”

  “You’re taking a limo to the ball game again.” It was, she thought, so absolutely Del.

  “What’s wrong with taking a limo to the game? That way you can have beer, not worry about parking or the frustration of traffic. It’s a pure win.”

  “I should’ve made this a silver spoon,” she said, and took the spoon from him to put it in the sink.

  “Just for that I might not give you your present.”

  Both intrigued and suspicious, she turned. “What present?” He opened his briefcase, took out a box. “This present. But you may be too much of a smart-ass to deserve it.”

  “Smart-asses need presents, too. Why did you get me a present?”

  “Because you need it, smart-ass.” He handed it to her. “Open it.”

  She admired the Wonder Woman wrapping and big red bow before ruthlessly tearing them off. Then she frowned at the picture on the box. It looked like some sort of handheld computer or oversized recorder. “What is it?”

  “A time-saver. Here. I set it up already.” He opened the box, took out the device with a gleam in his eye that told her the gift was something he wanted for himself.

  “Instead of writing out lists,” he told her, “you do this. Push Record.” He did so, then said

  eggs. “See?” He turned it around to show her the word

  eggs on a little display screen. “Then you push the Select button, and it’s on the list.”

  Okay, she thought, he’d caught her interest. “What list?”

  “The list you’ll have when you’re finished and push this.” He tapped another button. “It prints it out, and better yet, arranges the items in categories. Like, you know, dairy or condiments, whatever.”

  Her serious interest. “Get out. How?”

  “I don’t know how. Maybe there’s someone in there arranging. And it has this library feature, so you can add specialized items it wouldn’t have in there already. You use a lot of unusual ingredients.”

  “Let me try it.” She took it, pressed Record. “Vanilla beans.” Her lips pursed as she read the display. “It says vanilla pudding.”

  “It probably doesn’t have vanilla beans in the library because most people just buy the bottled stuff.”

  “True. But I can put it in?”

  “Yeah, then it’ll get it next time. And you can put in the quantities. Like three dozen eggs, or however many vanilla beans you’d buy. Are they actual beans?”

  “They come in a pod,” she murmured, studying her gift. “You bought me a kitchen recorder lister thing.”

  “I did. It’s magnetic, so you can put it up on the side of one of your coolers, or wherever it works for you.”

  “Most guys go with flowers.”

  She clearly saw the hitch that put in his stride.

  “Do you want flowers?”

  “No. I want this. A whole bunch. It’s a really great present.” She looked up at him. “It’s a really great present, Del.”

  “Good. Don’t be jealous, but I bought one for Mrs. G, too.”

  “That slut.”

  He grinned, kissed her again. “I need to run over and give it to her, then get going or I’m going to be late.”

  “Del,” she said before he got to the door. He’d bought her a kitchen gadget, one both practical and fun. All that was in her for him wanted to say it, just tell him.

  I love you. Only three words, she thought, all just one syllable. But she couldn’t.

  “Have a good time at the game.”

  “Planning on it. Talk to you later.”

  Sighing a little, she sat down to wait for the cream to cool, and played with her present.

  GIRL NIGHT WAS A FAVORITE EVENT. IT OFTEN INVOLVED DINNER and DVDs, popcorn, gossip, and always just the ease and comfort of friends in a tradition that went back to childhood. The addition of Emma’s possible wedding dress was, well, the icing on the cake. Anticipating an indulgent evening, Laurel ended the workday by setting her kitchen to rights as Emma came in.

  “I thought I might catch you here.”

  “Just finishing up,” Laurel told her.

  “I have a request for cupcakes, two dozen. Two weeks,” Emma added quickly. “So at least the client didn’t squeeze it too close. It’s my cousin. Coworker’s office baby shower. The only directive was cute.”

  “Boy or girl?”

  “Surprise, so not gender specific. Really whatever you want.”

  “Okay. Put it on the board.”

  “I appreciate it.” Emma added the order and date to Laurel’s task board. “What’s this?” She tapped the electronic list maker.

  “Del gave me a present.”

  “Oh, that’s so nice. What did he give you?”

  “That. It’s so cool. Watch this.” She walked over, pushed Record. “Unsalted butter. I programmed that in. See, there it is. I push this, and it’s on the list.”

  Emma just stared. “This is a present?”

  “Yes. I know to your way of thinking a present from a guy isn’t a present unless it’s shiny. But I can hot glue some sequins on it if it makes you feel better.”

  “It doesn’t have to be shiny. It can also smell good. Well, it’s thoughtful, and you like it, so it’s a nice gift. What’s the occasion?”

  “No occasion.”

  “Oh, just a gimme? That definitely bumps up the ranking.”

