Read The Bouquet List Online

Authors: Barbara Deleo

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #General, #seduction, #fling, #small town romance, #Weddings, #greek, #Catherine Bybee, #older brother's best friend, #category romance

The Bouquet List

BOOK: The Bouquet List
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He’s #5 on her Bouquet List.
Tall, dark…and completely forbidden.

After a too-close call with death, Yasmin Katsalos is checking some things off her Bouquet List—things to do after you
thought
you were going to die. Fun fashion choices?
Check.
Purple hair and a cute diamond nose stud?
Check, check.
Now she’s on to item #5: a flirty fling with a man who’s tall, dark, rich…and totally out of her league.

And restaurateur Lane Griffiths
definitely
fits the bill.

Lane isn’t just out of Yasmin’s league. He’s also her brother’s best friend and therefore off-limits. Now that they’re working together on renovations for her family’s wedding hall, however, Yasmin has plenty of opportunities to bewitch, bother, and boldly seduce. He’s reserved. She’s relaxed. The only thing they share is a spark of attraction that’s too strong to resist. But is Lane just another item on her bouquet list…or has Yasmin found something on her list that will last?

The Bouquet List

a Weddings in Westchester novel

Barbara DeLeo

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2014 by Barbara DeLeo. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Entangled Publishing, LLC

2614 South Timberline Road

Suite 109

Fort Collins, CO 80525

Visit our website at
www.entangledpublishing.com
.

Bliss is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC. For more information on our titles, visit
http://www.entangledpublishing.com/category/bliss

Edited by Lewis Pollak

Cover design by Jessica Cantor

ISBN 978-1-63375-072-2

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition September 2014

Table of Contents

For Jay and Luca, two of my most favorite heroes in the world.

Chapter One

“Do you have an invitation, miss? Only wedding guests can come in at this time of night.”

The lanky young boy in an oversize doorman’s uniform stepped into Yasmin Katsalos’s path at the gates of the Aegean Palace, the wedding hall her parents had owned in Beauville, Westchester County, New York, for the past forty years. Behind him, well-dressed guests milled about in the courtyard while boys in miniature suits and girls in princess dresses chased each other in the soft light of dusk. The rich aroma of spit-roast lamb carried on the breeze, and the familiar sound of a jaunty bouzouki band played in the distance.

Yasmin finally let herself sigh in dizzy relief. She was home, and there was a time only a few weeks ago when she’d thought she might never see this place, or her parents, again.

Pulling her gaze from the wedding scene, she peered closer at the guard. “Stratis, is that you?” She dropped her backpack and threw her arms around her father’s young godson. “You’ve gotten so big!” She laughed. “And when did you start working here? Last time I saw you was in the Greek school Christmas pageant playing a palm tree!”

Stratis stood stiff beneath her hug and when she leaned back, his eyes widened. “No, I don’t believe it! Yas? Oh my God. I didn’t recognize you with your…your
hair
and…the nose stud. And when did you stop wearing glasses?”

Yasmin touched the purple streaks in her glossy black hair. Not purple exactly, more a rich, deep lilac, almost the exact shade of the amethyst deceiver, the little mushroom she was so fond of, and the irony made her smile. There’d be no more amethyst deceiver in her near future, and the thought of that, and her whole new look, caused her heart to do a half pike, double backflip.

The hair and the nose stud were the first two items on her bouquet list, the list of things she wanted to do in her life after surviving dengue fever, and she couldn’t wait to get started on the rest. Putting her PhD on hold was third and learning a new language was at four. Seducing a tall, dark man out of her league was five—some things on her list scared her more than others, but she’d have attempted none of them in her quiet and conservative old life BD—before dengue.

Now everything was different.

“I’ve been doing research work in Borneo for a little bit, but I’m back earlier than I’d planned so I thought I’d surprise Mom and Dad. Are they around?”

Stratis shook his head. “Your mom’s not here, and the last time I saw Mano he was in the restaurant threatening to fire one of the new waiters for wearing his pants too low. Want me to take your bag upstairs while you go find him?”

“Upstairs?”

He nodded toward the nearest building. “Your mom and dad moved into the old apartment a while back so they could rent their house as part of the wedding package. You didn’t know?”

Her chest hollowed. She’d been in Borneo for eighteen months, but her parents hadn’t mentioned anything about moving to the apartment. Things had been tough at the Palace for a while now, which was part of the reason she hadn’t told them she’d been so sick, but she hadn’t realized things had gotten this bad.

“No, I didn’t know they’d moved. Thanks for taking my bag, Stratis. I’ll go look for Dad and catch you later.”

