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Authors: Nina Harrington

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BOOK: Blame It on the Champagne
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No going back. But maybe, just maybe, he could rescue their
friendship and build on it. Create a bond that was more than physical. A bond
that linked them through a common passion for the one thing they both knew
about. Family.

She would know not to expect anything more from him, wouldn't
she?

EIGHT

Must-Do list

  • Be sure to take lots of photos of the outdoor wedding
    theme. Would it work in a walled garden and patio in London?
  • Focus on the cake and the food and lighting. Take notes
    and cadge a few recipes if you can from the locals.
  • Remember to take tissues in case you embarrass yourself
    at the wedding.
  • Do NOT let Rick talk you into buying their entire wine
    production as a wedding present, no matter how much you would like to.
    BAD idea. Taste it first and check the numbers. Heart. Head.
    Frosty

‘Hey.
This is
a wedding. You
are not supposed to be in the kitchen,' Rick whispered into her ear as he
sauntered up to her and grabbed her around the middle. ‘Although I suppose it is
an improvement on taking notes on your smartphone during your tour of the
cellars.'

‘Who, me?' Saskia answered, both of her hands too occupied at
that moment to fend him off or scold him. ‘I have officially given up all hope
of doing anything workwise for the next few hours so I am forced to enjoy
myself. And the bride needs to be with her family, not plating up choux buns. I
am happy to help out since they were kind enough to invite me.'

‘Agreed. It's been years since I've seen a proper champagne
sword being put to such excellent use in demolishing a toffee profiterole tower.
And they say chivalry is dead.'

‘It was the highlight of the cake-cutting ceremony.' Saskia
nodded. ‘Nicole's mother made the croquembouche fresh this morning, with lots of
help from her two nephews. They are the eight and six-year-olds who are running
around on the table right now, high on fat and sugar. Apparently they gobbled up
any odd-looking profiteroles so they wouldn't spoil the display. It was very
generous of them.'

‘Family loyalty. And you can't beat a proper profiterole tower
for impact.'

‘Quite right. In fact, this gives me an idea for the perfect
wedding cake for my friend Amber, who's getting married at Elwood House at New
Year. I'm thinking golden profiteroles, crème patissèrie, toffee sauce and a
cloud of caramel veil, but with fresh mango and raspberry. Delicious! Orchids on
the side.'

Rick picked up one of the choux buns with his fingers and bit
into it. Saskia simply shook her head and carried on plating out the delicate
pastries, using two spoons to break up the crystal caramel and dividing the
profiteroles into groups of four on lovely china plates.

‘Pretty good,' he murmured and popped the other half into his
mouth. ‘And I don't have a sweet tooth.'

‘Excellent. More for the rest of us.' She laughed and slid the
plates onto the dessert table, where they were whisked away, with the platters
of mini macaroons and tiny light-as-a-feather fairy cakes topped with fresh
berries, to the round tables which filled the patio around the central fountain
outside the main stone house where the wedding had been held. ‘Because I do have
a sweet tooth and this is heaven.'

Rick wiped his hands down and peered at what was left of the
tower as she cracked through the crisp caramel and divided out the buns. ‘I
would say at a guess that you've done that before.'

Saskia stood back and admired the table. ‘I now declare that
this croquembouche is officially demolished. And yes, I have broken up caramel
shards and clouds before.'

‘Well, in that case—' Rick nodded ‘—let's grab our plates and
join the party. I want to hear all about your previous career as a pastry
chef.'

‘Career? I could hardly call it that. My Elwood grandparents
used to run an old
auberge
in Alsace. Yes. In the
vineyard where they produce that dessert wine you enjoy so much. I might have
picked up a few catering tips during my visits as a girl. And I do recall lots
of family birthdays and weddings.'

Images of wonderful afternoons spent baking with her family
flooded Saskia's memory and she chuckled out loud in delight for a second before
her smile faded. Now she cooked and baked alone and she hadn't realised just how
much she missed the companionship until that moment. How odd.

