If Leah McHale had learned anything in her decade as a wedding photographer, it was that Sunday mornings were meant for sleeping in. This was especially true when last night’s wedding had involved the bridal party taking tequila shots and insisting they’d pay her extra for photographing the drunken train wreck. Until three a.m.
In other words, Sunday brunch was rarely an option for Leah.
Today, however, Leah made an exception.
Because when a friend who also happened to be owner of the most elite wedding planning company in Manhattan asked you to meet her at a trendy West Village hot spot at eleven thirty on a Sunday morning, you didn’t say no.
Alexis Morgan was already seated at the restaurant when Leah arrived, which came as zero surprise, since the wedding planner thought being late should count among the deadly sins, nestled right alongside sloth.
Leah smiled in thanks as the hostess pointed out Alexis’s table on the patio, and wound her way through the crowded mess of sidewalk tables until she reached her friend.
Alexis was writing something in her ever-present day planner, but the second she saw Leah, she gave one of her small, trademark I have a secret smiles, shutting the planner before standing for a hug.
“Leah, you look lovely.”
“Um, stop,” Leah said, giving the smaller woman a squeeze. “I’m not one of your brides to be pampered and fluffed. You can tell me the truth. I look tired and I’ve gained seven pounds since we last hung out.”
“Nonsense.” Alexis fluttered her napkin to her lap as they both sat down. “I never know which one I’m more jealous of: that gorgeous red hair or those curves.”
“Yeah, well.” Leah patted her padded hip. “The curves are real, the hair not so much.”
“Really,” Alexis said in surprise, leaning forward and studying Leah’s hairline curiously. “That’s not your real color?”
Leah shrugged and took a sip of her water. “It used to be. I was one of those girls that the other kids called carrottop on the playground. But somewhere in my twenties the bright orange decided it wanted to be more of a muddy copper, so let’s just say I, um, enhance it.”
“No judgment here.” Alexis lifted a pink manicured finger to her own shiny dark hair. “These roots aren’t my own, either. Prematurely gray even though I’m thirty-three. Tell anyone, I cut you.”
Leah let out a surprised laugh. Alexis Morgan had always reminded Leah of a badass Audrey Hepburn. She had the same slight figure and wide brown eyes as the iconic Hollywood starlet, but whereas there’d been a sweetness to Audrey, Alexis was . . . fierce.
Kind, definitely. Loyal, for sure. But if Audrey Hepburn was the type to soothe you during the teary phase of a bad breakup, Alexis was the “quiet revenge” friend. The one you called when you needed a kick in the pants to get your life back on track.
“Mimosa’s your day drink of choice, right?” Alexis asked, motioning a server over with a subtle lifting of her hand.
The waiter was by their table in seconds. “Mimosa for my friend, and I’ll take a Bloody Mary, heavy on the horseradish,” Alexis said.
“For some reason it always catches me off guard that you’re a vodka-in-the-morning type of girl,” Leah said after the waiter had walked away.
Alexis lifted a slim shoulder. “Let’s just say I get more than enough champagne during the workday. It’s nice to take a break.”
Leah patted her friend’s hand. “It’s a rough life, dear. All that Veuve Clicquot you’re forced to sip with your clients.”
Alexis tilted her head, her long brown ponytail draping over a slim shoulder. “Surely you get the occasional glass of bubbly yourself?”
Leah shrugged. “It’s often offered, but I don’t like the view on the other end of the lens getting blurry.”
Alexis nodded. “Rumor has it you’ve been busy lately.”
Leah cracked her neck and wished she’d had just one more cup of coffee before this brunch. “Aren’t we all? I keep thinking that one of these years, the June bride thing will go out of style, but nope. I’m already booked three Junes out. What is that?”
“Tradition, combined with you being one of the best photographers in the city,” Alexis said as the server placed their drinks in front of them.
“Uh-oh, you’re busting out the trademark Morgan flattery,” Leah teased. “Whatever you called me here for must be big.”
Alexis used her straw to stir her drink before lifting wide brown eyes to Leah’s. “The Kowloski/Shrapner wedding you were working next weekend was called off.”
Leah’s eyes narrowed. “True. Turns out the bride and the best man had a thing. But how do you know that? I thought Wedding Belles passed on that one?”
The Wedding Belles was Alexis Morgan’s wedding planning company. Although company was perhaps an inadequate term. It was more like an empire, and one that Leah was darn grateful to be connected with. She had enough faith in her skills to know she could support herself either way, but it definitely didn’t hurt to be one of Alexis Morgan’s go-to photographers. Not only did it mean more weddings, it meant big weddings.
And big money.
“We did turn it down,” Alexis confirmed, taking a sip of her drink. “I didn’t have a good feeling. And it’s a good thing, too, because we ended up booking the Preston wedding for that same weekend.”
Leah shook her head. “Only you could look so perfectly chill about the fact that you’ve been planning the president’s daughter’s wedding.”
“Details, schmetails,” Leah said with a wave of her hand. It was true, the bride wouldn’t technically be the First Daughter on her wedding day, but President Preston had ended his second term just within the past year, so in the eyes of the press, Kylie Preston was still very much America’s sweetheart.