The Sidelined Wife(5)

By: Jennifer Peel



“Sammie.” Dad squeezed the air out of me. He was the only person to call me Sammie, probably the only person I would allow. “How’s my baby girl?”

I leaned into his shoulder and took a moment to answer. I wasn’t sure how I was anymore. I think I was over the shell shock and denial stage. I’d probably moved into the I-hate-almost-everyone-and-everything phase, but I wasn’t sure how to articulate that, so I went with, “Fine.”

He kissed the top of my head. “Liar.”

Before I could respond, Ma shooed him out of the newly updated kitchen with the stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops she’d been longing for. She didn’t like her territory invaded by him. And you didn’t mess with her when food was involved. It was probably one of the reasons Delanie stayed near Peter. Someday I hoped she would find comfort in our family, that Ma would realize Delanie was Peter’s choice. Like I said, no time to think about the lovebirds today.

In the midst of the chaos, the doorbell rang. I was surprised I’d heard it above my loud-mouthed family.

“Samantha Marie, will you get that?” Ma was juggling plates and silverware.

Without a word I quit tossing the salad I was working on and headed straight for the door. A surprise awaited on the other side of the heavy oak door. I swung it open expecting to see some kid in the neighborhood selling something or other for a fundraiser, but instead I was greeted with some mischievous blue eyes I hadn’t seen in forever. Eyes that always spelled trouble. But the face and body were all wrong. Those pair of eyes belonged to Peter’s scrawny best friend I used to babysit back in the day, not the tall, sun-kissed, well-built man that stood there holding a bouquet of daises.

“Reed?”

He flashed some seriously gleaming white teeth at me. “Samantha, you look surprised to see me.” He sounded disappointed.

“You’ve grown up.” That sounded ridiculous. Of course he had; he was thirty-four, the same age as Peter.

He laughed at me. “You might have heard. I have a big boy job now too and everything.”

Something Cody and Peter mentioned to me played in my brain. I had a vague recollection of Cody saying something like the new coach knows you and Peter mentioning at the office that his friend had moved back. I had been in such a fog the last several months that sometimes things didn’t register right away or at all.

“You’re the new football coach,” I stuttered. Now I remembered a letter coming home a couple of months ago mentioning Reed Cassidy would be the new head football coach, and something about Coach Gainer being let go for undisclosed reasons. It never occurred to me that it was this Reed Cassidy. Even when Cody said something, I didn’t connect the dots. The Cassidys moved forever ago and I hadn’t seen Reed in I don’t know how many years. He might have been at my wedding with his parents. Maybe?

“Your kid has a great arm, by the way.”

I shook my head, trying to let all this information sink in and reconcile that the man in front of me was the boy that annoyed me during my adolescent years.

“Thank you,” I managed to get out before realizing I wasn’t showing good manners. “Come in.”

“I wondered if you were going to offer.” His manly voice was throwing me off. It was nothing like the cracks and squeaks that used to frequently come out of his and Peter’s mouths twenty years ago.

“Sorry, I didn’t know we were expecting company.”

“Peter invited me over when we met for lunch yesterday.” He held out the flowers. “I brought these for Mrs. D.”

I hadn’t heard Ma called that in forever. “That’s sweet of you. She’ll love them.” I was sure I was staring at him, but I couldn’t get over that this was Reed Cassidy. I didn’t want to think it because it almost seemed incestuous, but he’d done a good job growing up.

Cody passed by and caught a glimpse of his coach in the foyer with me. “Coach Cassidy, what are you doing here?” It was the happiest I’d heard him in a long while. He even smiled.

While Cody made his way to his coach, several other family members clued in we had a guest. They all herded over like sheep to greet him. That’s when I made my escape. I did that a lot lately. Alone was better. Or at least emotionally safer.

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