Embracing Her Heart

By: Melissa Foster

“You’d think you were a bunch of horny teenagers the way you drool over that man.” Their mother pulled Grace into a warm hug, squeezing her longer than usual, giving her the extra love Grace hadn’t realized she’d needed until just then. “How’s my sweet girl?”

Hot, bothered, and frustrated. “Good, Mom,” she said, because she was pretty sure her mother wouldn’t appreciate the truth.

“We’re not drooling. We’re just making sure he’s working and not goofing off,” Sable said, turning to watch Reed again. “It was Grace who was trying to get him into bed, not us.”

Obviously Sable wasn’t going to make this easy. Maybe Grace would have to leave after all.

“Ugh, Sabe, you’re so raunchy,” Amber said, her cheeks flushing.

“Grace is the one who went out there half naked to flirt with him,” Sable pointed out.

“Grace?” Her mother’s brows knitted as she looked over Grace’s silk cami and pajama shorts. “You didn’t go out there like that, did you?” She poured a cup of coffee and shook her head. “Poor Reed probably didn’t know what hit him.”

Grace rolled her eyes. If her mother had known that Grace and Reed had once secretly dated, she’d never have hired him.

“I didn’t go out there to flirt with him. I went out to find out why the heck someone was making noise this early. I had no idea you were renovating. I thought Dad was tinkering again. Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Her father taught engineering at the community college and had summers off, during which he often took care of odd jobs around the house.

“Oh, honey.” Her mother’s gaze softened. “You have so much going on with your plays. Right after one gets going, you dive into the next, and you finally got some time off. I didn’t think it was a big deal.”

Sable suppressed a smile, and Grace knew her sister was thinking the same thing she was. Reed Cross is a very big deal. Sable dug through the grocery bag, trying to dodge the weight of Grace’s stare.

“Anyway, where’d you find that guy?” Grace tried to act nonchalant, busying herself filling bowls with food and water for Clayton, who was currently winding himself around Reno’s feet. Reno buried his nose in the cat’s fur, while Sable gave Grace a nice-try look.

“It’s the saddest thing,” their mother said. “I hired his uncle, Roy Cross, who came highly recommended and lives in Meadowside, but Roy had a massive heart attack a few months ago. Reed dropped everything and came back to town to help him complete all the projects he’d taken on. Apparently, Reed followed in Roy’s footsteps and he’s some type of big historical preservationist in Michigan.”

Michigan. So that’s where he took off to.

Their mother began putting groceries away and said, “All I know is that any man who would drop everything to help his family is a man worth his weight in gold.”

“Pepper would say that a man needs to treat a woman like a diamond before he’s treated like he’s worth a penny,” Amber said.

“Yes, well…” Her mother smiled warmly. “Our girl Pepper might find herself eighty years old and alone in a house full of computers, books, and electronic gadgets one day if she’s not careful. I love your sister, but she’s pickier than a cotton gin.”

They all laughed.

Sable opened a box of cinnamon buns and held one out toward Grace. “Here, Gracie. You can take Reed a cinnamon bun and apologize for your bitch attack this morning.”

“Sable. Language, please,” their mother chided, causing Sable to roll her eyes and Amber and Grace to smile. “Although, there is that look you give men, Grace. I wouldn’t call it bitchy, but I’ve noticed that you’re not quite as soft as you once were.”

Grace set the bowls on the floor for Clayton. Reno ambled over and tried to stick his nose in, but Clayton hissed.

“Leave it,” Amber said, and Reno backed obediently away.

“Not quite as soft? Was I ever soft, Mom?” She’d certainly tried to change, but had she become hardened or bitchy?

Her mother lovingly touched her hand. “You weren’t really soft, Grace, just softer than you are now.”

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