Savour the Moment Savour the Moment Childhood friends Mackensie, Parker, Laurel and Emmaline have formed a very successful wedding-planning business together but, despite helping thousands of happy couples organise the biggest day of their lives, all four women are unlucky in love. Chef Laurel McBane has worked hard all her life to secure her dream ? to be an award-winning baker. Now, her wedding cakes are as close as anyone can get to edible perfection ? stunning creations that complement Mac's beautiful photographs and Emmaline's floral bouquets. Because Laurel has worked so hard to overcome her tough upbringing, she is wary about letting anything, or anyone, get in the way of her work. But a slowly simmering chemistry with Parker's brother Del has suddenly become too hot to ignore ... Little, Brown and Company 978-0-749-92903-9, 978-0-7499-2903-9
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Savour the Moment

Savour the Moment
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Childhood friends Mackensie, Parker, Laurel and Emmaline have formed a very successful wedding-planning business together but, despite helping thousands of happy couples organise the biggest day of their lives, all four women are unlucky in love. Chef Laurel McBane has worked hard all her life to secure her dream ? to be an award-winning baker. Now, her wedding cakes are as close as anyone can get to edible perfection ? stunning creations that complement Mac's beautiful photographs and Emmaline's floral bouquets. Because Laurel has worked so hard to overcome her tough upbringing, she is wary about letting anything, or anyone, get in the way of her work. But a slowly simmering chemistry with Parker's brother Del has suddenly become too hot to ignore ...
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CHAPTER ONE

ALONE, WITH NORAH JONES WHISPERING THROUGH THE iPOD, Laurel transformed a panel of fondant into a swatch of elegant, edible lace. She didn’t hear the music, used it more to fill the air than as entertainment while she painstakingly pieced the completed panel onto the second tier of four.
She stepped back to eye the results, to circle, to search for flaws. Vows’ clients expected perfect, and that’s exactly what she intended to deliver. Satisfied, she nodded, and picked up a bottle of water to sip while she stretched her back.
“Two down, two to go.”
She glanced toward the board where she’d pinned various samples of antique lace, and the final sketched design for the cake Friday evening’s bride had approved.
She had three more designs to complete: two for Saturday, one for Sunday—but that was nothing new. June at Vows, the wedding and event business she ran with her friends, was prime time.
In a handful of years, they’d turned an idea into a thriving enterprise. Sometimes just a little too thriving, she mused, which was why she was making fondant lace at nearly one in the morning.
It was a very good thing, she decided. She loved the work.
They all had their passions. Emma had the flowers, Mac the photography, Parker the details. And she had the cakes. And the pastries, she thought, and the chocolates. But the cakes stood as the crowning touch.
She got back to it, began to roll out the next panel. Following habit, she’d clipped her sunny blond hair up and back out of her way. Cornstarch dusted the baker’s apron she wore over cotton pants and tee, and the slide-on kitchen shoes kept her feet as comfortable as possible after hours of standing. Her hands, strong from years of kneading, rolling, lifting, were capable and quick. As she began the next pattern, her sharp-featured, angular face set in serious lines.
Perfection wasn’t simply a goal when it came to her art. For Icing at Vows it was a necessity. The wedding cake was more than baking and piping, sugar paste and filling. Just as the wedding photos Mac took were more than pictures, and the arrangements and bouquets Emma created more than flowers. The details and schedules and wishes Parker put together were, in the end, bigger than the sum of their parts.
Together, the elements became a once-in-a-lifetime event, and the celebration of the journey two people chose to make together.
Romantic, certainly, and Laurel believed in romance. In theory, anyway. More, she believed in symbols and celebrations. And in a really fabulous cake.
Her expression softened into pleasure as she completed the third tier, and her deep blue eyes warmed as she glanced over to see Parker hovering in the doorway.
“Why aren’t you in bed?”
“Details.” Parker circled a finger over her own head. “Couldn’t settle. How long have you been at this tonight?”
“Awhile. I need to finish it so it can set overnight. Plus I have the two Saturday cakes to assemble and decorate tomorrow.”
“Want company?”
They knew each other well enough that it was understood if Laurel said no, there’d be no offense. And often, when deep in work, no was the answer.
“Sure.”
