Authors: Rita Herron
Tags: #Romance, #Physicians, #Fiction, #Contemporary, #General
HAVE BABY, NEED BEAU
can’t believe Hannah is actually married.” Mimi Hartwell gazed at the beautiful white ribbons and roses adorning the gazebo, drawing her finger across her neck in a slashing gesture. “Thank God it’s not me.”
Mimi’s younger sister, Alison, elbowed her in the side and laughed. “Mimi, you’re terrible! Hannah’s happier than I’ve ever seen her.”
“Yeah, but wait till the honeymoon’s over.”
Alison sighed dreamily. “The way the two of them were looking at each other during the ceremony, I think the honeymoon’s going to last a long time.”
Their father, Wiley, strutted forward and waved his arms like an air-traffic controller, his ruffled pink shirt and white shoes gleaming in the fading daylight, his chest puffed up with pride like a peacock. “All you single girls line up. It’s time for Hannah to throw the bouquet.”
Mimi blinked back tears at the joyous expression on her older sister’s face when Hannah crested the top of the hill, still wearing her grandmother’s wedding gown. In spite of the January temperature, which had steadily dropped all day, Hannah and Jake had pledged their vows earlier at her grandmother’s property on top of
. Wiley had actually toned down his usual outlandish penchant for publicity stunts and allowed Hannah a serene wedding, but the girls’ mother, whom they hadn’t seen in a decade, had surprised them with her sudden appearance. Hannah had been distant toward her, Alison nonchalant, and Mimi had simply tried to joke about her appearance—all of them ignoring the stab of pain they felt seeing her now after so many lost years. Mimi scanned the crowd to see if she’d joined the bouquet catchers, but didn’t spot her meticulously put-together mother anywhere.
A few nurses and doctors who worked with Hannah gathered to form a line. Even Grammy Rose jumped to the front and waved her bony hands as if she wanted to catch the cluster of red roses.
Alison jerked her arm. “Come on, Mimi. We have to get up front.”
Mimi dug her rose-colored heels into the grass, determined to steer clear of the superstitious wedding nonsense. “I’m not participating.”
“Look, I know you’re allergic to roses, but—”
“It’s not my allergy. But I’m never getting married, so there’s no reason to fight for the bouquet.”
“Listen, Mimi, just because Joey was arrested doesn’t mean you won’t find someone else. Someone better than him.”
Mimi winced at the reminder of her boyfriend, her ex-boyfriend, she amended silently. Boy, she sure could pick ‘em. Not only had she failed at this relationship thing, but she’d let her father down by dating a man who’d been stealing from him. Not that Wiley blamed her—
“Hurry up, ladies.” Wiley slapped his new son-in-law on the back. “The groom’s impatient to leave.”
Jake curved his brawny arm around Hannah, and a sheepish grin lit his face. “The weatherman’s predicting a snowstorm. We need to leave before the roads ice over.”
The guests laughed, not fooled at all by his statement.
“Come on.” Alison yanked Mimi’s arm again. “You know Hannah will throw the bouquet to one of us.”
Mimi held firm, laughing at Alison’s impatience. “Go on. Maybe you’ll be the next Hartwell to take the plunge.”
Alison frowned, but finally gave up and raced to the line just as Hannah tossed the arrangement over her shoulder. Shouts rang out across the lawn, laughter and squeals comingling. Mimi glanced sideways to see Seth, Hannah’s ex-fiancé, standing under Grammy’s big magnolia tree, his hands in his pockets, his expression slightly lost. She knew exactly how he felt. They had both been unlucky in love lately. Was Seth still hurting over Hannah?
Poor guy. If he wasn’t quite so uptight and knew how to have fun, she or Alison might be attracted to him. The man was definitely handsome, but… What was she thinking?
Even if he was incredibly handsome, the three sisters had an unspoken rule about not dating one another’s boyfriends. Ex-boyfriends included. Besides, Seth Broadhurst had been at her apartment when Joey’s arrest aired on TV—they had watched the horrid scene together. So humiliating.
The women squealed and one another in a good-natured attempt to catch the hurled bouquet. Mimi’s eyes widened as the thing sailed over their heads and soared straight toward her. Her first instinct was to run. But she didn’t have time—she reached out and yelped just before the bouquet smacked her in the face.
* * *
Seth Broadhurst laughed at the stunned expression on Mimi’s face as she clutched the bouquet. Mimi sneezed, then spun toward the women congratulating her on her luck. Looking panic-stricken, she tried to stuff the bouquet in Alison’s hands as if it was a live snake, rather than a cluster of beautiful roses. But Alison laughed and teased her, chanting, “Mimi’s getting married, Mimi’s getting married,” while the other women clapped. Wiley’s camera crew snapped pictures, capturing the moment to add to the litany of Hartwell news that had recently hit the papers.
Seth almost felt sorry for Mimi.
She looked ill at ease. Her ex-boyfriend’s recent arrest and the subsequent speculation about her possible criminal involvement had obviously affected her.
