Talking After Midnight

Talking After Midnight

by Dakota Cassidy

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Overview

www.DakotaCassidy.com

Shields up, sugar—things in Plum Orchard are about to get real.

Marybell Lyman is notorious for two things:

Her look. The wicked hairstyle, multiple piercings and practiced sneer that say: "Stay back—I bite."

Her voice. The syrupy lilt that's her bread and butter at Call Girls, the prim little town's flourishing phone-sex company.

Hunky handyman Taggart Hawthorn is mesmerized by the contradiction: such sweet tones inside such a spiky shell! He wants to know more about mysterious Marybell, to hear more of her sexy talk—all for himself.

But Tag's attentions, delicious as they are, have Marybell panicked. She's been hiding a long time. She's finally got a home, a job and friends she adores. She won't have it all snatched away by another stupid mistake—like falling in love. So when Marybell's past comes calling, she and the Call Girls will prove no one handles scandals like a Southern girl!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778316312
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 06/24/2014
Edition description: Original
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.40(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Dakota Cassidy lives and writes in Oregon in a castle high on a hill, overlooking her quaint mobile home village, and she has a husband that puts the heroes in her books to shame.

Read an Excerpt

Heaven and a ring o' fire…

Under normal circumstances, Marybell Lyman would have laughed at her employer and friend Dixie Davis's shocked words when she pushed her way into her small basement apartment, stopped dead in her tracks and tipped her head to the side as if she'd just witnessed the second coming.

But this circumstance wasn't normal.

Dixie stood poised in her doorway for a moment, the cold draft from the late-winter evening ruffling her knee-length burgundy sweater. Dixie, never without words, stared at her, speechless. She tucked a strand of her long auburn hair behind her ear and hummed something else Marybell couldn't quite hear because of her clogged ears.

Marybell scurried back to her couch without a word, plunking herself down on the new sofa she'd just had delivered. She huddled into her bathrobe, keeping her head down as far as she could without making her nose begin running again.

When her friends from work had all shown up to coddle her with chicken soup and some good ol' Southern love, she'd panicked. Her heart racing, her head full of cotton, throbbing an endless, crushing beat, she'd battled with whether to answer the door.

No one saw her this way—unmasked—ever, and definitely not Dixie, the owner of the phone sex company where she worked as a phone sex operator.

But it wasn't as though there was any hiding from the three pretty faces full of concern, pressed against the glass of her front door like a trio of suction-cupped Garfields in the back of a car window.

She couldn't simply shoo them away or make up some excuse to keep them from barging in even if she truly wanted to. As a whole, Team Call Girls was unstoppable. If you told them no, they yelled, "Bless your heart," and trampled all over you and your nos with their cute heels.

Why, oh, why hadn't she thought to pull the shade down over the glass before she'd taken those cold meds and fallen asleep?

Breathe, Marybell. Act natural.

Ha! Easy for the voice inside her head to say. It didn't have to fend off three gawking mother hens, as well meaning as they were, and remain calm while its in-sides twisted into a knot fit for a Boy Scout.

LaDawn Jenkins, coworker, friend, best phone sex operator in the universe, stood next to Dixie, a woven basket with a red-checkered napkin covering what Marybell suspected were freshly baked rolls, and cocked her platinum-blond head. "I have rolls," she mumbled, dropping them on the end table next to her box of tissues. "With butter," she added, her brow furrowing.

Marybell hunkered farther down in her bathrobe, fighting another violent shudder of chills, almost too feverish to care about her friends seeing her for the first time devoid of what she'd secretly dubbed her "people shield."

Almost.

She should be in the process of making a break for it. Or at the very least, putting a paper bag over her head. But she'd spent herself simply finding her gel eye mask and answering the door. Her legs were so weak, her chest so congested and tight, it would take everything she had left in her to move again.

Instead, she cast her eyes toward her feet, covered in fuzzy black calf-length socks with the slipper-grippers on the soles.

There's nowhere to hide but in plain sight now, Marybell Lyman. You 're stewed. Try not to look obvious.

Emmaline Amos, soon to be Emmaline Hawthorne if the way things were shaping up between her and Jax was any indication, almost fell smack into Dixie and LaDawn when she rushed in the front door. The skid of her conservative black pumps screeched to a halt against the wood floor.

