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The Greatest Gift
Author: S.L. Sterling


Prologue

 

 

TESS

 

 

"What do you think? It's a little much isn't it?" I said, staring down at the gold accents that lined the entire table. I brought my finger up to my lips in thought and twisted my head to the left to see if it looked any better.

Laura let out a giggle. "A little much? You can twist your head any way you want, it will still look like a leprechaun threw up in here. I told you, subtle hints of gold."

Laura was not only my best friend and my maid of honor for my upcoming wedding; she was also one of the best interior designers in the area, so when she offered to help me get things ready for our Thanksgiving celebration, I jumped at it. "Geez, thanks. I just want everything to be perfect for the family this holiday.”

Derrick and I had been engaged for two years, and we had finally settled on a date. Since some of the relatives would not be able to make it to the wedding, I had decided to hold a pre-wedding Thanksgiving party. It would be a chance for everyone to get together prior to the wedding, since right after we were married, we were headed to Paris for our honeymoon over Christmas and New Years.

"I understand, but seriously, you have got to tone it down, get rid of some things because..." Laura stuck her finger down her throat in a mock gag, and then smiled at me.

I looked at the table again, agreeing with her. "Okay, I agree. It's a little much." We both laughed. She quickly grabbed a box and went about removing everything that needed to go, rearranging other things as she went.

"Do you have everything finalized for the wedding now? I can always help you out with that as well. I know it’s coming down to crunch time."

"Yep, everything has been booked and finalized. I just confirmed numbers with the caterer this morning. Oh, and I put the last payment down on the honeymoon this morning. We cannot wait to spend ten days in Paris. Now, just cross your fingers that nothing happens that forces us to have to cancel that trip."

Laura raised a brow. “Well, unless Derrick decides to throw another one of his stellar fits, I doubt you need to worry about cancelling.”

Derrick hadn’t really wanted to go to Paris; he’d wanted to spend our honeymoon in Vale, skiing, but I had worked out a compromise with him and had decided that partway through our Paris vacation we would uproot and go to one of the ski resorts there. He’d listened to my idea, and after voicing his displeasure in front of the entire wedding party, he had reluctantly agreed to the trip.

"Oh, I wouldn’t say I don’t have to worry about it,” I said, looking down at the table, adjusting a few more things. “I sort of negotiated a deal, but in order to take it, I had to waive our rights to a refund," I said, biting my lower lip and looking at my best friend, who shoved the box of gold accents at me to repackage.

Her eyes bugged. "Tess! Derrick is going to flip out. That's a lot of money to spend on a trip with no chance of getting your money back."

"I know,” I cried, “but it was such a good deal, and with all the money we are already spending, it just kind of made sense. Besides, I am the one paying for the honeymoon. It's coming from my savings. He agreed to pay for the wedding if I took care of the honeymoon."

Laura tilted her head and gave me a knowing look, making me feel unsure about my decision. “I know, Tess, but seriously, I’d hate for something to happen and you to lose out. Derrick won’t be happy. You know how he gets.”

"I know, you're right, but just do me one little favor and don’t mention anything to Derrick about it."

"Tess, I wouldn’t do that. What stays between you and I does exactly that. However, on that note, you better make it up to me by bring me lots of pictures, because your trip looks like it will be amazing. I checked everything out the other night after you sent me all the info."

"It does look amazing, doesn't it?" I giggled, excitement filling me. “Staying in that old hotel, it will be the oldest building I’ve stayed in. I just wish that Derrick would change his mind about dinner in the Eiffel Tower.”

"Just keep working on him. Perhaps he will bend. You don’t happen to have the gift bags for the guest gifts, do you? I have to put these in." She held up the thank you cards.

"Oh yes, now where did I put them?" I questioned under my breath, looking around the dining room, and that was when I spotted the box. "They are right over there against the wall." I stood pointing to the box that sat beside the fireplace.

Laura wandered over and opened the box and let out a small giggle as she held up one of the gift bags. "Gold bags? Really, Tess?"

"Oh God, I totally forgot I ordered them," I said, burying my face in my hands. "All right, we definitely need to tone down the gold." I laughed.

Laura had just finished packing up the last of the Thanksgiving gift bags, while I repackaged all the gold accents, when the front door slammed shut and Derrick walked in. He stood in the doorway to the dining room in his suit and trench coat, holding his laptop bag. "What's going on in here?" he questioned, looking at us both.

"Just getting things ready for Thanksgiving." I smiled, holding up one gift bag, letting it swing back and forth in between my fingers.

"Gift bags? What are those for?" Derrick questioned.

"The guests, silly," I said, going over to kiss him hello, only instead of kissing me back, he turned his head and my lips landed on his cheek.

"Gift bags for Thanksgiving dinner? Little much, don’t you think?" I could hear the annoyance in his voice.

I nodded my head. "Yes, of course, but it's only because most of them can't be at the wedding."

“Tess, it was their choice not to be at the wedding. We don’t need to hand out gift bags at a family dinner.”

I glanced over to Laura, who stood there pretending to sort through one of the boxes. I could tell she was uncomfortable. “Fine, Derrick, I will rethink the bags.”

Laura glanced up at us. "Okay, guys, I guess that is my cue. I'm out of here. I'll be back tomorrow to help you finish up with this," she said, slipping her shoes on and grabbing her purse. I had planned to invite her for dinner, but, given Derrick’s attitude, I knew she wouldn’t stay so I decided against it. I walked her to the door and waved as she climbed into her car and backed out of the driveway.

I closed and locked the front door and walked over to where Derrick stood still looking in at the stuff in the dining room. "What did you want to do tonight? I figured we could just stay in, curl up in front of the fire, and watch a movie, but if you have something else in mind, I’m all ears," I said, reaching up and pulling at the knot of his tie to loosen it.

He grabbed my hands, removing them from his body, and cleared his throat. "I have some work to finish up first. I'll be awhile," he barked, and without another word, he climbed the stairs to his office. “Oh and get rid of those gift bags, they aren’t needed.”

"Okay, well, I'll get dinner going," I called up, but instead of a response, I heard nothing but the slam of his office door. I shrugged, wondering what was bothering him but figured that he'd had a bad day and needed to decompress, so without another word, I left him alone and made my way into the kitchen to start dinner.

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