One minute, wedding planner Audra Greene's balancing budget sheets, the next she's changing baby sheets for handsome millionaire Dominic Manelli! Corporate tycoon Dominic needs help with his newly orphaned nephew, and he knows exactly who to ask--reliable, trustworthy Audra. He knows his playboy ways will only break Audra's heart and that he shouldn't get involved with the hired help. But every look, every touch and every smile is making Dominic want to swap nights out on the town for nights in with Audra and the baby....
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August 11, 2008
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Excerpt from Millionaire Dad, Nanny Needed! by Susan Meier
The Wedding Belles' three-story townhouse in the heart of Boston was always a flurry of activity, but that Friday, the number of people and the noise level they created had hit new heights. Brides--accompanied by their attendants and clucking mothers--filled the offices and spilled into the hallways. The scent of chocolate cake wafted through the air. A rainbow of color flowed from gowns through flower arrangements and favors for the reception dinner tables. Sequins on white bride dresses and veils caught the morning sun pouring in through the windows and sent flashes of light through the foyer, into the corridors, up the stairs.
Audra Greene, accountant for Wedding Belles, worked her way through a gaggle of giggling bridesmaids, creating a rustle of satin and lace. She edged around the wedding party considering various shades of blue and the party trying on dresses in pinks and lavenders, smiling politely and saying, "Hello," and "Excuse me," on her way to her third-floor office.
Finally there, she closed the thick wooden door and leaned against it with a sigh.
The Belles' copper-haired, pixie-featured general assistant, Julie Montgomery, laughed. "It's a jungle out there."
Removing her navy blue coat, Audra strode to her antique desk. "How many weddings are they working on?"
"Let's see. The weddings for June of next year are in the initial planning stages. September brides are finalizing details."
"And April brides are panicking?" Audra hung her coat in the closet before she slid onto her tall-backed brown suede chair in front of the billowing yellow silk drapes that gave the room the rich, elegant feel that she loved.
Julie tilted her head, considering that. "The Belles like to think of it as maximizing last-minute opportunities." With a chuckle, she went back to inputting invoices into the computer to pay that month's bills.
Audra's chest tightened as she watched Julie. The as-sistant--and the Belles for that matter--had no reason to check into the most recent deposit in the business account and discover it was actually every cent of Audra's savings. Or that the estimated income taxes they'd sent in wouldn't cover this year's bill. Paying the difference would drain the Wedding Belles' coffers and they wouldn't have enough money for the wedding they'd promised to Julie. But Audra knew.
Still, she didn't immediately turn on her computer and begin writing the e-mail to the other Belles about their dire financial straits. She needed to tell them--this morning--before Julie's wedding plans went any further. But she couldn't do it in front of Julie.
"Julie, would you do me a favor?"
Always eager to please, Julie quickly glanced up. "Sure."
"I should have grabbed a bottle of water from the kitchen, but I have something I have to do right now. It can't wait--" Loath to ask the Belles' assistant to run this kind of personal errand, Audra had no choice. She needed a few minutes of privacy, and when Julie entered invoices for payment she shared Audra's office. "Could you get me a bottle of water?"
Julie sprang from her seat. "I can't believe you'd hesitate to ask me! I'm so indebted to you guys. I'd do anything for any of you."
At the gratitude and affection she heard in Julie's voice, Audra winced. "Please, you don't need to say that."
Julie smiled radiantly, her pretty blue eyes shining. "Are you nuts? That's like saying I shouldn't be grateful! There isn't enough gratitude in the world to show you how much I appreciate what you're doing for me."
Disappointment tightened Audra's chest, squeezing her heart. Julie was the kindest, most unselfish person Audra knew and life had treated her abysmally. The Belles weren't paying for her wedding because they were wonderful. They had made the decision because Julie was wonderful. Sweet. And she deserved the kindness. Audra felt as if she, personally, were the one letting her down. After all, she was the one in charge of finances.
At the office door, Julie turned with a smile. "I'll be back in a second."
Heartsick, Audra said, "Take your time."
Julie left the room, and Audra sank into her chair, turned on her computer and was about to begin composing the e-mail to the Belles explaining that they couldn't afford to pick up the tab for Julie's wedding. But with Julie's appreciation still hanging in the air, she couldn't do it. The words simply wouldn't come. The most she could write was a request for an emergency meeting in the conference room. She hit Send, then shifted over to a word-processing program to try to compose a few lines she could say in the meeting to tell the Belles they couldn't afford Julie's wedding.
Once again, she couldn't think of a way to soften the blow of having to break a promise. So, instead of typing on her keyboard, Audra reached for her phone and tapped out the numbers for her mother's cell phone.
"Are you busy?"
"Always," her mother said with a laugh. "But you never call me at work, so you must have a problem that's more important than the blueberry pies I'm baking."
Worried that Julie would return in the middle of her story, Audra said, "I don't have time to explain, but we're out of money."
Her mother gasped. "Wedding Belles is going bankrupt?"
"No, we have enough money to make it through the next few months if we're careful. The problem is we promised our assistant a wedding. If we give her the wedding we've been planning, we'll end up over our heads in debt. If we don't, we have to go back on our word."
"Oh, honey. That's terrible."
Audra glanced at the door. "I shouldn't have called. Julie's going to be back any second and I can't talk in front of her. But I feel awful and I don't know what to do. I can't even think of a way to explain our problem in an e-mail to the Belles. I'm a mess!"
"Wow, for you to admit you can't organize or plan yourself out of a situation, things must be bad. Dominic's gone," she said referring to Dominic Manelli, the youngest of the Manelli children, current CEO of Manelli Holdings, only resident of the family home and Mary Greene's employer. "Left as if his feet were on fire. So why don't you come over? I'll make coffee. We'll talk. Two heads are always better than one. Maybe together we could come up with something?"
The prospect of getting out of the office relieved some of Audra's stress. Even thinking about staying in the same room with Julie while she entered invoices and chatted happily about her wedding sent a dagger through Audra's heart. And her mother was smart. Analytical. That's where Audra had gotten her own logical thinking ability. Maybe together they could figure a solution to this problem? Or if nothing else, maybe they could find a way to soften the blow, not just for Julie, but for the Belles who would be devastated at not being able to keep their promise.