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Third quarter and she was almost home; free – again.
Listening to the wedding singer work her way through a bad Whitney meant Miss Jade Brawley had done it one more time. She’d avoided Aunt Mary with the long list of ‘boys you should have married by now’. She’d managed to dance with all the uncles before the champagne glad hands sprouted up everywhere. Now it was time to bow out gracefully and get gone before Gran Cecile caught her. She didn’t even need to hear that conversation to know how it would go.

You look like summer sky, child. Now where is that nice Robert?”

Grangran, I haven’t been with ‘that nice Robert’ since college.”

Oh? He was such a striking young man…”

Bobby had been striking. Like Jake had been strong. Like Aaron had been kind in his own way. Not one of them had settled in though. There was never that comfort food feel, that hit the lights and let the TV knock you out , keep you warm down in your bones feel. Aaron had been the closest to just right, and yet Jade had still watched him walk out without trying to stop him. It just hadn’t felt right.

Two years since and the closest man she had was Tiger, and he only loved her for food. Hmm…a lot like Jake…

“Jade?” Her father’s voice snapped her out of her reverie like when she used to daydream in church. His thick shadow fell over the table she had been flying solo at, momentarily blocking out the sun. “You ok, JJ? “

Anthony Brawley was a big man, with some of the muscle from his high school days still hanging around even at just over fifty. None of the hair though, except at the temples where there was still some salt and pepper spicing up his brown dome. Jade owed her figure to him, though the chocolate tan complexion that made her the envy of her friends came from her mother.

“I’m fine Daddy. See?” She waved her champagne flute at him and smiled. “I’m even ‘partaking’.”

Anthony dropped his bulk into the chair opposite, loosened his collar a notch, and leaned back, eyeing her with his heavy brows. “I see. Not too much I hope. “He laughed then because they both knew that alcohol wasn’t high on Jade’s list. Anthony- Tony to his friends- leaned back and sighed. “Not your speed, I know JJ, but I know Eve appreciates you making the trip.”

How could she not have? Eve Peters was a wonderful woman- a lady who’d taken the time in the short year or so that she and Anthony had been married to share what she knew about being a woman to a young Jade who’d needed it more than anything. With her mama passed, Eve had been the closest thing to a mother Jade could latch on to. The talks the two ladies shared were memories that Jade cherished.

She realized she was drifting off into the fading afternoon again. Tony noticed as well, and lifted an eyebrow. “Sorry, Daddy. Between the sun and the champagne-” She looked down, gesturing over the long purple gown she’d picked before realizing how hot it could still be on the Connecticut coast in September, “- and this dress…”

“No worries JJ. You look beautiful. “ He leaned down on his elbows. “Look, I’m the friendly ex, so I’m a lifer at this one no matter what, but I know you don’t want to hang around. “ He chuckled. “Besides, if you stay too much longer, Mrs. Menninger will have you paired up with that lawyer boy of hers…

“Marvin?” She snorted, barely covering it with her hand. She’d grown up with Marvin Menninger- he’d done her pre-calc. “No daddy, I don’t think so- Marvin’s here with his partner.”

“Partner? “ Anthony’s big brows furrowed. “As in-?” He gestured, pointing across the crowded dance area.

“Yes daddy. As in.” She sipped a little more of the rapidly warming champagne, and smiled behind the glass. Tony was always the last to know- he’d even been surprised when his brother came out.

“Huh.” Apparently, this time that was enough for the big man, who shrugged it off, “Any who- you should get with Eve before you head out, hm? “

Jade took one last hit of the sun warmed champagne. Liquid courage. She set that aside and slapped her thighs, pushing up off her chair. “Ok Daddy, let’s go make the rounds.” In a moment they were slipping through the milling wedding folk making their way to the bride and groom.

Eve lit up the center of the wedding party like always, her easy confidence was something Jade had always admired. The sleeveless wedding gown she wore was picking up the fading sky. She looked amazing, younger than Jade had ever seen. As Jade and her father made their way closer, Jade started mentally rattling off the names of the Peters family that she remembered.

