Friday, September 30, 2011

Death on the Aisle {Chapter Fifteen}

My deepest apologies for taking such a break from posting chapters. The next time I try to write two novels simultaneously (in addition to planning some pretty big weddings and spending enough time with my family so they don't forget what I look like), please someone shake me!  I hope you enjoy the newest chapter in the latest Annabelle Archer mystery. Happy Friday!

Chapter Fifteen

         “So what’s the scoop on Jeremy Johns?” Kate leaned closer to Mack and Buster, ignoring the fact that both men looked pale under their tattoos and piercings. Our revelation that we were working with the dramatic New York designer Jeremy Johns on our yacht wedding had not gone over well with our favorite D.C. floral team.
            Buster fanned Mack with a legal pad, not noticing it was upside down and the yellow paper dangled in Mack’s face. “He is a thief and a liar.”
            Mack swatted the legal paper away from him and sat up. “Not to mention, a talentless charlatan.”  He sank onto a metal stool, looking spent.
            “Wow,” Kate whispered to me. “ I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to like Jeremy less than Richard does.”
            I put a hand on Mack’s arm. “It sounds like you know him well.”
            “And personally,” Kate added.
            Before Buster and Mack could elaborate on how they knew so much about the despised floral designer, Debbie and Darla Douglas swept into the shop in a cloud of expensive perfume and top shelf vodka.
            “Darlings,” Darla cried, running over on pink kitten heels to exchange air kisses with everyone. Her daughter, Debbie, followed her and I got a flash of red from the soles of her impossibly high Louboutin pumps. I’d always been impressed with their ability to balance on heels while staying in a state of perpetual intoxication.
            Buster and Mack perked up instantly, recharged by the sight of clients in expensive clothes and carrying big checkbooks.  After we all kissed and hugged without actually touching, the mother and daughter duo settled in at the table, and I couldn’t help thinking how at home they seemed on bar stools.
            Buster opened the thick file he had on the Douglas-Grant wedding and clicked his pen. “So, are we ready to finalize details and quantities, ladies?”
            “The wedding is only a few weeks away.” Mack tapped his finger on his oversized black rubber watch and smiled.
            Darla and Debbie exchanged conspiratorial looks and my heart sank. We’d changed their wedding look as often as they’d gotten their roots done, and I didn’t know how much more indecision I could handle. I pulled my small blue leather wedding journal out of my bag. This was going to require notes.
            Well,” Debbie began. “I’m just not sure if we’ve personalized the wedding enough.”
            “The wedding cake will be hand painted to match your antique floral china pattern, which was also replicated for your letterpress invitations,” I said.  Darla and Debbie were from the upper echelons of the Deep South and their family’s antique china pattern had been passed down from Southern belle to Southern belle and was central to the wedding design.
            “And the wedding cake designer is coming over from Scotland just to do your cake,” Kate reminded them.
            “We’ve sourced the perfect heirloom flowers in the pattern so your bouquets will be identical to the china.” Mack held up the order from the flower grower it had taken him months to track down.
            “Not to mention you have four signature cocktails and a bourbon tasting bar,” Kate said.
            Darla’s face lit up. “Don’t get us wrong, we love all of it.”
            “Especially the bourbon bar,” Debbie said. “Turner’s daddy is tickled pink about it.” She leaned in and gave us all a wink like she was letting us into a big secret. “Grant men are bourbon men through and through.”
            “Then this is a match made in heaven,” Kate muttered only loud enough for me to hear her.
            “We’re just worried we might have given up the magnolia leaves too easily,” Darla said.
            Buster flipped through the file, and I knew he was looking to see which revision had included the swags of magnolia leaves.  Luckily, Buster and Mack were sticklers for keeping paperwork so they had every revision we’d ever done. It was the sign of seasoned professionals and a team used to working with brides prone to change their minds.
