Read Truly Madly Yours Online

Authors: Rachel Gibson

Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Love Stories, #Inheritance and Succession, #Beauty Operators, #Idaho

Truly Madly Yours (8 page)

BOOK: Truly Madly Yours
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Delaney vacillated for hours over whether she should show up at Lisa’s party. She hadn’t fully decided until she caught herself thinking about curling up with a stack of magazines and a box of wine. She was twenty-nine, and if she didn’t do something quick, she was afraid she’d become one of those women who wore hats instead of brushing their hair and traded in their red platforms for Easy Spirit walking shoes. Before she could change her mind, she pulled on a black turtleneck and a quilted leather vest the color of limes. Her jeans were black also, but her ankle boots matched her vest. She scrunched mousse in her soft curls and hung little gold hoops in the four piercings she had in each ear.

By the time Delaney arrived at the party, it was a little after eight. Three giggling thirteen-year-old girls answered the door and led her toward the rear of a spacious home constructed of river rock and cedar.

“They’re all back here,” one of the girls with dark eyes informed her. “Do you wanna put your purse in my dad’s room?”

She’d shoved her wallet and a tube of burgundy lipstick into a little patent leather bag that looked like a hatbox. The wallet she could live without, but she wouldn’t be able to replace her Estee Lauder lipstick for a year. “No thanks. Are you Sophie?”

The girl barely glanced over her shoulder at Delaney as they moved through the kitchen. “Yep. Who are you?”

Sophie had braces and pimples and wonderfully thick hair with horrible dried and split ends. Split ends drove Delaney nuts. They were like a crooked picture that drove a person mad until it was straightened. “I’m Lisa’s friend, Delaney.”

Sophie’s head whipped around and her eyes widened. “Oh my gosh! I heard Grandma talk about you.”

By the look on Sophie’s face, Benita hadn’t been dispensing compliments. “Great,” Delaney muttered as she stepped around the three girls. She walked through a set of double glass doors onto a deck. The white sandy beach below was shaded by two enormous Ponderosas, and several boats were tied to the dock riding the gentle waves of Lake Mary.

“Hey there,” Lisa greeted and excused herself from the semicircle of people around her. “I was worried you wouldn’t make it. Did you have to go to something fancy first?”

Delaney glanced down at her clothes, then lifted her gaze to the other guests who wore T-shirts and shorts. “No. I still get cold,” she answered. “Are you sure it’s okay that I’m here?”

“Sure. How was the parade?”

“It was almost exactly the same as it was the last time I saw it, except the group of World War veterans has dwindled to two old guys in the back of a school bus.” She smiled, more relaxed than she’d been in over a month. “And the biggest thrill is still the anticipation over which unsuspecting tuba player will step in the horse crap.”

“How was the junior high school band? Sophie told me they were pretty good this year.”

Delaney struggled for a compliment. “Well, the uniforms are better than when we were in school.”

“That’s what I thought.” Lisa laughed. “Are you hungry?”

“I’ve eaten already.”

“Come on, and I’ll introduce you around. There are some people here you might remember.”

Delaney followed Lisa to a knot of people gathered around two barbecues. The fifteen or so guests were a combination of friends Lisa and Louie had known most of their lives and people who worked for Allegrezza Construction.

Delaney chatted with Andrea Huff, the best baseball pitcher in elementary school. Andrea was married to John French, the boy who’d taken one of Andrea’s knuckleballs in the stomach and had hurled macaroni and cheese on the playground. The two seemed happy together, and Delaney wondered if there was a connection.

“I have two sons.” She pointed to the beach below, then paused to lean over the rail and bellow at a cluster of children wading in the lake, “Eric! Eric French, I told you not to get into that water so soon after you’ve eaten.”

A tow-headed boy turned and raised a hand to shade his eyes. “I’m only up to my knees.”

“Fine, but if you drown don’t come crying to me.” Andrea sighed as she straightened. “Do you have children?”

“No. I’ve never been married.”

Andrea looked at her as if she were an alien, and in Truly, Delaney supposed a twenty-nine-year-old, never-been-married woman was an oddity.

“Now, tell me what you’ve been up to since high school.”

Delaney told her about the places she’d lived, and then the conversation turned to the memories each had of growing up in a small town at the same moment in time. They chatted about sledding at the base of Shaw Mountain, and laughed about the time Andrea had lost her bikini top waterskiing across the lake.

Something warm and unexpected settled near Delaney’s soul. Talking to Andrea felt like finding something she hadn’t even known she’d missed, like old worn slippers long ago discarded for a newer flashier pair.

After Andrea, Lisa introduced Delaney to several single men who worked for Louie, and Delaney found herself on the receiving end of some very flattering male attention. Most of the single construction workers were younger than Delaney. Several were deeply tanned, had buns of steel, and looked like they’d jumped out of a Diet Coke commercial. Delaney was glad she hadn’t settled for that box of Franzia. Especially when a backhoe operator named Steve handed her a bottle of Bud and looked at her through clear baby blues. His hair was like sun-bleached butterscotch, and there was a scruffiness about him Delaney might have found enormously appealing if it hadn’t been so contrived. His hair was strategically tousled and too gelled to be natural. Steve knew he was gorgeous.

“I’m going to check on Louie.” Lisa grinned, then gave Delaney a cheesy thumbs-up sign behind Steve’s back as if they were still back in high school and had to approve each other’s dates.

“I’ve seen you around,” Steve said as soon as it was just the two of them.

“Really?” She raised the beer to her lips and took a drink. “Where?”

“In your little yellow car.” His smile showed his very white, slightly crooked teeth. “You’re hard to miss.”

“I guess my car draws attention.”