Eve, of course. And her sister Janey, the one with the Italian boyfriend. Grandmother Peters- was that old bag still alive? Case- the cousin Case with the yacht and the Merc that went too fast on Bradman’s Hill. Funny thing was, there was as much of her family here as anything. Danforth was Danforth and all of these families had been in the area, marrying off each others children for too long to stop now. So many familiar faces, so many couples …she remembered Gnat talking about how he’d get married someday, but it would be to an Asian girl just to increase diversity. Then she’d hit him in the arm-

Gnat. That name brought her back. Gnat – Lucas Nathaniel – Peters. The gawky techno geek that spent all his time trying to raid Jade’s room and read her diary. The one that had always left his Spiderman underwear on the floor in the bathroom. He and Jade had shared a home for the year when their parents had tried the friend marriage that was so popular in the nineties. What was that about? Everyone wanted to be Ross and Rachel…

At that thought, she and Tony arrived next to the bride, who just disentangling herself from a social knot. When Eve saw Jade she squeaked, and rushed over, ignoring the train on her dress.

“Jade! I was so excited when Tony said you’d be flying back!” Eve’s long arms wrapped Jade up in a strong hug. Then she pulled back, holding Jade out at arm’s length. “You look amazing! Tony, why didn’t you tell me she’d gotten to be so beautiful?”

“It’s a given with the genetics.” Anthony leaned down and gave Eve a quick kiss on the cheek. “You look lovely Evie. Congratulations.”

“Well, thank you kind sir.” She bowed with a stage sweep of her arm. Jade loved the easy way that her father and Eve spoke with each other. Friends at the beginning- still friends after they’d figured out it just wasn’t meant to be. If only it always worked that way…

Anthony broke in. “I’m going to leave you two for a moment. I hear cake calling. JJ, catch me before you leave hmm?”

“Yes, Daddy.” With that the big man lumbered off, looking to make a name for himself with the food table crowd. Anthony Brawley was a buffet legend. Jade watched him go, shaking her head, and then turned to Eve.

“Now, how about you, Mrs. Third Time?” She cocked an eyebrow. “What’s this I hear about an officer and a gentleman?

Eve leaned in like a conspiratorial school girl. “I know! Can you imagine it?” There were teenage glee roses on her cheeks, and Jade could tell she was happy as a New England clam. “Richard is such a wonderful man…” She sighed, looking over her shoulder and then back at Jade, and whispered. “And he is such a hottie…”

Jade giggled, slapping Eve on the arm in mock outrage. “Mrs. Peters!”

Eve drew herself up to her full five foot nine. “It’s Peters- Simons.” After a moment of holding the stage glare, she broke into her high bell laugh. Another second of that and it faded into a contented sigh. “It is good to have you here hon. It’s been so long.” A faint crease furrowed her brow.

It had been longer than a while. Eve had moved out to San Luis Obispo right out of college, and hadn’t been back to this side of the country really since. Research chemistry kept your focus narrow and there were a lot of times she spent more time with her microscope than with anyone except Tiger.

“I know- I don’t keep in touch much, do I? “

“Well”, Eve stretched it out, “They do have this thing called email…”

“I know , I know- Gran Cecile keeps trying to get me to use it- she tweeted just the other day –“

“Cecile tweets?!” Eve let her honey laugh go at that and put an arm around Jade’s shoulder. “C’mon lady, let’s catch up- you have to meet Richard…”

From that point the afternoon became a blur. Jade did meet Richard, and she was right, he was pretty well put together for mid-fifties, ex-Navy and still doing the upkeep. She also met and re-met probably a thousand of the Danbury coast’s finest. That scene never changed- it wasn’t keep up with the Jones’s, it was politely bury the Jones’s and then build your condo on their land. Jade could have lived on the coast alone forever, but that New England snark is what sent her out to Cali in the first place- there was room to breathe.

Not with Eve though. Eve was a breath of fresh air that spent a lot of time being talked about and not caring. She said it came from her Maine roots. “Nothing really matters there but what you do”. Jade had always remembered that, even after Eve and her father had split and Tony had taken the job with the accounting firm in Baltimore.

Now, in the present though, what Jade was listening to was sore feet. By the time another couple of hours had passed Jade was worn out from keeping up with Eve and her much longer legs, which seemed to forget they were wrapped in a floor length wedding dress. After one last stop, Jade pulled her best ‘would you look at the time’, while her heels dangled from her hand

“Phew Evie- I didn’t know it was already getting to be seven- I’ve got a plane at , oh lord, eight am…”

Eve stopped, as if suddenly realizing herself how late it was getting. “Oh goodness. I do keep going don’t I? Sorry honey- this is just so…” She waved her hands in a gesture that took it all in. “You know.”

“I do.” Jade let how tired she was show through her smile. “I’m so happy for you. But…”

“- But, you need to get moving. “ A thought ran across Eve’s eyes. “Oh! There’s one more person you have to see! I’ll be right back, k?” At that, Eve Peters- Simons made off between the tables, heading for a knot of socialites just past the buffet table.

