Vision in White (Nora Roberts' Bride Quartet Series #1)

Vision in White (Nora Roberts' Bride Quartet Series #1)

4.1 1003
by Nora Roberts
     
 

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View our feature on The Bride Quartet by Nora Roberts#1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts invites readers to the wedding event of the year!

#1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts presents her first trade original-a novel of love, friendship, and family-Book One in the Bride Quartet.

Wedding photographer Mackensie

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Overview

View our feature on The Bride Quartet by Nora Roberts#1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts invites readers to the wedding event of the year!

#1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts presents her first trade original-a novel of love, friendship, and family-Book One in the Bride Quartet.

Wedding photographer Mackensie "Mac" Elliot is most at home behind the camera, but her focus is shattered moments before an important wedding rehearsal when she bumps into the bride-to-be's brother...an encounter that has them both seeing stars.

A stable, safe English teacher, Carter Maguire is definitely not Mac's type. But a casual fling might be just what she needs to take her mind off bridezillas. Of course, casual flings can turn into something more when you least expect it. And Mac will have to turn to her three best friends-and business partners-to see her way to her own happy ending.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Roberts weaves a storylike no one else."
-Denver Rocky Mountain News

"Nora Roberts just keeps getting better and better."
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

" Extraordinarily imaginative, prolific, and popular."
- Booklist

"[A] consummate storyteller."
-Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly

The frighteningly prolific Roberts (see also Black Hills, reviewed on page 42) kicks off a frothy series about four friends who form an all-inclusive wedding service called Vows. Mackensie "Mac" Elliot loves capturing happy and playful moments with her camera, but her own life is all about work-until she meets English teacher Carter Maguire. He's escorting his bride-to-be sister to a meeting with the Vows team and recognizes Mac as the girl he crushed out on in high school. Funny sparks fly: he's a geeky guy who quotes Shakespeare, she's a trendy workaholic who loves shoes. He's crazy about her, which makes him verbally clumsy and, to Mac, charming, though she's saddled with a needy mother, an absent father and difficulties with both that make falling in love complicated. Roberts pulls off a nice switch in making the woman afraid of saying "I do," and her gentle humor and likable cast will immediately endear this series to readers. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Nora Roberts just keeps getting better and better.
Booklist
Extraordinarily imaginative, prolific, and popular.
Denver Rocky Mountain News
Roberts weaves a story like no one else.
Library Journal

Enthralled by weddings since childhood, best friends Mackensie, Parker, Emmaline, and Laurel get a chance to live out their dreams when Parker inherits her family's Connecticut estate and suggests they go into business as wedding planners, with each woman taking over a special aspect of the event. Passionate about collecting happy moments on film ever since she was given a camera for her eighth birthday, Mac is the photographer, happily staying in the background and focusing on her work. Marriage is not on her radar, but when brainy, surprisingly perceptive Carter Maguire accidentally barges into her life, she knows everything is about to change-if only she will let it. A conflicted heroine and a hero with hidden depths slowly work their way toward commitment (and marriage) in this tender, funny, spicy romance that is the first installment in the author's "The Bride Quartet" series. Roberts (The Pagan Stone) lives in Keedysville, MD.


—Kristin Ramsdell

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425227510
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/28/2009
Series:
Nora Roberts' Bride Quartet Series, #1
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
92,293
Product dimensions:
8.20(w) x 5.76(h) x 0.94(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE

By the time she was eight, Mackensie Elliot had beenmarried fourteen times. She’d married each of her three bestfriends—as both bride and groom—her best friend’s brother(under his protest), two dogs, three cats, and a rabbit.She’d served at countless other weddings as maid of honor,bridesmaid, groomsman, best man, and officiant.Though the dissolutions were invariably amicable, none ofthe marriages lasted beyond an afternoon. The transitory aspectof marriage came as no surprise to Mac, as her own parentsboasted two each—so far.

Wedding Day wasn’t her favorite game, but she kind of likedbeing the priest or the reverend or the justice of the peace. Or,after attending her father’s second wife’s nephew’s bar mitzvah,the rabbi.

Plus, she enjoyed the cupcakes or fancy cookies and fizzylemonade always served at the reception.

It was Parker’s favorite game, and Wedding Day always took place on the Brown Estate, with its expansive gardens, prettygroves, and silvery pond. In the cold Connecticut winters, theceremony might take place in front of one of the roaring firesinside the big house.

