“You’re pretty tiny yourself,” Mia said, but she surveyed her reflection in the floor-length mirror at Ellie’s Bridals with satisfaction. Rose was right; she did look like a princess in this gown with its antique off-white corset top and elaborately bustled skirt. Add in a tiara and she could be the royalty Luke seemed to want her to be. The thought of what his expression would be when he saw her in it for the first time made her smile.
Her smile slipped a little bit as she thought about the ring, the truck and the way Luke seemed determined to buy her happiness. Ellis had thrown around his money like that. Fred Warner had played up his cash, too—telling her no one would take her word over a wealthy businessman’s. Was she wrong about Luke’s character? She hoped not.
Thinking about Warner made her think of Inez’s request. She still hadn’t decided what to do. What if she did as Inez asked—wrote a letter to the council—and things blew up from there? What if it got into the paper? She wasn’t sure she could handle that.
She lifted her skirts and hopped down from the pedestal in the center of the room. “Your turn. That dress is… nice.”
Ellie Donaldson, the proprietress of Ellie’s Bridals, clucked her tongue when Rose stepped up. “I thought that would look lovely, but it’s not quite right, is it, dear?” The older woman bustled off to pull more dresses. Mia scanned the nearest racks herself.
“I swear I saw one earlier that would look terrific on you. Here it is.” She held it up for Rose to see. “You’ll knock Cab off his feet in this one. Try it on.”
“Oh, I like that one,” Morgan said from one of the plush chairs that ringed the fitting area.
Five minutes later, Rose stood on the pedestal in the new gown and Ellie circled around her, one hand up to her mouth. “It’s perfect, and you know what? I would have never thought to have you try it on. Mia, you’re a genius!”
“That’s a high compliment coming from another genius,” Rose said, twisting this way and that to see the gown from all angles. Like Mia’s, the gown had a corset top, but instead of the yards of bustled fabric of Mia’s skirt, hers clung close to her legs in asymmetrical folds, emphasizing Rose’s hourglass figure.
“I love it,” Morgan agreed.
“And here are the perfect shoes.” Mia fetched a pair so Rose could try them on.
“How’d you know my size?” Rose laughed.
“Just a guess. Here, try this.” She handed Rose a veil, too.
“You’re stealing my thunder today,” Ellie cried. Mia knew what she meant; Ellie had a reputation as having exquisite taste when it came to bridal gowns and accessories. She made sure her customers left with the perfect dresses and normally she could pick out just the thing on her first try.
“I’d never do that,” Mia assured her. “I just love helping people dress up and throw parties.”
“Then you should be a wedding planner,” Ellie said, taking a seat next to Morgan. “Lord knows this town needs one. People are always asking me to help them find a venue for their reception and a caterer for their food, but dresses are what I do best. What do I know about event planning?”
“A lot, I’m sure. And Mia’s already got two jobs,” Morgan pointed out. “I’m not sure she can handle wedding planning on top of working the till at the hardware store and Fila’s Familia.”
“I’m quitting the hardware store any day now,” Mia said slowly, as the idea took hold of her. Wedding planning sounded like a terrific career. It had never crossed her mind before that she could do something like that, but why not? You didn’t have to have a college degree to plan a wedding. “I’m sure I could figure out how to balance it with working at the restaurant. That’s a great idea, Ellie!”
Ellie blinked. “Oh, I was only joking, honey. Starting a business is hard work.”
“And it takes a lot of money,” Morgan added.
Mia looked from one to the other, and frowned as she realized neither one of them thought she should seriously consider the idea. “You don’t think I can do it?”
“It’s just you’re so young,” Ellie said.
“And you’re about to be a mother.” Morgan bent forward to touch her arm softly.
Mia couldn’t believe it. “You’re not that much older than me and you’re about to have a baby yourself. You’re starting a business. Why can’t I?”
“I think you’d be great at it,” Rose spoke up, “but they’re right. What about the money for startup costs?”
“I’ve got plenty of money,” Mia said. The others looked surprised. She rushed on before they could ask where she’d gotten it. “What I need is references. Rose, would you let me plan your wedding for free? If you like how it turns out maybe you’d tell people about my new service?”
“Of course,” Rose said staunchly. “I’d love to have you plan my wedding. Plus you’re planning your own wedding, don’t forget. You can make a portfolio of photos from both of the weddings to show people.”
“That’s a great idea.” Mia flung herself into Rose’s arms as Rose stepped off the pedestal, their wedding gowns billowing around them. But she noticed Ellie and Morgan exchange a worried glance over their heads and had to swallow down a surge of irritation. They really didn’t think she could do this, did they?
She’d just have to show them they were wrong.
“Your father will get over it. He always does sooner or later,” Lisa said to Luke.
“Generally later,” Luke’s sister-in-law Hannah chimed in.
“A lot later,” Claire said. She and Hannah had come to help Lisa clean up the aftermath of the wedding. Claire lived on the Cruz ranch with her husband, Jamie Lassiter, and visited the women of Double-Bar-K frequently. Now they were taking a coffee break around the kitchen table. Luke joined them, dropping down into a chair with a sigh. He was always tired these days, especially when he thought about his father’s reaction to his news about Mia’s baby.
“He didn’t say a word. Just looked like he was about to have a coronary.”
“Oh, dear. I hope he doesn’t end up in the hospital again,” Lisa said.
“He will if he says a word to Mia.”
“Luke,” Lisa chided. “That’s no way to speak about your father—and he won’t say anything. Remember? If he does, he has to take me to Paris.”