Author's Note - Welcome to my new fic. I hope you enjoy the ride! This story's mostly written, so I should be able to stick to a schedule of posting every Sunday. If I don't, blame the new addition in my life!
Huge thank you and hugs to Nic for asking me to take part in TLS' Sneak Peek!
Thank you to SparklyMeg, MidnightCougar, and Iris for their help with this. Without them, this would be a mess.
The words on the screen in front of me begin to blur. Flower arrangements turn into car timings, which then turn into cocktail hour plans. Colors, fabric swatches, and patterns all blur together and become one big mess. Sighing, I blink a few times, rub soothing circles on my forehead, and move away from the computer.
Outside, the sky's a dull orange, glowing as the sun sets below the Chicago skyline. Lights in the offices slowly turn off as workers head home for the weekend. The bustle of the city below comes to life, and I can hear car horns in the streets below as commuters begin their nightly journey home.
Knowing I have at least a few hours ahead of me, I reach over and flick on my desk lamp, squinting against the light.
Sighing, I turn back to my computer and try to focus on the plans for one of my upcoming weddings.
One of my appointments today didn't go quite as planned, which means my Friday night is now going to be spent at work. It's not that unusual for me, but it's bugging me tonight. I had a bottle of wine and a bubble bath with my name on it. Today went to hell around mid-afternoon, when I had an appointment with a bride who's getting married in a few months. While this bride seemed normal when I met her, the closer we get to her date, the more she turns into a bridezilla. Everything we'd previously discussed was thrown out of the window, and I now basically have to start from scratch.
Minutes later, the phone rings, which surprises me because I thought everyone else had gone home.
"Jess? What are you still doing here?"
She chuckles. "I know how that appointment went, and I know you're going to need my help if you want to get home tonight. Plus, you're gonna be so glad I'm still here when I tell you who I have on the phone."
I slump. "Tell me it's not her. I can't right now—"
She bursts out laughing, and I can't help but grin. "No! Bella, it's a potential new client. And you're going to want to speak to him."
"Mr. Turner," she whispers into the phone.
"Why are you whispering?"
She huffs. "To be dramatic."
I roll my eyes. "Okay… Well, who's Mr. Turner?"
"Bella," she groans. "Mr. Turner. You know, CEO of Turner Industries?"
I sit up straight in my chair. I'm not as up to date as Jess on my "who's who" of Chicago, but even I know who he is and how much he's worth.
"He's on the phone? He wants to speak to me?" I straighten my hair and then roll my eyes at my own stupidity.
"Yes, Bella. He asked for you personally. Shall I put him through?"
I clear my throat, and grab a pen and a pad of paper. "Yes, yes. I'm ready. Let him through."
The line goes quiet, and I use those few seconds to pull myself together. On TV, Mr. Turner comes across as a nice guy who loves to dote on his entire family, especially his only daughter who's newly engaged. But I know better than to judge people on their appearance only.
"Mr. Turner? You're through to Bella Swan."
"Miss Swan, I'm so glad I caught you. I thought it'd be too late."
I laugh softly. "This is still early for me, Mr. Turner. How may I help you?"
"I'm sure you already know that my daughter's gotten engaged. I would like your help in organizing her wedding." He's all business, and I appreciate him getting straight to the point. "This is already shaping up to be a lavish affair. The guest list is close to five hundred, and I want to throw her the wedding she's been dreaming about since she was a little girl and used to practice walking down the aisle in her mother's Louboutins."
I try to keep my voice smooth as I reply, my heart having taken off at a hundred miles an hour at the mention of a lavish affair and huge guest list. "I understand completely."
"Your name was given to me by one of my associates. He said you helped with his vow renewal and was extremely complimentary about how easy you made things for them. I'm not sure if you remember a Garrett Jones and his wife, Kate?"
"I do, yes. They renewed their vows last June, if I remember correctly." I close my eyes, hoping I've remembered the right couple and date.
I can almost hear his smile through the phone. "They did. I like that you can remember them and they aren't just another client name to you." He clears his throat. "Miss Swan, as a businessman, word of mouth means a lot to me. If someone like Garrett was impressed with your work, I would like to arrange a time to meet with you to discuss my daughter's wedding."
I open my planner on the computer, eagerly scanning it for availability. "How's your schedule, Mr. Turner? I'm pretty booked at the beginning of next week, but I'm free Wednesday afternoon."
I assume his silence means he's checking, so I wait patiently. "I have Wednesday at three open. I have another appointment at five, though."
I add his details to the free appointment space. "That's fine. The introductory appointment should only last approximately an hour. I promise you'll be free for five."
He chuckles. "Miss Swan, if our appointment runs late, it won't be the worst thing to happen."
I laugh politely. "Duly noted."
We arrange to meet at his office and swap contact details in case either of us needs to change plans. As soon as I put down the phone, Jess is at my door.
"Tell me we have Tanya Turner's wedding. It's already in some of the magazines. They're speculating about her dress and which of her socialite friends will be bridesmaids. Her ring's huge! I mean, you wouldn't expect anything less for her. And just think what her dress would be like. It's so exciting!"
She looks at me expectantly, and I laugh as she practically vibrates in my doorway.
"Not yet, but I have a meeting with him next week."