They had simple weddings and elaborate affairs. Royal weddings,star- crossed elopements, circus themes, and pirate ships.All ideas were seriously considered and voted upon, and notheme or costume too outrageous.

Still, with fourteen marriages under her belt, Mac grew a bitweary of Wedding Day.

Until she experienced her seminal moment.

For her eighth birthday Mackensie’s charming and mostlyabsent father sent her a Nikon camera. She’d never expressedany interest in photography, and initially pushed it away withthe other odd gifts he’d given or sent since the divorce. ButMac’s mother told her mother, and Grandma muttered and complainedabout “feckless, useless Geoffrey Elliot” and the inappropriategift of an adult camera for a young girl who’d be betteroff with a Barbie doll.

As she habitually disagreed with her grandmother on principle,Mac’s interest in the camera piqued. To annoy Grandma—who was visiting for the summer instead of being in herretirement community in Scottsdale, where Mac strongly believedshe belonged—Mac hauled the Nikon around with her.She toyed with it, experimented. She took pictures of her room,of her feet, of her friends. Shots that were blurry and dark, orfuzzy and washed out. With her lack of success, and her mother’simpending divorce from her stepfather, Mac’s interest in theNikon began to wane. Even years later she couldn’t say whatprompted her to bring it along to Parker’s that pretty summerafternoon for Wedding Day.

Every detail of the traditional garden wedding had beenplanned. Emmaline as the bride and Laurel as groom would exchangetheir vows beneath the rose arbor. Emma would wear the lace veil and train Parker’s mother had made out of an oldtablecloth, while Harold, Parker’s aging and affable goldenretriever walked her down the garden path to give her away.A selection of Barbies, Kens, and Cabbage Patch Kids, alongwith a variety of stuffed animals lined the path as guests.

“It’s a very private ceremony,” Parker relayed as she fussedwith Emma’s veil. “With a small patio reception to follow.Now, where’s the best man?”

Laurel, her knee recently skinned, shoved through a trio ofhydrangeas. “He ran away, and went up a tree after a squirrel.I can’t get him to come down.”

Parker rolled her eyes. “I’ll get him. You’re not supposed tosee the bride before the wedding. It’s bad luck. Mac, you need tofix Emma’s veil and get her bouquet. Laurel and I’ll get Mr. Fish out of the tree.”“I’d rather go swimming,” Mac said as she gave Emma’s veilan absent tug.

“We can go after I get married.”

“I guess. Aren’t you tired of getting married?”

“Oh, I don’t mind. And it smells so good out here. Everything’sso pretty.”

Mac gave Emma the clutch of dandelions and wild violetsthey were allowed to pick. “You look pretty.”

It was invariably true. Emma’s dark, shiny hair tumbled underthe white lace. Her eyes sparkled a deep, deep brown as shesniff ed the weed bouquet. She was tanned, sort of all golden,Mac thought, and scowled at her own milk white skin.

The curse of a redhead, her mother said, as she got her carrotyhair from her father. At eight, Mac was tall for her age andskinny as a stick, with teeth already trapped in hated braces.She thought that, beside her, Emmaline looked like a gypsyprincess.

Parker and Laurel came back, giggling with the feline bestman clutched in Parker’s arms. “Everybody has to take theirplaces.” Parker poured the cat into Laurel’s arms. Mac, you needto get dressed! Emma—”

“I don’t want to be maid of honor.” Mac looked at the poofyCinderella dress draped over a garden bench. “That thing’sscratchy, and it’s hot. Why can’t Mr. Fish be maid of honor, andI’ll be best man?”

“Because it’s already planned. Everybody’s nervous before awedding.” Parker flipped back her long brown pigtails, thenpicked up the dress to inspect it for tears or stains. Satisfied, shepushed it at Mac. “It’s okay. It’s going to be a beautiful ceremony,with true love and happy ever after.”

“My mother says happy ever after’s a bunch of bull.”

There was a moment of silence after Mac’s statement. Theunspoken word divorce seemed to hang in the air.“I don’t think it has to be.” Her eyes full of sympathy, Parkerreached out, ran her hand along Mac’s bare arm.

“I don’t want to wear the dress. I don’t want to be a bridesmaid.I—”

“Okay. That’s okay. We can have a pretend maid of honor.Maybe you could take pictures.”