Stratis picked up her backpack and headed up the stairs to the apartment that overlooked the entranceway while she walked through the courtyard. Everything was as she remembered. Statues of Greek gods were dotted around the perimeter while a pink fountain in the middle changed its colored light to synchronize with the movement of the water. If she hadn’t just traveled in a cab from LaGuardia Airport, she could be fooled into thinking she was in Greece. Well, maybe Greece in the 1980s. The decor had never quite kept in step with the decades, but there was more to it this time. Some of the bright turquoise and yellow pots that held tumbling geraniums and basil in every available space were cracked, and the whitewashed wall covered in brilliant purple bougainvillea was peeling. Whether the decor hadn’t been modernized because there wasn’t enough money, or the other way around, the Aegean Palace wasn’t what it used to be. This sight, combined with the news that her parents had moved into the apartment, made Yasmin even more anxious to find her father.

If she weren’t in such a hurry, she’d have gone to say hello to Monty, the parrot who was just as much of an institution as the Dionysus mosaic on the ground and the plastic grapevines adorning the front of the restaurant. There would be time to chat to Monty later, but right now she couldn’t wait to see her dad.

As soon as she entered the restaurant in its conglomeration of gold and black decor, she spotted him. He was standing with his back to her, arms flailing wildly as he harangued a waiter in Greek. The emotion she’d kept bottled inside the last few weeks overpowered her, and she rushed up behind and threw her arms around him. “
Baba
!”


Panagia
!” he called out and spun around. Then, just like Stratis, he froze. “Yasmin!
Kori
, is that you?”

Instead of squeezing her close in one of his bear hugs that she’d missed so much, he took a step back and his horrified gaze swept from the top of her head, to the diamond glinting in her nose, and down to the Doc Martens boots she wore on her feet. And then to her dismay, his eyes filled with tears.

“It’s okay, Dad,” she said in a rush. “I should’ve told you. Something happened in Borneo and I wanted a fresh…”

He cut her off before she could deliver the speech she’d prepared on the plane about how the fever had affected her, how the list she’d written was changing her already. She should have known that seeing her like this would be a shock.

“It’s your mother,” her father choked.

“Mom? What’s happened? Where is she? Is she okay?”

Her father’s enormous chest rose, then fell, beneath his tight black waistcoat. “She has gone to Greece.” He vigorously crossed himself. “And thanks be to
Panagia
that you have come to help me bring her back,” he said, swiping at his eyes. He dropped his voice as if he was suddenly conscious of his outburst. “Come to the back office and I will explain everything.”

While the wedding crowd began to move inside for what was probably the arrival of the bride and groom, Yasmin followed her father across the courtyard and into one of the offices. Her mother was in Greece without him? That had never happened before. A relative must have fallen ill. Perhaps her mother’s sister Maria. Her parents had run this place for forty years, but she couldn’t imagine her father coping on his own. Especially when times were so tough.

When they were seated in the office, Mano cleared his throat and stroked his salt-and-pepper mustache. “Your mother doesn’t believe in the Aegean Palace anymore.”

Yasmin, blinked, trying to make sense of what he’d just said. “What do you mean? Mom loves this place.”

“Things have been very tough. Those O’Malleys.
Pah! Pah!
” He paused and pretended to spit twice over his shoulder. “Those criminals steal so much of our business and I promise your mother that I will turn things around. She shouts at me and tells me this is another one of my schemes with the hairy brain and that she will not return until either this place is sold or the pigs have flown and it starts to make money again. And then she just orders a cab and leaves. She does not understand that I borrowed the money for the renovations so the Palace can finally be successful.”

Yasmin drew a breath and reached for her father’s hand. “Have you told Nick and Ari?”

Mano’s face paled further. “Your brothers know your mother has gone to Greece, but they don’t know the whole story and they mustn’t. I will not have their careers spoiled because your mother has her crazy thoughts. I will go to Lesbos tomorrow to bring her back and then it will all be forgotten.”

“You’re leaving tomorrow? Who’ll run things?”

“I’ve explained everything to Grace and she has it all in hand. And Lane is doing the renovation, of course.”

“Lane Griffiths?” She knew of Grace, the wedding planner for the Palace, but she hadn’t seen Nick’s best friend for years. “What renovation?”

“Yes. He is a good boy and he is very successful with so many restaurants. I’ve asked him to help redesign the restaurant and the menu so people start booking with us instead of those dirty O’Malleys.”


Kyrie
Katsalos.” A young waiter had poked his head around the door and the look on his face suggested he was afraid it might be chopped off. “That new boy has dropped the wedding cake on the floor and the mother of the bride has fainted.”


Panagia mou
!” Mano shouted and lifted both arms to the heavens. “What have I done to deserve this madness?”

