The perfect match, p.29
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       The Perfect Match, p.29

         Part #2 of Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins
 
Page 29

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  “Hi,” she said, squeezing back. She kind of loved him at the moment.

  “And the kite-flying went well?”

  No kind of about it. She’d mentioned this to him last night, but she hadn’t been quite sure he’d been paying full attention, as he’d had some airplane plans up on the computer. “Yes. Thanks. ”

  “Lovely. Dana, what do you do for work?” Tom asked.

  “I’m a hairdresser. ”

  “Very nice. ” Tom smiled. “Right-o. I didn’t mean to intrude on your chat, ladies. Honor, I’ll see you at home, then. Unless you want me to stay and help clean up?”

  “No, that’s. . . I have some things to take care of first. But yes, I’ll see you at, um, home. ”

  He leaned in, cupped her cheek with one (big) hand and kissed her, and she kissed him back. Would’ve probably done him on the floor in gratitude had Dana not been standing there, one eyebrow arched.

  Tom looked at her, his gray eyes unreadable, smile gone. Then he turned to Dana. “Lovely to meet you. ”

  “We should have dinner sometime,” Dana said unexpectedly. “The four of us. ”

  “Absolutely,” Tom said. “And, sorry, who would make the fourth?”

  Oh, yes. Honor would name their firstborn Tom, boy or girl.

  Dana snorted (unattractively, Honor was pleased to see). “Um, Brogan?” she said.

  “And who is Brogan?”

  If she had twins, Honor would name them both Tom.

  “Really?” Dana said. “I’m surprised Honor’s never mentioned him. Since she used to sleep with him not that long ago. ”

  Tom turned to her. “Oh, yes, that friend of yours I met at Hugo’s. Right. I didn’t realize he was your old boyfriend, Honor,” he lied, his voice warm and delicious. “We absolutely must have dinner now. Any other old lovers you have stashed around town?”

  “Oh, I—you—Ryan Gosling?” Honor said, her voice odd. “No one. It’s. . . yeah. ”

  Tom grinned. “I’ll let you girls alone, then. ” With that, he kissed her quickly once more, and she practically staggered after him.

  When his footsteps had faded away, Dana turned to her and pursed her lips. “I’m having a hard time believing that guy just fell out of the sky with a marriage proposal. ”

  Honor cleared her throat. “As I said, it just happened. Took us both by surprise. ”

  Another line borrowed from Dana herself. She didn’t seem to recognize it.

  Dana fake-smiled. “We’ll be looking forward to that dinner. ”

  * * *

  TOM HAD ALREADY had one glass of whiskey and was working on the second when the front door opened, and his fiancée came in. That suit didn’t do anything for her perfectly acceptable figure (which was quite nice, now that he thought of it). Plain navy blue skirt and jacket, white shirt, distressingly sensible shoes. The little rat-dog’s head was visible in her purse.

  “Hi,” Honor said, setting the little creature on the floor, where it snarled at him. “Thank you for saving me there. ”

  “With Dana, you mean?” He kept his eyes on the dog. Ratty had peed on his gym bag yesterday.

  “Yes. I owe you. ”

  “Do you?” He could think of a few ways she could repay him, starting with getting out of those boring clothes. Hopefully, she had slutty underwear.

  Not the line of thinking that was going to help.

  The only reason Tom had any hope of this working, this marriage, was because he and Honor were a business arrangement. Love hadn’t worked out for either of them, had it?

  But when he’d heard that nasty little baggage laying into her, he’d wanted to. . . help. Laid on the British charm, played the part of the devoted fiancé, pretended not to know about either Dana or Brighton.

  And when he kissed her, it felt like a current jolted right through him. Not good. He wasn’t up for having his heart skewered again. Melissa had done that so well, and her son was keeping up the tradition. But Honor was nice. Honor was pleasant. Nice and pleasant were about all he could handle these days, so electric jolts and the urge to pull a little white-knight action. . . not smart.

  Honor was looking at him. Right. Because he was staring at her.

  “Well,” he said now. “I’m getting good at acting. As are you. ”

  Something shut down in her eyes. “Yes. You are. ” She sat on the couch and slipped off her completely unimaginative shoes.

  “By the way,” he said. “I got you this today. ” He picked up the small velvet box and handed it to her.

  It had taken a surprisingly long time to pick out a ring. He’d figured he’d go into the first store he saw, ask for a ring in his price range and wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, he’d be done. Instead, he’d looked at every damn ring in the store before settling on this one.

  Honor opened the box. “Oh,” she breathed.

  “Like it? If not, I’ll return it, and you can pick out something more to your taste. ” Tom realized belatedly that he was holding his breath.

  “No, no. This is. . . it’s beautiful. ”

  “It’s an antique. ”

  “Yes. ” She raised her eyes, and Tom glanced away from the soft, sweet emotion there and looked out the window instead. “Thank you,” she said softly. “It wasn’t necessary. ”

  “Of course it was. If we’re madly in love and getting married, you should have a ring. ” He finished his whiskey and stood up. “Glad you like it. I’ve got to correct papers. And I should call Charlie and listen to him breathe at me. ”

  “Okay. Thank you again. For. . . you know. For everything. ”

  Bollocks. You’d best be careful, mate, his conscience warned him. Wouldn’t want to hurt a nice girl like her. But she wasn’t a girl. She knew what they were about. At least, she should.

  With that, he went upstairs, leaving her sitting on the couch, looking at her ring.