Mac looked down at the camera she’d forgotten hung aroundher neck. “They never come out right.”

“Maybe they will this time. It’ll be fun. You can be the official wedding photographer.”

“Take one of me and Mr. Fish,” Laurel insisted, and pushedher face and the cat’s together. “Take one, Mac!”

With little enthusiasm, Mac lifted the camera, pressed theshutter.

“We should’ve thought of this before! You can take formalportraits of the bride and groom, and more pictures during theceremony.” Busy with the new idea, Parker hung the Cinderellacostume on the hydrangea bush. “It’ll be good, it’ll be fun. Youneed to go down the path with the bride and Harold. Try totake some good ones. I’ll wait, then start the music. Let’s go!”

There would be cupcakes and lemonade, Mac reminded herself.And swimming later, and fun. It didn’t matter if the pictureswere stupid, didn’t matter that her grandmother was rightand she was too young for the camera.

It didn’t matter that her mother was getting divorced again,or that her stepfather, who’d been okay, had already moved out.It didn’t matter that happy ever after was bull, because it wasall pretend anyway.

She tried to take pictures of Emma and the obliging Harold,imagined getting the film back and seeing the blurry figures andsmudges of her thumb, like always.

When the music started she felt bad that she hadn’t put onthe scratchy dress and given Emma a maid of honor, just becauseher mother and grandmother had put her in a bad mood. So shecircled around to stand to the side and tried harder to take anice picture of Harold walking Emma down the garden path.It looked different through the lens, she thought, the way shecould focus on Emma’s face—the way the veil lay over her hair.And the way the sun shined through the lace was pretty.

She took more pictures as Parker began the “Dearly Beloved”as the Reverend Whistledown, as Emma and Laurel took handsand Harold curled up to sleep and snore at their feet.

She noticed how bright Laurel’s hair was, how the sun caughtthe edges of it beneath the tall black hat she wore as groom.How Mr. Fish’s whiskers twitched as he yawned.

When it happened, it happened as much inside Mac as out.Her three friends were grouped under the lush white curve ofthe arbor, a triangle of pretty young girls. Some instinct had Macshifting her position, just slightly, tilting the camera just a bit.She didn’t know it as composition, only that it looked nicerthrough the lens.

And the blue butterfly fluttered across her range of vision toland on the head of a butter yellow dandelion in Emma’s bouquet.The surprise and plea sure struck the three faces in thattriangle under the white roses almost as one.

Mac pressed the shutter.

She knew, knew, the photograph wouldn’t be blurry and darkor fuzzy and washed out. Her thumb wouldn’t be blocking thelens. She knew exactly what the picture would look like, knewher grandmother had been wrong after all.

Maybe happy ever after was bull, but she knew she wantedto take more pictures of moments that were happy. Because thenthey were ever after.

CHAPTER ONE

On January first, Mac rolled over to smack her alarmclock, and ended up facedown on the floor of her studio.

“Shit. Happy New Year.”

She lay, groggy and baffled, until she remembered she’dnever made it upstairs into bed—and the alarm was from hercomputer, set to wake her at noon.

She pushed herself up to stagger to the kitchen and the coffeemaker.Why did people want to get married on New Year’s Eve? Why would they make a formal ritual out of a holiday designedfor marathon drinking and probably inappropriate sex? Andthey just had to drag family and friends into it, not to mentionwedding photographers.

Of course, when the reception had finally ended at two a.m.,she could’ve gone to bed like a sane person instead of uploadingthe shots, reviewing them—spending nearly three more hourson the Hines- Myers wedding photos.

But, boy, she’d gotten some good ones. A few great ones.Or they were all crap and she’d judged them in a euphoricblur.

No, they were good shots.

She added three spoons of sugar to the black coffee anddrank it while standing at the window, looking out at the snowblanketing the gardens and lawns of the Brown Estate.

They’d done a good job on the wedding, she thought. Andmaybe Bob Hines and Vicky Myers would take a clue from thatand do a good job on the marriage.

Either way, the memories of the day wouldn’t fade. The moments,big and small, were captured. She’d refine them, finessethem, print them. Bob and Vicky could revisit the day throughthose images next week or sixty years from next week.

That, she thought, was as potent as sweet, black coffee on acold winter day.

