Finally, Bree reached out and counted the money. “He left two grand. I think that will buy some really nice highlights and a couple fancy outfits, don’t you, Amelia?”
Amelia, the caterer and resident fashionista, nodded. “It should. But it really depends on what we have to start with. Who can we possibly get to do this?”
“Not me,” Bree insisted. “I’m engaged, and I’ve got to be able to take all the pictures. You’re married and pregnant,” she noted.
Amelia ran her hand over her rounded belly. She had just reached twenty-two weeks and found out that she and her husband, Tyler, were having a girl. “Even if I wasn’t, I’ve got to cook for five hundred guests. I’m already in over my head on this one, even with Stella’s help.”
They both turned to look at Natalie, who was frantically making notes in her tablet. “Don’t look at me,” she said after noticing them watching her. “I’m the wedding planner. I’ll be in headset mode keeping this show on track.”
“There’s got to be someone we could ask. A friend?” Gretchen pressed. “You grew up in Nashville, Natalie. Don’t you know anyone that wouldn’t mind being a movie star’s arm candy for a few days?”
“What about you?” Natalie fired back.
“What?” Gretchen nearly shrieked in response to the ridiculous question. They’d obviously lost their minds if they thought that was a viable solution. “Me? With Julian Cooper?”
Natalie shrugged off her surprise. “And why not? He said they wanted a normal, everyday woman.”
“Just because he doesn’t want a supermodel doesn’t mean he wants...me. I’m hardly normal. I’m short, I’m fat and never mind the fact that I’m horribly awkward with men. I clam up whenever Bree’s musician fiancé comes by. Do you really think I can act normal while the hottest star in Hollywood is whispering in my ear?”
“You’re not fat,” Amelia chastised. “You’re a normal woman. Plenty of guys like their women a little juicy.”
Juicy? Gretchen rolled her eyes and flopped back into her chair. She was twenty pounds overweight on a petite frame and had been that way since she was in diapers. Her two sisters were willowy and fragile like their ballerina mother, but Gretchen got their father’s solid Russian genes, much to her dismay. Her pants size was in the double digits, and she was in a constant state of baking muffin tops. Juicy wasn’t the word she would use.
“You guys can’t really be serious about this. Even if I wasn’t the last woman on earth that he’d date, you forget I work here, too. I’ll be busy.”
“Not necessarily,” Bree countered. “Most of what you do is done in advance.”
Gretchen frowned. Bree was right, although she didn’t want to admit it. The invitations had gone out months ago. The programs and place cards were done. She would need to decorate the night before, but that didn’t preclude her from participating in most of the wedding day activities. “I handle a lot of last-minute things, too, you know. It’s not like I’m sitting around every Saturday doing my nails.”
“That’s not what I’m implying,” Bree said.
“Even so, it’s ridiculous,” Gretchen grumbled. “Julian Cooper? Please.”
“You could use the money, Gretchen.”
She looked at Amelia and sighed. Yes, Gretchen was broke. They’d all agreed when they started this business that the majority of their profits would go into paying off the mortgage on the facility, so they weren’t drawing amazing wages. For Amelia and Bree it didn’t matter so much anymore. Bree was engaged to a millionaire record producer, and Amelia was married to a rare jewels dealer. Gretchen was getting by, but there wasn’t much left over for life’s extras. “Who couldn’t?”
“You could go to Italy,” Natalie offered.
That made Gretchen groan aloud. They’d found her Achilles’ heel without much trouble. She’d had a fantasy of traveling to Italy for years. Since high school. She wanted to spend weeks taking in every detail, every painting of the Renaissance masters. It was a trip well out of her financial reach despite years of trying to save. But Natalie was right. With that cash in her hand she could immediately book a flight and go.
Italy. Florence. Venice. Rome.
She shook off the thoughts of gelato on the Spanish Steps and tried to face reality. “We’re overworked. Things are slower around the holidays, but I don’t see a three-week Italian vacation in my future. He could give me a million bucks and I wouldn’t be able to take off time for a trip.”