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Authors: Ginny Baird

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BOOK: The Calendar Brides
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“I hope he’s all right,” Connie said with concern.

“Yeah, me too. We leave for Napa in the morning.” She turned toward her sister. “Are you sure you won’t change your mind about…?”

“No! I’m telling you, Linda. That level of deception is against my moral code.”

Just then, Connie’s cell phone rang. She stared down at the incoming number with a gasp. Linda looked too, then said, “Well, look who it is. The old code breaker.”

“Grandpa,” Connie said, activating her speakerphone. “What a coincidence. We were just talking about you.”

“And I was just thinking about you,” he said with a wheeze. “You and Linda both. Of course, there
is
one major difference between you.” He broke into a sporadic coughing fit, then caught his breath. “
She’s
my married granddaughter.” Connie could just imagine him sitting there in an expensive bathroom and in his high-end electric wheelchair. Several beautiful nurses were bound to be catering to him as they spoke. One combing his silvery hair. Another straightening the pillow at his back. A third sweetly bringing him a tray laid for tea. “But not for long, eh?” he continued. “Soon, you’ll be next. Then all of the Oliver women will have fulfilled the family tradition.”

Linda met her gaze, and Connie frowned.

“The tradition,” the old man went on, “that your grandmother began. One dress made from original Paris lace, destined to bless an entire family. Every female in the lineage. And it’s a good thing your blessed day is nearly here.” He hacked loudly into his receiver. “I’m not getting any younger, you know. The doctors say I could go at any minute.” Linda’s brow creased with concern as Connie’s heart hung heavy with worry. She loved her grandfather greatly. It was painful to imagine he wouldn’t always be around. “I thank God every day you came to your senses and found yourself a groom before my eightieth birthday. What a gift this is to me. My very last granddaughter getting married! And just in the nick of time. You
are
bringing him to the party, eh? Just like you promised?”

“You promised to bring him to the party?” Linda spewed under her breath. “Why didn’t you say so?”

She hadn’t said so, because leaving out that little detail hadn’t seemed worse than omitting all the rest of the truths she’d left unsaid. She really was in a horrible mess. Maybe she should come right out and say it. “Grandpa,” she began tentatively, “the truth is, I have something to tell you…”

He choked up on the other end of the line, springing into another coughing and wheezing spell. “Hang on, dear granddaughter. Hold on.” He breathed between fits and starts. “That’s my Connie,” she heard him tell one of the nurses. “The last single gal in the family. But she’s going to do it before I die. Make me and her late grandmother proud.” He started coughing again, and someone took away the phone.

“I’m afraid Mr. Oliver will have to call you back,” a female voice said while the coughing continued.

“Of course,” Connie said as Linda studied her with a sad look. “Oh, Linda,” she said, feeling defeated. “What am I going to do? He may not even live until my imaginary wedding.”

“He didn’t sound good,” Linda agreed.

Emotion roiled within Connie at the thought of losing her grandfather. He’d been more like a dad to her and her siblings than their real father had, always taking an interest in their lives, asking about and supporting their goals. It was only in advanced old age that he’d begun getting ornery, a little pigheaded perhaps, and intent on getting his way. But considering the constant love and support he’d provided the family throughout the years, everyone saw fit to indulge him. Even if that meant supplying him with three beautiful nurses, when one homely one would have been sufficient. “You don’t know how I hate ruining his party. Especially thinking that…” Connie’s eyes welled with tears.

Linda reached out and took her hand. “Then don’t.”

“I’m not taking some crazed, suicidal maniac back to Napa!”

“We’re not sure he’s suicidal. Why don’t we see what the doctor says first?” Linda pulled a tissue from her pocket and handed it over.

“Sure, and then what?” Connie dabbed her eyes with a sniff.
 

“Well, if he’s willing. I mean, wanting to make some money…”

Connie sat up a little straighter. “You’re saying we should buy him?”


Rent him
is more like it. Just for the weekend. What do you say?”

The idea was ridiculous. Ludicrous. And yet it would keep her grandfather from knowing. At least for the next little while, until he got past his eightieth birthday. “But Grandpa thinks I’m marrying Walt!”

“That doesn’t matter. You just say that Walt got away and you found a new one. A better one. An environmentalist.” Her voice rose with excitement. “That’s got a ring to it!”

Connie cocked her head, considering this.
An environmentalist with a beard. Hmm.

Linda clasped her hands together, gaining more enthusiasm as she spoke. “He seems intelligent, well-spoken. Plus, he
is
rather handsome. You admitted it yourself. And,
ooh
, this is the best part. You can say that he saved you!”

“Saved me?”

“That’s how you met.”

“But Linda, he nearly killed me! Fell right down on top of me!”

“Details.” Linda held her gaze. “You’ve got to look at the big picture. And, at the end of the day, he saved us both from a fate worse than… I don’t know…coyotes.”

“Or grizzlies.”

“Snakes even!”

“Spiders.”

“All of it. Absolutely.”

“But we can’t say we met this weekend and got engaged already.”

“We’ll claim we came hiking before. That you and he have been an item for weeks.”

Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
Connie thought, heaving a sigh. “What makes you think he’ll do it?”

“What’s the cash advance limit on your credit card? With mine, we’ll double it.”

