“It’s beautiful,” he said. “It’s very elegant and you look amazing in it. But I have to say that it’s not right for Lily at all.”
Natalie sighed and looked down. He was right. “Ruby, do we have one that’s a little more whimsical and fun?”
Ruby nodded and helped her down. “I have a few that might work. How fun are we talking?” she asked as they stepped back into the dressing room. “Crazy tulle skirt? Blush-or pink-colored gowns?”
“If she was here, probably all that and more. But she should’ve shown up herself if she had that strong of an opinion. Let’s go for something a little more whimsical, but still classically bridal.”
The minute Ruby held up the gown, Natalie knew this dress was the one. It was like something out of a winter fantasy—the gown of the snow queen. It was a fitted, mermaid style with a sweetheart neckline and sheer, full-length sleeves. All across the gown and along the sleeves were delicate white-and-silver-stitched floral designs that looked almost like glittering snowflakes dancing across her skin.
She held her breath as she slipped into the gown and got laced up. Ruby fastened a few buttons at her shoulders and then it was done. It was the most beautiful dress she’d ever seen, and she’d seen hundreds of brides come through the chapel over the years.
“This gown has a matching veil with the same lace trim along the edges. Do you want to go out there with it on?”
“Yes,” she said immediately. Natalie wanted to see the dress with the veil. She knew it would make all the difference.
Ruby swiftly pinned her hair up and set the veil’s comb in. The veil flowed all the way to floor, longer than even the gown’s chapel-length train.
It was perfect. Everything she’d ever wanted.
Natalie swallowed hard. Everything she’d ever wanted for Lily, she corrected herself. Planning a wedding in the bride’s place was messing with her head.
She headed back out to the salon. This time, she avoided Colin’s gaze, focusing on lifting the hem of the skirt to step up on the pedestal. She glanced at herself for only a moment in the three-sided mirror, but even that was enough for the prickle of tears to form in her eyes.
Quickly, she jerked away, turning to face Colin. She covered her tears by fidgeting with her gown and veil.
“What do you think of this one?” Ruby asked.
The long silence forced Natalie to finally meet Colin’s gaze. Did he hate it?
Immediately, she knew that was not the case. He was just stunned speechless.
“Wow,” he finally managed. He stood up from the velour settee and walked closer.
Natalie felt her chest grow tighter with every step. He wasn’t looking at the gown. Not really. He was looking at her. The intensity of his gaze made her insides turn molten. Her knees started trembling and she was thankful for the full skirt that covered them.
Just when she thought she couldn’t bear his gaze any longer, his eyes dropped down to look over the details of the dress. “This is the one. No question.”
Natalie took a breath and looked down to examine the dress. “Do you think Lily will like it?”
Colin hesitated a moment, swallowing hard before he spoke. “I do. It will look beautiful on her. I don’t think we could find a dress better suited to the theme you’ve put together.” He took a step back and nodded again from a distance. “Let’s get this one.”
“Wonderful!” Ruby exclaimed. “This one really is lovely.”
The older woman went to the counter to write up the slip, completely oblivious to the energy in the room that hummed between Natalie and Colin. Natalie wasn’t quite sure how she didn’t notice it. It made it hard for Natalie to breathe. It made the dress feel hot and itchy against her skin even though it was the softest, most delicate fabric ever made.
Colin slipped back down onto the couch with a deep sigh. When he looked up at her again, Natalie knew she wasn’t mistaken about any of this. He wanted her. And she wanted him. It was a bad idea, they both knew it, but they couldn’t fight it much longer.
She also wanted out of this dress. Right now. Playing bride was a confusing and scary experience. Before Colin or Ruby could say another word, she pulled the veil from her head, leaped down from the pedestal and disappeared behind the curtains into the dressing room as fast as she could.
“I’d like to take you to dinner,” Colin said as they walked out of the shop with the gown bagged over his arm. “I’m serious this time. You really bailed me out on this whole dress thing.”