Saturday, May 9, 2009

Chapter One

Dawn pulled her broken down, green Ford into the parking space in front of a big Victorian house. After turning off the engine, she turned to get her bags. The last day of school was always interesting. As much as she loved teaching, Dawn was looking forward to a nice quiet summer vacation. Getting out of the car, she put her purse on her shoulder and turned back to muscle the box out of the back seat. The front door of the house opened and someone started coming down the sidewalk at a trot.

"Dawn!" Claudia yelled almost on top of Dawn before she could react. "I missed you so much!"

After a quick hug, Dawn finally got a chance to ask. "How did you get here?"

They hadn't seen each other since Claudia and Austin's wedding six months ago. Claudia had been adjusting to married life and Dawn had been busy with her teaching.

"We brought everybody," Claudia bubbled happily. "Kristy's brother and his wife bought a house up in Maine. They need help fixing it up as a Bed & Breakfast. Kristy invited all us to come along." She ignored Dawn's questioning look. "Liam and Scott are coming too. Adem even wants to pay us."

"How am I going to fit you all in my apartment? I only have two rooms and a bed and bath."

"We girls get the bedroom and we can stick the boys in the living room or the bathroom." Claudia grabbed a bag and headed for the door. "Come on. Liam is going to be so glad to see you."

Picking up the box Dawn followed her into the house.


As soon as Dawn walked into her apartment, she was mobbed. Kristy was talking excitedly about their trip, Austin was asking how she was doing, Scott was taking the box from her, and Claudia was trying to ask her where she should put the bag. Liam was nowhere to be seen.

After they got Kristy calmed down and everything from the car onto the couch, Liam appeared in the doorway to the kitchen. "Dinner is served," he announced.

They all filed into the kitchen, except Dawn. She didn't make it to the door before Liam was blocking her way. "I am going to have to be paid for this dinner, you know." With that he gave her a hug and said, "It is great to see you."

"It is great to see you too." Dawn replied with a sweet smile. "I'm starved. You wouldn't believe how much energy kids can have."

They squeezed into the kitchen to get some spaghetti before it disappeared.

"How are the newlyweds doing?" Dawn asked as she squeezed between Scott and Liam at the table.

All conversation stopped as everyone suddenly became very interested in their dinners.

"Okay." Dawn said putting down her fork and looking around the table. "What is wrong?" Dawn's gaze settled on Claudia.

"They disagree about where they are going to live." Everyone's gaze shifted to Scott.

"You promised!" Kristy protested.

"There's no need to fight." Liam said to his food. After an uneasy silence, in which Kristy glared at Scott and Claudia pushed her food around her plate, Liam said, "We can discuss this later."

"Yeah," Scott agreed and changed the topic by asking Dawn, "When does school end?"

"Today was the last day." Dawn looked across the table at Claudia. "Tell me again, why are you guys here?"

Claudia looked up at her with a smile. "We are going to work on Kristy's brother's house in Maine."

Kristy picked up it up. "We were told to bring anyone interested in helping. I was talking to Claudia and she suggested that we make a group thing out of it. Adem and Jessi can use all the help they can get. Austin and Claudia flew in from Colorado. Scott drove over, and we met Liam in Pennsylvania right after his graduation. You were next on our list so we drove up here and dropped in."

"We leave for Maine as soon as you can go." Claudia's eyes shone with excitement.

"I thought you were going to Italy," Dawn commented, a bit puzzled.

"No," Austin said, "That is where we are going for our honeymoon in the fall."

Then Kristy popped the question that saw on all of their minds. "So, are you coming?"

Dawn tried to act indecisive, but it didn't work.

"She's coming." Liam announced. "I can tell by the look in her eyes."

Kristy cheered before Dawn interrupted the celebration. "I am going to have to pack. How long are we going to be there?"

"Two months." Claudia answered before Scott interrupted to ask where Dawn kept her extra blankets. Beds were made and the chaos of settling down for the night began.


Silence settled over the apartment at about midnight. The clean apartment was now covered with things moved to make room for the beds.

Liam fell asleep first. He had curled up on the couch after the first round of Balderdash and had gone out like a light. Scott explained that finals had really done him in. Scott and Austin had to make do with the floor because Dawn wouldn't let them wake Liam up. The girls were the last asleep, since they talked until around 12:30 A.M.


Dawn woke up at 3:00 A.M. After staring at the ceiling for a few minutes she got up to see if the coffee pot had been turned off.
Stepping over Claudia's head she crept into the living room. The scene before her was disarray. Scott was tightly rolled up in his blanket with nothing showing, except his feet. Austin was sprawled out on the floor, his legs going in opposite directions. Liam lay on the couch. He had kicked off his covers and stretched his legs off the end. His hair stood on end. In order for her to get to the kitchen she had to step over Scott's bare feet, around Austin's hand, and over Liam's quilt.

"Mind handing me my quilt?"

Dawn jumped and looked at Liam. "What are you doing awake at this hour?" She hissed at him.

"Bugging you," he said smiling up at her without opening his eyes. As she picked up the quilt, he sat up and made room for her on the couch. When she handed him the quilt, he pulled her down beside him. "Besides, I haven't gotten to talk to you."


Claudia awoke to the smell of hash browns and pancakes. The smell almost made up for waking up at this outrageous hour. Rolling over she slammed the snooze button on the alarm.

"Morning, sleepy head," Dawn greeted her as Claudia pulled the covers higher.

"Who set the alarm clock?" She growled. "This is a vacation and that means no schedule."

"We have to leave at ten," Dawn began, "if we are going to make it to Maine by nightfall."

Claudia groaned. "You are always scheduling things."

"Liam figured this one out." Dawn pointed out with a smile. "I just keep everyone on time and semi-cheerful." Smiling she tossed a pillow at Claudia. "Besides, you always look so lovely in the morning."

Claudia reacted by launching a pillow at Dawn's bent head. Before long it was a full fledged pillow fight. Scott came in to announce breakfast and got hit in the head. Kristy was already jumping on one of the twin beds and hitting everyone who came within reach.

Dawn tried to escape out the door, but Claudia just followed her. Calling for help she ran across the room and hid behind the couch. Austin, who had been cleaning up the beds, intercepted Claudia's feet when she tripped over him and landed on the couch. Meanwhile Dawn had snuck around the couch and was making a getaway through the kitchen door. Liam was the only thing between her and the kitchen. Just then Claudia got loose and dove for Dawn, catching Dawn's heel Claudia hit the rug. Dawn flew into Liam who just barely caught his balance.

Austin helped Claudia to her feet, while Liam and Dawn untangled themselves.

"One of these days someone is going to get hurt." Kristy said as she tossed her last pillow at Scott who wasn't paying any attention.

"Austin, you had better turn over those pancakes before they burn." Liam held out the spatula towards Austin.


After an hour of chaos, they were packed, sort of. They had decided that Scott's van would work better than Dawn's old Ford. Austin was assigned loading duties and Scott helped.

After a long debate over who was going to drive they set off with Scott in the driver's seat and Kristy next to him with the map and directions. Claudia took the back most bench by lying down and complaining loudly about how unreal the hour was. Austin, Liam, Dawn settled down to a game of license plate ABCs.

"What highway is this?" Claudia asked an hour later as she popped her head over the back of the seat.

"I have no idea." Dawn answered over her shoulder.

"Route 1," Liam offered without breaking off his conversation with Austin. They had been discussing the recent fraud committed by a competitor in Austin's industry. "Wouldn't that loss effect the companies EPS?"

"The amazing thing is that the income statement and balance sheet do not reflect their losses. Gibson Architects Inc. has picked up three of their contracts mid-construction. Those were huge contracts too."

"Have you any idea what they are talking about?" Claudia asked Dawn.

Dawn shook her head with a smile. "What is scary is that Austin understands it as well as Liam," she observed.

"Ack!" Claudia dived back into her pillow.

"What?" Austin broke off mid sentence. Liam turned to meet Dawn's mischievous grin.

"What did you say?" Liam demanded. Dawn just kept grinning and shook her head.

"What did you tell my wife?" Austin playfully glared at her over Liam's shoulder.

"Not telling." Dawn turned around and began to ignore them.

It did not work. Liam poked her ribs to which... "Aaaaaaahhh!"

"Hey what is going on back there?" Scott yelled from the front just as Dawn dived over the seat and onto Claudia. Mass hysteria ensued.

"Do I have to pull this car over?" Scott was yelling quite loudly now, because both girls were screaming as the guys pursued them. Austin managed to drag Claudia over the seat and into the one Liam had just vacated. Liam slipped into the back seat so he could more safely tackle Dawn, who was still screaming.

"He is going to pull over if you don't stop." Liam snaked an arm around Dawn's waist and pulled her abruptly in to the seat next to him. She stopped her noise with a gulp.

"Much better," Scott commented from the front seat. Over his shoulder to Kristy, he added. "Now if they will just behave for another hour, we can let them loose on your brother and his wife."

Kristy just shook her head.

By some miracle, the remaining trip passed in relative quiet. At least until their destination came into view.

"Hey everybody," Kristy pointed out the window. "There it is." They had been riding through woodland for the last half hour. Now just rising slightly above the trees about a half mile from the road, a black-brown roof could be seen. As the van rounded a curve, a massive stone archway announced a break in the four foot stone wall lining the road. "Turn here," Kristy instructed.

Obediently Scott turned right onto a steep winding driveway wide enough for two cars to pass easily. As the van began to labor its way up the slope, Austin said, "I am glad we are not staying until the winter. This driveway would be murder to shovel."

"As it is, it looks like it needs repaving," Liam commented as the van hit a series of pot holes. "By the way, Kristy, how is your brother financing this venture?"

"His last season box office hit is paying for most of it." Kristy was interrupted when Dawn spotted the house.

"Oh, it is gorgeous!" Dawn exclaimed.

Claudia looked at her with surprise and swung around to take a second look. "It's a dump," she observed. "It looks awful."

"Yeah," Dawn replied, "but it has a ton of potential. Kristy, why didn't you tell me it was so big?"

"Ten bedrooms, not counting the living space for the owners," Kristy turned around in her seat with a puzzled look on her face. "I was positive, I wrote you about it."

"No," Dawn turned so she could keep looking as they rounded the last turn in the drive. "I definitely would not have forgotten this."

"So," Liam asked as she gawked. "Is it the size, or style that you like?"

