The perfect match, p.28
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       The Perfect Match, p.28

         Part #2 of Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins
 
Page 28

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  There was one couple already hitting it off, their backs to her. Then the guy turned, and Honor froze midstep.

  It was Brogan. And Dana.

  Pregnant Dana.

  She remembered to keep walking. Told her face to smile.

  “Hey, Honor!” Brogan said, taking a few steps toward her. “How are you? Great idea, this! I was home, I said, ‘Dane, we should go!’ And, of course, that way we could see you. ”

  He was trying. A little too hard, but he was trying to keep their friendship, and Honor’s heart gave an unwilling tug.

  “It’s good to see you guys,” she lied. “I just didn’t expect you. ”

  “How could we resist? Superfun,” Dana chirped, smiling so brightly her nose crinkled. “How are you, pal? Long time no see. ”

  “Yeah. Um, congratulations again, by the way!” She’d sent an email, of course. “It’s really big news. ”

  “Thanks. We’re so happy. ” Dana’s hand went to her stomach—a little high, Honor thought, as if she had heartburn. She hoped Dana had heartburn. Really bad heartburn. And the pukes. Now, now, said the eggs. Don’t be catty. After all, it could be your turn soon! Because we know we’re ready!

  She gave herself a mental shake. “I didn’t expect you two because it’s a singles’ event. ”

  “It is?” Dana said. “That’s not what the newspaper said. ”

  At that instant, Jessica came running over, her face set in a frown. “Honor, I’m so sorry. The newspaper cut the line about this being for singles only, and half the people here are—oh. Hi, you guys. ”

  “Hey, Jess, how’s it going?” Brogan said. God, he was so nice to everyone. Then he reached for Dana’s hand, the gesture so familiar and lovely, such a statement. He’d never held her hand. Never.

  Aren’t we over him yet? the eggs asked.

  “It’s fine,” she told Jessica. “They always get something wrong. We’ll clarify for next week, but for today, everyone can just have fun and drink wine. ” She paused. “Except you, of course,” she added for Dana’s benefit.

  “Why me?” Dana asked. “Oh, right! I keep forgetting. Wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt our little bambino,” she said, leaning back against Brogan.

  On second thought, we’re with you on the heartburn, the eggs said.

  “Honor!” called Carol Robinson, one of the married people. “When do we get to the eating part? I’m starving. ”

  “Easy, girl. First we’re going to do a little meet-and-greet,” Honor said. “Folks, unfortunately, there was a line missing in the newspaper write-up. This is actually a singles’ event, but don’t worry. We’re very glad you’re here today. Next month, though, will just be for singles, okay?”

  “Isn’t that discrimination?” Brogan murmured, surprisingly close to her ear. Honor jumped. He was smiling, that killer grin.

  “Shush, you,” she said, feeling a traitorous tingle. “Okay, so if you are single, please group over to the left with Jessica, and you can start getting to know one another. And if you’re not, let’s get those kites in the air, all right?” She held one up—special ordered, dark blue with the gold heron logo emblazoned on it. “It’s a beautiful day here at Blue Heron, and Carol’s right. After this, we get to eat some lovely food and drink some incredible wines. ”

  It was the PR side of her. Always smiling, always focused on presenting the best possible front of the family business, always looking for ways to bring people in and remind them of the family mantra: life was too short to drink bad wine.

  The kites went up, Pops getting his line tangled with Carol Robinson’s (probably on purpose; Carol was adorable). Lorelei from the bakery, who was always so cheerful, listened intently as Elvis Byrd, a pale, scrawny computer programmer a few years younger than Honor, explained why fracking would cause massive earthquakes, ending life as they knew it. Suzette Minor was flirting with Ned (Honor would have to put the smackdown on that, because Suzette was far too old and trashy for Ned, though Ned would disagree). Jessica snapped photos, and the kites soared and ducked against the pale blue sky.

  And Dana and Brogan were certainly having a good time. They made a very attractive couple, she’d give them that. Very Hallmark card-ish, Dana standing in front of him, giggling like a fifth grader, Brogan tall and manly behind her, making the kite swoop and circle.

  Dana glanced over, and Honor quickly averted her eyes. Went over to her grandfather and kissed his grizzled cheek. “Hey, Pops. How are you?”

  “I’m good, sweetheart. See any ladies for me? I’m thinking of divorcing your grandmother. ”

  “You couldn’t find the front door without my grandmother,” she said.

  “So? The front door’s nailed shut,” he said. “But you’re probably right,” he admitted. “And I suppose one person is as good as another. ”

  “Such a romantic,” she said, adjusting his collar.

  “You’ll see,” he said, cuffing her fondly.

  When the sun began to set in shades of peach and lavender, the group adjourned to the cask room, where cheese and hors d’oeuvres had been set up. Honor went through her paces, talking about wine pairings and flavors, the bouquet of each wine, the body, the texture and finish. Spike stared adoringly at Lorelei, who gave out doggy treats at the bakery, and Pops and Carol flirted.

  Dana and Brogan always seemed to be touching.

  In all the years she’d known Brogan, she never remembered him being in love. He certainly seemed to be now.

  By the time Jessica had herded the participants upstairs to the shop, where they would hopefully buy vast quantities of the wines they’d just tasted, it was almost eight and nearly dark. Honor picked up Spike and snuggled the dog under her chin, then stood on tiptoe to peek out of the narrow windows that ran along the top of the stone wall.

