I didn't promise any specific day last month, but I did say the third story would have a preview in November. First a bit of news... The kindle version of the fourth book, The Art of Friendship, will be free on Amazon November 17 - 20. It's a good time to catch up for anyone who hasn't finished the main series. The book will be available on other ebook platforms soon after. Another reason it's a good time to catch up. Now back to the short stories.
It had been a long time since the door to Next Love had fooled Trevor. He knew the weight of it so well it didn’t even look heavy anymore. A voice that was also familiar called his name as he entered. Elaine Brachy waved to him and said, “I’ll be with you in just a minute.”
The middle-aged man who was talking to her seemed to take Trevor’s arrival as his cue to leave. He shook Elaine’s hand and said something about looking forward to the new table.
Trevor nodded at the man as he passed him. He was nervous about this mission and wanted to do it quickly so there was gratitude in the nod whether the man recognized it or not. Elaine met him partway. “Alison isn’t back from that estate sale yet, and I don’t expect her for a while. Has she texted you something different?”
“No, I… I’m here to see you,” Trevor said. “I want to ask for your help with something.”
“While Alison’s not here?” Her eyes glittered with excitement over what that might mean.
Trevor plowed ahead. “I have an idea on how to… I’d like to ask Alison to marry me.”
Elaine sucked in a huge breath and held it for a moment before she turned her head to the side and yelled, “Jim!” Her eyes hadn’t left Trevor. They stayed happy and maybe even a little happier after she startled him. She still enjoyed watching him squirm, but he still deserved it.
Alison’s dad poked his head out of the back room and looked around until he found his wife.
She motioned for him to come out and join them.
Trevor didn’t think they both needed to be involved. He did not voice that opinion. Elaine would probably tell Jim as soon as Trevor left if she didn’t tell him now. She didn’t even wait until he had gotten all that close. “He’s going to propose to Alison!” she announced.
Jim didn’t say anything. He acknowledged with a slight incline of his head that he’d heard.
Elaine rolled her eyes at the less than exuberant reaction and turned back to Trevor. “What do you want us to do?”
“I’d like her to find the ring in one of her hardware boxes while I’m here tomorrow,” Trevor explained. “I’d like you to help me figure out which one she’s gonna need and slip it inside before I get here.”
“Oh! Let me see it!” Elaine held out a hand.
Trevor guessed she meant the ring and carefully moved it from his pocket to her hand.
“Nice,” she said. “Is this a family ring?”
“No, it’s new.” It was a fairly delicate band with teeny diamonds inset all the way around. Alison wanted something practical and planned to slip a silicone band over it while she was working. Trevor hoped he picked the right one, and the approval in her mom’s eyes suggested it at least wasn’t awful.
Her dad didn’t seem all that curious. He was walking away.
“Let’s check out her work area,” Elaine said.
Trevor followed her as he resisted the urge to ask for the ring back. He intended to leave it with her so he might as well start trusting her with it.
Alison had a work area just outside the back room. They had to weave through some furniture to get there. A medium-sized dresser missing all its drawers was in the center of it. The dresser appeared freshly painted – smelled freshly painted – all white. There was probably more work to be done on it. There was a larger dresser nearby waiting to be stripped. It had no handles.
Jim didn’t go all the way to his sanctuary. He stopped in Alison’s space and slid open the top drawer on the larger piece. “She’ll want handles for this one,” he said. Alison always left handles in the top drawer once she’d chosen them.
“Okay,” Trevor said, “but what if she picks those out this afternoon or before I get here tomorrow?”
“What time will you be here?” Elaine asked. “Can you get here first thing?”
“I could. But if I’m here early, Alison will suspect something is up.” Trevor was not a morning person. And that was putting it lightly.
“Good point,” Elaine said. She wore a shrewd expression. “I’m sure we can shift something from Jim’s workload or come up with a reason something needs to be bumped ahead. I can time it so that still needs handles at noon tomorrow.” She rushed over and opened the plastic bin with handles. She used both hands, and Trevor didn’t know where the ring went. He was working on that trust.
She surveyed the contents of the bin. “I can hook it on one of these darker ones so the white gold will stand out.” As she closed the lid and returned to her feet, she appeared to read some uncertainty on Trevor’s face. “You want my help, and you’re getting my help. Don’t worry about a thing.”