She gasped in her "clutch your pearls" way but covered by quickly clamping her lips shut. Naturally, she didn't mean for her mouth to open before her brain properly filtered her shock. Em was nothing if she wasn't the epitome of Southern decorum.

That Southern diplomacy was why Dixie had given her the position of general manager at Call Girls Inc. She was tactful, kind and able to appease even the crankiest of customers.

And she always did what was right and decorous—even if it killed her. Though, mostly this behavior was due to her incredibly kind heart. She'd earned Mary-bell's deepest respect since coming to Call Girls, newly single after her ex-husband had all but abandoned her and her boys to live his life as a cross-dresser.

Em was down-home tough. Soft and pliable like Play-Doh on the outside, but made of steel parts of resolve on the inside. There wasn't a coon dog's chance in purgatory she'd acknowledge just how astonished she was.

Instead, she carried in a large Crock-Pot bowl with two heart-covered oven mitts over her hands to protect them from the heat. Em assessed Marybell for a moment, brief and fleeting, before her eyes flickered, and proper Em was firmly back in place. "We brought you…" She almost stuttered the words, gazing down at Marybell. But then she caught herself reacting and forced her shoulders to square and her spine to straighten. Em cleared her throat. "Soup," she finished with a warm smile full of perfect white teeth and ruby-red lipstick. "Chicken soup—for your poor, flu-riddled soul, you sweet, phlegmy angel." Em set the Crock-Pot on the old chest Marybell used as a coffee table, dropping the mitts next to it.

Marybell murmured a thank-you into the collar of her bathrobe.

Em flapped her hands in the way she always did, signifying that her kind gesture was much ado about nothing. "Did you really expect we'd let you suffer all alone? Not on my watch, miss. Mercy, we've been worried to death about you ever since you called in sick earlier today, sugarplum. Dixie said you sounded like a congested bullfrog, and weak as a kitten to boot. You hafta feed that cold. Which is why we all cooked up something and forced our way in here like the interfering henpeckers we are."

"Rolls," LaDawn repeated again stiffly, clearly still experiencing aftershocks of the "holy Hannah in a wet suit" variety. "I brought rolls. With butter" She pointedly tapped the basket.

Marybell smiled in an abstract, afraid-to-meet-their-eyes way, too cold to pull her hands from the confines of her bathrobe to take a roll, too rattled to move. "Yum, butter. How kind. Thanks, girls." She dabbed at her eyes, red-rimmed and drippy under the mask.

Now that formalities and justifications were made, she waited, quietly, if not inquisitively, for an answer to the unspoken question.

Why haven't we ever seen who the real Marybell Lyman is?

They all waited.

For an explanation about her appearance, with plenty of side-eye and questions in the form of an entire conversation played out with only the expressions on their faces.

Em folded her fists at her waist, resting them on her slender hips, her teeth working the corner of her lower lip.

Dixie placed her forearm over her chest, resting her other arm in the crook of it, and cupped her chin with her hand, blatantly stumped.

LaDawn just left the opportunity for flies to congregate in her mouth, which was now, unabashedly, wide-open.

Marybell waited, too. Her fuzzy, medicated brain was searching for a way to handle this without turning it into a topic of long discussion wherein she explained why no one ever saw her freshly scrubbed face.

Under any other circumstances, mentally guessing who'd crack first under the pressure of etiquette would have been as much fun as watching Nanette Pruitt bluster when Marybell sat next to her in church and sang "Onward, Christian Soldier," loud and entirely off-key.

The stunning difference between this MB—sans red-and-green-spiked Mohawk, heavy eye makeup, nose ring and facial piercings—and the one sitting before them had to be killing them.

This was the Marybell Lyman not a solitary soul had seen in at least four years, except her bathroom mirror just before she spent an hour applying the "people shield."

If she were a bettin' kind, she'd lay bets on LaDawn, the most vocal of their group, and while Southern to her last breath, she was also unashamedly opinionated and outspoken. There was no subtext to LaDawn, and it was probably one of the things Marybell loved most about her. She was an ex-lady of the evening, or as she jokingly called her former profession, a "companionator." Words weren't something LaDawn struggled with.

