Page 10


Sighing, Ellie throws up her hands. “Oh my god, Isabel can just come here for a few days or something.”
Glynnis nods and starts tapping on her phone. “Ash Bentley, you said?” A few more taps, then she flashes a grin. “She’s actually on a UK book tour next month. I can make some calls to her publisher, have them add a stop in Edinburgh. We’ll fly your friend over to see her, too.”
“Great,” Ellie says, then looks back at the screen. “See?” she says. “Fixed.”
I just sit there, gaping at her. “No, not fixed. I don’t want your ‘people’ pulling weird strings, I want to see her in two weeks in Key West with Isabel like we planned. And it’s not just seeing Ash Bentley. It was the entire con. It was . . .” I trail off because I have no idea how to make them see that this was something I was looking forward to. To Ellie, it’s probably just another one of my weird hobbies, but Key Con was going to be the highlight of my summer.
Glynnis leans back, clearly so Ellie can handle it from here, and my sister cuts her eyes to the side before lowering her voice and saying, “Mom, talk to her.”
I jerk my head to look at Mom, who is now raking her hands through her hair. She’s blond like Ellie (and me, before the dye job), but it’s a little grayer and ashier, cut in a shag haircut that frames her face. It’s my face, pretty much, just older, and when she looks at me, I already know what she’s going to say.
“You’re going to take her side in this,” I say, and Mom reaches out, laying a hand on my arm.
“Darling. This does seem like a fair compromise. More than fair, really.”
And the thing is, I know that. I know that going to a smaller signing rather than a massive convention where we’ll just be faces in the crowd is better, but it’s just . . . that was ours. Our idea, our plan, our choice. Nothing about this is my choice.
When I don’t say anything, Ellie picks up the laptop, holding it closer to her face. “This story isn’t just some random gossip thing, Daisy,” she says. “What Glynnis is being too nice to tell you is that it made the papers here, and I’d really like my future in-laws to meet you—all of you—and see for themselves what lovely, totally normal people you are.”
“Are we normal?” Dad asks, tugging at his ponytail. “That’s so disappointing.”
Glynnis takes the laptop again, giving us that bright smile. I wonder if it would be too forward to tell her she needs to tone it down about a thousand notches because that grin makes her look like she’s about to eat us.
“We were already planning a get-together closer to the wedding,” she says, “but with it being summer, this really does seem like the perfect time, I hope you’ll all agree.”
“No,” I say again, “because I have a . . . god, what would y’all say? A ‘prior commitment.’ Besides, I haven’t learned the protocol or anything yet,” I argue. “I might say the wrong thing to the wrong person and cause an international incident. What if I screw up so badly that Scotland declares war on Florida? What then, El?”
My sister is still holding her hair in a ponytail over one shoulder, her head tilted slightly to one side, and her eyes narrow. “Why are you like this?”
I shrug. “Dad, probably.”
At my side, Dad mimics my shrug. “Probably,” he agrees, and I think if Glynnis weren’t sitting right next to her, Ellie would’ve slammed her computer shut.
As always, Mom is the peacemaker. “All right, all right, enough. I’m your mother, so I get the final say in this. Glynnis, you think having Daisy over there during all this engagement . . . kerfuffle will make things easier on her?”
“Mom!” I squawk, but she just holds up her hand, still looking at the laptop.
Glynnis looks up from her phone and gives that man-eating grin again. “I do. The more control we have over this situation, the better. I know it just looks like one measly blog post now, but trust me, these things spiral.” Her accent turns that word into an actual spiral, vowels stretching, the r twisting.
Before any of us can say anything, Glynnis goes on. “Of course we can start small. Most of the bigger, potentially more stressful functions won’t start up until we get closer to the wedding. There’s no need to throw Daisy into the deep end of the pool with Their Majesties.”
Their Majesties. The Queen and Prince Consort of Scotland, who I’d now be hanging out with.
Now it’s my stomach spiraling.
“Isabel—” I start.
“Can come visit you here,” Glynnis finishes smoothly. “We’ll arrange everything.”
“I need to at least talk to her,” I say, but Glynnis is already talking again.
“Next week, the Marquess of Sherbourne is throwing a little house party for Eleanor and Alexander. That will be close family and intimate friends only, and just the younger set. It would be a good place to start, don’t you think?”
Glynnis turns to Ellie on that, and I can tell my sister isn’t so sure. Her long fingers are still twisting her ponytail, making her massive engagement ring wink. “If . . . if you think that’s best,” she says, and Glynnis pats her arm. Her nails are the same bright red as her lipstick.
“Seriously, am I invisible? Are you just planning this like I haven’t said no a thousand times?” I cut in, looking between my parents, and Dad heaves a sigh, thin shoulders moving beneath his Hawaiian-print shirt.
“The train is rolling, my Daisy-Daze,” he says in a low voice. “Best to get on board before you’re crushed on the tracks.”
“I know you’ve been looking forward to Key West, love,” Mom says on my other side, “but I really do think Glynnis here and Ellie have come up with a fine solution. And think how thrilled Isabel will be to come to Scotland to see you! Key West isn’t going anywhere, either, and you can always go when you get home.”
“Exactly,” Glynnis says, gesturing with one hand like she’s showing me the fabulous prize I just won. “And of course, Mr. and Mrs. Winters,” she adds, “we’d love to have the two of you as well. As I said, the party is mostly for the younger set—”
“And for drinking and debauchery,” Dad says, sitting up in his chair with a sigh. “Yes, yes, I’ve had my fill of that, so we can pass on the party. Get right to meeting Berry’s new family, shall we?”
“Dad!” El says, her cheeks turning pink, eyes shooting again to Glynnis.
“Sorry, sorry,” Dad says with a wave of his hand. “Meeting Eleanor’s new family.”
Ellie’s hands go round and round her hair, and had I just not had my own summer trampled on, I’d feel kind of sorry for her. She’s worked so hard for the past few years to keep things in their separate boxes, and now, thanks to one stupid blog, those boxes are about to be dumped out on her head.
“So it’s set, then?” Glynnis asks, leaning in so that her face almost completely blocks Ellie’s. “The Winters family is coming to Scotland?”
Mom, Dad, and I share a three-way glance, and after a pause, Dad lifts his wineglass in a salute.
“Aye,” he says, putting on a broad Scottish accent that has El’s eyes widening. “We are indeed, lassie.”
Chapter 7
Sitting in the back of a town car, watching the gentle hills of the Scottish Lowlands roll by, I wonder if jet lag is making me hallucinate.