Authors: Lucy Kevin
Tags: #General Fiction
The Wedding Dress
Book #4 in the Four Weddings and a Fiasco series
© 2012 Lucy Kevin
In THE WEDDING DRESS, the brand new book in Lucy Kevin's bestselling “Four Weddings and a Fiasco” series, Anne Farleigh's stunning dress designs are a large part of what makes a wedding at the Rose Chalet so coveted. Just when she is about to create the most important dress of her career, Anne finds out shocking news about her father's past. She's spent her entire life believing that her parents shared the perfect love story. But did they? Or was it all just a lie...
Gareth Cavendish runs both his Private Investigation firm and his life by the book. But when he serves Anne with papers relating to her father's alleged affair two decades earlier—and the illegitimate daughter that resulted from it—he finds it impossible to remain strictly professional. Anne is simply the most beautiful, sweet, and open-hearted person he's ever met. Only, how many rules will Gareth have to break to help her learn how to believe in love again?
Anne Farleigh looked like an angel.
A very wet angel.
But even soaked to the skin, with her long hair and dress both utterly drenched, she was beautiful.
Gareth Cavendish had been waiting in the rain in front of her house for the past hour, enough time to make some calculated guesses about the woman who lived in the old-fashioned but obviously well-cared-for home. For starters, there was a white picket fence running around it. Gareth didn’t know many people who actually had white picket fences, but it spoke to him of a family that had lived there happily for a long time.
Of course, looks could be deceiving, as the contents of the envelope in his jacket pocket proved.
The case was straightforward. Jasmine Turner, a twenty-one-year-old woman from Oregon, wanted to track down the father who had abandoned her and her mother. She’d hired Richard Wells’s law firm to represent her.
Since leaving the police force six months earlier and starting Cavendish Investigations, Gareth had worked several private cases for Richard. Most, unfortunately, involving cheating spouses. The Farleigh case, however, came with a large potential bonus: if Jasmine won her case for half of her biological father’s estate, Gareth would end up with enough of an additional payday to keep his new private practice comfortably afloat for a while.
As Anne moved closer on the sidewalk, he saw that she was smiling. How, he wondered, could someone be that happy about a world determined to drench them?
Even stranger, when she finally spotted him standing in the rain by his car, she didn’t seem at all suspicious. Instead, she smiled directly at him, stunning him momentarily.
“Hello,” she called out, “are you looking for someone?”
Quickly regrouping, he confirmed, “Are you Anne Farleigh?”
She nodded and sent another of those pretty smiles his way. He moved up onto her covered porch and was about to reach into his jacket for the envelope when he looked into her eyes and stopped cold.
Her eyes were the most incredible shade of blue, like the ocean on a perfectly sunny day. Even in the middle of a rain storm, the way she was looking at him warmed him.
Gareth needed to serve her and get out of there. Yet, in spite of the rain, he wasn’t in a hurry to leave.
Not with such a lovely woman standing in front of him.
He pushed the thought away as he finally grabbed the envelope and held it out. “This is for you.”
She took the envelope, opening it with the obvious excitement of someone expecting a pleasant surprise. As she took out the legal papers, he realized she was close enough for him to smell the sweet floral scent of her perfume.
She finished reading and held out the envelope to him. “You’ve made a mistake. You have the wrong person.”
“Your parents were Edward and Chloe Farleigh?”
Anne nodded. “Yes, but—”
“Then I’m afraid there hasn’t been any mistake. I’m here to serve you with papers relating to your father’s other daughter.”
Anne shook her head sharply. “No, I’m sorry. You’ve got this all horribly wrong. My father didn’t have another daughter. It’s just me.”
“He did, Ms. Farleigh. Her name is Jasmine Turner, and she is his daughter thanks to a relationship he had with Deirdre Turner twenty-two years ago.” Even though Gareth couldn’t help but feel bad for blindsiding her with the news, he had to do his job. “This is official legal notice that you’re being sued for a share of your father’s estate.”
People never reacted well to being told that they were being sued and he knew what to expect: Angry disbelief, giving way to grudging acceptance, and then resentment.
What he wasn’t expecting was for Anne to simply push the envelope back into his hand, letting go so that he had to either catch it or let it fall into the puddle gathering on the porch at his feet.
“I’m sorry, Mr.—”
“Cavendish. Gareth Cavendish. And you can’t just give me back these papers. You’ve been legally served with them now.”
“While I don’t understand how a mix-up like this could happen, I do know that you’ve served these papers to the wrong person, because my father would never have done something like this.”
She said it perfectly pleasantly, even a bit apologetically, as if she was sorry Gareth had wasted his time. Underlying her every word was a certainty that told him she wasn’t going to budge from her position. With that, she put her key in the lock of her front door.
“Ms. Farleigh,” he said again, “I’m certain there hasn’t been a mistake.”
“And I’m certain there has been. Good night.”
She stepped through the door and shut it behind her.
Anne’s home was full of happy memories, from the knickknacks collected by her mother, to the old photographs on the walls. She had made a few changes over the years since her parents’ deaths but had aimed for keeping it bright and happy, with hints to its classic past. Most of the furniture in her bedroom, for example, consisted of antique pieces she’d inherited, such as the large four-poster bed that had been her parents’ and the old chest of drawers with the scuff marks at the bottom from where her tiny feet had kicked it as a toddler.
