Marriage wanted, p.3
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       Marriage Wanted, p.3

           Debbie Macomber
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  The easy smile disappeared behind a dark frown.

  “She was in this afternoon,” Savannah continued, rushing the words in her eagerness to explain. “She’s anxious and confused, loving you and loving Kurt and needing your approval so badly.”

  Nash’s mouth narrowed into a thin line of irritation.

  “Would it really be so much to ask?” she ventured. “I realize I’d need to rely on your complete and total honesty, but I have faith in you.” She took a sip of her latte.

  “So, if you convince me my thinking is wrong on this marriage issue, you want me to attend Susan’s wedding.” He hesitated, then nodded slowly. “Deal,” he said, and his grin reappeared.

  Until that moment, Savannah was convinced Nash had no idea what he intended to use for his argument. But apparently he did. “What would you want from me?” she asked. Her question broke into his musings because he jerked his head toward her as if he’d forgotten there might be something in this for him, as well. He took a deep breath and then released it. “I don’t know. Do I have to decide right now?”


  “It’ll be something substantial—you understand that, don’t you?”

  Savannah managed to hold back a smile. “I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

  “How about home-cooked dinners for a week served on your fanciest china? That wouldn’t be out of line,” he murmured.

  She gaped at him. Her request had been generous and completely selfless. She’d offered him an excuse to attend Susan’s wedding and salvage his pride, and in return he wanted her to slave in the kitchen for days on end.

  “That is out of line,” she told him, unwilling to agree to anything so ridiculous. If he wanted homemade meals, he could do what the rest of the world did and cook them himself, visit relatives or get married.

  Nash’s expression was boyish with delight. “So you’re afraid you’re going to lose.”

  Raising her eyebrows, she said, “You haven’t got a prayer, Davenport.”

  “Then what’s the problem?” he asked, making an exaggerated gesture with both hands. “Do you agree to my terms or not?”

  This discussion had wandered far from what she’d originally intended. Savannah had been hoping to smooth things over between brother and sister and at the same time prove her own point. She wasn’t interested in putting her own neck on the chopping block. Any attempt to convince Nash of the error of his ways was pointless.

  He finished off his latte and flung the empty container into her garbage receptacle. “Be ready tomorrow afternoon,” he said, walking to the door.

  Savannah scrambled awkwardly from the stool. “What for?” she called after him. She limped two steps toward him and stopped abruptly at the flash of pain that shot up her leg. She’d sat too long in the same position, something she was generally able to avoid. She wanted to rub her thigh, work the throbbing muscle, but that would reveal her pain, which she wanted to hide from Nash.

  “You’ll know more tomorrow afternoon,” he promised, looking pleased with himself.

  “How long will this take?”

  “There are time restrictions? Are there any other rules we need to discuss?”

  “I…We should both be reasonable about this, don’t you think?”

  “I was planning to be sensible, but I can’t speak for you.”

  This conversation was deteriorating rapidly. “I’ll be ready at closing time tomorrow afternoon, then,” she said, holding her hand against her thigh. If he didn’t leave soon, she was going to have to sit down. Disguising her pain had become a way of life, but the longer she stood, the more difficult it became.

  “Something’s wrong,” he announced, his gaze hard and steady. “You’d argue with me if there wasn’t.”

  Again she was impressed by his sensitivity. “Nonsense. I said I’d be ready. What more do you want?”

  He left her then, in the nick of time. A low moan escaped as she sank onto her chair. Perspiration moistened her brow and she drew in several deep breaths. Rubbing her hand over the tense muscles slowly eased out the pain.

  The phone was situated to the left of her desk and after giving the last of her discomfort a couple of minutes to ebb away, she reached for the receiver and dialed her parents’ number. Apparently Nash had decided how to present his case. She had, too. No greater argument could be made than her parents’ loving relationship. Their marriage was as solid as Fort Knox and they’d been devoted to each other for over thirty years. Nash couldn’t meet her family and continue to discredit love and marriage.

