The perfect match, p.8
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       The Perfect Match, p.8

         Part #2 of Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins
 
Page 8

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  “Half? Not half!” Okay, sure, she’d wanted a little change. Just not this much. “Look, just because—”

  “Finally,” Ned said. “Wish I’d known all I had to do was to get Honor to punch someone in a barroom brawl—”

  “Shut up, son,” Dad continued. “Honor, he’s been tagging along with you for a year. Time to let him step up. ”

  “Um, that’s okay, sure. Neddie, you’re great. But we don’t need to reorganize the vineyard because I had one bad moment. ”

  “Sweetheart, you were punching your best friend in O’Rourke’s the other night. ”

  Honor paused. “I didn’t actually punch her. ”

  “I heard in school that you tackled her,” Abby said.

  “I didn’t. ”

  “And threw wine in her face. ”

  “Um, I did do that, yes. More on her chest, but. . . ” She glanced at Levi, who was still in uniform. He raised an eyebrow but remained silent.

  “What kind of wine?” Jack asked.

  “A pinot noir from California. Flat body, too much pepper, high acidity. ”

  “It’ll be cool, Honor,” Ned said. “You can be my boss. ”

  “I’m already your boss,” she pointed out.

  “I’ll just be more useful. It’ll be good for me. I can mend my sinful ways. ”

  “You’d better not be sinning, sonny,” Pru said. “But yeah, Honor, he can help. ”

  “Sure. Fine. ”

  “I hired Jessica Dunn to be your assistant,” Dad added.

  “What?” Jessica Dunn? The waitress? “That’s fine, Dad. No. Ned is more than enough. He’s very helpful. ”

  “She has a marketing degree and wants to get some experience. Figured she could do some of the media and whatnot. ”

  “Dad, do you even know what media is?”

  “No, not really, but she said she could handle it. ”

  “Well, so can I! I don’t need her. No offense, Levi. ” He and Jessica were childhood friends. Everyone knew that.

  “None taken,” he said, stroking Faith’s neck.

  “She starts tomorrow,” Dad said.

  “Dad—” Honor’s jaw was locked again. She loved that aspect of her job—the press releases, articles, updating the website, running Twitter and the vineyard’s Facebook page, schmoozing with the tourism bureaus, wooing reporters, travel writers and wine reviewers. “I don’t need an assistant. Ned is more than enough. ”

  “I don’t mind,” Ned said. “Jessica’s wicked pretty. ”

  “Not to you she’s not,” Pru said. “She’s way too old for you. Got it?”

  “Maybe she’s a cougar,” Ned said.

  “Ned, you’re so disgusting,” Abby said, raising her head from her textbook to glare at her brother.

  “Honor, child,” said Mrs. Johnson, “whatever this media is, you do too much of it. You work constantly, you eat at your desk, you have no children for me to spoil, and it’s a shameful and terrible way to live. ”

  “No one was complaining last week,” she protested.

  “No one was rolling on a filthy tavern floor last week, either. ” Mrs. J. gave her an arch look.

  “You have an assistant now, sweetheart,” Dad said. “Enjoy it. ”

  “But media is about half my job, and sales is the other half. What am I supposed to do?” Honor asked, not liking that edge of hysteria in her voice.

  “Live a little,” Dad said. “Get some hobbies. ”

  “Watching World’s Biggest Tumor doesn’t count,” Jack said.

  “You’re the one who called me last week to make sure I TiVoed Cottage Cheese Man, you hypocrite!”

  “The Black and White Ball is coming pretty soon,” Faith pointed out soothingly. “You’re chairman this year. That’ll be a lot of work. ”

  “Jessica starts tomorrow,” Dad said. “Family meeting adjourned. Who’s hungry?”

  “I’m starving,” Prudence said.

  “I made ham,” Goggy announced, beating Mrs. Johnson to the punch. “If you feel like coming down, not that any of you visit anymore, but there’s also a Walnut Glory cake if you do decide to drop by. ”

  “We’ll meet you there in a few minutes,” Dad said. “Honor, stay here, honey. ”

  They waited till everyone had tromped out. “About Ned and Jessica, sweetheart. I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you first, but I felt like I had to do something definitive. And I didn’t want it to take forever, so I did it. ” He paused, taking off his old baseball cap and running a hand through his thinning hair. “Mrs. Johnson and I are worried about you, Petunia. ”

  Yes, she’d heard them talking late last night, which was a shock in itself, as Mrs. J. usually retired to her apartment above the garage by eight, and Dad was usually in bed by nine-thirty. Farmer’s hours and all that.

