“No. Absolutely not.”
Talia Breckenridge planted her palms flat on the linen draped table inside Blake and Poppy’s homey kitchen, fire spitting out of her honey brown eyes, lending an even more fiery element to the hot little package that was Talia. She glared at me and my brother Blake across the table, like it was my fault she’d been called here today. I didn’t want to be here any more than she did.
“If Talia can’t handle working alongside me, I’m sure my assistant and I can handle everything.” Even though Scarlett spent more time battling her eyelashes and trying to get me to notice her spectacular tits, she was a decent assistant when she tried to be.
She snorted out a laugh that shouldn’t have been sexy, but it was strip me down and fuck me now hot. “If the wedding was made up of dick and balls, I’d agree. But the only thing you two could possibly create together is an unplanned pregnancy.” She scooped the martini off the table and took a long, fortifying sip.
I’d be lying if I said her indifference, no, her outrage at having to work with me didn’t sting., but it did. Women always wanted to hang around me, spend time with me in the hopes of becoming my main thing for a little while. Not Talia. And I’d wanted her from the moment I first laid eyes on her. That was almost two years ago, and still I’d made no progress.
“As skilled as I am in the sack, I don’t fuck my assistants.” No matter how much they tried to tempt me.
“A man with standards,” she said sarcastically as she fanned her face mockingly. “Excuse me while I swoon.”
I rolled my eyes before leveling my older brother Blake with a stare cold enough to kill. “Explain to me again why you two, can’t just hire a damn professional wedding planner?”
“Because,” Blake’s voice grew hard and icy as he stood, glaring at both of us. “Poppy is on bed rest for the last nine weeks of her pregnancy. She’s only two days in and already losing her mind. You guys are our family and I’m counting on you to do this. Poppy is too.”
“Yeah, I’m counting on you guys too,” Poppy entered the dining room looking colorful and vibrant. And miserable, as she rubbed her giant belly.
“Shit.” Who could say no to the sunny picture of motherhood she made?
“You had to hit me with the family stuff, didn’t you?” Talia glared at Blake and then Poppy, but it was clear she was out of steam. “Fine. I know you’re going to hate being benched, but I know what you like, which means you won’t run yourself crazy running behind some wedding planner.”
Blake’s shoulders relaxed. “Exactly, Talia. Thank you.” Unbelievably she laid a comforting hand on top of Blake’s, smiling sweetly. I didn’t even know she had a sweet side, I’d certainly never been privy to it.
“No worries. And bed rest means I can boss her around and she has to listen.” Like the dutiful assistant she was, Talia grinned at Poppy and whipped out a notebook and pen, scribbling furiously while Blake and I watched. “Maple will be happy to help too.”
“So I can count on you two?” Blake wanted nothing but a positive response, and I knew that. He was strung tight, my brother, with a deep desire to make sure everything ran perfectly in his world, but I knew just how to soothe him.
“You absolutely can,” Talia assured him. “I’ll make sure this is as stress free as possible for you and Poppy.”
“I will too,” I added too late to sound like an adult, and more like a boy who wanted credit for his contribution too.
“Great! That’s a load off my back,” Blake smiled and sipped his water until his body was no longer drawn and tight. “Thank you for this. Both of you.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Poppy said, but I could see the tension she carried in her shoulders. “But we have something else to discuss,” she declared ominously.
“Shouldn’t Lacey be helping with this? I don’t want her to feel left out.” I also didn’t want to hear about the something else that had Poppy so worried.
“She’ll be planning her own wedding inside of a year, let your sister enjoy watching this fresh hell from afar.” Talia’s words were spoken with certainty, like she knew planning a wedding was sheer insanity. Suddenly I felt sick.
Blake’s face held a hint of red when he spoke. “Poppy’s asked Lace to plan the bachelorette party.” The way he stuck a finger in his collar told me he was worried what my twin sister might come up with for his bride-to-be’s last night as a single woman. “She’s included.”
“Don’t worry Blake, I excel at handling difficult clients, so your baby brother here won’t be a problem. We’ll plan an upscale, but slightly bohemian wedding. You and Poppy need to start on the guest list if you haven’t already. Just so we know how much of everything we’ll need.” She rattled off several other commands while we sat there, staring at her. Talia was completely oblivious because she hadn’t looked up yet. “And if you have some place your little heart is set on for the wedding and/or reception, let me know.”
“Whatever Poppy wants is great with me.”
That stopped her rapid wrist flicking and she looked up at my brother with a soft smile. “That’s so sweet. I’m happy for you both.”
Blake blinked, still getting used to showing emotion. “Thank you, Talia. I love her.”
“I know, and that’s why I only had a mild tantrum.” She pulled a card from her bag and slid it across the table. “If you think of anything else as we go forward, just shoot me a text or email. And no need to keep the wedding too formal. Maybe consider orange cummerbunds or something.”
“Fuck no it won’t,” I shouted at her, making her, Poppy and Blake laugh.
“Who knew this one had such strong opinions on wedding attire?” She was purposely trying to rile me up, and it was working.
I had plenty of strong opinions, and Talia would see that soon enough. Not only would I help plan this wedding, but I planned on using our time together to finally get her out of my mind. A quick roll, or ten, between the sheets and her allure would be gone. I’d see her for who she was, just a woman.
Plan in place, I flashed my most charming grin her way, and leaned in. “Just you wait sweetheart, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
She snorted and rolled her eyes as she began to repack her giant bag. What was the woman carrying around in there?
“I look forward to you proving me wrong.”
Poppy clapped excitedly. “I’m so glad to hear you both say that, because Blake and I have another issue we need you to deal with. Both of you.”
Fuck my life. “The wedding isn’t enough?”
Poppy blinked like she was trying to hold back tears, and I had to remember she was twelve hundred months pregnant and sensitive as hell. “Sorry to inconvenience you.”
“What do you need, Poppy?” Talia’s tone was sympathetic and kind, but she sent a searing glare my way to let me know just what she thought of me. As if there was any doubt.
She sighed and rubbed her belly, gaze fixed on the table as Blake rubbed her shoulders in soothing circles. He spoke instead. “We’re sponsoring the Northwest Adventure Classic, and we’d like you two to take care of the details.”
I smelled a rat, but with Poppy on the verge of tears there wasn’t a damn thing I could say about it now. Luckily Talia was on top of it.
“Send me whatever details you do have, and I’ll coordinate a time to meet with Lukas through his assistant.”
I heard a hint of resignation, or maybe it was annoyance, but she still refused to look at me.
“Is that all?” Blake nodded and I walked out, ready to go lose myself in a drink, a steak and woman. Not necessarily in that order either.