On Second Thought(11)

By: Kristan Higgins


Come on, Eric.

“And last on the list, but first in my heart, of course, is someone very special I need to thank.”

He looked at me, his dark eyes wet, and my irritation vanished. My heart stopped, then surged forward, hot and full of love.

“Someone who stood by me every minute, who kept my spirits up when I stared down Death, when I was too weak to lift my head.”

Granted, there really hadn’t been a moment when he was too weak to lift his head, but yeah. I’d been great. Judy’s quiet sobs resumed, and she gave me a watery smile. Aaron squeezed my shoulders.

“Babe, come over here,” he said, and I went, my heart thudding, practically levitating from happiness and adrenaline. I was hyperaware of everything, like Peter Parker is in Spider-Man—the tag sticking up from Rachelle’s neckline, the nice orange blossom smell of Beth’s perfume, Ollie being fed an appetizer by Esther, Jonathan’s constipated expression, my sister’s sardonic smile.

Eric touched his pocket, where the box-shaped lump sat so promisingly, and I smiled through my happy tears.

It was about damn time.





Chapter Three

Kate

I tried to remember a time when I loved parties. College, maybe?

This kind of party was the worst. I didn’t know many people aside from my family members, and I’d talked to Esther and Matthias as long as they tolerated me, then trailed them down to the basement cellar, where they booted up Mad Max: Fury Road. When guilt forced me upstairs, I saw Nathan getting a plate of food for my grandmother.

An aching, lovely pressure squeezed my chest. He saw me looking and smiled.

“Kate, your husband is so wonderful!” Gram-Gram chirped. “I didn’t know what I wanted, so he got me some of everything!” She popped a mozzarella ball into her mouth and chewed. “Delicious!”

“My pleasure, Lettie,” Nathan said, sliding his arm around me. “Is it me, or does all the food here look like testicles?” he whispered.

I choked on a laugh. Come to think of it, yes. Mozzarella balls, melon balls, grapes, cherry tomatoes, little round onion puffs, scallops...

Gram-Gram patted my cheek. “It’s so good to see you happy, dear,” she said. “Nathan, thank you for marrying this girl! We thought she’d be an old maid forever.”

“Yes, thanks, Nathan,” I said, nudging him with my elbow. “Community service and all that.”

“It beat picking up trash on the side of the highway.” He kissed my temple and dropped his voice so Gram-Gram wouldn’t hear. “And thank you for the great shag earlier.”

My cheeks warmed. “You’re very welcome.”

My grandmother ate another round thing. “You’re in love! Oh, Kate, we’d given up on you!”

“That’s enough, Gram-Gram.” I smiled as I said it.

Eric started clinking his glass. “And here we go,” I murmured, finishing my wine. Considered taking a photo of Eric, then opted against it. Clearly, he had too many as it was.

As he thanked the many people on his list, I felt myself getting drowsy. Nathan glanced at me and smiled. “No sleeping,” he whispered. “If I can stay awake, so can you.”

I smothered another laugh.

“...and my golf buddy, Nathan.”

Nathan raised his glass and smiled. “We played once,” he whispered as Eric kept naming names.

Uh-oh. I felt a case of the giggles coming on.

Nathan squeezed me a little closer. “Is my wife’s glass empty? Uh-oh. I better fix that.”

“Yes indeed,” I said, handing him the glass. He went off to the back, where the makeshift bar was set up.

Eric paused and looked meaningfully at my sister. “And last on the list, but first in my heart, of course, is someone very special I need to thank. Someone who stood by me every minute, who kept my spirits up when I stared down Death, when I was too weak to lift my head.”

Laying it on a little thick, Eric? I chastised myself for the unkind thought.

He summoned Ainsley to his side.

It was about damn time Eric proposed. I mean, clearly, this was the proposal, finally. The fact that it was taking place in front of a collage of himself and himself alone bothered me, but it wasn’t surprising. Ainsley had always been something of a groupie where Eric was concerned.

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