Yet nothing. The old clock on her coffee-with-cream-painted wall ticked away the seconds while each woman internally struggled with her appearance and fought not to visibly squirm.

Marybell's sudden sneeze into a crumpled tissue made all of them jump, forcing her to address the issue. If she made light of it, they would, too and she needed them to make light. She prayed they'd follow her lead.

"My nose ring is at the cleaners," she teased, breaking the ice with a honking snort into a brand-new tissue.

Dixie finally spoke, her voice just above a whisper, as though if someone heard her, she'd be tagged responsible for letting the cat out of the bag. "If I didn't know this was your apartment, I'd never have—"

"Known you from a hole in the wall!" LaDawn crowed, her voice now located. She planted her hands on her hips, encased in her usual skintight jeans, and pushed her hair over her shoulder with daggerlike-tipped fingers of glittery purple. "Dang, girl." She pulled the words from her lips as if she were pulling a thick milk shake from a straw. "You'd better hurry up and get better so you can do up that hair before the town fair starts next week. I'll never be able to find my way to the cotton candy stand if that Mohawk o' yours isn't stickin' out in every direction, pointin' me to the land of sugary pink heaven." She chuckled, leaning forward to tweak a wet strand of Marybell's hair with affectionate fingers.

Marybell sniffled, wincing at the sharp tug to her sinuses, afraid to let loose a sigh of relief. Keeping her chin tucked inside her bathrobe, she forced a chuckle. "Oh, you hush, LaDawn. You don't need me to do that. You have Doc Johnson to light your way."

LaDawn chuffed, popping her dark-purple-lined lips. "Don't you talk to me about Doc Johnson. That man hasn't come callin' in three solid days."

Em, obviously unable to stand it anymore, plopped down on the couch next to her, directing LaDawn to bring her a bowl and ladle from the kitchen. She smoothed the fan of her skirt over her knees. "First off, Cat sends her love. She didn't want to, but we made her stay home. Wouldn't be good for her to catch somethin' from you with the baby on the way."

Marybell loved Cat Butler. A free spirit, a hugger, one of her first real friends, and now madly in love with Flynn McGrady and well on her way to beginning their family. "Tell her I said thank you, and keep that bun in the oven safe."

Em popped her lips. "So, how is it that we've been friends for all this time now, and we've never seen the true Marybell?" She plucked at the eye mask, making Marybell swat at her hands. "Well, almost the true Marybell. You've seen us in all sorts of manner, miss. Drunk, seminaked, riding a mechanical bull, for heaven's sake. Fair is fair." She asked the question as though it were some slight for Marybell never to have revealed herself without her makeup and gel-spiked hair.

She really wanted to ask why they'd surprise-attacked her with food and hospitality when she'd expressly told Dixie she'd be fine and back at work within the week. All she needed was some rest and cold medication. She'd done that with the fervent hope they wouldn't catch her exactly as they'd done.

But leave it to Em and Dixie to have to see for themselves she wasn't going to do something as dramatic as die of the latest illness they'd hunted down on WebMD.

Still, her friends made her smile. They were a reason to get up these days when for so long, there wasn't any reason at all.

They were loving, nurturing machines, the lot of them. Give them an ailment, and they were fixing it with age-old home remedies and more smothering love than you could shake a stick at. How could she be angry with them for caring about her?

But she hadn't been prepared for their insistent knock on her door. It left her more than uneasy without her cloak of heavy makeup and piercings in place. There was always the chance, even in small-town Plum Orchard, Georgia, she'd be recognized. The people here had been ever so slow to come to terms with how different her appearance was from the likes of them.

Yet she'd sucked up the strange looks and whispers behind hands at Madge's Kitchen where she had dinner almost every night before her shift for a reason. It beat the livin' daylights out of the alternative.

Rather than answer Em, Marybell deflected, looking her friend square in the eye. She was the master of deflection. "Do I ever see the true Emmaline?" she asked with mock innocence, glad for the cloak of her congestion concealing her weak attempt at subterfuge.

"Bah! You most certainly do see the true Emmaline. You see her with lipstick." Em pursed her lips, dragging a throw from the back of Marybell's couch to cover her with it. She tucked the edges under her chin with gentle fingers, pressing the back of her hand to Marybell's forehead with a wince.