"The size," Dawn turned to face him. "Why?"

"Just wondering?" Liam replied and busied himself with hauling out his bags.

As soon as the van came to a halt in the parking lot to the left of the house, a man appeared at the front door of the house and immediately headed down the drive to greet them. Before even reaching them, he called, "Kristy!"

Kristy promptly dropped the bag she had just pulled out of the van and ran to him. She was greeted with a big hug.

"That better be Adem." Scott muttered to Liam as they continued to pull luggage out of the van.

Liam glanced up at him in surprise. "You haven't met her family yet?"

"I've met her family, but not Adem." Scott explained as he swung Claudia's duffel bag onto his shoulder. "He was off in the Congo last Easter shooting an action flick. I don't remember the name. Anyway, he couldn't make the family get together." Turning he grabbed the last bag and dropped it to the ground.

Their greeter looked the part of Kristy's twin brother. He had the same brown hair just a shade darker than hers. Their eyes were the same rich blue and crinkled the same way when they smiled. Otherwise, he was almost opposite. Kristy was slim and light and this guy was big and built like a rock, everything about him said solid.

"Hey everybody!" Kristy approached with the stranger's arm around her shoulders. "I want you to meet my brother. Adem, these are my friends." She pointed them out "Claudia and Austin, they got married this spring." Austin caught his bride's hand with a glint of possessive pride in his eye. "Dawn, my maid of honor, and her fiancé, Liam, their getting married soon, I think. And," Kristy dragged her companion forward as she finished, "My fiancé, Scott."

Scott was awarded a warm smile. "I am pleased to finally meet the famous Scott Illic." Scott dropped Claudia's bag so he could shake the hand Adem offered. "She has not ceased talking about you since your engagement."

"I am glad to hear it." Scott returned Adem's grin. He was warming up to the guy already.

"Just follow me," Adem grabbed the nearest suitcase and turned in the direction of the house. "I'll show you where you can park your stuff and then I will give you a tour."

Everyone filled their arms with luggage and rushed to catch up with Adem. That is everyone except Claudia and Austin.

"I don't feel so good," Claudia protested.

"What hurts?" Austin asked in a concerned tone. He was picking through the remaining suitcases. "Is your lunch not settling well?" Claudia nodded rubbing her stomach. Selecting the three heaviest, he suggested, "Maybe you are just car sick."

Claudia followed his lead and picked up a pillow and a sleeping bag. "Maybe I will feel okay in a few minutes." Together they headed toward the house.

Chapter Two

Right inside the front doors was a huge space that Adem called the foyer. As Dawn stood craning back to look up at the ceiling two stories above them, Liam nudged her. "I would hate to have to get the spider webs out of those corners."

"Use a really, really long pole," she smiled over at him. "And be very careful with your elbows."

Adem's voice bounced off the empty walls and bare floor. "Why don't you leave your stuff here and I will give you a quick tour before we head up stairs."

Scott, Liam, and Dawn set their stuff down near the bottom of the winding stair to the second floor. "Why would we need to watch our elbows?" Scott asked.

Dawn grinned mischievously, "Ticklish ribs, long sticks and windows don't go well together... especially, if pointy elbows are nearby."

Scott rolled his eyes at Liam. "Sometimes I think you two are too much alike." Liam shot him a questioning look. Scott answered it by adding, "You are both so weird, and I get scared if I understand you."

"Artistic tendencies," Liam and Dawn replied at the same time.

"Now," Austin jumped in, "nothing you can say can convince me that Liam has artistic tendencies."

"No," Dawn flashed Liam an affectionate smile, "he is just a genius. With so much intelligence, he is just destined to be exocentric." Kristy rolled her eyes and Scott hid a smile.

"Guys," Claudia broke in, "Adem is waiting."

The first floor was huge. The foyer opened straight into a large dinning room that looked out on the back of the house. To the right of the dinning room was a long rectangular room Adem called the parlor. In the front right corner, tucked behind the stairs and connected only to the parlor was a smaller room that Adem was currently using as an office. With only a coffee table and a recliner for furniture, the floor was littered with bills and excess paper. Austin seemed to cringe at the sight.

Claudia practically drooled over the kitchen. The spacious room took up the back left corner of the house. Dirt still caked most of the room, but it was easy to see that was going to be one of the essential rooms in the house. "We hired our cook on Friday of last week." Adem informed them as he led them out. "He is planning to start the cleaning tomorrow morning."

The kitchen was connected with the foyer by another spacious hall. Two large bathrooms and the stairwell to the basement were also off this hall. Liam looked very interested when Adem explained that the hall, foyer, dining room, and parlor could be joined together or closed off individually using a system of doors that slid invisibly into the walls. "Quite an interesting feat of engineering," he commented to Scott as Adem headed yet again toward the foyer. Kristy wagged her head.

The second floor went much more quickly. After climbing the gracefully curved stairs to a balcony overlooking the foyer, he proceeded to open one of the doors along the hall. "All the rooms on this floor are bedrooms," leaving the door open he headed toward the stair to the third floor on the opposite end of the balcony. "They each have an attached bathroom and at least one closet."

"Do all of them have these hard wood floors?" Dawn had just taken her turn at looking at the sample room.

"Yeah." Pausing to look back at her over the rest of the group, Adem added, "Jessi loves them, but I think they take too much upkeep." He watched as Scott and Kristy worked their way up the stairs to the landing. "It cost a small fortune to refinish all the floors on the first two floors. They only finished on Wednesday." Running his fingers through his hair, he grinned. "At least the third floor and the basement are carpeted."

As Adem was about to lead them all onto the third floor, a huge commotion rose from the direction of the dining room. With a volley of barks and the clicking of nails on hardwood floors, two big golden retrievers bounded into the foyer below the touring party.

"Adem," a female voice called over the sound of the dogs greeting the new arrivals.

"Luke and Leia." Kristy dropped her bags and sat on the steps between the first two floors. She was promptly covered in wet dog kisses.

"Adem." This time the caller came into view.

"Right here, Jessi." Managing to squeeze back around the corner of the hallway, he tried to peek around Austin. "We have visitors." He moved so the new arrival could see him. "Kristy brought her friends. Now let see if I can remember all the names." He leaned back on the banister to introduce everyone. "This is Austin and Claudia." He gestured to the two on his right. "They were just married a few months ago. Liam, Scott, and Dawn," He continued, accurately waving toward each in turn, "and, of course, Kristy." Kristy finally managed to rise again as the dogs decided move on to greet the new strangers.

"Everybody," he smiled down the line, "this is my wife, Jessi."

Jessi smiled up at the lot as they looked down on her. "Welcome to our new home. As you can see, we need all the help we can get."

"Ah... Jessi," Adem spoke up while glancing out the front window. "The architect just drove up the drive." Smiling apologetically he asked, "Would you finish the tour and get these guys working. I really should show him my plans for a hanger."

Liam's head came up almost immediately. "Do you have any airplanes?"

"Yeah," Adem responded in surprise. "Do you fly?"

"He has a hard time keeping his feet on the ground," Dawn commented.

Jessi spoke up from below. "Adem could use any help you can give him." She put her hands on her hips. "Adem, go ahead. I will take over from here."

Adem wove through the crowd on the landing and took the stairs two at a time. "Come on Liam, the architect will be getting impatient." Placing a quick kiss on his wife's cheek, he practically ran out the front door.

Liam set down his stuff and followed suit. The only exception was he gave Dawn an even briefer smooch. Dawn frowned slightly after him, but didn't say anything.

"Alright," Jessi smiled as she climbed the stairs. "Onward and upward."


The girls did not see the boys until dinner. After they had climbed to the third floor and deposited the baggage in Adem and Jessi's apartment on the right end of the house, Austin and Scott conveniently disappeared. Murmuring something about finding Adem and Liam, they tramped back down the stairs and out of sight.

"I will get to them later," Jessi responded when Kristy pointed out their absence. "When I get done with them, they will wish they had stayed."

Sharing a conspiring look with her sister-in-law, Jessi promptly set them to changing into work clothes and then brought them up to speed on the plans for the house.

"This is going to be the management's quarters." Jessi waved a hand to include the living room, bathroom and two bedrooms that took up the far half of the third floor. Glancing around at the empty rooms and coverless windows, she smiled. "It doesn't look like much now, but it will when we get done."

"I noticed all the bedrooms are empty," Claudia pointed out.

Jessi looked a bit puzzled. Kristy jumped into explain, "Claudia can't sleep on the floor. She is inhuman the next morning." Picking up a sweatshirt from the top of her bag, Kristy proceeded to pull it over her head. Claudia took advantage of the opportunity and elbowed her in the ribs.

"I ordered the box springs and mattresses two days ago." She had not seen the elbow work so she was a bit concerned about Kristy's red face. "Are you alright?" She asked.

Managing a weak grimace, Kristy nodded.

"When are they due to arrive?" Claudia asked as she carefully put Jessi between Kristy and herself.

"Today," Jessi answered. "Are you guys ready yet?"

"All except Dawn," Kristy announced. Everybody watched as Dawn tied her last shoe.

"Okay girls," Jessi lead the way out the door. "Follow me."

After a quick discussion about colors and themes, Jessi sat Claudia down with paint and upholstery samples and a notebook to record the possible combinations they could use. After a long dialogue about what kinds of ideas Jessi had already decided upon for different parts of the house, Kristy and Jessi left Dawn to plan a mural for the stairwell. Deciding that food was soon going to be everyone's highest priority soon, Jessi and Kristy decided to tackle the mess in the kitchen. As Jessi pointed out, they were going to have to eat, and the guys were not going to wait until the following morning for the food. Both Claudia and Dawn were under strict orders to come and join them as soon as they could.

The possibility of four hungry men turned out to be a great motivator. When the mattress truck arrived at about six, half the kitchen was clean and dinner was on the stove. Dawn was sent to go get the men so the poor delivery guys would not have wrestle thirteen mattresses and thirteen box springs into their individual bedrooms. Almost needless to say, dinner was late and bed followed on its heels. There was a lot to do and everyone planned on an early start the next morning.


A rude blaring beep, sounded from the next room. Rolling over, Austin groaned. “Is it morning already?” The answer was the hot glare of the morning sun pouring through the barren window above him. Reaching across the pillow to wake Claudia, Austin found nothing. “What?” Someone turned off the alarm in the next room.