Opening a cupboard, she pulled out a box of Pop- Tarts and,eating one where she stood, went over her schedule for the day.Clay- McFearson (Rod and Alison) wedding at six. Whichmeant the bride and her party would arrive by three, groom andhis by four. That gave her until two for the pre- event summitmeeting at the main house.

Time enough to shower, dress, go over her notes, check andrecheck her equipment. Her last check of the day’s weathercalled for sunny skies, high of thirty- two. She should be able toget some nice preparation shots using natural light and maybetalk Alison—if she was game—into a bridal portrait on the balconywith the snow in the background.

Mother of the bride, Mac remembered—Dorothy (call meDottie)—was on the pushy and demanding side, but she’d bedealt with. If Mac couldn’t handle her personally, God knewParker would. Parker could and did handle anyone and anything.Parker’s drive and determination had turned Vows into one ofthe top wedding and event planning companies in the state in afi ve- year period. It had turned the tragedy of her parents’ deathsinto hope, and the gorgeous Victorian home and the stunninggrounds of the Brown Estate into a thriving and unique business.And, Mac thought as she swallowed the last of the Pop- Tart,she herself was one of the reasons.

She moved through the studio toward the stairs to her upstairsbed and bath, stopped at one of her favorite photos. Theglowing, ecstatic bride with her face lifted, her arms stretched,palms up, caught in a shower of pink rose petals.Cover of Today’s Bride, Mac thought. Because I’m just thatgood.

In her thick socks, flannel pants, and sweatshirt she climbedthe stairs to transform herself from tired, pj- clad, Pop- Tart addictinto sophisticated wedding photojournalist.

She ignored her unmade bed—why make it when you werejust going to mess it up again?—and the bedroom clutter. Thehot shower worked with the sugar and caffeine to clear out anyremaining cobwebs so she could put her mind seriously to today’sjob.

She had a bride who was interested in trying the creative, apassive- aggressive MOB who thought she knew best, a groomso dazzling in love he’d do anything to make his bride happy.And both her B and G were seriously photogenic.

The last fact made the job both plea sure and challenge. Justhow could she give her clients a photo journey of their day thatwas spectacular, and uniquely theirs?

Bride’s colors, she thought, flipping through her mental fi lesas she washed her short, shaggy crop of red hair. Silver and gold.Elegant, glamorous.

She’d had a look at the flowers and the cake—both gettingtheir finishing touches today—the favors and linens, attendants’wardrobes, headdresses. She had a copy of the playlist from theband with the first dance, mother- son, father- daughter danceshighlighted.

So, she thought, for the next several hours, her world wouldrevolve around Rod and Alison.

She chose her suit, her jewelry, her makeup with nearly thesame care as she chose her equipment. Loaded, she went out tomake the short trek from the pool house that held her studio andlittle apartment to the main house.

The snow sparkled, crushed diamonds over ermine, and theair was cold and clean as mountain ice. She definitely had to getsome outside shots, daylight and evening. Winter wedding,white wedding, snow on the ground, ice glistening on the trees,just dripping from the denuded willows over the pond. Andthere the fanciful old Victorian with its myriad rooflines, thearched and porthole windows, rising and spreading, soft blueagainst the hard shell of sky. Its terraces and generous porticoheralded the season with their festoons of lights and greenery.

She studied it as she often did as she walked the shoveledpaths. She loved the lines of it, the angles of it, with its subtletouches of pale yellow, creamy white picked out in that soft, subtleblue.

It had been as much home to her as her own growing up.Often more so, she admitted, as her own had run on her mother’scapricious whims. Parker’s parents had been warm, welcoming,loving and—Mac thought now—steady. They’d given her acalm port in the storm of her own childhood.

She’d grieved as much as her friend at their loss nearly sevenyears before.

Now the Brown Estate was her home. Her business. Her life.And a good one on every level. What could be better than doingsomething you loved, and doing it with the best friendsyou’d ever had?

She went in through the mudroom to hang up her outdoorgear, then circled around to peek into Laurel’s domain.Her friend and partner stood on a step stool, meticulouslyadding silver calla lilies to the five tiers of a wedding cake. Eachflower bloomed at the base of a gold acanthus leaf to glimmering,elegant effect.

“That’s a winner, McBane.”

