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Grant splayed his fingers through his hair. “I’m afraid Annie might do something to physically hurt Tiff,” he mumbled and shook his head. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

“You’re worried about Tiffany?” Bethanne exploded.

“Damn straight I am. Someone who’d deliberately sabotage her car is one step from doing something physically aggressive.”

“What about Annie?” Bethanne asked, shocked that he could be so self-absorbed. “Aren’t you worried about her? Doesn’t she deserve any concern?”

“Of course I’m worried, but I can’t deal with her. She hates me. At least that’s the impression she’s given me. If you know something I don’t, then I’d appreciate being filled in.”

“That’s the problem,” Bethanne said in a shaky voice. “She desperately loves you and believe it or not, Annie needs her father. It was one thing to divorce me, but you weren’t supposed to divorce your children. When was the last time you talked to your daughter? You used to at least call her every week or two. I understand that’s stopped. Why? When did you last have a conversation with her—or Andrew, for that matter? Need I remind you these are your children, too?”

He looked down at his shoes. “I’ve been busy and—”

“Busy?” she cried. “Do you honestly expect me to consider that a valid excuse?”

“I don’t need you as my conscience. Besides, Annie and Andrew refuse to have anything to do with Tiff. They won’t even come to the condo because she might be there.”

“Talk to Annie,” she advised, setting her pride aside long enough to plead with him. “Call her up and take her to lunch. She needs assurances that you still care about her and that you want to be part of her life. But only if you’re sincere. Don’t just pay her lip service—that’ll do more harm than good.”

He nodded like a petulant child. “All right. I will. I’ll call her in a couple of days.” He hesitated, then gave her a wry smile. “Thanks, Bethanne.”

She shrugged. “You’re welcome.”

“How’s Andrew?”

Bethanne resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “Ask him yourself.”

Grant cast her a chagrined look. “He wasn’t keen to have anything to do with me, with or without Tiff around.”

“Show up for a few of his football games in September, and my guess is he’d be willing to remember you’re his father again.”

Grant seemed to consider that. “Maybe I will.”

In other words, if it didn’t interfere with his schedule and he had nothing better to do.

She waited, thinking it was time he left, but Grant lingered as if there was something else on his mind. “I understand you and Paul Ormond recently got together,” he finally said.

“Who told you that?”

He offered her a half smile. “Word gets around. A guy from the office—you don’t know him—saw the two of you at Anthony’s the other night. What’s that about?”

“How did he know me?” she asked curiously.

“I had your picture on my credenza.”

Past tense, she noticed. The irony of the situation didn’t escape her. For two years he’d snuck around behind her back, having an affair, and not once had she gotten wind of it. But she had one date in twenty-two years, and someone reported it to Grant.

“Are you and Paul an item?” he asked.

Bethanne stopped herself just in time. It wasn’t any of his concern who she saw—or dated. Nor did he need to know that Paul had phoned two or three times since and encouraged her in her job search. They were simply friends, but she’d never had a male friend before.

“That’s between Paul and me.”

“In other words, I should mind my own business.”

“Yes,” she said, smiling gleefully. “I think you put it very well a few months ago. I have my own life now, Grant, and it is my life.”



Courtney felt wretched. An enraged Annie Hamlin sat in the middle of Courtney’s bed. She’d ranted for a good five minutes without taking a breath, still angry almost two weeks after the rave and everything that had happened.

“You had no right to contact Andrew,” Annie finished, whispering fiercely, apparently afraid of being overheard.

Courtney didn’t bother to tell her not to worry, that her grandmother was half-deaf. “I didn’t do it because I wanted to, you know.”

“Andrew says I should thank you, but you can forget that.” She glared at Courtney as if she’d purposely set out to ruin Annie’s life.

“Fine. I’ll forget it.”

“I should’ve known you’d be a goody-goody type.”

“Think what you like, Annie,” she said, unwilling to let the other girl attack her. “But maybe it wouldn’t do you any harm to hear what I have to say.”

“About what?”

Courtney sidestepped the question and got directly to the point. “I know what you’re feeling.”

She shook her head. “No, you don’t. You can’t know.”

“My mother died and—”

Annie’s gaze narrowed. “Am I supposed to feel sorry for you?”

“No. Now shut up and listen! Your father walked out on you and what you feel isn’t that different from what I felt when my mom was killed.”

“I wish my dad was dead.”