  Her father answered on the second ring, sounding delighted to hear from her. A rush of warm feeling washed over Savannah. Her family had been a constant source of love and encouragement to her through the years.

  “Hi, Dad.”

  “It’s always good to hear from you, sweetheart.”

  Savannah relaxed in her chair. “Is Mom around?”

  “No, she’s got a doctor’s appointment to have her blood pressure checked again. Is there anything I can do for you?”

  Savannah’s hand tightened around the receiver. She didn’t want to mislead her parents into thinking she was involved with Nash. But she needed to prove her point. “Is there any chance I could bring someone over for dinner tomorrow night?”

  “Of course.”

  Savannah laughed lightly. “You might want to check Mom’s calendar. It’d be just like you to agree to something when she’s already made plans.”

  “I looked. The calendar’s right here in the kitchen and tomorrow night’s free. Now, if you were to ask about Friday, that’s a different story.”

  Once more Savannah found herself smiling.

  “Who do you want us to meet?”

  “His name’s Nash Davenport.”

  Her announcement was met with a short but noticeable silence. “You’re bringing a young man home to meet your family? This is an occasion, then.”

  “Dad, it isn’t like that.” This was exactly what she’d feared would happen, that her family would misinterpret her bringing Nash home. “We’ve only just met….”

  “It was like that with your mother and me,” her father said excitedly. “We met on a Friday night and a week later I knew this was the woman I was going to love all my life, and I have.”

  “Dad, Nash is just a friend—not even a friend, really, just an acquaintance,” Savannah said, trying to correct his mistaken impression. “I’m coordinating his sister’s wedding.”

  “No need to explain, sweetheart. If you want to bring a young man for your mother and me to meet, we’d be thrilled, no matter what the reason.”

  Savannah was about to respond, but then decided that a lengthy explanation might hurt her cause rather than help it. “I’m not sure of the exact time we’ll arrive.”

  “No problem. I’ll light up the barbecue and that way you won’t need to worry. Come whenever you can. We’ll make an evening of it.”

  Oh, yes, it was going to be quite an evening, Savannah mused darkly. Two stubborn people, both convinced they were right, would each try to convert the other.

  This was going to be so easy that Nash almost felt guilty. Almost…Poor Savannah. Once he’d finished with what he had to show her, she’d have no option but to accept the reality of his argument.

  Nash loved this kind of debate, when he was certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was right. By the time he was done, Savannah would be eating her words.

  Grabbing his briefcase, he hurried out of his office, anxious to forge ahead and prove his point.

  “Nash, what’s your hurry?”

  Groaning inwardly, Nash turned to face a fellow attorney, Paul Jefferson. “I’ve got an appointment this evening,” Nash explained. He didn’t like Paul, had never liked Paul. What bothered him most was that this brownnoser was going to be chosen over him for the partnership position that was opening up within the year. Both Paul and Nash had come into the firm at the same time, and they were both good attorneys. But Paul had
a way of ingratiating himself with the powers that be and parting the waters of opportunity.

  “An appointment or a date?” Paul asked with that smug look of his. One of these days Nash was going to find an excuse to wipe that grin off his face.

  He looked pointedly at his watch. “If you’ll excuse me, Paul, I have to leave, otherwise I’ll be late.”

  “Can’t keep her waiting, now can we?” Paul said, and finding himself amusing, he laughed at his own sorry joke.

  Knotting his fist at his side, Nash was happy to escape. Anger clawed at him until he was forced to stop and analyze his outrage. He’d been working with Paul for nearly ten years. He’d tolerated his humorless jokes, his conceited, self-righteous attitude and his air of superiority without displaying his annoyance. What was different now?

  He considered the idea of Paul being preferred to him for the partnership. But this was nothing new. The minute he’d learned about the opening, he’d suspected Stackhouse and Serle would choose Paul. He’d accepted it as fact weeks ago.

