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Dishes clattered and waitresses bustled back and forth, catering to the noon crowd that filled Rosy's Diner. Normally, Cammie Yarnell would've felt a tad smug that she'd snagged a booth. Today there were more important things on her mind. As she finished the last of her cranberry chicken salad, she shook her head at her lunch date. "I can't believe the girl I used to babysit is getting married."
"Believe it." Kelly Atwood beamed, the freckles on her cheeks seeming to dance. "I'm twenty-fourno girl anymore. Rick and I have been together since high school. It's about time we got married." She shrugged.
"At least that's what Daddy says."
"Ah," Cammie said.
Weston Atwood, the local big shot, owned and ran the Cranberry News Weekly, the Oregon town's only newspaper. He also owned the local radio station and a chunk of prime real estate along the water of their seaside resort town. And bought all of his insurance through the company Cammie's parents owned and operated. Keeping him happy was important, but Kelly's happiness also mattered. "Are you sure you want to get married?, Cammie probed, just to make certain Weston hadn't bullied his only child into something she wasn't ready for.
"Definitely." Kelly's shoulder-length brown hair swayed as she nodded. "I've dreamed of it since the first time Rick kissed me, back in eleventh grade."
Her eyes went all starry. Cammie suffered a wistful pang, which she quickly stifled. "Then I'm thrilled for you," she said, reaching across the table to squeeze Kelly's hand.
"That means a lot to me." Kelly smiled softly. "I owe you so much, Cammie. After Mom died, you were the only personI could talk to." Her eyes filled. "Sometimes you still are."
"I know, sweetie." Cammie's eyes filled, too, and she recalled ten-year-old Kelly falling apart in her then seventeen-year-old arms more than once. "I'm glad I was there for you."
After a moment of shared sniffles and watery smiles, Kelly swiped at her eyes and straightened. "Daddy, Rick and I want you to plan the wedding."
"I'd be insulted if you didn't." Cammie went into business mode, sliding her BlackBerry from her enormous leather bag, which doubled as purse and briefcase. "Have you set a date?"
A push of the keypad and the month of June the following year appeared on the display. "It's good that you're booking early. I have a bar mitzvah May thirtieth and a wedding July twenty-sixth, but the seventh is wide open. Which happens to be a Sunday." She frowned at Kelly. "Did you know that?"
The young bride-to-be fiddled nervously with her napkin. "June seventh this year falls on a Saturday."
This year? "But that's only six weeks from now!" Cammie clapped her hand over her suddenly panicky heart, then eyed her younger friend. "you're not pregnant, are you?"
Flushing, Kelly shook her head. "Goodness, no. But Rick starts med school in August, and we want to get married and settled in Portland before then. I know this is short notice, but can you fit us in?"
Cammie pulled up May and June of this year. The second week in May was the eighth-grade graduation dance, a town tradition and rite of passage for kids before they started high school. There was nothing else scheduled until a wedding on June thirtieth. She could easily work in one more wedding.
"I'll do it," she said, " but with the tight time frame I may not be able to add the usual special touches to make your wedding day extra wonderful." Which seemed a shame. Another thought struck her. "And unfortunately my parents will be out of town until June eleventh." They were about to leave for a month-long trip to Europe, in celebration of their thirty-fifth anniversary. "Their tickets are nonrefundable and nonex-changeable. They'll be sick about missing this."
Kelly's face fell, but she nodded. "I understand, and so will Daddy. I contacted Fran Bishop, and she said we could have the wedding at the Oceanside Bed and Breakfast."
"Really?, Oh, great. Cammie rubbed the space between her eyes, where the faint pain signaling an impending stress headache had started.
On cue, " nosy Rosy" bustled over with the coffeepot. "Refill, ladies?"
"Please," Cammie said. Though at this point she'd have preferred alcohol, she didn't drink in the afternoon.
"You okay?, the fiftysomething waitress/diner owner asked, scrutinizing her like a fish she might buy at the market.
"Actually, Kelly just shared some wonderful news." Arranging her expression into bland happiness, Cammie smiled fondly at her companion, who silently nodded her assent to share the information. "She and Rick are getting married."
Rosy lit up. "Congratulations, honey, and about time." Then she gave Cammie the same quick, veiled look she used every time Cammie planned somebody else's weddingfriendly concern with a hint of compassion. But Cammie was fine. And tired of the woman's misplaced pity. She really ought to find another place to eat and hold client meetings. Mentally she rolled her eyes. Physically she widened her grin, which seemed to mollify Rosy.
"You girls want dessert, to celebrate?, she asked as she deftly collected the dishes and juggled the coffeepot. "I have a beautiful cheesecake, or some freshly made coconut cream pie." She looked at Kelly. "On the house in honor of your engagement."
Cammie's mouth watered, but since turning thirty last year her metabolism had slowed. Now everything she ate went straight to her hips. Which was why she and her best friend, Jules, had signed up to play coed volleyball starting next week. She shook her head. "Coffee is fine."
"Me, too," Kelly said. "But thanks. And feel free to spread the word about me and Rick," she added.
As if she needed to.
After the busybody hurried off, Kelly frowned. "The Oceanside's okay with you, right? I know that's where you and Todd were supposed to get married. And you haven't done a wedding there since."