Marybell coughed, turning her head and using her arm to shield Em from her germs. "Exactly." She smiled.

"Gravy," Dixie murmured, patting her on the back while setting a cup of steaming lemon tea laced with honey on the end table, her eyes perusing Marybell's freshly scrubbed face. "Even stricken with the flu and a gel eye mask, you're beautiful. I don't like this turn of events Ms. MB," she joked with her infamous flirty smile. "I'm glad Caine didn't see you without your goo or I'd be a goner. Plus, you're younger than me by six years. I simply won't have you, or anyone in this town, bein' prettier than me."

Em clucked her tongue, shooting Dixie a chiding finger. "Are you sayin' Caine wouldn't fall for her with her makeup and the pointy green-and-red things all over her head? Are you sayin' he doesn't love you for what's on your insides, Dixie Davis? That he's nothing more than a shallow shell of a man with a heartbeat and a chiseled jaw?"

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Talking After Midnight 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
BooksAndBeer More than 1 year ago
Marybell Lyman is hiding in plain sight. She's created a deliberately shocking and counterculture look to keep people at arms length.  She's an OG member of the phone-sex operator group of Call Girls, Inc. Her job is more to her than her paycheck, it's her family, friends, and security.  Just when she thinks she's finally safe in her own little hidey-hole, Taggart Hawethorn makes her want to rethink the difference between being safe and being happy. Tag is a rascal.  He's working hard to prove that his past mistakes are just about behind him.  He's charming, and sweet, and absolutely smitten by the colorful and prickly Ms. Lyman. Undeterred by her attempts to keep him at arms length, he woos Marybell in full view of God and the dreaded Mags. Marybell would love to be Tag's girl, but if the truth of her identity came out, she could lose everything, especially Tag. “I don’t remember confirmin’ our date.”  He popped open a bag of chips and dumped them on her plate with another grin. “Ah, but you didn’t  deny it, either.”  “So if I don’t say no, it’s automatically a date?”  “That’s what the rule book says.”  “Who wrote this rule book?”  “Probably some desperate guy who couldn’t get a firm yes for a date.”  I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review. Talking After Midnight is Dakota Cassidy's contemporary romance Plum Orchard series grand finale. As the last of the series, it's brought things to a close with a triumphant win.  In my personal opinion, this was definitely a case of saving the best for last.   After one novella and two full length novels, the little town of Plum Orchard is well established.  The . citizens and their small-town doings have an authentic feel due to Cassidy's skill for world building.   She didn't rest on her laurels here, as the politics between the Mags and the other townsfolk continued to unfold to the reader.   Marybell Lyman could have been another wounded-girl trope. Instead of being a hapless, hand-wringing victim, she proves to be that quiet, generous girl that's truly thankful for what she has and is aware how little it takes for everything to be lost.  Her back story is heartbreaking. As more if it unfolds, empathy for her character comes easily.  Her reluctance and fear ratchet up as she gets closer to Tag and starts to realize how close she is to real happiness that she can never have. Tag's character is very well-rounded. In a female-centric genre where the male archetypes are abnormally perfect, Tag has real flaws. In the previous story, Something to Talk About, Tag is darker, angrier, and toward the end, just coming to the end of a dark tunnel of his own making.  In Talking After Midnight, the reader gets to see his quick wit and indomitable charm.  His blind attraction and wooing of Marybell despite all of her physically and emotionally manifested walls is somehow completely believable. It's never over-the-top or done as a nod to political correctness.  Many of the characters of the previous books are here, and they all have the feel of old friends the reader knows well. They lose none of their depth despite Marybell and Tag being more prominent in the book than the hero and heroines were in the previous novels. The story arc builds Marybell's tension and both Tag and Marybell's growing feelings at a very smooth pace.  While there's a lot of reflection by both characters on their own pasts, it moves the story along by reinforcing the motives of their behavior.  Each remembrance is reflected by an event happening in the present.   Cassidy plays the secret card very close to the vest for quite a large portion of the story.  Instead of revealing Marybell's secret quickly, the author makes hints that add to the page-turner quality of the book.  Even when it's finally revealed, the reader doesn't know the whole story.  It just keeps building up to be something truly worthy of Marybell's fear and hiding. Rather than ending quickly and easily once Marybell's secret is out, Tag and Marybell really have to work to come together. This, too lends weight to the situation and emotion. Only one fly in my ointment - Louella Palmer and the Mags. After having read just about everything this author has written, I am confident in saying that this series is her very best writing to date.  