Laurel’s hand was steady as a surgeon’s as she added the nextlily. Her sunny hair was twisted at the back of her head into amessy knot that somehow suited the angular triangle of her face.As she worked, her eyes, bright as bluebells, held narrowed concentration.“I’m so glad she went for the lily centerpiece instead of thebride and groom topper. It makes this design. Wait until we getto the ballroom and add it.”

Mac pulled out a camera. “It’s a good shot for the website.Okay?”

“Sure. Get any sleep?”

“Didn’t hit until about five, but I stayed down till noon.You?”

“Down by two thirty. Up at seven to finish the groom’scake, the desserts—and this. I’m so damn glad we have twoweeks before the next wedding.” She glanced over. “Don’t tellParker I said that.”

“She’s up, I assume.”

“She’s been in here twice. She’s probably been everywheretwice. I think I heard Emma come in. They may be up in theoffice by now.”

“I’m heading up. Are you coming?”

“Ten minutes. I’ll be on time.”

“On time is late in Parker’s world.” Mac grinned. “I’ll try todistract her.”

“Just tell her some things can’t be rushed. And that the MOB’sgoing to get so many compliments on this cake she’ll stay off ourbacks.”

“That one could work.”

Mac started out, winding through to check the entrancefoyer and the massive drawing room where the ceremony itselfwould take place. Emmaline and her elves had already been atwork, she noted, undressing from the last wedding, redressingfor the new. Every bride had her own vision, and this onewanted lots of gold and silver ribbon and swag as opposed to thelavender and cream voile of New Year’s Eve.

The fire was set in the drawing room and would be lit beforethe guests began to arrive. White- draped chairs sparklingwith silver bows formed row after row. Emma had alreadydressed the mantel with gold candles in silver holders, and thebride’s favorite white calla lilies massed in tall, thin glassvases.

Mac circled the room, considered angles, lighting, composition—and made more notes as she walked out and took thestairs to the third floor.

As she expected, she found Parker in the conference room oftheir office, surrounded by her laptop, BlackBerry, folders, cellphone, and headset. Her dense brown hair hung in a longtail—sleek and simple. It worked with the suit—a quiet dovegray—that would blend in and complement the bride’s colors.Parker missed no tricks.

She didn’t look up but circled a finger in the air as she continuedto work on the laptop. Knowing the signal, Mac crossedto the coffee counter and filled mugs for both of them. She sat,laid down her own file, opened her own notebook.

Parker sat back, smiled, and picked up her mug. “It’s going tobe a good one.”

“No doubt.”

“Roads are clear, weather’s good. The bride’s up, had breakfastand a massage. The groom’s had a workout and a swim.

Caterers are on schedule. All attendants are accounted for.” Shechecked her watch. “Where are Emma and Laurel?”

“Laurel’s putting the finishing touches on the cake, which isstupendous. I haven’t seen Emma, but she’s started dressing theevent areas. Pretty. I want some outdoor shots. Before and after.” “Don’t keep the bride outside for too long before. We don’twant her red- nosed and sniffling.”

“You may have to keep the MOB off my back.”

“Already noted.”

Emma rushed in, a Diet Coke in one hand, a file in the other.

“Tink’s hungover and a no- show, so I’m one short. Let’s keepthis brief, okay?” She dropped down at the table. Her curlingblack hair bounced over the shoulders of her sweatshirt. “TheBride’s Suite and the Drawing Room are dressed. Foyer andstairway, nearly finished. The bouquets, corsages, and boutonniereschecked. We’ve started on the Grand Hall and the Ballroom.I need to get back to that.”

“Flower girl?”

“White rose pomander, silver and gold ribbon. I have herhalo—roses and baby’s breath—ready for the hairdresser. It’s adorable.Mac, I need some pictures of the arrangements if you can fitit in. If not, I’ll get them.”

“I’ll take care of it.”

“Thanks. The MOB—”

“I’m on it,” Parker said.

“I need to—” Emma broke off as Laurel walked in.

“I’m not late,” Laurel announced.

“Tink’s a no- show,” Parker told her. “Emma’s short.”

“I can fill in. I’ll need to set the centerpiece of the cake andarrange the desserts, but I’ve got time now.”

“Let’s go over the timetable.”

“Wait.” Emma lifted her can of Diet Coke. “Toast first.Happy New Year to us, to four amazing, stupendous, and veryhot women. Best pals ever.”

“Also smart and kick- ass.” Laurel raised her bottle of water.

