The Wedding Must Go On. Robyn Grady
I have to agree with her.’
Roxy’s heart flipped over. She knew a little of how Marla had felt. The week after that engagement party incident, Nate’s photo had appeared in a gossip magazine. Obviously in his element, he’d been snapped charming a big-breasted woman with swollen lips and hair the colour of rich dark chocolate. Roxy had been so angry—so hurt—she’d torn out the page and ripped it in two.
His jaw tightening, Nate admitted, ‘Those photos were incriminating.’
‘Her fiancé, intoxicated and handling a near naked woman …’ She huffed. ‘I don’t know what Greg’s so-called friend was thinking, publishing those shots on his social media page. And don’t you dare say that the “indiscretion” happened at Greg’s buck’s night. That’s no excuse.’ Narrowing her eyes, Roxy crossed her arms over her crystal-beaded bodice. ‘Where were you anyway? Aren’t best men supposed to stop those kinds of things from happening?’
Not that they should ever get anywhere near started.
‘I had a meeting early the next morning. I couldn’t cancel.’
‘I wish things were different—’ for more reasons than one ‘—but Greg did the wrong thing and, frankly, I don’t appreciate you showing up here unannounced trying to convince me otherwise.’
She hated seeing Marla so puffy-eyed and bereft. She wished there were some way to help, but listening to a man she already didn’t trust, a man who was adept at minimizing bad behaviour—that wasn’t the answer. Yes, Greg had always seemed so devoted; however, Roxy knew better than most, sometimes the ones you should be able to rely on were the very ones to watch out for. Given her own past growing up, Roxy supported Marla’s decision one hundred per cent. Still, that question remained.
What would become of this gown? She’d held such high hopes for it. For her big designer future.
For months the bridal industry had been abuzz with talk of an incredible opportunity—a contest. The winning gown would take its bow on the Parisian catwalks and feature in Wedded Bliss, the world’s glossiest wedding publication. Plus, its creator would be awarded a sizable lump sum and a year’s apprenticeship with New York’s leading bridal salon designer.
Roxy had lain awake at night dreaming of claiming the big prize. Since junior high, she’d only ever wanted to design wedding dresses, all kinds of creations to suit all kinds of brides. She couldn’t imagine a more exciting or rewarding profession. Five years ago, after completing a number of courses and experience at other shops, she’d set up her own business. But Roxy ached to learn more. Be more. All that she could be.
This contest was her chance.
She’d put two hundred per cent into her entry. Last week she’d made the top fifty. She’d bubbled with excitement. For hours had walked on air. But before she could let Marla in on her good news, her friend had broken down and announced that the wedding was off. Since all entries were required to take their big walk down the aisle by the thirty-first of this month, this amazing gown was no longer eligible for final judging. No wedding equalled no apprenticeship. No big prize money either. Suddenly Roxy’s recent run of decreased sales and increased bills seemed all the scarier.
Now, while she set the earrings on their red velvet cushion beneath the counter, deep in thought, Nate paced up the length of the counter and Roxy’s attention drifted to his hand sliding down the glass surface. It was just a hand, she told herself. Big. Tanned. Four fingers and a thumb, five very neat nails. And yet, despite how he’d embarrassed her that night, she couldn’t deny that even now memories of the way he’d held her released a slow wash of tingling warmth deliciously low in her belly. For those few moments when he’d kissed her so thoroughly, her every inch had glowed and come alive, a phenomenon that had left her feeling hot, light and slightly giddy.
A little like she felt now.
Damn the man!
Her cheeks burning, Roxy siphoned down a breath, gathered herself and caught the last of Nate’s comment.
‘…must be something we can do to get them back together.’
Closing the counter drawer, she refocused on her friend’s situation as well as her own. Lifting her chin, Roxy made herself clear.
‘Whatever you have in mind, count me out.’
As Nate held Roxanne Trammel’s determined gaze he knotted his arms securely over his chest.
Of medium height. Nothing bombshell about the body. Voice on the soft rather than smoky side. Her gestures weren’t exceptional. Neither were her walk or her laugh. And yet something about this woman was incontestably, frustratingly alluring.
Nate accepted that reality same way he accepted that steel softened at a predetermined temperature. A similar temperature to the one his blood had reached when he’d given himself over to Roxy’s lure six months ago. He’d hated leaving her looking so confused and pained that night, but he’d also vowed that their first kiss would be their last: should they happen to come within each other’s orbit again—at a mutual friends’ wedding, for example—he would not permit a repeat performance, no matter if the continuation of the human race depended on it.
That outfit she wore now ought to be reminder and turn-off enough. He was a self-determining man, a bachelor who intended to stay that way. And yet looking into those thickly lashed, sparkling green eyes now, he had to concentrate to keep from reaching out and making mammoth mistake number two. Only this time—if he caved and brought her crushingly close again—he wasn’t certain he would stop.
Crossing to the end of the counter, she said, ‘I don’t know why you’re stepping up now to defend him. Greg’s responsible for his own actions, even if he obviously needs a watcher.’ She shrugged. ‘Hope your meeting was worth it.’
‘Depends if you count a huge opportunity for launching a business venture that both Greg and I had worked on for months worth it.’
‘You’re becoming partners? From what Marla’s told me, Greg’s committed to the family business.’
Nate held that breath. He didn’t want to lay bare any secrets. But he did need her help to get those two reunited, which meant coughing up some answers and rebuilding a little good faith here. So, when Roxy in all her finery moved to lift a small cardboard box from the floor, he stepped up to help at the same time he replied.
‘Greg’s wanted to break out on his own for a while.’
He took the box from her arms and set it on the counter, after which Roxy opened the lid and extracted a frilly mauve garter. Nate’s gaze zeroed in on the lace and words came to mind. Seductive. Sexy. Guess a bridal salon sold all kinds of accessories.
Mulling, Roxy ran the silk loop around her index fingers once, twice. ‘His family owns a big steel company, right?’
‘PrimeSteel. A manufacturer and distributor of steel and finished steel products. I work in management for a rival company.’
As he spoke she opened a nearby drawer and, peering through the counter’s glass ceiling, arranged the garter on its own rumpled satin bed.
‘Greg and I met through industry contacts,’ he went on, his voice a little deeper than before. ‘We shared similar views about the future of steel, more specifically, colour-bonded products. Given the economy and environmental issues, we think the opportunities in less expensive and environmentally effective are endless.’
He expected to hear back regarding the most relevant patent application soon, then they could truly move forward.
‘So you joined forces?’ Roxy asked.
When she moved to extract another goodie from that box—a gossamer-thin, ultra-short negligee—Nate blinked and, in a heartbeat, imagined her wearing it. He saw the swell of her cleavage, a taut midriff too. He knew her skin would be smooth and warm, just as the sweep of her lips had been that night.