The perfect match, p.5
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       The Perfect Match, p.5

         Part #2 of Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins
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Page 5

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  The pie suddenly tasted like ash. He pushed back his plate. “I’d better be off,” he said. “Thanks for the visit. ”

  She stood up and hugged him, her cheek soft against his. “Thank you for coming to see an old lady,” she said. “I’m going to brag about this for days. My grandnephew adores me. ”

  “You’re right. Ta, Auntie. I’ll call you and let you know what’s happening. ”

  “If I happen to know someone who might be interested, can I give her your number, dear?”

  “Interested in what, Auntie?”

  “In marrying you. ”

  Tom laughed. The old lady’s face was so hopeful, though. “Sure,” he said, giving her another kiss on the cheek. Let the old bird feel useful, and that way, maybe she wouldn’t feel so bad when he went back to England.

  There was that pain in his chest again.

  It took four hours to drive back to Manningsport. Four hours of wretched, icy rain and windshield wipers that smeared, rather than cleared. The weather thickened as he approached the Finger Lakes. Perhaps he wouldn’t get in too late to grab a bite (and a whiskey) at the pub he was becoming too fond of. Chat up the pretty bartender and try not to think about the future.




  SIX WEEKS AFTER her failed marriage proposal, Honor was starting to panic.

  Online dating sites had offered her all of four matches: her brother Jack (pass); Carl, her brother-in-law (he and Pru had registered to see if eCommitment would say that they were compatible, then planned to meet and pretend to be strangers as part of their ongoing quest to keep things fresh; he was also a pass, obviously); Bobby McIntosh, who lived in his grandmother’s basement and had strange, reptilian eyes; and a guy she didn’t know who listed “reincarnation” under his hobbies.

  So. Here she was again, staring down the weekend with only Spike, her recently acquired little mutt, for company, and while Spike was indeed excellent company, Honor had sort of hoped for the human variety. Ryan Gosling would’ve been preferred, but he had plans, apparently. Dana was busy, and had been busy a lot lately, which was getting a little frustrating, as winter in the Finger Lakes meant there already wasn’t much to do. Take the best girlfriend out of the equation, and there was even less.

  Faith was busy being a newlywed. Pru was busy pretending to be a newlywed. Jack had come over to watch the gruesome medical documentaries they both loved on Honor’s fabulous new TV, and she had the feeling she’d tapped him out on the social front. Abby was a popular kid, and Honor couldn’t bring herself to beg the teenager to hang out and watch movies. Ditto Ned, who already spent enough time with Honor at work.

  This left Goggy and Pops, who were always happy to see her but fought constantly, and Dad, who was acting a little weird lately. Jumpy. Secretive.

  Would Mrs. Johnson be up for something? Sometimes she’d go to a movie with Honor, though she clucked about the unsanitary nature of theaters, theater staff and humans in general. Hmm. Mrs. Johnson was probably her best bet. They could bring Spike, who loved movies as well as popcorn.

  At that moment, her phone rang, startling her so much that she sloshed her coffee. Spike barked from her little doggy bed and began leaping up against Honor’s leg, tearing her panty hose. Though she’d only had Spike for a month, the dog was very protective.

  “I’ll get it!” Honor yelled to Ned, the only other employee here at this hour.

  “Of course you will,” he yelled back from his office, where the sounds of Angry Birds could be heard.

  “Blue Heron Vineyard, Honor Holland speaking,” she said smoothly into the phone, scooping up her doggy.

  “Hey, On, it’s Brogan. ”

  A burst of heat raced up her legs. “Hey! Hi! How are you? How’s it going?” Down, girl, said the eggs. He rejected us, remember?

  True. But they’d only emailed a few times since then, and damn if she didn’t miss him.

  “I’m really good,” he said. “How are you?”

  “I’m good! I’m great! I’m great, too, I mean. ” The eggs sighed.

  “So listen,” he continued, “I’m in town, and I was hoping you could find some time to see me. ”

  Honor paused. The words old baseball glove leaped to mind. Then again, they’d always been friends. Still were. “What did you have in mind?”

  I’m really sorry about saying no, Honor. These past few weeks have given me time to think and I love you and I want to marry you. Now.

  “Drinks at O’Rourke’s?” he asked.

  “Sure! You bet. ”

  “Fantastic,” he said, and his voice was warm. There was a pause. “I have something important to tell you, and I want to do it in person. I think—I hope—it’ll make you really happy. ”

  The eggs sat up straighter. So did Honor.

  “Okay,” she said, pressing her fingers against her hot cheeks. “That sounds great. ”

  “Seven o’clock?”

  Seven! That was in ninety-two minutes. “That works. I’ll see you then. ”

  She sat there another minute, then sucked in an enormous breath, having forgotten how to breathe normally. Spike licked her chin in concern, and Honor patted her out of reflex. Turned to her computer and typed in Brogan’s words. Studied them. Read them aloud, very softly so her nephew wouldn’t hear.

  “Hey,” the same nephew said from her doorway, causing Honor to slap her laptop closed. Ned gave her a strange look. “Chill, Honor. ”

  “What is it, Neddie dear?”

  “You okay? You look all blotchy. ”

  “Shush, child. What do you want?”

  “I’m leaving. I have a date. And a life. You should try it some time. ”

  “Very funny, Ned. Have fun. Drive carefully. ”

  She waited till his footsteps had faded away, then opened her laptop and looked at those words again. I have something important to tell you, and I think—I hope—it’ll make you really happy.

  Could it be?

  Could this be exactly what she wished for?