“Not your car. You. You’re hard to miss.”

She’d felt so invisible in the plain T-shirts and shorts she’d worn lately that she pointed to herself and asked, “Me?”

“Don’t tell me you’re one of those girls who likes to pretend they don’t know they’re beautiful?”

Beautiful
? No, Delaney knew she wasn’t beautiful. She was attractive and could make herself look damn good when she tried. But if Steve wanted to tell her she was beautiful, she would let him. Because, contrived or not, he wasn’t a dog— figuratively or literally. She spent so much time with Duke and Dolores that if she let herself, she could melt beneath such attention.

“How old are you?” she asked him.

“Twenty-two.”

Seven years. At twenty-two Delaney had been experimenting with life. She’d been like a convict on a prison break—a five-year prison break. Between the ages of nineteen and twenty-four, she’d lived a life of reckless abandon and absolute freedom. She’d had a great time, but was glad she was older and wiser.

She turned her gaze to the teenage girls on the beach below waving their arms and running to the edge of the water. She wasn’t
that
much older than Steve, and it wasn’t like she was looking for a commitment. Delaney raised the bottle to her lips again and took a drink. Maybe she could just use him for the summer. Use him, then dump him. Men had certainly used and dumped her. Why couldn’t she treat men the same way men treated her? What was the difference?

“Uncle Nick’s back,” Sophie called up to Louie, who stood in a knot of people.

Everything inside Delaney stilled. Her gaze flew to the boat slowly cruising toward the end of the dock, to the man standing behind the wheel of the Bayliner, his feet wide apart, his dark hair blowing about his shoulders. Shade from the towering pine fell across the surface of the water and bathed him and his three female passengers in shadows. Sophie shot down the dock with her friends trailing behind her, their excited chatter rising above the noise of the outboard engine. Nick’s responding laughter reached Delaney on the breeze. She set her beer on the rail and turned to find Lisa several feet away, looking very guilty.

“Excuse me, Steve,” she said and moved to her friend.

“Don’t kill me,” Lisa whispered.

“You should have told me.”

“Would you have come?”

“No.”

“Then I’m glad I lied.”

“Why, so I could get here then leave again?”

“Don’t be such a wimp. You need to get past your hostile feelings for Nick.”

Delaney looked into her childhood friend’s eyes and tried not to feel hurt by her remark. She reminded herself that Lisa didn’t know about Henry’s will or the night Nick had used her ten years ago. “I know he’s going to be your brother-in-law, but there are some very good reasons why I feel ‘hostile’ toward him.”

“Louie told me.”

A myriad of horrible questions ran through Delaney’s head. She wondered who knew what. What they knew, and who had said what to whom. “What did he tell you?”

“He told me about the will.”

Delaney glanced over her shoulder at Louie, who was staring out at the lake. She would have preferred that no one know about the will, but it wasn’t her biggest concern. Hopefully, her greatest fear was still buried in the past. “How long have you known?”

“About a month, and I wish you would have told me. I wanted to ask you to be in my wedding, but I was waiting for you to tell me you were going to be here. Pretending I don’t know has been really hard, but now I can ask you to be one of my bridesmaids. I wanted you to be my maid of honor, but I couldn’t, so I had to ask my sister. But I—”

“Exactly what did Louie tell you?” Delaney interrupted as she reached for Lisa’s arm and pulled her to a deserted part of the deck.

“That if you leave Truly, Nick inherits your share of Henry’s estate, and if the two of you have sex, you inherit his.”

“Who else knows?”

“Benita, I think.”

Of course. “And maybe Sophie. She said something about overhearing her grandmother.” Dread settled in the pit of her stomach, and she let go of Lisa’s arm. “This is so humiliating. Now everyone in town will know, and I won’t be able to go anywhere without people watching me to make sure I don’t leave town or have sex with Nick.” She felt her skull tighten at the very thought. “As if that would ever happen anyway.”

“No one else will find out. If you’re worried about Sophie, I’ll talk to her.”

“And she’ll listen to you?”

“If I tell her the gossip could hurt Nick, she’ll listen. She worships him. In Sophie’s eyes, Nick is a saint and can do no wrong.”

Delaney looked over her shoulder and watched Saint Nick with his harem of females make their way up the dock. He handed a large paper sack to Sophie, and she and her friends took off toward a picnic table on the beach. In his loose green tank top, battered Levi’s with the large three-corner tear above the right knee, and rubber flip-flops, he looked like he’d just gotten out of bed. Delaney’s gaze moved to the three women. Maybe he had.

“I wonder where he picked them up,” Lisa said, referring to the blond by his side and the two brunettes following close behind. “He was just going to his house to get some fireworks for Sophie.”

“Apparently he picked up more than a few smoke bombs. Who are those women?”

“The blond is Gail something, I don’t know her married name, but her dad was Judge Tanner. The two behind him look like the Howell twins, Lonna and Lanna.”

Delaney remembered Gail Tanner. She’d been several years older than Delaney, and their families had occasionally socialized. She also recognized her as the woman Nick had pick up at Henry’s funeral. The Howell twins she didn’t know. “Gail’s married?”

“Divorced.”

Delaney turned around for a better look. The women wore tight tank tops tucked into jeans. Delaney would have loved to dismiss them as tramps, but she couldn’t. They looked more like centerfolds than hookers. “Did Gail get a boob job? I don’t remember her being that big.”

“A boob job and a little fat sucked out of her butt, too.”

“Hmm.” Delaney’s gaze returned to Nick and the triangle of thigh visible through the tear in his jeans. “Have you seen them do liposuction on TV? Damn, it hurt my buns just thinking about it.”

BOOK: Truly Madly Yours
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