Until There Was You

Page 28


“Has he called you since you put things on hold?”
“Well, something tells me he’s not heartbroken. And here’s your chance. He’s getting out of his poser car right now.”
Posey looked out the window, and sure enough, there was Dante’s midnight-blue Audi, pulling up in front of Inferno.
“I’ll get this,” Jon said. “You go. Make a clean break, and here, take my bagel. I have to wear tights for the float, and God knows what I was thinking. You and your brother are freaks of nature. It’s not fair.”
“You have to wear tights?”
“Of course! Who do you think is playing the part of the prince?” He smiled proudly.
“Typecasting,” Posey said. “Thanks for breakfast.” She took Jon’s bagel, smacked him on the shoulder and crossed the street. It was a gorgeous spring day, sunny, temp in the upper fifties, breeze light and salty. Perfect parade weather, if it held for tomorrow. Today was the sidewalk stroll, a band concert on the green and fireworks over the river. She, Mac and Elise would be staffing a little booth on the green, featuring some of the smaller pieces from Irreplaceable—a few stained-glass windows, some signs, ceiling medallions and a few other things that could be easily transported. They usually sold out, and it was nice, seeing the other merchants. Maybe Liam would be there with one of his motorcycles. She’d hoped for a phone call yesterday, but no.
Didn’t matter (even if it did, a little bit). The birdies sang, the colors gleamed, the flowers smelled so sweet, the entire world seemed brighter. Amazing what a little some-some could do. Especially when the some-some had been so…well…heavenly? Would that be too strong a word? She pondered. Nope. Seemed to fit perfectly.
Oh, Elvis, the man could kiss! Sometimes, those bad-boy types, they didn’t try that hard (or so Sex and the City told her). But Liam had taken his time, uh-huh. Long and slow and meltingly delicious…and fun. She’d been nervous and a little self-conscious, and practically dying of lust, let’s be honest, but he’d made her feel…happy. And beautiful. Oh, sigh! And, in some strange way, like they were old friends, too. He smiled as they kissed, and threaded his fingers through her hair, and he told her she smelled like oranges. At one point in the wee hours, Liam had said, “Oh, God, do that again,” and the memory of his smoky bedroom do me voice had her walk right into a lamppost in the here and now.
“I saw that!” Jon called, and she waved and opened the door to Inferno. Posey felt a rush of pleasure at the décor…there was St. Agnes of Rome holding her lamb, a gargoyle in the corner, the incredible walnut bar—that had been a delicate job, getting that taken down and reassembled, that was for sure. The overall effect was rich, intimate and tasteful.
From the kitchen came a crash of pans and some yelling (in Italian, which had kind of a hotness to it). “Hello!” she called.
The yelling stopped. “I’m so sorry, we don’t open until— Oh. It’s you.” Dante came out of the kitchen, dressed in a white suit with a deep blue shirt.
“Hi, Dante,” she said. “Got a minute?”
“Sure,” he said. He pulled out a chair for her, and they sat down at a table. Posey looked at him—all dark pirate beauty—and smiled awkwardly. It was suddenly a little hard to believe they’d had a thing together. Not that she wasn’t fabulous, of course (hey—if Liam Murphy slept with her…). But just that Dante’s taste didn’t seem to incorporate a woman in Carhartt. He wasn’t smiling, and his was a face that was a little bit scary if it didn’t have a smile.
“So, how are you?” she asked.
“Fine. And you?”
“Oh, great. Are you ready for the weekend?”
“Yes.” Unlike Guten Tag, Inferno didn’t participate in the parade. Way too tacky. Instead, they hosted a wine and cheese tasting on the town green, their tent lavishly decorated with grape vines and furnished with small tables. A far cry from the Goose Girl theme Stacia had chosen for this year’s float.
Dante was looking at her with his glittering dark eyes. “So, why are you here, Posey?”
Was it possible that his coolness was to cover some hurt feelings? Granted, he was the one who hadn’t wanted to take things to the next level, but maybe—maybe—he’d expected her to come back. She suddenly felt much worse.
