Not Quite Over You
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“We can’t all have been born here,” Silver teased. “Some of us got lucky and some of us didn’t. But even us transplants become family.”
They walked onto the path leading into the preserve. After passing through a double set of gates, they made their way to the big tree where Carol usually set up lunch. She’d spread out a half dozen blankets and brought in big pillows for lounging.
Silver stared at the familiar arrangement. Carol, a sensible-looking redhead wearing khakis and work boots, looked at her.
“What? Did I forget something?”
Silver smiled. “I was just wondering how much longer we can have lunch out here. We try to get together at least three times a month and with us rotating the location through all six or seven of us, we won’t be back here for at least two months.” She eyed her friend’s rounded belly. “I’m not sure you and Pallas will be physically capable of sprawling on the ground then.”
Carol and Pallas were both pregnant. They were married to brothers, and Natalie, newly engaged to yet another Mitchell brother, had confessed to being incredibly vigilant when it came to birth control. She didn’t want any surprises until after the wedding.
Carol lightly touched her stomach. “We’ll move to the house when that happens. I’m not giving up my girlfriend lunches for anything.”
“Labor,” Bethany teased. “You might have to give up one or two when you have the baby.”
Wynn and Natalie arrived, followed by Pallas and Renee. Everyone settled on the blankets.
“I have chicken salad sandwiches,” Carol said, pointing to a pink bakery box. “On croissants.”
Pallas moaned. “Sounds delicious.”
Silver explained about her wedding cocktail and how she had modified a nonalcoholic version for the lunch. Everyone helped themselves to food and Silver poured drinks. Bethany filled her plate, and then looked at Pallas.
“Thank you for still being my friend.”
Pallas rolled her eyes. “You’re marrying my brother. I don’t really have a choice in the matter, but even if I did, I would still like you. I swear.”
Bethany hung her head and sighed. “I hate my life.”
“You don’t,” Wynn told her. “You’re in love with a great guy.”
“There is that, but everything else.” She turned to Renee. “Do you know who I am?”
Renee put down her sandwich and cleared her throat. “Bethany Archer?”
Pallas hugged Renee. “I think what Bethany is means is do you—” she made air quotes “—know who she is, as in her parents are the king and queen of El Bahar.”
Renee’s green eyes widened. “I didn’t know that. Am I supposed to call you something like ma’am or Your Highness?”
“No. Just Bethany.” She groaned and explained how her mother, an American schoolteacher, had gone to El Bahar to teach at the international school and had met and fallen in love with then–Crown Prince Malik.
“When my dad died, Malik adopted me,” she continued. “So while I have El Baharian citizenship, I was born in Riverside, California.”
Pallas smiled. “She brought over a stallion that my brother bought and they fell madly in love and now they’re getting married.”
“Maybe,” Bethany grumbled.
Silver stared at her. “What? No! What happened to madly in love? Why didn’t anyone say anything?” Silver might not be looking for love herself, but she very much wanted her friends to be happy.
“We’re fine,” Bethany said hastily. “It’s not us, it’s tradition.” She drew in a breath. “My parents really want me to get married in El Bahar. They want to do the big royal wedding. But that means not having the wedding here, where Cade grew up. We’re still working it all out.”
Natalie leaned toward Renee. “Apparently marrying a princess can be complicated.”
“It was never on my to-do list,” Renee murmured. “But I will keep it in mind.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Pallas told her future sister-in-law. “I promise. You, me and your mom are still talking options.”
No one knew weddings better than Pallas, Silver thought fondly, but before she could say anything, she heard an odd rustling sound in the bushes on the other side of the tree. One of the zebras stepped out into the clearing and eyed them.
“That’s strange,” Natalie said, pointing to the handsome boy. “I thought the zebras pretty much kept to themselves.”
“They do.” Carol smiled. “Don’t worry—they’re perfectly safe.”
“Maybe they like taquitos,” Pallas said, waving one. “I know I do.”
Conversation shifted to Natalie’s recent success at the gallery where she worked part-time and showed her art. She’d been featured in a show and had sold everything. Wynn talked about how her son, Hunter, was doing in school this year.
Silver looked around at her friends. They were an interesting mix. Only Pallas had been born in Happily Inc. Natalie, Bethany and Renee were the most recent transplants. Carol had moved here a few years before that and Wynn had arrived maybe ten years ago. Silver couldn’t remember exactly. One day Wynn had arrived with a baby and enough cash to buy a print shop. There’d been no husband/father or other family. Wynn never talked about her past. She had secrets, but then who didn’t. Silver had moved to Happily Inc when she’d been fifteen.
“What are you thinking?” Natalie asked her. “You have the strangest look on your face.”
“Nothing specific,” Silver said with a laugh. “Just enjoying time with my friends.”
“Not me, though, right?” Pallas groaned. “You hate me. You have to.”
“I could never hate you.”
“Okay, but you hate my mother.” She sighed. “I really can’t blame you for that.” She slapped her hand over her mouth. “Crap. I shouldn’t have said that, should I? Now we have to talk about it. I’m sorry. It was private.”
Silver smiled, knowing Pallas would never deliberately say anything hurtful. Plus, she was going to tell everyone everything anyway. Once she started working with Drew, the truth would come out.
She turned to her friends. “The bank turned down my loan request for the trailers.”
“No!” Carol’s expression turned indignant. “Why would they do that?”
“They didn’t.” Pallas’s expression turned grim. “It was my mother. I know it was. Libby’s horrible. I swear she’s still pissed because you dated Drew all those years ago. Let me talk to Grandpa Frank. He would hate to know that she’s acting like this.”
“Who’s Drew?” Renee asked. “And Grandpa Frank? What trailers? You’re getting more trailers? They’re for the business, aren’t they? Because our clients love what you do.”
Silver smiled at her. “Yes, I wanted to buy two Airstreams. They’re gorgeous and perfect.”
“There’s a little one that could go up to Honeymoon Falls,” Wynn said as she picked up a taquito. “A lot of people want to have small weddings there but getting any kind of food or bar up that tiny, steep road has been impossible.”