Courtney grabbed the other girl’s shoulders and her fingers dug into Annie’s arms. “No, you don’t! You’re angry and the pain is ripping you up inside, but you don’t wish that. You can’t. My mother is dead and I’d give anything to have her back. Dead is forever, you understand? You haven’t got any idea what it’s like to have your mother alive and laughing one day, and then on some slab in a morgue the next. You can’t possibly know what that’s like.” Tears clouded her eyes. “It’s been four years, and I think about her every single day. Some days it’s every single minute. My mom didn’t want to die, you know. She was meeting a friend for lunch and a truck blew a tire and swerved onto the other side of the road.” She rarely talked about the accident, rarely mentioned it to anyone, but Courtney felt it was vital that Annie understand what she was saying. Courtney had argued with her mother, too. She’d been furious with her a dozen or more times in that last year, but—as she’d just told Annie—she’d give anything she had now, or ever would, to have her mother back.

“Don’t tell me what I feel,” Annie shouted, twisting free of her grip.

Courtney no longer cared if Grams was listening to the conversation. She tried another way to reach Annie. “I used to pretend my mom was still alive.”

“This is supposed to make me feel better?”

“No, it’s a reality check.”

“I can’t deal with any more reality than I already am. I just want my life back the way it used to be, with my mom and dad and—” She bit her lower lip and her eyes filled with tears. “I’ve got to go.” In a flash Annie was off the bed. She grabbed her purse. “Just don’t do me any more favors, all right?”

“Whatever,” Courtney muttered. She felt like a failure. It was a risk to contact Andrew that night, and Annie didn’t seem to appreciate how difficult the decision had been. Her only reaction was embarrassment, and that had turned to anger at Courtney. If it hadn’t been for her, Andrew would never have known she was at the rave. On the other hand, Annie could’ve been in serious trouble. Kids had died from ecstasy; Courtney had heard of cases in Chicago.

“Courtney,” Grams shouted from the bottom of the stairs.

“Yes,” she shouted back, lazily unfolding her legs and moving off the bed.

“Is everything all right up there? Your friend left in a mighty big rush.”

“Everything’s fine,” Courtney assured her.

“It’s good that you have a friend,” Grams said smiling up at her. “I’m heading out to the Missionary Society Meeting. Do you want to tag along?”

“Would it be okay if I took my bike out instead?” She really didn’t enjoy sorting and packing clothes to ship to China. Perhaps in a few years chatting with Grams’s friends would be stimulating, but currently Courtney found it uninspiring. All they talked about were their aches and pains.

“Where are you going?” Grams asked.

After three years during which her father had given her practically free rein, being accountable to her grandmother was a drag. “I thought I’d stop off at the yarn store and deliver those patches you knit.” That was a destination and a purpose Grams would approve of.

“Oh, sure, that’d be fine. Say hello to Lydia for me.”

“Will do.”

Grabbing her helmet and gloves, Courtney bounded down the stairs. The frustration she felt was nearly overwhelming. She’d tried to do the right thing for Annie and those insults were all the thanks she got. Biking might give her a chance to vent her annoyance.

It didn’t help that Courtney saw she’d gained a pound when she stepped on the scale that morning. After a solid week of denial, she should’ve lost at least that much and instead she’d gained.

“What time will you be back?” Grams wanted to know as Courtney came through the kitchen on her way to the garage.


“You’ve got money with you?”

“Yeah.” She didn’t bother hanging around to listen to any other questions. She wanted to escape and longed to feel the wind on her face and the sun on her neck as she pumped those pedals. The hell with Annie. She’d tried to help, tried to talk to her; she’d told her more than she’d ever shared with anyone about her mother, but it’d been a waste of time.

Courtney was breathless when she reached Blossom Street. As she turned the corner, A Good Yarn came into view and so did the French café on the other side of the street. The front window had a display of pastries.

Slowing the bike, she coasted to a stop outside the yarn store. Forcing her eyes away from the bakery window, she glanced into the front window of the shop and noticed Whiskers curled up, fast asleep. Lydia was busy with a customer; Margaret was, too. Even if Courtney did go directly inside, neither would have time to talk to her. Her gaze eagerly returned to the bakery.

Just last week Bethanne had talked about the chocolate éclairs and how delicious they were. Lydia had taken up the subject, raving about the croissants, but those éclairs were her favorite, too, she’d said. She made it sound as if she ate them by the dozen. If so, she hadn’t gained an ounce.

Courtney had practically starved to death all week and she’d gained weight. It was hard enough to stay on this P diet; not seeing results was a case of adding insult to injury. Or was it the other way around? She could never remember.

She peered inside the yarn store again and then looked over at the bakery. The pastries weren’t the only thing Lydia had bragged about. She’d made sure everyone knew that a girl from her original knitting class was one of the bakers. Her name was Alix, and she’d made a big deal about how it was spelled with an i instead of an e.