Wiley had defended his daughter to the end. Ever the entrepreneur, he’d turned the tables and used the publicity to his advantage in his used-car business. But Hannah’s new love, now Mimi’s brother-in-law, was the cop who’d arrested Joey, so the situation had to be awkward for Mimi. She and Seth hadn’t been close when he’d dated Hannah, but he sensed an innocence in Mimi that brought out his protective instincts. Although Mimi was impulsive, slightly scatterbrained and not quite as reliable as Hannah, he admired their closeness and would have hated to see a rift between the sisters.
As a psychiatrist, he should try to help Mimi.
Of course, becoming her therapist might pose a conflict of interest for him.
A strong breeze stirred the pine trees, and thick snowflakes began to fall, the whistle of the wind signaling the onset of the winter storm that had been predicted for the north-Georgia mountains. The guests suddenly dispersed, congratulations and hugs floating through the crowd as they hurried to leave. Seth spotted Trudy, one of the young physician’s assistants from the hospital heading in his direction. From the glint in her eye, the wedding had given her ideas of snagging her own man. Hoping to avoid being the target of her manhunt, he slid in among the crowd as they congregated to toss birdseed on the departing newlyweds. He’d try to catch a word with Mimi before he headed back to town. Then he’d be out of the Hartwell family’s lives for good.
Mimi stashed the bouquet in her grandmother’s refrigerator next to Grammy’s homemade muscadine wine, with a note asking her to preserve the arrangement for Hannah. This wedding hoopla made her nervous.
“Mimi, honey.” Grammy Rose’s thick, sturdy heels clicked on the hardwood floor intermittently with her hand-painted cane. “I was looking for you. I have something to give you before you leave.” Mimi closed the refrigerator door, expecting an assortment of handmade crocheted pot holders or some of her grandmother’s famous peach preserves, but instead, Grammy Rose grabbed her hand and dragged her to the parlor. Mimi was assaulted by memories at the sight of the antiques and family photos on the wall. Grammy pointed to a large, gold-embossed chest similar to the one she’d sent Hannah—the chest that had turned Hannah’s life upside down. Mimi’s stomach quivered.
“I have your hope chest ready, sweetheart. I want you to take it home today.”
Mimi gulped. First all the wedding hoopla. Then the bouquet. Now her hope chest. “But, Grammy, I … I’m not getting married.”
“Pshaw.” Her grandmother raised gnarled fingers to brush a strand of gray hair back into her bun. “Of course you’ll get married one day, dear.”
“No, I mean I’m
“Don’t be silly.” Her grandmother laughed. “You caught the bouquet today. You’re next in line.”
Mimi shook her head. “I’m not even dating anyone. And I just broke up with my boyfriend.”
“Why, honey, I knew that Joey boy was just a passing fancy. The right man will come along, you mark my words.”
“But I’m not looking for a husband, Grammy.”
Grammy completely ignored her protests. “You want me to get Wiley to help you put the chest in your car?”
“Or maybe we can carry it ourselves. We’re modern women, right?” Her grandmother bent to lift the chest, and Mimi imagined her precious grandmother’s fragile bones cracking and popping through her skin any minute.
She panicked and waved her away with a gentle hand. “No, Grammy. I’ll get Dad or Alison to help me.”
“All right.” Grammy Rose’s eyes twinkled in triumph. “I think Wiley wanted to leave right away on account of the storm,” Grammy continued. “Your mother already left.”
Mimi tried not to let that revelation upset her. Her mother hadn’t even said goodbye. Of course, what had she expected? A joyous reunion as if her mother hadn’t deserted them years ago? “Alison and I should get on the road, too.”
Alison strolled in, nibbling on a finger-size éclair. Mimi’s mouth fell open when she saw Seth Broadhurst behind her, looking like a lost puppy.
“Mimi, Dad’s car won’t start so he’s going to ride with us in the Jeep.”
Giddy laughter bubbled up inside Mimi. How ironic. A used-car salesman with a car that wouldn’t start.
She stared from her grandmother to her sister to Seth. Alison had just given her the perfect excuse. “Sure. Grammy, I’ll have to take the chest some other time.”
“Oh, honey, I did want you take it with you today.” Grammy clutched a hand to her chest as if she might be having the big one. Mimi had seen her grandmother fake the gesture so many times she almost laughed.
“But there’s no way we can fit all three of us and the chest in Alison’s Jeep,” Mimi said gently.
“I can give you a ride,” Seth offered.
All eyes swung to him. He leaned against the doorjamb, a Val Kilmer look-alike with his warm brown eyes and sandy-colored hair. His whole demeanor seemed steeped in sexuality, something she’d never noticed before. “I have my Lexus. There’s plenty of room in the trunk,” Seth said in a low voice.
Mimi stammered a refusal, uncomfortable with the idea of Seth and the hope chest being in close proximity of each other. Odd things had happened after Hannah had opened
“Thanks, Seth,” Alison said, answering for her. “Dad’s in a hurry.” Alison hugged her grandmother and strolled from the room, leaving Mimi with no choice but to accept the ride and take the hope chest with her.
But what the heck. Seth sounded so forlorn. He might be depressed about Hannah’s marriage. Maybe he needed some company. She’d cheer him up just like she did when she took in a stray dog.
* * *
“So, why didn’t you want to take the chest with you?” Seth asked as he hoisted the bulky wooden box.
Mimi caught the opposite end, the two of them shifting and juggling it sideways to fit through the front door. “What makes you think I didn’t want to take it?”