Page 17

A White Wedding Christmas Andrea Laurence 2022/8/3 13:46:16

“So Tuesday night, I was meeting a friend for dinner on this side of town and I happened to pass by the chapel around nine that night. I noticed your car was still in the parking lot.”

Natalie tried not to frown at her coworker. “You know I work late sometimes.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought at first, too, but none of the lights were on. Then I noticed on your Outlook calendar that you had a late appointment to discuss the Russell-Watson wedding.” A smug grin crossed Gretchen’s face.

Natalie rolled her eyes. “It was nothing, so don’t turn it into something. We finalized the plans for the wedding, that’s all. Then he asked me for help with his wedding present for Lily. He’s giving her a house.”

“A house? Lord,” Gretchen declared with wide eyes. “I mean, I know I’m engaged to a movie star and all, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around how rich people think.”

“It’s actually the home they grew up in. He asked me to help him fix it up for them.”

Gretchen nodded thoughtfully. “Did you help him rearrange some of the bedroom furniture?”

“Ugh, no.” Natalie searched around her desk for something to throw, but all she had was a crystal paperweight shaped like a heart. She didn’t want to knock Gretchen unconscious, despite how gratifying it might feel in the moment. “We just walked around and talked about what I’d keep or donate. Nothing scandalous. I’m sorry to disappoint you.”

“Well, boo. I was hopeful that this guy would make it up to you for his cruel rebuffing at the engagement party.”

“He didn’t make it up to me, but he did explain why he’d turned me down. Apparently he had a date that night.”

“And now they’ve broken up. But that doesn’t change anything. We’re just going to be friends. It’s better this way. Things would’ve just been more...complicated if something had happened.”

Gretchen narrowed her gaze at her. “And you helping him with the house now that he’s single won’t be complicated?”

Natalie swung her ponytail over her shoulder and avoided her coworker’s gaze by glancing at her computer screen. There were no critical emails to distract her from the conversation.

“No, it won’t,” she said at last. “It’s going to be fine. We’ve been family friends for years and that isn’t going to change. I’m going to handle the wedding and help him with the house and everything will be fine. Great, really. I think it’s just the distraction I need to get through the holidays this year.”

Gretchen nodded as she talked, but Natalie could tell she wasn’t convinced. Frankly, neither was Natalie. Even as she said the words, she was speaking to herself as much as to her friend. She certainly wasn’t going to tell her that she was fighting her attraction to Colin like a fireman with a five-alarm inferno. Or that she’d gotten herself roped into a bet that could cost her not only a kiss, but a solid dose of the holidays she had just said she was avoiding.

“Okay, well, whatever helps you get through the holidays, hon.”

“Uh-oh. Speak of the devil,” Gretchen said, peeking out Natalie’s window.

“He’s here?” Natalie said, perking up in her seat, eyes wide with panic. “He’s early.” She was automatically opening her desk drawer and reaching for her compact when she heard Gretchen’s low, evil laugh.

“No, he’s not. I lied. I just wanted to see how you’d react. I was right. You’re so full of it, your eyeballs should be floating.”

Natalie sat back in her chair, the panic quickly replaced by irritation. Her gaze fell on the drawer to the soft foam rose stress ball that the florist had given them. She picked it up and hurled it at Gretchen, who ducked just in time.

“Get out of my office!” she shouted, but Gretchen was already gone. Natalie could hear her cackling down the hallway. Thank goodness there weren’t any customers in the facility this morning.

There would be several clients here after lunchtime, though. Amelia had three cake tastings on the schedule today, including with Colin.

Hopefully that would go better than just now. Gretchen had already called her on the ridiculous infatuation that had reignited. Amelia would likely be more tactful. She hoped. Natalie didn’t think she’d been that obvious. In the end, nothing had happened. They’d finalized plans, she’d helped him with the house and they’d had pizza. They hadn’t kissed. She had certainly wanted to.