“A glove’s important, Mom.”
“I know it is.”
“I really need a new one.”
Rachel didn’t doubt that. Josh was basically a good kid. He didn’t whine, he didn’t ask for a lot. His passions were simple—anything sports-related and the occasional computer game. That was it. Christmas and birthday presents revolved around whatever sport most had his interest. As they had for the past three years, spring and summer meant baseball.
Los Lobos didn’t have a Little League team, but there was a county league. Josh insisted they sign him up the first hour they could, something she was happy to do. He was eleven—she figured she had all of two, maybe three years before he became a raging male hormone and then all bets were off.
“Dad said he would buy it for me but I had to check with you first.”
At least she was driving and had an excuse not to look at Josh. Because she couldn’t—not without him seeing the rage in her eyes. Damn Greg, she thought bitterly. Of course he could afford to buy his son a new glove. Greg only had himself to worry about.
Her ex-husband made a good living as a Los Lobos county firefighter. He also had excellent medical benefits—something she’d lost after the divorce. Even more annoying, his schedule was a ridiculous twenty-four hours on, twenty-four hours off for six days, followed by four days off. Which gave him plenty of time to play, and play he did. Add in the fact that he’d moved back home with his folks, so he basically had no living expenses, and the man was swimming in both cash and time.
Don’t think about it, she instructed herself. Dwelling on how good Greg had it only made her angrier. She had to remember that the man paid his child support on time. That was something. But as for the rest of it—she couldn’t help resenting how easy he had it.
Yes, she did well at the salon. She was able to support herself and her son. The child support covered the mortgage, and she paid for everything else. But it wasn’t like there was a bunch of extra cash at the end of the month. She was doing her best to build up an emergency fund and keep current on household repairs. There wasn’t anything left over for things like baseball gloves.
When she was sure she could speak in a happy, excited tone, she said, “Go for it, Josh. You need a new glove. It’s great that your dad can afford to get it. Do you already know what you want or do you need to do some research?”
“I know exactly what I need.” And he was off, describing the glove down to the kind of stitching.
Oh, to be that young and innocent, she thought with regret. To trust that everything was going to turn out the way it was supposed to. To believe in happily-ever-after.
She’d been that way, once. She’d had hopes and dreams—mostly of finding her handsome prince. And when she’d laid eyes on Greg, she’d known, just known, he was the one. Back then everyone had believed he was the one. Greg had been the guy every girl wanted.
And she’d been the one to get him—right up until he’d cheated on her.
She turned the corner, then pulled into Lena’s driveway. Josh was out of the car before she’d come to a full stop.
“Bye, Mom. See you later.”
He ran into the house without bothering to knock. She was still shaking her head when her friend Lena appeared on the porch. Lena turned back to kiss her husband, then hurried to the car. She got inside and waved the bag she held.
“Great cheese and dark chocolate. Am I good to you or what?”
“You’re the best,” Rachel told her. “Thanks for coming over tonight. I could use some girl time.”
“Me, too. Tell me the wine is red.”
“It’s red and there are two bottles.”
She and Lena had been friends since elementary school. They were physical opposites—Lena was petite and curvy, with brown hair and dark eyes. Rachel was taller and blond.
They’d played together, dreamed together, and when they’d grown up, they’d been each other’s maids of honor. They’d married young and then had sons within a few months of each other. But things were different now. Lena and Toby were still happily together.
“What?” her friend asked. “You’re looking fierce.”
“Nothing. I’m fine. Just the usual crap.”
Rachel sighed. “Yes. Josh needs a new glove and his dad is going to buy it for him.”
Her friend didn’t say anything.
Rachel turned onto her street. “I know what you’re thinking. I should be grateful he’s an involved father. That the extra money he has could be spent on women and drinking, but he spends it on his kid.”
“You’re doing all the talking.”
Rachel pulled into her driveway. “I just wish…”
“That a really big rock would fall on him?”
She smiled. “Maybe not that, but something close.”
Because it was Greg’s fault their marriage had failed. He’d chosen to have a one-night stand with a tourist. She’d known the second she’d seen him—had guessed what he’d done. He hadn’t tried to deny it, and that had been that. Her marriage had ended.
When they got back to Rachel’s they poured wine. Rachel eyed the beautiful wedge of brie and knew there had to be maybe five thousand calories in that chunk of soft goodness, and she honestly couldn’t care. Had she put on weight lately? Probably, but so what? Her clothes still fit, at least the loose ones did. She worked hard and deserved to reward herself. It wasn’t as if she had anyone to look good for.
She sipped her wine and knew that the right response was that she needed to look good for herself. That she was worth it and all those other stupid platitudes. That if she wanted to feel better, she had to take better care of herself. All of which didn’t get the laundry washed or the bathrooms cleaned.
