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Authors: Nina Harrington

Blame It on the Champagne (15 page)

BOOK: Blame It on the Champagne
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She cared even less that her trouser buttons seemed to have become snagged on his belt.

All she cared about was this man who was holding her and gazing at her face with such tenderness and love and devotion that it melted her heart just to look at him.

‘Repeat after me,' he whispered in a voice that was hot chocolate sauce over home-made vanilla ice cream. ‘I want to be with you, Richard Burgess, and the idea of being your girlfriend is growing on me. In fact I like it just fine.'

‘I do like it,' she tried to say but her voice cracked and tears started streaming down her cheeks. ‘Yes, I want to be with you so very much. Take me back to London, Rick. But only for as long as it takes me to get packed. I want to see California. I want to meet your parents—and most of all I want to see them with you.'

And then speaking was impossible because he had swooped her up, her arms still around his neck, and was twirling and twirling and twirling and laughing as though he wanted the whole world to know that she loved him.

‘I don't want you to stop but I am getting dizzy,' she called out, deliriously happy.

‘Best get used to that feeling.' He grinned and kissed her and it was the kiss of a man who knew what he was doing. ‘From now on your feet are not going to touch the ground.'


Saskia stood in
the conservatory room at Elwood House and looked out onto the snow-covered patio winter wonderland where Amber and Sam would have their wedding photographs taken.

The snow had been falling for three days. It was fluffy, soft, crisp and beautiful and the air was cold enough to glaze the covering with a sparkling frost that would twinkle in the white fairy lights Saskia and Rick had finished just in time to drive back to Alsace to celebrate Christmas with his parents and her mother.

Inspired by the bower of fresh flowers and grape leaves that she had seen at the wedding in France, she had worked with the florist to create an extension to her garden pergola of wire and woven fir tree branches cut from the garden of the

Tall enough not to bash Sam on the head, the wide curve was smothered now in gold cones and red berries and fruit and dark shiny holly leaves interspersed with trailing golden blossoms which would only last the day in this chill but were worth it.

At dusk the lights hidden in the miniature conifers on each side of the cleared paving would create a secret pathway to the lover's bower.

She had always thought that Amber was ethereal, but this was her chance to make Amber's day truly magical. It was exactly how she had imagined it would be. And Amber had cried for ten minutes when she'd seen it yesterday which, of course, set the other two off.

Thanks heaven that Sam, Heath and Rick had taken one look at their weeping ladies, who were hugging onto one another over chocolate ice cream and champagne, and decided to take off to their boutique hotel across the square in search of a solid Italian meal which involved lots of carbs washed down by copious quantities of good wine.

But that was okay. The girls were allowed to cry on the day before the wedding.

It had been a manic few days of post-Christmas hairdressers' appointments, manicures and facials—for all three of them. Final fittings at Katherine Lovat Designs, emergency phone calls around the world to check on flight times to arrange airport pickups, courtesy of Sam's dad and his wonderful limo service, daily crisis meetings in Saskia's kitchen over chocolate cake to cope with stressful family members from all sides, but at last it was done.

The first one of their little band was marrying the man she loved. Amber's wedding day had arrived.

Saskia strolled slowly back to the main entrance hall, smiling at the caterers and waiting staff who were putting the final touches to the wedding reception dinner. The dining tables had been dressed with lengths of bright scarlet and gold wedding sari fabric with gold decorations, candelabra and detailing. The marble hallway and wide wing staircase was gleaming and splendid. An army of florists had transformed this old house into something which was better than any grand hotel Saskia had ever been to. And, even better, it had taken Amber's breath away when she'd first seen it.

Pillar candles with rich gold and scarlet floral decoration spilling out from crystal vases. Rings of intertwined ribbon flowers and eucalyptus adorned every chair and Amber's favourite flower, the orchid, stood tall in stunning planters on the console table and bookcases.

The overall effect was warm and welcoming—just what Amber and Sam had asked for. No stuffiness. No hundreds of wedding guests they did not know. No formality of any kind. This was their very personal and private celebration of their love. And not even Amber's mother Julia had been able to make her move an inch.

Amber's bouquet was made of a trail of gold orchids and pastel blossoms and leaves. The girl who had once been too shy to wear anything but dark colours and school uniform had been transformed under the sunlight of Sam's love into a daring and beautiful woman who celebrated the new home she had made in India.

The house almost did her justice.

After the reception, when the candles were lit and the lights dimmed, it would be remarkable. It was already remarkable.