“To pals and partners.”

“To us. Friendship and brains in four parts,” Mac added,“and the sheer coolness of the whole we’ve made with Vows.”

“And to 2009.” Parker lifted her coffee mug. “The amazing,stupendous, hot, smart, kick- ass best pals are going to have theirbest year ever.”

“Damn right.” Mac clinked her mug to the rest. “To WeddingDay, then, now, and always.”

“Then, now, and always,” Parker repeated. “And now. Timetable?”

“I’m on the bride,” Mac began, “from her arrival, switch togroom at his. Candids during dressing event, posed as applies.Formal portraits in and out. I’ll get the shots of the cake, the arrangementsnow, do my setup. All family and wedding partyshots separate prior to the ceremony. Post- ceremony I shouldonly need forty- five minutes for the family shots, full weddingparty, and the bride and groom.”

“Floral dressing in bride and groom suites complete by three.Floral dressing in foyer, Parlor, staircase, Grand Hall, and Ballroomby five.” Parker glanced at Emma.

“We’ll be done.”

“Videographer arrives at five thirty. Guest arrivals from fivethirty to six. Wedding musicians—string quartet—to begin atfive forty. The band will be set up in the Ballroom by six thirty.

MOG, attended by son, escorted at five fifty, MOB, escorted byson- in- law, directly after. Groom and groomsmen in place atsix.” Parker read off the schedule. “FOB, bride, and party inplace at six. Descent and pro cession. Ceremony duration twentythreeminutes, recession, family moments. Guests escorted toGrand Hall at six twenty- five.”

“Bar opens,” Laurel said, “music, passed food.”

“Six twenty- five to seven ten, photographs. Announcementof family, wedding party, and the new Mr. and Mrs. seven fifteen.”

“Dinner, toasts,” Emma continued. “We’ve got it, Parks.”

“I want to make sure we move to the Ballroom and have thefirst dance by eight fifteen,” Parker continued. “The bride especially wants her grandmother there for the first dance, and afterthe father- daughter, mother- son dance, for her father and hismother to dance. She’s ninety, and may fade early. If we can havethe cake cutting at nine thirty, the grandmother should makethat, too.”

“She’s a sweetheart,” Mac put in. “I got some nice shots ofher and Alison at the rehearsal. I’ve got it in my notes to get someof them today. Personally, I think she’ll stay for the whole deal.”“I hope she does. Cake and desserts served while dancingcontinues. Bouquet toss at ten fifteen.”

“Tossing bouquet is set,” Emma added.

“Garter toss, dancing continues. Last dance at ten fifty, bubbleblowing, bride and groom depart. Event end, eleven.” Parkerchecked her watch again. “Let’s get it done. Emma and Laurelneed to change. Everyone remember their headsets.”

Parker’s phone vibrated, and she glanced at the readout.“MOB. Again. Fourth call this morning.”

“Have fun with that,” Mac said and escaped.

She scouted room by room, staying out of the way of Emmaand her crew as they swarmed over the house with flowers, ribbons,voile. She took shots of Laurel’s cake, Emma’s arrangements,framed others in her head.

It was a routine she never allowed to become routine. Sheknew once it became rote, she’d miss shots, opportunities, bogdown on fresh angles and ideas. And whenever she felt herselfdulling, she thought of a blue butterfly landing on a dandelion.The air smelled of roses and lilies and rang with voices andfootfalls. Light streamed through the tall windows in lovelybeams and shafts, and glittered on the gold and silver ribbons.

“Headset, Mac!” Parker rushed down the main staircase.

“The bride’s arriving.”

As Parker hurried down to meet the bride, Mac jogged up.

She swung out on the front terrace, ignoring the cold as thewhite limo sailed down the drive. As it eased to a stop she shiftedher angle, set, and waited.

Maid of honor, mother of the bride. “Move, move, just alittle,” she muttered. Alison stepped out. The bride wore jeans,Uggs, a battered suede jacket and a bright red scarf. Mac zoomedin, changed stops. “Hey! Alison!”

The bride looked up. Surprise turned to amused delight, andto Mac’s plea sure, Alison threw up both arms, tossed back herhead, and laughed.

And there, Mac thought as she caught the moment, was thebeginning of the journey.

Within ten minutes, the Bride’s Suite—once Parker’s ownbedroom—bustled with people and confusion. Two hairdressersplied their tools and talents, curling, straightening, styling, whileothers wielded paints and pots.

