“You want to get married in Sleeping Beauty’s shrine?” Josh Gabriel asked. He gazed incredulously at the impossible jungle tumbling into one of California’s normally arid canyons.
Blonde and willowy beneath her safari shirt and shorts, his fiancée continued snapping photos. “Stand over there so I can show the height of that bougainvillea,” Willa ordered.
As a Hollywood fantasy director, Josh appreciated the setting. He almost imagined a blond, spike-haired sprite peering from beneath a rose bush until he realized he was conjuring a face from a past best forgotten. His childhood had been as abnormal as this greenery. He ought to grow up and forget it. Except he had fond memories of chasing dragons and trolls through a Hollywood-landscape, wooden sword in hand. He meant to recreate those days of innocence in this next film. He was damned tired of violent superheroes and exploding buildings.
Which was why he was standing here now with Willa Powell, the queen of coins, who shared his dream—or the financial end of it anyway. He’d been dazzled by her beauty when they first met, terrified by her ambition when she agreed to take on his project. But their goals had clicked, and over the past months working together, they had realized they had more than a film in common.
“Shouldn’t there be a glass casket or a few dwarves down there instead of rocks, or at least a bubbling spring of nubile nymphs?” he asked, relishing his fantasy.
“The camellia is still blooming! This is perfect,” Willa crowed, snapping more pics.
“A cauldron and witches, maybe,” Josh mused, standing where ordered but still studying the famed vortex below that had apparently made this hick town a destination wedding site. “You realize our guests will have to sit on rocks? I can’t see your father agreeing to that.”
“They have stadium cushions.” Willa was a producer, but she had developed directorial tendencies with this wedding business. “Look at the roses! I’ll have to use them in my bouquet.”
“And of course, you won’t be sitting in the dirt,” Josh said, amused despite himself. His fiancée had a very Germanic need for order she’d inherited from her dictator of a father. Josh was always amazed when she strayed from the beaten path. “I trust you aren’t planning on gliding down the aisle wearing heels, or you’ll need those walking sticks everyone up here carries.” Her heels put her an inch taller than he and were a bit of a sore point.
“Just think of the spread we’ll have in Tinseltown Today. The publicity alone will make your new film.”
Well, yeah, there was that. Willa had a good head for publicity. He shoved his hands in his pockets and tried to picture the logistics of a wedding ceremony in a valley of rocks. But this was Willa’s production, not his. If he were doing this, he’d build a set and add dinosaurs.
Psychologists had told him that he was living the fantasies he’d been denied by his stressed-out, impoverished childhood. Woo-hoo.
“What about me?” he asked. “Do I drop to the altar by helicopter? Swing in like Tarzan? Or do I parade down the aisle with you?” He rather fancied swinging in like Tarzan, but weddings were supposed to be about the bride, he supposed. His own directorial propensities were showing.
“Hillvale has done this before. I’m sure they have it all worked out. I’ll have Brad take photos of you at the jewelry store when you buy the ring. Theodosia Devine Designs are as divine as her name. I don’t know why she’s hiding up here, but her shop is the first one as you go into town.”
They had an entire crew in Hillvale to plan this wedding stunt, including Brad, Willa’s favorite contract photographer, a wedding planner, Willa’s secretary, assistant, and the vice president of her company. Josh wondered if he should hire his own entourage.
But he had looked at the cost of Devine rings online—only a goddess could afford them. He didn’t have wealthy parents and lived on borrowed money. Up until this production, his films had had modest budgets. Entourages were out of the question, but he really wanted to start out on the right foot by giving Willa the romantic ring she deserved. “How much of this wedding will the publicity budget cover?”
“Quit being such a tightwad. The film will earn it all back and then some.” Accustomed to wealth, Willa shoved aside a straying strand of flaxen hair and turned her telescopic lens on the rock platform below that resembled an altar. “Your credit is good for it.”
“Marrying for my credit line is uncool, my love,” he warned with a laugh.
He returned to picturing the amphitheater filled with trolls and elves watching the witches stir their cauldron. How would all the greenery and hedonistic floral arrangements work with witches and elves? A mating ceremony for a virgin and a powerful shape-shifting dragon, maybe. Damn, that aroused him. Could he persuade Willa. . . ?
He eyed his fiancée with interest. Tall, too slender for her enhanced breasts, wearing an expensive tangle of golden curls and weaves, Willa would pass for a movie star, except she had too many brains to become one when she had alternatives.
The sex—well, it was good, even if it was tough fitting two Hollywood egos into one bed. They’d work it out. Since Willa’s goal was to run her father’s production firm, and his was to get rich, drop out, and write books, he figured she considered him a stepping stone to her future. Maybe he was, but for however long their marriage lasted, it would be a good ride.
Besides, he’d tried romance once and failed beyond abysmally. Since he was making some headway with the business side of life, he’d continue down that pragmatic path.
“You have the wedding planner and PR department to work out details,” he told her, bored with the photo shoot. He preferred being behind the camera these days, not in front. “I want to go into town and take a look at the ring selection so we’re not dithering, then check into entertainment for our guests. I’m guessing we’ll do the bachelor parties in the city?”
“Definitely.” She gingerly took a few steps down the rocky trail in her five-inch heels. “But the restaurant here has an excellent reputation. We can do the rehearsal dinner there.”
“Rehearsal? If It’s just you and me, babe, what is there to rehearse? We walk down with our nearest and dearest, get hitched, and an eagle carries us to Narnia.”
Okay, that one earned him a gorgon glare and a blast of silence. She continued down the trail. Laughing at Bridezilla, Josh headed the other way in hopes the town with three hundred souls and countless ghosts had a bar.