She squeals and claps her hands, and I can't help but let her excitement wash over me. This wedding could make my company. The publicity alone is better than anything I could ever afford, and after years of hard work, Swan's White Weddings would be a name everyone recognizes.
"We need to celebrate! C'mon, Bella. You know as well as I do that the admin from today's appointment can wait. It's too late to start calling the suppliers now. Everyone's gone home for the night."
I glance at my clock, knowing she's right. I'm not sure I can focus on anything just now anyway. This deal is just so huge. It's Chicago's wedding of the year.
"Maybe just one or two..."
She grins. "Let's go. Everyone's already at O'Neills."
I tidy my desk in record time, freshen up in the bathroom, and meet Jess at her desk in reception.
She wolf whistles as I approach. "Only you can look like a completely different person just by taking your hair down and adding the tiniest bit of makeup."
I smile and wait as she packs up. "I'll take that as a compliment."
"Good. It was meant as one."
She nudges me with her elbow, and I roll my eyes. "You look good, too, Jess." For someone who's just pulled a ten-hour shift, you certainly can't tell. Her makeup is as perfect as it was when she arrived this morning, and there isn't a hair out of place.
She links her arm through mine as we step onto the sidewalk, both of us gasping against the cold.
"C'mon." She hails a cab. "It's too cold, and I'm not wasting these shoes on a walk to the bar."
I roll my eyes. "It's O'Neills, not the Sheraton."
"They're new, and they're expensive." She opens the cab door. "Now shut up and get in."
The smell of fried food hits us the second we open the door to the pub. My stomach growls, and I realize I skipped both lunch and dinner today.
"I'm starving," I moan as a bartender walks past with two burgers.
Jess eyes the plates hungrily. "Ugh. Me, too. Let's find everyone and get some food."
I take hold of Jess' arm again, so we don't become separated, and let her guide us through the crowd.
O'Neills is a cute Irish pub we found by accident when we started up the business. We'd pulled close to sixty hours one week and managed to secure our first client, so we decided to celebrate. We couldn't find a cab, and it was the first place we'd come across, so we all but ran inside. Since then, it's become a weekly hang out with our friends.
We automatically head for a booth in the back, where we find our friends sitting. Most of the tables in the back are empty, but I know that'll change over the next hour or so. While it's quiet now, it'll get crazy once the food's stopped and the live music begins.
My friend, Alice, sees us and waves us over, sliding up the booth next to her husband to make room for us. I've only known Alice for a year or so, when I met her as the cake designer for one of my couples. Her energy and clear enjoyment for her work rubbed off on me, and we clicked instantly.
"You made it!"
Jess slides in opposite them, and I sit next to her. "We weren't going to. Someone was going to spend her night in the office."
I roll my eyes. "It's been a busy day!"
"Which is why drinks should've won over even more work." Jess is very much of the mindset of work hard, play harder. And while part of me agrees, it's my money and name on the line with the company. She works with me because she likes the job, not because she needs to.
"So, what changed your mind?"
Jess squeals and claps her hands. "Oh, Alice. You aren't going to believe this. Bella has the opportunity to secure the biggest client ever."
Jasper chuckles softly. "On that note, I'll go get the drinks in. The usual?"
We nod, ask him to get us a menu before the night turns unnecessarily messy, and then turn back to Alice.
Even I can't help but grin. "Mr. Turner of Turner Industries wants to meet with me next week to discuss the possibility of planning his daughter's wedding."
Alice's eyes widen, and she sits back in her seat. "Shut up!"
I grin. "It's true. He knows a customer of mine from last year and was impressed with what he'd heard. Do you know what this means?"
Alice nods. "Honey, if you secure that wedding, you could go into early retirement."
"No, it means I'd be a success."
"Bella, sweetie, you already are a success. You're 25, you moved to a different city to chase a dream you've had since you were a little girl, and you singlehandedly own your own business that has, as of this year, turned a profit. You don't need some hot shot CEO to make you a success."
I sigh. "I know. But you can't deny that the Turner wedding wouldn't hurt my street rep."
"It certainly couldn't do any harm." She finishes the rest of her drink just as Jasper returns to our table with mine and Jess' drinks and a menu. "And when he says yes, you know who you'll be recommending as their cake designer. Yes?"
I roll my eyes. "Of course, Alice."
I take a sip of my wine, enjoying the feel as it goes down, knowing I made the right decision by coming out tonight, even if it's just for a few. I barely glance at the menu, since I already know I'm having the biggest burger they serve.
Jess laughs, taking the menu away from me. "Did you seriously just use the phrase 'street rep'?"
I try to elbow her but miss as she moves away. "Shut up. I'm awesome, and you know it."
Fic Rec: Bliss by samekraemer - A special dog at a no-kill shelter brought together two people who might never have met. There were circumstances which made things difficult, but at the end of the day, Bliss was there to lick away the pain. (Adult content. Canon couples though OOC. They may get a little dirty.) Rated M.
For everyone that read and reviewed I Belong with You and didn't receive a response, I apologize. Around the time it was completing, I was in my third trimester and pregnancy took its toll on me. Now, my lil boy takes up a lot of my time! Please know I read every single one and I appreciate you taking the time to let me know your thoughts.
Thank you for reading. I hope you all enjoy!