Authors: Bria Marche
LIKE SISTERS, BOOK FIVE
Copyright © 2015
All Rights Reserved
This book is a work of fiction by Bria Marche. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used solely for entertainment. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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Bria Marche is a contemporary romance writer. Though originally from San Jose, California, she has lived in the Midwest region of the United States for quite some time. She is a member of numerous writers’ organizations, including Fiction for All, Fiction Factor, and Writers-Online.
Other than writing, she enjoys all forms of art. She especially likes creating outdoor garden projects, designing and painting gourd birdhouses, and making handmade soaps. She is an avid gardener and a world traveler—which includes hot air ballooning across Italy—and loves bird watching, hiking, and bicycling.
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Picturesque Telluride valley faded into the background as Karen looked out the window of the Explorer, through the passenger-side mirror, and watched the town get smaller until it vanished from sight. Mario had just closed that chapter of his life, selling Gravity to Billy Mayberry. Going forward, everything would be new for Mario and Karen. She felt elated and sad at the same time. Mario had real friends in Telluride, and it was a gorgeous mountain town that Karen wouldn’t soon forget.
They’d have a long journey back to New York and plenty of time to discuss the last few weeks. She relaxed as they began that journey home, appreciating the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, which offered up another bit of eye candy every time she turned her head. She reached across the seat of the large, comfortable SUV and stroked Mario’s neck. “We’ll come back to visit, won’t we? Billy seems like a great guy, and he’s a good friend of yours.”
“Sure we will, maybe in the fall.” He gave her a quick, reassuring smile. “For now, I want to give everyone some space to adjust. Billy has a lot to deal with now that he owns Slopes and Gravity, and we’re going to be helping out at the Victorian, getting the wedding garden ready. There’s a lot to do in the next few months. You’re excited to be in the wedding, aren’t you?” Mario’s eyes narrowed with concern as he glanced over at her.
“Of course I am, especially since you and I will be standing up in it together. It’s going to be a blast.”
“I have no doubt about that.” He chuckled. “I can imagine it now with you five… look out Tarrytown.”
Three days of driving and a nondescript landscape of flat ground, sagebrush, and prairie grass lay ahead of them once they left the mountain region of Colorado. They would have to cover a lot more area and reach eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania before the beautiful, hilly countryside showed up again. There wasn’t much that compared to the Rocky Mountains though. A mix of rugged, craggy mountains blended with red sandstone—and the occasional surprise of an accidental waterfall—kept Karen alert for the moment, clicking picture after picture with her cell phone.
April had been a blur since most of it had been spent traveling. Only seven days remained of the month. A truckload of grape stock for Sasha’s tiny vineyard would be delivered to the Victorian in less than two weeks. At that point, the work would truly begin.
A call to her cousin Irene, in Kansas, would give the Amish relatives advance notice that company was on the way. Karen left a message, not really expecting anyone to pick up. It wasn’t often someone answered the phone unless they happened to be outside near the milk house and heard it ring. Most Amish families with phones kept a landline somewhere in an outbuilding. They weren’t the type that wanted many modern conveniences. Separation was an important part of their lifestyle and kept them from becoming too worldly—or too English, as they’d say.
Karen loved the simple life they displayed throughout their small community. She hoped somebody would be home when they arrived at the farm the next day. Their visit to Yoder would be short but memorable—she was sure of it.
Their first day of driving east would end in Burlington, Colorado, just before they crossed the state line into Kansas. If they stayed on target, they would arrive at the farm just after noon the second day.
“The timing will be perfect, Mario. Farmers always have a big lunch. Actually, that’s their main meal of the day. So they should be home. Have you ever been on a farm?”
He laughed as he adjusted the dial on the radio. The signals were poor, with static the only sound coming from the speakers. Mario gave up finding a clear station and turned the radio off. “Do you think any Puerto Rican from the Bronx has been on a farm? Anyway, won’t it seem like we’re barging in?”
“Of course not, I’m family. We’ll be expected to have lunch with them, so don’t refuse. Whatever they serve will probably end with coffee and a huge slice of pie.”
“That sounds good to me.”
Mario was grateful for dry road conditions as he weaved through the twists and turns in the mountains. He was also happy they’d made one last stop in Keystone to gas up and get coffee. Karen reclined her seat to a comfortable position and dozed off once they left the mountain scenery behind them to continue east on I-70. After passing through Denver, they only had a few hours to go before stopping for the night.
When they reached Burlington, they pulled into a convenience store next door to their hotel for a bottle of wine and a few snacks. Manny’s Groceries and More, in a tired-looking strip mall, was small but held the necessities most travelers would look for: chips, candy bars, and cookies in one aisle, beverages of every kind in another, a center aisle with aspirin, antacids, toilet tissue, and laundry soap, and the last aisle—leading to the checkout counter—with cigarettes, cigars, magazines, lottery scratch-off tickets, and playing cards. Mario picked up a blue plastic shopping basket, and Karen nonchalantly followed him through the aisles, playfully pinching his butt as they walked. An older Hispanic man with a ponytail of graying hair smiled pleasantly at them as he rang up their purchases. He eyed Mario carefully then spoke to him in Spanish. Mario responded, took the plastic bag, nodded, and left with Karen at his side.
