Sweeten the Swindler(7)

By: Dallis Adams

"Number two," Araceli continued, holding up her forefinger, "is from Atherton, who said Jake perked up when he saw you in the street yesterday, so much so that Atherton felt obliged to introduce him to you." She held out her middle finger as she continued to count. "Number three, Coco had a vision of the two of you abrazando ... embracing. Besando con las bocas abiertas."

Maxine groaned and threw her head back in exasperation before straightening. "Do I even want to know what that means?"

"Open-mouthed kisses," Araceli supplied for her with a grin, ignoring the sarcasm in Maxine's tone. "Coco said that in her dream there was no mistaking that you were enamorada, in love. And you know that Coco's premonitions come true." Araceli gave her an expectant look before picking up her fork to get another bite of their shared pie slice.

Dear Coco Monet. Yes, she did know Coco's premonitions were right on the mark. Although Coco didn't always predict life-altering events, the ones she did predict had so far come true. But were her predictions just a coincidence? Something that could be explained away? Personally, Maxine didn't believe in hocus-pocus. But Maxine would never say so because she adored Coco, and so did the other ladies in town. If she voiced her doubts, she feared she would crush Coco's delicate feelings. Coco had confided in her that for years she'd kept her so-called predictions to herself because she feared ridicule and censure.

Last year Coco had predicted record snows, which had happened. But Maxine's granny had been able to predict storms, too, because her tooth would ache just before a storm, probably because of the pressure in the air. And supposedly two years ago, Coco had foreseen that Paul Leon would come into a sizable inheritance from a distant cousin. Which had happened, giving Paul money for the start-up costs to have the funds to build, furnish and supply the Forty-Niner Cafe. But what if she'd heard Paul talking about his successful elderly cousin and simply didn't remember. Because Maxine realized that Coco believed with all her heart in her so-called abilities.

Too, last spring Coco had dreamed that the four-year-old Martin boy would fall into an abandoned well, and she'd been able to direct the sheriff to the well's location. That prediction was harder to discount. The boy visited Coco's millinery shop with his mother. Maybe the boy talked about the Smith's abandoned water well and somehow the location had stuck in Coco's mind. Maxine would be more apt to believe in Coco's innate ability to associate events than to see into the future.

But this? Predicting Maxine would fall for someone she suspected was an experienced swindler? One who already made her mind mush, and her toes to curl? Which was just because he was different than the other men in Blessings. She might have a knee-jerk reaction to him initially, but that would soon wear off, the more she got used to him being around. Too, she couldn't really see him falling for her. She was just a small-town girl ... a homebody. He was ... well, too worldly.

To her, love was a two-way street. And she couldn't imagine a man who exuded such confidence, such overwhelming power in every move he made to fall in love with someone like her. With her, what you saw it what you got. With Jake? What you saw was probably not what you got. She knew she was making rash judgments but she couldn't help it.

"Well?" Araceli asked after taking another bite of the slice of apple pie they shared. "Are you going to accept your fate and let love for Jake Stark sweep you away?"

Maxine shifted on the Forty-Niner's wooden chair and then realized she was squirming. She stopped being a ninny. Instead, she studied her friend who was so blessed as to find her perfect husband. Now that was what Maxine called love. The pair was so well matched that many times they could finish each other's sentences. Oh, they had their arguments. But that only fueled their passion for each other. But she couldn't imagine the same for herself so she ignored Araceli's question. "Araceli?"

Her friend lowered her fork down on the dish. "Yes?"

She sighed as she remembered when she'd seen the newlyweds together earlier. How Miguel tenderly kissed Araceli before leaving her to do his errands while the two friends visited over tea and pie. "You know how thrilled I am that you and Miguel found each other. There is not another couple that I can think of who matches and compliments each other more than the two of you. You and Miguel are soul mates. Destined together for all eternity. A match made in heaven. Two comets jettisoning off into the sky spreading sparkling beauty throughout the night. Souls lit on fire that—"