‘I know the feeling,’ Tabitha groaned, then instantly regretted her comment. ‘I’ve been to rather too many weddings myself this summer,’ she offered by way of explanation, taking a good slurp of her champagne. As Jeremy’s stern gaze turned to her she wished that she’d stayed quiet, but Jeremy actually smiled.
‘Tell me about it,’ he said gloomily. ‘How many have you been to?’
‘Ten,’ Tabitha exaggerated, then did a quick mental calculation. ‘Well, six, at the very least,’ she added, rolling her eyes. ‘All my friends seem to have taken the plunge en masse.’
‘That’s just the start of it,’ Jeremy said knowingly. ‘The next few years will be taken up with christenings, and before you know where you are all your friends’ children are getting married and the whole merry-go-round starts again. Marjory loves weddings, unlike me, and feels duty-bound to attend each and every one—no matter how distant the relative. Speaking of which, I’d best go and say hello to a few. It was a pleasure meeting you, Tabitha.’ He went to shake her hand, but halfway there seemed to change his mind and instead kissed her on the cheek, much to Aiden’s wide-eyed amazement.
‘My goodness, you’ve actually made a hit—my father doesn’t usually like anyone.’
‘He seems charming,’ Tabitha scolded. ‘I can’t believe all the awful things you’ve said about him.’
‘He is charming, if you happen to be the right son—and talk of the devil…’
‘Zavier!’ Marjory exclaimed, kissing him warmly on the cheek. ‘I thought you weren’t ever going to make it to the church. Where on earth did you get to?’
‘Where do you think I got to?’ Tabitha noticed his haughty demeanour was somewhat softened when he addressed his mother. ‘I was working.’
‘But it’s Saturday,’ Marjory protested. ‘Not that that ever stopped you, Zavier. But that’s quite enough about work—I, for one, intend to enjoy myself today. Have you met Tabitha, Aiden’s darling, er…’ the pause was interminable, but Marjory eventually recovered. ‘…er, friend?’
Aiden took a hefty swig of his drink, avoiding Tabitha’s eyes. Only Zavier’s gaze stayed steadily trained on her.
‘Briefly, in the church.’ He offered his hand and she shook it gingerly, noticing how hot and strong his grip was.
‘Where’s Lucy?’ Marjory asked.
‘Amy,’ Zavier corrected, ‘is touching up her make-up.’
‘Lovely girl,’ Marjory said warmly. ‘She’d make a beautiful bride.’
‘Subtle as a brick, as always,’ Zavier groaned.
‘Well, what choice do I have? I’ve got two sons in their thirties,’ she said, her eyes on Tabitha, ‘and not even the tiniest hint at a wedding, let alone grandchildren. Simone’s barely twenty; no wonder Carmella’s grinning from ear to ear.’
‘The reason she’s grinning is because Simone’s actually managed to nab someone rich enough to get them out of debt—not because of her daughter’s eternal happiness.’
‘Ahh!’ Marjory wagged a playful finger. ‘Being out of debt practically ensures eternal happiness.’
‘For you, perhaps,’ Zavier quipped. ‘Anyway, given that you can’t even get Amy’s name right, I think that says a lot for your motives. Forget it.’
‘It would make your father so proud.’
Tabitha was actually enjoying the conversation. She liked the gentle verbal sparring between mother and son, and even Zavier didn’t seem so formidable up against the feisty Marjory. But as she mentioned his father suddenly the temperature seemed to drop, and the affectionate, teasing reply that Tabitha eagerly awaited never came. Zavier Chambers, the epitome of confidence, suddenly seemed lost for words.