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For You I Do
By Angie Daniels
Copyright © 2009
All right reserved.
You're doing what?"
Bianca Beaumont's eyes traveled around to all the faces seated at the dining room table. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, she thought as she took in the startled look of her overly dramatic mother and the pissed-off expressions on each of her brothers' faces. The only person who looked like he wasn't opposed to the idea was her father.
Roger Beaumont had fallen asleep.
Jessica Beaumont nudged him in the arm. "Roger, wake up! Did you hear what your daughter just said?"
With a startled snort, Roger sat up straight in the chair and his head snapped in the direction of his wife. "What? What did I miss?"
Jessica rolled her eyes with disapproval, then centered her attention on their only daughter as she spoke, pointing a long accusing finger in Bianca's direction.
"Your daughter just announced that she's getting married."
Bianca sighed inwardly. As far as her mother was concerned, she was always her father's child when she was in trouble.
"Married!" Roger barked and then was suddenly wide awake. "I didn't even know you were dating."
"Neither did we," Jace said. "Young lady, you've got a lot of explaining to do."
"Yes, you do," the other two J's replied simultaneously.
Once again, Bianca reluctantly slid her gaze across the table at the grim looks on their faces. Jace, Jabarie, and Jaden. All three of her brothers were overly protective.That was the main reason she'd kept her six-month relationship with Collin a secret.
It didn't matter that she had turned twenty-five two months ago or that she owned a town house, had a great job and paid all her bills. The three J's still tried to dictate how she lived. They were married and she had hoped that once they had families they would stop trying to control her life and focus on making babies with their wives. Speaking of wives desperately, Bianca looked over at the beautiful women, who usually jumped to her defense, for help. Jace's wife Sheyna looked as if she wasn't sure how to respond to Bianca's announcement, while Danica and Brenna shrugged as if to say, "You're on your own with this one, kid."
"Well?" Jabarie said impatiently. "We're waiting."
Bianca lowered her gaze to the ruby ring on her left hand, hoping for the strength. Tomorrow it would be replaced with a beautiful solitaire. She had been hiding her engagement for almost a week, waiting for the right time to break the news to her family. She'd thought Thursday would be the perfect night. Now she wasn't so sure.
There had been an unspoken rule in their home for as long as she could remember that no matter how busy any of them were, the family always met on Thursdays for dinner at Beaumont Manor. Keeping that in mind, Bianca knew that announcing an engagement was something that needed to be done during a family meeting. She knew that as soon as she stepped out of the room, her family's tongues would wag and by noon tomorrow every person in the small town of Sheraton Beach would know that she was getting married.
"Sweetie, who's the lucky man?"
Bianca looked over at Jabarie's wife, Brenna, and she nibbled her lower lip. "I'm not ready to share that information yet," Bianca said uncertainly.
"Not ready to share?" her father snapped through his teeth. "Why the hell not!"
"Who are his parents?" her mother asked. To Jessica Beaumont, nothing was more important than one's family connections.
"They're dead," Bianca replied and it took everything not to laugh at the appalled look on her mother's face.
"I'm still waiting to find out this young man's name!" her father said impatiently.
Bianca looked over at him with loving eyes. She adored her father. She knew his bark was far worse than his bite. And yet, she had to stand firm in her decision. Giving up Collin's name before it was time to walk down the aisle was the last thing she was going to do.
After dabbing the corners of his mouth with a linen napkin, Jaden asked, "Why is this the first time we've ever heard of him?"
Jaden, the youngest of the three Beaumont brothers, had always been Bianca's favorite. At least that's what she thought before he gave her that long, disapproving look.
"Because none of you have ever approved of any of the men I've dated." And because she didn't want her parents or her brothersespecially her brothersto meet or even know her fiancé's background until after they were married. Otherwise, they would do everything in their power to stop the wedding from ever happening. And there was no way in the world she could allow that to happen. Her future depended on it.
Jabarie gave a short chuckle that lacked humor. "You want to know why we never approve? Because, Bianca dear, you have terrible taste in men."
