Gift-Wrapped in Her Wedding Dress(4)

By: Kandy Shepherd

 He led her into a living room that ran across the entire front of the house and looked out to the blue waters of the harbour and its icons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Glass doors opened out to a large terrace. A perfect summer party terrace.

 Immediately she recognised the work of one of Sydney’s most fashionable high-end interior designers—a guy who only worked with budgets that started with six zeros after them. The room worked neutral tones and metallics in a nod to the art deco era of the original house. The result was masculine but very, very stylish.

 What an awesome space for a party. But she forced thoughts of the party out of her head. She had ten minutes to win this business. Ten minutes to convince Dominic Hunt she was the one he needed.

                       CHAPTER TWO

 DOMINIC SAT ANDIE NEWMAN down on the higher of the two sofas that faced each other over the marble coffee table—the sofa he usually chose to give himself the advantage. He had no need to impress her with his greater height and bulk—she was tall, but he was so much taller than her even as he sat on the lower seat. Besides, the way she positioned herself with shoulders back and spine straight made him think she wouldn’t let herself be intimidated by him or by anyone else. Think again. The way she crossed and uncrossed those long legs revealed she was more nervous than she cared to let on.

 He leaned back in his sofa, pulled out her business card from the inside breast pocket of his suit jacket and held it between finger and thumb. ‘Tell me about Party Queens. This seems like a very new, shiny card.’

 ‘Brand new. We’ve only been in business for three months.’


 ‘My two business partners, Eliza Dunne and Gemma Harper. We all worked on a magazine together before we started our own business.’

 He narrowed his eyes. ‘Now you’re “party queens”?’ He used his fingers to enclose the two words with quote marks. ‘I don’t see the connection.’

 ‘We always were party queens—even when we were working on the magazine.’ He quirked an eyebrow and she paused. He noticed she quirked an eyebrow too, in unconscious imitation of his action. ‘Not in that way.’ She tried to backtrack, then smiled. ‘Well, maybe somewhat in that way. Between us we’ve certainly done our share of partying. But then you have to actually enjoy a party to organise one; don’t you agree?’

 ‘It’s not something I’ve given thought to,’ he said. Business-wise, it could be a point either for her or against her.

 Parties had never been high on his agenda—even after his money had opened so many doors for him. Whether he’d been sleeping rough in an abandoned building project in the most dangerous part of Brisbane or hobnobbing with decision makers in Sydney, he’d felt he’d never quite fitted in. So he did the minimum socialising required for his business. ‘You were a journalist?’ he asked, more than a little intrigued by her.

 She shook her head. ‘My background is in interior design but when a glitch in the economy meant the company I worked for went bust, I ended up as an interiors editor on a lifestyle magazine. I put together shoots for interiors and products and I loved it. Eliza and Gemma worked on the same magazine, Gemma as the food editor and Eliza on the publishing side. Six months ago we were told out of the blue that the magazine was closing and we had all lost our jobs.’

 ‘That must have been a shock,’ he said.

 When he’d first started selling real estate at the age of eighteen he’d lived in terror he’d lose his job. Underlying all his success was always still that fear—which was why he was so driven to keep his business growing and thriving. Without money, without a home, he could slide back into being Nick Hunt of ‘no fixed abode’ rather than Dominic Hunt of Vaucluse, one of the most exclusive addresses in Australia.

 ‘It shouldn’t have come as a shock,’ she said. ‘Magazines close all the time in publishing—it’s an occupational hazard. But when it actually happened, when again one minute I had a job and the next I didn’t, it was...soul-destroying.’

 ‘I’m sorry,’ he said.

 She shrugged. ‘I soon picked myself up.’

 He narrowed his eyes. ‘It’s quite a jump from a magazine job to a party planning business.’ Her lack of relevant experience could mean Party Planner Number Four would go the way of the other three. He was surprised at how disappointed that made him feel.

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