Dating Dr. Dreamy - Lili Valente
The night before my best friend Lisa’s wedding—and my seventh turn as a bridesmaid—I have all of my weirdest anxiety dreams.
Every. Single. One.
Babysitting my sister Aria’s baby and I lose the eight-month-old in her stuffed animal collection?
Crawling through a miniature Dutch pancake house with doors too small for me to squeeze through while “It’s a Small World” plays on endless repeat?
Getting knocked over the head, blacking out, and waking up in the middle of the early church service my Nana hasn’t missed in thirty-five years, wearing nothing but a fine layer of caramel corn stuck to my body like a bad cat suit and a bubblegum bow in my hair?
Check and check.
(I have that one twice, because apparently one “naked and covered in candy in front of old people” dream wasn’t enough for my subconscious.)
As a result of all the panicked dreaming, I wake up exhausted.
Exhausted, on the biggest day of my best friend’s life, not to mention the biggest catering job of my career. Ever After Catering has been growing steadily since I started the business three years ago, but I’ve never handled an event like Lisa’s reception.
There will be a twenty-foot appetizer buffet, a sit down steak or salmon dinner for three hundred people, and a dessert spread featuring a five tier wedding cake, three different kinds of groom’s cake—Lisa’s soon-to-be husband and his two brothers all have very strong, but very opposing, views on cake—cupcakes with sprinkles for the kids, chocolate pie for Lisa’s Gran, an edible ice sculpture, and a white chocolate fountain.
And, of all that, the ice sculpture is the only thing my two sisters and I aren’t making ourselves.
Even knowing the cakes are mostly done and waiting at the venue, the salmon is marinating in my industrial fridge, and the salad is sitting in giant containers, just waiting to be tossed with homemade honey-lemon dressing, my hands are still shaking as I shove a change of clothes and my lucky apron into a duffle bag and snag my bridesmaid’s dress from the closet.
I’m always a little nervous before a big job, but today is worse than usual. Today has to be perfect, not only for Lisa, but for all the guests attending the reception.
At least six of Lisa’s successful friends from college are planning weddings in the next year. Booking even three more big budget receptions will take my business to the next level, allowing me to compete with more established catering companies based in Atlanta and proving there’s nothing small town about my operation.
Except, of course, that I’m based in a small town.
But not just any small town! Bliss River, Georgia, is as cute as they come, a never-met-a-stranger-we-wouldn’t-pour-a-glass-of-sweet-tea place where the pursuit of wedded bliss is practically a town-wide pastime. If I can get the city folk out here to visit, I’d bet my favorite vintage mixer they’ll be lining up to hold their weddings in our adorable old barns, historic churches, and generally cute-as-a-button downtown.
Expanding my business could lead directly to expanding the prosperity of the place I’ve called home my entire life. It’s just another reason I have to pull this reception off without a hitch.
There is no room for error, and certainly no time for a nap.
Three cups of coffee sustain me through the epic beauty salon appointment, and crying like a baby as I watch my best friend since preschool get married keeps me conscious through the receiving line and the wedding party pictures. But by the time I arrive at the venue—a lovely old home on the historic register about five miles outside of Bliss River—I’m pinching myself to stay awake.
Thankfully, as soon as I walk through the door to the new, super-sized kitchen the owners added onto the home when they decided to rent it out for events, the job-in-progress adrenaline kicks in.
“How are the potatoes? Are they cooked through and ready for the warmers?” I ask as I bustle into the room, tying my lucky apron on over my bridesmaid’s dress.
I was too nervous to take the time to change before heading over from the church. I’m just going to have to cook in floor-length red taffeta and a strapless bra I’m pretty sure is trying to murder my boobs.
“Are they done?” I ask again, squinting at the stove. “We’re going to need the oven for the last minute apps in less than ten minutes.”
“Hello to you, too,” Aria, my older sister, grumbles from the far corner of the kitchen, where she’s bent over the