‘Yes. We had a lovely wedding at Mansfield Hall.’
‘The photo spread in Town and Country was gorgeous,’ she agreed. ‘Still,’ she added with a tiny frown, ‘getting married at your ex-boyfriend’s family home... That must’ve been a bit awkward.’
‘Not really,’ Natalie said, with a trace of defensiveness. ‘It’s true Rhys and Dom don’t like each other, but they managed to be civil for the duration of the wedding reception.’
‘Well, that’s something, I suppose.’ The woman glanced in the direction of the VIP lounge. ‘Rumour has it that Dominic and Gemma are off to Scotland to get married in a secret wedding ceremony.’
‘Is that right? I wouldn’t know.’
‘Really?’ She regarded Nat in mild surprise. ‘But I thought...well, aren’t you and Dominic’s fiancée good friends?’
Natalie hesitated. ‘We are. Well, we were. But we’ve...lost touch.’
‘Ah,’ she said, her face etched in sympathy. ‘Running in loftier circles now, is she?’
‘Yes. Yes, that’s it, exactly.’
‘Here we are, darling ‒ coffee, cream, one sugar.’
Rhys stood before her, holding out a Costa cup.
‘Thank you,’ Nat murmured, and took the cup. ‘While you were gone, Gemma and Dominic went past with a boatload of paparazzi in their wake.’
He grimaced. ‘Glad I missed that.’
‘Oh – where are my manners? Rhys, let me introduce you to... I’m sorry,’ Natalie apologized as she turned back to speak to the woman in the seat next to hers, ‘but I didn’t catch your name—?’
But the seat was empty. The woman with the short brown hair and the laptop was gone.
Natalie frowned, perplexed. ‘That’s odd. She was just here, sitting next to me, chatting. She was very nice. But she’s gone now.’
‘They probably called her flight. Or she went to the loo.’ He sat down and sipped his coffee. ‘The queue at Costa was ridiculous, that’s what took me so long.’
‘I wonder if it’s true?’ Natalie mused as she resumed her seat next to him.
‘If what’s true?’
‘I wonder if Dominic and Gemma are finally getting married? I tried to catch Dom’s eye, but he never noticed me with all the reporters and photographers clustered round.’
‘Is Gemma still engaged to that rock star twit?’
‘Of course she is! Why wouldn’t she be?’
‘I’d hoped she’d come to her senses. Besides, they’ve been engaged for a donkey’s age, haven’t they?’ Rhys observed as he sipped his coffee.
‘Only five months,’ Natalie pointed out, ‘as long as we’ve been married. That’s not so long. And knowing Dominic, I’m sure he’s in no hurry to tie the knot.’
He lifted his brow. ‘Haven’t you talked to Gemma, then? What does she say?’
‘Well, that’s just it,’ Natalie admitted, and frowned down at the lid of her coffee. ‘I haven’t spoken to her, really, since she and Dom got engaged.’
It’d been four months since they’d talked, to be exact. Four whole months! Gemma, Rhys’s very capable personal assistant at Dashwood and James, had quit her job shortly after Dominic asked her to marry him. Although Gemma and Natalie had gotten off to a rocky start – Gemma thought Nat was a posh, pampered princess, and Nat thought Gemma was a rude cow – they’d eventually become, if not best mates, at least good friends.
Yet it seemed all that had changed, now.
Gemma, as her father Milo would say, had come right up in the world. She’d gone from being Rhys’s PA (and an underage topless model in Ladz magazine) to become Dominic Heath’s now-famous fiancée. Her photograph appeared with equal frequency in the pages of high-end fashion magazines and tabloids. She ran in altogether different circles now – circles that included rock stars, Brazilian models, former Spice Girls, and paparazzi...
...circles that plainly didn’t include her any longer, Natalie thought, hurt by Gemma’s exclusion a bit more than she cared to admit.
‘Not put out with you, is she?’ Rhys asked.
‘No!’ Nat said indignantly. ‘Why would she be? I’m sure Gemma’s just...busy, with lots to do now that she’s engaged to Dom.’
‘Yes,’ Rhys said, although he didn’t sound particularly convinced as he opened the latest issue of Top Gear he’d bought and began to flick through the pages. ‘I’m sure you’re right.’
And as Natalie stood up and went to toss her half-empty coffee cup in the bin, she had to agree – she wasn’t completely convinced, either.
‘Bloody hell, babes – please, no more perfume,’ Dominic Heath grumbled. ‘You’ve bought out the entire duty-free shop as it is! You’re fucking bankrupting me.’
Gemma ignored him and reached for a purple bottle of scent. ‘Ooh, look, it’s your ex-wife’s new scent, Positively Posh!’ She paused to squeeze the atomizer and took an appreciative sniff. ‘It’s nice. It smells like freesias and roses.’
‘It ought to smell like disappointment and an empty wallet,’ Dom retorted, ‘because that’s all I ever had when we were together.’
‘That’s not what Keeley said,’ Gemma pointed out as she put the bottle back on the shelf. ‘She said you were always borrowing money from her—’
‘Never mind that,’ Dominic cut in, annoyed. ‘Can we talk about something besides my cow of an ex-wife?’
‘Fine.’ She dumped her purchases on the counter in front of the till and fixed him with a gimlet eye. ‘Let’s talk about our wedding, then.’
Dominic let out a long-suffering sigh and handed over his AmEx black card to the clerk at the till. ‘I told you, babes, I’m leaving all that wedding crap up to you.’
‘It’s your wedding, too,’ Gemma pointed out, ‘and so I need your input. I mean it, Dom,’ she warned him as she gathered up her purchases and thrust them into his arms, ‘this isn’t only about me, you know. You’re the groom. You have certain responsibilities.’
‘Responsibilities? Like what? I say ‘I do,’ slap a ring on your finger, get bladdered afterwards, and have an X-rated honeymoon with my new bride. Job done.’
‘There’s a bit more to it than that!’ she snapped. ‘There’s the wedding toast, and choosing a best man, and then there’s your boutonnière—’
‘All right, all right,’ he grumbled. ‘No need to go on about it endlessly. We’ll talk about it on the jet.’
Normally, ‘the jet’ referred to Dominic’s private Lear. But since it was side-lined with mechanical problems, they’d been reduced to flying to Inverness for the holidays on a commercial flight. They were flying first class, of course, Gemma consoled herself as she trailed after Dominic into the VIP lounge, but still...it wasn’t the same as having your own private plane, was it?
No. It bloody well wasn’t.
‘And what about our children?’ she added when they were seated in side-by-side, heated massage chairs.
‘Hmm?’ Dom murmured,