Since she was a little girl, Emmaline Grant has loved romance, so it's really no surprise that she has found her calling as a wedding florist, working with her friends Mackensie, Parker and Laurel. While men swarm around her, she still hasn't found Mr Right - and the last place she's looking is under her nose. That's where Jack Cooke is. He's been best friends with Parker's brother for years. When he and Emma get together things start to get complicated - Jack has never been big on commitment and Emma yearns for a life-long love affair. Can these two find common ground?
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Nora Roberts is the number-one New York Times-bestselling author of more than 190 novels, including The Search, Black Hills, Tribute, High Noon, and many more. She is also the author of the bestselling futuristic suspense series written under the pen name J.D. Robb. Roberts has more than 400 million copies of her books in print.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Since details crowded her mind, many of them blurry, Emma checked her appointment book over her first cup of coffee. The back- to- back consults gave her nearly as much of aboost as the strong, sweet coffee. Basking in it, she leaned backin the chair in her cozy office to read over the side notes she’dadded to each client.
In her experience, the personality of the couple— or often,more accurately, the bride— helped her determine the tone ofthe consult, the direction they’d pursue. To Emma’s way ofthinking, flowers were the heart of a wedding. Whether theywere elegant or fun, elaborate or simple, the flowers were theromance.
It was her job to give the client all the heart and romancethey desired.
She sighed, stretched, then smiled at the vase of petite roseson her desk. Spring, she thought, was the best. The weddingseason kicked into high gear— which meant busy days and longnights designing, arranging, creating not only for this spring’sweddings, but also next.
She loved the continuity as much as the work itself.
That’s what Vows had given her and her three best friends.Continuity, rewarding work, and that sense of personal accomplishment.And she got to play with flowers, live with flowers,practically swim in flowers every day.
Thoughtfully, she examined her hands, and the little nicksand tiny cuts. Some days she thought of them as battle scars andothers as medals of honor. This morning she just wished she’dremembered to fit in a manicure.
She glanced at the time, calculated. Boosted again, she sprangup. Detouring into her bedroom, she grabbed a scarlet hoodie tozip over her pjs. There was time to walk to the main house beforeshe dressed and prepared for the day. At the main houseMrs. Grady would have breakfast, so Emma wouldn’t have toforage or cook for herself.
Her life, she thought as she jogged downstairs, brimmed withlovely perks.
She passed through the living room she used as a receptionand consult area, and took a quick scan around as she headed forthe door. She’d freshen up the flowers on display before the firstmeeting, but oh, hadn’t those stargazer lilies opened beautifully?
She stepped out of what had been a guest house on the BrownEstate and was now her home, and the base for Centerpiece— herpart of Vows.
She took a deep breath of spring air. And shivered.
Damn it, why couldn’t it be warmer? It was April, for God’ssake. It was daffodil time. Look how cheerful the pansies she’dpotted up looked. She refused to let a chilly morning— andokay, it was starting to drizzle on top of it— spoil her mood.
She hunched inside the hoodie, stuck the hand not holdingher coffee mug in her pocket, and began to walk to the mainhouse.
Things were coming back to life all around her, she remindedherself. If you looked closely enough you could see thepromise of green on the trees, the hint of what would be delicateblooms of dogwood and cherry blossoms. Those daffodilswanted to pop, and the crocuses already had. Maybe there’d beanother spring snow, but the worst was over.
Soon it would be time to dig in the dirt, to bring some of herbeauties out of the green house and put them on display. She addedthe bouquets, the swags and garlands, but nothing beat MotherNature for providing the most poignant landscape for a wedding.
And nothing, in her opinion, beat the Brown Estate for showingit off.
The gardens, showpieces even now, would soon explode withcolor, bloom, scent, inviting people to stroll along the curvingpaths, or sit on a bench, relax in sun or shade. Parker put her incharge— as much as Parker could put anyone else in charge— ofoverseeing them, so every year she got to play, planting somethingnew, or supervising the landscape team.
The terraces and patios created lovely outdoor living spaces,perfect for weddings and events. Poolside receptions, terracereceptions, ceremonies under the rose arbor or the pergola, orperhaps down by the pond under a willow.
We’ve got it all, she thought.
The house itself? Could anything be more graceful, morebeautiful? The wonderful soft blue, those warm touches of yellowand cream. All the varied rooflines, the arching windows,the lacy balconies added up to elegant charm. And really, theentrance portico was made for crowding with lush greenery orelaborate colors and textures.
As a child she’d thought of it as a fairyland, complete withcastle.
Now it was home.
She veered toward the pool house, where her partner Maclived and kept her photography studio. Even as she aimed for it,the door opened. Emma beamed a smile, shot out a wave to thelanky man with shaggy hair and a tweed jacket who came out.
“ ’Morning, Carter!”
Carter’s family and hers had been friends almost as long asshe could remember. Now, Carter Maguire, former Yale profand current professor of En glish lit at their high school almamater, was engaged to one of her best friends in the world.
Life wasn’t just good, Emma thought. It was a freaking bedof roses.