She blinked across at Rick and smiled. ‘But that's very boring.
Unlike your little speech to the guests just now, singing the praises of the
bride and groom. I was impressed, Mr Burgess. And all in the most excellent
French.'

‘Why, thank you. I meant it. They have a great future ahead of
them and the passion to go with it. All praise to that.'

Saskia stopped at the entrance to the stone courtyard, then
turned away and strolled out to the edge of the garden and looked out over to
the low hills covered in neat rows of grapevines, which she could just make out
in the fading light. The ambers, golds and reds of the autumn trees and leaves
contrasted against the green foliage of the conifers to create a lovely autumn
scene. It was tranquil and serene and everything that she remembered about
Alsace.

‘It is so lovely. Are you planning to come back for the
harvest?' she asked.

‘Nope. I would only get in the way and I have appointments in
Argentina with some amazing new wine estates. Nicole will let me know about
yields and her first impressions when she's ready. I only hope they can relax on
honeymoon for a week before coming back to the harvest. The weather forecast is
looking mixed for the rest of the month but it should be a good vintage.'

‘My goodness, Mr Burgess—' she smiled ‘—for a moment there, you
sounded like a wine merchant.'

He burst out laughing and spun her around by twirling her
waist. Then, before she could complain, he pressed his warm lips against hers
and held them there for just a fraction of a second too long to be a friendly
kiss between colleagues.

She might blame it on the atmosphere of the wedding and the
beautiful setting, but it was probably one of the most romantic and lovely
moments she'd ever had and it was so, so tempting to lean into that kiss and
turn it into something else.

But that would mean giving into the sensation and letting him
take over her life.

The Rick she had seen at this wedding and earlier at the chalet
was so tempting. He was so charming, so handsome and so beguiling that her poor
girlish heart yearned to see where that kiss might take them and not care about
the consequences.

She had known all along that he was dangerous. From the very
start. But this was different. This time she wanted to be dangerous.

‘You really must stop doing that!' Saskia protested and pushed
him away. ‘What if I kissed you in public?' she asked, pressing her hands on the
front of his beautiful suit. ‘How would you like it?'

‘Like it,' he growled. ‘I would write song lyrics and put
posters up all over town with photographs to prove it.'

‘You really are completely shameless. Do you know that?'

‘It has been said. But it is a burden I have come to live with
over the years.'

She rolled her eyes and shook her head. ‘I give up. I relax and
enjoy myself just this once and take a few hours away from work and I get
pounced on. You see. This is what happens when I try to live in the moment or
whatever it is you do.'

‘Weddings. Happens all the time. Hey, you're a girl. What is it
about weddings that makes every woman in the room turned back into a giggly
schoolgirl and then go all weepy? And don't think I didn't notice you passing
around the tissues during the service.'

‘Do you really want to know or are you trying to come up with
an excuse for kissing me?'

‘I really want to know. And I don't need an excuse.'

‘Okay then, I will tell you. Because, as you correctly point
out, I'm a girl, and you are potentially going to become one of my wine
merchants. Which, in my book, means that we should be open and honest at all
times. And you can stop looking at me like that. I'm quite serious. Honest and
open.'

‘Right. If you say so. Should I be taking notes?' He patted his
pockets as though looking for pen and paper.

‘Right. That's it. I'm off to join the ladies and scoff
desserts and chocolates. You are on your own.'

‘I apologise. Please. I'm genuinely interested in your
answer.'

Saskia looked into those grey-blue eyes, which were gazing at
her at that moment with such an innocent expression that it was impossible to
stay angry at him. Perhaps that was it? Perhaps he just beguiled ladies into
submission?

‘Very well,' she replied in a low voice. ‘Weddings. A to Z. Key
points.'

She gestured with her head towards the long kitchen table,
where the wedding guests were laughing and singing and passing around desserts
and wine. It was dusk now and the crystal glassware reflected back candlelight
and the warm glow from lanterns hanging from the branches of the plane tree
above their heads.

‘I see this as a celebration. Look at this wonderful setting.
Friends and family all gathered together having a wonderful time celebrating
love and happiness.'

He shrugged. ‘Great people. Food was good. Wine was amazing.
Sounds like a pretty good combination for any party to me.'

