Home > The Fiancee(9)

The Fiancee(9)
Author: Kate White

“That must have been fun to connect over.”

“It was. I almost never meet people who’ve done it.”

“Well, I’d better hightail it to breakfast. See you later.”

“You bet. Ciao.”

I return to the path and close the distance to the house. Through one of the side kitchen windows, I spy Claire at the table, glued to her iPad. She wouldn’t mind me dropping in, but over time I’ve noticed that she likes to have this part of the day to herself, or to spend with her husband. Usually Ash is sitting next to her, but not this morning.

As I round the corner, I spot Keira at the table on the patio, and Hannah standing to the side of her, dressed in white shorts and a cropped yellow top. She’s even more svelte than I realized last night, as if she hasn’t consumed a bad carbohydrate in her adult life. She finishes her conversation with Keira and leaves a moment later without appearing to notice me.

“Morning, Keira,” I say, approaching the table.

“Morning. Sleep well?”

“Yup; you? You’re in the main house, right?”

“Yes, in the guest suite at the far end of the second floor.”

“You didn’t want to give the carriage house a try?”

She presses her lips together. “I don’t love being away from the main house. And there’s a little kitchenette in the suite, with a toaster oven and a half fridge, so we can fix stuff there if we need to.”

I’m not sure why they’d need a toaster oven—there’s one here on the sideboard, along with a Nespresso machine and a carafe of brewed coffee. There are also bowls of strawberries and raspberries, baskets of croissants and the bagels Gabe and I brought, a wooden cutting board topped with artisan bread, a large glass jar of granola, as well as small containers of yogurt set in a basin of ice water.

After making a cappuccino and grabbing a yogurt, I join Keira, who’s wearing a white cover-up over a bathing suit that looks damp.

“So how’s it going with Hannah?” I say, lowering my voice. “Any awkwardness?”

“No, it’s actually fine. To be honest, the main reason I didn’t want to be in the carriage house was because she’d be there, but Marcus is clearly a very distant memory for her.”

“And Marcus—is he okay with it, too?”

I can still picture him at last night’s table, his eyes glued to Hannah and his face set like stone.

“He says it’s fine, too.” She glances left and right, making sure we’re alone. “She was nothing more than a blip on the radar. He’s just glad Nick at least gave him a heads-up before they arrived.”

“She clearly feels comfortable with you.”

Her deep brown eyes register puzzlement.

“I saw you talking when I came around the corner.”

“Oh, that. She’s actually going to do me a big favor. This director she’s working with on the Netflix show is involved with some major clean water initiatives, and Hannah said she could convince him to do a luncheon with some of our clients. That could really help move one of our initiatives along, plus it would assure I’d win a few points in my new job.”

Okay, I see what Hannah’s up to. Her modus operandi this week is a full-on charm offensive. I’m sure Claire and Ash have been subjected to it, too, though last night she seemed to have no interest whatsoever in wooing me. “How thoughtful of her,” I say, using my best fake sincere voice.

After Keira excuses herself to change out of her wet swimsuit, I finish my cappuccino at a leisurely pace and decide it’s an okay time to pop into the kitchen. Claire’s still in the room, fussing at the counter, with the dogs hovering nearby.

“There you are, darling,” she says. “How is your morning so far?”

“Lovely.” I stoop down and give both dogs a pat, and they immediately roll over in anticipation of having their bellies scratched. “How do you think Henry did last night?”

“He says great. I heard his toilet flush around six, but I assume he fell right back to sleep.”

“On his way to being a big boy. Now tell me how I can help you with lunch.”

“We seem to be all set, so just enjoy the day.”

“Okay, but let me know if you think of anything. I’m going to go grab my tennis shoes and head down to the court.”

But when I open the door to the cottage a couple of minutes later, I spot Gabe’s tennis racket leaning against the couch and notice the steady drum of shower water upstairs.

When it ceases, Gabe calls out, “That you?”

“Yeah,” I shout back. “I was hoping to hit some balls with you.”

“Sorry, we all called it quits. It’s getting too hot.”

Two minutes later, he bounds down the stairs, dressed in swim trunks and a T-shirt that matches his blue eyes, and smelling of mango-scented bodywash.

“How’s Henry’s game coming?” I ask.

“Really good. He’s probably never going to be the kind of kid who ends up starring on the school basketball team, but he’s definitely good at tennis. We ended up playing against Nick and Hannah, which was fun, and then Hannah hit with him for a while.”

Okay, this is starting to get ridiculous.

“So she’s a tennis player, too?”

“Not a superskilled one, but she’s game.”

“Speaking of Hannah,” I say, grabbing a spot on the couch, “there’s something I wanted to tell you.”

Gabe sits down next to me and sweeps a hand through his short dark brown hair. “What’s up?”

“She told me a lie last night. And I can’t figure out why.”

“A lie? What do you mean?”

I explain: her weird deception about the showcase, plus Billy’s intel about the missing money and necklace. As I speak, Gabe’s brow furrows in obvious concern.

“Is that who you were talking to after I went to bed?” he asks.

“Yeah. I was texting with him but it seemed easier to speak on the phone.”

His brow wrinkles even more. “Jesus.”

“I know. I’m a little concerned by it.”

“No, I mean Jesus, I can’t believe you were calling up a friend in the middle of the night to try to dig for gossip about my brother’s new girlfriend.”

I was not expecting this reaction. “Gabe, it wasn’t in the middle of the night—and it’s not idle gossip. I found it really odd that she would lie that way, and I wanted to look into it a bit more—for Nick’s sake.”

“Hannah probably just forgot the show. Or she’s embarrassed about her performance and didn’t want to discuss it. As for the missing money, I wouldn’t trust anything Billy Dean tells you.”

He’s never liked Billy. Not for a second.

“I know he can be a jerk, but he doesn’t have any reason to make this up, Gabe.”

“Maybe not,” he says. “I just hate the way he flirts with you in front of me. Regardless, Hannah seems nice enough, and I don’t see the point in focusing on some old rumor.”

Wow, I’m getting nowhere fast.

Obviously sensing my frustration, Gabe gives me a wry smile. “Besides,” he says, “you know as well as I do that in a month, Nick will be dating someone totally new.”

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