She took off her wet clothes and stepped into the warm shower, smiling as she thought about how lovely Tyce’s concert at the Rose Chalet had been…and how sweet it was that he and Whitney had finally declared their love for each other. She’d much rather think about her friends than the man—albeit a very handsome man—who had come to deliver those legal papers to her in the rain.
She appreciated good-looking men just as much as the next woman, but her reaction to this one had been out of the ordinary. Probably, she decided as she dried off and dressed, because he seemed to be the perfect combination of rugged and gentle. His dark hair had curled a little too long over his collar, and every part of him had been big and strong, from his shoulders to his hands. She’d felt as if she could stare into his dark eyes for hours.
Anne headed downstairs a few minutes later, wearing a favorite long-sleeved dress of her mother’s to which she’d made a few small changes to fit her slightly smaller figure. A few half-finished dress designs were strewn across the dining room table. Working at the Rose Chalet kept her very busy, not just with wedding dresses but also with designs for the bridesmaids and flower girls.
She went to the sink to fill her teapot with water but ended up stopping with her hand halfway to the faucet. Gareth Cavendish was still standing out in front of her house in the pouring rain.
Had he been there all this time that she’d been getting dry and warm, even though she’d already made it clear to him that he had targeted the wrong person with his legal papers?
A faint twinge of pity flashed through her. No doubt, he had some monster of a boss who would shout at him or maybe even fire him for making this mistake. Anne knew how lucky she was to be working with Rose at the Chalet. Best friends since childhood, they were always there for one another.
Gareth looked utterly miserable. So miserable, in fact, that she pulled a clean dish towel out of a kitchen drawer, then walked back to her front door and poked her head out into the damp night air.
“Would you like to come in for tea, Mr. Cavendish?”
From under his umbrella, he looked at her as if she’d just asked him if he’d like to take up juggling. “Excuse me?”
“Would you like to come in and have some tea?” Anne repeated. “You must be very wet and cold by now.”
He hurried over and left his soaking wet umbrella on the porch. As Anne stepped aside to let him in, he said, “You really shouldn’t let strangers into your home like this.”
Anne raised her eyebrows. “You’ve already told me who you are and what you want,” she pointed out. “I don’t think many criminals do that.”
“But how do you know I’m who I say I am?” Gareth countered. “You haven’t even asked me for any ID.”
Sensing it would make him feel better, she held out a hand. “Well then, you’d better show me some ID, hadn’t you?” After he showed her his license, she said, “Come dry off and sit down.” She handed him the wildly colored dish towel. “You’ve been standing out there forever.”
After rubbing the towel over his hair and face, he carefully folded it to put it on a nearby marble tabletop, then sat down on the large couch that she’d re-covered in plush, deep red velvet. The room was filled with mementoes, sketches of designs, piles of books, and all the other comfortable clutter of her life. His eyes skimmed over the old-fashioned Singer sewing machine she kept on a small table in the corner while she poured his tea.
She passed the cup and saucer to him, and his hand brushed hers as he took it. His skin was surprisingly warm despite the cold rain he’d been standing in. He took a sip of the tea, then put it down and took out the envelope again, laying it next to the teapot.
Anne worked to fight back a slight tightening in her chest. “Honestly, there must be more than one Anne Farleigh in the world. Or,” she supposed out loud, “perhaps you’ve got the name of the person you’re looking for wrong altogether.”
“You sound very certain, Ms. Farleigh.”
“Call me Anne,” she said with a smile, ignoring the rest of it, including the envelope that Gareth was pushing closer toward her.
“Okay, then, Anne, can I ask why you’re so convinced this has nothing to do with you?”
“Because my mother and father loved one another. I don’t just mean that the way people sometimes say it automatically. They truly, deeply loved one another. They even died in one another’s arms. When the car crashed”—she had to pause to take a moment to push away the brutal image—“they reached out for each other’s hands and held on through to the end. Would they have done that if they weren’t so deeply in love?”
“I’m so sorry about the way they died—” Gareth began, but Anne kept going.
“I’ve never been that deeply in love with anyone, but I know that if I
, I would never cheat. That person would be enough to fill my heart and my life. They’d be
. So you see, this person you’re talking about who cheated on his wife and had a daughter no one knew about can’t be my father.”
Gareth nodded as though he understood, and she was glad to have finally gotten through to him. But her relief was short-lived as he asked, “Your father was an author who traveled to Oregon many times on book tours, wasn’t he?”
When she nodded, he said, “Then I’m sorry, I really am, but you
the Anne Farleigh I’m looking for. This isn’t easy, I know, but your father, Edward Farleigh, had a lover in Ashland. She had a daughter twenty-one years ago named Jasmine Turner. Jasmine feels that your father unfairly left her out of his last will and testament. She wants what she believes to be her rightful share of the inheritance.”
“But this is silly,” Anne insisted in a calm voice even though it would be so easy to let herself get angry with this woman, Jasmine, and at Gareth for being so insistent that his client was right. The thing was, the only reason she’d be angry with either of them was if they were right. Which they weren’t. “I don’t know how you’ve come to this conclusion or what your client has told you, but she isn’t my father’s daughter. I’ve told you, my mother and father loved each other too much for that.”