  “It’s going to fall on your scoreboard when I tell you he got Mrs. G one, too.”

  “Well,

  jeez!” Firm on this, Emma fisted her hands on her hips. “I’m sorry, it falls to the token category. A present has to be a one-on-on
e under these circumstances. It’s a thoughtful token. This, my friend, is a present.” She lifted her arm to dangle the bracelet Jack had given her. “The earrings Carter gave Mac forValentine’s Day? That’s a present. I fear Del requires some training.”

  “He would if he were your boyfriend.”

  “Del’s your boyfriend!” With a laugh, Emma grabbed Laurel to dance her in a circle.

  “That sounds so high school.There has to be another term.”

  “Why are we dancing?” Parker wondered as she stepped in.

  “Del is Laurel’s boyfriend, and he gave her a token. I’m sorry, it’s just not present-worthy. Look.”

  Parker went over. “Oh! I’ve seen these. I want one.”

  “Of course you do,” Emma said with a sigh. “You’re his sister. But would you consider it a gift, especially if he gave one to Mrs. G, too?”

  “Hmm. It does fall in the murky area. But it’s thoughtful, and very appropriate for Laurel.”

  “There.” Emma lifted a finger in triumph. “That’s what I said. Here’s Mac. Mac, we need a tiebreaker.”

  “For what? And what are we doing in here? This is Girl Night.”

  “We need to clear this up first. Is this a gift or a token?” Emma gestured.

  “What the hell is it?”

  “See, token.You never have to ask what a present is. Parker, tell Del to buy Laurel something pretty.”

  “No. Stop it.” Laurel gave Emma a shove, but she had to laugh. “I like it. If you like it, all rules are off, and it’s a present.”

  “What the hell is it?” Mac asked again.

  “It’s an electronic organizer for marketing and errands,” Parker explained. “I want one, too. Why didn’t Del buy me one? I like presents.”

  “Token,” Emma insisted.

  “You don’t need another organizer,” Laurel told Parker.

  Mac continued to frown at it. “For God’s sake don’t show it to Carter. He’ll want one, then he’ll want me to use it.”

  “Del bought one for Mrs. G, too, so Carter’s bound to see it,” Emma commented.

  “Damn it.”

  “This is entirely too much controversy over my new toy. I’m going upstairs.”

  “Is Mrs. G making pizza?” Emma wondered. “I’ve been thinking all day about Mrs. G’s pizza and a large quantity of wine.”

  “We’ll get to it, but we’ve got something to do first.”

  “Not work.” Emma grabbed Parker’s arm. “I’m so ready for carbs and alcohol and girls.”

  “Not work, exactly. I happened to pick something up today for approval. You’ll need to see it.”

  “What did you ... Oh! Oh!” Now Emma spun Parker in a dance. “My wedding dress? Did you find my dress?”

  “Maybe. And to follow a recent tradition, we’re in the Bride’s Suite.”

  “This is the best surprise. The best.”

  “If it doesn’t work for you ... ” Parker began as Emma pulled her up the stairs.

  “It’ll still be the best surprise. Oh, I’m nervous.” She stopped outside the door of the Bride’s Suite. “I’m really nervous. Okay, here we go.” She reached for the door, pulled her hand back. “I can’t open it. Somebody else open it.”

  Laurel pushed open the door. “In you go,” she said, then gave Emma a shove.

  Emma gasped, then pressed a hand to her lips.

  Parker never missed, Laurel thought. The dress

  was Emma. Romantic and fanciful with its acres of frothy skirts, with just a hint of sexy in the sparkle of the deeply off-the-shoulder bodice. A garden of fabric roses bloomed on the warm white of the elaborate pick-up skirt and along the sweeping train fit for a princess.

  “It’s a fairy tale,” Emma managed. “Oh, Parker, it’s a fairy tale.”

  “Have some of this.” Mrs. Grady, who’d been waiting with champagne, handed a flute to Emma. “No crying with champagne. You’ll water it down.”

  “It’s the most beautiful dress in the world.”

  “You have to try it on. Strip it off, Em,” Laurel ordered. “Parker and I will help you. Mac’s documenting.”

  “The skirt.” Reverently, Emma brushed her fingertips over the fabric. “It’s like clouds. It’ll billow. Oh, look at the back!” Tiny white rosebuds trailed down to hide the zipper. “Could there be a more perfect dress for a florist?”

  “It kept saying ‘take me to Emma,’” Parker told her as she and Laurel helped her into it.

  “No peeking!” Laurel ordered as Emma started to turn her head to look in the mirror. “Not until we’re done.”

  “Needs a couple of tucks.” Mrs. Grady stepped over with her pins as Mac circled with her camera.

