Savour the moment, p.11
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       Savour the Moment, p.11

         Part #3 of Bride Quartet series by Nora Roberts
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  farm team.”

  “Get out.” She shoved his arm. “Seriously? I never knew that. The Yankees scouted you? Why didn’t I know that?”

  “I never told anybody. I had to decide. I could either be a really good lawyer or a decent ballplayer.”

  She remembered watching him play since ... always, she realized. Without much effort, she pulled out a mental picture of him as a boy playing Little League.

  God, he was cute.

  “You loved baseball.”

  “I still do. I just realized I didn’t love it enough to give it everything I had, and to give up everything else for it. So I wasn’t good enough.”

  She understood that, yes, understood that very well. She wondered if she could’ve made the same sensible, rational choice to give up something she loved and wanted.

  “Do you ever regret it?”

  “Every summer. For about five minutes.” He draped an arm over her shoulders. “But you know, when I’m old and sitting on the rocker on the front porch, I get to tell my great-grandchildren how back in the day, the Yankees scouted me.”

  She couldn’t quite build that image in her mind, but the idea of it made her smile. “They won’t believe you.”

  “Sure they will. They’ll love me. And my pocketful of candy. What about you? One regret.”

  “I probably have a lot more of them than you.”

  “Why?”

  “Because you—and Parker—always seem to know what direction you need and want to take. So let’s see.” She crunched into the sugar cone as she considered. “Okay. Sometimes I wonder how it would’ve been if I’d gone to France, stayed there. Run my own exclusive patisserie—while having many passionate affairs.”

  “Naturally.”

  “I’d design and bake for royalty and stars, and run my staff like dogs.

  Allez, allez! Imbeciles! Merde!”

  He laughed at her broad, undeniably Gallic gestures, and dodged her cone.

  “I’d be a terror, and a genius, world-renowned, jetting off to exciting places to make birthday cakes for little princesses.”

  “You’d hate that. Except for the cursing in French.”

  More than full, she tossed what was left of her cone in the trash. “Probably, but it’s something I think about sometimes. Still, I’d be doing what I’m doing now at the core of it. I didn’t have to choose.”

  “Sure you did. Solo or partnership, home or European adventure. That’s a big choice, too. You know, if you’d gone to France, you’d have pined away for us.”

  God, that was so absolutely true. But keeping to her theme, she shook her head. “I’d have been too busy with my wild affairs and towering ego ride to pine. I’d have thought of you fondly from time to time, and swirled in occasionally from a trip to New York to dazzle you all with my European panache.”

  “You have European panache.”

  “Is that so?”

  “Sometimes you mutter or swear in French when you’re working.”

  She stopped, frowned. “I do?”

  “Now and then, and with a perfect accent. It’s entertaining.”

  “Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?”

  He took her hand, linked fingers while they angled away from the pond. “Maybe because they figured you knew, since you were the one muttering and swearing.”

  “That could be it.”

  “And if you’d gone, you’d have thought about this, what you’re doing here now.”

  “Yeah, I would. Still, other times I imagine I have a pretty bake shop in a small village in Tuscany, where it only rains at night and charming little children come in to beg for treats. It’s a pretty good deal.”

  “And here we both are, still in Greenwich.”

  “All in all, it’s a good place to be.”

  “Right now?” He tipped her face up to kiss her. “It’s close to perfect.”

  “This seems almost too easy,” she said as they walked back to the car.

  “Why should it be hard?”

  “I don’t know. I’m just naturally suspicious of too easy.” At the car she turned, leaned back against the door to look up at him. “When it’s going easy I know there’s a disaster waiting to fall on my head. It’s just around the corner, a piano being lowered out the window”

  “So you walk around it.”

  “What if you’re not looking up until—

  snap—the cable breaks, then you’re splatted under the Steinway”

  “Most of the time the cable doesn’t break.”

  “Most of the time,” she agreed, tapping a finger on his chest. “It only takes once. So it’s better to keep looking up, just in case.”

  Lifting a hand, he tucked her swing of hair behind her ear. “Then you can trip over the curb and break your neck.”

  “That’s true. Disasters are everywhere.”

  “Would you feel better if I started a fight?” He laid his hands on the car on either side of her, leaned in to brush his lips against hers. “Rough you up a little so it’s not so easy.”

  “Depends on the roughing up.” She drew him down for a deeper kiss. “Twenty-four more days,” she murmured. “Maybe it’s not so easy after all.”

  “Almost a week down.” He opened the door for her. “And an eight-hundred-dollar pool on the line.”

  There was that, she thought as he walked around the car to get behind the wheel. He’d insisted on tossing a hundred of his in on the kitty. “Some would say our tribe’s a little too intimate when they start a pool on when we’ll have sex.”

  “Those

  some aren’t our tribe. And thinking of tribes, why don’t we gather ours for the Fourth?”

  “Fourth of what—oh. July. God, it’s nearly here.”

  “We could play some ball, eat some hot dogs, watch the fireworks in the park.You don’t have an event that day.”

  “No events on the Fourth, no matter how much they beg or bribe. A Vows’ tradition. We have a day off.” She sighed it. “An entire day off, away from the kitchen. I can get behind that.”

