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Authors: Maria Murnane

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BOOK: Cassidy Lane
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“If you say
so.”

“That reminds me:
I need your help with something.”

He put a
hand on his heart. “You need
my
help with something? That’s new. I’m not sure I’m comfortable about this.”

She rolled her
eyes. “Give me a break. You helped me get those prints in my living room to hang straight, remember?”

“You’re right, I
did do that. So what do you need me for now?”

“I want to
give Brandon a Christmas present, but I have no idea what to get him.”

He dipped his
spoon into his cup. “Maybe a new phone? His is probably fried, given the amount of texting going on between you two.”

“Come on, I’m
serious
. He actually reminds me of you a little bit, so I thought maybe you would have some good ideas of what he might like.”

Harper sat up
straight. “He reminds you of me how, exactly? Is it that he’s smart, charming, and sexy as all hell?”

Cassidy smiled. “Well,
of course. But I meant more in his aesthetics.”

He gave her
a look. “In his what?”

“His aesthetics.”

“Could you say
that in English, please? Not everyone at this table is a professional writer.”

“He’s…
I don’t know…
fancy
.” She put the word in air quotes.

Harper leaned back
in his chair and crossed his arms in front of him. “Fancy.”

“Yes, but I
mean that as a compliment. He dresses well, likes nice things, that sort of thing. I guess you could say he’s your classic well-heeled metrosexual. He definitely spends way more on his shoes than I do, for example.” She pointed her spoon at him. “And he wore a lavender button-down when he took me out to dinner.”

Harper scooped up
some more yogurt. “I see, I see. I do like me some lavender.”

“So you understand
what I mean?”

“I do.”

“And you’re not
offended?”

He finished his
yogurt and shook his head. “I am not.”

“Good. Do you
have any ideas for a gift?”

“You said he
has kids, right?”

“Yes, two boys.
Henry and Jack.”

He thought for
a moment, then snapped his fingers. “You know what I bet he’d love?”

She set down
her cup and held up her palms. “
Obviously
I don’t.”

“Get him a
set of cuff links.”

“Cuff links?”

He tapped a
finger to one wrist and then the other. “Sterling silver. Engraved. From Tiffany.”

“Engraved? You think?”

“Yes. One initial
on each cuff link, for each son’s name.”

Cassidy raised her
eyebrows. “Ooh, I like that.”
An
H
and a
J
.

Harper nodded. “Tiffany
cuff links are very classy, and an engraving like that makes them special—and a super thoughtful gift. He’ll love them.”

“I love the
idea, but do you think it would be too much? I mean, as you can clearly tell, it’s not like he’s my boyfriend or anything.”

“How many text
messages did you say you two have exchanged?”

Cassidy felt her
cheeks turn a bit pink. “I’m not exactly sure what it’s at now, but around…three thousand?” The frequency had dropped off considerably since his mother’s stroke, but it was hard to discount the sheer volume of messages they’d exchanged.

“Three…
thousand…text…messages.”
Using his spoon, Harper tapped the side of his yogurt cup as he said each word. “I think that answers your question.”

She gave him
a hopeful smile. “He’s also coming to my family holiday dinner.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes. I just
asked him today.”

Harper nodded. “Then
he’ll dig the cuff links. Don’t worry.”

Chapter Eighteen

DANIELLE WAS STILL
out of town that weekend, so Sunday morning Cassidy went for a power walk in Central Park, then planned to get a pedicure. She hoped the mental break of taking the entire day off and spending much of it outside, infused with some much-needed fresh air, sunlight, and pampering, might provide a final burst of inspiration to finish the book. Though she was tempted to try to run, she knew it would set her back in the long haul.

She played the
character game as she plugged along on her walk, first eyeing a diminutive redhead who sped by her in a spandex blur:

What’s her name?
Rebecca Black, but her family calls her Becky, which she hates.

Where’s she from?
South Boston, but she says Boston.

What does she
do? Investment banker.

What makes her
angry? When her cleaning lady doesn’t dust the top of the refrigerator.

What makes her
laugh? Laughing is overrated.

Favorite food? She
says it’s brown rice and vegetables with tofu, but it’s really Nacho Cheese Doritos. You’ll never see her eat them in public, though.

Biggest life disappointment
so far? She’ll say none, but it’s really that she didn’t get into Harvard Business School and had to settle for Wharton.

Biggest secret? She’s
not a real redhead.

Dream job? She
wishes to God she knew. But she’ll tell you it’s investment banker.

Next up was
a thin, pale man who looked about Cassidy’s age, sitting alone on a bench with his hands folded on his lap.

What’s his name?
Buddy Hawthorne.

Where does he
live? Queens.

What does he
do? He was a firefighter.

Favorite hobby? He
played basketball three times a week before he got sick.

Favorite food? Anything
he can keep down.

Biggest life disappointment
so far? Knowing he probably won’t live to marry and have children.

Cassidy turned back
for another look at the man on the bench, wondering why her imagination had taken her down such a dark path. She felt a pang of guilt for the life she’d just imagined for him and hoped he was in fact healthy and happy. Same went for the redhead, who in all likelihood was nothing like the unsympathetic character she’d just depicted in her mind.

