The woman hustles away and Liam claims the love seat, and I close the short distance between us. Stopping in front of him, my hands on my hips, I start to ask him about his exchange with the attendant.
“Good news!” His hand closes over one of mine, sending tingles all the way down my leg. “I told the store attendant to make sure you spend a ridiculous amount of money.”
“I don’t need to spend a ridiculous amount of money!”
“Don’t say that to her; she works on commission. You’ll ruin her day. Choose what you love, baby. Don’t let price decide. You’re mine. You’re only getting married once.”
I cup his face and kiss him. “And you’re mine, Mr. Stone.”
“Indeed, Mrs. Stone,” is his reply.
“Mrs. Stone,” I repeat, loving how it sounds.
“Here’s the bride-to-be.”
At the sound of the attendant’s voice, I kiss him again and turn to find her smiling, crinkles forming around her eyes.
“Amy,” Liam says. “Meet Betty.”
“Hi, Betty,” I greet.
“Nice to meet you, Amy. Mr. Stone helped me estimate your size, and since the approach of tonight’s event is imminent, I’ve selected some evening gowns and placed them in a room for you.”
“Excellent,” I reply. “I’m ready.”
She turns on her heel and I follow her, waving over my shoulder at Liam before we disappear down a hallway. Betty opens one of the doors and then faces me, lacing her fingers in front of her. “While you try on the formal gowns, I’ll pull some wedding options. Can you share some details about the venue, and if you have a style or dream dress in mind?”
“The wedding is going to be very small and intimate.”
“Then I’d say understated and elegant?” she queries.
I nod and tuck a lock of hair behind my ear.
Her eyes go wide. “Oh my. Your ring is spectacular. May I?”
“Oh yes,” I say, proudly extending my hand.
She studies the stone, then says, “I have the perfect dress. I’ll be back.” She hustles down the walkway and once again I’m smiling, something that is becoming a wonderful habit today.
I walk into the giant dressing room and shut the door, looking at the six dresses displayed around the room. I’m instantly drawn to an aqua gown that closely matches the color of Liam’s eyes. Slipping my purse over my head, I drop it on a chair and move closer to view my choice, loving the embroidered bodice and the sheer sleeves and fitted, long skirt. I dig around for a price tag and find none, and when I move to the next dress and do the same, I come up empty. Liam’s doing, no doubt.
Sighing, I cave to the idea that I won’t know the prices unless I ask, and even that is questionable. Feeling rather excited to try on my choice, I undress. Once I’m zipped into the aqua dress, I inspect myself in the mirror, disappointed to find the dress clings to my hips and makes them look wrong in all kinds of ways. A knock sounds on the door and I open it to have Betty enter and hang up a pale pink one-shoulder, A-line dress. I gasp at the perfection of the color. “I love it,” I say. “I can’t wait to try it on. Oh please, let it fit.”
“We can alter it if we need to,” she assures me, and motions to an elegant white lace gown she’s also selected with a pale pink sash at the waist. “This could be paired with a pink veil, or you could go all white except for the sash.”
“It’s pretty. Very pretty, but I really love the pink one.”
She smiles her approval. “I do, too.” Her brow furrows as she gives me a once-over. “That doesn’t fit you right.”
I laugh, and she earns respect for honesty. “I love the color, though.”
“The color suits you, but not the dress. I have another one. I’ll be back,” she says, and disappears out the door.
Ten times more excited than I was about the party dress, I waste no time stripping it off and reaching for the pink one, eager to try it on. Zipping it up, I warn myself not to be too hopeful. The odds of loving the first gown brought to me are next to zero. Inhaling, I turn to the mirror and elation follows. The form-fitting style is elegant and sexy, and the sheer drape over one shoulder is romantic the way a wedding gown should be.
But shouldn’t it be white? This is my one wedding, and white is traditional the first time you marry. Unbidden, a memory of my mother and me shopping for my prom dress washes over me. I miss her and suddenly feel very alone. I have no one but Betty to ask about my dress. Or Tellar, I think, and the thought is so comical it cheers me up a bit.
Still, I swallow a ball of emotion and unzip myself to hang the dress back on the hanger, reaching for the second choice. Once it’s on, I tie the pink sash and inspect my image again, and it’s really quite lovely. I like that it’s strapless and the white silk material is simple elegance, the skirt’s slight flare quite feminine. And the pink sash is just enough to highlight my ring.
I sit down and sigh. I need an opinion. I’ll ask Betty. She’s honest, at least. Heck. Maybe I really will ask for Tellar to come back and look, or break tradition and ask Liam. I stand up, liking that idea. He’s my other half and my best friend, too. I sit back down. I like tradition. I’m not asking Liam. I want the dress to be a surprise for him on our wedding day. Maybe I’ll buy them both and return the one I don’t wear.
The door opens abruptly without a knock and I jump to my feet, thinking Liam has come to make good on his erotic promise, only to see a young woman with a dark bob and thick glasses walk in and close the door. I blink at her face and blink again. I can’t be seeing right—but then I realize the hair is a wig, that this brunette is actually a blonde.