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A Gift of Love

By Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, Andrea Kane, Judith O'Brien, Kimberly Cates

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Chapter 1 from "Double Exposure" by Jude Deveraux in A Gift of Love
Oblivious to the spectacular view beyond the glass wall of the Houston high-rise that housed the offices of Foster's Beautiful Living magazine, Diana Foster paced in front of her desk with a telephone cradled between her shoulder and ear.
"Still no answer at the house?" asked Kristin Nordstrom, a production assistant at the magazine.
Diana shook her head and hung the phone up, already reaching into the credenza behind her desk for her handbag. "Everyone is probably out in the garden, reinventing mulch or something," she joked. "Did you ever notice," she continued with a rueful smile as she shrugged into a lime green linen jacket trimmed in white, "that when you have really exciting news, the people you want to share it with are never where you can reach them?"
"Well, how about if you tell me the news in the meantime," Kristin suggested teasingly.
Diana paused in the act of smoothing wrinkles from her white skirt and flashed the other woman a smile, but she had to look up to do it. At thirty-two, Kristin was two years older than Diana and a full six feet tall, with the fair skin and blue eyes of her Nordic ancestors. She was also conscientious, energetic, and detail-oriented, three traits that made her an ideal member of the production department.
"Okay, you've got it. I've just decided to shoot some of the photos for the 'Perfect Weddings' issue on location in Newport, Rhode Island. The opportunity dropped into my lap this morning, and it's going to put us under tremendous deadline pressure, but it's too good to pass up. In fact, if you're available I'd like to send you to Newport a week before the wedding to help our crew. Mike MacNeil and Corey will arrive a few days later. You can work with them while they shoot the actual photos. They're going to need an extra pair of hands, and it will give you an opportunity to find out what it's like to work on location, under pressure, in difficult conditions. How does that strike you?"
"Like a bolt of lightning," she said, her face illuminated by a broad smile. "I've always wanted to go on location with Corey's crew. Newport should provide a gorgeous setting for the layout," she said as Diana started for the door. "Diana, before you go, I want to thank you for everything you've done. You're a joy to work with -- "
Diana waved off her gratitude with a smile. "Just keep trying to find Corey. Oh, and keep calling the house. If anyone answers, tell them to stay put until I get there. Tell them I have great news, but I want Corey there to hear it."
"I will. And when you see Corey, please tell her I'm excited about the chance to work with her." She paused, a funny, uncertain smile on her face. "Diana, does Corey realize how much she looks like Meg Ryan?"
"Take my advice and don't mention it to her," Diana warned with a laugh. "She gets accosted all the time by strangers who refuse to believe her when she tells them she isn't Meg Ryan, and some of them become downright unpleasant because they think she's trying to trick them."
The telephone rang, interrupting them, and Kristin reached across the desk to answer it. "It's Corey," she said, holding the receiver toward Diana. "She's on the car phone."
"Thank heaven!" Diana said as she hurried forward and took the phone. "Corey, I've been trying to reach you all morning. Where have you been?"
Corey registered the excitement in her sister's voice, but at the moment her attention was concentrated on the driver of an orange pickup truck who was determined to merge into a space on the expressway that was already occupied by Corey's car. "I was at the printer's all morning," she said, deciding it was wiser to change lanes and let him win the bluff than to have an orange "pin stripe" embossed on the door of her burgundy car. "I wasn't happy with some of the shots I got for the barbecue layout for the next issue, and I brought him some different ones."
"Don't worry about that issue, it'll be fine. I have something more important to tell you -- it's great news. Can you meet me at the house in twenty minutes? I'd like to tell everyone at once."
"Did I just hear you say not to worry about an issue?" Corey teased, amused and surprised by this unusual attitude of optimism from her eternally cautious sister. Glancing in the rearview mirror, she changed lanes so that she could take the exit for River Oaks, rather than continuing to the office as she'd originally intended. "I'm heading for the house, but I insist on some sort of hint now."
"Okay, here goes: What would you say if I told you an unbelievable opportunity for the 'Perfect Weddings' issue just fell into my lap! The mother of the bride, who is clearly anxious to further bolster her social status, wants us to feature her daughter's wedding in Beautiful Living. If we are willing to do that, she is willing to guarantee us that it will be done in authentic 'Foster Style,' under our supervision, and she is willing to pay whatever that costs, as well as all travel expenses for our staff."
For months, Corey and Diana had been discussing possible locations and themes for the "ideal" wedding they wanted to stage and feature in that issue, but so far they'd discarded all of them either because Diana thought they were too expensive or because Corey thought they were artistically unacceptable. Diana bore the full burden for all Foster Enterprises' financial matters, but the responsibility for the beautiful photographic layouts that appeared in Foster's publications was Corey's. "It sounds good from a budget standpoint, but what about the location? What sort of setting would we have?"
"Brace yourself," Diana said.
In the car, Corey smiled with helpless anticipation. "I'm braced. Tell me."
"The wedding is to take place on the lawn of the bride's uncle's home...a lovely little forty-five room 'cottage,' built in 1895, complete with frescoed ceilings, fabulous plasterwork...and undoubtedly hundreds of other little architectural goodies you could include in our next coffeetable book -- you know," she said, "those big, fancy, beautiful books that you turn out in your spare time?"
"Don't keep me in suspense." Corey laughed, her enthusiasm soaring. "Where's the house?"
"Are you ready for this?"
"I think so."
"Newport, Rhode Island."
"Oh, my God, how perfect!" Corey breathed, her photographer's mind already envisioning scenic shots with fabulous yachts floating on sparkling blue water in the background.
"The bride's mother sent me pictures of her brother's house and grounds and then called me this morning after the package arrived. Based on something she let slip, I got the funny feeling he may be paying for the entire wedding. Oh, I forgot, she promised to provide us with six local people who'll work under our supervision. That should enable us to put some special touches in a few of the main rooms, so you'll have even more to photograph. All materials and freelance labor are at their expense, of course, and our people will have private rooms at the house. The hotels are already booked for the season, and you'll all need to work late anyway, so that's a practical solution. Also, they have servants and they'll have houseguests, so staying there to make certain no one tampers with our handiwork becomes a necessity."
"No problem. For an opportunity like this, I would work and sleep in Bluebeard's house."
Diana's voice lost a little of its happy confidence. "Yes, but can you do that in Spencer Addison's house?"
Corey's reply was instinctive and instantaneous. "I'd prefer Bluebeard."
"I know." "Let's find another wedding to feature."
"Let's talk about it when you get home."

Copyright © 1995 by Eagle Syndication, Inc.

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