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Chapter 23

It was a typical meta-zen-syn wedding. The groom wore blue. The bride wore yellow. When they reappeared after the ceremony to join their guests in the gardens of Stonebraker House, both wore green to symbolize the power of synergism.

The evening was balmy. The twin moons were full in the night sky. They cast a golden glow over the festive scene.

"I feel really stupid in green," Rafe said in a low voice as he walked through the crowd with Orchid.

"Okay, so it's not your best color." She waved to her cousin, Veronica, who was chatting with her parents. "Look at the bright side. You only have to wear it once in your life."

Rafe smiled with deep satisfaction. "True."

Hobart Batt popped up in front of them, dapper in a pale pink suit and tie. He saluted them with a glass brimming with champagne.

"All best wishes, etc., etc., from Synergistic Connections," he chortled.

It occurred to Orchid that Hobart had had several glasses of champagne. "Thank you, Mr. Batt."

"I know you'll both be very happy together." Hobart took a sip and winked. "In fact, I believe I can say that with ninety-nine-point-nine percent certainty. A near perfect match. Who would have guessed?"

Rafe swiped a canape off a passing tray. "Not you, that's for sure."

Hobart contrived to look hurt. "Here, now, can't blame me for being a trifle concerned. Strat-talents are notoriously difficult to match. And ice-prisms are no easier. Used to make all sorts of mistakes in the old days. But the new techniques are much more accurate."

"Glad to hear that." Rafe wrapped his fingers around Orchid's wrist. "If you'll excuse us, I think my grandmother is trying to get my attention. She probably wants us to lead off the first tango-waltz."

"Of course, of course." Hobart shooed them away with a movement of the champagne glass. "Oh, before I forget, congratulations on your new position as the C.E.O. of Stonebraker Shipping, sir. Saw the news in the paper last week."

"Thank you, Batt." Rafe swung around with Orchid in tow and nearly collided with Selby and Briana.

Selby swept Rafe's suit with an assessing look. "Green is definitely not your color, cousin."

Briana looked pained. "Oh, for heavens sake, dear. You know perfectly well that Orchid was raised in Northville. Green is traditional at a meta-zen-syn wedding." She smiled at Orchid. "Pay no attention to him. You both look spectacular."

Orchid laughed. "Thanks." She turned toward Selby. "How are things going with the plans for Stonebraker's new transportation technology development facility?"

"Things are on schedule." Selby's eyes lit up with enthusiasm. "We've got the financing in place. The new computer system is set up. I hired two new department heads this past week. Personnel is recruiting young tech-talents at the university—"

"You had to ask," Briana said to Orchid. "He's been like this ever since Rafe made him a vice president and put him in charge of Stonebraker's technical development arm."

Orchid saw the happiness in Briana's face and knew that Rafe's decision had been the right one. She still did not know exactly what had happened between Rafe and Selby that night in the ParaSyn lab. Whatever it was, it had altered the synergy of their relationship.

"Now all I have to do is talk Rafe here into giving me some additional resources for a full-scale wind tunnel," Selby concluded happily.

"I don't want to hear about wind tunnels until after my honeymoon," Rafe warned. "Come on, Orchid. Grandmother is getting serious. I think she just sent Alfred G. to fetch us."

He guided her across the lawn to the terrace. The crowd gathered there moved back to make space. The band struck up a tango-waltz.

Orchid saw her parents standing at the edge of the circle. They smiled broadly when she stepped into Rafe's arms. Clementine and Gracie Proud and Byron Smyth-Jones grinned at the newly wedded couple.

On the other side of the ring of onlookers, Lucas Trent and his wife, Amaryllis, stood with Nick Chastain and Zinnia. They all raised their glasses in a toast as the music swelled.

Applause broke out as Rafe swung Orchid into a long, gliding turn.

"Just one question, Mr. Stonebraker," Orchid said.

"What is that, Mrs. Stonebraker?"

"Did you alter my marriage registration file so that Hobart Batt could match us?"

"It wasn't necessary. I just gave him the file I found in Bracewell's office. Untouched and unaltered."

"Things might have been a bit awkward if Hobart hadn't concluded that we were a perfect match."

"There was no chance that would happen." Rafe smiled into her eyes. "The first time I saw you, I knew we belonged together."

"Hah. I don't believe that for one moment. You needed a date and you were getting desperate."

"Ah, but deep down, I knew that you were the woman I'd been hunting for ... uh, I mean searching for, all my life."

Happiness shimmered through Orchid in a sparkling wave. "What a coincidence," she said. "I knew it, too. About our little private detective hobby."

"What about it?"

"I know we won't have much time for that kind of thing in the future, but I'd hate for us to give it up altogether."

"No reason why the firm of Stonebraker and Adams can't continue to do a little business on the side when the mood strikes." Rafe smiled down at her, eyes brilliant with his love. "But not tonight."

"No," Orchid agreed. "Not tonight."

Chapter 22 | Orchid |