“I love it,” he said.
“But there was this other flower I thought might work better for Ally. It’s called a vanda—have you ever heard of it? I have a pic on my phone.” He whipped out his cell and handed it to her. “Scroll through. I found these on Pinterest.”
Devon promptly shot him an excited look. “I adore the vanda, but it’s extremely expensive and hard to get.”
Avery wondered how this man had once again ended up hijacking the appointment. “What’s a vanda?”
“It’s an exotic orchid. Highly unusual but powerful. Gorgeous scent. Here.” Devon angled the phone toward her. Of course, the flower was the same vivid purple, but it had a lush sensuality that the lisianthus didn’t.
“It’s quite beautiful, but I’m sure it would be impossible to get on such late notice,” Avery said.
“Definitely difficult but not impossible.” Devon’s face lit up with excitement. “I’d love to arrange a bouquet with vanda. Maybe some Pittosporum greenery to encase the orchards?”
“Yes. Or even stephanotis?” Carter suggested.
Devon’s green eyes sparkled. “And we wrap it around and let it trail to the ground! Definitely some parrot tulips.” She grabbed a pencil and began sketching out the bouquet on her pad.
He nodded. “Maybe some striped roses?”
The pencil scratched madly over the paper. “I’ll use a silver bow and construct the shape like a horn to accent the flow.”
“I love it!” he declared, and Devon squealed.
Avery had never seen the florist get so excited over an appointment. And she’d never been ignored to this extent before.
“This is brilliant, Carter. It’s so nice to talk with a client who knows his flowers.”
Oh. My. God.
Caught in a nightmare, Avery watched as Carter smiled with pure charm and tipped his head. “Thank you. It’s wonderful to work with a florist who listens and isn’t afraid to change her vision.”
Avery winced at the direct hit. Her hands clenched into fists, and she counted slowly to ten so she wouldn’t reach across and try to strangle him. After a few minutes of them exchanging praise for each other, she jumped in. “I’m glad we came to a decision,” she said with a tight smile. “Why don’t we send Ally all of our choices and have her confirm?”
“And let her choose between the centerpieces,” Carter reminded her.
Avery refused to look at him as she gathered up their final picks and texted pictures of them to Ally.
Devon and Carter launched into a deep discussion on the ceremony flowers for the beach, and she agreed with the decision for a floral archway and tall baskets for accent. By the time the appointment ended, Carter and Devon were chatting like old friends, and even made arrangements to meet for drinks later that week for fun. If Avery didn’t know the florist was in love with her current partner, Lily, she would’ve thought the woman was trying to hook up with him.
They walked out into scorching heat. Immediately, her wraparound jersey dress stuck to her, and she felt strands of hair pop out and escape the tight clip.
“Well, that was fun,” he said. “Want to grab lunch?”
She stared at him. “No.”
“Avery, I think we need to—”
Her phone shrieked. She glanced down. “It’s Ally.” Without pause, she answered the call and put it on speaker. “Hey, sweets, how are you? How’s Jason’s mom?”
Her friend’s voice sounded tired. “Doing much better. We’ll get her to walk down the aisle just in time. I got all your goodies from the bakery and the texts with the flowers. Do you have time to go over everything?”
“Yes, of course. Your brother’s here with me.”
“Perfect! Hi, Carter. How’s your beach vacay?”
He grinned. “Good, but we miss you, Ally-Cat. I hope you’re not stressing about anything. Avery has it under complete control. She’s been amazing.”
Avery blinked, staring at him, but he’d sounded sincere. Probably just trying to be nice to his sister.
“I told you she was the best,” Ally said.
“She is,” he answered. “Listen, we’re standing outside the florist, and it’s a hundred degrees. Why don’t you stay on the phone while we walk over to McGlades for lunch and some cold lemonade? Avery needs a break after that long appointment. Then we can go over all the details.”
Avery sputtered. “No, I don’t. I need—”
“That’s a great idea! Get the shrimp salad on a croissant, Carter. It’s my favorite.”