  Paul had suggested Nash was hurrying to meet a woman—which he was. Nash didn’t bother to deny it. What upset him was the sarcastic way Paul had said it, as though Savannah—

  His mind came to a grinding halt. Savannah.

  So she was at the bottom of all this. Nash had taken offense at the edge in Paul’s voice, as if his fellow attorney had implied that Savannah was, somehow, less than she should be. He knew he was being oversensitive. After all, Paul had never even met her. But still…

  Nash recalled his own reaction to Savannah, his observations when he’d met her. She was small. Her dark, pixie-style hair and deep brown eyes gave her a fragile appearance, but that was deceptive. The woman obviously had a constitution of iron.

  Her eyes…Once more his thoughts skidded to a halt. He’d never known a woman with eyes that were more revealing. In them he read a multitude of emotions. Pain, both physical and emotional. In them he saw a woman with courage. Nash barely knew Savannah and yet he sensed she was one of the most astonishing people he’d probably ever meet. He’d wanted to defend her, wanted to slam his colleague up against a wall and demand an apology for the slight, vague though it was. In fact, he admitted, if Paul was insulting anyone, it was more likely him than Savannah….

  When he reached his car, Nash sat in the driver’s seat with his key poised in front of the ignition for a moment, brooding about his colleague and the competitiveness between them.

  His mood lightened considerably as he made his way through the heavy traffic to the wedding shop. He’d been looking forward to this all day.

  He found a parking spot and climbed out of his car, then fed the meter. As he turned away he caught sight of Savannah in the shop window, talking to a customer. Her face was aglow with enthusiasm and even from this distance her eyes sparkled. For a reason unknown to him, his pulse accelerated as joy surged through him.

  He was happy to be seeing Savannah. Any man would, knowing he was about to be proven right. But this was more than that. This happiness was rooted in the knowledge that he’d be spending time with her.

  Savannah must have felt his scrutiny, because she glanced upward and their eyes met briefly before she reluctantly pulled hers away. Although she continued speaking to her customer, Nash sensed that she’d experienced the same intensity of feeling he had. It was at moments such as this that he wished he could be privy to a woman’s thoughts. He would gladly have forfeited their bet to know if she was as surprised and puzzled as he felt. Nash couldn’t identify the feeling precisely; all he knew was that it made him uncomfortable.

  The customer was leaving just as Nash entered the shop. Savannah was sitting at her desk and intuitively he realized she needed to sit periodically because of her leg. She looked fragile and confused. When she raised her eyes to meet his, he was shocked by the strength of her smile.

  “You’re right on time,” she said.

  “You would be, too, if you were about to have home-cooked meals personally served to you for the next week.”

  “Don’t count on it, Counselor.”

  “Oh, I’m counting on it,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve already got the menu picked out. We’ll start the first night with broiled New York sirloin, Caesar salad and a three-layer chocolate cake.”

  “You certainly love to dream,” she said with an effortless laugh. “I find it amusing that you never stopped to ask if I could cook. It’ll probably come as a surprise to learn that not all women are proficient in the kitchen. If by some odd quirk of fate you do happen to win this wager, you’ll dine on boxed macaroni and cheese or microwave meals for seven days and like it.”

  Nash was stunned. She was right; he’d assumed she could cook as well as she seemed to manage everything else. Her shop was a testament to her talent, appealing to the eye in every respect. True, all those wedding gowns and satin pillows were aiding and abetting romance, but it had a homey, comfortable feel, as well. This wasn’t an easy thing to admit. A wedding shop was the last place on earth Nash ever thought he’d willingly visit.

  “Are you ready to admit defeat?” he asked.

  “Never, but before we get started I need to make a couple of phone calls. Do you mind?”

  “Not in the least.” He was a patient man, and never more so than now. The longer they delayed, the better. It wasn’t likely that Paul would stay late, but Nash wanted to avoid introducing Savannah to him. More important, he wanted her to himself. The thought was unwelcome. This wasn’t a date and he had no romantic interest in Savannah Charles, he reminded himself.

