Vows of Revenge(6)

By: Dani Collins

Melodie chuckled, even though the subject was still very raw for her.

“Not exactly. It was a grand affair,” she allowed, trying to keep the disdain out of her voice. Her mother had wanted something small and private. Her father had wanted publicity shots. Melodie had wanted her mother’s ashes. She’d done what she had to and the urn was now in her home, where she’d keep it safe until she could complete her mother’s final wish, to have her ashes scattered in Paris. “But I think Evelyn was being kind to me, suggesting I get into this sort of thing as a career—”

Oops. She hadn’t meant to reveal that. Shooting a glance at Roman, she saw his brows had gone up with that detail.

“Which isn’t to say I’m not qualified,” she hurried to assure him. This wouldn’t be amateur hour with monkeys stumbling around his home overturning his life, if that was what he was thinking behind that analytical expression. Melodie intended to repay Evelyn’s faith in her by ensuring each detail of her daughter’s wedding went off perfectly and with the utmost taste. “I’ve done a lot of this type of thing, just hadn’t seen it as a career possibility. After she said what she did, I contacted her and we came to an arrangement.”

“So you’re just getting your company off the ground. There must be substantial investment up front,” he commented. “Flying here to scout the location. That sort of thing.”

“Some,” she replied with suitable vagueness. Complaining about money problems would not inspire his confidence. But the small policy she’d managed to take out on her mother’s behalf had merely paid for the worst of her health-care bills. Pretending she could afford a weekend in the south of France was pure bravado and something Melodie would build into Ingrid and Huxley’s final bill.

“Your office,” she assumed as she moved away from that topic and along the balcony, arriving in front of a pair of open doors. The interior of the room held a desk free of clutter surrounded by large, clear screens she previously had thought were an invention confined to sci-fi movies. “You’ll want to secure this on the day, obviously.”

A door led off one wall back into his bedroom. The opposite wall was completely covered in large flat screens. A single image of his company logo took up the black space on them.

Melodie stepped into the room, drawn by its spare yet complex setup. A blip sounded and Roman followed to press his thumb pad to a sensor.

“You’re quite the secret agent, aren’t you?” she teased.

“I like to consider myself the man who stops them,” he rejoined drily.

She bit back a smile at his supreme confidence and said, “This would be a stunning angle for a photo, with the water in the background. Would you stand in for Ingrid?”

“Not likely,” he dismissed. Then smoothly turned things around with “You’d make a prettier bride. I’ll take the photo.” He held out his hand for her phone.

She hesitated, far more comfortable behind the lens than in front of it. She always had been, but she really didn’t want to cause even the smallest ripple in such a big commission.

“If you prefer,” she murmured with false equanimity and readied her camera app, walking back outside again as she did so. “We’ll do a series of shots from when the father of the bride fetches her from her room and all the way down the stairs. I had thought she’d come down the interior ones, but these ones are better. The guests will see her approach, and all this wrought iron is so gorgeous. We’ll take some couple shots on the inside stairs after the ceremony.” She was thinking aloud as she went to the rail and turned to face him.

He fiddled with her phone, then said, “Ready.”

After a few of the app’s manufactured clicks, he lifted his gaze and commanded, “Smile. You’re getting married.”

Caught off guard, Melodie laughed with natural humor, then clasped an imaginary bouquet and channeled her best bridal joy, as if the man of her dreams was awaiting her.

Despite being mocked mercilessly through her teens and suffering a self-imposed disaster that had put her off dating into her adult years, she had been telling the truth about being a romantic. She liked to believe a real-life hero existed for her. She needed to believe it, or she’d become as depressed as her mother had been.

Her mother’s illness had held Melodie back from looking for him, but now, despite the grief abrading her heart, she was open to possibility. Willing to take a risk. For just this one moment she let herself imagine Roman was the man made for her. Her soul mate.

Roman’s intense concentration lifted sharply from the phone, pinning her in the steely needle of his hard stare.

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