  “Good, because I already said something to Parker about the gathering of the tribe.”

  “What if I’d said no?”

  He flashed her a grin. “Then we’d have missed you.”

  She narrowed her eyes at him, but her lips twitched. “I suppose I already have an assignment.”

  “There might have been some mention of a suitably patriotic cake. And we thought we’d go over to Gantry’s after, for some music. ”

  “I’m not designated driver. If I bake, I get to drink.”

  “Reasonable. We’ll make Carter do it,” he decided and made her laugh. “We can all fit in Emma’s van.”

  “That works for me.” It was all working for her, she thought as he turned in the drive.

  She was going to have to keep a careful eye out for pianos.

  SHE DECIDED TO GO WITH A FIREWORKS THEME, WHICH MEANT working with a lot of spun sugar. Probably silly to go to so much trouble for a park picnic with friends, she thought as she threw heated strands from her whisk to the wooden rack, but also fun.

  She’d use the strands to form exploding fountains on the cake she’d already piped out in red, white, and blue. Some gum paste flags around the border, and you had a winner.

  Enjoying herself, she began to form the fireworks with the sugar strands made pliable with just a touch of beeswax.

  She stepped back to check the first formation, and nearly yelped when she saw a man in her doorway.

  “Sorry. Sorry. I didn’t want to say anything when you were working. Afraid I’d screw you up. Nick Pelacinos, from the last-minute engagement party?”

  “Sure.” He had a summer bouquet in his hand that made her think: uh-oh. “How are you?”

  “Good. Your partner said I could come back, that you weren’t working, but ...”

  “This isn’t for a job.”

  “It ought to be.” He stepped closer. “Fun.”

  “Yeah, it is. Spun s
ugar’s like a toy.”

  “And your hands are full with it, so why don’t I just put these over here.” He crossed over to set the flowers out of the way.

  “They’re beautiful.” Had she flirted with him? Yes. Sort of. “Thank you.”

  “I have my grandmother’s recipe for the lathopita.”

  “Oh, that’s great.”

  “She gave me orders to deliver it in person.” He took a recipe card out of his pocket, laid it beside the bouquet. “And to bring you the flowers.”

  “That’s awfully sweet of her.”

  “She liked you.”

  “I liked her, too. How about some coffee?”

  “No, I’m fine. Her third order was for me to ask you out to dinner—which I’d intended to do anyway, but she likes to take credit.”

  “Oh. And that’s sweet of both of you. But I’ve actually started seeing someone recently. Well, the seeing part is recent. Sort of.”

  “My grandmother and I are disappointed.”

  She smiled a little. “Can I still keep the recipe?”

  “On the condition I can tell her you only turned me down because you’re madly in love with someone else.”

  “That’s a deal.”

  “And ...” He took out a pen, turned the recipe card over, and wrote something down. “My number. You’ll call me if things change.”

  “You’ll be the first.” She took a strand of sugar from her rack, offered it. “Have a taste.”

  “Nice. As consolation prizes go.”

  They grinned at each other as Del walked in.

  “Hi. Sorry, I didn’t know you were with a client.”

  Awkward, Laurel thought. “Ah, Delaney Brown, Nick—”

  “Pelacinos,” Del said. “It took me a minute.”

  “Del, sure.” Nick held out a hand for a shake. “It’s been a while. How are you?”

  Or not awkward at all, Laurel decided as the two men settled in.

  “I talked toTerri and Mike just a couple weeks ago. Are you in the market for a wedding cake?”

  “Me? No. I have a cousin getting married here in a few months.”

  “Nick’s grandmother’s visiting from Greece,” Laurel put in, in case they’d forgotten she was there. “We had a pre-event event so she could see the setup.”

  “Right. I was by that night.”

  “You should’ve joined the party. It was a good one.”

  “I glanced in for a minute.You got Laurel on the dance floor.” Del glanced at her, deliberately. “Big night.”

  She went back to her spun sugar. “I got a recipe from the matriarch out of it,” she said with a smile as sweet as her sugar. “That’s a major night for me.”

  “I’d better get going. I’ll let my grandmother know I made the delivery.”

  “Tell her how much I appreciate it, and I’ll try to do her proud at the wedding.”

  “I will. Good to see you again, Laurel. Del.”

  “I’ll walk you out. What’s your handicap now?” Del asked as they left the kitchen.

  Laurel frowned after them until she realized Del was talking golf. With a shake of her head, she tossed more sugar. It wasn’t as if she’d wanted the moment to be awkward or tense. Jealousy was weak and self-absorbed and irritating.

  But a little hint of it—like beeswax in spun sugar—couldn’t hurt.

  Nick had asked her out, after all. He’d even left his number where she’d see it every time she took out the recipe for lathopita. Which had been very clever of him, now that she thought of it.

  Of course, Del didn’t know that, but he could

  infer it, couldn’t he? And so inferring be just a little irked or something instead of all “how’s it going, how’s the golf game?”

  Men, she thought—or rather, men like Del—just didn’t get the subtle nuances of a relationship.

