Between Sisters Page 33


“How much would it cost?”

“The same as submarine sandwiches and potato salad.”

“No kidding. Well. I guess that would be okay. As long as we include those little hot dogs wrapped in the popover dough. Bobby loves those.”

“Pigs in blankets. Of course. I’m sure I would have thought of that.”

Claire thought her sister paused again, but she couldn’t be sure.

Meg smiled. It was only a little forced. “Now, oddly enough, I also know an out-of-work baker who could make a four-layer cake with fresh flowers. She recommends violets, but of course, it’s up to you.”

“You know, Meg, you’re a complete pain in the ass.”

“I know. Judgmental and unforgiving.”

“Absolutely. But you take charge well.”

Meghann’s smile faded. Claire knew her sister was thinking of that summer, so many years ago, when Meg had taken charge and changed all their lives.

“I didn’t mean anything bad by that,” Claire said softly. “It’s such a damn minefield between us.”

“I know.”

“Now, about the cake . . .”

SEVENTEEN

“I’VE GOTTEN THE PERMIT FOR THE PARK, AND THE TENT IS reserved from the party rental store. I’ll go over the final details of setup with them tomorrow on my way to Costco.” Roy sat back with a flourish. “That’s it.”

“And the lights?” Meghann asked, checking off the tent from her list.

“Ten thousand white Christmas lights, forty-two Chinese lanterns, and twenty hanging lights. Check.”

Meghann marked her list accordingly. That was it. Everything on her list had been taken care of. In the past two days, she’d worked her ass off, checking and rechecking each detail. She’d arranged for every single thing that Roy had wanted. It was going to be, he declared at least three times a day, the best wedding ever to take place in Hayden.

Meghann didn’t think that was much of a standard, but she was learning to keep her cynical thoughts to herself. She’d even been working so hard that she slept at night. The only problem now was her dreams.

They all seemed to be about Joe. When she closed her eyes, she remembered everything about that night. The blue eyes that were so sad . . . the way he’d whispered something—a name, maybe—while they were making love.

Making love.

She’d never thought of it that way, not with anyone.

“Meghann? You’re getting that mushy look again. Are you thinking about the hors d’oeuvres?”

She smiled at Roy. “You should have seen Carla’s face when I told her she’d have to do up a tray of pigs in blankets.”

“I hate to admit it, but . . . they are tasty, you know. Dipped in ketchup. Even better dragged in baked beans. They’ll probably disappear long before the Brie and pâté.”

“I didn’t let her do pâté.” Meghann consulted her list again. It was a habit, checking and rechecking everything.

Roy touched her arm. “Sweetheart, you’re done. All you have to do is show up at the rehearsal tonight and then get a good night’s sleep.”

“Thanks, Roy. I don’t know what I would have done without you on all of this.”

“Believe me, it has been an unexpected pleasure to work on this wedding. My next event is a potluck keggar in the Clausens’ cow field to celebrate little Todd’s acceptance to community college.”

After the meeting, she headed back toward her car. She’d walked several blocks before she realized she was going in the wrong direction. She was just about to turn around when she saw the garage. There, tucked back in a thicket of trees and runaway salal, was Joe’s cabin.

She had a sudden urge to walk up to the door, say, Hey, Joe, and follow him to the bedroom. The sex had been great. Hell, it had been better than great. So good that she’d sneaked off in the middle of the night. She’d always been better at good-bye than good morning.

The light in his kitchen went on. She saw a shadow cross the window, a flash of silvery hair.

She almost went to him.

Almost.

The one thing she knew for certain—had learned from hard-won experience—was that anonymous sex was all she could handle.

She turned and walked back to her car.

Joe stood at the kitchen sink, listening to the water running. It gargled down the rusty pipes. He was supposed to be washing his lunch dishes—that’s why he’d come over here, after all—but he couldn’t make his hands work.

She was standing across the street, looking at his house.

Meghann. Friends call me Meg.

She stood perfectly still, her arms crossed, her pointy chin held up just the slightest bit. Beside her, a huge hanging pot of flowers sent a red trailer of blossoms along her upper arm. She didn’t seem to notice. Probably didn’t notice their scent, either. She didn’t strike him as a romantic woman.

“Meghann.” He said her name softly, surprised by the unexpected rush of longing that came with it. He’d thought about her too often in the hours since their meeting.

He told himself it meant nothing, was simply an excess of hormones in a body that had been cold for years. But now, looking at her, wanting her again, he knew he was lying to himself.

Across the street, she took a step toward him.

His heartbeat sped up, his hands clenched.

Then she turned and walked away, quickly.

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“Thank God,” he said, wishing he meant it.

He shut the water off and dried his hands. Slowly, he went to the mantel and stood in front of a picture of Diana. In it, she stood at the base of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, waving at him. She was smiling brightly.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, touching the glass.