“I love the design.” Parker, as Laurel had, circled the cake. “The delicacy of the white on white, the interest of the different heights of each tier—and the intricacy of each. They really do look like different panels of lace. Old-fashioned, vintage, that’s our bride’s theme. You’ve nailed it with this.”
“We’re going to do pale blue ribbon around the pedestal,” Laurel said as she started on the next panel. “And Emma’s going to scatter white rose petals at the base. It’s going to be a winner.”
“The bride’s been good to work with.”
Comfortable in her pajamas, her long brown hair loose rather than in its work mode of sleek tail or smooth chignon, Parker put on the kettle for tea. One of the perks of running the business out of her home, and of having Laurel living there—with Emma and Parker right on the estate as well—were these late-night visits.
“She knows her mind,” Laurel commented, choosing a tool to scallop the edges of the panel. “But she’s open to suggestion, and so far hasn’t been insane. If she makes it through the next twenty-four that way, she’ll definitely earn Vows’ coveted Good Bride status.”
“They looked happy and relaxed tonight at rehearsal, and that’s a good sign.”
“Mmm-hmm.” Laurel continued the pattern with precisely placed eyelets and dots. “So, again, why aren’t you in bed?”
Parker sighed as she heated a little teapot. “I think I was having a moment. I was unwinding with a glass of wine out on my terrace. I could see Mac’s place, and Emma’s. The lights were on in both houses, and I could smell the gardens. It was so quiet, so pretty. The lights went off—Emma’s first, and a little while after, Mac’s. I thought how we’re planning Mac’s wedding, and that Emma just got engaged. And all the times we played Wedding Day, the four of us, when we were kids. Now it’s real. I sat there in the quiet and the dark, and found myself wishing my parents could be here to see it. To see what we’ve done here, and who we are now. I got stuck.” She paused to measure out tea. “Between being sad they’re gone and being happy because I know they’d be proud of me. Of us.”
“I think about them a lot. We all do.” Laurel continued to work. “Because they were such an essential part of our lives, and because there are so many memories of them here. So I know what you mean by being stuck.”
“They’d get a kick out of Mac and Carter, out of Emma and Jack, wouldn’t they?”
“Yeah, they would. And what we’ve done here, Parker? It rocks. They’d get a kick out of that, too.”
“I’m lucky you were up working.” Parker poured hot water into the pot. “You’ve settled me down.”
“Here to serve. I’ll tell you who else is lucky, and that’s Friday’s bride. Because this cake?” She blew stray hair out of her eyes as she nodded smugly. “It kicks major ass. And when I do the crown, angels will weep with joy.”
Parker set the pot aside to steep. “Really, Laurel, you need to take more pride in your work.”
Laurel grinned. “Screw the tea. I’m nearly done here. Pour me a glass of wine.”

IN THE MORNING, AFTER A SOLID SIX HOURS’ SLEEP, LAUREL GOT IN a quick session at the gym before dressing for the workday. She’d be chained in her kitchen for the bulk of it, but before that routine began, there was the summit meeting that prefaced every event.
Laurel dashed downstairs from her third-floor wing to the main level of the sprawling house, and back to the family kitchen where Mrs. Grady was putting a fruit platter together.
“Morning, Mrs. G.”
Mrs. Grady arched her eyebrows. “You look feisty.”
“Feel feisty. Feel righteous.” Laurel fisted both hands, flexed her muscles. “Want coffee. Much.”
“Parker’s taken the coffee up already. You can take this fruit, and the pastries. Eat some of that fruit. A day shouldn’t start with a Danish.”
“Yes, ma’am. Anyone else here yet?”
“Not yet, but I saw Jack’s truck leave a bit ago, and I expect Carter will be along giving me the puppy eyes in hopes of a decent breakfast.”
“I’ll get out of the way.” Laurel grabbed the platters, balancing them with the expertise of the waitress she’d been once upon a time.
She carried them up to the library, which now served as Vows’ conference room. Parker sat at the big table, with the coffee service on the breakfront. Her BlackBerry, as always, remained at easy reach. The sleek ponytail left her face unframed, and the crisp white shirt transmitted business mode as she sipped coffee and studied data on her laptop with midnight blue eyes Laurel knew missed nothing.
