This week we’re still celebrating Allison Pinckney’s Bridal shower. (Allison is the heroine of In Search of Truth, book 3 in the Deadly Force series). Last week while the women were discussing the pros and cons of honeymoons, the men arrived hoping to snag some of the food.

Allison Pinckney ~ “Now that the men have arrived at my bridal shower in Maddie’s garden, the atmosphere has shifted from an intimate all-girls party to a fun and louder co-ed event. Which, honestly, is fine by me. I am ready to stop worrying about things like lingerie and invitations and wedding dates and move on to doing something fun.

With myself included, there are now 8 women (Juliet, Sarah, Emilie, Samantha, Maddie, Vivienne, and Charlotte) and 6 men (Zack, Rafe, Pete, Nate, Cain and Detective Garza) at the party. Maddie’s almost-8-year old daughter Susan and my dog Nicholas Trott are also roaming around, bouncing between the party outside (which I’m sure she’s finding very boring) and helping the caterer inside.

After everyone has been served a round of drinks, and the conversation has turned to who’s seen the newest superhero movie, Zack takes my hand and drags me away, deeper into the garden. Once we’re alone, Zack kisses me. Even thought it’s been a few days since we’ve since each other, it feels like forever.

Finally, we separate and find a bench to settle on. “So,” Zack gives me another kiss on the cheek, “What did I miss?”

“A lingerie party, Truth or Dare croquet, and a debate over the value of honeymoons. All of it orchestrated by your godmother Vivienne. So, of course, things got… intense.” Vivienne was known for instigating intense, emotional encounters.

He winks at me. “Can I see the lingerie?”

“Not until the honeymoon.” I squeeze his hands, still surprised to find his fingers so much warmer than mine. “But there’s something else. Vivienne wants us to set a wedding date.”

He stands to pace in front of me. I know how he feels. If he had his way, we would’ve been married weeks ago. Or even years ago. “What did you tell her?”

“That we’d talk about it.” The problem was, we’ve been talking about it a lot since he proposed. “Zack, with this mess with Remiel Marigny and your men still a problem, don’t you think we should wait?”

“No.” He stops pacing to pull me up and into his arms again. “I know things are scary and intense, but we can’t put our lives on hold because more bad things could happen.”

I rest my head against his chest and draw in his masculine scent. While my first marriage ended in tragedy, I had to trust that marrying Zack wouldn’t put him in more danger. Except I still had nightmares about everything that happened in In Search of Truth. “I want to set a date, but I’m scared.”

“I know, sweetheart.” He kisses my head. “All I can do is promise to protect you with my life.”

“There you two are.” Vivienne appears from behind a row of red rose bushes. “I just thought you should know that Susan brought out the Lemon Bars. It’s a bit early,” Vivienne shrugs elegantly, “but Susan insisted.”

Zack smiles, probably because Lemon Bars were Zack’s favorite dessert. “Then we mustn’t keep the almost-eight-year old girl waiting.”

A few minutes later, we are seated with all of our friends, eating the most delicious Lemon Bars I’ve ever had. Suddenly, Pete says, “Let’s play charades.”

Even though everyone says no, Vivienne says yes. So a few moments later, Pete is acting out something so ridiculous that we are all laughing.

Suddenly, Susan yells out, “Monkey riding on a pig’s back!”

Pete stops his antics and claps. “Yes! Susan’s turn.”

“Wait,” Zack says. “I don’t believe that’s a real thing.”

“It is, Mr. Tremaine,” Susan says. “It’s a video on the internet.”

Zack frowns and I pull out my phone. It takes a few minutes and I have to admit that I am surprised to find the video. I didn’t think it was real either. Except it is. After I pass around my phone, we all laugh so hard we start crying.

We play charades for another thirty minutes until Vivienne claps her hands. Once we are all quiet, she says, “Since I’m sure the men are hungry, dinner will be served inside in a few minutes.”

“What are we having, Miss Vivienne?” Susan asks.

Vivienne brushes Susan’s brown hair away from her face. “Chicken Taco Soup.” She glances at Zack and smiles. “Yes, your recipe. And I’ve had the caterer bring in a selection of craft beers.”

All of the men stand, talking at once, and it is obvious from their smiles and backslaps that they are ready to eat.

I stay behind and let everyone move inside. I need a few minutes alone to clear my head. It has been an amazing day with my new friends, and I don’t want it to end. But I am also overwhelmed with their intentions and good wishes. I’m still not used to all of this attention and don’t quite know how to handle it.

As I make my way inside, Susan meets me at the garden door. “Hurry, Miss Allison. The soup is almost gone!”

“I’m coming.” I take her hand and we go inside. I quickly appreciate the air conditioning and the smells that permeate the house. If the caterer’s version of Zack’s homemade soup is anything close to his, it’s going to be amazing. “Susan, I have a question to ask you.”

She glances up at me and I notice she has ring of chocolate around her mouth. “Yes, Miss Allison?”

“Would you be my flower girl?”

She throws her arms around my hips and says, “Yes! I would love to be a flower girl!”

I hug her tightly and then take her hand. As we head into the dining room, I realize I’m ready to meet my friends and my fiancé. And just maybe, after tonight, I’ll be ready to set a wedding date.


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