“You think we can do this and not get caught? Not even by…” She thumbed heavenward. “You know.”

“Oh, God already knows, and He approves.”

“What?”

“Lies are only bad when they’re told for selfish reasons, meant to hurt other people. This little…
thing
…we’re talking here? It’s like playacting, a harmless charade that will help Grandpa go to his grave in peace.”

This still didn’t feel right to Connie, but she couldn’t think of another way out of the horrible corner she’d painted herself into. Would it really be so wrong to bring a handsome friend home for the party? Help everyone get through the weekend intact without causing a big scene with her melodramatic news:
Constance Marie Oliver has lost

yet another

groom.

Just then, the door to Hank’s office opened, and the two men emerged.
 

“Is he going to be all right?” Linda asked with concern.

“Oh yes, he’ll be just fine. Ankle’s merely twisted. Nothing’s broken,” Hank said. “And that other small concern you had?” He made a tugging motion beside his throat like he was yanking on a rope. “All a big misunderstanding.”

Connie breathed a sigh of relief. “Really?”

Mac gave her a tilted grin, and her heart fluttered. “Totally,” he said, appearing amused. “Facts are, I was up in that tree fully intending to stow my grub for the night. To keep it away from bears.”

“Bears, you see?” Linda said, elbowing her. “I told you there was a logical explanation. Connie glared at her sister, knowing she’d said no such thing.

Connie pursed her lips a beat, then asked tentatively, “Maybe he should still have his head examined?”

“You’re right on that.” Hank snapped his fingers. “Already gave the guys at the clinic a call. They’re expecting you.”

“Us?” Connie asked with surprise.

“Until we’re sure there’s no brain swelling, it’s probably best if Mac doesn’t drive. I’d take him myself, but I can’t leave things unmanned here.” He glanced at Linda, then met Connie’s eyes. “You don’t mind?”

 

A few hours later, Mac approached the girls in the clinic waiting room, waving a stack of papers. They stood to greet him as he drew near.

“Tests all came back negative. Doctors say I’m fine.”

“Other than your ankle?” Connie asked.

“Already feeling better.” He shot her a smile. “After the X-rays, they rewrapped it pretty well. Said ice it for a day. Keep it stable. Before you know it, I’ll be as good as new.”

“That’s great news, isn’t it, Connie?” Linda asked.

“Really super.” Connie swallowed hard and glanced at her sister. The whole time they’d sat in the waiting room, they’d been discussing their plans for bringing Mac back to Napa. They’d agreed in advance not to invite him if he received a negative doctor’s report. Now that he was in the clear, there wasn’t anything to stop Connie from asking. Other than levelheaded reason.
 

“Um, Mac,” Linda said sweetly. “Connie here has something ask you.”

“Oh?” He turned his handsome face toward hers, and Connie’s cheeks flared.

This wouldn’t be so bad, would it? Just a little bit of make-believe, for just a few days? “Um, yes,” she said, feeling her voice falter. She collected her courage and strode toward Mac. “We… I…actually have somewhat of a business proposition.”

“Business?” he asked, seeming mildly intrigued.

 
“It’s my grandpa,” she began uncertainly. Just how could she phrase it, other than blurting out the truth? She heard her voice crack as she said, “He’s dying, Mac. Doesn’t have much time left at all.”

He studied her sympathetically. “I’m sorry, Connie. That must be terribly hard.”

“Harder than you know.” She met his gaze and felt lost in the depths of it. “He thinks… He wants…”

“Connie’s supposed to be getting married,” Linda filled in, growing impatient.

“You what?” Mac stared at her in surprise. “I didn’t see any ring.”

Connie’s breath caught in her throat. “You were checking?”

“Wow,” Linda murmured with delight.

“Wow,” Connie echoed, still caught up in Mac’s eyes.

“No ring?” He raised his brow with the question.

“Oh, that’s because he… What I mean is, there’s no groom. Not anymore.”

Mac leaned forward, his voice husky. “What’s your proposition?”

“I was hoping you’d do me a little favor.”

“How little?”

“A weekend little.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“How much do you want?”

“Is this about money?”

“Is there anything else?”

“You tell me.”

Of course there wasn’t anything else. This was
all
about money, and buying time for her grandpa. That was all there was to it. Right?

“Maybe we should have a seat while I explain.”

 

*~* End of Excerpt *~*

Must-Have Husband

 

 

 

Table of Contents

Title

Copyright

About the Author

Books by Ginny Baird

The Calendar Brides

Chapter One – The D’Amato Women

Chapter Two - The Plan

Chapter Three - Emma

Chapter Four – Claire

Chapter Five - Angie

Chapter Six - Haley

Chapter Seven - Bev

Chapter Eight - Jane

Chapter Nine - Tiny

Chapter Ten - Zoe

Chapter Eleven - Lena

Chapter Twelve - Trish

Chapter Thirteen - Susan

Chapter Fourteen - Rachel

Chapter Fifteen - Lucia

Chapter Sixeen – The Shoot

Chapter Seventeen – Wedding Bells

Chapter Eighteen – Nona

Chapter Nineteen - Luigi

Epilogue - Sicily

The Calendar Brides

A Note from the Author

Excerpt 1 – The Christmas Catch

Preview

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Excerpt 2 – Must-Have Husband

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

BOOK: The Calendar Brides
9.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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