“Well, I’m just glad you did,” Avery said. “Now, let’s go over our schedule. July is pure insanity, and we need to make sure everyone’s tasks are tight as a drum.”
“Like you?” Taylor teased.
Avery surprised her with a wink. “That’s what my fiancé says.”
Taylor let out a hoot. She loved how Carter got Avery to relax and let go a bit. Before she’d met him, she ate, slept, and breathed Sunshine Bridal, but she’d been getting a bit obsessive. Taylor gave her thumbs-up approval while Bella and Gabe laughed.
“Where’s Nora?” Taylor asked. They’d recently hired a new assistant for Avery to help with the boom of business. Everyone hoped she’d move into Taylor’s position at the end of the year.
“She worked back-to-back events with me this past weekend, so I let her have the morning off. Don’t want to burn her out too soon,” Avery said.
“Is she working out well?” Gabe asked.
“Definitely. She’s extremely organized, color-codes her files, and seems to be one hundred percent focused on work.”
“In other words, she’s a mini you,” Taylor said with a smirk.
“Exactly! Isn’t it perfect? Kind of like having a piece of Gabe back. You guys like her, right?”
Bella nodded. “She seems a bit shy, but genuine and sweet. I hope we don’t scare the hell out of her. This family is a bit intense.”
“Speak for yourself. I’m totally normal,” Taylor said.
Avery sputtered out a laugh. “Okay, Miss Normal. Let’s start with you. Give us the status on the Rodriguez–Murphy wedding.”
Taylor opened up her spreadsheet, even though she’d memorized everything. “Three weeks till D-Day. I’m confirming all final appointments, but this one has been smooth.”
“They booked that eighties band to play, right?” Gabe asked.
“Yep. Of course, we’re also doing an eighties-themed party following the formal reception, so this will be an all-nighter.”
Bella shook her head. “Plus, you’re back for the Sunday brunch! You’ll be exhausted. Are you sure you won’t need help?”
“If one of you is on standby, I’ll be fine. Every part is organized, my vendors are the best, and Pierce will be there.”
“Great. Should we make sure a cake is on standby, also?” Avery asked.
Taylor jerked and shot her sister a look.
Avery burst into giggles.
“I knew I wouldn’t live this one down,” Taylor muttered, taking in the hidden mirth from Bella and Gabe. “Go ahead. Let’s get it over with.”
“I can’t believe you lost the cake!” Bella finally burst out. “How bad was it?”
“Bad,” she said with a sigh. “I’m talking a physical brawl right in front of me. I’ll forever have dreams of watching that cake slowly topple and Pierce diving to get it. The good news? No one-star review yet. The cupcakes saved the day, and a few of the guests said it was the best time ever because they finally had something out of the ordinary to talk about.”
“What an awful thing,” Avery said.
“I found a cheating couple once in a closet,” Gabe said. “It freaked me out because his wife was a bridesmaid.”
“What did you do?” Bella asked.
He shrugged. “Told them to put their damned clothes back on and not get caught or it’d ruin the whole wedding.”
Bella bit her lip. “That’s so sad. Weren’t you tempted to tell the bridesmaid her husband was a cheating asshole?”
“Sure, but by the end of the night, he was drunk enough to tell her himself. Accidentally, of course. I heard she ended up leaving him, but at least it was after the wedding.”
“I’m starting to think I should carry divorce attorneys’ business cards with me,” Taylor said.
“Don’t you dare!” Avery said, stabbing her finger in the air. “It’s bad juju.”
She threw her hands up. “I was just kidding. Kind of.”
“How did you not inherit the love gene?” Bella asked. “I mean, our family has been in the wedding business for years. Don’t you ever think that one day you may want to be in love and get married?”
Taylor looked around the table and saw three hopeful faces. Three faces madly in love, so it was easy to believe. Or maybe they’d found love because they had all believed. It was kind of the “chicken or the egg” theory, all mixed up. “Well, to be honest . . .” She trailed off and sighed like she was about to confess something epic.
Bella and Avery leaned forward.
Gabe cocked his head.
“Nope,” she said with a big grin. “But I’ll do my job, and I promise not to lose any more cakes.”
They groaned and threw out teasing insults, then got back to work.
Pierce left the photography studio and headed into his office. He dropped into the red leather chair behind his desk and looked around.
What a mess.
Usually, his inner sanctum was a place of artistic energy and harmony. The ceilings were high, with crisscrossed wooden beams, and the light spilled from endless oversize windows. He preferred a minimalist look, but the metal-and-silver chandelier gave him pleasure. It was a sculpture itself, with lanterns stacked in tiers. The stark white walls displayed some of his favorite photographs. But today, he saw only the endless piles of work he was behind on.
Papers and folders littered every surface. The message light on his phone blinked madly. A glance at the screen showed that his in-box was full. Was it time to take on a full-time assistant? A receptionist? He’d hired a college girl to work on filing and administrative tasks for the summer, but he needed to look at his business seriously and decide what changes he wanted to instill.
The real problem was, he didn’t know. He liked to think of himself as a man of focus and direction, but lately, he’d been floundering.
He’d known in college that photography was his passion and would be his future occupation. It had been an easy choice to return home and put his talents to use at Sunshine Bridal. The Sunshine family was like his family. He’d spent just as much time at Taylor’s parents’ house as at his own home. He’d quickly taken on a few jobs and, before long, realized it would be smart to open up his own business. He’d found this space out in West Cape May dirt cheap—it had been a failed marketplace, then a bike shop, and then it had remained sadly vacant. He’d seen the beauty of the place immediately and had friends help him renovate. Within the first year of returning, Taylor took her place as a planner with her sisters, and he’d opened up Powers Studios, quickly booking local weddings.