The perfect match, p.11
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       The Perfect Match, p.11

         Part #2 of Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins
 
Page 11

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  Yes, she could say those things, and denigrate her pride even further. Remind Dana just how pathetic she’d been. . . and give Dana more chance to gloat. Because wasn’t that what she was doing?

  “I guess we have different ideas of what it means to be friends,” she said tightly.

  “Yeah. Friends don’t throw wine in their friends’ faces. ”

  “Fine. I was very surprised, and I reacted badly. But I seem to remember you reacting just as badly in return. ”

  “Someone throws wine into my face, yeah, I do react badly. ” She gave Honor a little smile. “So. Are we good?”

  In the mirror, Honor saw her own mouth fall open. She closed it. “I don’t know that we’re ever going to be good, Dana. ”

  “Why? Water under the bridge, right? It was dramatic, you feel embarrassed, so do I, a little. ” She shrugged, still smiling. “Let’s get past it. I mean, what else are we gonna do? Hate each other forever? Okay. I have to put this hearing aid back in or the old bag will start to suspect something. ” Unexpectedly, she gave Honor a quick hug. “I’m glad we talked. I mean, yeah, things’ll be weird for a while, but we’re still best friends, right? And hell’s bells, girl, I have a wedding to plan!”

  “Oh, I love weddings,” Mrs. Jenkins said, adjusting her hearing aid.

  “Come by the salon, and I’ll shape up your bangs,” Dana said. “See you soon!”

  And, because she didn’t know what else to say, and really, really wanted to get out of there, Honor left.

 

 

  CHAPTER FOUR

  HAVING TWO GLASSES of whiskey probably wasn’t the most brilliant idea before a fix-up, Tom thought. But he wasn’t driving. And also, though he hated to point out the obvious, even to himself, it was too late. One could not undrink whiskey, unless one vomited, which Tom was not going to do.

  “Off to meet the future Mrs. Barlow,” he told his reflection. “Excited, mate?”

  This did not have a good feeling to it. First of all, the whole criminal aspect of the night cast a bit of a pall, didn’t it? And secondly, his great-aunt was fixing him up. He still had a tiny shred of pride left after Melissa, but this would probably kill it. But for whatever reason, when Candace had called, clucking in excitement, he’d said he’d love to meet her pen pal’s granddaughter.

  He walked the three blocks to the town green. There was another thing. If he did manage to stay in this godforsaken town, he’d have to stay in this godforsaken town, and bloody hell! The weather! Made England look like paradise, and that was saying a lot.

  But Charlie was here. Not that the boy wanted Tom around. Yesterday, Tom had gone the tried and true route and attempted to bribe his way into Charlie’s affection with an iPhone. When Tom tried to show him a few of the new features, the boy went limp with disgust, rolled his eyes and then stared straight ahead, arms crossed, silently counting the seconds till Tom left.

  So marrying just to stay here. . . it felt a bit like buying a house on Isle of the Damned. Not that he’d actually do it. But for some reason, here he was, trudging through the slush to meet some middle-aged woman Aunt Candy had said could keep her mouth shut. Someone who was desperate enough to consider marrying a stranger. Someone whose “clock is ticking. ” Fantastic. He could only imagine what she looked like. Dame Judi Dench came to mind. Talented, sure. Did he want to bang Dame Judi Dench? No, he did not.

  Then again, he hadn’t done so well on his own, had he? Melissa, though quite the looker, hadn’t turned out to be such a prize.

  The warmth of the pub was welcome. At least the little town had this, a little tavern at which to drown one’s sorrows.

  “Hello, Colleen,” he said, because yeah, befriending the bartender was never a bad idea.

  “Hallo, Tom,” she said in a fair imitation of his accent. “Bass ale tonight?”

  “I’ll have a whiskey, love,” he said.

  “Not your first, I’m guessing. ”

  “You’re astute and beautiful. A bit terrifying. ”

  “You driving?”

  “No, miss. ” He smiled. She cocked an eyebrow and poured him his drink.

  “I’m meeting Honor Holland,” he said. “Do you know her?”

  “I know everyone,” Colleen answered. “I’ll send her over when she gets here. ”

  Tom made his way to a booth at the back of the bar where they could talk about illegal matters privately. There was a uniformed policeman there, but he was occupied with a pretty redhead, so the fact that Tom was perhaps a bit drunk already might go unnoticed. And let’s not forget. He was also planning to commit a crime.

  He took a sip of whiskey and tried to relax. Yesterday after Candace called, he’d looked up green card fraud on dear old Google. Not encouraging. Jail time. Whopping fines. Deportation with no possibility of ever living in the States again.

  He could go back to England. Visit Charlie once or twice a year. And then—Tom could see it already—the visits would become less frequent. He’d get weary of trying to carve out a friendship with some kid who bloody well hated him. Charlie would turn to drugs and terrible music—or even worse music, as the case might be. Tom would marry some nice English girl who’d resent the time and money it took to cross the Pond, and the memory of that small, lovely boy who’d once flown kites with him would fade into obscurity.

  Fuck-all.

  “Are you Tom?”

  He looked up and there was Catfight Woman Number One standing right in front of him. “Hello! It’s you!”

