It Happened One Wedding Page 27

“Mom,” Vaughn said. “I’m sure Sidney doesn’t want to be interrogated about her personal life.”

Deep down, Sidney knew that Vaughn—who’d obviously deduced that she’d been burned in the past—was only trying to be polite. But that was the problem, she didn’t want him to be polite, as if she needed to be shielded from such questions. That wasn’t any better than the damn “Poor Sidney” head-tilt.

“It’s okay, I don’t mind answering.” She turned to Kathleen. “I was seeing someone in New York, but that relationship ended shortly before I moved to Chicago.”

“So now that you’re single again, what kind of man are you looking for? Vaughn?” Kathleen pointed. “Could you pass the creamer?”

He did so, then turned to look once again at Sidney. His lips curved at the corners, the barest hint of a smile. He was daring her, she knew, waiting for her to back away from his mother’s questions.

She never had been very good at resisting his dares.

“Actually, I have a list of things I’m looking for.” Sidney took a sip of her coffee.

Vaughn raised an eyebrow. “You have a list?”

“Yep.”

“Of course you do.”

Isabelle looked over, surprised. “You never told me about this.”

“What kind of list?” Kathleen asked interestedly.

“It’s a test, really,” Sidney said. “A list of characteristics that indicate whether a man is ready for a serious relationship. It helps weed out the commitment-phobic guys, the womanizers, and any other bad apples, so a woman can focus on the candidates with more long-term potential.”

Vaughn rolled his eyes. “And now I’ve heard it all.”

“Where did you find this list?” Simon asked. “Is this something all women know about?”

“Why? Worried you won’t pass muster?” Isabelle winked at him.

“I did some research,” Sidney said. “Pulled it together after reading several articles online.”

“Lists, tests, research, online dating, speed dating—I can’t keep up with all these things you kids are doing,” Adam said, from the head of the table. “Whatever happened to the days when you’d see a girl at a restaurant or a coffee shop and just walk over and say hello?”

Vaughn turned to Sidney, his smile devilish. “Yes, whatever happened to those days, Sidney?”

She threw him a look. Don’t be cute. “You know what they say—it’s a jungle out there. Nowadays a woman has to make quick decisions about whether a man is up to par.” She shook her head mock reluctantly. “Sadly, some guys just won’t make the cut.”

“But all it takes is one,” Isabelle said, with a loving smile at her fiancé.

Simon slid his hand across the table, covering hers affectionately. “The right one.”

Until he nails his personal trainer. Sidney took another sip of her coffee, holding back the cynical comment. She didn’t want to spoil Isabelle and Simon’s idyllic all-you-need-is-love glow.

Vaughn cocked his head, looking at the happy couple. “Aw, aren’t you two just so . . . cheesy.”

Kathleen shushed him. “Don’t tease your brother.”

“What? Any moment, I’m expecting birds and little woodland animals to come in here and start singing songs about true love, they’re so adorable.”

Sidney laughed out loud. Quickly, she bit her lip to cover.

When Vaughn’s eyes met hers across the table, she realized that for one brief moment, they were on the same page.

“So,” Kathleen said, picking up the cake cutter. “Who wants seconds?”

 • • •

AFTER THE DINNER dishes were cleared away, Kathleen disappeared for a few minutes, then came back into the kitchen carrying a stack of photo albums.

“Oh, crap, no,” Vaughn groaned.

“No way, Mom,” Simon said definitively. “Not the photo albums.”

“What? I’m sure the girls would love to see these. You boys were so cute when you were younger.” She shooed them away. “Go work on the shed while we talk.”

The three women moved into the family room, and Kathleen walked Isabelle and Sidney through the photo albums. She shared funny anecdotes about the family, and turned nostalgic when she opened Simon’s baby book. “I wrote everything down, knowing he was going to be my last. Adam and I had planned to have a bigger family, but there were complications when Simon was born. I’d always wanted to have a daughter.” She looked up from the baby book and smiled at Isabelle. “At least now I get to have a daughter-in-law. Finally.”

Isabelle returned the smile. “I realize that Simon and I have only known each other a few months, but I hope you know that my feelings for him are completely sincere. I think he’s just . . . wonderful. He’s funny and sweet and caring, and such a good man. I can’t wait to marry him and start a family, and begin building memories of our own, just like these.” She gestured to the photo albums on the coffee table in front of them.

Kathleen’s eyes were misty. “Well. I think that’s just about the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.” She laughed, wiping her eyes. “I’d say this calls for a hug.” She pulled Isabelle in and squeezed her.

Sidney felt a tightening in her chest, watching the two women embrace. Isabelle had missed out on so many moments like this, both of them had. But happy though she was for Isabelle, seeing her sister bond with her future mother-in-law served as yet another reminder of the place she had always assumed she, too, would be in at this point in her life.

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