“You know I love you, but I love you more when you arrive with a Syrah,” I say as I grab a corkscrew, glasses, and some forks.
Arden winks. “We know you so well.”
We park ourselves at the book club ladies’ table, and I brandish the last slice of coconut cake they left for me. “Cake and wine time. Plus, it’s special cake.”
Tucking a strand of blonde hair over her ear, Arden asks, “Is it spiked?”
“Apparently, it makes everything taste better,” I tell her in a deliberately sultry voice.
“Ooh la la.” Arden laughs.
“I’ll just sit here enjoying my olives,” Perri says, presenting a small Tupperware container with her favorite salty green treats. She opens the bottle of wine and pours. “What are we toasting tonight? To spiked cake? Tasty, naughty things? Something else?”
I raise a glass. “To generally being awesome?”
She flashes a bright, big smile, her green eyes sparkling. “We are always awesome, so that is an excellent toast.”
Arden clears her throat. “Hello? How about we drink to the two-week countdown?”
I lift my glass higher and stare pointedly at Perri. “To you walking down the aisle in two more weeks.”
Arden joins in. “Yes, I am ridiculously excited. Winter Wonderland wedding, here we come.”
Perri smiles, something she does a lot when we talk about her wedding, the happy bitch. “Let’s hope the gods of snow dump at least three feet on Sugar Bowl,” she says, since she and Derek will spend their honeymoon days skiing down that mountain and their nights climbing, well, other mountains, I’m sure.
We clink glasses and catch up on wedding details as we drink and devour the cake and olives. I’ve got the honeymoon lodging handled. Next week I’m going up to my grandparents’ cabin at Sugar Bowl to make sure it’s ready for the lovebirds. I assure them my granddad will meet me there to help me, and then I segue to the critical issue.
I glance at each of them. “All right, kickass girls of Lucky Falls, what do you think about Jamie Sullivan?”
Arden’s brown eyes spark with curiosity. “As in the former prom king?”
I smile. “Jamie was quite a catch back in the day, wasn’t he? Seems he is now too. His stepmother wants to set me up with him. We actually had a video call for a few minutes earlier.”
“He’s great,” Perri says, jumping in. “Derek and I had dinner with him a few weeks ago, and I should arrest myself for not even thinking about setting you up with him.” She holds out her wrists as if for cuffing.
I chide her. “Well, really. My single-tude should be your foremost thought and not, you know, your pending wedding.”
“But seriously, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it,” Perri says, shaking her head.
“Why were you having dinner with Jamie Sullivan?” Arden asks.
“Derek’s sister and her husband are good friends with him. He’s a great guy. Friendly and funny—”
Just freezes mid-sentence.
“What’s wrong?” I make a keep rolling motion to get her to fill in the missing details. “He’s friendly, funny, and frumpy?”
Arden laughs. “That’s where your mind went?”
“It was alliterative. As a book shop owner, I thought you’d appreciate that.”
“How about he’s friendly, funny, and foxy? Maybe that’s a better one.”
I hum then concede her point as Perri recovers the power of speech, blurting out, “He’s friendly, funny, and coming to my wedding! You guys can get together then!”
I smile and take a drink.
And I like that idea for a lot of reasons. There’s only one fly in the ointment. “But don’t you think I should make sure Ella doesn’t mind?”
Arden blinks. “Why would your sister mind?”
“She crushed on him back in eighth grade,” I explain, grabbing my phone to tap out a text to my little sister.
Vanessa: Question: do you care if I go on a date with Jamie Sullivan?
Arden’s brows knit together as I show her the text. “Isn’t there a statute of limitations on crushes and claiming them?”
“I’m sure there is, but it’s still best to ask first, don’t you think?”
“And I bet Ella will be fine with it,” Perri says. “C’mon, the three of us taught her everything she knows about boys.”
Arden nods. “We done raised that girl right when it comes to appreciation of the male form.”
A few seconds later, my phone buzzes with a reply, and since I lapse into my accent with Ella in person, I always seem to hear her texts that way too.
Ella: He is HAWT.
Ella: And smart.
Ella: And, wait for it, NICE.
Vanessa: So that’s a keep-my-mitts-off-him warning, then?
Ella: Please. If someone is going to snag him, it might as well be a Marquez sister.
Vanessa: Love that sharing spirit.
Ella: You did teach me that sharing is caring. :)
Vanessa: So Jamie is on- rather than off-limits?
Ella: I’ll leave you with this. Gurrrrrl. Get on that, stat.
I show the screen to my friends.