TheRavenReader More than 1 year ago
ehaney578 More than 1 year ago
I was completely blown away with the previously published novella and Books 1 and 2 of this series and I was so looking forward to the prospect of Marybell and Tag together. I had a hard time with this book. I didn’t really like the way the story developed and how Tag was involved in Marybell’s past and the roundabout way that it happened. I know it sounds confusing but I’d be giving away spoilers and I don’t want to do that so I’m keeping my responses to the story vague. I like Marybell and finding out about her past was tough, but I’m so glad she met Landon (a character who’s no longer in the series). All roads seem to link back to him and the author always makes me cry with any mention of this wonderful character who left us too soon. Tag is smokin’ hot but he is very jaded and doesn’t handle the reveal of Marybell’s past well. Not well at all. Thankfully he has family who smacked some sense into him and Tag was able to mend fences. I really enjoyed catching up with previously introduced characters but I’m disappointed that I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I’d have liked to. This will in no way deter me from reading future books from the author. Dakota Cassidy is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. ***I was gifted an eBook copy from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own***
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SoCalChele More than 1 year ago
This is a story of friendship and how love comes along even when in hiding. The town judges Marybell due to her appearance and her job, but Tag is looking beyond those things. I love how she can be so tough when she's got her public shield up and so soft and sensitive underneath it all. Lovely sexy story about second chances and that things aren't always the way they appear. Also, southern women may seem soft and sweet, but there's steel underneath those girls! I was reminded of my sister-in-law whom I always described as the iron fist in the velvet glove, lol!  I want to read more Call Girls set in the old PO. Hurry up and write, Dakota!!! I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
adwest More than 1 year ago
Dakota does it again! From the first time I heard about this series, I knew it was going to be a must read. I didn't realize how much I would fall in love with Plum Orchard and the people who live there. Mrs Cassidy writes a book that is not only hilarious (how could a book about the people who work for a phone sex company not be) but is also very emotional. Marybeth never had an easy life, and she hides who she really is all because of a misunderstanding. Tag is charming in his persistence to win MB over, even after his past troubles.  once again,  I can't wait to see what will come next in the PO! *I received this arc in exchange for an honest review*
TheUndomesticFangirl More than 1 year ago
What happens when Taggart Hawthorne, a guy who had a drinking problem because of his cheating fiancé together with facing bankruptcy, and Marybell Lyman, a girl who has a wall around her so high, a girl who hides behind Goth make-up and multi-colored hair falls in love with each other? Disaster of course, especially after one of them finds out they’re indirectly involved with the reason his/her life is a mess. It was hard to follow at first since I’m not used to third person point of view. It was a bit confusing at the first part on who’s talking or whose name corresponds with the descriptions. It got confusing reading them all together in a scene. Second reason is that I haven’t read the first and second one so I don’t know who’s who and where’s where. It could’ve been nice if there was a short recap on what happened before the Talking After Midnight or just a brief intro of the story. And lastly, my copy was in a PDF form and I needed an ePub. Either I have to read it on my computer or read it on my device with very small print. I chose the latter one. Although I have written dislikes, it was not subjective to the whole book. The zombie reference gave the book so many points (I’m a zombie fanatic), especially mentioning my favorite zombie show and awesome zombie fighters. I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t know what the heck bologna is. HA! Anway, I’m really against women chasing after men but since I love the story I can’t stop reading. I love the scandal that the story revolved around on. It was controversial as well, so it was a huge revelation for the plot. There was a whole story to MB’s secretive past and the phone sex company. The Call Girls made it hilarious and more enjoyable. I love Em’s fierceness and the loyalty of the Call Girls to Marybell. It was nice that their friends and family were very supportive. I most definitely love the sisterhood between the Call Girls. It also tackles something the society should change. The gossip that ruins lives, news that isn’t verified, social crucifixion of people, and prosecution of the media. TALKING AFTER MIDNIGHT is a fun, sexy & heart wrenching tale of despair, betrayals and that everything is not what it seems.
