Read The Good Daughter Online

Authors: Jane Porter

Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women

The Good Daughter (11 page)

BOOK: The Good Daughter
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“I won’t say anything to anyone,” Fiona promised.

“Me either,” Polly said, meeting Kit’s gaze, “but I wouldn’t be a real friend if I didn’t tell you I’m concerned, and that I don’t think it’s a good idea. At least not yet.”

“Not yet?” Kit echoed.

Polly reached for the bottle on the table and topped off her and Fiona’s glasses. “I know you want a family, Kit, but this isn’t the way to go about it, and I can’t help but think your family wouldn’t be happy.”

“At least not your mum and dad,” Fiona said. “They might be Americans but they’re very Irish. They want you to be a mum, but they’ll want it done properly. You know, a man, church wedding, all of that.”

Kit set her wine down untouched. There was no way she could drink when she was so upset. “But there’s not going to be a man or a church wedding—”

“Not if you’re off adopting kids like Angelina Jolie!” Polly interrupted. “Most men aren’t like Brad Pitt. They don’t want to raise someone else’s child.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Kit snapped

“It’s not ridiculous. It’s true. Most men don’t want a ready-made family. I saw it happen time and again with my mom, and it hurt her badly. She had me but she was still lonely. And can’t you see, Kit, that I don’t want that for you?”

“I’m trying to be practical,” Kit said hoarsely.

“But raising a child on your own isn’t all that practical,” Fiona said gently. “It’d be a hardship financially, and you’d always be torn between wanting to be home and having to work.”

“Lots of women raise children on their own.”

“True. But you’re not lots of women,” Polly retorted. “You’re you. And you’re traditional and sentimental and hopelessly romantic. And this might come as a shock, Kit, but I actually love that about you. So don’t give up on your dreams. Life’s full of surprises. Let me introduce you to some nice guys. Go out on a few dates. Mr. Wonderful might be just around the corner—”

“I’ve got a date for next Saturday,” Kit interrupted. “Happy?”

Polly and Fiona exchanged glances.

“You really do?” Polly asked.

Kit frowned. “Yes.”

Fiona bounced on the sofa. “Why didn’t you tell us?”

“Because I didn’t want you two getting all excited.” Kit glared harder. “Like you are. So stop it.”

Fiona couldn’t help bouncing again. “Tell us about him. Do we know him?”

“You’ve met him. Michael Dempsey.” She saw his name meant nothing to them. “Jon Coleman’s friend from Z’s.”

Polly’s eyes widened. Fiona’s eyebrows arched.

Kit shrugged. “He called me last week, asked me out. I said yes, but I’m so tempted to cancel—”

“Don’t cancel.” Fiona’s glass thudded on the table. “Go out with him. And if he’s not right, don’t get discouraged. Keep dating. Be positive. That’s what you always told me.”

Polly was nodding. “She’s right, Kit. Stay positive. Stay open to whatever possibilities are out there, because the truth is, even if you adopt a baby, you’re still going to want more. You’re going to want a man…someone to be that partner, husband, lover, and father to your child. The need for that relationship isn’t going to go away. You were never meant to be a single mom.”

Eight

K
it didn’t cancel her date. And when Michael called the following Thursday to confirm their plans for Saturday night, she reminded herself that dates were good things, and that she needed to keep an open mind

Kit forced a cheerful note into her voice as she told him she was looking forward to their date Saturday.

He said he was glad. He hadn’t stopped thinking about her all week.

There’d been a time when Kit would have embraced such a compliment, savoring the promise, building expectations. She didn’t anymore. And she couldn’t blame her date with Parker. She’d always been cautious around men. Maybe that’s why she’d moved in with Richard after she met him. He’d felt safe. Nonthreatening.

She’d liked that he wasn’t passionate, hotheaded, emotional. He wouldn’t snap and hurt her. Wouldn’t lash out or play games or manipulate her.

And it’d been a good relationship. At least in the beginning. But as the years went on, Kit wondered if she’d sold herself short. Because a relationship without passion…a relationship based on convenience…didn’t feel like much of a relationship at all.

“So I’ll pick you up at six,” Michael said, dragging Kit’s attention back to their conversation, “since our reservation’s for six-thirty at Millennium. I just need your address.”