“Provisions,” Laurel announced. She set the trays down, then tucked her chin-length swing of hair behind her ears before she obeyed Mrs. Grady and fixed herself a little bowl of berries. “Missed you in the gym this morning. What time did you get up?”
“Six, which was a good thing, since Saturday afternoon’s bride called just after seven. Her father tripped over the cat and may have broken his nose.”
“Uh-oh.”
“She’s worried about him, but nearly equally worried about how he’s going to look for the wedding, and in the photographs. I’m going to call the makeup artist to see what she thinks can be done.”
“Sorry about the FOB’s bad luck, but if that’s the biggest problem this weekend, we’re in good shape.”
Parker shot out a finger. “Don’t jinx it.”
Mac strolled in, long and lean in jeans and a black T-shirt. “Hello, pals of mine.”
Laurel squinted at her friend’s easy smile and slumberous green eyes. “You had morning sex.”
“I had stupendous morning sex, thank you.” Mac poured herself coffee, grabbed a muffin. “And you?”
“Bitch.”
With a laugh, Mac dropped down in her chair, stretched out her legs. “I’ll take my morning exercise over your treadmill and Bowflex.”
“Mean, nasty bitch,” Laurel said and popped a raspberry.
“I love summer when the love of my life doesn’t have to get up and out early to enlighten young minds.” She opened her own laptop. “Now I’m primed, in all possible ways, for business.”
“Saturday afternoon’s FOB may have broken his nose,” Parker told her.
“Bummer.” Mac’s brow creased. “I can do a lot with Photoshop if they want me to—but it’s kind of a cheat. What is, is—and it makes an amusing memory. In my opinion.”
“We’ll see what the bride’s opinion is once he gets back from the doctor.” Parker glanced over as Emma rushed in.
“I’m not late.There are twenty seconds left.” Black curls bouncing, she scooted to the coffee station. “I fell back to sleep. After.”
“Oh, I hate you, too,” Laurel muttered. “We need a new rule. No bragging about sex at business meetings when half of us aren’t getting any.”
“Seconded,” Parker said immediately.
“Aww.” Laughing, Emma scooped some fruit into a bowl.
“Saturday afternoon’s FOB may have a broken nose.”
“Aww,” Emma repeated, with genuine concern at Mac’s announcement.
“We’ll deal with it when we have more details, but however it turns out, it really falls to Mac and me. I’ll keep you updated,” Parker said to Mac. “Tonight’s event. All out-of-town attendants, relatives, and guests have arrived. The bride, the MOB, and the attendants are due here at three for hair and makeup. The MOG has her own salon date and is due by four, with the FOG. FOB will arrive with his daughter. We’ll keep him happy and occupied until it’s time for the formal shots that include him. Mac?”
“The bride’s dress is a beaut. Vintage romance. I’ll be playing that up.”
As Mac outlined her plans and timetable, Laurel rose for a second cup of coffee. She made notes here and there, continued to do so when Emma took over. As the bulk of Laurel’s job was complete, she’d fill in when and where she was needed.
It was a routine they’d perfected since Vows had gone from concept to reality.
“Laurel,” Parker said.
“The cake’s finished—and a wowzer. It’s heavy, so I’ll need help from the subs transferring it to reception, but the design doesn’t require any on-site assembly. I’ll need you to do the ribbon and white rose petals, Emma, once it’s transferred, but that’s it until it’s time to serve. They opted against a groom’s cake, and went for a selection of mini pastries and heart-shaped chocolates. They’re done, too, and we’ll serve them on white china lined with lace doilies to mirror the design of the cake. The cake table linen is pale blue, eyelet lace. Cake knife and server, provided by the B and G. They were her grandmother’s so we’ll keep our eye on them.
“I’m going to be working on Saturday’s cakes most of today, but should be freed up by four if anyone needs me. During the last set, the subs will put leftover cake in the take-away boxes and tie them with blue ribbon we’ve had engraved with the B and G’s names, and the date. Same goes if there are any leftover chocolates or pastries. Mac, I’d like a picture of the cake for my files. I haven’t done this design before.”
“Check.”
“And Emma, I need the flowers for Saturday night’s cake. Can you drop them off to me when you come to dress today’s event?”
