Read The Calendar Brides Online

Authors: Ginny Baird

The Calendar Brides (8 page)

BOOK: The Calendar Brides
10.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“I’m athletic, too,” Angie contested a tad competitively.

“I know, sweetheart.” His eyes traveled to the television. “But Zumba’s a little different.”

Angie huffed and swept back her bangs. She didn’t know why nobody believed she actually exercised. She’d bought the wardrobe and the DVD, hadn’t she? That had been exertion enough!

“I’ll play sports if you want me to, Daddy,” Clarissa answered sweetly. Jason’s eyes pooled and Angie could tell his heart was melting. He was such a softie, especially when it came to his girls. He set down the newspaper and stretched out his arms. “Come here, you three.” Clarissa climbed from her chair, but Helena jumped up first, racing to beat her older sister to their father. Baby Julia toddled after them, happily cooing at the excitement. They threw themselves at his knees and wrapped chubby arms around his legs. Jason bent forward to give them a bear hug. “You’re my little angels, you know that?” he said, kissing each one on the top of her head.

“Yeah!” Clarissa crowed. “We’re sprouting wings!”

Such big words for such a little girl, thought Angie. Though she knew Clarissa was only preemptively parroting the next thing Jason always said.
You’re my little angels. Well, look at that! You’re sprouting wings!

“Want to see our new toy?” Helena asked when the hug broke apart.

Jason nodded and she sprinted into the next room, Clarissa chasing after her, shouting the toy was
hers
!
Seconds later, Clarissa returned clutching a brand new soccer ball, still in its box. Helena stood by, pouting. Jason pulled baby Julia onto his lap, and questioned her as if he didn’t know. “Why, what on the earth is that?”

Clarissa wore a proud smile and cradled the object like a doll. “A soccer ball!”

Jason pursed his lips and stared at his wife.

Angie put on her best pleading face. If it were up to Jason, his
little princesses
would be sheltered from the world forever. But Angie knew they needed to get out there in it. The sooner the better. The world was a brutal place, and learning to make your way in it was essential. She wouldn’t have her daughters fall behind just because of their gender. In fact, she hoped they’d lead the way. “Look at her. She wants to.”

Clarissa nodded, sporting a big bright grin.

“Looks like someone’s already been coached,” Jason whispered back.

“Please, Daddy!” Clarissa said. “Mommy said I can kick some boys’ booties.”

“Mommy did, did she?” Jason set his jaw and turned to Angie. He put down the baby, who’d begun to squirm and now headed toward her sisters. “It’s a co-ed team?”

“At this age, yes.”

He addressed Clarissa. “Sounds like a done deal!”
 

While she didn’t get his exact meaning, she’d apparently absorbed his approval.

“Whoo-hoo!” the little girl shouted, as her sisters added their tiny
yays.

“Thanks, Jason.” Angie flipped shut her laptop. “It will be really good for her, you’ll see.”

“Darn right, it will. I’ll be there every second, which is why I’m volunteering to get involved.”

Angie set aside her computer and wrapped her arms around him. “You’re the very best dad.” She kissed his cheek. “And an awfully good husband.”

“That’s funny.” He traced the line of her face with his fingers. “I was just thinking you’re a pretty great mom and wife.”

“I’m so glad you ran into me,” Angie said, smiling.

Jason laughed and held her tighter. “You weren’t so happy at the time.”

 

Angie had just left her job at the bridal shop when it started pouring. The rain came down in droves, pooling in puddles around her ankles as she scurried to her car. Angie had majored in fashion design and now managed procurements for Victor. She’d even gotten to travel with him and the shop manager to Paris once, which had made her cousin Bev green with envy.
To be paid to travel,
Bev had proclaimed with exaggerated flair.
What a chore!
Thunder boomed as the sky broke apart, drenching Angie in torrents. Her purse-size umbrella was useless against the onslaught, caving inward as water streamed from its edges. Angie shook it out and tossed it on the floor of the back seat before scampering behind the wheel and slamming shut the door. Her clothes were drenched and her hair was matted flat against her head. She checked her reflection in her visor’s mirror, spying droplets dripping from her bangs like tiny diamonds.
April showers, ha!
She nabbed some tissues from the box wedged in the console to dab her brow, then flipped the visor back up. Well, at least no one had to see her like this but her calico cat, Buster. Hopefully, he wouldn’t mistake her for a giant drowned rat when she got home.