  The cobalt sky still held streaks of red and purple at the horizon. Lights were on in both the Old and New Houses, and a wave of homesickness washed over Honor. She missed home, the big, comfortable living room and aging kitchen, her gorgeous bedroom with its pale blue walls and soft white rug. Her sitting room, where she had spent so many happy hours watching Bizarre Tales from the E. R. and Diagnose This! with Jack or Mrs. Johnson.

  Maybe she and Tom would move into the New House someday if they decided to get married (and stay married). But not yet. She couldn’t see living there under false pretenses. Home was too precious to sully with a fake relationship.

  A real relationship—with Tom, anyway—seemed a bit impossible. In ten days of living together, she had yet to see him smile. And you know. . . it was his smile that had done her in. A smile like that hinted at all sorts of wonderful things. Where was that smile now? Because his somber face wasn’t nearly as appealing as his goofy, sweet, smiling face. In fact, Tom sometimes looked a little intimidating.

  “So I hear you’re getting married,” came a voice. Dana stood in the other entryway, her arms folded.

  “Yes,” Honor said. Spike, whose brain was about the size of a cashew, barked and wagged, the faithless cur.

  Dana didn’t bother looking at the little dog. “Yeah, it’s all over town. Weird that I had to hear about it from Laura Boothby. And you haven’t even said if you’d be my maid of honor yet. ”

  Seriously? Granted, Dana had always been the type who seemed only to tolerate another person’s stories, just waiting for the chance to bring the conversation back to her. God forbid that anyone else have something going on. Had that always been the way? Kind of, yeah. Dana’s life was full of drama, fights, betrayals, triumphs. Honor’s life, on the other hand, had always been pretty normal. And happy.

  “Well, it’s been a busy time,” she said, setting Spike in her purse, where the dog immediately curled up in a ball.

  “Kind of a coincidence, don’t you think?” Dana asked, studying her engagement ring. “I mean, I didn’t even realize you were seeing som
eone. ”

  “It just happened,” Honor replied. Same as you and Brogan, she didn’t say.

  Her former friend looked up. “Interesting, the timing and everything. I mean, if you were really in love with Brogan, enough to throw wine in my face, I’d think you wouldn’t be engaged all of a sudden. ”

  Honor raised an eyebrow. “Was I in love, though? I mean, you told me it was just a crush, remember?”

  “Whatever,” Dana said. “Look, if you don’t want to be my maid of honor, that’s probably best. My sister—Carla, not Penny—really wants to. By the way, I’m thinking of booking the Barn for the wedding. ”

  There was no way in hell Dana Hoffman and Brogan Cain were going to get married on Blue Heron land. Nuh-uh. “Give Jessica a call. She handles that now. We’re pretty heavily booked, though. ” That was true. Faith’s renovation had made quite an impression on event planners throughout western New York.

  “Then again, the Barn might not be big enough. You know how his parents are, right? We’re trying to keep the number under five hundred. Anyway, with all the sports celebrities who’ll be coming, we need to have something really fabulous. I mean, the Barn is cute and all, but. . . we’re going for elegant. Because if we’re going to have, like, Derek Jeter and Jeremy Lin, it has to be amazing. And we’d like to do it before the baby comes, of course. ”

  “Uh-huh. ”

  Well played, the eggs said from behind their quilting frames. They had a point. Lack of interest was always the thing that infuriated Dana the most.

  “Anyway, I guess we were really surprised when you turned up engaged. ”

  “Well, as you said yourself, Dana, when it’s right, you just know it. ”

  Dana crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. “So me and Brogan getting engaged, that had nothing to do with it. ”

  Brogan and I, for the love of God. “Can’t see why you’d think that. ”

  “Oh, please!” Dana threw her hands in the air. “You expect me to believe that you’re not getting married out of jealousy? Brogan and I get engaged, and then look at this! A month later, Honor’s engaged, too! I mean, I have to wonder where you dug this guy up, because it sure feels like some kind of stunt to me. ”

  Which, of course, it was. But more than that, more upsetting, was this side of Dana, a side Honor has seen unleashed on other people more than once. Honor had always thought she was exempt. Irrationally, tears burned behind her eyes. Once, Dana and she had laughed and drank and commiserated together, watched movies and suffered through yoga class.

  “That’s what it is, isn’t it?” Dana said, hands on her hips. “You just can’t stand that Brogan and I have something special, so you go out and somehow find some loser to—”

  “Hallo, darling. ”

  Tom stood in the doorway, his eyes on her. “Jessica said you’d be down here. Didn’t mean to interrupt. ”

  “Not at all,” Honor said, clearing her throat.

  Dana’s face had grown very red.

  Spike awoke and, realizing that her nemesis was here, pounced on Tom’s shoe, snarling.

  “Come now, Ratty, haven’t we had this talk?” He picked up the dog and handed her to Honor. “I’m Tom Barlow,” he said, offering Dana his hand. “Honor’s man. I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure. ”

  Honor would bet her left pinky that Tom remembered exactly who Dana was. He’d remembered her, after all. Men loved catfights, for some reason.

  “Dana Hoffman,” Dana muttered.

  Tom came over to Honor and kissed her on the temple, then took her damp hand and squeezed it. “Well, I just wanted to stop by and have a peek at you, love. ”
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