Her Sister's Weddingbydeepemerald©
Eloise Goddard plugged her earphones into her iPod and picked up her book. The plastic sandwich that she'd been served didn't appeal to her and she could smell the food being served in front of the curtain. She giggled at her envy. She could've been up there if only she'd agreed to her boss's request.
At 22 years old she was, in her boss Peter's words, the world's best PA. Obviously not good enough to put on a permanent contract, as she'd temped as his PA for the last two years. But she was good enough for him to keep for two years, something that his last half dozen PA's before Eloise hadn't achieved. In fact, none of them had lasted even a year. He wasn't an easy man to work for. He was incredibly demanding, but Eloise loved her work. He was the editor of one of the most successful tabloids and she felt like she was right in the middle of all the news stories as they happened.
When Eloise had told him about the invitation to her sister's wedding Peter had been completely fired up. Lenore Goddard was considered one of the most beautiful women in the world and was the most famous supermodel of her generation. Her engagement and impending wedding to a famous Italian football star was considered the celebrity wedding of the year, if not the decade. The wedding photos had of course been sold to one of the glossy weekly magazines for an undisclosed, yet known to be considerable, amount of money.
No journalists were going to be allowed anywhere near the star studded events, and there was his PA with a front row ticket. He'd begged her to take one of his journalists along as her date and he'd bought her one of the most expensive mobile phones on the market with a top notch built in digital camera. He'd tried to bribe her with first class travel, limousines and luxury hotels, but Eloise wouldn't give in.
She didn't know where her loyalty to her sister came from. Lenore hadn't shown much loyalty to her. Eloise knew that she wasn't anywhere near as pretty as her sister. Lenore was tall and slim, with their mother's jet black hair. The only part of their looks that they shared were their silver blue eyes. Eloise was only 5'2", with an hourglass figure and a wild mane of unruly strawberry blonde curls. But despite this, and the fact that the sisters hadn't seen much of each other for the last 10 years since Lenore was spotted by a modelling agency at the age of 17, they were all each other had. Their parents had died in a car crash when Eloise was a toddler and they'd shared an unhappy childhood with an aunt and uncle who'd made it clear that they didn't want the girls. So it had come as a bitter blow when Lenore had called Eloise and broken the news that her services as a bridesmaid wouldn't be required.
"I know how uptight you get about people taking photos," Lenore had said. She'd obviously convinced herself that she was doing this for Eloise. "And this new and exciting designer who's making my dress has offered me a lot of money if I'll let him dress my bridesmaids as well so they'll have to be used to having their photos taken and not shy away from the cameras."
Eloise knew fine well that Lenore was a perfectionist and that appearance was all that mattered to her. It wouldn't be aesthetically pleasing to have Eloise in the photos, a foot shorter (and probably a foot wider as well) than everybody else in the wedding party, which was bound to be made up of Lenore and Marco's model and football friends. She would stick out like a sore thumb, and the designer probably didn't make short size 12 dresses anyway. At that point she'd been very tempted to say yes to Peter's proposal. But even though Lenore didn't seem to care all that much for her little sister, Eloise's loyalty still lay with Lenore.
When Eloise had cleared immigration and customs in Milan she found the bus that would take her to Bergamo. She'd read about Lenore's wedding plans in the gossip magazines (her sister had been too busy to tell Eloise about them) and knew that the rich and famous friends of the bride and groom were to be picked up in limousines. That courtesy obviously wasn't extended to fat and frumpy nobody sisters. Lenore hadn't even asked, just assumed that Eloise would be happy to use public transport. When she reached the station in Bergamo she caught a taxi and gave him the address of the stately home where the wedding was being held. There were security men stationed at the gate and she had to show her invitation, which was carefully scrutinised, on her way in. When the taxi turned around the corner she was flabbergasted. She'd never seen anything as impressive as this. She immediately realised why Lenore had chosen to get married here. It looked like a fairytale castle.
"Si, signorina," said the receptionist and smiled a smile that made Eloise weak at the knees. She'd never been to Italy before, but if all men were like this, she understood why Lenore had fallen for an Italian. "How can I help you?"
"I'm here for my sister's wedding. There should be a room booked for me. Eloise Goddard."