Riding on that, she all but danced to Carter, tugged himdown by his lapel as she angled up on her toes and kissed himnoisily.
“Wow,” he said, and blushed a little.
“Hey.” Mackensie, her eyes sleepy, her cap of red hair brightin the gloom, leaned on the doorjamb. “Are you trying to maketime with my guy?”
“If only. I’d steal him away but you’ve dazzled and vampedhim.”
“Well.” Carter offered them both a flustered smile. “This is areally nice start to my day. The staffmeeting I’m headed to won’tbe half as enjoyable.”
“Call in sick.” Mac all but purred it. “I’ll give you somethingenjoyable.”
“Hah. Well. Anyway. Bye.”
Emma grinned at his back as he hurried off to his car. “God,he is so cute.”
“He really is.”
“And look at you, Happy Girl.”
“Happy Engaged Girl. Want to see my ring again?”
“Oooh,” Emma said obligingly when Mac wiggled her fingers.
“Are you going for breakfast?”
“That’s the plan.”
“Wait.” Mac leaned in, grabbed a jacket, then pulled the doorclosed behind her. “I didn’t have anything but coffee yet, so . . .”As they fell into step together, Mac frowned. “That’s my mug.”
“Do you want it back now?”
“I know why I’m cheerful this crappy morning, and it’s thesame reason I haven’t had time for breakfast. It’s called Let’sShare the Shower.”
“Happy Girl is also Bragging Bitch.”
“And proud of it. Why are you so cheerful? Got a man inyour house?”
“Sadly no. But I have five consults booked today. Which is agreat start to the week, and comes on the tail of the lovely endto last week with yesterday’s tea party wedding. It was reallysweet, wasn’t it?”
“Our sexagenarian couple exchanging vows and celebratingsurrounded by his kids, her kids, grandchildren. Not just sweet,but also reassuring. Second time around for both of them, andthere they are, ready to do it again, willing to share and blend. Igot some really great shots. Anyway, I think those crazy kids aregoing to make it.”
“Speaking of crazy kids, we really have to talk about yourflowers. December may be far away— she says shivering— but itcomes fast, as you well know.”
“I haven’t even decided on the look for the engagement shotsyet. Or looked at dresses, or thought about colors.”
“I look good in jewel tones,” Emma said and fluttered herlashes.
“You look good in burlap. Talk about bragging bitches.”Mac opened the door to the mudroom, and since Mrs. Grady wasback from her winter vacation, remembered to wipe her feet. “Assoon as I find the dress, we’ll brainstorm the rest.”
“You’re the first one of us to get married. To have your weddinghere.”
“Yeah. It’s going to be interesting to see how we manage torun the wedding and be in the wedding.”
“You know you can count on Parker to figure out the logistics.If anyone can make it run smooth, it’s Parker.”
They walked into the kitchen, and chaos.
While the equitable Maureen Grady worked at the stove,movements efficient, face placid, Parker and Laurel faced off acrossthe room.
“It has to be done,” Parker insisted.
“Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.”
“Laurel, this is business. In business you serve the client.”
“Let me tell you what I’d like to serve the client.”
“Just stop.” Parker, her rich brown hair sleeked back in atail, was already dressed in a meet- the- client suit of midnightblue. Eyes of nearly the same color flashed hot with impatience.
“Look, I’ve already put together a list of her choices, the numberof guests, her colors, her floral selections. You don’t evenhave to speak to her. I’ll liaise.”
“Now let me tell you what you can do with your list.”
“The bride is an asshole. The bride is an idiot, a whiny babybitch who made it very clear nearly one year ago that she neitherneeded nor wanted my par tic u lar ser vices. The bride can biteme because she’s not biting any of my cake now that she’s realizedher own stupidity.”
In the cotton pajama pants and tank she’d slept in, her hairstill in sleep tufts, Laurel dropped onto a chair in the breakfastnook.
“You need to calm down.” Parker bent down to pick up afile. Probably tossed on the floor by Laurel, Emma mused.
“Everything you need is in here.” Parker laid the file on the table.
“I’ve already assured the bride we’ll accommodate her, so—”
“So you design and bake a four- layer wedding cake betweennow and Saturday, and a groom’s cake, and a selection of desserts.To serve two hundred people. You do that with no previouspreparation, and when you’ve got three other events overthe weekend, and an evening event in three days.”
Her face set in mutinous lines, Laurel picked up the file anddeliberately dropped it on the floor.
“Now you’re acting like a child.”
“Fine. I’m a child.”
“Girls, your little friends have come to play.” Mrs. Grady sangit out, her tone overly sweet, her eyes laughing.
“Ah, I hear my mom calling me,” Emma said and started toease out of the room.
“No, you don’t!” Laurel jumped up. “Just listen to this! TheFolk- Harrigan wedding. Saturday, eve ning event. You’ll remember,I’m sure, how the bride sniffed at the very idea of Icings atVows providing the cake or any of the desserts. How she sneeredat me and my suggestions and insisted her cousin, a pastry chef inNew York, who studied in Paris and designed cakes for importantaffairs would be handling all the desserts.