  For one second, the scene flashed in front of her eyes. Herself, sitting at a little table at O’Rourke’s. Brogan on bended knee, the ring shining from a black velvet box. His question, her answer, the applause of the pub patrons, and then, finally, the feeling of his arms around her as he kissed her in public for the first time ever.

  Her heart was thudding. Could this really be about to happen to her? The most unsurprising of the Holland girls, the one who was steady as a rock, about to be the subject of such a romantic proposal, finally claimed by Brogan Cain?

  It was almost hard to believe. Yeah, about that, said the eggs. The years are precious, sure, but don’t jump the gun.

  She ignored them. Adjusted her hairband (pink-and-green plaid). Read the words again.

  It sure sounded like what she wanted it to sound like. Oh, yes, indeedy.

  Legs trembling slightly, Honor settled Spike in her purse (why have a five-pound dog if you couldn’t take her everywhere?), gave her an absentminded kiss on the head and walked across the lawn to the New House, where Mrs. Johnson was banging pots and pans in the kitchen. Dad was there as well, his face red, stuffing his hands into his faded jeans, a tear in the elbow of his flannel shirt.

  “Hi, guys,” Honor said.

  “Hello, Petunia,” Dad answered, taking off his baseball cap and running a hand through his hair. Mrs. Johnson growled, which was not uncommon.

  “Everyone good here?” Honor asked.

  “Of course! Why would you even ask such a question, Honor Grace Holland?” Mrs. J. demanded in her lilting accent. She slammed a pot on the stove. “Dinner will be ready in twenty minutes. How’s your brother? Is he hungry, do you think?”

  “I don’t know, Mrs. J. Give him a call. And I, uh, I have plans,” she said.

  “Good,” Dad said, his face flushing all
the more. “I mean, good that you’ll get out with friends, sweetheart. ”

  “Yes. Mrs. J. , will you watch Spike tonight?” I may be getting a marriage proposal.

  The housekeeper’s face melted into a smile. “Of course I will! Come here, you precious angel! Your fur is almost all grown back, isn’t it? Oh, my beautiful princess, give us a kiss!”

  Honor floated up to her little suite. Since she was the only Holland kid left at home, she’d appropriated Faith’s old room last year and made it into a sitting room. She did a lot of work there, and also watched TV, most often with her laptop open, doing all the things that she hadn’t gotten to during the workday.

  Going into her bedroom, she opened her closet and frowned at the sea of navy blue and gray. Hmm. Her clothes were either neat-as-a-pin business attire, or jeans and a Blue Heron sweatshirt, and she didn’t want to be wearing either if Brogan was about to. . . you know.

  Her hands were sweating.

  I have something important to tell you, and I want to do it in person. I hope—I think—it’ll make you really happy.

  What else could it be?

  From the bookcase, her mother’s image smiled out at her.

  Twenty years gone, and Honor still missed her. They’d been so close, and so alike, both practical with a healthy dose of yearning thrown in: Honor for a family, which Mom had had right out of college; Mom for travel and possibly a career, which Honor had in spades. Funny, that. They both wanted what the other had.

  Mom would’ve liked Brogan, Honor thought. Yes. She definitely would’ve.

  She showered, shaved her legs, moisturized. If she went back to Brogan’s house, she’d have to call, or Dad would call the chief of police, Levi Cooper, who happened to be married to Faith.

  She’d cross that bridge later on. Put on a pink dress she’d worn to a wedding a few years ago, added a gray cardigan so she didn’t look quite so dressed up, but still suitably feminine. Honor looked at her shoe options. Flats and a couple of pairs of basic pumps. She didn’t own slutty shoes. Too much to swing by Faith’s and borrow some? Probably.

  Calling a goodbye to Dad and Mrs. J. , Honor got into her car, shivering at the cold. Drove down the Hill into the tiny village. Tonight, it looked more beautiful than ever, a coating of snow on the ground, lights in the windows of the houses and storefronts that ringed the town green, Crooked Lake dark and vast behind. The sky was a swirl of stars. O’Rourke’s was typically full, as the little pub was open year-round, the only place in town that was, and she could hear laughter and music from inside.

  So. . . romantic. There was no other word for it, though romantic didn’t figure a lot into Honor’s life.

  Tonight would be different.

  Brogan’s Porsche was already in the parking lot.

  This is it, she told herself, wishing abruptly she’d told her sisters to come tonight. But maybe it was better this way. Or. . . maybe. . . Brogan had asked them to come tonight, so they could see him popping the question live and in person. That would be just like him. The guy had flare.

  Proposing to him had been a bad move. Men liked to do the work, according to the nine books she’d read recently on understanding the male psyche.

  She touched her pearls for luck, then opened the door to O’Rourke’s. “Hey, Honor,” said Colleen from behind the bar. “Wow, you look nice!”

  “Check you out,” said Connor at the same time.

  “Thanks,” she murmured, not really seeing the O’Rourke twins, who ran the bar.

  Brogan was waiting for her, that knowing, incredibly sexy half smile on his face.

  Oh, Lordy. Could it be true? That in just a few minutes, she’d be engaged to marry this guy? She smiled back, heart galloping. “Great to see you,” he said, bending to kiss her cheek. He took her coat and hung it up, ever the gentleman, and, oh, man, she loved him more than ever, and that was saying a lot.

  Somewhere far in the back reaches of her psyche, the eggs were saying something about assumptions and whatever, sort of like an irritating storm warning running along the bottom of the television screen when you’re watching a really good show. Whatever. It was hard to form rational thought at the moment, which was odd, since her trademark was being the sensible one, the dependable, calm member of the Holland family.
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