The waiter was gone in an instant and when Mano dropped his hands he picked up a pair of glasses, held them up to his face, and squinted at Yasmin. “You can’t be working here with that hair and that thing in your nose. We have standards to maintain. Grace is good with the Greek mothers but they will be nervous that your mother isn’t here, so you will need to soothe them. And not look like a
karagiozis
from the carnival.”


Baba
, I need to tell you something.” He wouldn’t understand any of the things on her list, but she at least needed to tell him she’d been sick.

He dropped the glasses and rummaged through the pile of papers on the desk. “Not now,
koukla
. You can tell me everything when I bring your mother home by the end of the week. Where is that damned to God airplane ticket? I’m getting an early cab in the morning. Do whatever Lane asks and let me know if there are any problems. I will give you his number so you can meet and he can explain what he has planned.” He stood up. “Now I must go and clean Mrs. Konstantinopolous and that wedding cake off the floor.” He walked around the desk and kissed her on both cheeks. “You are a good girl, and I know you’ll make me proud,” he said on his way out the door.

He hadn’t even asked why she was back. Or how long she was staying. How could she fulfill her list when he expected her to fit right back into the role of a good daughter? And if she had to stay and supervise things while her father was away, she would certainly not “do whatever Lane asks.” She’d been telling her parents for years the Palace needed to be dragged kicking and screaming into this century. She had her own ideas how to go about it.


At eleven o’clock the next morning, Yasmin stood in the doorway of an old English tea shop and inhaled the scent of fresh-baked goodies. What did Lane look like now? She’d phoned him and left a message to meet her here to discuss what they were going to do. He’d always been an earnest guy, focused and serious like Nick, always aloof and a bit superior—the sort of kid you’d expect to see carrying a briefcase to his own wedding. But there was something completely mesmerizing about him as well—his piercing eyes, his knowing smile; just a glance her way when she was a girl and she’d been a puddle of teenage crush.

As her eyes became accustomed to the low light in the tearoom, she stopped still. Was that him? A dark-haired guy in a charcoal suit sat at a booth in the back, but he hadn’t noticed her. He was too busy looking at a laptop screen, his brow creased and his fist slowly tapping his chin.

He had a strong profile, a jaw that curved in a tight arc, and skin the burnished tan of honey. His dark brown hair reminded her so strongly of someone that she had a sudden sense of déjà vu, but couldn’t quite pin down who it was.

When she took a step into the room, he looked up, and in that instant her heart skipped a beat. Her pulse quickened, her palms became clammy, and she had to remind herself to put one foot in front of the other. The past came tumbling back, and for a moment it felt as though she were transported back in time, unable to speak when he was near. Back then he’d hardly acknowledged she existed, and now he was looking directly at her.

He stood at the booth, his head nearly touching the light hanging above him before he stepped forward. “Yasmin,” he said. “It’s been a long time.” Goose bumps flew across her arms and raced up the back of her neck. His voice was low and slow, the hypnotizing tone of a late-night radio host talking only to her while she was lying alone in her bed…

Stop it!

“Thanks so much for meeting me here,” she said, trying to appear cool and collected. Moving closer, her gaze rested on his, and she held out her hand at the same time that he dipped his face to kiss her cheek. In a clash of fine suit cloth and fingers, her hand collided with his stomach as his lips touched her ear when she twisted her face in surprise. A blush started to burn its way across her cheeks, but without looking at him or acknowledging the blunder, she slid into the booth opposite, the brand of his lips still warm on her skin. “Thanks for meeting me here,” she said as her eyes finally landed back on his face, before she realized she was repeating herself. “There’s a wedding on at the Palace today and I didn’t want to get under everyone’s feet. It was all a bit of a surprise when Dad told me about leaving for Greece last night.”

He sat too and regarded her with his head tilted slightly to the side.
Those piercing blue eyes.
“I never would’ve recognized you.”

She let out a nervous laugh that sounded all schoolgirl breathless, and was glad to find the waiter ready to take their order.

His brow creased and he looked at her more intently. “Are you okay? You’ve gone all red.”

She loosened the neckline of her new Chinese collar dress and cleared her throat. She picked up the menu and flicked through it, glad of an excuse to look away. “Fine…I’m fine, thanks. A pot of tea, please,” she said to the waiter who’d appeared beside her. “And is that scones I can smell?”

“Sure is. Right out of the oven. Would you like one with jam and cream?”

Her stomach gurgled in anticipation. “Yes, please.”

“Black coffee for me, thanks,” Lane said and pushed his computer aside. “Interesting place.” He looked around as the waiter left.

Yasmin clasped her hands on the table. “Since the coffee in Borneo wasn’t the best, I got used to drinking tea. Isn’t this place cute? My uncle Leo, our cook, told me about it.”

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