“No problem.”
“On the personal front?” Mac lifted a hand for attention. “No one’s mentioned that my mother’s latest wedding is tomorrow, in Italy. Which is, thankfully, many, many miles away from our happy home here in Greenwich, Connecticut. I got a call from her just after five this morning, as Linda doesn’t get the concept of time zones—and, well, let’s face it, doesn’t give a shit anyway.”
“Why didn’t you just let it ring?” Laurel demanded, even as Emma reached over to rub Mac’s leg in sympathy.
“Because she’d just keep calling back—and I’m trying to deal with her. On my terms for a change.” Mac raked her fingers through the bold red of her gamine cap of hair. “There were, as expected, tears and recriminations, as she’s decided she wants me there. As opposed to a week ago, when she didn’t. Since I have no intention of hopping on a plane, particularly when I have an event tonight, two tomorrow, and another on Sunday, to see her get married for the fourth time, she’s not speaking to me.”
“If only it would last.”
“Laurel,” Parker murmured.
“I mean it. You got to give her a piece of your mind,” she reminded Parker. “I didn’t. I can only let it fester.”
“Which I appreciate,” Mac said. “Sincerely. But as you can see, I’m not in a funk, I’m not swimming in guilt or even marginally pissed off. I think there’s an advantage to finding a guy who’s sensible, loving, and just really solid. An advantage over and above really terrific morning sex. Every one of you has been on my side when I’ve had to deal with Linda, you’ve tried to help me through her demands and basic insanity. I guess Carter just helped tip the scales, and now I can deal with it. I wanted to tell you.”
“I’d have morning sex with him myself, just for that.”
“Hands off, McBane. But I appreciate the sentiment. So.” She rose. “I want to get some work done before I need to focus on today’s event. I’ll swing by and get some shots of the cake.”
“Hang on, I’ll go with you.” Emma pushed up. “I’ll be back with the team shortly—and I’ll drop the flowers off for you, Laurel.”
When they’d gone, Laurel sat another moment. “She really meant it.”
“Yes, she really did.”
“And she’s right.” Laurel took a last moment to sit back and relax with her coffee. “Carter’s the one who turned the key in the lock. I wonder what it’s like to have a man who can do that, can help that way without pushing. Who can love you that way. I guess when it comes down to it, I envy her that even more than the sex.”
Shrugging, Laurel rose. “I’d better get to work.”



LAUREL DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO THINK ABOUT MEN OVER THE NEXT couple of days. She didn’t have the time or the energy to think about love and romance. She might have been neck-deep in weddings, but that was business—and the business of weddings demanded focus and precision.
Her Antique Lace cake, which had taken her nearly three days to create, had its moment in the spotlight—before being disassembled and devoured. Saturday afternoon featured her whimsical Pastel Petals with its hundreds of embossed, gum-paste rose petals, and Saturday evening her Rose Garden, where tiers of bold red roses layered with tiers of vanilla-bean cake with silky buttercream frosting.
For Sunday afternoon’s smaller, more casual event, the bride had chosen Summer Berries. Laurel had done the baking, the filling, the assembly, and the basket-weave frosting. Now, even as the bride and groom exchanged vows on the terrace outside, Laurel completed the project by arranging the fresh fruit and mint leaves on the tiers.
Behind her, the subs completed table decorations for the wedding brunch. She wore a baker’s apron over a suit nearly the same color as the raspberries she selected.
Stepping back, she studied the lines and balance, then chose a bunch of champagne grapes to drape over a tier.
“Looks tasty.”
Her eyebrows drew together as she grouped stemmed cherries. Interruptions while she worked were common—but that didn’t mean she had to like them. Added to it, she hadn’t expected Parker’s brother to drop by during an event.
Then again, she reminded herself, he came and went as he pleased.
But when she spotted his hand reaching for one of her containers, she slapped it smartly away.
“Hands off.”
“Like you’re going to miss a couple blackberries.”
“I don’t know where your hands have been.” She set a trio of mint leaves, and didn’t bother—yet—to spare him a glance. “What do you want? We’re working.”
“Me, too. More or less. Lawyer capacity. I had some paperwork to drop off.”
