little mental slap. What was she doing fantasizing about a client? She knew perfectly well what she was doing. She was comparing him to the List, and so far Hammond was a very good match. A very good match, indeed.
Chapter Four “A re you sure you want to do this? Two devastating humiliations in one week might be too much for you.” Lucy looked at Marlo with an expression that was half genuine concern and half repressed amusement. “We can postpone the Bridesmaids’ Luncheon until you’ve recovered from your faux pas at the Hammonds’ the other night.” Marlo turned an attractive shade of pink. “I must be thick as a brick to have blurted out what I did.” Despite Jake’s graciousness and avoidance of her error, thinking about it made her cringe. Studs…horses…what else? “But he laughed, Marlo. He thought it was funny.” Sense of humor. Check. “Then he’s a better man than I am.” “That goes without saying.” Lucy turned around and the enormous sunflower-yellow bow on her backside almost brushed an entire row of swan-shaped cream puffs off the counter. The annual Bridesmaids’ Luncheon that Lucy and Marlo were hosting for their friends had started after Marlo had been asked to be a bridesmaid for the fourteenth time. It had begun half in jest and half because her friends had chosen the dresses with thedeluded hope that they might be worn again. All had overlooked the fact that no dress ever worn by someone playing second fiddle to a woman in white lent itself to a second wearing. Marlo had taken lemons and made lemonade by hosting this luncheon. She and Lucy required that everyone come in an old bridesmaid dress, and wear their hair in whatever fashion that particular bride had requested—an unflattering chignon or French twist, usually. They served things like chicken Kiev on a bed of watery, undercooked wild and white rice, or minuscule medallions of beef on reconstituted mashed potatoes, duplicating typical wedding food as best they could. It wasn’t truly authentic, however, since they refused to leave the meals on the counter until they’d cooled off before serving them. Every year, when the guests began their yearly conversation about disbanding the Bridesmaids’ Luncheon, Marlo would bring out the pièce de résistance, the item that brought them back year after year in their flouncy fashion disasters—the wedding cake. Few of her friends had tasted their own wedding cakes, other than for the obligatory shove-a-piece-into-each-other’s-mouths photo. This year the cake was carrot cake, layered with melt-in-your-mouth vanilla cheesecake, cream cheese frosting, walnuts and slivers of grated carrots. Lucy eyed Marlo critically. “Speaking of dresses, you haven’t changed yet. Let me handle the kitchen. It’s not that hard to scorch one pan of food and undercook another. Do you think the carrots have been boiling long enough? Is there any color left in them?” Lucy edged Marlo toward the bedroom, where an array of fashion disasters awaited. “You should wear the pink tulle you wore to your sister’s wedding,” Lucy advised. “It enhances your skin.” “It makes me look like a gob of cotton candy.” “There are worse things. I have a dress that makes me look like an Eskimo Pie.” Marlo dropped onto the edge of the bed. “At least we’ve been able to go through most of these wedding traumas together. You’re a good friend, Lucy. I don’t tell you how much I appreciate you nearly often enough.” “I’m guilty of that, as well. You are the most loyal, supportive, enthusiastic person I’ve ever known. I hope you find that Prince Charming you are looking for, Marlo. You deserve it.” Then Lucy glanced at the clock. “You’d better get ready. The doorbell is going to ring in five minutes. “By the way, did you find a present to swap?” Marlo regretted ever starting the regifting portion of the party. She was running out of things in her house as useless as