  “Um, have we met?”

  “Not officially,” he said. “Though I have fond memories of you. ”

  He could do worse, he noted. She was. . . all right. She was sort of pretty. Also, she was here, which was nice of her. Unfortunately, he seemed a bit knackered. This would be a case of subliminally shooting himself in the foot, he might say, if he were an aficionado of Dr. Freud. Yep. Pissed. His vocabulary and accent tended to mushroom exponentially when under the influence.

  She frowned. “I’m Honor Holland. ”

  Something moved in her handbag, and Tom jumped. “Shit, darling, I hate to tell you this, but there seems to be a rat in your bag. ”

  “Very funny. It’s my dog. ”

  “Is it? If you say so. Well, Honor Holland. Lovely to meet you. ”

  “You, too. ” Her expression contradicted that statement, but she sat down. The rat peeked out of the bag and bared its teeth. Ah. It was a dog, he was almost positive.

  “So. ” She folded her hands—pretty hands, very tidy with clear polish on her short nails—and looked at him. “I gather you’re the Brit who was in the bar the night of my little. . . meltdown. ”

  “Darling, that wasn’t little,” he said warmly. “It was bloody magnificent. ”

  “Can we skip over that?”

  “Absolutely! Though if you’d like to reminisce, I’m all ears. Your hair’s quite different, isn’t it? Looks better. That sister-wife thing was a bit off-putting. Also, there’s less for people to grab if you get into another fight. Very practical of you. So. Shall we get married?”

  His charm seemed to be lost on her. “Okay, I’m leaving. I don’t think we need to waste any more time here, do you?”

  “Oh, come now, darling. Give us a chance, won’t you? I’m a bit nervous. ” He smiled. When he smiled in class, most of the females (and a couple of the lads as well) got a bit swoony.

  She blushed. Brilliant. She covered by looking into her purse, where the little rat dog was still baring its teeth at him. Tom tried smiling at the dog. Didn’t have quite the same effect as it had on the wee beastie’s owner.

  The server appeared. “Hi, Monica,” Honor said. “Got anything special tonight?”

  “We’ve got two bottles of the McGregor Black Russian Red. ”

  “I’l
l have a glass of that, then. ”

  So Miss Holland wasn’t leaving yet. “And I’ll have another of these,” Tom said, holding up his empty glass.

  “No, he won’t,” Honor said.

  “Taking care of me already, love?” he asked.

  “You got it,” the serving wench said, giving Tom the eye. He winked at her, and off she went.

  “Are you drunk?” Honor asked.

  “Please,” he said. “I’m British. The proper word is pissed. ”

  “Great,” she muttered.

  “So, Miss Holland. Thanks for coming to meet me. ”

  She didn’t answer. Just looked at him, expressionless.

  She wasn’t bad. Nothing wrong with her. Blondish hair. Brown eyes. Normal build, though he wished the shirt was a bit more revealing so he could take a look. Those pearls weren’t doing much for her sex appeal.

  Take them off, and yeah, he could imagine her in bed. Quite vividly, in fact. On second thought, leave the pearls on and take off everything else.

  Oh, shit. He rubbed the back of his neck. The server brought Honor her wine and Tom’s whiskey.

  His date didn’t touch her glass.

  “Right,” he said. “Why don’t I summarize what I know about you, and you can fill in the gaps—how’s that?”

  “Fine,” she said.

  “As I understand it, you were in love with a bloke who was clearly using you for sex and is now marrying your best mate. ”

  She closed her eyes.

  “Don’t forget, darling, I had a front-row seat that night. So now you’ve realized your knight in shining armor is, in fact, a faithless whore of a man—”

  “You know what? It wasn’t like that. So shut up. ”

  Tom leaned back in his seat and squinted at her. “Funny, that. How women always rush to defend the men who’ve scraped them off their shoes. Interesting. ” Now was the time he should stop talking. “Anyway, you backed the wrong pony and now you’re a bit desperate. Want to get married, prove you’re over the wanker, pop out a couple kids while there’s still time. ”

  She sputtered. His mouth kept doing its thing. “That’s all fine. As for me, I need a green card. Not sure about kids just yet, but I say let’s get married and figure that out later. You’re female, you’re not old, you’re not ugly. Sold. ”

  God. He was such a bunghole.

  She stared him down. Had to give her credit for that. “I’ll let you get the check,” she said.

  The relief he felt was mixed with regret. “Cheerio, then. Lovely to meet you. ”

  “Wish I could say the same,” she said, sliding out of the booth.

  “Don’t forget the vermin,” he said, nodding to her bag. She grabbed it and left without looking back.

  “Well done, mate,” he said to himself, a familiar feeling of disgust in his stomach. He pressed his fingers against his forehead for a second, resisting the urge to follow Miss Holland and apologize for being such a prick.

  It was just that using someone was easier in theory than in reality. Even for Charlie’s sake.

  Besides, he’d been with a woman who was in love with someone else. Been there, done that, had those scars.

  And realizing she was the woman who’d been so. . . passionate that night. . . he rather liked that wine-tossing, hair-pulling woman. Someone like her deserved better than a marriage of convenience, whatever her reasons for coming here tonight.

 
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