Angie cranked the engine and the automated windshield wipers clicked on, whipping back and forth. She waited until a large SUV drove by, then cautiously edged out of her parking spot next to the curb. A split second later, there was a harsh crunching sound and she was thrown forward with a lurch. Angie slammed the brakes and clutched the wheel, her heart pounding. She peered over her shoulder at the smoldering white truck with its hood popped open, realizing she’d been hit. She instinctively opened her door to see what had happened and a man raced toward her in the rain.

“Geez,” he said surveying the damage. “I mean,
geez
, that looks bad.”

Angie’s eyes traveled to her sagging rear bumper that scraped the road, then back up to his gaze. He squinted in the rain, light brown hair plastered to his head. “I’m so sorry, lady. I didn’t see you.”

Angie hadn’t even paid off the loan, and she’d forgone collision insurance to save money. “No joke! Look what you’ve done to my car!” She glanced at his truck. “Why weren’t your lights on?”

He shot her a grin in an effort to be humble. “Only the right one works.”

“Are you crazy?”

“I was waiting until the end of the month.”

“For what?”

“To fix the left one.”

Perfect. This guy was just as broke as she was.
She squinted at the lettering on his truck.
Colonnade Construction.
No wonder. Since the recession, there hadn’t been any new building in Chandelier. The existing houses weren’t selling either. “I hope you have insurance?”

Horns honked behind them, but he didn’t answer. He just stood there staring like he’d seen a ghost.

 

Jason didn’t know how it was possible, but somehow it seemed he’d dreamed this girl up. He remembered seeing her many times. He just couldn’t say where. But that petite figure, that pretty face, and those eyes…yeah, especially those eyes. Though there was something slightly different about them. “Have we met?”

“What?”
she shouted above the commotion of other cars and the rain.

“I mean, you and I…” He gestured between them. “Hold on. Are you from Northside?”

“Northside? No!” She appeared mildly irritated. Okay, more than mildly. The fact was she was fuming. “I’m from right here. Chandelier.” Damn, she was pretty, even though she was soaking wet. He couldn’t imagine her all cleaned up and dry. She pulled a purse from her car and extracted a cell, punching in some numbers.

“What are you doing?”

“Calling 9-1-1.”

“Hey, now.” He dropped his hands to his sides, palms open. “Why would you do that?”

She grated between clenched teeth, “I have an accident to report.”

That’s all he needed. To lose his license on top of his job. Not twenty minutes ago, Jason had been let go from Colonnade Construction. Nothing personal. Just a sign of hard times. He was to turn in the company truck tomorrow. He already owed repairs on it. And now, it had been creamed.

A voice crept through her speaker. “9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

Jason pressed his palms together, pleading. “Just give me five seconds. Five seconds, and I swear—”

She covered the mouthpiece and stared at him. “What?”

He whispered hoarsely through the rain, hoping to sound convincing. “I’ll make it all go away. Fix everything. It won’t cost you a dime.”

Her forehead rose and droplets streamed from her bangs.

“9-1-1,” the voice repeated. “Caller? Are you there?”

His eyes shot to the phone, and she spoke into it. “I’ll call you right back,” she said, before sliding it shut. She jutted out her chin in a challenge. “You got a rich uncle or something?”

He wasn’t about to tell her he’d been so broke he’d let his insurance lapse, or that he barely had the money to take a girl out to dinner. But he could offer one truth. “Better.” He grinned. “My brother’s a mechanic.”