Pushing himself up to look around the room, Austin's head exploded in pain. Slowing his upward rise to accommodate the headache, he scanned the almost empty room. “Claudia?” The answer was a loud blaring beeping as the alarm went off again. Wishing Liam would just turn the thing off instead of repeatedly hitting the snooze bar, Austin reached for his clothing.

As he was digging for a new set of clothing before he headed for the shower, Austin distantly heard the others moving around in the next room. Just then, the alarm started again. Austin threw down the socks he had just gotten out of his bag and was about to kill the stupid clock. He made it as far as the door, but had not opened it when the noise ended with a satisfying crash against the wall. Guessing that Scott also had lost patience with Liam's alarming habits, Austin stalked toward the empty shower.


“Good morning,” Dawn smiled across the kitchen island at Jessi and Kristy as they entered the kitchen. Clean and bright as she always was in the morning, Dawn fetched them coffee and doughnuts.

“Where did you get doughnuts?” Jessi asked as she selected a Boston cream from the box Dawn had slid over to them. “The closest…,” she glanced at the side of the box, “Whole Donut is ten miles.”

“I took the van.” Dawn turned to Kristy. “Have you ever driven that thing?” Kristy shook her head before she managed an answer around her honey dipped bite.

“No, why?”

“It is an accident waiting to happen.”

Liam and Austin appeared in the kitchen doorway, and Adem could be heard coming down the stairs. It sounded like a herd of elephants. Dawn continued talking as she fetched some mugs from one of the clean cupboards. “Scott should really trade it in for something newer. The difference in the amount of gas it uses would be reason enough for me.”

“Has anyone seen Claudia?” Austin slid onto the closest stool and claimed one of the mugs in the center of the island. Pouring as he spoke, he added, “She was gone when I woke up this morning. I can't find her anywhere.'

“Good morning, everyone.” Adem hugged his wife from behind and beamed at the rest of the group. “Isn't it gorgeous outside?”

Austin groaned. “Oh great, another morning person.”

“Hey,” Liam declared. “Morning people are much better than non-morning people.”

“Scott killed your alarm clock again, didn't he?” Austin asked.

“Yeah,” Liam admitted. “At least this time, he offered to buy me another.”

Kristy quickly took a sip of her coffee. Liam's alarm clock habits had been a running joke for years. When the guys had roomed together at different times, Liam's alarm clock would always be a casualty of the morning wars.

“Where is he now?” Dawn poured coffee for Adem and then returned to her doughnut.

“Showering,” Liam answered before finishing his coffee. “I was tempted to turn on the sink faucet, but refrained.”

Austin set down his mug and reached for a second doughnut. “Adem, do you have a list of all the projects that need to be done?”

Shaking his head, Adem said, “I have not been able to get organized yet.”

Jessi smiled. “You should see his office. He some how manages to keep all the bills paid, but I am constantly afraid that something important will get lost in that mess.”

Austin winced at the memory of the chaos in the room behind the stairs. “If you would not mind me knowing everything, I would be willing to work through that stuff with you.” He offered before finishing off his coffee. “Claudia would also be willing to help, but I would have to find her to ask her first.”

“I promised Jessi I would help with the decorating and furniture shopping.” Claudia interrupted. She had just entered the doorway behind Austin. Turning to her, Austin immediately escorted her to the stool next to him and protectively put his arm around the back of her chair. Dawn went to fetch something for her to drink.

“I need her,” Jessi announced. “I need someone who does this all the time and can visualize this stuff.” She pushed back from the counter. “Speaking of which, we need to get to work, girls. I have some catalogues upstairs and you have not seen the basement yet.” Claudia carefully extracted herself from her husband's embrace with a few kisses. Dawn mussed Liam's hair and gave him a quick kiss. Kristy was the last to follow, but that was because Scott appeared just in time to delay her. He was very reluctant to let her go. It took a promise of a mid-morning snack to finally win her freedom.


“So where had she been?” Liam asked as soon as Kristy had disappeared into the foyer.

“Who?” Scott spilled some of his coffee on the counter when he set it down.

“Claudia.” Liam continued to watch Austin. “She did not look very well.”

Austin rotated his cup. “She has not been herself for about a week now.”

“Maybe we can help.” Adem suggested as he shoved the cream toward Scott, who declined.

“I drink it black.” Before taking a sip, he asked, “What are her symptoms, Austin?”

Austin's brows pulled together as he thought. “She has been really tired almost all the time. It is probably because she has not been sleeping well. She is always out of bed and gone when I wake up in the morning.” Leaning back so he could cross his arms on his chest, he continued. “She also has been eating less and loosing weight. Not three days ago, she refused her favorite dish, because she said it upset her stomach. I just don't get it.” Shaking his head, Austin looked around at the others. “I am beginning to have a hard time sleeping too. She won't talk to me and I am worried sick.”

“Does not describe any malady I can recall off hand,” Liam said, “but I will think on it and get back to you. How about you guys?” Scott and Adem shook their heads.

“Maybe should ask one of the girls to find out for you,” Adem suggested before popping the last of his doughnut in his mouth. “They might have better success,” he managed to say without spitting doughnut all around.

“Maybe I will,” Austin pushed back form the counter. “Are you ready, Adem? I need to start doing something so I will quit dwelling on this.”

“Me, too,” Scott also pushed back his chair and started gathering garbage. “I want to have a better idea of what we are in for during the next two months.”

“Sounds good,” Adem wiped his mouth and rose. “This way, men.”

Chapter Three

“I think that about covers all we will be able to handle today.” Claudia, Kristy, and Jessi had been pouring over Jessi's catalogues all morning. Kristy closed her copy of Home Fashions and stretched. “I am catalogued out.”

“Sounds like we need to start shopping,” Jessi announced.

“Perfect timing.” Dawn plopped down her sketches and pencils. “I am going to need some materials before I do any more planning.” She smiled at Jessi, “Where can I get paint and painting supplies?”

“Home Depot in town should be able to cover that stuff.” Jessi pushed up to her feet. “My! What a mess. We will need to clean up before we go anywhere.” The living area of the third floor apartment was strewn with magazines, cloth and painting samples, and a ton of notebook pages that had been discarded as they had planned. “If you guys clean it up, I will go ask Adem if we can start furniture shopping and get the keys to our jeep. I would rather not risk the van.”

“Sounds good,” Kristy immediately began piling up the catalogues nearest her.

“Are we going to need to save any of these?” Dawn held up a piece of notepaper.

“What do you think Claudia?” Jessi, now on her feet, looked down at the dark head to her right.

“I think we have everything we need in the notebook.” Claudia waved toward the five-subject, spiral bound notebook sitting in the middle of the mess. “As long as we keep all the magazines, I am sure we will be fine.”

Jessi nodded and started for the door. Before leaving, she poked her head back around the door. “Are there any other stops you guys need to make? Adem always likes to know where I am going to be,” she explained.

“If we could stop at a drug store,” Claudia said, “I need to pick up something I forgot.”

Jessi smiled and nodded. “Anything else?” She glanced at the other two girls. Dawn just shook her head and Kristy continued to clean. “Guess not,” she declared, “I will be right back.”

“What do you need?” Kristy asked as she continued to shove magazines across the floor.

“Yeah,” Dawn shut her pencil box and whipped her notebook close. “Maybe I brought some.”

Claudia just shook her head. “The only person here that might have want I am picking up would be Jessi.”

Kristy dropped the pile of catalogues she was about to put in the carton. They went flying in every direction. “Kristy,” Dawn wailed.

Ignoring her, Kristy sat down abruptly. “You're pregnant.”

Dawn's eyes got big and she immediately looked at Claudia. Then, she began counting something on her fingers. The result was a huge grin. “It would be due around March! That is great!”

“I don't know yet.” Claudia interrupted waving at Dawn's hand. “I have to see if I am right. If not, I am sick and need to see a doctor.”

“Morning sickness?” Dawn looked sympathetic.

Claudia grimaced, “Try all-day sickness.” She rubbed her stomach thoughtfully.

“Have you told Austin?” Dawn asked. Claudia shook her head. “Why not?” Dawn immediately asked. Claudia shrugged.

“I thought waiting until I know for sure might be a good idea.” Claudia did not look to happy with her idea. “I am not sure what to do.”

Dawn frowned. “I think you should let him know as soon as possible.” She crawled over to the mess that Kristy had made and started cleaning as she talked. “Marriage is a partnership. Austin will be surprised, but I think in the end he will be happy.”

“I want to know first.” Claudia said before she resumed collecting the garbage. “That way I don't have to do it twice.”


“Where did you say this goes?” Scott held up a water bill. It was the second he had come across that morning.

Austin looked up long enough to identify the person speaking. Immediately returning to his list he asked, “What is it for?”

“Water, I think.” Scott ran his hands through his hair. “I had one earlier, but forgot where you said to put it.”

This time Austin did not look up. “If the account is for this house, it goes in the expense box.”

“What if it is for a different address?” Scott waved the envelope to get Austin's attention. “Last I knew we were in Maine and this bill is for some place in California.”

“Those go over here.” Adem cut in from across the room. “I had it forwarded here for the time we are working on the house.”

“How did you manage that?” Scott waded through the over flowing boxes to hand the errant documents to Adem.

“The Mail Boxes Etc. down the street from us forwards all our mail to this address so we don't have to worry about bills going unpaid and stuff like that.” Claiming the envelope, Adem carelessly tossed it in the direction of the top desk drawer of the new desk they had purchased that day. “Hey, Austin,” he said without looking up from the pad he held in his hand. “What do you want me to do with this list once I have finished it?”

“Bring it here.” Austin set his batch of papers and notes on the coffee table in front of him. “We need to talk about what you have done and what needs to be done.”

“Okay,” Adem walked over and sprawled on the couch next to Austin. After handing him the pad, Adem leaned back and put his hands behind his head. “So far, we have signed a contract with Frank Construction. They are going to pave the driveway, landing field, and courts. They also are going to install new sidewalks and landscape the property. Actually, I am expecting them to call any day now. They are finishing up a major project right now, but should be starting on ours some time this week.”

“Are you going to be fixing up the exterior of the house?” Liam asked from the other side of the room. “The shakes that are on there now are going to need scraping and painting very soon.”

“Actually,” Adem leaned forward to prop his elbows on his knees. “I was kind of hoping that you guys would help with that.”