“Do you remember what she said to me?”“Ah.” Emma shifted because Laurel’s finger pointed at herheart. “Not in the exact words.”“Well, I do. She said she was sure— and said it with thatsneer— she was sure I could handle most affairs well enough, butshe wanted the best for her wedding. She said that to my face.”“Which was rude, no question,” Parker began.“I’m not finished,” Laurel said between her teeth. “Now, atthe eleventh hour, it seems her brilliant cousin has run off withone of her— the cousin’s— clients. Scandal, scandal, as said clientmet brilliant cousin when he commissioned her to design a cakefor his engagement party. Now they’re MIA and the bride wantsme to step in and save her day.”“Which is what we do here. Laurel—”“I’m not asking you.” She flicked her fingers at Parker,zeroed in on Mac and Emma. “I’m asking them.”“What? Did you say something?” Mac offered a toothy smile.“Sorry, I must’ve gotten water in my ears from the shower.Can’t hear a thing.”
“Ah . . .”
“Breakfast!” Mrs. Grady circled a finger in the air. “Everybodysit down. Egg- white omelettes on toasted brown bread.Sit, sit. Eat.”
“I’m not eating until—”
“Let’s just sit.” Interrupting Laurel’s next tirade, Emma trieda soothing tone. “Give me a minute to think. Let’s just all sitdown and . . . Oh, Mrs. G, that looks fabulous.” She grabbedtwo plates, thinking of them as shields as she crossed to thebreakfast nook and scooted in. “Let’s remember we’re a team,”she began.
“You’re not the one being insulted and overworked.”
“Actually, I am. Or have been. Whitney Folk puts the zilla inBridezilla. I could relay my personal nightmares with her, butthat’s a story for another day.”
“I’ve got some of my own,” Mac put in.
“So your hearing’s back,” Laurel muttered.
“She’s rude, demanding, spoiled, difficult, and unpleasant,”
Emma continued. “Usually when we plan the event, even withthe problems that can come up and the general weirdness ofsome couples, I like to think we’re helping them showcase a daythat begins their happy ever after. With this one? I’d be surprisedif they make it two years. She was rude to you, and I don’t thinkit was a sneer, I think it was a smirk. I don’t like her.”
Obviously pleased with the support, Laurel sent her ownsmirk toward Parker, then began to eat.
“That being said, we’re a team. And clients, even smirkybitch clients have to be served. Those are good reasons to dothis,” Emma said while Laurel scowled at her. “But there’s a betterone. You’ll show her rude, smirky, flat, bony ass what a reallybrilliant pastry chef can do, and under pressure.”
“Parker already tried that one on me.”
“Oh.” Emma sampled a skinny sliver of her omelette. “Well,it’s true.”
“I could bake her man- stealing cousin into the ground.”
“No question. Personally, I think she should grovel, at least alittle.”
“I like groveling.” Laurel considered it. “And begging.”
“I might be able to arrange for some of each.” Parker liftedher coffee. “I also informed her that in order to accommodateher on such short notice we would require an additional fee. Iadded twenty- five percent. She grabbed it like a lifeline, andactually wept in gratitude.”
A new light beamed in Laurel’s bluebell eyes. “She cried?”Parker inclined her head, and cocked an eyebrow at Laurel.
“While the crying part warms me inside, she’ll still have totake what I give her, and like it.”
“You just let me know what you decide on when you decideon it,” Emma told her. “I’ll work in the flowers and decor forthe table.” She sent a sympathetic smile at Parker. “What timedid she call you with all this?”
“Three twenty a.m.”
Laurel reached over, gave Parker’s hand a pat. “Sorry.”
“That’s my part of the deal. We’ll get through it. Wealways do.”
They always did, Emma thought as she refreshed her livingroom arrangements. She trusted they always would. Sheglanced at the photograph she kept in a simple white frame, oneof three young girls playing Wedding Day in a summer garden.
She’d been bride that day, and had held the bouquet of weedsand wildflowers, wore the lace veil. And had been just as charmedand delighted as her friends when the blue butterfly landed onthe dandelion in her bouquet.
Mac had been there, too, of course. Behind the camera, capturingthe moment. She considered it a not- so- small miraclethat they’d turned what had been a favored childhood game ofmake believe into a thriving business.
No dandelions these days, she thought as she fluffed pillows.But how many times had she seen that same delighted, dazzledlook on a bride’s face when she’d offered her a bouquet she’dmade for her? Just for her.
She hoped the meeting ab...
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Book Description Bookseller Inventory # SKU-3196543
Book Description Magna Large Print Books, 2010. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. An EX LIBRARY copy in VERY GOOD overall condition. May have some library stamps, marks etc. Bookseller Inventory # mon0000134845
Book Description Magna Large Print Books, 2010. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. An EX-LIBRARY copy in VERY GOOD overall condition. May have some library stamps, marks etc. Bookseller Inventory # mon0000065722