The perfect match, p.39
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       The Perfect Match, p.39

         Part #2 of Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins
 
Page 39

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  Tom’s hand covered hers, and Honor’s throat was suddenly tight. “That was very clever,” he said, his voice just a soft rumble.

  “Thanks,” she whispered.

  “Why didn’t you ever tell anyone?”

  She hesitated. “I did. I meant I never told anyone in my family. It was over, and they would’ve just worried. But I told the police. And, um, a friend. ” She winced.

  “Brogan?”

  It was the first time Tom had gotten the name right. “Yes. ”

  “And was he. . . what’s that word you Americans like so much? Supportive?”

  “Of course. He was very nice. ” She paused. “He’s a nice man. ”

  “I’m sure. ” Tom’s voice was mild, but it suddenly felt awkward, lying this way. Her neck felt stiff, and the shoulder under her head seemed to have turned to granite.

  “Did they ever catch the man who did it?”

  “No. ”

  “I’m sorry. ”

  “Thanks. And thanks for asking about it. ”

  “Right. I’m an engineer, after all. It didn’t make sense, your hauling off and hitting me like that. I figured there was a cause and effect going on. ”

  A car drove past on the street below.

  She wanted to say something more, to address the stew of feelings that seemed to roil and change between them like a Midwestern storm. But maybe that was just her. Maybe Tom wasn’t feeling much of anything, just an engineer who liked to understand how things worked.

  “Sleep well, Honor,” he said.

  “You, too. ”

  Honor turned on her side, away from Tom, and closed her eyes, but it was a long time before sleep wrapped her in its soft embrace.

 

 

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  FROM HER OFFICE, Honor had a stellar view of the vineyard, the fields stretching down to the woods, Keuka glittering a steel-blue this cold day. Weather was on her mind. The cold hadn’t let up, not that she expected spring to actually begin on March 21; she’d lived here all her life, after all. The snow had melted for the most part, though there were still large swaths of white blanking the fields. The temperature dropped to freezing each night, only hitting forty-five or so during the warmest part of the afternoon. Then again, she knew well that it could hit seventy later this week. There was little rhyme or reason to the weather of April, the cruelest month for just that reason.

  Tomorrow was supposed to be in the fifties, the never-reliable forecasters had sworn. Honor was hoping they were right this time; a little sun might be enough to make more daffodils bloom in time for the Black and White Ball this weekend. Last fall, Faith had planted thousands of bulbs around the Barn, and the bravest had already opened in the patches of ground where the snow had melted, their yellow blooms so bright and hopeful.

  The first of the spring weddings to be held at the Barn was later in April. Faith had asked if she and Tom would get married up there as well; Honor knew it would mean a lot to her sister if they did. Then again, the thought made her stomach hurt. Tom certainly had qualities that could make him a great husband—he was so devoted to Charlie, he loved his job and had a great sense of humor. Commitment. Stability. Sex appeal, heavens yes. But Honor would be promising to love, honor and cherish him all her life, and while she could definitely see herself doing just that, she was well aware that while he might feel some affection (and definitely gratitude) for her, and while he didn’t find her unattractive, well. . . things weren’t balanced.

  She could love him at the drop of a hat.

  If he felt the same way, he was hiding it well.

  Speaking of weddings, Brogan and Dana’s engagement had been in the paper this morning. It was still strange, the absence of those two as her constant companions. Especially Dana. Brogan was trying. Still sent her emails with links to articles or a funny cartoon, a postcard from L. A. last week. It was nice, really—he still cared enough to make an effort.

  From Dana, there’d been nothing, and that was okay. Whatever loneliness Honor felt was mostly reflex by now. Besides, now she had other people. Faith and she were closer than they’d ever been, which was absolutely lovely. She had Jessica Dunn, who was proving to be a smart and steady employee for Blue Heron. Colleen and Connor, who’d always seemed off-limits as Faith’s closest friends, felt more like Honor’s friends, too, these days. Of course, there were Dad, Pru and Jack. And Honor still saw Mrs. J. every day at lunch. So she had friends.

  And she had Tom.

  Sort of.

  Speaking of grooms, there was Dad, down in the merlot vines with Pru. Honor smiled and waved, and made Spike wave as well, and they waved back in unison. Peas in a pod, those two, both wearing very similar plaid shirts. No coats. They were Yankees, after all. What was a little cold and wind to a farmer?

  “Honor,” Ned said, appearing in her doorway, “I’m gonna swing by some of the accounts. Press the flesh, maybe do a tasting here and there, since it’s almost happy hour. ”

  “Okay,” she said. “Need anything from me?”

  “Nope. I’m good. ” Her nephew smiled.

  “Yes. You are,” she said. It was true; unlike Dad, Pru or Jack, who preferred to be left alone to tend to their grapes and subsequent fermenting, Ned had the gift of schmooze. “You’re a man now, Neddie dear. Which doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten that you sucked your thumb until you were seven. ”

  “Oh, I still do,” he said with an easy grin. “Why give up a good thing? See you, Auntie. ”

  Nice to have someone else from the family out there, representing Blue Heron. For twelve years, Honor had done it alone, dragging Dad along once in a while. But Ned liked doing it.

  “Hey, Tom,” she heard Jessica say. “How are you?”

  “Jess, lovely to see you,” Tom said.