“Hey, Adem!” Jessi's yell echoed around the almost empty parlor and into the crowded office.

“In here,” Adem hollered back. A moment later, Jessi appeared in the open doorway.

“My goodness,” she surveyed the mess in dismay. “You guys are supposed to be cleaning, not making the mess worse.” Taking a good look at the sprawl of men, paper, garbage bags, boxes, and office supplies, the guys had to admit the room looked worse than when they found it.

“It will get better... eventually.” Scott looked to Austin for reassurance.

“I am sure it will be better soon.” Jessi hurried on. “Adem, the girls and I are going to be heading out to town. Can I have the keys to the Jeep and is now a good time to start furniture shopping?”

Liam's eyes got big. “Dawn and furniture are an expensive combination. Are you sure you want to spend that much?”

Austin broke in, “Claudia is worse.”

“Either way,” Adem interrupted. “Now is a good time to start. The keys are on the dresser in the bedroom. Have fun.”

Jessi flashed him a dazzling smile. “Thanks. We will.” Then, she disappeared.

“Now, back to our list,” Austin said. “Are we also going to be painting the interior?”

The phone rang.


“Don't take those turns so tightly!” Dawn yelled from the back of the jeep. “Or I am going to become one with this door and you will never be able to free me.” Shoving against the four chairs that she was sharing a seat with, Dawn tried to keep from getting squashed as Jessi drove the over-laden car around yet another corner.

“Sorry, guys,” she yelled over her shoulder. “Only three more turns.”

“Think of it this way,” Liz commented from the front seat. “At least you won't be perforated like Kristy.” Even as she spoke, the vehicle rounded the next turn and Kristy groaned. She was in the open trunk between the hatchback and a very leggy table.

“Are you okay back there?” Jessi asked worriedly.

“Just fine,” Kristy replied. “Just get us home please. I would like to see my fiancé while I am still in one piece.” A bump jogged everyone and this time Dawn joined Kristy's chorus.

“Next time we take the van.” Dawn insisted. “This is not worth it.”

Jessi took the last turn slower, but both girls still groaned. 'Come on,” Jessi protested, “That was not so bad.”

“Somewhere in the neighborhood of five to ten miles per hour sounds better.” Dawn propped her foot against the door.

“I will have to remember that on our next trip,” Jessi replied. “We are almost done with this run. There is the house.” Dawn followed Jessi's pointing hand and realized they were pulling up the drive.

“I will have to take your word for it,” Kristy responded from the trunk. “I cannot see anything from in here.”

“Oh,” Claudia straightened to get a better look. “Look. I think that is the landscaping company's van.”

As they pulled up the drive, Jessi tried to dodge the potholes, but finally gave up so she could look at the new arrival. “'Frank Construction: landscaping, pavement, siding, or windows, we do it all.' Yep, that looks like them.”

“What did you say?” Kristy's disembodied voice came from the back as Jessi eased to a stop next to the new van.

“The construction company is here,” Dawn offered while trying to maneuver into a position where she could open the door.

“No,” Kristy grunted as Claudia shut the passenger side door hard enough to shake the car. “What did you say the name was?”

“Frank Construction.” Jessi opened the trunk to the sight of her sister-in-law's look of pure horror.

“Oh no,” Kristy finally gasped. “Scott is going to be green.”

“What in the world are you babbling about?”

“Will someone please help me?” Both Jessi and Dawn spoke at the same time.

“I am coming,” Claudia answered Dawn's cry for help. “Just give me a minute. I want to know what Kristy means.” She was standing behind Jessi as they observed Kristy in her seat on the floor of the trunk space. “So,” she said to Kristy, “What do you mean?”

Kristy just shook her head. “Are any of them around?”

“Kristy,” Jessi put her hands on her hips. “For the first time since I have known you, you are making no sense.”

The statement brought a laugh from the backseat. Claudia could not help smiling, too. She and Dawn had known Kristy to make no sense many times. At least it only lasted until she had explained.

“Are any of the contractors in sight?” Kristy demanded.

Dawn, finally managing to get her head above the seat so she could join the conversation by looking over the back of the backseat, answered the question. “No sign of Kevin Frank or any of his relatives or employees.”

Understanding dawned on Claudia's face, but Jessi became even more confused. “Who is Devin Frank? And what does he have to do with you?”

“It is Kevin Frank, not Devin.” Claudia corrected with a grimace at the name. She had a strong dislike for the name Devin.

“They dated in high school,” Dawn explained. “It was before Scott got around to noticing Kristy. What I don't understand is why Scott would be envious about him. Would you care to explain?” The question was directed down at the back of Kristy's head. In order to do this, Dawn had to turn her face sideways against the top of the seat and strain her eyes toward her friend. In all, the look was quite comical on a bodiless head. Jessi laughed.

“I will go help Dawn,” she said. “That looks very uncomfortable. Claudia, will you please help Kristy unload that table.”

Jessi was already at the back seat door before Kristy managed to protest. “But I don't want to see him!” Jumping to her feet she came around the corner of the car to continue her complaint. “Isn't there someway I can avoid it?” Jessi, having discovered the door was jammed in the locked position, turned to respond, but was cut off by Claudia.

“It is too late, Kristy.” She was staring up the hill toward the house. “Here he comes now.” Both Kristy and Jessi turned to look and sure enough there was Kevin Frank, in the flesh, coming down from the house to greet them with Claudia's husband in tow.

Seeing that they had been spotted, Austin called, “We heard you pull up. Do you need any help with that stuff?”


With the guys help, the furniture was swiftly brought up to the house and deposited in the main dining room. It was going to be the temporary home for all the furniture purchased until the painting was finished in the bedrooms upstairs.

“Just to the left a little,” Jessi instructed and both men obediently shuffled the table to the left. “Perfect. Thanks, guys.”

“Anything else left in the car?” Kevin asked as he straightened.

“No,” Dawn answered. “It is good to see you again.” She offered her hand.

He took it slowly. “I know the face, but I cannot place the name.”

“Dawn,” Dawn supplied. Turning toward the rest of the group, she started introductions. “Claudia, Jessi and....” She tried and failed to spot Kristy. “I know you know Kristy. She is around but has disappeared somewhere. She will show up soon enough.” She turned back and flashed him a smile. “I will go find her later. So, how are you doing? It has been a long time since I have seen you.”

As the two of them fell into conversation, Jessi went to see about dinner and Claudia and Austin snuck away to steal a moment alone.


“Hey, Scott!” Kristy yelled after the distant figure of her fiancé as she ran to catch up with him. He was just where Liam had said he would be, on the runway, pacing out the length so Liam would have a rough estimate to start with. “Scott!” This time Scott's brown head came around and he looked for her. The moment he spotted her, he smiled, waved, and then waited for her to catch up.

“When did you get back?” He asked as soon as she was within hearing distance.

“A few minutes ago,” she puffed slightly. It was a long run from the house to the field and almost the whole trip was uphill, making it more difficult. “Did you know that the contractor arrived?”

Shaking his head, Scott started pacing again. “Forty-four, forty-five...Adem told me they hired a Frank Construction Company. I asked, but he did not know if it was connected with my great uncle's family or not.” He stopped and wrote down his number on a scrap of paper.

Kristy frowned. “Well they are here and it is your relative's family business. Do you remember that I dated Kevin?”

“Yeah, it was right before we started dating, right?” He glanced over at her in the pink evening light.

“You aren't going to be jealous are you?” Kristy watched his face carefully. “I mean he is the only other guy I ever dated except you.”

“Why should that make me jealous?” Scott straightened so he could look at her more directly. “I have a feeling there is something you are not telling me.”

“Well,” Kristy winced, “I was the one who broke it off and he told me he still loved me at the time. I don't think he will do anything, but I just wanted you to know from me before he told you himself.”

“Is that all,” Scott sighed with relief. “You had me thinking much worse.” He smiled and quickly closed the distance between them. Pulling Kristy close, he smiled. “I love you and how can I blame anyone for loving something I love.” Placing a quick kiss on her forehead, he said, “I am sure everything will be fine, Kristy. If he gives you any trouble, just let me know. Okay?” Kristy nodded slowly. “Great,” Scott smiled again. “Now I want a real kiss.” He promptly followed through by slipping his left-hand into her hair and pulled her close with his right. “Just remember your lips are mine and there will be no problems.” Then, he staked his claim solidly.

“Hey, guys!” Liam's voice interrupted. “Dinner is ready.”

“Kristy,” Dawn joined in. “No PDA allowed.”

Reluctantly Scott ended the kiss. “PDA?” he asked softly caressing Kristy's cheek with his breath.

“Public Display of Affection,” Kristy finally managed. “I am going to kill her.”

“Can't,” Scott smiled. “She is your maid of honor.”

“I can threaten, can't I?” Sliding her arm around Scott's waist, she cuddled against his side as they walked toward their friends.

Chapter Four

“Spaghetti!” Austin grinned when he spotted the heaping bowl of spaghetti noodles in the center of the main table. “I love spaghetti.”

“Obviously,” Claudia commented before pushing past him to walk into the room.

“Spaghetti, yum,” Liam said as he and Dawn arrived from the outside with Scott and Kristy right behind.

“A man after my own heart,” Dawn elbowed her fiancé in the ribs playfully. “Hold on,” she grinned mischievously, “I think I see garlic bread too.”

“Have a seat everybody,” Adem announced as he pushed through the swinging doors from the kitchen. In his arms, he carried another huge bowl heaped with pasta. Jessi followed on his heels with the parmesan and Romano cheese.

Everyone scattered to find places at the three tables that had been set with the mismatched dishes and cutlery that the girls had found in the kitchen the night before. Both the new cook, Timone, and Kevin joined them. Adem said grace and everyone dove into the still steaming food.

“So Kevin,” Austin managed before stuffing a large meatball into his mouth, “Do you own the business? Or is the name a coincidence?”

Kevin smiled as he wound his noodles around his fork. “My brothers own and run the company. I am just helping out for the two months I am going to be around.” Finally satisfied that the collection at the end of his fork was controlled enough he delivered them to his mouth.

“Please pass the cheese,” Dawn called from one end of the table. She had been skipped when the cheese grater had circled the first time.

Reaching across three serving dishes, Scott managed to barely snatch the cheese before he spilled something. At the same time, Austin asked Kevin what he did when he was not helping with his brother's business.