Pauline, her parents' maid of twenty years, and as far as all the Beaumonts were concerned, a member of the family, returned with a fresh pitcher of cold ice water. Bianca handed over her glass and Pauline refilled it and handed it back to Bianca.
"Thank you," Bianca said then took a sip and another, waiting for the uneasiness in her stomach to settle. Stalling, she sipped from her glass, which kept her from commenting. Okay, so maybe she didn't have the best track record with men and maybe she did have a bad habit of picking up what her brothers labeled as "losers," but they couldn't say any of her boyfriends weren't ever nice to her, or had any real issues. Okay, maybe one or two, but that was neither here nor there. This time she was in love. She was certain of it, or at least that's how she would have described what she felt.
Do you really know what love is?
She didn't trust herself to answer. Quickly, Bianca sat up in her chair. Now was not the time to start second-guessing herself. She loved Collin and no matter what her family thought, she was going to marry him.
"Sweetheart, how can I plan a wedding without a name?" her mother asked in a high-pitched whine.
"Easy, Mother. All he has to do is show up," Bianca said with a defensive tilt of her chin. "I'm not about to disclose his identity because I know how all of you think," she said and pointed her finger at every member of the family, sitting around the mahogany table, large enough to comfortably seat thirty people. "The three J's will try to track him down for one of their little talks. And you, Daddy, will hire a private investigator and dig up every single parking ticket that man has ever gotten. Well, I'm not letting that happen this time." She had been through it enough times to know how the four men in her family operated.
"And you, dear mother, all you care about is me finding someone who makes you look good. Well, this time I'm doing things my way." On the verge of tears, she reached down for her fork and brought her salad to her mouth.
Jessica gasped. "Bianca, you're my daughter. All I ever wanted was for you to be happy."
Bianca swallowed the lettuce that was suddenly stuck in her throat. "I am happy."
Roger raked a frustrated hand across his face the way he always did when he was trying to stay calm. "Honey, please understand why we are all upset. You can't just spring information like this on us," he said, his voice a touch cooler than before. "We don't know his name. Does he even have a job? Sweetheart, come on, tell me something."
Okay, that was reasonable enough. Nodding, she finished chewing then said, "He's a staff sergeant in the air force."
"The military!" her father cried. His eyes widened at the revelation.
Letting her napkin to fall to the table, her mother sat there staring at Bianca. Gaze narrowed, her lips pursing in disapproval. "Please tell me this is some kind of practical joke," she finally said.
Jace shook his head then got up from his seat and made a show of looking under the table.
"A soldier? How's he going to be able to support you?" Jabarie demanded to know.
Bianca sat up, tall and proud. There was no way she was going to allow her family to put down her boyfriendoops her fiancé.
She met her brother's hard look. "He's not a soldier," she shot back. "My fiancé's an airman. And we'll be fine. In fact, we'll be better than fine. You forget, big brother, I do have a job." As marketing director of the Beaumont Corporation, she received a handsome salary.
"Not to mention a trust fund," Jaden mumbled under his breath.
Bianca's brow rose suspiciously as she gasped. "Are you implying he's only marrying me for my money?"
"Since we haven't met him, we don't know why he's marrying you, now do we?" Jaden challenged.
It was days like today that she hated being the youngest. It wouldn't have mattered if Collin were rich. The three J's would still have found some reason or other to hate him. The idea that he was in the U.S. Air Force was even worse, as far as her parents were concerned. Jaden, the rebellious child, had joined the army right after high school, and her parents had practically had heart attacks. After three years, Jaden decided the military wasn't for him and went on to buy his own body shop. Her parents weren't too crazy about that career choice, either, but after being estranged from their youngest son for years, they had finally learned to accept it. To the four of them, that day was monumental. Because up until that point, as far as their father was concerned, his children had two choicesgoing to college and working for the Beaumont Corporation, preferably both.
"Do you love him?"
For the briefest moment, Bianca looked over at Danica, Jaden's wife and a former runway model. She then allowed her gaze to travel around the table. Everyone turned in their seats and all eyes were on her, waiting for her answer.
