She ran up the steps to the porch and pushed the doorbell. Orchestra sounding chimes rang out and a diminutive, middle-aged Chinese man answered, "Yes?"
"I'm Jasmine Harper. I believe I'm expected."
"Yes, come in, please."
Shortly thereafter, the dignified sounding, middle-aged woman who'd called walked up to her and held out her hand. "Hello. I'm Camilla Dewhurst. And you must be Ms. Jasmine Harper."
Jasmine felt a little overwhelmed with the attractive, graceful, and classy Mrs. Dewhurst.
"Please don't rise on my account." She took a seat on the love seat on the other side of the coffee table. "I've apprised the chef to the fact that I expected someone so we'll have refreshments, but in the meantime, let me tell you about my project."
Jaz smiled at Camilla and looked around the room waiting for her to continue.
"I know. It's atrocious."
Shock had to be plastered all over Jasmine's face.
"No, make that hideous. I know it and that's why I invited you here."
She tried to reassure her. "It's not that ba—"
Camilla held up a hand and cut her off. "Please, Ms. Harper, don't patronize me. You'll find my appearance belies my personality. Now, a little background. I have belonged to a charity called Daughters of the Alamo for 25 yrs. We have a revolving presidency and I have the honor of being this year's president. One of the duties of the newly elected president is to sponsor the annual charity ball."
She winked at her. "In case you're wondering, sponsor is a euphemism for the person that pays for as well as hosts it."
The Chinese man, apparently a servant named Chen, brought in a tray and set it down on the coffee table. The tray had two glasses with ice, two cups, three carafes, a bowl of tea bags, a creamer and sugar bowl and a plate with assorted pastries. "We have peach flavored iced tea, dark roast coffee, your choice of herbal teas, and assorted pastries.
"Might I start you with something to drink, Ms. Harper? May I call you Jasmine? Such a pretty name. So much prettier than Camilla, which, by the way, you should call me."
"Please do, Camilla."
"Coffee would be nice, with half and half, please."
"Here you go. Would you like an éclair, fruit tart, cream puff, or a Napoleon?"
Jaz nodded. "A fruit tart, sounds nice, thank you."
"Good choice. Here you are—my favorite."
She took a glass of ice and filled it with peach tea. Then she slid a fruit tart onto her plate.
"Now, where were we? Yes, back to my charity ball. Jasmine, if it can be done on time and within budget, I want a total facelift of the main area of the home. Some of the bedrooms need not be included."
Camilla paused and Jaz started to answer her, but she wasn't finished. "Before we get into specifics, I should warn you. I am a tough taskmaster and am seldom wrong. I may drive you crazy, but when you are done and the ball is a huge success, as I think you will make it, you will have enough work from other Daughters to keep you busy for five, maybe ten years."
Phew. She's quite a lady. She set her coffee cup back in the saucer. "How much time would I have?"
"The furthest I could push the ball back would be eight weeks from this Saturday. And I expect you to include the party, as well. Obviously, since you will be busy, you can sub-contract the ball to specialists."
"How many guests will be in attendance and will alcohol be served?"
Figure two hundred and fifty people. If there's more or less, we can make the adjustment."
Jaz looked up. "At first glance, I think it's possible, but I'd have to take a detailed look at it. How much is your budget?"
Camilla looked Jaz straight in the eye. "A million."
Jasmine blinked. A cold chill passed through her and she felt faint. She breathed deeply and forcing her voice to sound calm, spoke, "That sounds like enough, though again I'd have to get into specifics."