Chewing her lip and shredding her napkin, she looked worried half to death. Cammie hurried to reassure her.
"That was nearly a year ago. I'm over it now," she lied. Not a day went by that she didn't yearn for what might have been. The cottage near the ocean she and Todd had looked into buying, possibly a baby on the way."
She silently chastised herself. The pity-party was getting old, especially since she now realized she'd loved the idea of getting married more than she'd loved Todd. And as her parents reassured her time and again, eventually she'd find the right somebody. She was thirty-one years old, which by her estimation gave her a good nine years to have the three children she wanted. But unless she got past what might have been and moved on, falling in love never would happen.
What better way to start fresh than to plan a wedding at the scene of the crime? "The Oceanside is perfect," she enthused. With its open floor plan, large rooms and oceanfront location, it truly was.
"Good, because Daddy loves the idea. And since he's the man with the checkbook."
No need to finish that sentence. What Weston Atwood wanted, Weston Atwood got.
"you're sure June seventh is okay with Fran?, Cammie asked.
By then tourist season would be in full swing, and Fran's popular oceanfront bed-and-breakfast was sure to be packed. Without fail she cooked gourmet breakfasts and pampered her guests with wine and cheese socials every afternoon, keeping her busy and then some.
"She was thrilled at the idea," Kelly said. "Said her guests would love the idea of a wedding in the great room. Of course they'll be invited to the reception after the ceremony."
"In that case, we're on." Cammie extracted a yellow pad from her bag and laid it on the table. She reached into the inside pocket and retrieved her silver Waterman's pen, a gift of appreciation from the Pendel-tons, repeat clients, after their fiftieth anniversary party last year. "Now, let's talk about what you and Rick"
"Um, Cammie," Kelly interrupted, " there's something else you should know."
The anxious look on her face put Cammie on alert. "What's that?"
"you're not gonna like this." Kelly brought her cup to her lips then lowered it without sipping. After a few seconds of unbearable silence, she dropped her bomb.
"Daddy hired Curt Blanco to photograph everything."
Curt Blanco. The very name grated against Cammie's nerves, and under the table her foot tapped rapidly on the black-and-white linoleum. The despicable man, whom she once had considered a close friend and often had worked with, was responsible for introducing her to Todd. Curt had watched her fall in love, never once bothering to mention that Todd was a liar and a cheat. Instead she'd discovered the ugly fact herself, the morning after the bachelor party.
Some friend Curt Blanco had turned out to be. She narrowed her eyes. "I no longer work with that man."
"I know, and I tried to change Daddy's mind, but he says Curt's the best and he won't settle for anyone else. Besides, Daddy says you two were the best event planner-photographer team on the west coast and it's time you moved past your personal problems and worked together again."
"Well, your daddy is wrong."
Now Cammie relied on other photographers. She and Curt barely glanced at each other, barely spoke when they met. Which, given that the population of Cranberry was only 2,274, happened regularly.
Then came the final question. "Does this mean you won't plan my wedding?"
Kelly was like family. She looked up to Cammie, and Cammie knew she couldn't let her down.
Besides, she and Curt were both professionals able to separate business from their personal lives. As long as she remembered that, she could handle working with him again. Just this once.
"Of course, I'll do it," she assured Kelly. Squaring her shoulders, she uncapped the Waterman's and poised it over her notepad. "Let's get started."
STANDING IN THE SPACIOUS, glass-walled great room of the
Oceanside Bed and Breakfast, camera gear piled on the oversize armchair beside him, Curt Blanco shifted uncomfortably. Who wouldn't, when across the room Weston, Kelly and Rick sat hunched over the coffee table with CammieYarnell? They were hammering out wedding details and had been for a while now. Fran Bishop, who then disappeared into her basement apartment.
As gigs went, this one sucked big-time, and Curt wished he could disappear, too. But Weston Atwood signed his paycheck at the paper and recommended Curt to friends in need of a photographer, and Curt wasn't about to sabotage that relationship. Especially now, when his father's medical insurance had run out. Thanks to a nasty car accident, Curt and his brothers were strapped with bills for the old man's back and hip surgeries, plastic surgery and ongoing, extensive physical therapy.
No, he'd do the job and do it well. Which meant taking pictures from now through the wedding five weeks from now. Nothing digital. Weston wanted things done the old-fashioned wayfilm and the darkroom.
"Hey, Curt. You going to stand there all afternoon, or photograph us planning the big day?, Weston settled his portly frame in his easy chair. "I'm sick of grinning."
"Just waiting for you to relax," Curt said. "Forget I'm here and I'll take the candid photos you want."
Kelly nodded. Rick, whose family had hired Curt several times in the past, shrugged.
"you'll photograph me grinning or not at all," Weston ordered, slipping into his usual bulldog glare. He pointed a menacing finger at the camera and re-pasted the phony, jovial expression on his face.
Ignoring Curt, Cammie jotted something on her notepad. Except for the tightening of her lips, she might not have acknowledged him at all.
Nothing new there. Since she'd caught Todd in bed with two women and had called off her wedding, she'd avoided Curt as if he had a contagious disease.
Not that he gave a damn.
Right, and life is filled with happy endings.