Gift-Wrapped in Her Wedding Dress(6)

By: Kandy Shepherd


 She leaned forward towards him. This close he could appreciate how lovely her eyes were. He didn’t think he had ever before met anyone with genuine green eyes. ‘We’ve leased premises in the industrial area of Alexandria and we’re firing. But I have to be honest with you—we haven’t done anything with potentially such a profile as your party. We want it. We need it. And because we want it to so much we’ll pull out every stop to make it a success.’

 Party Planner Number Four clocked up more credit for her honesty. He tapped the card on the edge of his hand. ‘You’ve got the enthusiasm; do you have the expertise? Can you assure me you can do my job and do it superlatively well?’

 Those remarkable green eyes were unblinking. ‘Yes. Absolutely. Undoubtedly. There might only be three of us, but between us we have a zillion contacts in Sydney—chefs, decorators, florists, musicians, waiting staff. If we can’t do it ourselves we can pull in the right people who can. And none of us is afraid of the hard work a party this size would entail. We would welcome the challenge.’

 He realised she was now sitting on the edge of the sofa, her hands clasped together and her foot crossed over her ankle was jiggling. She really did want this job—wanted it badly.

 Dominic hadn’t got where he was without a fine-tuned instinct for people. Instincts honed first on the streets where trusting the wrong person could have been fatal and then in the cut-throat business of high-end real estate and property development. His antennae were telling him Andie Newman would be able to deliver—and that he would enjoy working with her.

 Trouble was, while he thought she might be the right person for the job, he found her very attractive and would like to ask her out. And he couldn’t do both. He never dated staff or suppliers. He’d made that mistake with his ex-wife—he would not make it again. Hire Andie Newman and he was more than halfway convinced he would get a good party planner. Not hire her and he could ask her on a date. But he needed this event to work—and for that the planning had to be in the best possible hands. He was torn.

 ‘I like your enthusiasm,’ he said. ‘But I’d be taking a risk by working with a company that is in many ways still...unproven.’

 Her voice rose marginally—she probably didn’t notice but to him it betrayed her anxiety to impress. ‘We have a file overflowing with references from happy clients. But before you come to any decisions let’s talk about what you’re expecting from us. The worst thing that can happen is for a client to get an unhappy surprise because we’ve got the brief wrong.’

 She pulled out a folder from her satchel. He liked that it echoed the design of her business card. That showed an attention to detail. The chaos of his early life had made him appreciate planning and order. He recognised his company logo on the printout page she took from the folder and quickly perused.

 ‘So tell me,’ she said, when she’d finished reading it. ‘I’m puzzled. Despite this briefing document stating the party is to be “A high-profile Christmas event to attract favourable publicity for Dominic Hunt” you still insist it’s not to reference Christmas in any way. Which is correct?’

 * * *

 Andie regretted the words almost as soon as they’d escaped from her mouth. She hadn’t meant to confront Dominic Hunt or put him on the spot. Certainly she hadn’t wanted to get him offside. But the briefing had been ambiguous and she felt she had to clarify it if she was to secure this job for Party Queens.

 She needed their business to succeed—never again did she want to be at the mercy of the whims of a corporate employer. To have a job one day and then suddenly not the next day was too traumatising after that huge personal change of direction she’d had forced upon her five years ago. But she could have put her question with more subtlety.

 He didn’t reply. The silence that hung between them became more uncomfortable by the second. His face tightened with an emotion she couldn’t read. Anger? Sorrow? Regret? Whatever it was, the effect was so powerful she had to force herself not to reach over and put her hand on his arm to comfort him, maybe even hug him. And that would be a mistake. Even more of a mistake than her ill-advised question had been.

 She cringed that she had somehow prompted the unleashing of thoughts that were so obviously painful for him. Then braced herself to be booted out on to the same scrapheap as the three party planners who had preceded her.

 Finally he spoke, as if the words were being dragged out of him. ‘The brief was incorrect. Christmas has some...difficult memories attached to it for me. I don’t celebrate the season. Please just leave it at that.’ For a long moment his gaze held hers and she saw the anguish recede.

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