“I will.” He scooped Lucy out of her carrier, hooked on a pink leash, and set her on the ground. “Avery, you lead the way.”
She was going to murder him.
She looked like she wanted to kill him.
He kept up a steady stream of nonsense chatter with his sister to keep Avery distracted, and settled in at the restaurant. Situated with a beautiful view of the beach, McGlades boasted fresh sandwiches and salads, fruit, and tart, sweet lemonade that he was beginning to crave on a daily basis. It was quiet, but busy enough to be able to hold a conversation on the phone while they had lunch. Too bad the woman by his side looked like she’d rather be anywhere than with him.
Maybe his plan had backfired.
He hadn’t meant to act like an arrogant ass at the florist. He’d been looking to impress her with his knowledge, but the woman was competitive as hell. Her need to dismiss him only spurred his need to prove her wrong. Of course, she didn’t know that before every vendor meeting, he called his sister and went over each detail. He gave suggestions, Ally tweaked them, and they sent pics back and forth.
Was that considered cheating?
Avery impressed him more every day. He’d had no idea how many choices went into a wedding day. Each pick was both thoughtful of the bride and groom, price, vendors’ capabilities, and her obvious need to please everyone involved. She had a vast knowledge on all subjects, and each vendor’s respect had seemed well earned. Tricking her into lunch seemed the only way to gain some private time with her. There was one thing he wanted with Avery Sunshine.
More time. More conversation. More kissing.
He switched his focus back to the phone conversation. His sister was speaking. “I can’t believe everything is coming together so fast! We’re down to only a month now—it’s crazy.”
“Wedding planning usually goes faster than imagined,” Avery said with a smile. “Did you make any final decisions on the items we sent?”
“Yes, I tasted the cake samples with Jason. It was such a hard decision because they were all amazing, but we decided on the carrot cake.”
He caught Avery wince. “That’s great. Um, I’m surprised, though. I didn’t think you liked carrots.”
Carter raised a brow at the obvious challenge, but also admired her for the subtle hit. The woman did not surrender easily. “I know! But I never had carrot cake before—I always avoided it because it sounded like a health thing. The moment I tasted it, with the hint of bourbon and the cream-cheese frosting, I thought I’d died and shot to cake heaven. You’re brilliant, Avery. I never would’ve imagined sending me something so risky.”
Carter pressed his lips together to keep from laughing.
Avery shot him a glare, huffing a bit, but kept her tone chirpy like the excellent planner she was. “To be honest, that was your brother’s choice.”
“Big brother always knows best, huh?” Ally teased.
“Something like that,” he said, trying to keep the triumph from his voice so he wouldn’t piss off Avery any further. Still, it felt good he’d been right. He liked pleasing his sister. “So the cake’s done. We’ve also been back and forth on your bachelorette party. I know you told Avery you wanted something low key and relaxing, like the spa, but I think this is an important time for you to get out and party. Have some fun with the girls. I say let’s nix the spa and head to Atlantic City.”
Avery chimed in. “There’s a bunch of restaurants and clubs we can hit if you want to dance and drink a bit. We certainly don’t have to go to AC.”
“But I think we should,” he added.
A pause hummed over the line. “I never would’ve thought of AC as an option,” Ally said slowly. “Figured we’d just stay in Cape May and keep it low key, but maybe you’re right, Carter. Maybe we should take the opportunity to party. God knows it’s been forever since I had a real girls’ night out.”
“Exactly,” he said.
Avery tilted her chin up and gave him a steely stare. Why did he find her annoyance with him so damn sexy? Was it the challenge to see if he could take all the prickly fire and turn it into pleasure? Since their kiss, he’d thought of nothing else.
“It’s up to you,” Avery said through gritted teeth. “But I still think the ladies may prefer a relaxing evening before the wedding. Get pampered. I’m sure Carter doesn’t want to pressure you.”
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but let’s do it. Let’s party in AC and make it a night to remember.”