"YOU're Eloise Goddard?" he said with a look of confusion. Eloise was used to this. People expected Lenore's sister to be as beautiful as she was, not a fat and frumpy PA from London.
"Yes," she said with barely hidden impatience. "I know I don't look like her, but we're definitely sisters."
"Forgive me for sounding so rude," his smile made her weak at the knees. "I knew you didn't look like your sister, but you're nothing like the girl who was described to me. Now let me take you to your room."
He walked around the reception desk and picked up her bag. He then walked her through a maze of stairs and corridors until they reached her room. It was the most beautiful hotel room Eloise had ever seen, and she was convinced that she could fit her entire apartment inside it.
"Thank you very much," she said to the receptionist. "You wouldn't have a map of this place, would you? I don't think I'll ever manage to find this room on my own."
"Then just come to reception and ask for me and I'll be happy to show you back." He smiled that smile again. "My name is Vincenzo."
Eloise closed the door behind him and giggled with butterflies in her stomach. Vincenzo had done something to her that no other man had ever managed before. He wasn't overly macho, the way she'd expected most Italian men to be. Nor was he pushy and flirty. There was just something so incredibly masculine about him, and an air of understated confidence that made her feel that she was the only woman in the world every time he looked at her. She'd only just managed to unpack when there was a knock on her door and Lenore stormed in.
"What are you doing in this suite?" she demanded to know. "Since you were on your own I've only booked you a single room. If you were offered an upgrade I hope you've got money to pay for it yourself."
"Good to see you too, sis," Eloise said through gritted teeth. Her sister was worth millions and could easily afford to splash out a few extra pounds on making sure that Eloise had a comfortable stay at the wedding, especially since Eloise had used her meagre savings to buy a plane ticket to come to the wedding. "I didn't say anything when I checked in. This was the room that was given to me."
"Oh, they must have upgraded you for free seeing how you're my sister. Excellent! I knew it was a good idea to tell them that you're my sister. Now, what are you wearing to the wedding?"
Eloise pulled out the beautiful blue satin gown that brought the colour of her eyes to life. The woman in the charity shop had assured her that it had only been used once and the name on the label was one that even Eloise, who couldn't care less about fashion, recognised. Lenore stuck her fingers in her mouth to fake vomit when she saw it.
"Seriously Eloise," she said in her big sisterly tone. "Are you TRYING to embarrass me? This dress is from last year. We'll be a laughing stock if you wear it. Oh God! I don't have time for this!"
Lenore picked up her mobile phone and dialled a number. When the person on the other end answered she started rattling something off in Italian. Soon a tall and thin woman appeared and cast a critical eye on Eloise. Lenore and the woman had a heated discussion and then the woman got on the phone.
"Grazia is my dresser. She doesn't have anything your size but she's calling her assistant to get him to bring something for you to wear. Now I need to go and have a word with Marco before he leaves on his stag do. My bridesmaids and I are going out on my hen night so you'll be able to have an early night and be all refreshed for the rehearsal tomorrow. You look like you need a good night's sleep. And don't charge anything to the room unless you know you can afford to pay for it, this is a very expensive hotel."
Eloise watched her sister and the Italian woman leave and shook her head. How was it possible that they shared the same genes? Not only was she cut out of the wedding party, she was obviously not invited to the hen night either. Part of her started to wish that she'd taken Peter up on his offer. She knew fine well that Lenore and her husband-to-be were making more on their wedding photos than they had to pay to arrange it, so why shouldn't Eloise cash in on the fame of a sister who cared so little for her? Because she had morals, that was why...
She spent the afternoon reading on the balcony. It was still cold back in London, but here spring was in full bloom and Eloise made the most of it. She didn't fancy eating on her own in the restaurant so she ordered a bowl of pasta to her room. Lenore had been right. The prices were extortionate. No doubt their normal clientele could afford to pay. She received a complimentary bottle of wine with her meal and enjoyed it immensely. She drank two thirds of it and felt all warm and relaxed inside.