 

Angie laughed at their shared memory. “You’re right. I wasn’t happy at the time. But you made up for it.” He had, too. He’d fixed her car just as he’d said he would, then had invited her to dinner as an additional peace offering—although it had taken him more than six weeks to call. Angie had grown annoyed at what she’d come to view as a false promise. As it turned out, Jason had been desperately seeking a new job and trying to save up enough cash to take her to a really nice place. Now he ran his own firm, specializing in home improvements. He did well enough that Angie could do her dream job, being a full-time mommy to their kids. Someday, she’d like to go back to something else. But, for now, nothing made her happier than helping shape those three precious lives.

“It’s funny how I thought you were your sister, Haley.”

“Glad you’ve learned to tell us apart,” she teased. Haley, she’d learned, had catered Jason’s boss’s wedding. He’d seen her come and go as she’d set up that event. While it was natural for him to have confused them, she’d liked it that he’d known there was something different about them from the start. Apart from Angie wearing bangs, Haley had that tiny white scar above her left eyebrow. She wore it like a badge proving she’d always been more adventuresome than her older sister. But Angie didn’t care. Being married to Jason, and acting as mom to their girls, was plenty exciting for her. She couldn’t imagine anything better.

Jason glanced at the kids, who’d made a body pile on the floor and were now giggling merrily. “So? Have you written your piece for the calendar?”

Angie thought of the lines she’d crafted just this afternoon, acknowledging they rang heartfelt and true. But she wouldn’t let Jason in on it. Not just yet. She wanted their story to be perfect first. “I’m working on it,” she said with a smile.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six

 

Haley

 

Haley set the miniature plastic bridal couple atop the exquisite, six-tiered wedding cake. Since this was just a demo, only the top layer was real: vanilla almond with white chocolate icing. The whole confection had been a stroke of culinary genius. Hers. She just hoped it tasted as good as it looked. That’s why she was testing it now to make sure.

Haley’s assistant Jennifer adjusted a paper lace doily that had curled up at one side of a tier. “Isn’t it bad luck to make your own?”

“Seems to me it would be bad luck if I didn’t.” She slowly pivoted the wheeled table to observe the cake from all angles, then stepped back to admire her creation. “Who was I going to trust with this?” she asked Jennifer. “Certainly not Emilio.”

“Certainly not.”

“He would have made a cannoli cake.”

“Or something worse.” It was true. The last one had been shaped like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The only thing was, it leaned too far and fell smack-dab onto the tablecloth during the reception. Before the bride could cut it.

“So what did your grandma say?”

“About our project? She loved it. Clapped her hands together and laughed with delight.”

Jennifer angled her cell to take a snapshot of the top tier of the cake, so they could perfectly replicate it later. “Really?”

“The fact is we haven’t told her.” Haley lifted a cutting knife and motioned for Jennifer to grab the plates.

 
She complied with a question: “Why not?”

“We decided it would be better to wait until things were further along.”
 

“You want to finish the calendar first?”

Haley served them each a large piece to sample. “Once she sees how wonderful it is, and all the work we’ve put into it, she’ll be less inclined to talk us out of it.”

“I thought your Nona was desperate to get to Sicily?”

“She is, but not at the expense of her granddaughters. She’d never agree to our plan in advance, and ‘put us to so much trouble.’ But once it’s fully executed...”

“Sneaky, sneaky.” Jennifer dug into her cake with a fork and took a bite, her face registering joy as she rolled icing around on her tongue. “This is delicious.”
 

Haley tasted it, thrilled to agree. “The only trick will be convincing her to write her memoirs.”

“What if she doesn’t want to?”

“Rachel is our backup plan. She’s going to claim she’s always wanted to write Nona’s book.
Please, Nona. Please.
She’s totally prepared to beg. The thing is, she’ll be wanting authentic details, which is why Rachel’s taking Nona back to Italy.”

BOOK: The Calendar Brides
10.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Bowled Over by Victoria Hamilton
Dear Lumpy by Mortimer, Louise
Fast Forward by Celeste O. Norfleet
Forget Me Knot by King, Lori
Strike Eagle by Doug Beason