After finishing his bite, Kevin answered, “I am currently on leave. I have been a Major in the U. S. Air Force for about three years now.” Liam dropped his fork with a clink and everybody glanced over at him in time to see him dive beneath the table for it.

“That sounds like a neat job,” Jesse wiped some sauce off her chin. “How many brothers do you have?”

“Two,” Kevin began working on another bite. Adem and Liam watched in fascination as he began twirling more pasta around his fork. “Brandon is the eldest one of all of us. He runs the administrative end of the business. Andrew runs the actual hands on part. I usually am helping him whenever I am home for any length of time.” He began lifting the fork, but most of the noodles fell off the end. “I would much rather be in the air. Flying a fighter is the best thing I have ever done.”

Dawn jabbed Liam in the ribs. “Don't you get any ideas.”

Liam shot her a look that said the thought had not even entered his mind. Not one at the table believed him.

“Claudia, are you alright?” Austin asked as he looked at her plate in concern. “You have hardly touched your dinner.”

“Aren't you the master of the obvious,” after shooting a glare at her husband, Claudia shoved her chair back from the table hurried out of the room.

“Excuse us,” Austin shot an apologetic look around the table. “I will be back soon.” He quickly followed in his wife's wake, concern written all over his face.

Two floors up, the sound of a slamming door shook the windows. Timone rose and gathering the two plates headed to the kitchen. “They will be awhile; I will just put these in the fridge.” He then disappeared through the swinging doors.

“I would guess she has not told him yet,” Kristy commented to Jessi, who was looking concerned. All the men looked curiously in her direction.

“Told him what?” Scott finally voiced the question in their minds.

“Claudia is pregnant,” Jessi explained. “But don't let on that you know.”

“Well if she does not tell Austin tonight,” Adem turned back to sopping up the sauce on his plate with the garlic bread, “I will tell him first thing tomorrow.”

“You can't do that!” Jessi pushed back from the table to look at her husband in horror. “That would devastate the poor girl. She is feeling awful already, why make it worse.”

“Jessi,” Dawn broke in before Adem could retort. “Adem’s right. If she does not tell him tonight, we need to do something.”

“Just look at the poor guy,” Kevin added. “He is obviously worried sick and beside himself about what to do.” Everyone stared at him in surprise. He looked around nervously before explaining. “How many guys would tell a perfect stranger he was worried sick about his wife?” Waving a piece of bread in the direction of the front hall, he said, “I could barely keep his attention three minutes in a row because he is so preoccupied.”

“See Jessi,” Adem jumped in. “If it does not end soon, who knows what will happen when she does tell him.”

“He will explode,” Scott predicted solemnly. “And I don't mean in a good way.” Liam and Dawn both nodded their agreement with faraway looks in their eyes.

“Come on Jessi,” Kristy begged from the opposite side of the table. “You have got to admit this situation is not helping the marriage.”

With great reluctance, Jessi finally agreed that something must be done.

“I hate to be the barer of bad news,” Kevin said, “but who is going to tell him and how?”

Silence descended fast and thick over the group. For several minutes, everyone became intensely interested in studying their place setting. Finally, when many had given up hope, Scott spoke. “I will do it if Liam helps.”

Relieved that he was not the first to speak, Liam agreed and everyone returned to the now cold food before them.

Kevin left right after dinner. He promised to be back very early the next morning so he, his brother and the rest of the guys could start working on the many projects they needed to finish.

Everyone was pretty tired, so everyone decided to turn in for the night and get an early start the next morning.


The next morning everyone was up with the dawn, except Austin and Claudia. Their bedroom door remained closed and no sounds could be heard through the door.

“I hope everything is all right between them,” Dawn commented to Kristy as they lugged primer cans up to the second floor hallway. Dawn was planning on doing a floor to ceiling mural that would cover all the walls from the front door to the stairs leading to the second floor. Kristy had been tagged as the one to help with the primer and the first coat of the base color, a pale, almost white, blue.

“Maybe they are just sleeping in,” Kristy suggested as they shook out the tarp that would be covering the floor. “Claudia has been looking very tired and worn. I wonder if Jessi knows of a good doctor that she could visit while we are here.”

Dawn started working on the lids of the primer cans. “That would be wise. Just to check out the basics and make sure she is doing everything she should be.” A moment later the key shaped opener flew out of Dawn's hand and across the floor. “Stink! I hate trying to open these stupid things.” She reached for the tool only to knock it off the landing and out of sight. “Oh no.”

“Ouch,” the errant piece had hit someone below them.

“Sorry,” Dawn called.

“You should be,” the voice from below was definitely male, but the closest Dawn could guess was that it was not Liam. “Here I am minding my own business and this can opener comes flying out of nowhere and lands on my unsuspecting head.” Just then a strange man looking slightly like Kevin came into view below them and looked up at them through the rungs of the banister. “The least you hooligans could do is tell me where I might find my brother. He is about...” Raising his hand so it was parallel to the floor and about even with his head. “... So high with brown hair... .”

“Kevin?” Kristy interrupted to ask.

“Yeah, he answers to that name sometimes.” The stranger flashed them a smile that definitely identified him as Kevin's relative. “Do you know where he is at?”

Kristy smiled back and shook her head. “I have not seen him yet this morning. You could try the air field though. That was where Liam and Scott headed after breakfast.”

“I'll do that.” The stranger turned to go back the way he had come when Dawn spoke up.

“Could we please have our opener back now?” She smiled when the man looked up with a puzzled gaze. “The likely hood is small that I am going to manage to open this can of paint, but if you leave with my opener, I will truly be at a loss.”

“Sure,” The stranger turned toward the stairs and started to climb. “I will even open the cans for you if you will tell me your names.”

“I am Kristy,” Kristy said as she rose to her feet. “And this is Dawn.”

“Pleased to meet you both.” Crouching down to open the cans nearest the landing, he started to slide the tool along the edge. With a deft twist of wrist and can, he opened the two cans of primer. “The name's Brandon.” He handed the key tool to Dawn and then rose. “Let me know when you need more assistance.” Both girls nodded in reply. Then turning, Brandon headed back down the staircase and exited through the dining room.

As soon as he was out of sight, Kristy sank to the floor in a heap. “Wow,” she exclaimed, “what a hunk.”

Dawn's response was to throw the nearest clean brush at her. “Hey, I thought you were engaged to Scott.”

“It was just an observation,” Kristy replied, “that's all.”

“Observation my toe,” Dawn shot back with a smug smile.

Kristy opened her mouth to shoot back, but whatever she had been planning to say was drowned out by hammers hitting the front face of the building. The guys had started on the exterior of the house.


An hour passed. Kristy and Dawn were just finishing up the first primer coat when Claudia appeared at the head of the stairs.

“Hey, sleepyhead,” Dawn flashed her a spattered smile before dropping her brush into the nearest roller pan. “Have you eaten breakfast yet?”

“This morning sickness stuff is awful,” Claudia grimaced expressively. “Although I am starving, every time I think about food I have an urge to heave.” She looked up at their work. “You guys have been busy.”

A noise came from the hall below. “Hey guys,” Jessi called up before finally appearing from under the balcony. “How is it coming?”

Dawn called back, “Just finished the first coat.”

Spotting Claudia, Jessi smiled up. “Want some breakfast?”

Claudia immediately shook her head no. “Austin said I should ask you about finding a doctor that could give me some advice for the time before we go home?”

“Sure,” Jessi replied sending a loaded glance in Dawn and Kristy's direction. “Come down, I think there is a phone directory in the office. If not we can call my doctor and get a recommendation.”

Claudia carefully transversed the stairs and then followed Jessi toward the study. As soon as they were out of sight, Dawn spoke up. “I have an idea.”

“Okay?” Kristy said as she climbed down the ladder from finishing the top edge.

“Why don't you and Scott get married here in this house?”

Kristy dropped her paintbrush into the full bucket. Watching the handle sink out of sight below the surface of the primer, Kristy muttered, “Nuts.”

Dawn laughed and reached in to fish it out. “Come on, you don't have any plans made yet, I remember Scott mentioning you were having a hard time getting started. This way we can all help.” She held up her hand and the brush dripping in wet white goop and grinned mischievously. “It will be fun.”

Kristy raised her eyebrows. “I don't know.”


“That is a great idea,” Jessi exclaimed when Dawn mentioned the possibility of Kristy having her wedding in the house after it was finished. “If everything goes according to plan, we will be finished by the end of summer.” Turning to Kristy, whom Dawn had dragged along, Jessi asked, “How many are on your guest list?”

“Don't know,” and grimaced slightly when Jessi's mouth dropped.

Carefully recovering herself, Jessi asked, “Well, then what is the date?”

“Don't have one.”


Kristy shook her head.


Another shake.

Jessi set down her brush and faced Kristy with her hands on her hips. The dark paint on her hands quickly adhered to the heavy canvas of her overalls. “Have you done anything, girl?”

“I have bridesmaids.” Kristy pointed out as she studied the deep maroon paint that her sister-in-law had been applying to the great parlor's walls. Jessi was still looking at her expectantly, when her eyes wandered back in her direction. Jessi raised an eyebrow. “You, Dawn, and Claudia,” Kristy finally clarified.

“Thanks for the honor,” Dawn said as she backed up and spread her arms. “I am most honored indeed.” Executing an exaggerated bow, she declared, “I accept.” Kristy rolled her eyes.

“You picked them, but did not ask them, you mean,” Jessi stated. Kristy nodded.

“We are going to be very busy,” Jessi stated simply as she turned back to the wall. “And here I was wondering what I was going to do with Claudia over the next few months.”

“What are you talking about?” Dawn asked.

“Her pregnancy makes it so she is going to be allowed to do almost nothing in the renovation.” Jessi took up her brush again. “No prolonged exposure to wet paints, new rugs, and construction dust for the new mom-to-be. Cheer up.” She flashed them a bright smile and said, “More work for the rest of us.”


“What are your colors?” Claudia asked the moment Kristy walked into the kitchen.

“Green and white,” was the muffled response from behind the three boxes Kristy was carrying. “Where should I put these?”

“I don't know.” Claudia frowned. “You are going to need another color.”

Kristy wrestled the boxes onto the nearest counter, pushing the remains a peanut butter sandwich off the other side and onto the floor. She discovered the sandwich by stepping in it. “Ew,” she raised her foot to get a better view. “Was this sandwich yours?”

