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Daphne Lovell loathed working on New Year's Eve. Other days certainly vied for a spot near the top of her craptastic workday list. The day after a bout of food poisoning. Birthdays (which everyone ought to get off as a personal, government-sanctioned holiday). Any day when the coffee maker malfunctioned. As a wedding florist, she worked most holidays. Just gritted her teeth and focused on the hefty surcharge they levied on all Aisle Bound clients who scheduled events on holidays.
But New Year's Eve trumped them all. Most of the time she could handle standing on the edges of a wedding, watching everyone party like crazy around her. Party jealousy never bit her in the ass, because she rarely knew any of the wedding guests. Far better to collect her vases, head home and stretch out on the couch with a pint of chocolate peanut butter ice cream.
Except that the whole worldliterallypartied on New Year's Eve. Working this night felt like a punishment. Like Fate had grounded her for bad behavior. Daphne believed there was something magical about midnight on New Year's Eve. Her father always said you should start the year the way you meant to continue. So most people did it right. Eating fabulous party food, drinking like crazy, spending the entire night with their favorite people and then kissing a loved one at the stroke of midnight.
Tonight Daphne was managing two out of four and last time she checked, fifty percent wasn't considered a passing grade. She looked around the crowded ballroom of the Cavendish Grand hotel at the drinking, laughing, thoroughly happy people and bit her lip to keep it from unfurling into a full-on pout. The DJ pounded a fun dance beat that had half the guests on their feet, and the delicious scent of spicy food hung in the air.
Her best friend and business partner, Ivy Rhodes, swished up next to her in a silver taffeta dress with a cap-sleeved lace jacket. "I can't thank you enough for working this wedding with me."
Daphne shrugged, making the ruffles on her gauzy white shirt flutter. "It didn't feel right to ruin anyone else's New Year's Eve. We own Aisle Bound, so we should have to do the dirty work. And to be clear, this does qualify as dirty work. You owe me for this one. Big. You know how epically big the final battle scene was in Return of the King? Think twice as big."
"What if I promise you don't have to dance with my handsy cousin Lewis at my wedding?"
"Pleasethat's a given. You love me too much to subject me to him. I'm going to have to mull the possibilities for a while." Daphne drummed her fingers along her cheek. "There is a good chance it will involve you letting me choose all your songs the next time we do karaoke." Ooh, that was good. Ivy loved to watch karaoke. She hated to sing, and did a side-splittingly bad job when shoved in front of a mic. Just worrying about the possibility would keep Ivy on edge for weeks.
Ivy wrinkled her nose, then laughed. "I get it. Trust me, I knew before I begged you to help that there'd be a price to pay. But because this is a traditional Filipino wedding, there are just too many people for me to handle by myself."
No kidding. The elegant, gray, silk-covered walls of the ballroom were bursting at the seams with hundreds of guests. "I wanted to ask you about that. Why the heck are there forty-five people in the wedding party? That's bigger than the last three royal weddings put together. I just about crippled myself wiring the boutonnieres for this one." She flexed her hand, remembering the claw shape it had cramped into by day two of prep.