Authors: Katy Regnery
WILD ABOUT WESTON
The English Brothers, Book #5
WILD ABOUT WESTON
© 2014 by Katharine Gilliam Regnery
Sale of the electronic edition of this book is wholly unauthorized. Except for use in review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part, by any means, is forbidden without written permission from the author/publisher.
Katharine Gilliam Regnery, publisher
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
Please visit my website at www.katyregnery.com
First Edition: December 2014
Wild about Weston : a novel / by Katy Regnery – 1st ed.
With thanks to Melinda and Mandy for
naming Molly McKenna, and to
Rachelle, who handed
me “Dusty” on a
Table of Contents
Molly McKenna loved her family, friends, and her parent’s beagle, Lady. Asked to name three more things she loved, on any random day, she might answer:
When Molly left her home in Ohio and took a job as an English teacher at a middle school in downtown Philadelphia, she knew it was going to be an uphill battle to get her students interested in literature. And yet, after six months of teaching, she had learned that while the rewards were intermittent, they were also more satisfying than she could have imagined. The first time her class got into an organic debate—arguing whether or not the characters in
should have stayed put or evacuated during Hurricane Katrina—the rush was more powerful than anything Molly could have imagined.
The smell of fresh-cut wheat straw, which she—regrettably—hadn’t had the opportunity to whiff in almost eight months, reminded Molly of her family’s farm in Hopeview, Ohio. Hay baling, which typically took place in June, reminded her of the warm sun, longer days, the end of the school year, fresh squeezed lemonade, and her mother’s famous blueberry pie which won the blue ribbon at the county fair almost every year. It reminded her of innocence and laughter, high hopes and sweet dreams. Yes, indeed. Better than Christmas trees or pumpkin bread or burning leaves in the fall, fresh cut hay was Molly’s favorite smell on earth.
And because Molly was a die-hard romantic, devouring romance novels like popcorn and a veritable expert on every rom-com movie released from 1986 to the present, she loved weddings. She loved being in weddings, she loved attending weddings, she loved the parties, showers and teas that led up to the big day. She loved thoughtfully choosing the perfect gift for the bride and groom. She loved the way the church smelled of fresh flowers, and she was an unapologetic and unabashed wedding-crier.
When “Here Comes the Bride” swelled on the church organ, her eyes glistened as the groom’s face invariably softened with awe and devotion at the first glimpse of his bride. Molly’s tears fell when the father-of-the-bride’s voice broke while giving his baby girl away. If the minister used
in his sermon, Molly was a total goner, softly saying the verses right along with him. She sniffled and wiped her eyes again as the vows were exchanged and rings blessed…and like any other true-blooded romantic, she wept like a spring rainfall when they kissed, then beamed like summer sunshine when they were pronounced man and wife.
Yes. On any random day, Molly would include weddings on her list of three things she loved.
Just not today.
Molly rolled over, batting at her blaring alarm clock until she haphazardly managed to hit the snooze button. Desperately trying to hold onto sleep, she clenched her eyes shut tightly. It didn’t help. The warm numbness of slumber slipped away too quickly and a terrible heaviness descended, squeezing her heart and compressing her lungs as more tears—impossibly—filled her still-burning eyes.
“Still-burning” because she’d flown over Ugly Cry Land sometime last night around nine o’clock, and she was fairly certain that if she looked in the mirror, her bloodshot eyes and pale skin would be well into Walking Dead territory by now.
“That’s what you get for six straight hours of crying, dummy,” she sniffed, blinking her eyes furiously as if it would help. It didn’t.
Her cat, Charming, jumped on her bed and meowed softly before mercifully lying down and purring loudly beside her ear in a passive demand for breakfast. She flipped onto her back and glanced at him before staring at the ceiling.
“I shouldn’t have picked up the damned phone, Charming,” she said, pressing the heels of her hands against her eyes. She tried to take a breath through her nose, but between last night’s cry-fest and waking up to more tears this morning, she was good and clogged-up.
“Maybe I’ll e-mail Daisy and tell her I’ve come down with something awful. Or, no. I’ll call her and leave a message. She’ll hear it in my voice.”
Charming opened his eyes and stared at her accusingly, his expression neatly conveying the thought:
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
Using her very worst swear word, she exclaimed, “Christ on a cracker, I don’t want to go to a wedding today! Is that so hard to understand?”
The big, old melon-colored tomcat stared at her for an extra beat and then yawned, never taking his eyes off hers. His ennui was unmistakable—he couldn’t care less that her woman’s heart was in turmoil; she’d already RSVP’d yes.
“Oh, fine, I’ll go. Darn it, but you’re mean,” she said, whipping off the covers and swinging her legs over the side of the bed. “But I’m not going to act happy. No, sir.”
Taking a ragged breath, she sternly admonished herself to ignore whatever tears still felt like falling, and resolved to move through her day as though her heart hadn’t been broken in half at approximately seven-o-six last night.
Looking straight ahead, Molly’s eyes scanned the framed photos on her dresser: her parents on their wedding day, Molly with her sister and two brothers on the tractor, Molly wearing her graduation cap and gown, Molly standing with a class of minority students against a brick wall covered in heavy graffiti, then a big empty space where two additional photos had resided until last night. She bit her bottom lip, jumped up and rearranged the remaining four photos to take up the space now vacated, glancing into the trash bin where the other two had met their untimely end.
It didn’t make her feel better.
She hoped a long, hot shower would.
Molly did her best thinking in the shower, and right now she needed to think of a way to get through the day: to show up at Daisy Edwards’ four o’clock wedding—
—and make it through the ceremony and reception in one piece. Outwardly only, of course. Inside, the million shattered pieces of her mangled heart would still be jagged, still be aching, still need time to heal from the hurt and embarrassment and shock of last night’s phone call.