  “Laurel, the train needs a little ...Yeah, that’s it,” Mac said. “Oh, Em. Just wow.”

  “I have to see.”

  “Hold your horses,” Mrs. Grady muttered, and finished her pinning. She stepped back out of the way, gave the nod.

  “Ready?” Emma held her breath, turned.

  Mac caught it, Laurel thought, caught that moment of wonder, the sheen of tears that was joy.

  “All my life,” Emma murmured. “Ever since we were little girls, I dreamed of this. And here I am, in my wedding dress. And it feels exactly as I hoped it would.”

  “You look like a princess,” Laurel told her. “Honestly, Emma, you’re just staggering.”

  Emma reached out, touching fingertips to the mirror. “It’s me. I’m going to wear this dress to marry the man I love. Isn’t that amazing?”

  “Good work.” Laurel put an arm around Parker. “Damn good work.” She took the tissue Parker offered, dabbed her eyes. “Let’s toast the bride.”

  “Give me the camera, Mackensie,” Mrs. Grady ordered, “so I can get one of the four of you. There you are, and aren’t you a picture?” she added, and captured it.

  Later, over pizza and champagne, they dived into wedding plans. “I’ll have my mother, and maybe my sister, come into the bridal shop to see it when I do the first fitting. I’ll cry again. We’ll all cry.”

  “They’re holding two headpieces. One if you wear your hair up, the other if you wear it down. Your mom can help you decide.”

  “Parker. You think of everything.” Emma blinked, sniffled. “No, I don’t want to start that again. Oh, the bouquet I’m going to design for that dress! And my three maids of honor—or hey, by then two maids and one matron.”

  “I can’t imagine being a matron,” Mac said over a bite of pizza.

  “I think lavender. Different styles, but the same color tones. I’m leaning toward whites and lavenders for the flowers. Soft, soft, soft, and romantic. White candles everywhere.”

  “A mix of real, silk, and sugar paste flowers for the cake,” Laurel mused.

  “Yes! Look, Parker’s taking notes. Parker’s taking notes on my wedding.”

  “Of course I am.”

  “I want to schedule the engagement shoot for an evening next week,” Mac told her. “I want a night shot—sexy and atmospheric. In the gardens here.”

  “The gardens. That’s perfect. I have the best pals in the universe.”

  “I’d like to tag along for the fitting,” Mac added. “Get some shots of you and your mom.”

  “You should do it here.” Laurel sipped champagne. “We can arrange the first fitting here—and bring the headpieces, right, Parker?”

  “We could.” Parker’s face lit up as she warmed to the idea. “Sure we could.”

  “Then Mac could get her shots, and your mom could sit down for a first official consult, go over things you’ve decided, or where you’re leaning.”

  “That’s a really good idea,” Parker decided.

  “I have one now and then.”

  “We could really do it up for her,” Mac added. “Your mom. The Vows’ VIP client treatment.”

  “She’d love that. I’d love that. There I go again.”

  Laurel passed Emma another tissue. “Think about shoes.”

 
“Shoes?”

  “Shoes for that dress.”

  “Oh. Shoes.”

  “See, nobody cries over shoes. I’d go for something with just a touch of sparkle, just a hint of sexy and all-out fabulous.”

  “We need to go shopping. You don’t have your wedding shoes yet, do you, Mac?”

  “Not yet.”

  “Wedding shoe safari!” Emma cried. “God, this is fun.”

  “Wait until you start trying to pick out invitations, place cards, and all that, and start obsessing over fonts. I never thought I’d obsess over fonts.” Mac shook her head. “But I am. It’s like a drug. I see that look, McBane.” Mac wagged a finger. “That amused superiority. Like you believe you’ll never sink as I have sunk. But you will. Mark my words. One day, fonts will haunt your sleep.”

  “I just don’t think so. Anyway, I’m not getting married.”

  “But don’t you think you and Del ... at some point,” Emma began.

  “We’ve only been dating since last month.”

  “Evasive,” Mac said. “You’ve known each other forever.”

  “And you’re in love with him,” Emma finished.

  “I’m not thinking about that.”

  “About being in love with him,” Parker asked, “or spending the rest of your life with him?”

  “It’s not—I’m not projecting that far ahead.”

  “Stop it,” Parker ordered.

  “It’s really hard.”

  “Stop what?” Emma looked from one to the other. “What’s hard?”

  “Laurel saying what she’d say to us if the man wasn’t my brother. You’re insulting me.”

  “No! Damn it, Parker, that’s just cheating.”

  “No, it’s just making the point. Should I just leave?”

  “Now you stop it.” Scowling, Laurel tossed back more champagne. “You always
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