‘The food was better than good. It was splendid and I have
several recipes tucked away in my trusty clutch bag. The wine was outstanding—as
you predicted. Including the pink champagne from Chateau Morel, which was an
inspired choice. And you're missing the point. This is not a dinner party or
Christmas lunch or a birthday celebration or some other family meal. No. We're
all here today to celebrate the love Jean Baptiste and Nicole have for one
another.'

Almost as the words left her lips, the bride and groom slipped
from their chairs and kissed lovingly under the lanterns to a great cheer before
strolling down the table chatting to their guests.

‘They are a lovely couple with such great hopes for the future.
The future you...' she prodded him in the chest to get her point across ‘...are
a big part of. You promised these two people an awful lot, Mr Bigshot. You had
better deliver.'

‘Don't you mean
we—
' he prodded her
in the arm right back ‘—had better deliver? My best customer. Remember
that?'

‘How could I forget? I keep telling you that I'm still thinking
about it, and yet you have reminded everybody several times of the fact that the
heir to the Elwood name is on the case. I was starting to get nervous about my
big build-up until I tasted the wine.' She sniffed. ‘Not nervous now at all.
It's a great choice. Brilliant. I wouldn't be ashamed to serve that wine to any
of my guests; I'll give you that. But that still doesn't mean that I'll sign up
with you. Not yet.'

Rick straightened his back and flicked off a small dry leaf
from the jacket of his suit. ‘Am I good? Or am I good?' he asked with a
smile.

‘If the other nine new generation winemakers are like this
couple...then you're good.'

Rick responded by cupping one hand around his ear and leaning
closer. ‘Would you mind saying that again? I couldn't quite make it out.'

‘I said that your scouting team have identified a suitable wine
for the shelves of RB Wines. Congratulations.'

‘Ah. Was that it? Thank you, kind lady.'

Then he snorted and pushed both hands deep into his trouser
pockets. ‘They're a great couple who have actually taken time to get to know
each other. Which means that they are going into this marriage with their eyes
wide open. Good luck to them.'

‘Aha. I see,' she replied, her gaze still enjoying the happy
scene on the patio. ‘Things are beginning to become a little clearer. Do I
detect a hint of personal experience there, Mr Burgess?' She laughed. Then
looked back over her shoulder into Rick's face, and her smile was wiped away as
a flash of regret and pain flicked across his eyes before he realised that she
was watching him.

‘My one and only engagement. Las Vegas. Four years ago. I'd
been with Amy for six months and there wasn't an inch of that woman's body that
I didn't know on a daily basis.'

Saskia groaned and lifted her hands to cover her ears. ‘Oh,
please stop. No details. I've just eaten.'

‘Honest and open, right?' he replied and tugged her hands away.
‘As I was saying. Six months. I thought I knew Amy. She was a sports journalist.
Smart, funny, we both knew the same people and moved in the same crowd. Best of
all, Amy was a total adrenalin junkie and loved going for the rush in extreme
sports just as much as I did. Brilliant skier.'

‘I'm waiting for the
but.
'

‘We'd been to an Elvis wedding chapel ceremony with two Canyon
climbers and in the spirit of the occasion and after several bottles of actually
quite good champagne, I had a moment of weakness and decided that maybe getting
married was not such a bad idea after all. It was a brave decision. The
but
came the day after our happy engagement when she
cancelled a white water rafting trip because her parents had just sent her the
latest property lists for her home town in the Midwest. Apparently they couldn't
wait for us to relocate so they could be close to their future unborn
grandchildren.'

Saskia stopped breathing and tried to speak, but ended up
opening her mouth and closing it several times.

‘Yeah—' he laughed ‘—that's right. I was engaged for a grand
total of three days. Apparently my lovely Amy forgot to mention that in her
opinion life as an adrenalin junkie was fine for single girls but the moment we
walked down the aisle after the wedding, that was it. Forget the sports. Forget
the old life. Forget all the reasons why we fell for one another in the first
place.'

BOOK: Blame It on the Champagne
7.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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