“You told the man you loved his butt?” Wendell said as he reached for the salad. Her stepfather looked as if he wanted to laugh but kept a straight face.
“Yes. No,” Michelle said, shaking her head. “I was thinking out loud, by accident. My brain and mouth were working at the same time.”
“Maybe he didn’t hear you,” Margaret offered, attempting to appease her daughter. “If he’s a gentleman he’ll pretend he didn’t.”
“Oh, he heard you, all right.” Wendell chuckled as he doused his salad with honey mustard vinaigrette. “And it’s only a matter of time before he lets you know he did. You must really have it bad for this chap. He’s got you blurting stuff out like you got Turrets or something.”
“It’s not funny.” Michelle curled in her lips to keep from laughing. “Well, maybe just a little funny.” And a little embarrassing, to say the least. She needed to get herself together and calm down so she wouldn’t sputter something else stupid around Damien. Being near him made her feel young and clueless, like some teenage girl crushing on the captain of the football team because he paid attention to her.
“I think you wanted him to hear you. You’re too smart to let things just fly out of your mouth like that,” Margaret said between bites of tomato pie. “This is really good, Michelle. I might have to get another piece.”
“When I saw how good the heirlooms looked at the farmers market this morning, I had to buy some.” She actually went to the market looking for peaches to make a pie but settled on the tomatoes instead. She needed to bake something to relax and get her mind off Damien’s butt.
“Guess who I ran into at the market?”
“Who?” Margaret asked.
“Antonia Scott. She told me to tell y’all hey. I didn’t know she’d moved back to Charlotte.”
“She worked up in New York for some big finance firm until she transferred here when they opened an office in Charlotte. After Lorraine died, she wanted to be home for Henry. She’s been back...” Margaret thought a moment before saying, “About three years.”
“I haven’t seen her in forever. She looks good and seems to be doing well.” Michelle met Antonia when they were fifteen after tagging along with Wendell to some car show in Winston-Salem. Antonia was with her dad and brothers. Michelle thought it was cool she knew so much about cars, especially since she herself had just gotten into motorcycles. They’d lost touch not too long after graduating college.
“Wendell, she told me to tell you that her dad just got back from an auction in Mississippi with a mint sixty-seven Thunderbird.”
“How ‘bout that,” Wendell said, his eyes rounding with excitement at the news. “Oh, I have to give ol’ Scott a call so I can have a look.” Wendell pushed back his chair to get up.
“Finish your lunch first,” Margaret said as if she were his mother instead of his wife. “That car will be there when you’re done.”
“Don’t boss me, woman. I’ll finish when I feel like it.” Wendell slid himself back to the table. “Lucky for you I’m hungry.”
Margaret chuckled. “Yeah, lucky me.”
It warmed Michelle’s heart to watch their playful banter. Her mom and stepdad always renewed her faith in second chance love whenever she doubted there was anyone out there for her.
“Why don’t you ask the contractor out?” Wendell said as he cut his fork into his pie. “Invite him over for dinner, and I promise to be on my best behavior. You should make this, he’ll fall in love with you on the spot. You’re a beautiful woman who can cook, and that makes you a catch.”
Michelle smiled. Ever since she was a kid, Wendell had been her number one fan. She could do no wrong in his eyes—except the time she hit a police car in his prized 1968 Mustang the day after she got her driver’s license. But they don’t talk about that.
Michelle cut another piece of the tomato pie for her mother. “Thanks, Wendell. But I think introducing Damien to my family might be a little too soon.”
“No sooner than telling him you love his butt.”
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