“Well,” she said, “you know how we talked about our, um, relationship? A little while ago?”
Her toes curled in her work boots. God, these talks were hard! Not that she’d ever given one, but heck. There should be index cards you could just hand out. “Um, well, I think that it’s pretty clear that we want different things—” also, I slept with someone else and am completely infatuated “—and I just wanted to make things official.”
“Official?” Dante’s dark eyebrow lifted.
Posey looked down at the tablecloth. “I mean, we said we’d take a break, and we did, and I think we should just…call it quits. In case there was any gray area here.”
He made a chuffing sound and leaned back in his chair, folding his arms over his chest. “Fine with me. Was there anything else?”
Ouch. She swallowed, then shook her head. “Nope. Nothing else.”
“Then you have a good day.” With that, he stood up and walked back to the kitchen and resumed his yelling.
Posey got up from the table, pushed the chair back carefully, and walked to the door, fighting the urge to bolt. Her skin crawled with…something. Shame. Dismay, maybe, because it was suddenly horribly clear that Dante had never wanted anything more from her than what he’d gotten.
Had she really imagined that he’d choose her as a girlfriend, or—yes, yes, she’d imagined it—wife? Had she really thought that a few sex dates would lead to a deeper relationship? Even though she was done with him, even though she’d initiated their breakup, she suddenly felt so…small. Hiding-in-the-bathroom small.
Dante Bellini had never had any kind of intentions toward her. She’d been available. She’d been convenient, she’d asked for nothing. She’d been easy, in more ways than one.
And tell me, said a small voice in the back of her brain—a voice that sounded distressingly like Gretchen’s—how are things with Liam any different?
STACIA SIGHED, SLAPPED down a giant ladle, spattering grease on the stove, and glared at Posey. “We have to discuss your birthday. It’s only a few weeks away.”
“I have to get changed, Mom. The parade starts in an hour.”
Mother did not seem happy. Father, either, for that matter. Max was hiding in the office and had only grunted as she’d stuck her head in to say hello.
“Dinner, I was thinking. At home, since you and your brother never come by anymore.”
“Ma, I was at your house Tuesday—”
“So us three, the boys, Gretchen. I’ll make your favorite. Brathering mit Bratkartoffeln.”
“Oh, goody.” Posey tried not to wince. Somewhere along the line, Stacia had gotten the idea that Posey loved this dish, which consisted of an entire herring, deep-fried then pickled. It had been her traditional birthday dish for at least fifteen years, and Posey just didn’t have the heart to tell her mother at this late date that she actually hated it.
“I refuse to go to some ridiculous ethnic restaurant,” Stacia announced. The irony of her words didn’t strike her, even as Otto came into the kitchen, dressed in lederhosen and green Bavarian hat. Guten Tag served breakfast on Founders’ Day Weekend—eggs, fish, sausage and potatoes.
“Hey, Otto! You coming on the float today?” Posey asked.
“As luck would have it, my wife had her gallbladder out on Tuesday, so I have to swing home and take care of her,” Otto said, giving her the thumbs-up behind her mother’s back.
“You don’t want to go, do you? Of course you don’t. I don’t know what she was thinking.” Stacia huffed again, an indignant bulldog and queen of the non sequiturs.
“Sorry, Mom. Go where?”
“Inferno! As if I’d set foot in that place! Ever! Kitty McGrew went there last week, though why, I have no idea, we were supposed to be friends, but at any rate— Oh, you know Kitty’s daughter? Ellen? Married. To a banker. That could’ve been you, honey. I honestly don’t know how you manage to stay single. Are you a lesbian? Our son is gay, we can take it.” Otto grinned, waved to Posey and slipped out the back door.
“Mom, I’m aware that Henry is gay, as I am his sister. And no, I’m not a lesbian.” A brief and deeply satisfying flashback to just how straight she was made her knees wobble most pleasantly. But Liam hadn’t called yesterday, either, or shown up at the sidewalk stroll. Which was fine. Sort of. “You were ranting about Inferno, Mom. Was there a point?”