Glancing over at the squashed remains Kristy was picking off the bottom of her shoe, Claudia said, “Nope,” and went back to her work.

“Coming through,” Dawn announced as she backed into the kitchen with her arms full of boxes. Swinging around so she could walk forward again, she asked, “Where is a good spot? These are heavy.”

“Next to my pile is probably best,” Kristy offered as she hopped on one foot to the sink. “Is Jessi coming?”

Maneuvering her load onto the counter, Dawn watched with interest as Kristy struggled to stick her foot in the sink. “Wouldn't be easier if you took off your shoe?”

“Dawn?” Claudia called from the table. “What do you think about this dress?” Holding up a thick magazine, Claudia displayed a long-lined evening dress with no straps.

“No straps; no dress,” she declared as Jessi entered the room. Then wiping her hands on her jeans she turned to the boxes.

“Where is Timone?” Jessi asked.

Dawn and Claudia shrugged and Kristy said, “I think he was going shopping for groceries when we left.” She tugged at her shoe and hopped in one place.

“I was hoping to have his help in organizing this room,” she gestured to the boxes. “All the cooks I have ever known have been very particular about where their kitchen stuff went.”

Claudia looked up eagerly. “How about we go dress shopping?”

“Sounds good to me,” Jessi agreed. “I am getting tired and a drive and some shopping sounds like a nice change.”

Kristy finally managed to free her foot. Before turning to the sink she declared, “I hate shopping.” Then, she turned on the water full force, drowning her shoe. Claudia covered her ears against the noise.

“I am going to go get my purse and tell Adem our plans.” Jessi's voice could barely be heard above the roar of the water in the sink. “Dawn, you stay and watch her,” she yelled. “Scott talked her into a dress, but I don't trust her to not avoid this. Meet you out front in a minute.” She left through the door into the dining room with Claudia close at her heels.

Dawn turned and regarded her friend from across the kitchen. “The noise won't drive me away you know.” She pointed out above the ruckus.

Kristy cut the water with a jerk and lifted her sopping shoe the basin. “I hear one more word about colors and I am going to scream!”

Dawn raised her eyebrows and regarded her solemnly. “Chartreuse?”

“Huh?” Kristy shook the shoe and droplets of water showered the floor. Looking at the trail if tiny puddles on the dirty linoleum, she asked, “What is that?”

“A bright, obnoxious green,” Dawn answered, “Or perhaps burnt umber.” Kristy shot a glare that should have terrified her. Instead, Dawn declared in a decisive tone, “Definitely plaid. It must be plaid. Nothing else would work.”

Forgetting the shoe, Kristy stalked across the floor. “What in the world are you talking about?”

With an angelic innocence, Dawn answered, “Your wedding dress must be plaid.”

Chapter Five

“What is this?” Kristy held up the mauve colored notebook Claudia had just placed in her lap. All four of them were in the jeep again and driving toward the nearest bridal shop. Dawn had only agreed to ride in the vehicle if she got to sit up front. This left Kristy in the backseat, defenseless against Claudia and her planning notes.

“Since we have some time before we get to the store, I thought you could start writing down ideas for the wedding.” Claudia offered Kristy a matching pen as she talked. Kristy could not help wondering if the seating arrangement was planned. Grudgingly she accepted the pen and opened the cover of the notebook. “First, let us cover the wedding party.” Claudia pulled out her own pen and opened another pad. “Who is going to be your maid of honor?”

“Dawn,” Kristy muttered, but did not make a move to write it down. Claudia did not look up as she scribbled away in her own book.

“That leaves Jessi and me as bridesmaids. Are there any other family members that you might want to include?”

“Scott has a sister,” Kristy admitted. “I suppose I could ask her.”

“And her name is?” Pen posed, Claudia looked up questioningly.

“Nancy,” Kristy finally supplied.

“Hold on!” Jessi warned from the front and the jeep rounded a turn a bid faster than necessary.

“Is she married?” Claudia continued.

“No. Why do I have to do this?”

Claudia raised her eyebrows. “You want to marry Scott, don't you?”

“Yeah,” Kristy answered in a bored tone. “I don't need all this stuff,” she waved toward Claudia's bag of magazines and stuff, “to get married to Scott.”

“True,” Dawn injected for Claudia, “but I happen to know Scott wants you in a dress at least.”

Kristy straightened up. “And how do you know this?”

Looking innocent again, Dawn just said, “I have my resources.”

Before Kristy could say more, Jessi announced, “We are here.”


“Here,” Dawn shoved a cloud of white materials through the door of the dressing room.

“What is that?” Kristy eyed the billowing mass suspiciously.

“The beginning,” Jessi answered for Dawn, who was busy trying to persuade the hangers to stay on one of the dressing room's many hooks.

“Oh no!” Dawn doved for the door as Kristy yelled, “I am not trying on that.”

Jessi closed the door and leaned against the inside. “You can and will. I am not letting you get married in a pair of sweat pants.” Crossing her arms, Jessi prepared herself for a fight.

“I won't wear sweat pants,” Kristy protested.

“Then what were you planning on wearing?” Jessi asked in a suspiciously calm tone.

“I don't know,” Kristy admitted before declaring again, “I won't wear sweat pants or that thing.” She pointed to the cloud of netting and sequins hanging on the wall.

“How about this,” Jessi offered. “You try on that and other gowns and if you don't like them we will try others until you like one.”

“I won't like any of them,” Kristy did not look happy, but seemed to realize that she had no choice.

“Maybe,” Jessi agreed, “but you won't know until you try.”

“Yes I can,” Kristy protested, but caught the weird piece of equipment that her sister-in-law threw to her. “What is this?”

“A strapless,” Jessi answered before shutting the door behind her. “Hurry up, the longer it takes the worse it will feel.”

“You can forget this thing,” she yelled.


Kristy appeared a few seconds later; the dress was on, but obviously the strapless was not. Everyone agreed the fluffy concoction was not Kristy. Claudia picked the next gown.

“I cannot even stand without feeling like I am going to rip the thing.” The sheath dress covered everything in one long tube of satin.

“Nice fin,” Dawn commented. The train was a detachable cone of fabric that attached to the back under a rather large bow.

Next was a plain A-line cut with pearls and very few sequins. It was the best yet, but it lacked a bodice. Kristy did not even have to show it off. Everyone agreed, it was way too revealing.

Finally they let Kristy look and pick one. She loudly declared she did not want any of them, but under threat of another cloud-like one, she picked one. It was a simple satin dress with a short train. The only decoration was some flowers embroidered around the hem. The neckline was a simple scoop with embroidered edging. It was simple, yet pretty. When she modeled it, they all agreed she could use this one.

“Finally.” Kristy turned back toward the dressing rooms.

“Not so fast,” Claudia interjected. “We still have the veil, shoes, and stockings.”

“Let her be,” Jessi said. “We will do that later. We have the dress that is good enough for today.”

Dawn added, “Now she can pick out our dresses.”

“Oooh.” Kristy turned back with a devious glint in her eye. “I can't wait.”


After declaring that they all had to try on these orange metallic colored dresses with no straps, Kristy savored her moment of revenge. Then she relented but not until after they had all put them on and modeled to her satisfaction.

Her final choices were very similar to her own dress, except they were lavender and did not have trains. The shoes could be dyed to match, but she decided to wait on those. It was too many decisions for one shopping trip. “No more,” she declared.


“I hate rain,” Kristy declared as she stared out the windows in the parlor.

Dawn straightened from her picking up. The remains from her painting project were still scattered around the room. Jessi had scheduled the furniture to be delivered the next day and she wanted the room clear. Kristy was supposed to be helping. “I think you like rain, but don't like being cooped up inside.” Stretching to relieve her back, she asked, “Where is Scott?”

“With the other guys finishing the basement,” she grimaced at her reflection. It grimaced back. “I have been banned from their company until they are done.”

“They figure out you were hiding from us?” Dawn kicked the plastic and sent dried paint and dirt into the air in clouds.

“I don't know, but Scott insisted I go through on the dress.” She made another face at the water sheeting the other side of the glass.

“Somehow I get the impression that you only offered to help me because Claudia is working in the kitchen with Jessi.” Dawn kicked the plastic farther across the floor.

“I never knew there were so many stinking details to getting married.” Kristy turned and coughed at the dust. “You know you are just making the mess worse.”

Dawn looked up and shrugged. “My help is not helping and the weather is making me feel like being annoying.” Then she grinned. “Let's go get a movie and junk food.”

Kristy instantly brightened. “Yeah!”

“We could have a movie party.”

“Claudia is so big on planning right now,” Kristy said, “Why don't we ask her to suggest a movie and Jessi is great with food.”

“Good idea,” Dawn agreed. “Just help me finish in here and then we can go ask.”

“I knew there had to be a catch.” Kristy exclaimed, but began to help with the plastic floor covering.


“Have any of you seen My Best Friend's Wedding?” Jessi asked studying the back of the aforementioned film.

“Yes,” Dawn exclaimed from the next row in the video rental store. “I hated it! It was in very poor taste.”

“What kind of poor taste?” Claudia asked from beside Jessi. “Your opinion can be off sometimes, especially when it comes to movies.”

“I beg to differ,” Dawn argued in shock. “I was right about Newsies and The Princess Bride, wasn't I?”

“Yeah, once I got it,” Kristy commented. “On the other hand, I never understood your fascination with the classic nerd.”

“I think we should watch Persuasion or Pride and Prejudice,” Dawn suggested, changing the subject.

“How about Rush Hour 2?” Kristy presented the action film to Jessi for perusal.

Jessi grimaced. “Must you be so unromantic at a time like this?”

“Yeah,” Dawn chimed in, having abandoned the idea of the classics for another day. “You should have no trouble getting Scott to watch that with you. You know how much he enjoys commenting of the different techniques Jackie Chan uses. Tonight is a 'Girls' night. Romance is the only genre allowed.”

“I have made a decision.” Claudia announced as she plucked a video from the shelf and waved it above her head so that all could see it over the aisles. “We are going to watch the Runaway Bride. Now who is paying?”

“You choose, you pay,” Kristy informed her.

Before Claudia could protest, Jessi collected the case and tape and announced, “My treat.” She headed to the check out. “After all, it is my rental card, VCR and TV.”

Chapter Six

"Pass the chips and dip," Claudia asked from her corner of the couch. She had just gotten herself comfortable.

