“Carol, Janet, Sharon and Brenda,” Jasper supplied. “I’m good with names.”
“I’m not. I’m great with faces and I can tell you where I know someone from, but I can’t remember names worth a damn.”
“You remember my name, don’t you?” Jasper moved close, arms circling her waist.
“I think? I know I’ve seen you before. Oh, yes. You’re that handsome, sexy farrier to brings his hammer to bed.”
Jasper laughed, pulling her closer. “God, I love you, Hana!”
“I love you, too, Jasper.”
They were almost late to dinner because they couldn’t keep their hands off one another. They were the last to arrive, breathless and grinning. David was there and let them in. His blue eyes narrowed when he saw them, but he said nothing. He tugged Jasper’s arm, holding him back for a second. He gave him a surreptitious knuckle bump.
“Never seen her look so happy,” he murmured. “Good job.”
“I thought you were mad about it.”
“Not when she smiles like that. Haven’t seen her this happy in years.”
“She’s not the only one who’s happy.”
David clapped him on the shoulder. “Once more unto the breach?”
“For God, Harry, England and St. George,” Jasper replied.
Hana’s least offensive cousins and her paternal grandparents, had joined them. She introduced Jasper and he got hugs and kisses from her grandmother. Shortly before dinner, he was hooked into a conversation about golf with Tick and Wayne, Alice’s husband. He had to promise to play a round before they left town.
“Do you have a departure date?” Aileen asked.
“No, we left the return open ended so we wouldn’t have to rush. Auntie’s in the best of hands and Jasper’s taking some much needed time off. We expect to be here at least two weeks, if not longer.”
“Super!” Tick proclaimed. “Then we can take Jasper golfing, Wayne!”
“Again, not if it’s going to mean leaving Hana on her own.”
“We’ll help,” Hana’s favorite cousin, Joan said. “We’ve got plenty of hands.”
“Too many hands will get in the way,” Hana said. “But I wouldn’t mind a few of you coming by. It would be great.”
“We’ll plan a girls day out,” Brenna suggested.
Hana and Joan exchanged a look.
“We’ll go the day the men play golf,” Alice suggested. “Joni, you come too.”
“Only if you agree to stop calling me Joni. You know I hate that.”
“Her nickname is Joni Pony,” Alice told Jasper.
He pursed his lips, eyes narrowing. “Yuck?”
Joan laughed, nearly spewing her wine. “Trust me! I hate it. Some people won’t let me live it down.” She glowered at Alice and Brenna.
“It’s so cute,” Alice said with a disgusted glance at Jasper.
Jasper guessed Alice had initiated the nickname and was probably the one who perpetuated it.
“Yeah, it’s great, Malice Alice,” Joan replied, winking at Jasper over her wine glass.
Alice went red in the face, but said nothing. Wayne put his arm around her, giving Joan an ugly look, but she simply smiled.
Aileen outdid herself with dinner. She had made a huge meal that included all Hana’s favorites. How her mother remembered such detail, Hana didn’t know, but she was highly touched. She made sure to thank her mother after the meal and gave her a hug.
“Delicious meal, Mrs. Sutherland. Fit for a king! Thank you.” Jasper kissed her hands.
Aileen actually blushed.
After dinner, they sat around out by the pool, enjoying the meticulously landscaped back yard, talking and sipping coffee. Since several of the guests had to work in the morning, they kept an early evening.
“I know you haven’t any food for breakfast,” Aileen said. “Come by here around nine and we’ll eat. Then I’ve got some boxes for you to pack up Auntie’s things. She said she’d given you a detailed list?”
“Yes, I’ve got it safely tucked away. Thanks, Mom. We’ll see you at nine.”
They departed, waving to her parents, who stood on the porch. That was so unusual, Hana couldn’t find words to describe what she was feeling.
“Mom never does that,” she finally said. “She will say her goodbyes and go back inside.”
“Maybe she’s figured out that she misses you, now that you’re not around,” Jasper suggested. “Moms are funny like that. My mom missed us all so much, once we’d all moved out or gone off to college. She called or texted us every day.”
“I suppose. I keep wondering if it’s because she’s worried that Auntie is going to cut her out of the will.”
“I doubt it. Mom wasn’t always such a stick. I think they even kind of liked one another when she and Dad first married. I don’t know why Mom is like she is.”
“There’s bound to be a lot of pressure on her to be perfect. Your dad is an important man. She probably felt she had to be the best at everything.”
©2022 Dellani Oakes