Cassidy blinked a
few times and decided to stop playing this game. If she was going to take a break from actual writing today, she should also take a break from thinking like a writer. She let her mind wander to Brandon.

Of how he’d
been looking at her photo.

Of how much
she was looking forward to seeing him again.

And kissing him
again.

And again.

After more than
an hour in the park, she stretched on a bench for a few minutes, then slowly headed east toward the exit. Once she reached Fifth Avenue she put her hands on her hips and looked in the direction of Central Park South.

Hmm.

She stood on
the sidewalk, thinking.

Should I buy
them today?

She began to
nibble on her fingernail but quickly stopped, then began walking.

South.

Next stop: Tiffany
& Co.

An hour later,
as Cassidy strolled back through the park on her way home, she called Patti.

“What’s shakin’, bacon?
Is it freezing out there yet?”

Cassidy looked up
at the clear skies all around and wondered when the first snowfall would be. “It’s not too bad. It’s getting there, though. I can’t believe how fast this year has gone by. Pretty soon there will be holiday decorations in all the shop windows.”

“Oh God, don’t
remind me that Christmas is just around the corner again. Being Santa for three kids is a logistical pain in the hee-haw. Thank God for online shopping. You should see how many boxes get delivered to Roy’s office every year.”

Cassidy glanced at
the shopping bag she was carrying and cleared her throat. “Actually, speaking of Christmas presents, I just bought one for Brandon.”

“Already? Nice work.”

“I know it’s
a little early, but I couldn’t help myself. Is that bad?”

“It’s not bad,
it’s adorable. What did you end up getting him?”

“Engraved cuff links.
From Tiffany. That’s what Harper suggested.”

“Tiffany cuff links?
How elegant. What did the engraving say? It had to have something to do with texting. Was it LOL? TTYL? Or maybe a smiley face?”

Cassidy laughed. “OK,
I deserve that. But I ordered one cuff link engraved with a
J
and one with an
H
, for his sons’ names, Jack and Henry.”

“I love it!
Did Harper suggest that too?”

“Yep. He’s barely
out of his twenties, but sometimes I feel like he’s more mature than I am.”

“Well, he came
up with a
great
idea, that’s for sure. I’d love to get Roy something classy like that, but he’d probably think they were earrings. He’s not too up on fashion.”

Cassidy kicked a
pebble. “Have you settled on a date for the Jingle Jog yet? My leg should be healed by then.”

Patti had been
on the cross-country team with Cassidy in high school, and while her exercise now mainly consisted of chasing after her kids, every year she organized a casual holiday run through San Carlos. It ended with a stroll through a decoration-crazed neighborhood that attracted visitors from up and down the Peninsula.

“No, but I’ll
let you know as soon as I do. When’s your big family dinner this year?”

“The Friday before
Christmas, so don’t pick that.”

“Got it.”

Cassidy cleared her
throat again. “I…invited Brandon.”

“To the Jingle
Jog?”

“No, to the
dinner.”

“Wow. Already?”

Cassidy kicked another
pebble. “I realize it’s early, but you know how fast people’s schedules fill up over the holidays, right? Plus with his kids and everything, I just wanted to—”

“Stop it. I
love that you invited him early. It’s cute. Shows how much you like him.”

Cassidy smiled into
the phone. “You’re such a good friend.”

“I know I
am. Now apparently it’s time to start my holiday shopping, so I’d better run. Talk soon?”

“Talk soon. Bye.”

“Your nails are
doing better, love.”

Cassidy peered over
her magazine. “They are?”

Darlene nodded up
at her. “I know we’re doing a pedicure today, but I can tell you haven’t been nibbling on those fingers quite as much.”

“I’ve been trying,
but I can’t say I’m succeeding with any regularity. It’s so hard to break the habit.”

“You’re on your
way. I can see a change in you, and not just with your nails, mind you.” She gave Cassidy’s feet a gentle squeeze.

Cassidy felt her
eyes get a little bigger. “You can?”

“I can.”

“But what do
you—”

Just then the
front door opened and Annabelle Polanski strolled in, her enormous dark sunglasses covering half her petite face, her outsized personality overtaking the limited air space without her having to utter a word. Darlene stiffened and immediately looked down at Cassidy’s feet, filing the nails intently. Cassidy glanced around the room and noticed the other attendants reacting in a similar manner. Her fellow patrons seemed equally startled, and the already subdued volume of the salon dropped to a hush, amplifying the sound of Annabelle’s stiletto heels clicking on the hardwood floors as she strode across the room. When she reached the pedicure chair, she gave Cassidy a polite smile, then quickly disappeared into one of the back rooms.

When the door
shut behind Annabelle, Cassidy felt her shoulders drop and realized she had tensed up as well. She leaned toward Darlene and lowered her voice to a whisper. “She scares me.”

Darlene didn’t reply
or look up, but Cassidy could see the hint of a smile had formed on her lips.

That afternoon Cassidy
took a nap, spent a couple of hours answering a backlog of e-mails before making dinner, then finally curled up on the couch to watch a movie. At just after eight o’clock, her phone chimed with a text message from Brandon, the first she’d received all day.

Want to adopt two boys? I’m exhausted.

BOOK: Cassidy Lane
13.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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