“I was thinking I would just meet you at the restaurant,” Kit said, “as I need my car. I’m heading to my parents’ house after dinner.”

“Your parents?” he repeated.

“My mom’s not well,” she explained, wondering if she was imagining the sudden chill in his voice. Was he offended that she wanted to drive herself to Millennium? Or was she projecting? “So after dinner I’m going to her house to be with her for the rest of the weekend.”

“She has no one else to take care of her?”

“My dad’s there, but he needs breaks.”

“What’s wrong with her?”

Kit opened her mouth but for some reason couldn’t bring herself to talk about Mom’s cancer. “She’s…ill. Has been dealing with something for a couple of years.” And then before he could ask any more questions, she changed the subject to sports, and the play-off game on Sunday. Michael liked talking sports and then he segued into his work and traveling. Kit was content to let him carry the conversation and then they were saying good-bye.

Hanging up, Kit felt a flutter of nerves. Dating was so not her thing. But Michael seemed nice enough and Millennium was one of San Francisco’s most elegant and romantic restaurants. Best of all, her parents’ house was just a short drive from Union Square.

W
ith the semester ending next week, Kit had a lot of work to do, including mountains of student journals to read and lengthy essays to grade for her junior and senior AP English classes. She spent Friday reading essays and then continued Saturday morning, hoping to be done by noon. Instead, she was still hunched over the kitchen table at four-thirty, her hand cramped from hours of writing in her tiniest handwriting in the margins of the paper.

Catching sight of the time, Kit threw down her red pen and gave up grading for the day. She gathered her work and computer into her leather satchel to take to her parents’ house with her tonight and then headed to her room to pack pajamas and clothes for Sunday Mass.

With her overnight bag ready, Kit showered and dressed for her date. She did her hair and makeup without thinking too much about the evening, slicking her dark red curls into a smooth ponytail and adding big gold hoops to her ears. Dark eyeliner, mascara, nude lips. She’d dressed up to give her confidence and then she shied away from thinking about the night. No need to psych herself out.

In the car, she tried not to fret about traffic. It was heavier than she expected approaching the Bay Bridge. She told herself it’d lighten up once she made it past the tollbooths, and even if it didn’t, she’d be fine, as she’d grown up here, learned to drive on the city’s steep hills, between buses, cabs, cable cars, and jaywalking pedestrians. Dad had made sure Kit—like the rest of his children—knew all the side streets and less traveled routes and could navigate San Francisco any time of year whether there was sun, rain, or fog. And with Tom Brennan for your father, you couldn’t help but love this city. This was his city. His lover. His mistress.

And it was ironic, Kit thought, dodging city buses in her little white Prius, that she needed cool, unemotional men when her father’s strong convictions and passion for life had shaped her, coloring her world, giving it definition, meaning.

Luck was with her tonight and Kit found parking just a block off Geary. Locking her car, she dashed to the restaurant, the heels of her black boots clicking against the pavement, her bright coral-red cashmere scarf flung casually about her neck, her camel wool coat open over her black knit dress. She skipped between cars as she crossed the street, too impatient to wait at a corner.

Michael was already at the restaurant when she arrived. She found him waiting on the curb, his hands in his trouser pockets. He was looking away from her, his gaze fixed on a point across the street. He’d dressed for dinner, too, in a civilized, crisp white button-down shirt and chinos. His dark blond hair was shorter, now cropped close to his head.

He turned at the sound of her footsteps. His narrowed gaze swept over her, from her dark auburn ponytail to the gold hoops in her ears and down to the hem of her black knit dress where it hit two inches above the top of her black knee-high boots.

He smiled appreciatively. “Very sexy.”

She blushed and tugged on her coat. “Everybody wears black in the city.”

“All I know is that your students are lucky. I never had a teacher look like you.”

She shook her head, aware that she was blushing all over again, but it went with the red hair and sprinkling of freckles. “Hope I haven’t kept you waiting long.”

“Just a few minutes,” he said. “Did you have trouble finding parking?”

“I found a spot around the corner. How about you?”

“I valeted it. But I still think I should have picked you up. Would have given me someone to talk to in all that traffic. Why so much traffic for a Saturday night?”

“There was a lot of traffic tonight. Probably a Warriors game or something.”