"Not until I have had some first," Dawn insisted as she hurtled the back of the couch and landed in the middle. "I have first dibs, they are my favorite."

Jessi arrived carrying a tray filled with different bags of junk food and candy with Kristy right behind her waving the rented tape. "Lead me to the VCR," Kristy announced.

"It is over there." Claudia waved toward the far wall of the top floor living room. "Underneath the TV. Hey, Dawn, I want some too you know." Dawn was already loading up a plate with food.

Dawn passed a plate laden with chips and dip from the tray Jessi had settled on the coffee table in front of the sofa. Popping the tape into the VCR, Kristy grabbed the remote and immediately pressed play before passing it to Jessi. As the previews were beginning, Jessi turned out the lights and the girls lounged into comfortable positions around the room: Jessi and Claudia on the couch, Kristy on the recliner and Dawn sprawled across the floor.

Jessi fast forwarded the previews and resumed playing for the beginning of the movie.

“Hey,” Claudia protested. “Sometimes the previews are good.”

“More often than not, my experience has been that they are not.”

The room was silent as scenes of open country and the main character, Maggie Carpenter, galloping across the fields played across the screen. Just as the camera began to pan over the tall buildings and noisy sidewalks of New York City, Dawn groaned.

“I hate city,” she muttered before diving a hand into the chips again.

“We know,” Claudia rolled her eyes. “You have only mentioned it a couple million times over the past few months: ever since Liam started talking about living near a major airline for a year.”

“It worked,” Dawn pointed out. “And besides it is true, I hate cities.”

Before the conversation could continue, both Jessi and Kristy hissed for them to shush. The silence resumed as the movie began in earnest. It lasted until a new character appeared and Kristy could not help commenting.

“Enter scientist,” she announced. “Any feelings, Dawn?”

Dawn tossed popcorn at Kristy half-heartedly. She could not deny her weakness for the nerdy types.

A moment later Dawn was yelling. “’Dot, dot, dot,’” she sputtered. “He doesn’t know an ellipsis when he sees one!”

“I take it that Liam is safe from this guy’s competition?” Claudia muttered.

“It’s okay,” Kristy said. “He wasn’t good looking anyways.”

Dawn ignored them and watched the screen.

Just as the first old lady smacked Ike with something, Austin appeared in the door way in time to see. “What in the world are you watching? Why did that old lady bean the man? What did he do?”

Claudia pushed up off the couch long enough to hiss at him to be quiet or leave. Obediently, he left.

“You do realize that he will be back in a few minutes with reinforcements, don’t you?” Jessi pointed out.

“Yeah, he can’t let us watch some movie that promotes male beating.” Dawn commented before returning her attention to the movie.

As Ike’s character started making excuses, Kristy grimaced. “Typical.”

The front of Peggy Fleming’s salon became centered on the screen. “Curl Up and Dye” Kristy read. “Sounds like something Dawn came up with.”

As Ike agreed to a hair washing, Claudia shook her head. “How stupid can you get?”

After another half hour the boys made their appearance just as Peggy was telling Ike about her husband’s morning radio show “Wake up with Flem.”

“What kind of movie is this?” Austin asked. Adem, Scott, and Liam were on his heels and took no time in crowding up the room with sweat and dirt. The construction downstairs was apparently a messy job. “First, old ladies are bashing men with newspapers and now they are talking about morning personal issues. I was sure that you guys were getting a chick flick.”

“It certainly doesn’t sound like the typical chick flick,” Liam commented as he sat on the floor next to Dawn.

“Of course us guys know nothing about that stuff,” Scott took the chips from Kristy and sat on the floor with his back to her legs. Kristy jabbed his back with her toe and told him to be quiet.

“Cool impression,” Austin said as Ike mimicked Maggie’s cheering. Claudia glared at him. Wisely, he shut up.

A few minutes later, Maggie and Peggy were making up and Peggy said, “I understand that sometimes you just spaz out with excess flirtatious energy and it just lands on anything male that moves.”

Maggie responded, “Anything male that moves as opposed to anything male that doesn’t?”

“Well, like certain kinds of coral” was Peggy’s response.

Scott interjected, “Peggy sounds like your kind of girl, Liam.”

Liam grimaced as they missed the next few lines.

Peggy was talking about “married women who have lost their mystery.”

Maggie objected, “You are totally mysterious.”

“No, I am weird,” Peggy explained. “Weird and mysterious are two very different things.”

“I am weird,” Maggie said.

“No, you are quirky,” Peggy said. “Quirky and weird are two very, very different things.”

Austin laughed. “It gets better and better, huh Liam?”

Popcorn flew across the room and landed on Austin’s head.

“Not in my living room!” Jessi yelled. “All of you out! Go take showers or something, you stink.” She prodded her husband in the ribs.

“I didn’t do anything,” Adem protested. It was in vain. In moments, Jessi had shooed them all out the door with orders to clean up and stay out. Finally the girls could rewind their movie and settle back to watch in peace.

Just after Ike was describing how a proposal should be done. Kevin surprised them all by commenting out of the blue, “how sweet.”

“When did you come in?” Kristy demanded.

“Oh, back when they were examining rings.” He sat on the chair opposite the recliner. “I came looking for the guys, but they said that they were under orders to make themselves scarce. I thought I would attempt to infiltrate the lion’s den for them.”

Kevin played with the cover of the video. “Oh, now I get it.”

“What?” Kristy demanded.

“You kicked the guys out so they would not know that you are watching a movie called the Runaway Bride.” He glanced at her with a fake innocence. “Didn’t want Scott to know that you were planning a get away?”

“Why you!” Kristy rose and dived for Kevin. She was only prevented from creaming him because Dawn and Jessi intervened.

Claudia got up and opened the door to the hall. “I would run if I were you,” she advised. Kevin took it and sprinted. The door closed after him.

“You can let her go now.” Claudia plopped down on the couch again and grabbed the remote. “Now I will rewind, again.”

Finally they finished the movie without further interruptions. Everyone stretched and then Jessi got up to get the tape.

“It was okay,” Dawn said as she tried to roll herself to her feet.

“What do you mean, ‘okay?’” Kristy protested and reached for the popcorn bowl only to find it empty.

Dawn shrugged. “I guess I did not like the guy.”

“Not geeky enough for you?” Kristy asked as she went looking for ammo.

“No,” Dawn managed to move the chips out of Kristy’s reach just in time. “He was so nasty at the beginning that I had a hard time getting him out the hole he had dug himself into. Besides, I would hate to have a married fight with him. He goes for blood.”

“Come on,” Jessi announced as she headed for the door. “Its time to see what is for dinner.”

“Dinner?” Kristy and Dawn grimaced at the thought of more food.

Claudia smiled and headed for the door. “Sounds great, I am eating for two now and I am starved.”


“Hey Kristy,” Jessi cornered her sister-in-law in the front hall immediately after dinner. “How many invitations did you send out for this wedding and are we going to have to correct the location if you are going to be having the event here?”

“Huh?” Kristy gave her a blank look. “I haven’t even decided on a guest list.”

“You do have a date, don’t you?” Jessi asked with raised eyebrows.

“Um,” Kristy answered, “late August sometime, maybe.”

Jessi groaned. “Now I know why these guys get frustrated with you. We need a date, now, and we are going to have to get the invitations done immediately. From now on you are going to be spending a lot of time with Claudia while Dawn and I finish stuff around here.”

“Oh no.” Kristy moaned. “But, I wanted to help with the house!”

“You can, after the wedding is planned,” Jessi said.


“No, buts,” Jessi frowned. “You have to do it, girl. Scott can’t; you have to.”


“No, huge invasive stench,” Dawn corrected, coming in in time to hear the last exchange. “Don’t worry; Claudia will have you finished in no time.”

“The time is not what I am dreading.” Kristy muttered as she went looking for Scott.


“Scott,” Kristy hollered down the basement stairs. The voices she had heard continued, but no answering call came. Deciding she had to go down to get an answer, she opened the door the rest of the way and ventured down the dim stairwell.

“Hey guys,” she called in the direction of the noise. “Whose idea was it to not fix the lights on the stairs first? It is like a tomb.”

“The better to annoy you with, my dear,” Kevin commented as he appeared around a corner.

Kristy checked her first reaction which was to turn around and bolt. “Is Scott here?”

“No,” Kevin grinned, “Shnuckums is not down here.”

Crossing her arms and frowning forbiddingly, Kristy demanded, “Do you know where he went?”

“Well, I don’t know…”

He didn’t get to finish. “Then I will go look somewhere else,” Kristy said as she turned on her heel and headed back up the stairs. The music that she had mistaken for voices was all she could hear behind her as she shut the basement door. She briefly considered locking it, but decided she didn’t want to encourage the guy.


“What about this one,” Claudia handed the invitation sample book to Kristy and pointed to a simple white invitation. It had no frills; the only decoration was a raised garland of ivy around the border. The leaves were highlighted with a subtle green. The sample type was a loose, but simple script.

Pushing aside the book of gilded one, Kristy absentmindedly rubbed Leia’s head as she examined the newest option. “I think this one might be it.”

“Finally,” Claudia sighed. Thumping the large binders down on the coffee table of the study, she stood up and stretched. “Now let me see your guest list.”

“What guest list,” Kristy asked innocently. “With all this initiation picking out, I haven’t had time to ask Scott about a list.”

Claudia smoldered. “You said you were going to do that yesterday.”

Before Kristy could defend herself, Dawn burst into the room. Yellow and peach colored paint covered her overalls and a smudge of bright yellow was across her forehead. “We finished the bathroom on the third floor.”

“No fair,” Kristy whined.

Claudia grimaced. “I hope both of those colors were not used in the same room.”

Dawn looked down at her pant legs and laughed. “No the peach was the one of the guest bathrooms. How is it going?”

“Don’t ask,” Claudia muttered and resumed moving the sample books.

“I already did,” Dawn replied. “How is it going?”

“I picked invitations, Claudia is angry I have not done the guest list yet.”

“What month is it, Kristy?” Claudia seethed, “June! And when is this wedding? August!” She dropped the last book onto the pile with a dramatic thud. “I can’t do everything!” she yelled and then stomped out and slammed the door with a bang.

Dawn looked from the closed door to Kristy’s stunned face. “I would surmise that it has been a long morning and you still haven’t done something.”

