The perfect match, p.2
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       The Perfect Match, p.2

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

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  Blue Heron Vineyard was the oldest farm around, and the sight of their sign—a gold-painted heron against a blue background—never failed to cause a surge of pride. Set at the top of the area known as the Hill, the Hollands’ land encompassed more than two hundred acres of field and forest.

  Honor drove past the Old House, a saltbox colonial built in 1781, where her grandparents (almost as old) lived and fought, past the New House (1873), a big white Federal where she lived with dear old Dad and Mrs. Johnson, the longtime housekeeper and supreme ruler of the Holland family, and pulled into the vineyard parking lot. The only other car here belonged to Ned. Pru, who handled the farming end of the vineyard, was either in one of the equipment storage barns or out in the fields; Dad and Jack, and possibly Pops, would be checking the huge steel casks of wine or playing poker. Honor was the only one who came to work in the office every day, though Ned was part-time.

  Which was fine. She liked being in charge of the business end of the vineyard. And besides, given Jeremy’s little bombshell, she needed to think. She needed to make lists. She needed to color-code.

  She needed a plan, given that the years were precious.

  Into the main building she went, through the beautiful tasting room, past the gift shop and into the suite of offices. Ned’s door was open, but he wasn’t here. That was good; she did her best thinking when she was alone.

  Sitting behind her large, tidy desk, Honor opened a new document on her computer.

  Men were a field in which Honor didn’t have a lot of. . . panache. She did business with dozens of men, as the wine industry was still heavily skewed toward males. If they were talking distribution or media coverage or crop projections, she had no problem.

  But on the romantic front, she didn’t really have the knack. Faith, who was built like Marilyn Monroe and had red hair and blue eyes and a slightly Bambi-esque, innocent air about her, practically caused a stampede just by getting out of her car. Pru, despite her lifelong tomboy ways and propensity for wearing men’s clothing, had had no trouble getting married; Carl was her high school sweetheart. The two were still quite (if far too publicly) happy in their marriage. Even Dana, who was extremely picky when it came to men, always had some date lined up who would inevitably irritate her.

  But Honor didn’t have the touch. She knew she wasn’t bad-looking; average height, average figure, maybe a little on the unendowed side. Brown eyes. Her hair was long and straight and blond, her one great beauty, she thought. She had dimples, like her mom. Hers was a pleasant face. But all in all. . . average.

  Unlike Brogan Cain, who was essentially a Greek god come to life. Turquoise-blue eyes (really). Curling chestnut hair. Six foot two, lean and strong and graceful.

  He’d been her friend since fourth grade, when they were put into the Mathlete program, the only two chosen by their teacher. At the time, the other kids had made fun of them a little, the two class brains, but it had been nice, too.

  All through school, they’d had an easy friendship. They sat together at assemblies, said hi to each other in the halls, maintained a friendly competition with grades. They went trick-or-treating together until they got too old; after that, they stayed at the New House and watched scary movies.

  It was on prom night that things had changed. Brogan asked her to be his date, said they’d have more fun than the actual couples, who placed so much importance on the event. A sound plan. But when she saw him standing there in his tuxedo, corsage box in hand, something happened. From that moment on, she felt shaky and slightly ill, and she flushed when he looked at her.

  At the high school, they danced amiably, and when the DJ played a slow song, Brogan looped his arms around her. Kissed her forehead and smiled and said, “This is fun, isn’t it?”

  And boom, she was in love.

  And that love grew—like a virus, Honor sometimes thought. Because Brogan didn’t feel the same way.

  Oh, he liked her plenty. He even loved her, sort of. But not the same way Honor loved him. . . not that he knew how she felt. Honor wasn’t that dumb.

  The first time they’d slept together was when they were home on spring break their freshmen year of college, and Brogan suggested they lose their virginities together “because it’ll be better with a friend than with someone you love. ” Sort of the prom theory, but with higher stakes.

  Granted, she hadn’t quite believed he was a virgin, and he was someone she loved, and if it was a line to get her into bed, she wasn’t about to bring it up. The very fact that he wanted to sleep with her was somewhat miraculous, given that he could’ve chosen just about anyone. So they’d done the deed, and as losses of virginity went, it was pretty great. A few nights later, they’d gone to the movies, and it had been the same as always—friendly and fun, though a blade of uncertainty kept slicing through her. Were they together? Together together?

  No, apparently not. He kissed her on the cheek when he dropped her off, emailed her when they both went back to their respective colleges.

  The second time they slept together was their sophomore year, when she visited him at NYU. He hugged her and said how much he missed her, and she felt herself melting from the inside out. Pizza, a few beers, a walk around the city, back to his place, sex. She went home in a glow of love and hope. . . but the next time he called, it was just to catch up. No mention of love or even sex.

  Four times in college. Twice in grad school. Definitely a friends-with-benefits situation. . . but the benefits only happened once in a while.

  And the friend part stayed constant.

  Once she started working at Blue Heron as the director of operations, she’d occasionally call him if she were going to be in Manhattan for a meeting. . . or a pretend meeting, as the case might be, though her conscience always cringed at the lie. “Hey, I have a late lunch in SoHo,” she might say, her stomach twisting, helpless to just come clean and say, Hi, Brogan, I miss you, I’m dying to see you. “Want to meet for a drink or dinner?” And he was always more than happy to shift his schedule around if he could, meet her and, maybe, sleep with her. Or not.

