“Besides the fact that he’s GQ material?” Dora asked. Carson hooted in response. “I mean, heavens above, how is a man like that a minister? And not married?”

“He can get married,” Carson told her.

“Then why hasn’t someone snatched him up?” Dora speared another piece of lettuce. “Anyway, I like him. He seems like real folk. Plus he’s a friend of Mamaw’s. There’s something about him that makes him so easy to talk to. Do you feel that?”

“Very much so,” Carson acknowledged.

Dora swung her head to check out Harper. “How about you?”

“Oh, sure, I like him, too.” Her voice was flat.

“You okay?” Dora asked her, her voice laden with concern. “You’re awful quiet over there, Little Mouse.”

Harper smiled, hearing the old nickname her sisters used to call her. “Yes.” She paused, then shook her head. “No.”

“What’s going on?” Carson asked.

Harper picked up her knife and idly started tracing lines on the tablecloth. “How do you two come down on the subject of prenups?”

Carson and Dora both sat back and exchanged a quick, commiserating glance. “I don’t like them,” Carson said firmly, right off the bat. “If you’re making the decision to get married, for better or for worse, richer or poorer, tossing in a prenup is kind of like you saying, ‘But just in case, I’m throwing in a safety net. For me.’?”

“That’s easy for you and me to say,” Dora said. “Neither of us has any great fortune to protect. We’re just looking to make a life together with the person we love. But Harper does. A prenuptial agreement is important for people like her who have to protect multimillion-dollar financial interests. And not just money, but her family estate. Things that have been in her family for generations. And ours! Let me remind you, Harper owns Sea Breeze now. God forbid, what if she dies young? The house would go to Taylor. It would fall out of the family.”

“Taylor’s a good guy,” Harper said defensively. “He would never do anything untoward. Especially with a baby. He’d have a family to think about no matter what.”

“All true. But he’s also young,” Dora reasoned. “And hot. He’d get married again. And he and his pretty new wife would have children. On his death, or divorce, Sea Breeze would be out of the family.”

“Damn,” said Carson, appearing worried for the first time. “I didn’t think of that.”

“Most brides don’t,” said Dora. “Let me tell you, I wish I’d signed one with Cal. We didn’t have a pot to pee in, but we both promised the other that, if we ever got divorced, we’d split the money up even-steven, but he would keep his family antiques and I would keep mine. It made sense we’d want those pieces that were part of our histories. Sentimental, you know? But lo and behold, once Cal figured out how much some of my pieces were worth compared to his during our divorce, he got the lawyers to claim all as community property. That’s how I lost some of my furniture, my silver, and my art. I only wish I had the money to buy them back. Just saying, you don’t know how nasty divorces can get.” Dora picked up her wineglass. “Like they say, ‘Marriage is grand. Divorce is fifty grand.’?” With that she swallowed down the rest of her wine.

Harper appeared troubled. “I hear what you’re saying and see the sense in it. But I feel like asking for a prenup is saying to Taylor that I don’t trust him.”

“I think you can make your prenup about anything you want it to be. My Lord”—Dora giggled—“you’d be surprised what some prenups include. I heard of things such as how often you have sex, too much weight gain, housekeeping chores, who gets the pets.”

“That’s horrible.” Harper’s face reflected her feeling. “Why are they even getting married? Seems like they’re entering nothing more than a contractual agreement.”

“That’s what marriage is,” Carson reminded her. “A contractual agreement. Legally binding. If you don’t want a prenup, you could always opt for cohabitation.”

“No.” Harper shook her head. “That seems so lacking in commitment. I want to marry Taylor and be his wife. I love him and my child, and I want us to be a family.” Tears started filling her eyes.

“Spoken like a bride,” Dora said with a hint of warning.

“Aw, honey, don’t let this upset you.” Carson reached across the table to put her hand over Harper’s.

“She’s right, honey. And for what it’s worth, my backwoods beliefs about prenups is that it’s no big deal. It’s like prearranging anything, even your funeral. Which, girls, you should both do. ’Cause remember, the reality is that up to fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. And of those that don’t, one hundred percent end in death.”

“And on that happy note”—Carson put her napkin on the table—“we have to scoot. As you’re so fond of telling me, there is so much to do. We picked up the rings, nailed the venues and the bands. But now you have to put ‘get a lawyer’ on your to-do list.” She snorted when she saw the dismay on Harper’s face.

“Oh my God, look at the time,” Dora said, checking her watch. “We’re supposed to meet the grandmothers at the bridal salon at two. It’s nearly two now.”

Harper pulled out her wallet. “Tell you what, I’ll pay the bill to save time.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Carson said, reaching for her wallet.

“Done!” Harper flagged down the waitress and handed her a credit card.

“I’ll pay you back,” said Dora, rising to her feet. “You know what they say. When women have problems or get depressed, they eat or go shopping. We did both.”

Carson piled some cash on the table for a tip. “Men invade a country.”

Dora smiled. “Well I, for one, would rather do the former. Less mess and way more fun.”

Feeling buoyed by the luncheon, the girls walked to King Street to the bridal salon where Harper was scheduled for a fitting of the wedding dress she’d ordered months earlier. They plowed past the afternoon crowds and one tempting boutique after another, not daring to stop at a window if they were going to arrive in time for their appointment. When they arrived at the small white door of LulaKate on King Street, they pushed through the door, feeling as if they were gaining exclusive entrance. Mamaw and Granny James were already there, sipping flutes of champagne and looking quite relaxed.


Tags: Mary Alice Monroe Lowcountry Summer Romance
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