Authors: Verna Clay
It had been announced on the wedding invitations and by the pastor after the ceremony that Max and Pilar's reception would be held at the recreation center at Desert Princess Trailer Park. Several guests were already walking the quarter mile to the park and others were starting their cars to drive over.
Kade and Shiloh waited in the reception line to congratulate the newlyweds. After Desi stepped away, Kade hugged Pilar and shook hands with Max, wishing them the best. He introduced his grandmother to Max and she told the couple how beautiful their wedding had been. Max asked, "You're both coming to the reception, aren't you?"
Kade grinned. "We wouldn't miss it." Glancing behind Max, he saw Skylar fiddling with her camera. Pilar turned to follow the direction of his gaze. When she waved and motioned Skylar over, he almost groaned. Pilar said, "Skye, I'd like you to meet Kade's grandmother, Shiloh Blackwell."
Kade saw Shiloh glance between him and Skylar and her eyes twinkled when she said, "I've been wanting to meet the woman who has the power to put my easygoing grandson in a terrible mood."
Skylar shot Kade a quick look before exchanging greetings with his grandmother.
Shiloh said, "I hear you're a photographer."
"Yes, ma'am, and I love my work."
"Well, I also hear that you like taking pictures of my grandson."
Kade interjected, "Granny, I think we're holding up the line. We'd better move on."
Shiloh looked at the lineup, and replied, "Oh goodness. You're right. Anyway, Skye, I've always said my Kade should be on the cover of a magazine. The only man better looking than him was his grandfather. Our son, Kade's father, wasn't much in the looks department, kind of took after me, but he made up for it in every other way. Why, his wife could hardly keep her hands off him, even in public. I remember one time…"
Kade wanted to groan, but reminded his grandmother, "Shiloh, we need to step aside and let the other guests–"
"Oh, goodness. There I go. You're right." Kade placed his hand on her elbow and gently led her past the receiving line. She called back to Skye, "Honey, you come talk to me at the reception. We'll get to know each other."
Kade clenched his jaw. The last person he wanted his grandmother to get chummy with was Skylar Rutherford.
By the time the bride and groom arrived at the reception, the recreation center was overflowing. Kade had led Shiloh to the reserved family table and chosen a spot closest to the cake. His granny would have a great view when the bride and groom cut the cake and fed each other. Now he headed to the refreshment table to pour Shiloh a glass of punch. When he returned, Lilac, who had coordinated the reception, was talking to Shiloh. He handed his grandmother her punch and asked Lilac if she wanted anything. She declined and he listened to their conversation. Lilac was saying, "So me and Vera couldn't decide if we wanted to hang balloons or streamers, and when we asked Pilar, she said it was up to us. Finally, Goody suggested that we pick a number between one and ten. He assigned balloons a number and streamers a number. I picked seven and Vera picked three. Three was the number for balloons. Imagine that, she got the number perfect. Anyway, I took it as a sign and didn't argue for streamers anymore."
Shiloh responded, "Well, the room is simply lovely. Did Dottie make the cake?"
"She sure did. If she didn't own the dime store, I'd suggest she go into the cake making business. Maybe I should suggest it anyway. You know, she could make extra money, and heaven knows she needs it, what with her supporting a daughter away at college."
Shiloh asked, "Has she said how Lucy's doing?"
"The last I heard, she was doing great and making good grades."
Shiloh responded, "That's good to hear. As for Dottie making cakes for money, I suggested that very thing after she donated that masterpiece celebrating the mayor's reelection, but she said it was only a hobby she indulged in now and again."
Lilac clucked, "Seems a shame not to make money by using your talent." She motioned toward the wedding cake. "She donated Max and Pilar's cake, too; said it was her gift to the bride and groom."
Kade's attention to the women's conversation began to wane and he surveyed the crowd. Having grown up in Oasis, he knew everyone in the room. His father had also grown up in the town, but whereas Kade loved the area, his father never had. Kade's dad had moved to Mesa, near Phoenix, after marrying a Mesa girl, and taught third grade there. Both of Kade's parents had died in a car crash when he was a baby, and he'd been returned to Oasis to be lovingly raised by Shiloh.