"Well, young lady?" her father replied impatiently.
Bianca felt her face flush with heat. Dropping her hands to her lap, she rubbed her sweaty palms across her napkin. Then out the corner of her eye, she saw Sheyna wink at her. To her right, Brenna was wearing a look of amusement. Thank God for sisters-in-law. Having them on her side gave her the strength she needed.
Bianca cleared her throat and said, "Of course I love him."
Sheyna clapped her hands with glee. "Then it's settled. We've got a wedding to plan!"
Jace gave her a warning look. Never one to be easily intimidated, Sheyna gave her husband a dismissive wave, then went back to eating her steak.
Roger held up his hands, palms forward. "Wedding? Wait, let's not jump the gun. We need to meet this man first." Her father was clearly not pleased.
"Okay." Bianca said and nodded. What he was asking wasn't unreasonable at all. "He's out of town, but I was planning to bring him to dinner next Thursday. Really I was," she added when she saw the look of disbelief on Jace's face. "I just wanted to let you know first before I walked in the door and said, 'Hey, everybody, meet my fiancé.'"
Her mother gave a rude snort. "Thank you for sparing us the embarrassment."
Pauline came in carrying dessert and the conversation around the table quieted to a low rumble which was fine with Bianca. At least the worst of it was over.
Or almost. She still had something else she needed to tell them, but now was definitely not the time.
"How did it go?"
Bianca had barely stepped into her town house when she heard the telephone ring. A glance down at the caller ID showed that her best friend, Debra Anderson, was calling.
"About as I expected," she began as she took a seat on the end of her king-size bed and removed her red leather pumps. "Mother faked a heart attack and the three J's acted like they were my daddy."
"Poor Bianca. What did dear old dad have to say about your announcement?"
Bianca rose from the bed with a snort. "You must be talking about when he wasn't asleep."
"You father was asleep?" She could tell that Debra was trying to hold in her laughter.
"Oh, my goodness, yes! Can you believe he was sitting there at the dinner table seconds away from his face falling into the mashed potatoes. If it weren't so serious, I might have laughed."
Unable to contain herself, Debra chuckled lightly into the receiver. "Sorry, sweetie, but just thinking about it I can't help but to laugh. What did he finally have to say?"
"Not too much because the three J's said it all. Of course, they all wanted to know why this was the first time they had heard about me seeing someone."
Debra paused for a moment then said, "Well, you can't blame them for being curious."
Bianca blew out a frustrated breath as she walked across the plush cranberry carpeting, out of the room and down a long hallway. "I know, but why can't they just be happy for me?"
"Because they're your family and they love you. That's why. All they care about is your happiness."
Scowling, Bianca made her way into the kitchen and removed a bottle of water from the stainless-steel refrigerator, then closed the door and leaned back against the granite countertop. "No, they don't. My brothers don't want to see me with anyone unless they approve of him first."
"Is that what this is really about?"
"Of course not, and you know it."
There was a pregnant pause. "Yes, I know."
Bianca screwed the top off the bottle and took a thirsty swallow before saying, "Let's change the subject. I want to hear how your date went with Brad."
Debra burst into another peal of laughter. "Girl, it was a joke. That man better make sure he loses my number. Do you know he waited until the waiter returned with the bill to tell me that because I had eaten more than he had in his budget for the evening, I needed to help him pay the bill?"
It was Bianca's turn to laugh until she had tears in her eyes. "No, he didn't!"
"Yes, the cheap bastard did, and the bill was barely twenty-five dollars."
"I hate to admit it, Debra, but you do eat too much," she said with amusement.
"I can't help it if I like food," she replied defensively.
"Yeah, but obviously he had been banking on your only ordering a salad."
Debra huffed. "Then that's his problem. Anyone can look at these hips and know a salad is one thing on the menu I'm not going to order. Now I know why he only ordered a glass of water and a plate of chicken wings.
Excerpted from For You I Do by Angie Daniels Copyright © 2009 by Angie Daniels. Excerpted by permission.
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