            “Here it is.” He produced a sheaf of papers from the massive stack. “Revision 7. Swags of magnolia leaves draped along the banisters and balcony of the museum with floral catch points.”
            “What about the wall of magnolias behind the bar?” Debbie asked. I was impressed she could remember details about something so many revisions ago.
            “Which one?” I asked. “You’re doing five bars.”
            “The bourbon bar,” Darla and Debbie said in unison.
            “And we should have two of those,” Debbie added to me as I hurried to make notes about the bars.
            “So we’re adding the magnolia leaves back in,” Buster said, one eyebrow raised like he didn’t quite trust that the decisions were final. “But we’re not removing any of the other floral décor, are we?” He eyed the specialty floral order waving in Mack’s hand.
            “Remove?” Darla laughed. “Of course not. We’re going for a serious ‘wow’ factor here.”
            Mack stopped waving the floral order and sighed. “As long as we aren’t changing my heirloom rose order.”
            “Since you didn’t let us do the miniature ponies during cocktail hour,” Debbie said. “We just want to make sure the wedding is special enough.”
            I wasn’t sure whom Debbie was accusing of nixing the concept of livestock as décor, but I was happy to take the blame for what I felt confidant was the worst wedding idea ever.
            “Don’t worry,” I looked up from my notes. Six bars, four signature cocktails, two magnolia leaf walls, several hundred feet of garland, a five-tiered hand-painted cake created by a designer we were flying in just for the occasion and letterpress invitations so thick we’d had to mail them in individual boxes. “I think you’ve got serious ‘wow.’”
            Darla put her hand over her daughter’s hand and squeezed it. “My friends are just going to die.”
            “So are those the only changes?” Buster held his pen over revision 12 where he had added back in the magnolia leaves.
            Debbie slipped off her bar stool and smoothed the front of her Lilly Pulitzer print dress. “That was it, wasn’t it, Mother?”
            “That’s it.” Darla looked at her diamond-encrusted watch as she stood up. “My word. We don’t want to be late for drinks at The St. Regis bar with Turner.”
            Kate glanced at the metal clock on the wall and shot me a look. I knew without looking that it wasn’t even close to happy hour. After another flurry of air kisses, Debbie and Darla were out the door and well on their way to afternoon cocktails.
            Mack put a hand to his heart. “What just happened?”
            “They just doubled the cost of their proposal, that’s what happened,” Buster said.
            “Better that way than the other,” Kate said.
            Mack gave her a friendly push. “You know that’s the truth.”
            I took out my Blackberry. “I need to call Richard and tell him about the extra bars.”
            “Do you think he’s back at the office by now?” Kate asked. “He wouldn’t still be at the boat, would he?”
            Buster looked up. “Richard’s working with you on the yacht?”
            I nodded. “Unfortunately for him. He and Jeremy Johns are about to kill each other.”
            “Well, if he needs help killing Jeremy, tell him to give us a call,” Mack said, his expression dark again.
            “Okay, spill it,” Kate said. “What did Jeremy do to you?”
            Mack bit the edge of his lip and looked almost ready to cry. “He ruined us.”
            Buster patted Mack on the shoulder. “We used to have a shop up in New York.”
            Kate looked at me and I shook my head. This was news to me. As long as I’d known Buster and Mack, they’d run their flower shop, Lush, in Georgetown.
            “When did you work in New York?” I asked.
            “Over ten years ago,” Mack said. “Before you came onto the scene, darling.”
            “Before Jeremy Johns ruined our business and ran us out of town,” Buster said, one fist clenched by his side.
            I rubbed my head. “Richard’s problems with him seem pretty small compared to yours.”
            “Trust me,” Mack said. “No one hates Jeremy Johns as much as we do.”
            Kate looked at me with wide eyes. “The ‘I hate Jeremy Johns club’ seems to be getting bigger by the moment.”
            My Blackberry beeped and I read the text message that had just come in. I groaned. “And so do our problems with the wedding.”