Top Secret

   “Okay,” Annabelle said in a hushed tone as she reached across the table to grab Missy’s forearms. “Whatever we discuss today remains top secret.”
   “I thought we were simply brainstorming.”
   “Even the brainstorming. I want everything kept between you and me.”
   “And Duncan,” Missy added.
Annabelle blinked. “Why Duncan?”
   “Ah”—Missy’s eyes darted right and left before landing back on Annabelle—“because he’s the groom?”
   “Since when does a groom have any say in what happens at his own wedding?”
Missy burst out laughing.
   “Seriously,” Annabelle went on. “Besides, his big suggestion was we get N.C. State’s mascot Tuffy to show up and walk me down the aisle.”
   “Aww. Well, that’s kinda fun, bringing in the whole college thing into it.”
   “I went to Carolina,” Annabelle deadpanned.
   “Ah. Well, there’s that.” Missy choked back another bout of  laughter. “But you were the one who told him you didn’t want traditional and boring. Don’t get upset when the man wants to help by getting creative.”
Annabelle remained decidedly unamused.
Missy cleared her throat and leaned in over the table. “Okay. Everything we discuss is kept top secret, even from Duncan.”
   “Right. Okay, what have you come up with?”
   “A tent.”
   “It’s been done. Hale and Genevra Evans had a luxurious tent erected on the grounds of his estate for their wedding. Complete with chandeliers and air-conditioning. I can’t compete with that.”
   “Oh. So, this is a competition?”
   “Well, it’s not a competition, per se. But I’m, you know …”
   “The Keeper of the Debutantes.”
   “Right. And everybody is expecting a certain …”
   “Show.”
   “Show?”
   “Yes. Show. You know, your show.”
   “My show?”
   “Yes. Keeper of the Debutantes marries darling lawyer from Richmond right here in town.” Missy stopped. “What about a destination wedding?”
   “Can’t happen. Has to be Henderson.”
   “Why?”
   “Why? Aren’t you running Team Henderson? Doesn’t everything have to be about creating buzz for Henderson?”
Missy’s eyes widened. “Never thought about it like that, but hey, I am onboard, one hundred percent.” She gathered the papers in front of her and banged the edges on the table. “Let’s do this.”
   “Right. So it has to be here in Henderson. We are inviting several hundred people because—”
   “You’re the Keeper of the Debutantes.”
   “Well, I know a lot of people,” Annabelle confessed. “We’ve got friends and neighbors, and a slew of debutantes, along with my sorority sisters, old and new. Then we’ve got Duncan’s fraternity buddies and all of his friends and family from Richmond.”
   “What if we come up with a fun way to distinguish each of those groups?”
Annabelle’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”
   “Well, you’re going to have all these people from different parts of your life coming together in celebration. You’re going to want them to get along and mingle, right? Have them get to know each other?”
   “Sure. Whatcha got in mind?’
An older woman leaned back from her table and interjected over Annabelle’s shoulder. “I went to a fabulous birthday bash one time where all the guests wore a defining color that showed they were part of a specific subset. You could do something like that.”
Annabelle blinked. “Mrs. Egan? Were you eavesdropping?”
   “Oh honey, of course I was. It’s about time you get down to planning this wedding and you know how I love party planning. Oh, and you know who else throws a great party? Stache Zimmerman.” She turned and looked back at the woman sitting across from her. “Anastasia, do you want to join me in helping Annabelle plan her wedding?”
   “Why I’d love to.” The two women wasted no time in dragging their chairs over to the table and sitting down.
Annabelle’s stunned expression lasted only a few seconds before she remembered who she was. She glanced over at an equally stunned Missy, took a breath, and gave the ladies of Henderson Country Club a gracious grin. “Well, this is just lovely,” she cooed before holding up a finger and summoning Harry. “I believe I’ll have a vodka martini–dirty, please, Harry. Ladies? Drinks are on me.”
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