The phone rang, startling him.

He knew who it was, of course. “Hey, Gina,” he answered, reaching for his work gloves.

“Hey, big brother. I know it’s late notice, but I’m having a rehearsal dinner at my house tonight. I thought you might like to come.”

A rehearsal dinner. Prelude to a wedding. “Sorry, no.”

“It’s for Claire Cavenaugh. She’s finally getting married.”

Joe closed his eyes, remembering Claire. “I’m sorry, Gigi,” he said at last. “I can’t do that.” The only thing worse than celebrating a marriage would be walking into a hospital.

“I understand, Joey. Really. I’ll call you next week.”

Claire sat in the doctor’s waiting room, reading the newest issue of People magazine. There it was, a picture of her mother in some city park, surrounded by fans dressed in full space-traveler regalia. The caption read: Eliana Sullivan mobbed by fans on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Starbase IV’s first show.

“Oh, please. I had better Halloween costumes in second grade.”

“What, Mommy?”

Claire smiled down at her daughter, who sat cross-legged on the taupe-colored carpet, playing with a Cat in the Hat doll. “Nothing, honey.”

“Oh. How much longer? I’m hungry.”

“Not much longer. Dr. Roloff is busy with people who are really sick. You saw Sammy Chan go in—he has a broken arm.”

Alison frowned. “You’re not sick, right?”

“Of course not. This is my yearly appointment. You always come with me.”

“Yeah.” Ali went back to playing.

A few minutes later, the receptionist—Monica Lundberg—came out into the waiting room. As always, she looked beautiful, this time in a pale celery-colored sundress. “Doctor will see you now.”

Claire looked down at Alison. “Stay right here, honey. I’ll be right back.”

“I’ll watch her,” Monica said. “You go on into room four.”

“Thanks.” Claire went down the hallway and turned into the last room on the left.

“Hey, Claire, how’re the wedding plans going?”

She smiled at Bess, the nurse who had worked for Dr. Roloff for as long as anyone could remember.

“Great. We’re having something simple.”

“Of course you are.” Bess took Claire’s blood pressure and temperature. “Good blood pressure, kiddo. You must be living right.” She took a quick blood sample, then burrowed through the cupboard over the sink and withdrew a plastic specimen cup. “You know the drill. Leave a sample in the door in the rest room. Doctor will be in as soon as he can.”

“Thanks, Bess.”

Bess winked. “See you tomorrow. Bye.” And she was gone.

Claire hurried across the hall, left a urine sample in the bathroom, then returned to the room, where she dressed quickly in the hospital gown and climbed up onto the paper-covered examination table.

Moments later, Dr. Roloff walked in. He was a tall, gray-haired man with stern eyes and a ready smile. He’d been Claire’s doctor for most of her life. He’d tended her through ear infections, acne, and pregnancy. Now he was Alison’s doctor. Sam’s, too.

The doctor sat down on a rolling stool and moved toward her. “How’re the wedding plans going?”

“Great. Will you and Tina be able to make it?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” He paused, looked down for a minute. Claire knew he was thinking about the daughter he’d lost. “Diana would have loved your wedding.”

Claire swallowed hard. It was true. One of the hardest parts of this wedding was doing it without Diana. The Bluesers had always done everything together. “She always said I was saving myself for royalty.”

He finally looked up. The smile he offered was tired and more than a little worn. “Did you hear about Joe? He’s back in town.”

“I know. How is he?”

Henry sighed heavily. “I don’t know. He hasn’t been to see Tina and me.” It was obvious how hurt the doctor was by that.

“I’m sure he will.”

“Yeah. I’m sure.” Dr. Roloff pushed the glasses higher on his nose and straightened. “Well, enough of that.” Opening her chart, he studied it. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah.”

“You’re not due to see me for another two months. Why so early, Claire? Usually we have to send three notices and make a phone call to get you in here.”

“Birth control pills,” she said, feeling her cheeks heat up. It was ridiculous; she was thirty-five years old. There was no reason to be embarrassed. But she was. “We want to wait awhile before we get pregnant.”

He studied her chart again, then nodded. “I wouldn’t want you on them for too many years, but for now you’ll be okay. We’ll start you on the mini pill.”

“Great.”

Dr. Roloff set her chart aside. “Let’s do your Pap smear.”

When he was finished, Claire sat up.

“Your dad told me you had a headache last week,” he said, stripping off his gloves. “And that you twisted your left ankle.”

Life in a small town. Claire sighed. For as long as she could remember, her dad had run to the doctor whenever she had a hangnail or a loose tooth. Her arrival at adulthood hadn’t changed his behavior. “Last year he thought I had Ménière’s disease after a ride on the Ferris wheel made me dizzy.”

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