Carolyn changed into a sleeveless shirt covered in daisies and white pedal pushers with a ruffled hem below the knee. As she fashioned a headband out of a silk scarf, she watched Kimi fluff up her shoulder-length ringlet curls. She hadn’t changed out of the Bermuda shorts and white eyelet blouse she’d traveled in.
“How is it that you look older than I do?” Carolyn complained.
“Right. I look like a chubby-cheeked cherub.” Kimi slicked pink lipstick on her lips. “The eyeliner makes me look older. And I don’t know why you’re complaining. You always look sophisticated.” She gestured to Carolyn’s outfit. “Did you make that?”
“Yes. You like it?”
“I love it. I’m jealous that you’re so talented with a needle and thread. I think Aunt Hulda has given up that I’ll ever be a seamstress of your caliber.”
“Oh pooh. You’re just impatient.”
Kimi looped her arm through Carolyn’s. “I’m impatient to get the hell out of here. Let’s go.”
Aunt Hulda appeared to be dozing in the rocking chair. No sign of their mother. She must’ve gone back to her room. As they passed through the living room, Aunt Hulda said, “Carolyn, when you get back we need to work on your wedding dress since the wedding is in two days.”
“I know. We won’t be gone long.”
Once they were in the car, Kimi pulled out a pack of cigarettes. “Thank God. I’m dying for a smoke.”
“What? Everyone smokes.” She lit up and blew a stream of smoke out the window.
“But you’re sixteen.”
“Swearing, smoking… Are you drinking too?”
“Sometimes.” She took another drag. “But I’m not having sex…unlike some people.”
“I’m almost nineteen.” Her grip tightened on the steering wheel. “Besides, we are engaged.”
“Uh-huh. Bet you weren’t engaged when you did it with him the first time.”
Carolyn did not want to have this conversation with her little sister.
“How was it? And if you don’t talk to me about this I’ll assume it was bad.”
“Not even close to bad. It was…intimate.”
“There’s a brilliant statement.”
“I’m serious, Kimi. Being skin to skin, with all the kissing and touching and the urgency. It is rapturous.”
“Did it hurt?”
She grinned. “Not bad enough to make me not want to do it again.”
Kimi laughed. “Fine. So it really is one of those things I have to experience for myself?”
“Yes.” She changed the subject. “What’s the gossip from St. Mary’s?”
“Not much. Aunt Hulda keeps me busy so I don’t get to see anyone. But the rumor is you’re pregnant and that’s why you’re havin’ the hurry-up wedding.”
She shrugged. “Pretty much the consensus around here too.”
“That doesn’t bother you?”
“It bothered me worse when people assumed I’d let Carson use and discard me.” She smirked. “But I’m the only woman wearing his ring.”
“Doesn’t it scare you to know you’re going from taking care of one household to doing the exact same thing with him?”
Carolyn looked at Kimi sharply. “That doesn’t sound like something you’d say. Is that what Aunt Hulda said?”
Kimi inhaled another drag and flicked the cigarette butt out the window. “She talked to me about it. And I know she wants to talk to you too. So I’m giving you a warning that it might not be the I’m so happy for you conversation you expected.”
“She’s far from the first one to express her unhappiness or disappointment in the marriage.”
“Well, I, for one, am happy for you.”
She smiled. “Thanks.”
They pulled into the Ice Cream Palace but she didn’t see Carson’s pickup. Kimi hustled inside while Carolyn waited in the parking lot.
Carson roared into a parking spot—the man drove like an idiot. He hopped out and strode toward her. She couldn’t see his eyes beneath the brim of his hat but she felt the heat of his gaze. He blocked her with his big body and without so much as a hello, lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her.
And kissed her.
When she tried to break free, he made that growling noise and said, “I’m not done,” against her lips.
Finally he lifted his head and grinned. “Hiya, sugar. You looked so pretty standin’ there I just needed me a little taste.”
She placed her hand on his chest and found his heart beating like mad. Seeing her got him excited? Or kissing her got him excited? Either way, she loved that about him. “Hiya yourself, cowboy.” She saw Cal leaning against the building by the door, waiting for them.
Carson pressed his hand into the small of her back, guiding her forward.
“Hey, Carolyn. You’re lookin’ good today.” He leaned forward. “You sure you wanna marry this guy?” He jerked his thumb toward his twin. “He’s kinda bossy. I’m much more laid back.”
“I’m gonna lay you out flat if you keep tryin’ to steal my woman, jackass.”
“She’s fair game until you say them vows, so I just want her to be sure.”
She gazed at Carson, knowing her face shone with adoration. “I’m sure.”