  She folded her hands in front of her. “Dad, I’m embarrassed enough as it is. I don’t need people thinking I had some kind of breakdown at O’Rourke’s and have to hire all these people. ”

  Dad was quiet for a minute. “Well, you did have a little breakdown, Petunia. ”

  “I just lost my cool. It wasn’t as big a deal as it sounds. ”

  “And when have you ever lost your cool?” he asked.

  Dang. She didn’t answer.

  “Honey, I know it doesn’t seem like I pay too much attention,” Dad said. “But I know a few things. When your mother died, you. . . ” His voice grew soft. “You grew up fast. You did everything you were supposed to, and you never needed much from the rest of us. Cornell, Wharton, and then you came home and looked after me. ”

  She swallowed against the lump in her throat. “I really wanted to, Daddy. I love my life. ”

  “I believe that. ” He paused. “But I also know you’ve loved Brogan a long time. ”

  It was so mortifying, hearing the words said aloud like that. She shrugged, not trusting her voice.

  “And I always did hope things would work out for you two,” he said. “I can only imagine how you must feel, hearing that your best friend is marrying him instead of you. ”

  “It was just a surprise,” she said, and her voice shook.

  He covered her hand with his own. “So this is a turning point. Time for you to devote some thought to what you want in life, rather than just waiting around for that bozo to call you. ”

  Well, hell. Dad did pay attention, after all.

  “I’m not asking,” Dad said. “I’m ordering. As your father and as the legal owner of Blue Heron. ”

  “So bossy. You can’t tie your shoes without me. ”

  “I’ve actually gotten pretty good at that,” Dad said, smiling so that his kind eyes crinkled in the corners. “Mrs. J. ’s been teaching me. So here’s the deal. Your hours have been cut. You start at nine, you leave at five, or I’m dragging you out myself. ”

  “Right,” Honor said. “Like anyone can get a full day’s work done in that time. ”

  “That’s the magic of my plan,” Dad said. “You won’t get it done. You and Ned and Jessica will get it done. Now I’m going to the Old House before Mrs. J. and your grandmother get into a fight over how long to cook the potatoes, and you have to come, too. ”

  Honor sighed. “All right. Give me a few minutes, okay?”

  Dad kissed the top of her head and left. After a minute, she went outside. It was already dark, and the stars spread across the sky in an endless, creamy sweep. The air smelled like wood smoke.

  She loved Blue Heron with all her heart. It was home, and it was her pride and joy, too. In the eleven years since grad school, a lot had chan
ged around here. When she came on board as director of sales, the vineyard was a cute, family-run business. Rather than rest on those laurels, she came up with a business plan that enhanced everything good about the place and added ten times more—prestige, visibility, recognition—all without losing the homeyness of eight generations of the Holland family farm. She’d proposed the construction of the post-and-beam tasting room and gift shop ten years ago, overhauled the labeling and brand, created a marketing campaign that brought Blue Heron’s name to the attention of every outlet that mattered, from the New York Times to Wine Spectator. Blue Heron was practically a required stop on any tour of the Finger Lakes wine region. Honor knew she had a lot to be proud of. She loved working with her family, loved—to be honest—being the one in charge of the business end. Delegating had never been her strong suit.

  But she never thought she’d have to worry about aging eggs. Never really pictured living in the New House with her dad and Mrs. J. forever.

  There was supposed to be more. A husband. A family of her own.

  She wanted to be special to someone. She wanted a man’s face to light up when he saw her. She wanted a man to kiss her like his heart would stop if he didn’t.

  Somehow, Dana had wrangled what Honor never had—Brogan’s love. In just a few weeks, no less.

  How the hell had she done that?

  Suddenly it seemed like the sky was pressing her down with the same paralyzing loneliness felt when her mother died, leaving her alone.

  And God, she was tired of being alone. She didn’t know if the words were a prayer or an admission of defeat. She pulled her hair from the clip and ran her fingers through it, sighing in the cool night air.
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