  Honor would lecture herself. Remind herself that he wasn’t the only one out there. That if she was hung up on Brogan, she’d be closed off to other possibilities. But very few could compare to Brogan Cain, and it wasn’t like they were standing in line for the privilege of a date with her.

  He became a photographer with Sports Illustrated, basically the wet dream job of all American men who couldn’t be professional athletes or Hugh Hefner. He was like that: incredibly lucky, übercharming, the kind of person who’d go out for a beer, comment on a baseball game to the guy next to him, strike up an easy friendship and only half an hour later realize he was talking to Steven Spielberg (who would then invite him to a party in L. A. ). Sports photography with SI? Perfect.

  Brogan met the mighty Jeter, photographed the Manning brothers, who had roots right here in Manningsport (or so the town liked to claim). He had drinks with Kobe Bryant and Picabo Street and went on the Harry Potter ride with the gold-medal gymnasts at Universal Studios.

  But somehow, he was unaffected by it all, which was probably why he could claim people like Tom Brady and David Beckham as friends. He flew all over the world, went to the Olympic Games, the Stanley Cup, the Super Bowl. He even invited her—just her, no other friends—to come to Yankee Stadium and sit in the SI box and watch the World Series with him.

  And that was the thing. Brogan Cain was an awfully nice guy. He came home to visit his parents, hung out at O’Rourke’s, bought the family house when his parents retired to Florida. He asked after her family, and if he blew her off the night of her grandparents’ sixty-fifth anniversary party because he plumb forgot, well. . . those things happened.

  Every time she saw him, she blushed. Every time he kissed her, she felt like she was floating. Every time his name popped up in her email or on her phone, her uterus qu
ivered. And recently, he’d told her he was hoping to cut back on his travel, be around more.

  Maybe the time really was right. Her eggs, his settling down. . . marriage might be just the thing.

  Yes. She needed a list. She opened her Mac and started typing.

 

 

  Shock and awe to get him to see you in different light (think of something memorable).

  Make marriage seem like a logical step in the friendship.

  Do it soon so you don’t chicken out.

 

 

  THREE HOURS LATER, Honor got out of her car, tightened the sash on her beige raincoat, swallowed and went up the steps to Brogan’s house. Her mouth was dry, her hands clammy. If this didn’t work. . .

  The years are precious, egg-wise.

  Sigh.

  No. Not sigh. Go, team! That was more like it. We want company! she imagined her tiny, aging eggs demanding. In her mind, they were starting to thicken around the middle, wore reading glasses and were developing an affinity for pinochle. Don’t age, she warned them. Mommy’s got company coming.

  For one quick second, she let herself indulge in a mental picture of the future. The New House once again filled with children (or at least one or two). Kids who would romp through the fields and woods with her dad; they’d be able to tell a Riesling grape from a Chablis before they started kindergarten. Children who’d have Brogan’s amazing eyes and her own blond hair. Or maybe Brogan’s thick, curly chestnut hair. Yeah. His was better.

  With that picture firmly in mind, she knocked on Brogan’s door. The smell of garlic was thick in the air, and her stomach rumbled all of a sudden. On top of everything else, Brogan was a good cook.

  “Hey, On!”

  Okay, so he did have a flaw (see? no rose-colored glasses for her), and that was to shorten her five-letter, two-syllable name. She always pictured it spelled On, because Hon would’ve been short for honey, and he never called her that.

  “This is a nice surprise!” he said, leaning forward to kiss her cheek. “Come on in. ”

  She went in, heart thudding. Remembered to smile. “How are you?” she asked, her voice sounding tight to her own ears.

  “I’m great! Let me just stir this so it doesn’t burn. I hope you can stay for dinner. ” He turned to the stove.

  Now or never. Honor untied her sash, closed her eyes and opened the coat, and let it slide to the floor. Oh, crap, she was standing in front of the table, so his view would be blocked. Stepping around it, she waited. Buck naked. Shock and awe, shock and awe. . . It was chilly in here. She swallowed and waited some more.

  Brogan’s father poked his head into the kitchen. “Smells good—oh. Hello, Honor, dear. ”

  Brogan’s father.

  Brogan’s father.

  Oh, fungus.

  Honor dove under the table, knocking over a chair with a crash, crawled a few paces and grappled for the damn coat. Held it in front of her. Noticed the floor could use cleaning.

  “Dear? Are you all right?” Mr. Cain asked.

  “Did you say Honor’s here?” Mrs. Cain.

  God, please kill me, Honor thought, jerking the coat around her shoulders. “Um, one second,” she said, her voice higher than usual.

  Brogan bent down, his face puzzled. “On? What are you doing under—oh, man!”

  “Hi,” she said, trying to get an arm in her sleeve.

  “Dad, Mom, get out for a sec, okay?” He was already wheezing with laughter.

  Where was the damn sleeve? Brogan squatted next to her. “Come on out,” he managed, wiping his eyes. “You’re safe for the moment. ”

  She crawled out, then stood, wrapping the coat around her. Tightly. “Surprise,” she said, her face on fire. “Sorry. I’ll try never to be spontaneous again. ”

  He tipped her chin up, and there it was, that mischievous, slightly lecherous smile, dancing eyes. Her skin tightened, lust mingling with mortification. “Are you kidding? My father will like you even more than he already does. ”

  The words gave her hope. Honor smiled—it wasn’t too easy, but she did—and readjusted her hairband. Dang, she’d meant to leave that at home. Hairbands with a Scotty dog pattern and nudity didn’t really go together. “So. Hello. ”
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