She had never seen the house looking so amazing—so happy and splendid.

Saskia blinked nervously and scanned the checklist. This was it. After so many months of work and planning. The first wedding Elwood House had ever seen, but not the last if her plans came to fruition. Kate was getting married at Jardine Manor but there was only place she wanted for her English wedding to Rick—right here. In her own home. With her family around her, old and new. They could celebrate later at the chalet in private.

‘Hello, gorgeous,' a familiar voice whispered and she turned to see Rick strolling into the kitchen holding a substantial-looking sandwich. ‘Nice place you got here.'

She closed her eyes and exhaled slowly before holding out the sides of her sweater and making a short curtsey. ‘I'm pleased that you like it.' She smiled, but then her smile faltered. ‘I'm only sorry that Aunt Margot never got to see it like this. She would have loved it.'

‘Hey,' he said, and wrapped his arm around one shoulder and planted a tender kiss on the top of her hair. ‘She would have been proud of you. I am. Except for one tiny little thing.'

‘Only one?'

He turned to face her and tipped her chin up with one finger. ‘You have never stopped since we got back from France. Time to take five minutes and join in the fun.' He gestured with his head towards the stairs. ‘Go on up and do some of that girly stuff with your pals.'

‘But what about Sam...?'

Rick held up one hand. ‘Heath Sheridan is as bad as you are with lists and timetables. He'll walk Sam over from the hotel in good time for the wedding. Fear not, for the sake of the lovely Amber, our boy Sam is even prepared to talk to his scary future mother-in-law so I don't think he'll make a run for it. He's been waiting a long time to claim his bride. And I'm not going anywhere. Not when you're around and there is enough food and most excellent wine to feed an army back there.'

‘Good to know that your priorities haven't changed.' She laughed, and then checked her watch.

‘Oh no,' she gasped. ‘I can't believe it's that time already. The first guests will be here in half an hour and I need to change and... Speaking of which,' she added, glancing down at his well-worn denims and T-shirt, ‘I like your outfit. It's so you!'

He turned her shoulders towards the stairs and patted her bottom. ‘Go. Chill. I'll come and find you in ten minutes.'

* * *

Saskia walked into her bedroom, which had become the makeshift Bride's Suite, and stopped at the door and inhaled sharply.

Kate and Amber were lying on her wide bed in their dressing gowns. Giggling and making duvet angels.

They were her best friends in the world, and one of them was getting married today. In a few hours their lives and their relationship were about to change for good.

This was the last precious time to be together as three single girls.

And right now they both looked just the same as the first time she'd met them at high school. Twelve years old and mad as a bag of frogs.

She blinked happy tears from the corner of her eyes, but she flopped down at the bottom of the bed, untied her tennis shoes, then stretched out on the bed next to them with her arm around Amber's shoulder.

‘Hello goddesses,' she said. ‘What's new?'

‘There is some crazy rumour going around that Amber is getting married. Just thinking how ridiculous this all is.' Kate giggled. ‘Want to join us before the hysteria sets in?'

‘Absolutely,' Saskia said, and took a good long sip out of the glass of champagne on the bedside cabinet which, judging from the lipstick stains, belonged to Amber.

‘Why did I ever think that New Year's Day would be a good time to get married?' Amber asked with a glazed look in her beautiful eyes and perfect make up. ‘Everyone is still stressed out from Christmas, my third stepdad is stuck in a snowbound airport and my mum never stops reminding me about all the important celebrity New Year parties that she sacrificed to be here with me. And I am so terrified that I will fluff my lines it's ridiculous. If it wasn't for Sam, I'd be on the next plane back to India.'

‘What, and miss all the cake,' Kate laughed and turned on her side to look at them. ‘Relax, gorgeous. Your diva mother is having the time of her life and wait until you see the over-the-top outfit she is wearing! The hat is so large we can all shelter underneath if it snows again.'

Amber squeezed her hand and chuckled. ‘I know. It's horrendous. And I'm sorry for being such a nuisance. You would think that I should be used to performance anxiety by now. It's just that...I'm getting married today.'

Then she blinked. ‘It's finally happening. I'm getting married. Today. Isn't that amazing? And I think I am going to cry again now.'

‘Not post-mascara you don't,' Saskia replied, then sat up on the bed and turned towards Amber. ‘Deep breathing. That's it. Pretend that you are about to play the piano in front of your family and friends and they all love you. Kate! I leave you alone for a few hours. How many glasses of champagne have you two had?'