“What did he say to you, and how did he know you would understand him?” she asked, sounding impressed.
Mario gave a full-belly laugh. “Seriously… look at me. You can’t tell I speak Spanish? He wished us a good evening, and I said the same back to him.”
“Oh… that’s nice.”
What they bought would hold them over for the night and give them plenty to snack on during the ride the next day. Mario drove slowly through the parking lot until they reached the Comfort Inn. He smirked as they walked toward the front doors. Both backpacks were slung over his shoulders while Karen carried the bag of goodies.
“What?” She snuggled in close against him. The flat prairie did little to block the wind whipping across the pavement.
“Memories of the last time we were here. We woke that old codger up when we checked in. He was totally discombobulated. I wonder if it will be him again.”
“Is discombobulated really a word?”
“Of course it is. I thought you were the one teaching Sasha big words.”
“I am, but I never had a need to use that word. I should, though. Sasha is the epitome of discombobulation,” she said, laughing. “So, the old guy is your only memory of this place? You better watch your words, mister.”
He stopped under the tall parking-lot lamps before they reached the double-glass entry doors and took Karen in his arms. He kissed her deeply and held her close. “Are you kidding me? This place holds very special memories. You know, if we’d thought it out ahead of time, we could have saved the first time we made love for a better location like the Poconos or a mountain lodge. But no, we’re out in the middle of nowhere at a Comfort Inn. Now we’re going to have to stop here every time we drive to Colorado just for the memories.” Mario laughed. “I guess this is what you call winging it, right? A little spontaneity?”
Karen gave him a punch in the arm. “That’s right, and I’m sure there will be plenty more to come. C’mon. Let’s get inside so you can warm me up.”
“With pleasure, babe.”
They smiled at each other, trying to hold back their laughter, when they saw the same man with tangled hair and droopy glasses peek around the corner of the back room. He allowed them entry after they rang the buzzer in the vestibule. The puzzled expression he wore when he greeted them told Mario the man recognized them but didn’t know why. He pushed up his bifocals and tried to flatten his knotted hair.
With a few neck rolls and a deep stretch, Mario explained they’d been guests at the hotel just three weeks earlier. He handed the clerk a credit card. The old man acknowledged Mario’s comment with a nod and slid the registration form across the counter for him to sign.
Mario hoisted the backpacks over his shoulder again as they walked down the hallway to the fourth room on the left. They entered and sank down at the table next to the mini-fridge, exhaling long-overdue sighs. Karen disappeared around the corner and returned with the two plastic bathroom cups wrapped in cellophane. She tore off the wrappers and threw them in the small black garbage can next to the bed. They drank most of the wine, each having two cups, and nibbled on cheese sticks and crackers before showering together, letting the hot spray soothe their tired bodies. They were becoming familiar with each other’s needs and wants as the love between them deepened. Mario carried Karen to the bed, laying her down gently. With deep strokes, he caressed her shoulders and massaged her back. He leaned in and kissed her neck from behind, whispering his desires in her ear. She responded by rolling over and pulling him down against her. Making love with each other was getting better.
Karen woke the next morning with the sun breaking the horizon and peeking through the small opening in the blackout curtains. A tray lay next to her on the bed with several sweet-roll choices, bananas, and oranges. Mario filled two cups from the coffeepot on the dresser and carried them to the bed.
He handed Karen a cup as he sat down and kissed her cheek. “Hey, babe, how did you sleep?”
“Like I was tranquilized. Thanks for bringing up breakfast, and the coffee smells wonderful.” She bunched several pillows behind her back.
“Are you excited to see your cousins today?” Mario kicked off his shoes and leaned back against the headboard. He drank the steaming coffee and bit off pieces of a cinnamon roll as they talked.
“For sure. You’ll see what I mean when you meet them. They’re easy people to like. We’ll have fun even if it’s only for a few hours.”
“I’m looking forward to it.” Mario checked the time. “Let’s bug out of here around eight o’clock. That will give us plenty of time to finish eating and get showered before we go. Karen?”
“Uh-huh.” She smiled and licked off a tiny piece of icing that hung from the side of Mario’s mouth.
“I love you. We have a lot to talk about and a couple days of driving to do it in. There won’t be anything to interrupt us. Is that okay with you?”
“Definitely. It sounds perfect.”
“Hi, Josh. Hang on for a second, honey.” Sasha slipped her arms into the sleeves of the floor-length peach chenille bathrobe and secured the belt around her growing waistline. “Okay, I’m back. I just got out of the shower.”
“Hmmm… let me savor that image for a second,” Josh said. “Anyway, I just wanted to let you in on the good news. It sounds like Jake got a serious offer on my house this morning. I just might take it. Why wait around for somebody to give me a few thousand dollars more—if that even happens? I guess this guy doesn’t have a house to sell, and he’s preapproved for a loan already. Be honest with me, hon. I need to know if you’d feel awkward with me moving into the Victorian before the wedding, especially if your parents are staying with you. That might seem crowded if J. J. and I barged in this soon. You and the girls are going to design and paint the nursery, so nobody will be staying in that bedroom. That only leaves the one guest room. I think you need some alone time with your folks while they’re here. I can push the closing back until after the wedding.”