JackieBCentralTexasJB More than 1 year ago
Read from June 07 to 08, 2014 Book Info  Paperback, 400 pages Expected publication: June 24th 2014 by Harlequin MIRA original title Talking After Midnight ISBN 0778316319 (ISBN13: 9780778316312) edition language English series Plum Orchard #3 other editions None found Source:Netgalley EARC Book Buy Links  Amazon  B&N  BOOK SYNOPSIS Shields up, sugar—things in Plum Orchard are about to get real.  Marybell Lyman is notorious for two things:  Her look. The wicked hairstyle, multiple piercings and practiced sneer that say: "Stay back—I bite."  Her voice. The syrupy lilt that's her bread and butter at Call Girls, the prim little town's flourishing phone-sex company.  Hunky handyman Taggart Hawthorn is mesmerized by the contradiction: such sweet tones inside such a spiky shell! He wants to know more about mysterious Marybell, to hear more of her sexy talk—all for himself.  But Tag's attentions, delicious as they are, have Marybell panicked. She's been hiding a long time. She's finally got a home, a job and friends she adores. She won't have it all snatched away by another stupid mistake—like falling in love. So when Marybell's past comes calling, she and the Call Girls will prove no one handles scandals like a Southern girl! My Thoughts By now having spent two earlier ventures into the world of the characters who inhabit Plum Orchard Georgia this third book is liking coming home to find out what is going on with old friends. One of those friends is still kind of a mystery, Marybell Lyman is in your face with her multi-colored spiked hair-the Goth makeup and clothing-her piercings and most of all stay-away attitude so when she catches Tag Hawthorn’s eye she has mixed feelings about acting on the mutual attraction due to the fact that of all people if Tag finds out the secret she has been hiding she is afraid the explosion to follow will be of epic proportions. Some of us never have to worry about where we will lay our head, what we will eat for a next meal, whether someone is there when we need a shoulder to lean on or a hug to help ease our worries. Marybell Lyman however learned very early on that these things were not to be taken for granted. Once grown she found herself for the first time with a stable lifestyle, that is until it was all taken from her! Now living in Plum Orchard she has made friends with her fellow co-workers and created a home for herself that makes her feel safe and secure, the problem is will she fight for what she wants or once again run at the first sign of trouble when it comes calling thanks to meddlesome Louella Parsons? Tag Hawthorn was once the owner of his own construction company, until he was swindled out of it and he lost everything including the woman he thought loved him until she proved she loved his money more. Having further lost his way by allowing himself to wallow in misery Tag gives in to the lure of too much alcohol, he almost loses the support and love of his brothers Gage and Jax until he is forced to face facts and get help. Now living in Plum Orchard Tag finds himself finally getting to the point he can face his past and move on, when he finds himself fascinated by Marybell he realizes that it is much more and works even harder to straighten out his life so they can have a future together if possible. Two broken people who finally find the one who allows the pain from past betrayals to slip away, at least until one of their past secrets comes to light and has the power to tear them apart forever. This is the conclusion to Plum Orchard series and it is honestly the most inspiring story of them all as it takes a long hard look at just how easy it is to find oneself at the mercy of others being forced to do things to survive that one would never do otherwise! The intensity of the emotions you will experience once again as these beloved characters face public animosity and the possible loss of one of their own means the tissues need to be kept handy, the laughter that some scenes invoke however will make the tears worth shedding! [EArc from Netgalley in exchange for honest review]
HollieR1 More than 1 year ago
This is book 3 of the Plum Orchard series. The stories about the ladies of Plum Orchard's Phone Sex company,Call Girls. This is the story of Marybell and Tag. Marybell has a secret..one that is tied to Tag. But he doesn't even know what she truly looks like behind her outrageous makeup and mohawk hair. He just knows that she makes him feel something more..and more is a good thing. No matter how much she pushes him away. I truly loved this story!! LOVED! Marybell had me from page one! Her story wrapped me up and didn't let go until the end of the book! I went from laughter to tears. Such a wonderful story! <3