Kate slid off the bed in her stockings and rattled the bottle and peered at the couple of inches left in the bottom. ‘Oops. Perhaps this is a good time to get the camera out before we finish it off and everything goes a bit lopsided. Sam's journo pal might be doing the actual wedding photos but I would like one of the three of us getting ready.'

‘Give that to me, you scamp,' Saskia called out and rushed around the bed to try and snatch the small digital camera. ‘You are not to be trusted.'

‘Oh no, you don't, Elwood. For the past few months you have been running yourself ragged and getting used to being adored by a handsome stud, which is exhausting enough for any girl. Well, as of right now, you have to turn off your compulsion to control the world and enjoy yourself. Tell her, Amber.'

‘Kate's right. Put the organiser and the camera down now, Saskia. And I am the bride so you have to do what I say.'

Saskia stopped playing with Kate and planted a hand on each hip, then shrugged at Amber, who was sitting up against the headboard with her hands in her lap.

‘You are. And I do. Look—organiser in the drawer. There it goes. All gone.'

‘Now you have to close the drawer,' Kate said, looking over her shoulder. ‘Go on. It'll be fine on its own. Besides, it would never fit in that tiny bag I picked out for you.'

‘This is true.' Saskia grinned and sat down on the corner of the bed with Kate sprawled next to her and she reached out and took Amber's hand.

‘Are you ready to get married now, lovely girl?'

‘No. But I am ready to get married to my Sam. I love him so much it's crazy.'

‘Then it's a good thing that he has officially redeemed himself by worshipping you for the goddess that you are,' Kate sighed. ‘In fact, Sam is almost worthy of you.'

‘Wow. Now that is quite a compliment. Ladies, I think this calls for a toast. Oh—no spills on the duvet. Excellent. Wait. I'll prop the camera up on the desk and set the automatic timer. Smile please—cheesy grins all around.'

‘Oh, I'm blinded!' Kate yelled a microsecond after the flash went off.

Amber lowered her forehead onto Saskia's shoulder and, as she smiled with a quivering upper lip, a single tear slid from the corner of her eye onto her beautiful cheek.

‘This has been some year—and I couldn't have got through it without you two,' she whispered.

‘We're so happy for you, Amber.' Kate sniffed and dabbed the tear away before blowing into the tissue. ‘You have waited eleven years to find out that Sam is still madly in love with you. That's mega.'

‘Mega.' Amber nodded and reached for another tissue. ‘You have your Heath and now Saskia has found Rick. Who would have imagined so much could change since the high school reunion?'

‘Now don't get me started,' Saskia said. ‘The three goddesses will always be the goddesses, no matter where we are or what we are doing. Right? Of course right.'

Amber reached out and hugged each of the girls tight and then slid off the bed and jumped to her feet.

‘Dresses! We need dresses. Shoes. Hair. Bijou. Let's go and show the world what we can achieve once we set our minds to it! Ready? Let's do this!'

As it was, Saskia was still zipping Kate into her dress when there was a sharp knock on the door and Rick stuck his head inside the bedroom, with his hand covering his eyes, and totally ignored the screams and shouts to go away.

‘Hey, gorgeous ladies. Thought you ought to know that Heath and Sam are waiting downstairs in the library and there is a small blonde in a huge hat standing in the hallway demanding champagne. Shall I escort her up?'

‘Mum!' Amber squealed and grabbed Saskia's hand in terror.

Saskia patted her on the hand. ‘Nothing to worry about. Richard Burgess—your mission is to chat to the mother of the bride. She will be excited and nervous and is bound to have spotted Amber's dad and his other family by now and be spitting tacks. Can you spare some of that charm of yours?'

Rick widened the gap between his fingers and gave a low growl of appreciation at Saskia in her dress, winked once and then closed the door.

‘Was Rick wearing a kilt? Oh my,' Kate gulped.

‘I know. And just for me. Imagine that.'

* * *

Ten minutes later, and a whole thirty seconds ahead of schedule on her planner, Saskia adjusted the position of her bridesmaid posy and followed the direction of the gasps of awe and delight. Amber was standing at the top of the curved white marble staircase, holding hands with her father—her real father, a tall elegant man who had arrived from Paris with his entire entourage the previous day. They were chatting and laughing gently and it was wonderful to see.

Then Amber lifted her head and smiled at Saskia and gave her the gentlest of nods. She was ready.

This was it. This was her moment. And Amber had never looked more beautiful. She knew that she was loved and it shone out like a beacon.

BOOK: Blame It on the Champagne
8.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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