He thought again of the sleek dolphin gliding through the worst of the turbulent waters, navigating the currents with skill and an enviable ease.

Sometimes, he thought, you just had to have a little faith.

Chapter Nine

It’s a family wedding. That’s what weddings really are. And as such, they are events filled with compromise.

Dora sent the tines of her fork slicing through the layers of the yellow cake. The lemon curd filling oozed out. She raised the cake to her mouth and slipped it inside, groaning, “Oh, Lord, I’ve died and gone to heaven.”

Carson looked at her and shook her head ruefully. “You’re going to die, all right, if you don’t stop eating seconds of all the cakes.”

“I’m not eating seconds,” Dora protested, between chewing. “I’m taking a second bite, that’s not the same thing.”

Harper shared a glance with Carson.

Dora caught the glance and flushed. “I have to be sure which cake I like best.” Dora set down her fork on the linen-covered table.

“And which of the cakes do you like best?” Harper asked, trying to soften the tease.

Dora rolled her eyes with a short laugh. “I can’t decide. They’re all so good!” She picked up her fork. “Maybe I’d better taste a few more.”

The three Muir sisters were seated at a table in the charming tasting room of the Charleston bakery Harper had selected. They’d made an appointment and had preordered the five different cakes that sat in front of them. Neatly, and without fuss, each of the five cakes were sliced and served. Then they were left to discuss their choices.

“I’m getting them confused. Tell me all the flavors again?” asked Carson. She was turning one of the cakes around to get a better look at the filling.

Harper reached for the printed list. “Lemon buttercake with lemon filling, buttercake with chocolate Kahlúa filling, and almond buttercake with fresh-raspberry filling. The one you’re looking at, Carson, is a hummingbird cake.”

“My personal favorite.” Dora slipped a forkful into her mouth.

“It says here that this bakery only uses European Plugrá butter.”

“What’s that?” Carson asked.

“It’s a slow-churned process that creates less moisture content and a creamier texture, thus a flakier pastry,” Harper answered. “It’s so much better. The word Plugrá comes from the French plus gras. ‘More fat.’?”

“Of course it does,” Dora said woefully, wiping a bit of the chocolate-cream filling from her lips with her pinkie.

“And last but not least,” Harper said, “is the fresh-grated-coconut cake. Which, by the way, is the one I’m going with.” Saying that, Harper pushed back a bit from the table. “It’s a Charleston classic and I’m mad for it. I fell in love with it on one of my first dates with Taylor at the Peninsula Grill.”

“Hummingbird cake is very traditional, too,” Dora said, digging into another bite of it. She pushed the slice of cake toward Harper. “Try it again.”

“No, I’m decided. Plus I couldn’t eat another bite.”

“But you hardly ate any.”

“You had enough for both of us,” Carson said.

Harper gave Carson a stern glance of warning. “Think of cake tastings like wine tastings.”

Dora set her fork on the table, feeling suddenly embarrassed that she had attacked the cakes like a woman starved. If this were a wine tasting, she’d be drunk now. “I know that. I was just hungry. I skipped breakfast,” she said, trying to salvage her dignity. “What about you, Carson? Did you taste the hummingbird cake?”

“I did, thanks. They’re all mouthwatering. But honestly, I’m thinking of going with cupcakes.”

“Cupcakes?” Harper exclaimed, clearly shocked. “But you’re getting married at the Legare Waring plantation. You could do the cupcakes at a beach wedding, like mine. But for a traditional wedding location, you should go with a classic cake to go along with the theme of your wedding. You have to follow tradition!”

“What if I don’t want to? I don’t care if the dessert is nontraditional.” Carson was getting her back up. “Unconventional is more my style.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Harper said archly. “You chose the Legare Waring House. You’re having a formal wedding. You set the theme, tone, and vision for the day, and everything must follow. Including cakes.” She smoothed the pleats in her skirt. “You should have chosen a beach wedding. Then you could have been more relaxed about things.”

“Oh, please . . .” Carson slapped her hand over her eyes with a groan. “I don’t think I have to follow all those rules. What does it matter? I should get to choose something for my wedding, don’t I? And I choose cupcakes.”

Dora shot her hand in the air as if she’d just seen Jesus. “Oh. My. God. I had a vision, ladies. First, Carson, that’s positively inspired. I have a friend who owns a wedding-cupcake shop on wheels—Sweet Lulu’s Bakery. They have a nontraditional vintage trailer that’s decorated real pretty. They’ll put those sweet little cupcakes in those cute mason jars. How’s that for southern?”

“I like it.” Carson smiled smugly. “Done. Cross that off the list for me.”

“Wait.” Harper made a faux pout. “Now I want that. Mason jars would be adorable.”

Carson looked back at her, incredulous. “But will it work for a beach-wedding theme?”

Harper and Dora both burst out laughing, and eventually Carson joined them.

Dora relaxed, glad to see the three of them finally seeing some humor in all this wedding charade. “I’ll give you Sweet Lulu’s contact information.”

Harper beamed. “I’ve been waiting for months for you to get home so we could make these decisions together. Isn’t it fun?”

Dora nodded.

“Like a barrel of monkeys,” Carson replied, tongue in cheek.

Harper’s smile faded. “The wedding is only two months away. Really, Carson, it means a lot to do this with you.”

Carson reached out to place her hand on Harper’s arm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get you upset.”

“Sometimes I don’t think you care.”

Tags: Mary Alice Monroe Lowcountry Summer Romance
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