  Honor felt her cheeks fire up and couldn’t stop herself from looking at her reflection in the computer monitor. There was just something about that accent that hit her right in the ovaries. Preach it, sister, the eggs agreed. How about getting us a little action here?

  Sure, Honor knew sex was on the horizon. Very soon, in fact. She’d almost jumped him the other night when he kissed her hand. So they’d get it on, of course. They had the marriage license, and this thing was happening. And once nooky commenced, Honor had the very strong suspicion that she’d be crazy in love, and a lot more vulnerable to heartbreak.

  So what? Beats being celibate forever, the eggs pointed out. Get a move on!

  “Yeah, yeah,” Honor muttered. “Hang in there. We’ll know when the time is right. ” She could just about imagine them pointing at their tiny watches in outrage.

  Word. But Tom had this odd ability to be both wonderful and distant at the same time. Case in point—the discussion of the mugging the other night, as they lay in bed. Oddly intimate, until click, he shut off.

  Last night over their mostly quiet dinner, Tom had asked about the Black and White Ball and what it was for, and Honor found herself inviting Tom to tramp around the property. Ellis Farm abutted the rear fields of Blue Heron, so they’d hike up past Rose Ridge and down onto the unused farmland, where soon, Honor hoped, they’d begin work to make the land more accessible. She’d been talking to a bike trail designer for six months now, and had a grant from the state to help offset some costs.

  “Hallo, Honor,” he said now, poking his head in her door. “How was your day?”

  “Great,” she said. “And yours?”

  “It was good. ” He smelled like fresh air and coffee. “Brought you a treat. ” In his hand was a familiar bag—Lorelei’s Sunrise Bakery.

  “Thanks. ” She opened and peeked in, and Spike stuck her head right in. Sugar cookies. Very nice.

  He wore faded jeans and hiking boots and a battered brown leather jacket. Effortlessly hot. And dang, he was watching her ogle him, a faint smile crinkling his eyes. “You don
t dress like a math teacher,” she said, clearing her throat.

  “I’m not a math teacher. ” His smile widened, flashing that slightly crooked tooth, and hope flashed as fast and strong as lightning in her heart.

  She could love this guy.

  She slipped off her pumps (which Faith had deemed “tragically sensible” but were very comfy, unlike Faith’s own complicated, painful and enviably slutty collection of footwear) and pulled on her muck boots. “Spike, want to go for a walk?” she said, smiling as her dog’s shaggy little ears pricked up at the magic word, then clipped on the neon-pink leash she’d bought the past week. Already, it was frayed from where Spike had been chewing it. This would be the fourth leash since she got the wee terror.

  Outside, the wind was sharp, the air growing colder by the minute. This would have to be a quick hike, or her ears would freeze. Even so, crocuses had pushed their way up through the lawn, and the maple trees were red-budded with the promise of spring. They headed up the hill toward the conservation property, birds calling to one another as they swooped and preened.

  “This is lovely,” Tom said, stopping at the family cemetery.

  “Yes. Everyone from the ancestor who fought with Washington to my mom. ” She stopped, opening the little gate that enclosed the area, and put Spike down so the dog could capture leaves and make them her prisoners. Honor brushed a few leaves off her mom’s headstone and adjusted the pot of pansies she’d left there yesterday.

  For more than half of Honor’s life, her mother had been gone. It didn’t seem possible.

  “You Hollands have a good bit of land, don’t you?” Tom asked, breaking the silence as they continued up the hill.

  “We do,” she said.

  “And here I am, a city kid who grew up in a three-room apartment, marrying into American royalty. ”

  “Hardly that. American farmers. ”

  Tom grinned. “Same thing in this country, isn’t it?”

  “I’ll tell my dad you said that. Whatever misgivings he has will evaporate. ”

  “Does he have misgivings?”

  Honor picked Spike back up, as her teensy feet would be getting cold, and tucked the dog into her coat. “Well, sure. He’s a father. You and I haven’t known each other that long. If we were getting married a year from now, I’m sure he wouldn’t worry. ”

  “I imagine I’d feel the same, if I had a daughter. ”

  A daughter. The thought made her heart swell with longing.

  Faith’s pickup truck was in the gravel lot at the top of the ridge. “My sister’s working on the Barn,” Honor said. “Want to go say hi?”

  “Not really,” he said, taking her hand. “You know you look a bit ridiculous with that dog’s head poking out of your coat? In an adorable way, of course. ”

  Oh. That was. . . that was nice.

  His hand was much warmer than hers. Warm and firm and flippin’ huge, and all of a sudden, Honor felt incredibly feminine and adorable. . . and randy. What—and when—to do about that was another question altogether.

  She hadn’t had any trouble figuring out what to do that night when she’d pulled open Tom Barlow’s shirt and licked his neck and kissed him till he pushed her against the wall and held her hands over her head. No sir. No indeedy.

  The eggs fluffed their hair and took off their bifocals.

  “Ellis Farm Conservation Land,” Tom read from the sign. “All right, Miss Holland. Give me your spiel. ”

  “It’s land. They don’t make that anymore. ”

  “Simple as that?”

  “Yep. We’ll put in a bike trail that will link up to the rail line. The 4-H club will use the barn for their cows, and we’re going to put in a co-op vegetable garden. There’ll be a picnic area, some hiking trails. ”

  “Sounds lovely. ”

  “And see that pond? In the winter, we’ll flood it for skating. ” She paused. “Do you know how to skate?”
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