“Perfect!” My mother exclaims as she takes my hand. “Now, let’s go to lunch.”

I smile, genuinely happy and hopeful that Mom and I are meeting in the middle and forging a new path together. Maybe Curtis has been good for her, after all.

“I’m excited. Let’s go.”

Quint

As I wait for my dad in the bar in the hotel, I can’t stop thinking about Calla. I whip my phone from my pocket and send her a quick text.

How’s it going there? I miss you.

I get a reply right away. Great! Having a surprisingly good time with my mom.

Then she sends me a picture of some very frou-frou food that’s a work of art. Everything on the table has been fashioned to look like flowers, and in the middle of it all is a half-empty bottle of champagne.

Then her next message pops in. But I miss you, too. Soon?

Yes. All night.

She sends me a kiss emoji and a couple of hearts that make me laugh. I would have sworn she was far too practical to be this giddy.

Suddenly, I feel a familiar hand slap my back. “Hi, son. Sorry to keep you waiting.”

I turn. I was pissed as hell at my father yesterday. Today, I rein in my temper. It’s not my life, and I need to back off. “Hey, Dad.” We share a manly hug, then I look around. “Where are Ivy and Lacey?”

My brother, Jett, is finishing up a negotiation in London. This wedding was so last-minute, he couldn’t get here in time. And after the backstab he endured in college, he’s about ambition, not romance.

Dad rolls his eyes. “Your sisters are still getting dolled up since they had to get up so early to catch their flights this morning. Lacey looks hung over.”

“Ah, to be twenty-two again.” I have to smile. Lacey, the “oops” baby of the family, is in her last semester of college and partying hard—while maintaining her four-point-zero GPA, so I can’t complain.

“No, thanks,” Dad drawls. “And Ivy says she has big news to share after the ceremony, but she looks so peaked and refused to eat breakfast when I picked the girls up and took them out. I can only imagine she’s going to tell us that she and Darrin are finally pregnant.”

“That would be great.” The older of my two sisters is thirty-three. She and her husband have been trying to have a baby for years. “But I’ll do my best to act surprised.”

“Good idea. Sorry I left you to your own devices last night.”

I shake my head. “After the things I said yesterday afternoon, you had every right. I’m sorry. If you’re happy, I’m happy for you.”

“It takes a big man to admit when he’s been wrong and apologize.” He pats me on the back. “Thank you. But you’ll see. This isn’t a mistake.”

I can only hope he’s right.

Then we don’t have time to exchange any more words because Ivy and Lacey appear, both in pretty springtime dresses. Ivy’s is a dusty blue with sensible beige heels. Lacey, God help me, is wearing something hot pink, low cut, and getting attention from every corner of the bar.

After greetings and hugs all around, I catch up with my sisters. Ivy and Lacey both still live in Denver, not far from Dad. I can drive to see them in about six hours any time I want, but it’s just far enough away that it’s too far without a reason. So I don’t see them often. I wish Calla was here to meet them. If she hadn’t been busy with her mom, I would have asked her to come with me today and meet my family.

We’ll definitely do it another time—soon. I make that promise to myself because I’m not giving her up. My impromptu shopping trip a few hours ago proved that. Now I just have to persuade her to say yes.

Will she think I’m as crazy as I feel?

“Where is this place?” Ivy asks, indeed looking slightly green-tinged.

“Follow me.” Dad begins to lead us through the hotel, Lacey beside him, smiling.

I turn to the older of my sisters. “You doing okay?”

She slants me a frustrated glance. “I look fine, damn it.”

I have to repress a smile. “You look as if you’re trying to look fine. Mostly you look sick.” I lean in closer. “Does that mean you’re finally pregnant?”

Suddenly, a dazzling smile breaks across her face. “Darrin and I found out yesterday.”

Slinging an arm around her shoulders, I give her a squeeze. “Congrats. I’m really happy for you two.”

In my pocket, my phone vibrates again. I pull it free to see another text from Calla.

I might be a little later than I thought. It’s nice to be with my mom, and this day is important to her. But I’ll be there as soon as I can. Be waiting?


Tags: Shayla Black Romance
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