  He came back in a few moments later. “That’s great,” he said nodding toward the cake as he opened a cupboard. “Want a glass of wine? I want a glass of wine.”

  When she shrugged, he opened a bottle of pinot and poured two.

  “I didn’t know you were coming by” She ignored the wine for now as she added the dazzle of sugar fireworks to her cake.

  “I’m staying over, since we’re all leaving from here tomorrow. Mrs. G’s going with some of her friends, but she’ll see us there. She’s bringing enough food to feed the village.”

  “Yes, I know.”

  He sipped his wine and watched her. “Flowers, huh?”

  She shrugged and kept working.

  Casually, and in long-standing habit, Del opened a canister for a cookie. “He’s not your type.”

  She stopped long enough to arch her eyebrows. “Really? Attractive, considerate men who work in the food industry and love their grandmothers aren’t my type? I’m glad you let me know.”

  Del crunched into the cookie. “He plays golf.”

  “Good God! That was a lucky escape.”

  “Twice a week. Every week.”

  “Stop it. You’re scaring me.”

  He pointed with the cookie, then took another bite. “And he likes art films.You know, the kind with subtitles and symbolism.”

  She paused to take a sip of her wine. “Did you date him? Bad breakup?”

  “Funny. I happen to know someone who did.”

  “Is there anyone you don’t know?”

  “I’m his cousin Theresa’s lawyer—and her husband’s. Anyway, Nick’s more Parker’s type, except his schedule’s nearly as insane as hers and they’d never manage to get together anyway.”

  “Parker doesn’t like art films, especially.”

  “No, but she gets them.”

  “And I don’t because, what, I didn’t go to Yale?”

  “No, because they’d annoy you.”

  They did annoy her, but still. “There’s more to types than cinema choices and golf. He’s a good dancer,” she shot out, and hated the defensive tone in her voice. “I like to dance.”

  “Okay.” He stepped over, put his arms around her.

  “Cut it out. I’m not finished with the cake.”

  “It looks good.You look better, and smell really good, too.” He sniffed at her neck. “Sugar and vanilla. I didn’t recognize Nick when you were dancing with him.” He turned her smoothly, right, then left. “It was crowded. And I was looking at you. Really, I was just looking at you.”

  “That’s pretty good,” she murmured.

  “It’s pretty true.” He dipped his head to brush her lips with his. “Hi, Laurel.”

  “Hi, Del.”

  “If you give Parker those flowers, I’ll buy you some more.”

  It was, she thought, the perfect amount of beeswax in the sugar. “Okay”

  HOLIDAYS, THE REAL DEAL WITH NO WORK ON THE SLATE, WERE SO rare Laurel’s internal clock woke her at six sharp. She started to roll out of bed when she remembered she didn’t have to roll out. She snuggled back in with the same sort of giddy wonder she’d felt as a child with an unexpected snow day.

  Even as she sighed and closed her eyes again, she thought of Del in another bed, conveniently close by.

  She could get up after all, sneak into his room, into his bed. All bets off.

  It was Independence Day, after all. Why not be independent? He wasn’t likely to complain or yell for help. She could change into something sexier than her tank and boxers. She had the equipment. The blue teddy would do the job. Or maybe the silk chemise with the pastel flower pattern, or ...

  Thinking about it, she fell back to sleep.

  Opportunity missed, she thought as she wandered down to the family kitchen nearly three hours later. Probably for the best as the others would surely gloat about her and Del losing the bet. This was the best way, the way to show they both were adults with willpower and sense. Just a couple more weeks, really, so no big deal.

  Breakfast scents and voices filled the kitchen. And there he was, looking all gorgeous and relaxed, drinking coffee and flirting wi
th Mrs. G. She could only wish she’d followed through on that early-morning thought.

  “And she’s up,” Mac announced. “Just in time. We’re having the ginormous holiday breakfast, which, thanks to Del’s persuasive powers, includes Belgian waffles.”

  “Yum.”

  “I’ll say. We’re going to do nothing but eat and fat-ass all day, until we go to the park and eat and fat-ass there. Including you.” Mac pointed at Parker.

  “Not all fat asses are created equal. I’m going to do a little reorganizing in my office. It relaxes me.”

  “Your office is already organized to Obsessiveville,” Emma pointed out.

  “It’s where I live, where I make my home.”

  “Nag the girl while you finish setting the table,” Mrs. Grady ordered. “I haven’t got all day.”

  “We’re eating on the terrace because, holiday.” Mac picked up a stack of plates, shaking her head when Carter started to take them from her. “Uh-uh, cutie. Grab something unbreakable.”

  “Good thought.”

  “We’re having mimosas, like grown-ups.” Emma handed Carter the bread basket. “What this is, is a prelude for our vacation next month, where every day’s a holiday”

  “I’ll tend bar.” Jack hefted the champagne and a pitcher of orange juice.

  “Someone should’ve woken me up. I’d have given you a hand with this, Mrs. G.”

  “Under control.” Mrs. Grady flicked her spatula. “Get the rest out there.We’ll be ready in two minutes.”

  “Nice start to the day.” Laurel glanced at Del as they carried platters outside. “Your idea?”

  “Who wants to be inside on a day like this?”

 
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