He handled all their legal dealings, both individually and as a business. She knew, very well, he put in long hours on their behalf, and often on his own time. But if she didn’t jab at him, she’d break long-standing tradition.
“And timed it so you could mooch from catering.”
“There ought to be some perks. Brunch deal?”
She gave in and turned. His choice of jeans and a T-shirt didn’t make him less of an Ivy League lawyer—not to her mind. Delaney Brown of the Connecticut Browns, she thought. Tall, appealingly rangy, his dense brown hair just a smidgen longer than lawyerly fashion might dictate.
Did he do that on purpose? She imagined so, as he was a man who always had a plan. He shared those deep, midnight blue eyes with Parker, but though she’d known him all her life, she could rarely read what was behind them.
He was, in her opinion, too handsome for his own good, too smooth for anyone else’s. He was also unflinchingly loyal, quietly generous—and annoyingly overprotective.
He smiled at her now, quick and easy with a disarming flash of humor she imagined served as a lethal weapon in court. Or the bedroom.
“Cold poached salmon, mini chicken florentine, grilled summer vegetables, potato pancakes, a variety of quiches, caviar with full accompaniment, assorted pastries and breads, along with a fruit and cheese display, followed by the poppy-seed cake with orange marmalade filling and Grand Marnier buttercream frosting, topped with fresh fruit.”
“Sign me up.”
“I expect you can sweet-talk the caterers,” she said. She rolled her shoulders, circled her head on her neck as she chose the next berries.
“Something hurt?”
“The basket weave’s a killer on the neck and shoulders.”
His hands lifted, then retreated to his pockets. “Are Jack and Carter around?”
“Somewhere. I haven’t seen them today.”
“Maybe I’ll go hunt them down.”
“Mmm-hmm.”
But he wandered across the room to the windows and looked down at the flower-decked terrace, the white slippered chairs, the pretty bride turned toward the smiling groom.
“They’re doing the ring thing,” Del called out.
“So Parker just told me.” Laurel tapped her headset. “I’m set. Emma, the cake’s ready for you.”
She balanced the top layer with an offset stem loaded with blackberries. “Five-minute warning,” she announced, and began loading her bin with the remaining fruit. “Let’s get the champagne poured, the Bloody Marys and mimosas mixed. Light the candles, please.” She started to lift the bin, but Del beat her to it.
“I’ll carry it.”
She shrugged, and moved over to hit the switch for the background music that would play until the orchestra took over.
They started down the back stairs, passing uniformed waitstaff on their way up with hors d’oeuvres for the brief cocktail mixer designed to keep guests happy while Mac took the formals of the bride and groom, the wedding party and family.
She swung into her kitchen where the caterers ran full steam. Used to the chaos, Laurel slid through, got a small bowl and scooped out fruit. She passed it to Del.
“Thanks.”
“Just stay out of the way. Yes, they’re ready,” she said to Parker through the headset. “Yeah, in thirty. In place.” She glanced over at the caterers. “On schedule. Oh, Del’s here. Uh-huh.”
Leaning on the counter and eating berries, he watched her as she stripped off her apron. “Okay, heading out now.”
Del pushed off the counter to follow her as she headed through the mudroom that would soon be transformed into her extra cooler and storage area. She pulled the clip out of her hair, tossed it aside, and shook her hair into place as she stepped outside.
“Where are we going?”
“I’m going to help escort guests inside. You’re going away, somewhere.”
“I like it here.”
It was her turn to smile. “Parker said to get rid of you until it’s time to clean up. Go find your little friends, Del, and if you’re good boys you’ll be fed later.”
“Fine, but if I get roped into cleanup, I want some of that cake.”
They separated, him strolling toward the remodeled pool house that served as Mac’s studio and home, her striding toward the terrace, where the bride and groom exchanged their first married kiss.
Laurel glanced back once—just once. She’d known him all her life—that was fate, she supposed. But it was her own fault, and her own problem, that she’d been in love with him nearly as long.
She allowed herself one sigh before fixing a bright, professional smile on her face to lend a hand herding the celebrants into Reception.

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Штрихкод:   9780749929039
Аудитория:   Общая аудитория
Размеры:   196x 126x 26 мм
Литературная форма:   Роман
Тип иллюстраций:   Без иллюстраций
Язык:   Английский
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