It was a beautiful evening so she decided to go for a walk in the grounds. She put on her jeans, a long sleeved t-shirt and her old running shoes and went outside. The air was full of beautiful fragrances and exotic sounds of the night. There was no traffic to be heard. It was all so different to what Eloise was used to. She walked up and down paths, always making sure that she knew where the big house was. She came to a pond with a bench under a pergola. She decided to sit down for a while and simply enjoy the night. This was the kind of place she would love to choose for her own wedding, not that she'd ever be able to afford anything more flash than the Wandsworth registry office.
"I thought you'd be out with your sister and her friends tonight," said a masculine voice that woke her up from her thoughts. She soon saw Vincenzo step into the moonlight. "May I?" She nodded and he sat down next to her.
"I don't exactly move in the same circles as my sister," Eloise smiled. "I'd only be cramping her style."
Vincenzo shook his head. "Cramping her style? Bella, you're 10 times as beautiful as she is. None of the men would look twice at her after seeing you."
Eloise laughed at his Latin charm. "Vincenzo, I'm afraid that you might need new glasses. I'm the fat and frumpy sister. Lenore is the beautiful one. That's why she's the model and I'm just a PA."
He placed a hand on her thigh and sent a shockwave of electricity through her body. "I've known many women like Lenore. They play on their looks and don't care who they hurt along the way. They may have a beautiful exterior, but behind their eyes there's nothing. They don't care if they hurt everybody along the way as long as they can keep feeling superior to everybody. You on the other hand have a natural beauty. And your beauty isn't just skin deep. I saw it in your eyes this afternoon. Not only are you a very desirable woman, you also have a beautiful soul."
Eloise listened breathlessly. She'd never been told that she was beautiful. All her life she'd been compared with Lenore and been told that it was a shame that she wasn't as attractive as her sister, but she had a great personality. But she didn't quite believe him. Vincenzo was Italian. Seducing women was in his blood, right?
Vincenzo could see the doubt in Eloise's eyes. "I've wanted to do this since I first laid eyes on you."
He leaned forward and caressed her lips with his. It felt like magic. She responded to his kisses and started kissing him back. Soon he'd wrapped his arms around her and held her head as his tongue invaded her mouth. She felt his heartbeat through his shirt as she caressed his chest and then his hand cupped her breast through her t-shirt and caressed the hardening nipple. Somewhere in the back of her head a little voice started making itself heard. Don't do this, it said. He probably charms a new guest every weekend. You haven't hung on to your virginity for this long only to lose it to some sweet talking Italian receptionist guy.
"No," she pulled herself away from Vincenzo's kisses. "This isn't right. I can't do this."
"What's wrong, bella?" he asked, taking her hands in his.
"I know I'm not as beautiful or sophisticated as my sister and her friends, but I do have feelings. I'm not into one-night stands."
Vincenzo smiled and caressed a loose strand of hair away from her face. "Was I coming on too strong?" She nodded. "I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me. It's just that... Never mind. Shall I walk you back to your room now? I promise you that I'll be a perfect gentleman."
Eloise agreed to let him accompany her back. She suspected that he was leading her back the long way, but she didn't mind. He proved to be utterly charming company and kept her entertained with his conversation. As they neared the house she suggested that she could find her own way as she didn't want him to get into trouble with the hotel management if they were seen together. He brushed off her concerns and walked her to her door where he kissed her hand and left.
She brushed her teeth and changed into her night clothes. Then she opened the balcony doors before going to bed. It was such a mild night and it would be a delight to fall asleep with the fresh air in her room. Not that she found falling asleep very easy. All she could see was Vincenzo's face and she kept playing back his words in her mind. Could he really have meant them? No, she wasn't beautiful. She was kind to people, but he couldn't see that. He'd looked and sounded sincere, but her last thought before she fell asleep was that she'd probably be best off staying away from him and then returning to London with her virginity intact. A young man at her church had been paying her a lot of attention lately. He didn't make her feel the way Vincenzo did, but he was probably a lot more suitable for her. He would make a reliable husband and that was what Eloise wanted. A husband and a family of her own.