She padded into the kitchen with Charming trailing behind and poured him a bowl of cat food, then lifted his water dish and refreshed it. There was comfort in the mundane—feeding her cat, watering the little herb garden on her windowsill, turning on her coffee maker. It all made her feel more normal, less like her world had been punched in the throat last night.
Stripping out of her pajamas, she turned the shower hotter than usual and stepped inside the stall, letting the water beat down on her aching body.
When Dusty’s number had popped up on her phone last night, she assumed he was calling to give her his estimated time of arrival. He was driving from Hopeview to Philly so that they could spend Valentine’s Day together and attend Daisy’s wedding.
Though Molly and her fiancé had drifted apart a bit over the past six weeks since they’d last seen one another over Christmas break, it was only because they were both so busy. Dusty was working hard on setting up a new P.E. program at the Hopeview Junior High School, and Molly was almost halfway through her first year of teaching at-risk kids in a low-income neighborhood of Philadelphia.
When Molly had decided to take the two-year teaching job with Teach for America, they’d both known it would test their relationship, but she’d convinced herself there was nothing to worry about. Whenever they saw one another, they jumped right back into their relationship and everything went back to normal.
to normal because it hadn’t escaped her notice that their weekly phone conversations had become much shorter, stilted, and mechanical lately—more an information swap than the communion of two people deeply in love. And sure, for the past few weeks, Dusty had sort of glided over the “I love you” at the end of the call, answering “Yup, you too” and hanging up quickly instead of returning the actual words. But heck, all couples had ups and downs, didn’t they? Dusty was still her fiancé, and this weekend would’ve been their much-needed chance to reconnect.
“What a fool you are, Molly McKenna,” she whispered to herself as she squirted bath gel into her hand. A sharp pang of grief and panic suddenly overwhelmed her. She let the gel drip forgotten through her fingers and took a gasping breath of steam as she recalled their conversation.
“Hey, Valentine!” she’d answered cheerfully. “You pass Harrisburg yet?”
“Uh, no Mol. We need—”
“Pedal to the metal, baby,” she said. “I’m waiting for you! Got a big box of candy with your favorite centers and—”
“Molly! Stop for a minute. We need to talk.”
“Is everything okay?” Her heart had kicked into a gallop, suddenly on high alert from the dark tone of his voice.
“No. Everything’s not okay.”
“Dusty, you’re scaring me. Are you sick? Hurt?”
She reached for the TV remote and turned off the program she was watching so she could give him her undivided attention.
“Jesus, Molly, I don’t know how to say this, so I’m just gonna rip away the Band-Aid real quick, okay? I’ve been seeing Shana Evans since Thanksgiving and she’s, uh, she’s having a baby.”
The first thing Molly realized was that she wasn’t breathing. It was like someone had thrown a rubber ball down her throat and closed up her windpipe.
The second? Her hands were trembling so hard, her phone shook against her ear.
The third? The entire contents of her stomach were about to dislodge that little rubber ball.
She barely made it to the nearby kitchen sink in time, dropping her phone to the counter with a clatter and retching into the basin. Gagging over the smell and the sour taste in her mouth, she threw up again before reaching for the faucet. Dispensing with a glass, she stuck her mouth under the tap to suck up some water and rinse out the sink.
It was several minutes before she picked up her phone again.
“Molly? You there?”
“Dusty,” she said quietly, looking at the oven clock. Seven-o-six. Her eyes flooded with tears and the numbers blurred into distorted, white zig-zags as she walked slowly from the kitchen and fell heavily onto her couch. “What did you do?”
“Christ, Mol, are you okay?”
“No. No, Dusty,” she sobbed. “I’m a long, long way from okay. What… what are you t-talking about? How did Shana—”
“No!” she exclaimed, her nostrils flaring in defiance as hot tears trickled down her cheeks. “I’m not your ‘baby’ anymore.”
,” he said, and her free hand fisted as she heard the hint of indignance in his voice, as though perhaps Molly was partially to blame for what had happened. “You’ve been gone for eight months.
she exploded. “So that means you can
with the art teacher? That means you can cheat on the woman you’re marrying?”
Molly pictured Shana Evans—her trying-too-hard, bleached-blonde hair and beady, calculating eyes. Growing up in the same small town, Molly had known the Evanses all her life. In fact, Joel Evans had asked Molly to the eighth grade formal once upon a time and she’d said no because he gave her the willies. Forcing her thoughts back to the present, she gasped as the truth hit her square between the eyes and she had a brief, but revolting, mental image of Dusty and Shana in bed together. “Oh, my God, she’s pregnant? She’s
Molly couldn’t say why it had taken this long for her to absorb the fact that Dusty was having a baby with Shana Evans, but fresh tears deluged her eyes and she took the phone away from her ear for a second, trying to catch her breath.
When she held the phone back up to her ear, Dusty was mid-sentence. “…growing apart for a long time now. I missed you something awful at first Molly, but hell, we only slept together but once over Christmas, and you—”
“Wait,” she gasped. “W-Wait,” she said again, her brain trying hard to piece together two parts of the conversation. “
did you get together with Shana?”
WHEN DID YOU START SLEEPING WITH HER
“Oh, my God! You said it before…Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, Dusty. You started getting
around Thanksgiving and you were
“N-Now, Molly. That’s an ugly accusation—”
“Accusation? It’s a fact, Dusty! From your own mouth!”
For the first time since they’d started talking, she looked down at the simple engagement ring on her finger. When Dusty had proposed after their graduation from teaching school in June, the little diamond glistening in the sunshine, had easily been the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. Now it seemed like a symbol of cheating, pain, and stupidity. She wrestled it off her finger and flung it across the room, watching as Charming jumped off the couch in pursuit.