Utterly female, Mac thought as she moved through the roomunobtrusively, the scents, the motions, the sounds. The brideremained the focus—no nerves on this one, Mac determined.Alison was confident, beaming, and currently chattering like amagpie.

The MOB, however, was a different story.

“But you have such beautiful hair! Don’t you think youshould leave it down? At least some of it. Maybe—”

“An updo suits the headdress better. Relax, Mom.”

“It’s too warm in here. I think it’s too warm in here. AndMandy should take a quick nap. She’s going to act up, I justknow it.”

“She’ll be fine.” Alison glanced toward the flower girl.

“I really think—”

“Ladies!” Parker wheeled in a cart of champagne, with apretty fruit and cheese tray. “The men are on their way. Alison,your hair’s gorgeous. Absolutely regal.” She poured a flute, offeredit to the bride.

“I really don’t think she should drink before the ceremony.She barely ate today, and—”

“Oh, Mrs. McFearson, I’m so glad you’re dressed and ready.You look fabulous. If I could just steal you for a few minutes? I’dlove for you to take a look at the Drawing Room before theceremony. We want to make sure it’s perfect, don’t we? I’ll haveher back in no time.” Parker pushed champagne into the MOB’shand, and steered her out of the room.

Alison said, “Whew!” and laughed.

For the next hour, Mac split herself between the bride’s andgroom’s suites. Between perfume and tulle, cuff links and cummerbunds.She eased back into the bride’s domain, circled aroundthe attendants as they dressed and helped one another dress. Andfound Alison alone, standing in front of her wedding dress.It was all there, Mac thought as she quietly framed the shot.

The wonder, the joy—with just that tiny tug of sorrow. Shesnapped the image as Alison reached out to brush her fingersover the sparkle of the bodice.

Decisive moment, Mac knew, when everything the womanfelt reflected on her face.

Then it passed, and Alison glanced over.

“I didn’t expect to feel this way. I’m so happy. I’m so in lovewith Rod, so ready to marry him. But there’s this little clutchright here.” She rubbed her fingers just above her heart. “It’s notnerves.”

“Sadness. Just a touch. One phase of your life ends today.

You’re allowed to be sad to say good- bye. I know what you need.Wait here.”

A moment later, Mac led Alison’s grandmother over. Andonce again stepped back.

Youth and age, she thought. Beginnings and endings, connectionsand constancy. And, love.

She snapped the embrace, but that wasn’t it. She snapped theglitter of tears, and still, no. Then Alison lowered her foreheadto her grandmother’s, and even as her lips curved, a single tearslid down her cheek while the dress glowed and glittered behindthem.

Perfect. The blue butterfly.

She took candids of the ritual while the bride dressed, thenthe formal portraits with exquisite natural light. As she’d expected,Alison was game to brave the cold on the terrace.

And Mac ignored Parker’s voice through her headset as sherushed to the Groom’s Suite to repeat the process with Rod.

She passed Parker in the hallway as she strode back to thebride. “I need the groom and party downstairs, Mac. We’re runningtwo minutes behind.”

“Oh my God!” Mac said in mock horror and ducked into theBride’s Suite.

“Guests are seated,” Parker announced in her ear momentslater. “Groom and groomsmen taking position. Emma, gatherthe bridal party.”

“On it.”

Mac slipped out to take her stand at the bottom of the stairsas Emma organized the bridesmaids.

“Party ready. Cue the music.”

“Cuing music,” Parker said, “start the procession.”

The flower girl would clearly be fine without the nap, Macdecided as the child nearly danced her way down the staircase.

She paused like a vet at Laurel’s signal, then continued at a dignified pace in her fairy dress across the foyer, into the enormousparlor, and down the aisle formed by the chairs.

The attendants followed, shimmering silver, and at last, themaid of honor in gold.

Mac crouched to aim up as the bride and her father stood atthe top of the stairs, holding hands. As the bride’s music swelled,he lifted his daughter’s hand to his lips, then to his cheek.

Even as she took the shot, Mac’s eyes stung.

Where was her own father? she wondered. Jamaica? Switzerland? Cairo?

She pushed the thought and the ache that came with it aside,and did her job.

Using Emma’s candlelight, she captured joy and tears. Thememories. And stayed invisible and separate.

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