Carson went over to put her hand on his shoulder. “He’s our brother.”

Granny James sniffed and said archly, “It figures.” But her eyes held mirth.

Mamaw clapped her hands. “Ladies! We have plenty of time to rehash all this later. Right now we’ve more work to do than I can shake a stick at. Let’s get back to business, shall we?”

In the flurry of activity, Mamaw drew Atticus aside. “I’m so happy it’s all out in the open. At last. I was such a ninny to suggest it in the first place. Now I can shout out to the world that you’re my grandson. I’m so very proud of you.”

He smiled warmly. “The truth will set you free.” He noted with some concern that she appeared tired and drawn. Her eyes didn’t shine with their usual brightness. “Are you feeling all right? Are you truly okay about all this?”

“Me, oh, I’m just tired.” Mamaw sighed. “But one is only as happy as her least happy child.” She looked toward the door. “Dora’s left. She just got a text from Devlin. He’s not coming to the dinner tomorrow night. I don’t think he’s coming to the weddings, either.”

“The hell he isn’t.” Atticus bent to kiss her cheek. “Hold down the fort, I’ll be right back.” He squeezed her hands.

Atticus hurried from the room, unnoticed by all save Mamaw. This late in the afternoon most of the worker bees had left to return tomorrow morning. The house was quiet as he rushed through the rooms.

“Powwow over?” Taylor asked as Atticus came upon him in the kitchen. He was standing at the counter, making himself a sandwich.

“Yes, for now. Hey, you okay with the wedding switch?”

“What wedding switch?”

“Ah,” Atticus said, quickly backpedaling. “You might want to check in with your fiancée. There’s news afoot.”

“What now?” Taylor asked warily.

“How do you feel about a plantation wedding instead of a beach wedding?”

Taylor snorted. “You had me going there for a minute. As long as I don’t switch brides.” His laugh quieted and he said sincerely, “I fell in love with Harper the moment I saw her. Hit me like a thunderbolt. There’s no one else for me. Harper just has to tell me where to show up and at what time and I’m there. I’m marrying her, and whether it’s at a beach or under some tree, what the hell do I care? And for the record, I’m betting Blake feels the same about Carson.”

“Good man.” Atticus tapped the doorframe. “You seen Dora?”

“Yeah. She just grabbed her purse and headed out.”

Cursing under his breath, Atticus picked up his pace as he ran out the front door, in time to see Dora’s car slowly backing out. He darted down the stairs and rounded her car to stand in front and slap his palm down on the hood.

Dora braked with a jerk. “What the heck are you doing?” she called out, shocked. “You could’ve gotten yourself killed!”

Atticus hurried to her door and opened it. “Come on out, Dora. You’re not going anywhere until we sort things through.”

She sat looking out the windshield. “You and I have nothing to sort out.”

“But you and Devlin do.”

She shot him a guarded glance. “What do you know about me and Devlin?”

“I know that you’re about to make the biggest mistake of your life.” Her eyes flashed but he pressed on. “Dora, let’s talk. Just for a minute.”

Dora slid her hands from the steering wheel and nodded. “Okay,” she said reluctantly.

Atticus noticed her SEA BREEZE BRIDES shirt, stained now with dirt from the plants. “Nice T-shirt.”

She tugged at the hem of the blue shirt. “You’re the only one that thinks so. I’m the only one wearing it.”

“Everyone got caught short today. Your sisters will wear the shirts tomorrow.”

“You mean our sisters, don’t you?”

He smiled. “Our sisters,” he corrected himself, feeling the impact of the moment. “By the way, it was nice seeing you be the older sister up there. You have a lot of strength.”

She seemed surprised by the compliment. “Thanks. Lucille once called me the rock. I forget that sometimes.”

“I wish I could have known her.”

“You would have loved her. We all did.”

There followed an awkward silence. Dora lifted her hands to the steering wheel. Her fingers tapped it; she was clearly nervous.

Atticus got right to the point. “So tell me why Devlin isn’t coming to the weddings.”

Dora didn’t question how he’d heard the news. “He says he can’t.”

“Can’t why?”

“He says he can’t pretend anymore. He can’t pretend he’s part of the family when I won’t let him be.”

“Because you won’t marry him.”

She nodded. “Right.”

“Dora, why won’t you marry him? I’m new here and even I can tell you two should be married.”

“I’m not ready. I have to feel settled first. Find a new place to live. Sell the house in Summerville—”

“That sounds like a to-do list, not reasons not to get married,” Atticus interrupted. “You demanded honesty from your sisters a little while ago. And honesty from me. So I’m going to demand that same honesty from you now. Do you love him?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want to marry him?”

“Yes—someday.”

“There is no someday, Dora. There’s now, or I’m guessing never.”

Her lips tightened and she looked down at her hands.

“You want to know what I hear? I hear you give a lot of reasons why you can’t get married. I hear you being cautious and practical . . . and selfish.”

“Selfish?”

“Yes, selfish. While you’re compiling that long list of things you want to get done before you get married, have you ever stopped to ask yourself what Devlin might want? What he might be feeling?”

Dora didn’t answer, but she had a haunted expression.

“Devlin’s a good man. Ask yourself—honestly—if any of your reasons are worth losing him. And if your answer is what I think it will be, stop procrastinating and go after him.”


Tags: Mary Alice Monroe Lowcountry Summer Romance
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