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Too bad Max seems to think she's a miracle worker. He's convinced she can create a high-profile wedding in a few weeks?when she's on vacation, no less. Flattering, but so not going to happen?until he volunteers to help. All these hours working together make Lily admire the ...
Too bad Max seems to think she's a miracle worker. He's convinced she can create a high-profile wedding in a few weeks—when she's on vacation, no less. Flattering, but so not going to happen until he volunteers to help. All these hours working together make Lily admire the adult version of Max—his charm, his skills as a parent, his good looks. And the way he watches her It's enough to make her believe she chose the right groom after all!
Wedding Angel or Antibride?
After a string of matrimonial messes, wedding watchers around the globe are wondering if the Wedding Angel—founder and CEO of a widely celebrated destination-wedding agency that shall remain nameless—has reached the end of her luck.
Consider how her engagement ended when the paparazzi caught her fiance—an international bridal-show producer, also nameless—in flagrante delicto with a Brazilian runway model.
Now consider this weekend's fiasco of A-list actress Emmelina Belle's Polynesian nuptials. Celebrity and wedding bloggers alike have been reporting that this much-maligned diva was seeking public redemption with her wedding to Drew Hatcher, the leading man she hooked up with last year on the set.
Stealing Axis's Sexiest Man of 2010 from his television-actress wife devastated Emmelina's career, but maybe she should have reconsidered her choice of event planner. Or maybe the Wedding Angel should have washed her hands of this messy client after her own run-in with infidelity. While it's true the event was already in the planning stages when the Wedding Angel's engagement went bust, a woman touted as the Martha Stewart of matrimony should have recognized Emmelina's bid for favorable press. (What some folks won't do for attention!)
The ceremony took place during the magical moments before sunset. The media swarmed the island in helicopters, in Jeeps and on foot, scouring every corner for celebrity sightings, given carte blanche by Emmelina to publicize to the ends of the earth—or the farthest reaches of satellite coverage.
While no one could expect the Wedding Angel to control the weather Mara'amu shouldn't have been a surprise.
This easterly trade wind is known to gust through the islands in winter, so one would expect contingencies to be in place for an outdoor wedding. But when Mara'amu swept across the beach during the fire dancers' tribal performance, the wind sent flames toward the highly flammable bamboo tents. The ensuing conflagration sent panicked guests fleeing in every direction. Emmelina wound up treading water. (Score one for karma! Drew's ex-wife is probably still laughing.)
As firefighters and local emergency personnel contained the flames, Emmelina emerged from the surf, steaming from both ears while the paparazzi documented everything—including the groom's reaction. He took one look at his ranting almost-wife (check out the photos at CeleBrats for the best shots—you can see when he makes up his mind to escape) and seized his chance for freedom, leaving Emmelina dripping wet at the fiery altar.
The paparazzi caught Drew at the airport an hour later, threatening an airline clerk to find him a seat on the first plane off the island and said clerk politely suggesting Drew swim to the mainland.
So, thanks to the fiance fiasco and Emmelina Belle, bridal bombs dominate the tabloids and internet, leaving wedding watchers all over the globe wondering: Wedding Angel or Antibride? Cast your vote!
All About Angel blog: the latest buzz for brides!
"Are you the Wedding Angel or the Antibride?"
That one question stood out over all the voices rushing Lily Angelica as she disembarked the private jet. She hadn't expected to find the press awaiting her on the tarmac, and even if she had, she definitely hadn't expected that question.
Coming to a halt, she set down her purse and laptop case, buying herself time for a deep breath. She would use the exit stairs as a makeshift podium since she was obviously conducting a press conference. Exactly what she hadn't wanted. Not with her nerves shot and the dark circles under her eyes.
Reflex had her fixing a smile on her face. She straightened and scanned the crowd.
"Lily, any comment on Emmelina's wedding?"
"Will you confirm the rumor Worldwide Weddings unlimited contracted the former president's daughter?"
"Are you in town to hide from what's being written on the All About Angel blog?"
Mention of the All About Angel blog had Lily searching their faces to see who was rude enough to bring up such nonsense. A tabloid reporter, no doubt.