 

 

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  “IT’S NOT MY stuff that’s cluttering up the house. It’s his. ” Goggy folded her arms and glared.

  Grandparenticide. It held more and more appeal these days. Honor sighed. Theoretically, she had better things to do on a Saturday morning than try to declutter her grandparents’ house. She could get another Pap smear, for example. It would be more fun than this. “Goggy, the two of you are this close to being hoarders. ”

  “Oh, we are not. You kids. I have laundry to fold. ”

  “I’ll fold it! Goggy, you can’t be going up and down the stairs so much. They’re a death trap. ”

  “How else will I get my exercise? Jeremy told me I should exercise. So I exercise. ” She gave Honor a triumphant look.

  “Speaking of that, there’s a gorgeous pool at Rushing Creek. ”

  “Where people drown,” Goggy said.

  “No one has ever drowned there. ”

  “It’s just a matter of time. ” Goggy turned her back and clumped up the narrow, dark, terrifying stairs of the Old House, one hand on the railing, one hand on the wall.

  Faith had tried to help the cause last weekend, managing to sneak one of Goggy’s more hideous cardigans out of the house, which, considering that Goggy could give Pharaoh a run for his money in the stubborn department, was pretty good. Prudence had been less successful; she’d pointed out that they really didn’t need four rusty flour sifters, which had led to Goggy calling Williams-Sonoma, ordering two more and still refusing to part with the other four.

  Maybe her grandfather would be more agreeable. He’d been sitting at the kitchen table, ignoring both females in favor of doing the crossword puzzle. “Okay, Pops, let’s take a look and see what we can get rid of, okay?” She tugged on a kitchen drawer, which was stuffed full of crap. Pointless crap, she thought, groping around inside to clear the logjam. Took care not to catch her ring.

  And what a ring it was.

 
Funny, how she thought she loved the stark simplicity of Dana’s ring, that unadorned diamond flashing for all to see. The ring Tom had chosen was an Art Deco style (original, she thought). A square diamond surrounded by two triangular diamonds, encased in engraved platinum. . . ornate and unusual and utterly, hypnotically beautiful.

  The drawer jerked open with a clatter. “Good God. ”

  “I need those,” Pops said, not looking up from the paper.

  “Pops. Come on. How many corkscrews do you need?”

  “I’m a winemaker! I need a lot!”

  “There are. . . what. . . two dozen corkscrews in here? Come on. ” She paused for a second, counting. “You don’t need twenty-seven corkscrews. ”

  “I know how many there are. ” The old man scowled at her.

  “And you really need every single one?”

  “Yes. ”

  She squeezed the bridge of her nose. “Pops, wouldn’t it be nice to live in a clean, sunny, organized place where you had more than one outlet per floor? Where you could use all the doors because you didn’t have to nail one shut to cut down on drafts? Where you didn’t have to worry about falling down the stairs and breaking your neck?”

  “Your grandmother’s the one who runs up and down those stairs fifty times a day. I never go up there. ”

  “What if Goggy fell and broke her hip? How’d you feel then? Oh, stop. You’d be devastated. ” Surreptitiously, she slipped a corkscrew out of the drawer. If she couldn’t get Pops to agree to purge, she’d just steal all his crap and bring it to Goodwill. Not that there was a booming market for used corkscrews. “Seriously, Pops. You can’t be up on the ladder cleaning out gutters anymore. It’s not safe, and it’s not smart. ”

  He groaned. “When you’re my age, you won’t want anyone telling you what to do, either, sweetheart. If I can’t clean the gutters, what’s next? I can’t dress myself? I can’t feed myself? This is my home. These are my things. Don’t make me a helpless old man who sits around in diapers. ”

  She felt a tug of sympathy. “No, Pops, that’s not the point. But you have to be realistic. Your balance isn’t great anymore, and it’s way too easy to trip in here. Let alone fall off the ladder like you did last year. ”

  “You might have a point. Probably not, but maybe. Now put that corkscrew back. That’s my favorite one. ”

  A knock came on the kitchen door, and Honor looked up.

  It was Tom. And Charlie.

  “Hallo,” her fiancé said. “Thought we’d lend a hand. ”

  “Oh! That’s. . . that’s really nice of you. ” She’d mentioned where she was going this morning over breakfast. Hadn’t expected him to turn up.

  “Mr. Holland,” Tom said to Pops. “You remember my stepson, don’t you?” The boy sighed with gusto and rolled his eyes, apparently unable to summon the energy to correct Tom on the title. “Charlie, say hello. ”

  “Hi,” Charlie said, shaking her grandfather’s hand.

  “Hello, young man!” Pops said, clapping him on the shoulder. “Maybe you can be on my side and keep these marauding invaders out of my things. ”

  Charlie’s lips tugged, and Honor glanced at Tom.

  His face was full of. . . yearning, like a dog at the pound who’s been passed over too many times but can’t help pricking up his ears at the sound of footsteps just the same.

  Then he saw her looking, and gave her a quick smile that covered up any hint of loneliness.

  He was a tough one, Tom Barlow. She felt like she knew him less now instead of more.

  “When are you two getting married, anyway?” Pops said.

  “Um, soon,” Honor said.

  “We should take care of that, shouldn’t we?” Tom murmured.

  They should. Once they filed for a marriage license, they had sixty days to get married, or Tom would be deported. Which was exactly why she hadn’t filed yet. What had seemed like a good plan now seemed as thin as March ice, and as sharply dangerous.
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