“I did try,” Kristy protested. “I tried to find him last night after dinner, but I found Kevin instead and then I got all flustered and angry because he would not tell me where Scott went and I was so mad and I am…” she stopped for a breath and Dawn interjected.

“Do you love Scott?”

“Of course,” Kristy burst out.

“Do you want to marry Scott?”

“Yes,” Kristy declared with slightly less vigor.

“Then quit dragging your feet,” Dawn told her dispassionately. “You have been dragging you feet this whole time; so, quit it and start working with us.”

Kristy stood there a bit shell shocked. “I will go talk to Scott.”

“Good idea,” Dawn agreed. “I will make sure most of that was hormones,” she said indicating the sample binders with a wave.

Kristy nodded and left.

“Oh, boy,” Dawn muttered before following.

Chapter Seven

Kristy found Scott lifting cement bags out to the truck with the rest of the guys. She walked up to him. “I have to talk to you.”

“Can’t it wait?” Scott grunted as he raised the heavy sack off the truck bed. “I am in the middle of something.”

“No,” Kristy said as she spotted Kevin heading back toward them for another load. “We need to talk now.”

Looking puzzled, Scott turned and spotting Kevin said, “Kristy needs me for something, could you take this one?” Kevin nodded and took it without looking at Kristy or saying a word.

Kristy was not sure what to think.

“So, what is the problem?” Scott asked as he wiped his hands on his jeans.

“Claudia needs me to put together a guest list so we can get the invitations out for the wedding.”

“She needs it now?” Raising his eyebrows in surprise, he watched her face. “Is everything all right?”

“Claudia asked me to ask you last night, but I couldn’t find you and…well, when I did find you I had forgotten the whole thing and then she asked me for it this morning and when I didn’t have it she blew up.”

“Oh,” Scott nodded. “Austin said she has been moody lately: one minute cold and then one minute hot. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

“I’m not.” Kristy protested. “I just want to know who you want to invite.”

He thought briefly. “My family, of course…we already decided we wanted a small wedding, right?” He glanced at her for confirmation. She nodded. “Then that sounds about right. I gave you my groomsmen, right?” This time Kristy shook her head. He hadn’t. “Okay, that one’s easy, Austin, Liam, Kevin, and Adem. Austin is my best man. I already asked all of them and their fine with it. Is there anything else?” He raised his eyebrows again. “The guys need my help.”

“Nope,” Kristy reluctantly admitted. “That is all.”

“Great,” Scott leaned over and hugged her before turning back to the truck. “We will talk later,” he promised.


“I have the list, finally,” Kristy announced as she burst into the kitchen waving some sheets of paper the next morning. She held them out to Claudia. “And I am sorry I got you so upset. I am really not trying to be a pain. I just don’t like doing this stuff.”

Claudia nodded and took the three pages of name and addresses that Kristy offered. “These are mostly family,” she commented. “Aren’t you inviting any friends?”

“You and Austin, Dawn and Liam and that is about it.” Kristy agreed.

“All right,” Claudia said and headed toward the study where she was storing the notes that she had been making. “I will send these to the printer today and make it a rush order.”

“Whew am I glad that is over with,” Kristy sank into an empty chair at the table.

“Now you have to get a photographer,” Jessi pointed out, “and you need to plan the ceremony, reception, and honeymoon. Or is Scott doing that?”

“Scott is handling the honeymoon.” Kristy firmly pronounced. “We don’t need a photographer, do we?”

“Don’t you want pictures of your wedding?” Dawn asked.

“Some people have their friends do it.” Kristy brightened as she said it. Turning to Dawn she said, “I elect you.”

Dawn looked incredulous. “I am not sure you want me to do it. I have issues with focusing and I had two rolls that were ruined by a hair in the lens. All the prints had this huge comma in different parts of the photo. I am not your woman.”

“Well, then who?” Kristy crossed her arms. “I am not wasting time on this, either someone in here does it, or it won’t happen.”

“Maybe one of the guys would be willing,” Claudia suggested as she reentered the room laden with the sample binder and Kristy’s guest list. “Can I use your phone, Jessi? It would be faster than driving to this place and I can find out if they can rush the order for me.”

“Sure,” Jessi led the way into the front hall. Kristy and Dawn heard her voice as she found Claudia the phone book.

“The reception planning should be easy,” Dawn offered. “All you need is music, a cake, and a caterer. You already have the place and I wonder if Timone would be willing to cater for you. I think I remember Jessi saying something about him having his own business.”

“He does,” Jessi agreed. She had returned just in time to hear Dawn’s last sentence. “You will have to ask him. I don’t know how far ahead he is booked. Now about a photographer, Adem and I know a guy who does it as a hobby who might be willing to photograph your wedding. He isn’t a professional, but he is good.”

“Great,” Kristy exclaimed. “Hire him.”

“I will see if I can find his phone number,” Jessi agreed.

“So we are finished.” Kristy jumped up.

“Wait a minute,” Dawn interrupted. “What about the cake?”

“Won’t the caterer take care of it?”

“No,” Dawn grinned mischievously. “We are going to have to go cake shopping.”

“You can actually do that,” Kristy squealed.

“Yes,” Jessi said.

“You are telling me people go cake shopping?” Kristy gasped.

“Yes,” Dawn stressed. “Now we just need the phone book after Claudia is done and we might be able to start this afternoon after the rug people leave.”


“Rum cake, plum cake, raisin cake, date cake, black cake, white cake, orange cake…”

“Who decided to bring the guys along?” Claudia asked over Liam’s recitation of the many options offered by the bakery that they were in.

“…apple cake, spiced cake…”

“I believe it was Kristy’s,” Dawn offered.

“…fruit cake, upside down pineapple cake…”

“I am quickly regretting the decision.” Kristy reached over and grabbed the flyer from Liam’s hands.

“Hey,” he protested, but Dawn restrained him.

“I thought so.” Kristy threw the paper back at him. “There is no upside down pineapple cake on that list. Not to mention the absence of apple cake and any fruit cake in any form.”

“I was just making sure you knew your options.”

“I don’t want options, I want one answer.” She huffed and leaned back with a sigh. “Where is that sales woman?”

“Personally I liked the lemon cake we tasted at our first stop,” Austin offered.

“Hated it,” Kristy said.

“What about the white cake at the last place?” Claudia offered.

“Too heavy,” Kristy said.

“It sounds like you are being a bit overly picky,” Dawn said as she perused the discarded flyer. “You have not even considered the icing and decorations.”

“Ack,” Kristy yelled just as the saleswoman appeared. The moment Kristy spotted her, she said. “I know exactly what I want. I want that.” She pointed to a large three tiered cake covered in white icing and green rosettes. “I want it for August 15th and with an orange cake. Can you do that?”

Looking a bit stunned, the woman nodded and mumbled, “I will fetch the sales order, just a moment please,” and slipped out looking a bit afraid.

“There,” Kristy said. “Are you all happy?” Without waiting for an answer, she stomped out.

After a moment of silence, Dawn turned to Scott who was sitting next to Kristy’s now empty place. “Now do you see what I mean?”

He nodded and then rose to follow Kristy out the door.


Kristy was leaning against the van outside the bakery. A dark look was on her face and every inch of her body declared she did not want to be bothered. As usual, Scott ignored it.

“What happened in there?” he asked.

Kristy looked up with a glower. “I chose a cake.”

“I know you chose a cake,” He agreed. “But, I was asking about the yelling and the minor explosion.”

Kristy resumed glaring at the pavement and offered no answer.

“Come on,” Scott said. “I can’t help, if you don’t tell me what is wrong.”

Reluctantly, Kristy muttered, “I lost my temper.”

“What?” Scott leaned closer. “I didn’t hear you.”

“I lost my temper, okay!” She glared at him. “I am sick to death of this whole thing. I want to elope and make all of it go away.”

Scott thoughtfully watched her. “I would, but we have already spent a great deal of time and money on this wedding and everyone is looking forward to it.”

“You are telling me we are doing this for them?” Kristy asked.

“No,” Scott ran a hand over his hair. “We are doing this for us, but it effects others. I know I would like to have the wedding day be special and have memories of all the events we will share with our family and friends. Don’t you?”

Kristy was silent for a moment. “I guess so, but I hate all this planning and deciding.”

“From what Dawn says, this was the last big item.” Scott gestured toward the storefront just as the rest of them were exiting.

“If she did,” Kristy said as the others approached, “I am going to hold her to it.”

“To what?” Dawn asked.

“That choosing the cake was the last thing on the list.”

“No,” Dawn corrected, “I said the last BIG thing on the list.”

“AAAAGH!!” Kristy yelled without conviction. “I am going to get you when you get married. I will make you plan a huge wedding with a huge reception.”

“We will see,” Dawn said as everybody started climbing into the van. “You are assuming I am going to ask for help.”

“Like you have a choice,” Kristy responded and then closed the door with a slam.


When they got back to the house, Kevin and Adem were just putting the finishing touches on the new sidewalk and Jessi was talking to Brandon about how she wanted the flowerbeds to look. The group trouped up the drive from the car. Adem looked up long enough to say, “Don’t step on the pavement” and then returned his attention to the corner he was smoothing.

Jessi was describing her vision for the bed left of the front entrance when Dawn, who was leading, reached her. “Three bushes in descending heights standing here.” She waved her hand and Brandon nodded and wrote something down on his pad. Turning to the new arrivals, Jessi asked, “So how did it go?”

“As predicted,” Dawn said smugly.

“I got a cake,” Kristy muttered and continued on into the house.

Jessi raised her eyebrows. “The storm front has not passed yet, though,” She pointed out. “So, not everything has gone as predicted.”

“Scott did not completely diffuse the problem,” Claudia explained. The guys had not gotten past Adem and Kevin. All of them were now talking about something intently. As Dawn and Claudia watched, they were sure it was not the situation they were discussing.

“He only delayed another blow up.” Dawn shook her head and then shrugged. “At least he knows there is something wrong. That is the most we can do.”

“Give him time,” Jessi suggested. Then turning to Brandon, she said, “I think you have the idea, so when do you start?”

“Right after we do the driveway on Thursday.”

“Oh good,” Claudia exclaimed. “I am getting really tired of all the bumps.”

“Sounds good,” Jessi agreed. “Now I need to make sure Timone has started dinner and call the furniture place. They are probably going to be delivering tomorrow and I need to figure a way around that sidewalk that they have just done.” Turning, she went into the house leaving the girls to watch the guys talk.