Promises to Keep. Linda Hudson-Smith

Promises to Keep - Linda Hudson-Smith

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with a capital F. She put his height at six foot two and his weight around 170 pounds or so. His athletic build supported a solid mass of rippling muscles.

      Trying to recover from an instant, undeniable attraction to this man with loads of sex appeal, Courtney extended her petite hand. “Welcome, Mr. Fairfax. I’m Courtney Campbell, owner of The Party People. Please, let’s sit down so we can discuss your event.” Moving over to the cherrywood table, she pulled out two chairs and respectfully waited for Darius to be seated first.

      Courtney handed him a catering packet. A fork, knife and spoon joined together, circled by a wreath of colorful flowers, served as the company’s logo.

      Darius quickly leafed through the envelope, surprised by the extensive offerings. “Very impressive! How long have you been in business?”

      Courtney dared to look right into a pair of intriguing topaz eyes. As her breath caught again, she stifled a gasp. “A couple of years, but we’ve only operated at this location about six months. Business has been extremely good. We remain optimistic.”

      Darius nodded. “Congratulations. What made you decide on catering?”

      Courtney flashed him a bright, white smile. “Been around it most of my life. My paternal grandmother ran a successful catering operation right out of her own kitchen. I learned from her the majority of what I know about this exciting, rewarding business.”

      Darius smiled warmly, revealing a beautiful set of well-maintained teeth. “Grandmothers. I feel sorry for anyone who didn’t grow up around one. I have fond memories of mine. Nana Fairfax and Grandma Sheridan’s spirits are now at home with the Lord, but they live on in my heart. Is your grandmother involved in your operation?”

      Courtney’s eyes lit up. Any mention of her incredible grandmother touched her emotionally. “Not so sure I could’ve done this without her. She helps me out a lot and is a whiz at keeping the books. Very much a confidant, Alma Campbell is on my payroll. My grandpa, Harrell Campbell, works for me, too. He loves to chauffeur our clients to and fro. My maternal grandparents have been deceased for years now. They passed on when I was a toddler, so I don’t have any vivid memories of them.”

      “It’s nice to know both your grandparents are on board.” Darius’s eyes brimmed with sentiment. “I’m sorry about the deceased ones. What about your parents?”

      The conversation had turned more personal than she was used to when dealing with clients, but she wasn’t put off. “Divorced, yet they’re very good friends. Neither one has remarried. My father, Maurice, an LAPD officer, lives here. Chelsea, my fashion-designer mom, lives in Paris. I moved in with my grandparents during the divorce.”

      “I imagine it’s nice if everyone can get along, especially when children are involved.” A moment of sadness hit him—and he paused to ponder quietly.

      “I’ve never planned a large, upscale social event,” he said. “This one is extremely special to me. It has to be top-notch. I’ll be personally involved in every aspect of the planning, relying heavily on you and your expertise. There are a few things I may want to handle on my own. We can get to those items as they come up. The finest surprise engagement party money can buy is the end result I’m after. Cash up front; no expense spared.”

      Any notion Courtney had of possibly getting to know honey-brown-complexioned Darius better after their business arrangement was fulfilled was quickly dashed. A surprise engagement reception didn’t exactly need an explanation. Spare no expense didn’t require one, either.

      “As I mentioned, we offer both partial and full-service contracts. The latter covers a variety of services. We’re running a spring-fling special for April and May.”

      “Full service,” Darius responded without hesitation. “Spring fling, huh? Nice.”

      Even though Courtney felt profoundly disappointed over his engaged status, Darius’s last remark and his cash up front comment had her smiling beautifully. Cash and carry was her favorite way to do business.

      “You’ve come to the right company to get your event needs met, Mr. Fairfax. In addition to catering services, decorating, hosting, bartending, DJ and waitstaff are at your fingertips. We can arrange reliable transportation to and from the events via late-model Town Cars and stretch limousines. One-stop-shop is what we love to boast here at The Party People.”

      “Just how old are you?”

      Courtney wrinkled her nose. “Three years shy of thirty.”

      The diamondlike sparkle in Courtney’s green eyes mesmerized Darius, causing his heart to quiver. Not only was she an intelligent woman, she was softly pretty, as opposed to beautiful. He saw that she had an amazing spirit, one that radiated from deep inside. Her fabulous figure had inspired him to indulge in more than a mere glance.

      Darius couldn’t help wondering if Courtney was involved in a serious relationship. Since she wasn’t wearing a ring, he assumed she wasn’t married, yet he still couldn’t be sure. A lot of his male friends would go bananas for a shot at dating her. He was amused by the way she had referenced her age, making him three years older than her three years shy of thirty.

      Courtney handed Darius an application form. “After you fill this out, we can discuss your vision for the reception, Mr. Fairfax.”

      As Darius filled in the blanks, Courtney was already thinking about the kind of reception he might like, based on the way he carried himself. Once she learned pertinent information about the prospective bride, she’d figure that into the equation. The form had a box to fill in for favorite colors of both bride and groom and their favorite flowers and greenery.

      “Here you go,” Darius said. “For the date, third or fourth week in May is good.”

      “The dates are good for us.”

      She was impressed that he’d filled in every single blank. Many future brides failed to fill in all the spaces. Men often left blank the most important areas. It surprised her when couples didn’t know the more intimate details about future spouses. She’d make it her business to know everything about a man she loved enough to take his last name. Likes and dislikes revealed a lot about an individual.

      The bride-to-be was named Candice. No surname was supplied, but Darius was the client. Her birth year made her six years younger than her fiancé’s thirty years.

      “I see Candice’s favorite colors are lavender and green. I can work wonders with those combinations. Adding splashes of silver here and there will make those hues pop.”

      Courtney opened her company’s brochure to the section on centerpieces. “We also do amazing creations with flowers and balloons. If you don’t see what you want in here, we can create something special and unique, customized to fit your vision.”

      “Angels have to be a part of the table decor. Candice collects them.”

      “Angels with silver, glittery wings will work beautifully as centerpieces.”

      “Can we center the angels in some sort of floral arrangements?”

      Courtney made note of his suggestion. “You’re quite creative yourself. I saw on the application that you’re a filmmaker.”

      Courtney had scrutinized Darius’s paperwork more closely than normal because she’d found herself wanting to learn everything there was to know about the gorgeous man with the deep, seductive voice. Before she’d found out he was engaged, her mind had wandered all over the place, earning him the top spot on her hot chart. She was still intrigued with him, yet she’d be ever mindful of his completely off-limits status.

      As a Hollywood filmmaker, screenwriter and producer, Darius was the owner of a production company on the rise, D.F. Film Productions, Inc. Courtney was thoroughly impressed by his credentials and the list of references it hadn’t been necessary to provide.

      “My plans are to establish myself as a major force in Hollywood. D.F. Film is geared more toward producing screenplays written by and featuring African-American

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