When more press rushed across the tarmac—including a cameraman—she didn't get a chance to identify any one individual.
Who had leaked her arrival? She hadn't realized the area had so many media outlets. This was Pleasant Valley, for goodness' sake. When she'd grown up here, the place had been nothing but villages orbiting towns defined by how long a drive it was to civilization.
Five minutes into the Valley.
Fifteen minutes into Poughkeepsie.
A half hour to the mall.
Two hours to the city—Manhattan and definite civilization.
"No comment on Emmelina's wedding." She projected her voice and the reporters quieted. "And, yes, I'm pleased to announce that Worldwide Weddings Unlimited is contracted for Kate Cochran's event. That's breaking news since we went to contract right before I left the Manhattan office an hour ago. And do you really think I'd hide from an anonymous blogger who can't be troubled to sign his or her name to erroneous posts?"
Posts that appeared to have no purpose other than casting doubt on Lily's reputation? She hadn't expected legitimate media to give credence to such nonsense. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, my friends, but I've come to town for a family wedding."
"Haven't heard anything about a family wedding on the wire services. Are you attending or planning the event?"
She spotted the reporter who had asked the question. Poughkeepsie Journal. She'd answer. "Both actually. Can't have a wedding planner in the family without asking for input. Not if there's to be peace at the event, anyway."
Laughter erupted from the crowd and camera shutters clicked wildly.
"Will you comment on the All About Angel blog, Lily Susan?"
The only people on the planet who used her first and middle names together were family, so her gaze automatically zeroed in Her breath caught as she saw the familiar man standing half a head above the crowd. Not family. And how had she missed him? Despite the two dozen people huddled around him, suddenly, he was all she could see.
The same glossy dark hair. The same chiseled face. The same fast smile.
Had the inquiry come from anyone else, Lily would have offered a quip these reporters could milk in print for all they were worth. But Max owned the Mid-Hudson Herald, a legitimate media corporation, even if his questions hadn't sounded like it—not when he was asking about the All About Angel blog.
From him the question took her so off guard she could barely think let alone quip, with her heart pounding too hard. Their gazes met across the distance
All these years and his piercing green eyes still tied her tongue in a knot.
But Lily wasn't the same young girl who had nursed a crush on her big brother's best friend. Max's flashing dimples and deep voice could no longer take possession of her reactions and make her blush like a teenager.
Especially when he asked such idiotic questions.
"Last I heard you owned the Herald, Mr. Downey. Don't you have professionals on staff who know the difference between relevant and irrelevant questions?"
More laughter. More clicking cameras. The video was rolling, too.
Max cocked his head to the side and glanced at her with an expression that was amusement and arrogance rolled into one. "Yes to both questions."
"Both?" She arched a quizzical eyebrow.
"Yes, I have professionals on staff and, yes, I have a relevant question." Wealth and privilege radiated from him, in his matter-of-fact tone and his confident manner. There was no mistaking that he was a man used to getting what he wanted.
Lily knew it was coming before he even opened his mouth. It shouldn't have taken her so long to make the connection because this man shouldn't still have the ability to rob her of her faculties. She wasn't thirteen anymore. Suddenly she remembered the inquiry that had arrived by fax to her office yesterday.
"Lily Susan, will you confirm that Worldwide Weddings Unlimited intends to contract Lieutenant Colonel Girard's wedding before he begins his campaign for governor?"
From Lily's vantage she saw every head swivel toward Max. There were gasps and lots of scrambling for handheld recorders to capture the breaking political news.
Lily wondered if there were laws against airing a live murder because she intended to kill Max as soon as she could get her hands on him. The only thing saving him was the press leaping all over his political announcement.
"Downey, what do you know about the candidate?"
"What's the candidate's political affiliation?"
"What makes the candidate think he stands a chance in the gubernatorial election against the incumbent?"
The balance shifted and this became Max's press conference. Not as impromptu as hers, because the man clearly had an agenda, but Lily was impressed as much by the reporters' ability to switch gears as she was by Max's self-possession.
"Lieutenant Colonel Raymond Girard is my late wife's brother," Max explained. "His second tour in Afghanistan ends next May, and he'll be retiring from military service. After he comes home, he hopes to continue serving his country as governor of this fine State of New York."