Pilar's mother and his mother had been sisters, and before his aunt's death when Pilar was sixteen, she had regaled him with stories about his mother. She would have the family laughing uproariously at the hilarious trouble the two girls could find themselves in. Kade had loved hearing her remembrances.
Across the room he saw Skylar snapping pictures with an expensive camera sporting a telescopic lens. She remained on the outskirts of the crowd, shooting photos of the bride and groom as they moved among their guests. So far, he hadn't seen her turn the camera on him, something she'd done relentlessly during her previous visit to Oasis.
On the evening of the motorcycle crash, she'd shown up at one of the monthly parties hosted by the trailer park. He'd still been pissed about her casual attitude toward the accident, and she'd made him even madder with her obvious fixation on photographing him.
Now, watching her, he decided she'd finally wised up to the fact he wanted to be left alone. Just when he started to look away, she turned the camera in his direction and snapped a photo.
Sucking in a long breath, he leaned toward his grandmother, and whispered, "I'll be back in a minute, Shiloh."
She patted his knee. "I'm not going anywhere. Go have some fun." She returned her attention to Lilac's ramblings.
Biting his jaw to control his anger, Kade walked his six foot two frame menacingly toward Skylar Rutherford. Apparently, she needed a reminder to keep her camera pointed away from him. She saw him bearing down on her and her mouth formed an "O."
To her credit, she didn't slink away. She released her camera and let it hang by its strap from her neck. Cocking her head to the side, she waited for him, never removing her eyes from his.
She was a small woman, probably five foot two or three, so Kade towered above her when he finally stood in front of her. She looked up and grinned sheepishly.
Barely controlling his temper, he said, "I don't know if you're mentally challenged, or just hard-headed, but I want you to
taking pictures of me."
Still craning her neck upward, she sighed and said, "Have you forgotten you're at a wedding where photos are normally taken of the bride and groom as well as their
Before he could respond, she continued, "I know you don't want to hear this, but you've been given a gift, Mr. Blackwell." Her grin turned slightly lopsided and warned him that she was about to say something he wouldn't like. "And no, your gift is not an affable personality."
Kade's eyes flashed with impatience, but he remained silent.
She continued, "Your gift is your appearance. You are the most photogenic person I have ever met. And before you lash out at me about how much you could care less, let me tell you that being born attractive can be a curse, but it can also be a blessing. It becomes a curse when one is consumed by vanity, but it's a blessing for the person who understands his or her ability to make people smile—to lift them out of the mundane and into a world of fantasy, even if its only for the briefest of moments. As a model, you could appear in magazines, on book covers, possibly television and movies." She sucked a breath and continued, "We live in a world where escape into fantasy is a necessity for emotional survival. If I couldn't get away from my 'everyday problems'," she made quote marks with her fingers for emphasis, "and live in an alternate reality every now and again, I would go crazy." She paused and waited for his response.
For a second Kade was taken aback, then he said, "That's a crock and I want you to stop photographing me." For an instant he thought he saw hurt reflected in her eyes, and then she said low, "It's not a crock. But if you don't like that, how about this, you could make a butt load of money if you allowed me to photograph you."
Now Kade was even more pissed. "I wondered when it would come back to that. Does your whole world revolve around money, Ms. Rutherford?"
"Not at all. I have all I need. But you don't. Think of what you could do with it. How you could improve the lives of others."
"I may be disgusting,
but you're blind."
Romance on the Ranch Series
Rock Star Kisses
Stranded in Oasis
Branded in Oasis
Crashed in Oasis
*Abby: Mail Order Bride
*Gold Medal Winner Readers' Favorite International Book Contest
Finding Home Series
Cry of the West: Hallie
Rescue on the Rio: Lilah
Missouri Challenge: Daisy
Roth: Book One: Protector
Fawn: Book Two: Master
Davide: Book Three: Prince
YOUNG ADULT ROMANCE
(Verna Clay writing as Colleen Clay)
Abby: Mail Order Bride
Cry of the West: Hallie