Love Under Two Strong Men

By: Cara Covington

The Lusty, Texas Collection

Chapter 1

Tracy Jessop excelled at being a bridesmaid.

She’d learned to smile and hug and encourage, giving the best toasts, the best showers, and making absolutely the best cakes. And she did it all without letting anyone know about the hunger, the emptiness, the yearning that lived deep inside her.

Unrequited love. I could write reams on the topic.

Tracy ruthlessly pushed away the maudlin thoughts, bringing her attention back to the here and now. Today was Penelope Primrose’s bridal shower. The guest of honor deserved her complete and happy attention.

“Oh, boy. Here goes.”

Ginny Rose sat close on Tracy’s right. Her coworker’s nervous whisper likely reached no one else but her. Tracy automatically touched the young woman’s shoulder, a wordless communication of sorority. She watched as the bride-to-be set about opening the gift on her lap—the gift Tracy had seen Ginny bring into the great room of the Big House when she’d arrived.

Penelope, like most gift openers at these sorts of parties, took her time, peeling off the tape, folding the paper away, her movements as delicate as her appearance. Tracy didn’t know if she could be so restrained under such circumstances.

“I’ve never seen such a careful opener,” Ginny whispered. “I’d be tearing into each and every one of these beautiful gifts. You’d see nothing but paper flying.”

Tracy smiled at her, and when she noticed Ginny’s blush, she leaned forward and said, “Me, too.”

No question Ginny was anxious as Penelope finally removed the last of the paper. Susan Evans-Magee, Penelope’s soon-to-be sister-in-law, handed her the card that had accompanied the gift. Beside Susan, Julia Benedict, her cousin, fastened the pretty bow onto a simple straw hat that already held so many.

Julia caught Tracy’s gaze and smiled. In the flurry of arrivals and socializing, the two women had made a date to get together that evening. Growing up, Julia had been Tracy’s best friend. They’d never lost touch, of course, and had e-mailed back and forth often. But that wasn’t the same as evenings on the sofa watching old movies over popcorn and soda, or head to head whispers under the blankets late at night during sleepovers.

Julia was the only person to whom Tracy had ever confessed her deepest longings.

Tracy turned her attention back to the party. Penelope dutifully opened the card and read the salutation aloud. “May the years ahead be brimming with love and laughter and joy. Best wishes, Virginia Rose.” Penelope blinked. “Oh! Ginny! Thank you so much.”

“I hope it suits,” Ginny said.

“I’m sure it’s perfect.” She handed the card to Susan, and then lifted the cover off the box. Tracy craned her neck to catch a glimpse, but all she could see was pretty pink-and-silver tissue paper.

“Oh!” Penelope reached in and drew out something that looked white and lacy.

“Miz Benedict said how you were having your Gran’s dining room set shipped here from out east,” Ginny said, “and that it had been in your family for near to a hundred years. So I thought you might like something old-fashioned-like to go on it.”

“Now, Ginny, you’re supposed to call me Grandma Kate!” The older woman, who sat to the right of Penelope, gave Ginny a big smile. The admonition emerged in a sweet, cajoling tone.

“Yes, ma’am.” Ginny grinned when Kate Benedict tilted her head to one side, clearly waiting. “Grandma Kate,” Ginny dutifully said.

“Thank you, sweetheart.”

Penelope’s gaze had been riveted on her gift. Finally she looked up, an expression of awe on her face. “Ginny, did you make this?”

“I did, yes. It’s crocheted, from a pattern I got from the Internet.”

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