The next morning she was rudely awakened by a loud knock on her door. It was Lenore and Grazia with a dozen gowns. If she hadn't already felt like the ugly sister, she sure felt like it now. All the gowns were made for women like Lenore and Grazia who were tall and shapeless. There was nothing there that suited a woman like Eloise who had hips and shapely breasts. Finally they settled on a green gown that was so low cut that Eloise was convinced that people would be able to see her nipples. The colour did nothing for her eyes, in fact, it left them looking dull and grey. Grazia took it away to have it slightly altered and Lenore smiled at her sister.
"That was lucky. You don't have to pay for the dress since it was a freebie that Grazia had left from a big and beautiful photo shoot."
"Now, do you have anything suitable to wear this afternoon? Marco's family is arriving and I want to introduce my sister to them. They're all very stylish, but I've warned them that you're a PA and a bit on the heavy side so they know what to expect. "
Eloise resisted the urge to punch her sister and pulled a pink dress out of the wardrobe. She'd bought it for a company picnic shortly after she started working for Peter and she'd been complimented numerous times on how it flattered her figure.
"Not bad, sis," Lenore said with surprise. "But then you always did like vintage clothes and you were always good at picking out the good pieces. Everybody will think that you have a quirky fashion sense. That's good."
Eloise snorted at her sister's comments and watched her leave. Shortly afterwards there was a knock on the door. She opened it to find a room service waiter outside.
"Complimentary breakfast, signorina," he smiled at her and proceeded to serve it on the balcony.
Eloise sat down and started sipping the caffé latte when she noticed a note with her name on it. It read "Please forgive me for being so eager last night. I very much enjoyed spending time with you and will meet you at the same place after your rehearsal dinner tonight. I hope you'll be there. Vincenzo." A tingle spread inside her body. She knew that he wasn't the kind of man who was looking for 22-year old virgins to marry. But he made her feel good, and she needed that to get through this wedding. Besides, she enjoyed their conversations last night. It couldn't hurt to spend a little bit of time with him, could it?
Eloise shivered as she headed down to the rehearsal reception. She hardly ever wore any makeup, but she was determined not to make herself stand out more than she had to at this shindig. She'd tamed her unruly hair with a clip and added a thick belt around her waist to accentuate her hourglass figure. She didn't normally wear heels, but in this company she'd felt that she'd disappear in flat shoes so she was balancing on 3-inch heels. It felt OK, as long as they'd sit down to eat quickly. As she passed reception she looked over at Vincenzo who was busy with some paperwork. He looked up at her, winked and then did a very Latin hand gesture to tell her that she was looking gorgeous. It boosted her confidence as she walked into the restaurant that Lenore and Marco had booked for their rehearsal dinner.
As soon as she walked in, Lenore squealed and ran up to her to hug her. Eloise wondered what had happened as she'd hardly had a kind word from her sister since she'd arrived. Then she looked over at the people Lenore had been talking with. She recognised one as Lenore's fiancé and the other two must be his parents. It all started to make sense now. Lenore grabbed Eloise's hand and led her to her fiancé's family.
"Marco, caro," she cooed. "This is my baby sister, Eloise."
"I'm so happy to finally meet you," he said in a heavily accented English and kissed her on the cheeks.
Then Lenore spoke Italian to Marco's parents, who in turn shook Eloise's hand and kissed her cheeks while saying something in Italian.
"They don't speak English," Lenore stated the obvious. "Ah, here's Marco's younger brother, Paolo. He's also a footballer."
Paolo was as tall and good looking as his brother and he immediately turned on his charm and whisked Eloise away to introduce her to more people. Marco had a big family and Eloise felt like a little bit of an impostor. There was only she and Lenore left of their family and Lenore fit in very well with Marco's family. She soon found out that Marco's dad had been a footballer in his day and his mum was an ex-model, so it explained why everybody were so tall, skinny and attractive. Unfortunately they were also terribly boring.
Paolo had obviously been made in charge of keeping Eloise company that evening, probably since he was one of the few guests who spoke any English. His poor command of the language aside, Eloise could forgive that since she didn't speak any Italian at all, he was one of the dullest people she'd ever met. He was obviously expecting her to be impressed by the enormous amounts of money he earned as he listed his various sponsorship deals and fan clubs and whatnot. Eloise couldn't care less. By the end of the evening Paolo still didn't know the first thing about her and she'd already forgotten most of what he'd told her.