Page 40

A White Wedding Christmas Andrea Laurence 2022/8/3 13:46:22

Gretchen just smiled and shrugged. “It’s okay. He’s almost done refilming some scenes the director wanted to change and then he’ll be home. We’ll have a great first Christmas together even though he missed this.”

“Your fiancé is in the movie business?” Colin asked.

Gretchen nodded. “Yes, he’s an actor. You’ve probably heard of him. Julian Cooper?”

Colin hesitated midbite. “Really?”

“I know, right?” Gretchen said. “Not who you’d expect me to be with.”

“That’s not what I meant,” he countered. “I’m sure he’s very lucky to have you. I’ve just never met anyone famous before. Feels odd to be one degree of separation from an action hero.”

Gretchen smiled, obviously bolstered by his compliment. “You’re also officially four degrees from Kevin Bacon.”

Colin laughed and lifted his drink to take another sip.

“Excuse me, did I hear Amelia say you own Russell Landscaping?” the man beside him asked.

Colin turned his attention to his right. “Yes.” He held out his hand to shake with the man, turning on his bright, businessman charm. “I’m Colin Russell.”

“I’m in the construction business with Bree’s father,” he explained. “I’d love to talk to you about landscaping at our latest project. We’re breaking ground on an apartment complex in the spring and looking for a company to handle that for us.”

On cue, Colin pulled out his wallet and handed the man his business card. He lost himself in work discussions, realizing after about ten minutes that both Natalie and Gretchen had disappeared.

“Give me a call and we’ll set something up,” Colin concluded. “I’m going to hunt down my date.”

Getting up, Colin carried his empty plate into the kitchen and got a fresh drink. Amelia was buzzing around with Bree helping her, but the others weren’t in there. He wandered back into the living room toward the entry hall. Maybe they’d gone to the restroom as a pair, the way women tended to do.

He’d almost reached the entry when he heard Gretchen’s voice. Still cloaked in the dark shadows of the room lit only with Christmas lights, he stopped and listened.

“All right, spill,” Gretchen said.

Colin heard a hushing sound and some footsteps across the tile floor of the hallway. “Are you crazy?” Natalie asked in a harsh whisper. “Someone is going to hear you. What if Colin heard you?”

“Come on, Natalie. He’s all tied up in talk about shrubs and mulch. It’s perfectly safe. Tell me the truth. Bree and I have twenty bucks wagered on your answer.”

“You’re betting on my love life?”

Colin chuckled at Natalie’s outrage. He liked her friends.

“Not exactly. We’re betting on your emotional depth. That’s probably worse. See, Bree thinks you’re a shallow pool and believes your big talk when you go on about love not being real and blah, blah.”

“And you?” Natalie asked.

“I think you’ve changed since you met Colin. You’ve bebopped around the office for the last week like you’re on cloud nine. You’ve been texting him all the time. You haven’t been as cranky. You were even humming a Christmas carol this morning.”

“So, I’m in a good mood.”

“Natalie, you even forgot about a bridal appointment on your calendar tomorrow morning. Your mind isn’t on your work, and I think it’s because you’ve realized you were wrong.”

Colin held his breath. He was curious to hear what Natalie was going to say but worried he was going to get caught listening in. He leaned against the wall, casually sipping his beer as though he were just waiting for Natalie’s return. Even then, he strained to catch the conversation over the holiday music.

“Wrong about love. You are in love with Colin. Admit it.”

Colin’s eyes widened. Would his skeptical Natalie really say such a thing? If she did, it could change everything.

“I am not,” she insisted, but her voice wasn’t very convincing.

Gretchen seemed to agree. “That’s a load of crap. I get that you haven’t been in love before, and until recently, neither had I. But when it hits you, you know it. And it’s not biology or hormones or anything else. It’s love. And you, sister, have fallen into it.”

“I don’t know, Gretchen. This is all new to me. I’m not sure I would call this love.”