"Who's the candidate marrying?"
"Second Lieutenant Jamilyn Carmichael. She's serving in Iraq. Hence, the need for the Wedding Angel to plan the ceremony. They have leave around the holidays and want an event at my family estate that will launch him into the public."
The family estate. Overlook.
Just the thought tugged at Lily's heartstrings. Every wedding she'd ever fantasized about as a girl had been set on the gorgeous grounds of the estate overlooking the Hudson River.
"Are you using your business connection to the Wedding Angel to get her to coordinate the wedding?"
Abusing that connection, more accurately.
But this reporter knew local history, at least, when it was obvious many didn't. Heads swiveled around to Lily as if this was the first they'd heard about a Worldwide-Weddings-Unlimited and Downey-family connection, both personal and professional.
Lily wrested control of the conversation again.
"I expect the bride and groom will want peace at their event since they've both been living on the front lines."
"The Wedding Angel can provide peace. She's the best in the business," Max said softly, but his voice carried. She detected a hint of a challenge in his demeanor.
"I thank you all for your interest, but a response would be premature. I simply don't have any answers except to say Mr. Downey's inquiry will follow standard Worldwide Wedding Unlimited precontract procedure."
She flashed a professional smile. "But I can promise you after his inquiry undergoes the review process your media outlets will be given an exclusive. Please fax or email the manager at my local office and mention this press conference. She'll make sure you know as soon as a decision about the Carmichael-Girard event is finalized."
That got a round of applause, but Lily knew there wouldn't be any news because she had veto power. And this event was vetoed already.
She couldn't handle another rush-job right now. Not so soon after planning her own hurried wedding, an event she'd whipped together during a whirlwind engagement that had gone belly-up in a public way. She'd salvaged what she could from the wreckage, but Lily didn't doubt these reporters knew all the gory details.
She'd turned the wedding of her dreams into a full-scale charity event, because she'd refused to waste a perfectly amazing party. Since the venue had been a palace on the Dalmatian Coast—a favorite getaway for her and Lucas—the organization she chose as recipient supported war orphans in the former Yugoslavia. Fortunately, the response had been impressive.
At least she'd been able to feel good about that.
But the emotional upheaval had taken its toll, and she'd come home because she needed to regroup and reenergize her depleted batteries and heal before she burned out her creativity completely. Max had no business putting her on the spot—and on the record—this way. If he thought this public announcement would persuade her.
She was here to plan her sister-in-law Riley's wed-ding—a tiny affair Lily could plan in her sleep.
"Thank you for the welcome reception," Lily addressed the crowd. "I hope I've answered your questions." Too bad she couldn't answer her own. Like why she'd allowed her life to spin out of control and would she ever regain her equilibrium?
She might have the skills to fake the professional image, but inside her nerves were rattled. Why was Max trying to add more chaos to her life?
Retrieving her belongings, she turned to thank the pilot who appeared behind her then headed down the steps.
The crowd parted as she made her way toward the terminal of the private airstrip. She didn't slow down until she was inside, away from the reporters who were trailing her. Her baggage already waited on a trolley. Glancing around for assistance, she guessed her dad must be outside to pick her up since he wasn't in here.
Max entered. Tall and attractive with his glossy hair and light eyes, he looked the way he always had with those broad shoulders and long-legged strides. But what had happened to his good sense? Putting her on the spot that way. Honestly.
Even when he'd been in college, he'd kept his cool after he caught her drinking apple-blossom wine with her teenage friends in the Main Mall parking garage. He'd promised not to tell—this time. But he'd threatened to tell her parents if he ever caught her drinking again. Then he'd insisted on driving her home.
And kept his word.
He headed toward a bench, where he scooped up a trench coat. After sliding on the coat, he turned that striking gaze on her. Her heartbeat rocketed.
"Why are you here?" she asked. "Did you think that public announcement would get you what you want?"
He closed the distance between them, making her suddenly so aware of how she had to tilt her head back to meet his gaze.
Posted March 24, 2014
Posted December 4, 2011
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