Jade watched her go, and then realized it had been a long time since she’d done any eating herself. Eve won’t make it back from that that crowd anytime soon- I need a bite! She plopped her shoes on the table and made her way over to the spread in her stocking feet, loving the cool grass up against nylon. It made her want to spread her toes in it like she had when she was little.

The line was constant at these big gatherings, so she joined the end and started gathering a plate. By the time she reached the half point, picking through all the crab puffs and shrimp, she realized her eyes had been bigger than her stomach. She twitched her mouth to the side, wondering what the polite way was to put shrimp back on a serving dish without getting caught.

Next to her, a smooth New England tinted baritone spoke up right by her ear. “You can come back for seconds, it’s allowed-“

Jade jumped and half the shrimp on her plate hit the table cloth. When she turned to lay into whoever it was that was heckling her though, the words stopped. All she caught the impression of was Clark Kent Glasses on a strong wind tanned face. That and the green eyes staring out of the frames.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to –“

Snap out of it Jade! “Didn’t mean to what? Scare me out of my mind? Leave me wondering where all that sauce ended up on this dress?“ She checked, for effect, already knowing it had missed her. Who was this guy anyway? Probably one of Case’s friends…

“There you are!” Eve’s bubbly voice broke through her thoughts, and Jade turned, wondering what it was that had brought her right here, right now. “I see you found each other without my help.” She rounded on the tall man, “And where have you been hiding?”

“I told you it’s not hiding when it’s business…”

“And I told you to leave that thing, “ she pointed at the smart phone that was poking out of his pocket, “at home!” There was a smile in the sass.

Something was nagging Jade about this tall, tanned and golly shucks. The glasses, the green eyes, the – “Oh my god, Gnat?!”

An easy smile rolled up his face and he pushed and adjusted his glasses. “Hi JJ. I didn’t mean to make you lose your lunch. Really, I thought you’d recognize me!”

Jade leaned back with a hand on a hip and tried to find the Gnat in the man in front of her. There was none of the gawk she remembered, none of the sing song in the voice. There was a dark haired stranger straight off of a GQ cover.

File that thought JJ. This is Gnat we’re talking about…

“And how would I? There’s no tape on your glasses.” She let the smile work its way past her suspicious lip twist. “You grew up, Gnat!”

Lucas ran a self-conscious hand through his wavy black hair, chuckling. “No one’s called me that in a long time.” He looked at her a second time. “You look good JJ- Cali must be kind.”

Not hardly. California was anything but kind. When she first hit out there she wasn’t prepared for the hordes of sun bunnies and their micro bikinis. Summer on the beach in the O meant a constant reminder that her Dad’s genes had given her life curves, not photo shoot ones. It had bothered her at first, but now she was comfortable in her skin and her JMS jeans.

Before Jade could respond, Eve broke in. “I’ve got to catch up to Richard before he catches on I only threw this party to wear the dress.“ She winked at Jade. “ You two catch up, and I’ll catch you both later. Oh, and Luc?”

“Hmm?”

“I mean it. Hand me the phone.”

Jade looked hard at anything but Lucas trying to say no to Eve on her wedding day. Finally, he sighed and gave in, dropping the S4 into his mother’s fine boned hand.

“Alright mum, fine, but if it goes off-“

“- I’m dropping it in the punch.” With that Eve was off, weaving through the dancers and other hazardously happy guests.

A moment of silence seemed even louder as the band shifted sets for the final run. Jade wasn’t sure what to say, so she examined the decorations closely. Lucas chuckled.

“That lady. Hard to say no to.” He turned back to Jade, and pointed at the plate. “Looks like you snagged enough for two- feel like sharing?”

That was more like the Gnat she remembered. She eyed the plate, and then nodded. “Lead on eating machine- some things never change.”

Lucas offered her an arm and they moved off to one of the empty tables surrounding the dance parquet.

Want more of this BBW BWWM billionaire romance book? Get it here.

4 Responses

  1. Patricia

    I loved “How Times Changed” and “A Touch of Class” they were awesome!!! I just loved them. I just know there’s more coming from those characters.

    Reply
    • J A Fielding
      J A Fielding

      So happy to hear that Patricia. And yes, there will be. 😉

      Reply
  2. Landa Ebbs

    I gotta read this book!!

    Reply
    • J A Fielding
      J A Fielding

      You do that Landa, and enjoy. 🙂

      Reply

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