“Good Morning, Grace.”
Grace gaped and slowed on the porch steps of Brewster’s. The other half of her child’s DNA sat across from Pops. Ethan in his worn boots, faded flannel shirt and baseball cap smiled at her, stirring warmth through her. He returned his attention to the chessboard as if he’d been playing with her grandfather for years. As if this was their morning routine. As if he belonged here on this porch, waiting for her.
Waiting for her to confess.
Grace’s hand drifted to her stomach, her slight bump concealed beneath her jacket. Why did the truth have to be so complicated?
Still she couldn’t quite stall that swirl of warmth inside her from seeing Ethan.
She should be hot from irritation. She should be annoyed with Ethan for intruding on her usual morning routine. She always shared coffee and stories with her grandfather before the store opened. Before the other employees arrived. Before the customers took over the day.
Except this morning, they were a trio, rather than a duo. What was it with people inserting themselves where they didn’t belong? First, there was Sarah Ashley trying to step into the family business for the first time ever, and now, Ethan.
Was it so wrong that Grace wanted one thing to remain the same? To remain normal? In six months, nothing about her life would be either. But she could at least have her usual mornings with Pops, couldn’t she? Surely that wasn’t too much to ask.
“Sit down, Gracie.” Pops pointed at the empty rocking chair beside Ethan. The same one she sat in every morning while she listened to Pops reminisce about her grandmother or his childhood. “Your Ethan here, he already took care of your morning chores for you.” He eyed Ethan over the rims of his glasses and grinned. “Can’t ever get this girl to sit. But I got her good this morning, thanks to you.”
“I can make more coffee.” Ethan’s hand was on a stack of file folders. He glanced at her, and his guarded tone suggested he thought she needed several cups to tackle the Blackwell books.
“I’ve been making the effort to switch to tea.” Grace reached inside her purse for her special ginger tea. She was going to need to steep more than one bag this morning. Sitting next to Ethan was unsettling. She cleared her throat to smooth the accusation out of her voice and looked at him. “You’re up early.”
“Trying to get some errands done before Katie notices I’ve left.” Ethan placed a hand on his white knight and started to move the piece, but then paused to consider the chessboard as if everything hinged on this one particular move.
Whereas for Grace, everything hinged on her baby and keeping her stomach from objecting to the morning’s excitement. Would Ethan expect her to say checkmate when she told him about the baby? As if she’d neatly trapped him into being a dad. And what about marriage? She didn’t want Ethan to offer to marry her because she was carrying his child. But would he believe her?
“Keeping ahead of Katie Montgomery is almost as impossible as staying a step ahead of our Gracie.” Pops stuck his elbows out and leaned on his knees, as if anticipating Ethan’s move. As if Ethan proved a challenge to her grandfather. Ethan shifted his knight, taking Pops’s bishop. Pops rubbed his chin. “Sometimes you get lucky.”
Maybe Grace would get lucky and Ethan would confess he’d always wanted to be a father and couldn’t think of another person he wanted to have a child with other than Grace. The tea bag crinkled in her fist. What a ridiculous thought.
Only fools relied on luck.
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About the Author
Cari Lynn Webb lives in South Carolina with her husband, daughters and assorted four-legged family members. She’s been blessed to see the power of true love in her grandparent’s 70 year marriage and her parent’s marriage of over 50 years. She knows love isn’t always sweet and perfect, it can be challenging, complicated and risky. But she believes happily-ever-afters are worth fighting for. She loves to connect with readers. Visit her at her website.
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