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Chapter Eight

The office door opened, and Teresa stepped inside carrying a tray laden with coffee mugs. ‘Here are some coffees for your meeting. I’ve got Claire a latte instead of a regular coffee. That’s what she has, isn’t it?’

‘Yes, that’s right. Thank you.’ Standing up, Wendy helped Teresa unload the mugs.

‘Have you finished with those?’ Teresa nodded towards Jessie’s empty plates.

‘Yes, thanks. They were just what I needed.’ Jessie passed the plates across the desk.

‘Good. You look as though you’ve got a bit more colour in your cheeks now. Have a good meeting.’ Grinning, she turned just as someone knocked on the door. Pulling it open, Teresa stepped back, letting the happy couple through. ‘Perfect timing. I’ve just brought in your coffee and latte.’

‘Lovely. Thank you, Teresa. I’ve not even had time for my usual morning latte, let alone the chance to get a second.’ Claire looked down at a small baby in a fabric sling.

‘Is the little one keeping you on your toes?’ Teresa stroked the baby’s hair.

‘Now that’s an understatement.’ Laughing, Claire hugged Wendy and held her hand out to Jessie. ‘Hi, I don’t think we’ve met.’

‘Hi, no. I’m Jessie. I’m covering for Molly.’ Standing up, Jessie shook Claire’s hand before shaking Callum’s. ‘Lovely to meet you both. I’ve been looking through your wedding plans. They look amazing.’

‘Likewise. Thank you. Wendy and Molly have done all the work, though. We can’t take any credit for it.’ Claire looked across at Callum and took his hand as they sat down.

‘That’s not true. We’ve only worked from your vision.’ Wendy grinned. ‘How’s little Dottie doing?’

‘Oh, she’s the best. I just wish she’d sleep for more than half an hour at a time.’ Pulling down the sling, Claire unwrapped tiny Dottie from the fabric, holding her in her arms. ‘Don’t we, Callum?’

‘Oh yes.’ Yawning, Callum stretched his arms above his head. ‘I’m dreading going back to work and having to function on a couple of hours of sleep a night.’

‘How long have you got left on paternity leave?’ Leaning across the desk, Wendy smiled at the small baby. ‘She’s beautiful.’

‘Fortunately for her, she takes after Claire.’ Laughing, Callum rubbed Claire’s shoulder. ‘I’ve got another two weeks, but then I’ve got the two weeks after the wedding booked off for our honeymoon.’

‘Ooh, you couldn’t have timed that better, could you?’ Sitting back down, Wendy grinned.

‘No, we really couldn’t.’

Pulling her mug of coffee towards her, Jessie looked across at the baby. What was it with babies? As soon as Kelly had announced she was having Brad’s baby, all Jessie had been noticing were babies. Babies and pregnant women. Everywhere. In the supermarket queue. At the table next to hers in the cafes. There had even been two pregnant women at her last temp job. She swallowed. ‘She’s lovely. How old is she?’

‘Four weeks today.’ Callum looked at his watch. ‘Four weeks, one hour and fifteen minutes, to be precise.’

Glancing across at Wendy, Jessie could see she was as besotted with the baby as Teresa had been. Standing up, she turned and rummaged through the pen pot on the back shelf. Anything to avoid looking at the baby, at Claire and Callum, at the perfect little family. She was honest with herself—she knew she and Brad weren’t meant to be. She’d had her doubts for years, but they’d been together for so long that she’d just assumed all of their faults, the faults with the relationship, had been normal. She’d assumed every couple, every relationship, went that way. She’d assumed the love faded the longer a couple were together. Maybe she’d been wrong. ‘Got it.’ Picking up a random blue biro, Jessie turned back.

Wendy smiled at the couple in front of them. ‘So, today we’re just going to make sure everything is in place and ready for your big day. Unless there’s something you’re worried about?’

‘We were wondering if we could go back up to the barn? Just so we can get everything set in my head. If it’s too much of a problem, then don’t worry. I know Chris is doing us a fantastic favour by letting us get married at the sanctuary and we don’t want to put him out any further...’ Claire looked back down at Dottie and stroked her cheek.

‘I’m sure it can be arranged.’ Wendy nodded. ‘Is there something you’re particularly concerned about?’

‘Family members...’ Callum looked across at his fiancée. ‘Claire’s mum has voiced her concerns. She’s worried we’ve not thought everything through.’

‘She thinks we should be getting married at a hotel or somewhere specifically designed to host weddings.’ Claire stood up and shushed her daughter as the baby stirred.

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