“You need to get over him.”
Lena’s comment was so at odds with what Rachel had been thinking that it took her a second to figure out what her friend was saying.
“Greg? I am. We’ve been divorced nearly two years.”
“You might be legally divorced, but emotionally you’re still enmeshed.”
Rachel rolled her eyes. “Did you have too much waiting time in a doctor’s office? Did you read some women’s magazine? Enmeshed? No one actually uses that word.”
“You just did.”
Rachel made a strangled noise in her throat. “I don’t want to think about him,” she admitted. “I want to move on with my life.”
“Find a man? Fall in love?”
A lie, she thought, but one her friend would want to hear. Fall in love? She couldn’t imagine going out with someone who wasn’t Greg. He’d been her first date, her first time, her first everything. The world still divided itself neatly into Greg and not Greg. How was she supposed to get over that?
“You’re so lying,” Lena said cheerfully. “But I appreciate that you’re making the effort to humor me.”
“I want to move on,” Rachel admitted. “I just don’t know how. Maybe if I could get away from him. But with us having Josh together, there’s no escape.”
“You could move.”
The suggestion was spoken in a soft voice, as if Lena knew what Rachel would think. Rachel did her best to remain calm when on the inside she wanted to start shrieking.
Move? Move! No way. She couldn’t. She loved her house. She needed her house and all it represented. It was proof that she was okay. She would take a second job to pay for the house, if she had to.
None of which made sense. She understood that. She also knew she was reacting to a traumatic event in her childhood—the death of her father and the fact that the family had been forced out of their house a few months later.
Rachel remembered hating everything about living at the Los Lobos Hotel. Looking back she knew she should be grateful that they’d been taken in, that they hadn’t had to live in a shelter. But she couldn’t get over the shock and pain the day she’d come home from school to find her mother sobbing that they’d lost everything and it was her father’s fault. She’d been so scared. Daddy was dead—how could he continue to be in trouble?
When she’d been older she’d realized their father hadn’t been a bad man—just financially careless. There hadn’t been any life insurance, no savings.
When she and Greg had married, she’d been focused on buying a house. They’d been young and it had been a financial struggle, especially with a baby, but they’d made it. This was her home—she was never leaving.
But the price of that was living with the ghosts of her lost marriage. Greg’s memory still lingered in every room.
“Maybe I could get someone to do a spiritual cleansing of the house. With sage. And salt. Do you need salt?”
Lena briefly closed her eyes. “I love you like my best friend.”
“I am your best friend.”
“I know, so please understand why I’m saying this. The problem isn’t the house, Rachel. It’s you. And there isn’t enough sage or salt in the world to get you over Greg. You’re going to have to decide once and for all to emotionally move on. Until you do, you’re trapped. Forever.”
The truth, however lovingly delivered, could still hurt like a son of a bitch.
Rachel blinked a couple of times, then reached for the wine. “We’re so going to need another bottle.”
With Joy, Love, and a Little Trepidation
Courtney, Sienna and Rachel Invite You
To the Most Emotional Wedding of the Year…
~ The Misfit ~
As the awkward one, Courtney Watson may not be as together as her sisters, but she excels at one thing—keeping secrets, including her white-hot affair with a sexy music producer. Planning Mom’s wedding exposes her startling hidden life, changing her family’s view of her—and how she views herself—forever.
~ The Free Spirit ~
When Sienna’s boyfriend proposes—in front of her mom and sisters, for crying out loud—he takes her by surprise. She already has two broken engagements under her belt. Should she say “I do” even if she’s not sure she does?
~ The Cynic ~
Rachel thought love would last forever…right up until her divorce. As Mom’s wedding day draws near and her ex begs for a second chance, she’s forced to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths about why her marriage failed, and decide if she’ll let pride stand in the way of her own happily ever after.
A must-read for anyone who has survived the wedding of a sister, a mother, a daughter—as told by #1 New York Times bestselling author and master storyteller Susan Mallery!
Romance Contemporary [HQN, On Sale: July 12, 2016, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9780373789719 / eISBN: 9781460394359]
About Susan Mallery
Susan Mallery is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—romance, friendship, family. With compassion and humor, Susan keenly observes how people think and feel, in stories that take readers on an emotional journey. Sometimes heartbreaking, often funny, and always uplifting, Susan’s books have spent more than 200 weeks on the USA Today bestsellers list, thanks to her ever growing legions of fans.
Susan lives in Seattle with her husband, two ragdoll cats, and a tattletale toy poodle. Animals play a big role in her books, as well, as she believes they’re an integral component to a happy life.