“Right. Well, your cousin thought you might like to go there. For your birthday. And I said you’d rather die.”
“I wouldn’t. I’d rather eat at Inferno than die, Mom. Just for the record.” Even in light of yesterday’s conversation.
Stacia set a potato pancake in front of Posey (a little over-salted, but hey. Posey wasn’t about to reject it). “I set her straight on that. It’s one thing that you had to do business with that man—and I understand it was a lot of money for you, honey, so I forgive you—but eat there? Please. Poor Gretchen, she’s so good-hearted, she just can’t imagine anyone being snide or insulting like that Dante Bellini’s been to us. Kitschy institution. I’ll give him kitschy institution. Gretchen’s just too sweet for her own good.”
One had to wonder on which planet Stacia lived. “Dinner at home sounds great, Ma,” Posey said.
“Good. Oh, you know what? I should invite Liam and that pretty daughter of his! Don’t you think he and Gretchen would make the most wonderful couple?”
Posey swallowed her bite of congealing pancake without fully chewing it. “Um…I don’t, actually.”
“Well, you’re nuts. They’d make beautiful children. Max! Get out here! Your daughter wants to see you!”
“Then she can come in here! Posey! Are your legs broken?”
“No, Dad, I’m coming.” She went into the office, where her father was scowling at the computer.
“Do you know how to upload something?” Max asked. “I wish to God computers had never been invented!”
“Sure, I can help.”
“Thanks.” He gave her a grudging smile, then patted his knee. “You’re not too big to sit on your old man’s lap, are you?” he said.
“I’m almost thirty-four, Dad,” she said.
“Fine. Stab in me in the heart, why don’t you,” he grumbled, so Posey sat, gave his cheek a smooch, and got to work. “What do you want to upload?”
“A picture of Gretchen,” he said. “Seems like we should make more fuss over her, since she’s a celebrity and all.”
“Ah.” Posey could imagine whose idea that was. She clicked through the folder to find the photo Max wanted. “So, how are renovation plans coming along?”
“Oh…she has a lot of ideas, your cousin.”
“I hope you’ll only change what you want, Dad,” Posey said. “I mean, you’re still adjusting to the new addition.” A few years ago, there’d been a small fire at the Osterhagen home (candles left untended during some geriatric amour, which Henry and Posey still could not mention without wheezing hilarity). The result was that her parents ended up renovating, which caused great upheaval. They still went to the wall where the cellar door used to be, still seemed stymied as to where it went, six years after the fact. So an entirely new restaurant…it just didn’t seem like them.
“That’s the one she wanted,” Max said, pointing, so Posey uploaded the photo to Guten Tag’s home page, and there she was, Gretchen and her impressive Teutonic cleavage.
“Hi, Mutti. Hi, Papa!” Speak of the devil.
“Hi, sweetheart,” Max said. “Posey’s just helping me with the website.”
“Oh. Hi, Posey, you look so cute today!” Gretchen flashed her blinding teeth. “Like you’re about eleven years old, sitting there on Papa’s lap. Adorable!”
“Why, thank you, Gretchen.”
Gret smiled, then gave Posey a searching look. “Hey, how’s the search for your birth parents going?”
Max bolted up from the chair, dumping Posey onto the floor, and there was a huge crash from the kitchen. A nanosecond later, Stacia loomed in the doorway, tragic confusion written all over her face. “What’s this? You’re looking for your birth parents?”
“No,” Posey said, hauling herself off the floor. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Gret.”
“The book on how to find your birth parents? It was on the shelf in the kitchen.”
“Oh, right,” Posey said. “That book belongs to James. I keep meaning to give it back to him.”
Gretchen looked wide-eyed at Max and Stacia, then at Posey, as if desperate to keep a terrible secret. “Oh. Right. Um…Mutti, I must’ve been mistaken. I’m sure it was James’s book. Of course it is.”
“It is, Mom.” Posey glared at her cousin. “I’m not looking for anyone.”
“If you want that information,” Stacia began, her voice stentorian, “we wouldn’t resent you. It’s completely understandable.”