  Savannah reached for the phone and he wandered around the shop noticing small displays he’d missed on his prior visits. The first time he’d felt nervous; he didn’t know what to expect from a wedding coordinator, but certainly not the practical, gutsy woman he’d found.

  He trained his ears not to listen in on her conversation, but the crisp, businesslike tone of her voice was surprisingly captivating.

  It was happening again—that disturbing feeling was back, deep in the pit of his stomach. He’d felt it before, several years earlier, and it had nearly ruined his life. He was in trouble. Panic shot through his blood and he felt the overwhelming urge to turn and run in the opposite direction. The last time he’d had this feeling, he’d gotten married.

  “I’m ready,” Savannah said, and stood.

  Nash stared at her for a long moment as his brain processed what was going on.


  He gave himself a hard mental shake. He didn’t know if he was right about what had happened here, but he didn’t like it. “Do you mind riding with me?” he asked, once he’d composed himself.

  “That’ll be fine.”

  The drive back to his office building in downtown Seattle was spent in relative silence. Savannah seemed to sense his reflective mood. Another woman might have attempted to fill the space with idle chatter. Nash was grateful she didn’t.

  After he’d parked, he led Savannah into his building and up the elevator to the law firm’s offices. She seemed impressed with the plush furnishings and the lavish view of Mount Rainier and Puget Sound from his twentieth-story window.

  When she’d entered his office she’d walked directly to the window and set her purse on his polished oak credenza. “How do you manage to work with a view like this?” she asked, her voice soft with awe. She seemed mesmerized by the beauty that appeared before her.

  After several years Nash had become immune to its splendor, but lately he’d begun to appreciate the solace he found there. The color of the sky reflected like a mirror on the water’s surface. On a gray and hazy morning, the water was a dull shade of steel. When the sun shone, Puget Sound was a deep, iridescent greenish blue. He enjoyed watching the ferries and other commercial and pleasure craft as they intersected the waterways. In the last while, he’d often stood in the same spot as Savannah and sorted through his thoughts.

  “It’s all so beautiful,” she said, turning back to him. Hearing
her give voice to his own feelings felt oddly comforting. The sooner he presented his argument, the better. The sooner he said what had to be said and put this woman out of his mind, the better.

  “You ready?” he asked, flinging opening a file cabinet and withdrawing a handful of thick folders from the top drawer.

  “Ready as I’ll ever be,” she said, taking a chair on the other side of his desk.

  Nash slapped the files down on his credenza. “Let’s start with Adams versus Adams,” he muttered, flipping through the pages of the top folder. “Now, this was an interesting case. Married ten years, two sons. Then Martha learned that Bill was having an affair with a coworker, so she decided to have one herself, only she chose a nineteen-year-old boy. The child-custody battle lasted two months, destroyed them financially and ended so bitterly that Bill moved out of town and hasn’t been heard from since. Last I heard, Martha was clinically depressed and in and out of hospitals.”

  Savannah gasped. “What about their sons?” she asked. “What happened to them?”

  “Eventually they went to live with a relative. From what I understand, they’re both in counseling and have been for the last couple of years.”

  “How very sad,” she whispered.

  “Don’t kid yourself. This is only the beginning. I’m starting with the As and working my way through the file drawer. Let me know when you’ve had enough.” He reached for a second folder. “Anderson versus Anderson…Ah, yes, I remember this one. She attempted suicide three times, blackmailed him emotionally, used the children as weapons, wiped him out financially and then sued for divorce, claiming he was an unfit father.” His back was as stiff as his voice. He tossed aside that file and picked up the next.

  “Allison versus Allison,” he continued crisply. “By the way, I’m changing the names to protect the guilty.”

  “The guilty?”

  “To my way of thinking, each participant in these cases is guilty of contributing to the disasters I’m telling you about. Each made a crucial mistake.”

  “You’re about to suggest their first error was falling in love.”

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