He reached for the front door and held it open for her. “So you’re staying at your mom’s house tonight?”

“Yes.” She began unbuttoning her coat as she entered the restaurant foyer. “I try to stay with her a couple weekends a month. We go to Mass on Sundays and have breakfast. It’s become our tradition.”

Michael gave his name to the hostess, who said their table was almost ready.

“Have you eaten here before?” he asked as they waited to be seated.

“No. But my oldest sister, Meg—a total foodie—loves it. The winery she used to work for did an event here and she said it’s an upscale French bistro with environmental sensibilities. But I had no idea what that meant.”

“I do. Apparently they’re all about sustainability. The food, as well as the design. I was reading up on the restaurant online and the aged fishnet chandeliers are actually paper sacks, and the curtains were woven from recycled plastic bags. Even the upholstery is faux leather to be cruelty-free.”

“How knowledgeable.”

“I did my homework.”

“That is impressive.”

“What’s the song…‘Hot for Teacher’?”

She tensed, incredibly uncomfortable when he said things like that. Perhaps he thought he was being funny or charming, but she found it offensive. But then, Kit seemed to find most men offensive these days. Clearly, she had a problem. Clearly, she needed to lighten up. It was ridiculous to take every compliment and twist it into something dark and insidious. “Don’t know that one,” she said lightly.

“I’ll sing it for you, then.”

“Mm, don’t. Otherwise I’ll have to sing one for you.”

“And what would you sing for me?”

Her nose wrinkled as she struggled to think of a song she actually knew the lyrics to. “‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’?”

“Yikes. No, thank you.”

The hostess was before them, menus in her hand. “I can seat you now,” she said, smiling directly at Michael, giving him her most dazzling smile.

Kit was amused, but not surprised. Michael was handsome. The hostess clearly liked him, and for some reason this relieved Kit, and she exhaled, relaxing, as they threaded their way through the restaurant’s warm, handsome interior.

They were seated along the back wall, where the tables covered with long white cloths were close together. Kit slipped into the booth side and she watched Michael sit. He was a big man, well over six feet, with broad shoulders, and he drew attention as he sat down, both men and women glancing at him as he took the chair opposite hers.

“Would you prefer a cocktail or a bottle of wine?” he asked, reaching for a menu.

“I’ll probably just have a glass of wine.”

“Not a cocktail?”

“No. I’m a lightweight and I’m driving, so one glass of wine and that’s it.”

“But I understand the cocktails are really good here.” Michael was smiling, his expression friendly and easy. “And one cocktail won’t hurt you.”

She hesitated, annoyed, and then aware that maybe she was getting her back up over nothing, relented, and scanned the cocktail menu. Her gaze settled on a house cocktail called Zots, made with pomegranate juice, lemon juice, muddled cucumber, and tarragon. It wasn’t what she normally ordered, but when the glamorous ruby drink arrived at the table, she was glad she’d ordered it.
It was a beautiful drink in a beautiful restaurant, and she sat back, determined to enjoy herself this evening.

Michael kept the conversation going during their starters. “You’re close to your family?” he asked as they shared an oyster appetizer.

Kit dabbed her mouth with her napkin. “Very.”

“You mentioned your sister Meg earlier. She lives in Napa?”

“Santa Rosa, but she used to work for a Napa winery.”

“Is she single, too?”

“No. She’s been married for eighteen years. Has three kids.” Kit sipped her tangy cocktail. “She has great kids. Love them to bits.”

“You dote on your nieces and nephews?

“I do.”

“Is that because you don’t have any children of your own?”

“Well, that, and my nieces and nephews are some of the best people in the world and I love them dearly.”

“So is all your family here in California?”

“No. One sister is in Africa, and the other is in Florida. Sarah’s the one in Florida and she’s married to a baseball player.”

“Baseball, as in professional baseball?”

She nodded. “Boone’s with the Rays now—”

“You don’t mean Boone Walker?”

“You’ve heard of him?”

“Of course. He was a first baseman with the Houston Astros. A great player.”

“I’m partial, but then he’s my brother-in-law.”

“Nice.”

She nodded again, proud of Boone. “He’s in the final year of his contract with Tampa Bay. It’ll be interesting to see if they renew his contract or if he’ll be going somewhere else.”

BOOK: The Good Daughter
2.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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