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The Best Man In Texas
By Kristine Rolofson
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"POOR DELIA." The statement was accompanied by a sigh and a shake of Georgia Ball's gray-haired head.
"I don't know what she's going to do now."
"I know." Annie took a tissue from her purse, just in case Georgia started crying again. She ignored the curious looks from the bridge group piling into the restaurant for dessert after their weekly game of cards. Everyone in the town of July, Texas, was still gossiping about Delia's divorce, and it wouldn't do to put on a show, not at the Yellow Rose Diner in the middle of the afternoon.
"And the humiliation," Georgia added, lowering her voice as she took the offered tissue.
"It certainly is a shame," Annie agreed, taking a sip of iced tea. "Delia's such a nice girl, and to have had such a hard time of it, breaks my heart, it does."
"I keep telling her that she should move back home," Georgia declared. She was in her early sixties, but she had the energy of a much younger woman and the often-ferocious self-confidence of a teenager.
"I have the extra room and there's no reason for Delia to be paying rent somewhere when I sure wouldn't mind the company."
"No," her friend said. "Company would be nice for you, but -"
"And Delia can't afford to keep that house, not now that Martin has it up for sale."
"No, but -"
Georgia frowned over her coffee cup. "But what, Annie?"
"Maybe Delia -" she hesitated, thinking over her next words.
"Maybe Delia what?"
"Might want to, um, be by herself. Get her own place. Kick up her heels a bit."
"Why on earth would she want to do that?"
Annie decided it was better not to explain. Georgia Ball wasn't known for her listening ability, but she was a good friend. And there was no sense in trying to explain to a mother that her adult daughter might prefer some privacy. "No reason, I suppose. Just that she raised those children of Martin's and now they're all grown-up and, well, Delia is still young."
"She's thirty-three," her mother declared. "Not exactly a spring chicken."
Annie tried to remember what her own life had been like when she was thirty-three, but all she remembered was a blur of making meat loaf and ironing shirts. "That's a fairly young age for a woman, especially in this day and age."
Georgia shrugged. "That depends on the woman. Delia needs -"
Annie waited. She thought Delia needed a weekend in Las Vegas or a month in Hawaii, and maybe some time with a hunky lifeguard, but she didn't expect Delia's mother to think the same way.
"She needs help," Georgia concluded. "And she shouldn't be living alone, especially not now. It could take her a while to get over the shock."
Annie couldn't argue with that. Having your husband divorce you for a younger woman was shocking enough, but finding out he was in love with the pregnant truck stop waitress only added to the confusion. And the baby, born six months ago, didn't even belong to Martin Drummond. "It's all so unbelievable."
"He told Delia he never meant to fall in love with Julie Brown, but he couldn't help himself. She needed him, he'd said." Georgia rolled her eyes. "The only thing Julie Brown ever needed was birth control."
"Marty was a fool. I never liked him, not even when he was mayor. He was always a little too full of himself, that man was." And to add insult to injury, he wanted to sell his and Delia's house and run off with Julie Brown the very second his youngest child turned eighteen. In a little over eight months, Delia had gone from married and settled to divorced and abandoned. It was downright disastrous, even in this day and age when no one seemed to know better.
"I thought he was too old for her - and I told her that, too, when she started seeing him - but Delia was sure she was in love. She was only twenty when she met him, what did she know about love?" Georgia sighed again and shook her head. "And then she took care of those children after their mother died. All this time I thought Delia had the perfect marriage. They seemed so settled and peaceful-like."
"Thirteen years of marriage is a long time." Annie leaned forward so that no one in the diner could overhear. "I'm almost glad they never had children together. At least Delia is free and clear and never has to see that foolish man again."
"Small comfort," Georgia said. "I guess the good Lord's not going to give me grandchildren after all."
"Lots of women Delia's age get married and start families," Annie said, sorry she'd brought up the subject of Delia's fertility. She hadn't meant to hurt Georgia's feelings. "Really, Georgie, anything could happen."
"Anything has," Georgia replied, choking back tears. "My poor sweet Delia has a broken heart."
DELIA KNEW there was something wrong with her, something intrinsically twisted, because she also knew that she was supposed to fall apart, especially after her future ex-husband announced that the house they'd shared for thirteen years was to be sold, the profit - if there was any - divided between them, because he'd fallen in love with another woman and wanted a divorce.
It was the best way, he'd said. Fair to both of them.
Well, Delia had heard herself say, what in the hell does fair have to do with anything, huh, Martin?
She knew there was something wrong with her because instead of efficiently emptying her kitchen like some kind of domestic robot, she should be falling apart, collapsing to the white tile floor while she wept and cursed and wondered where she'd left the prescription for the Valium Dr. Arthur had given her. She should toss her wedding china dinner plates to the floor, take scissors to the tuxedo Martin had forgotten to pack, and - after all, because this was Texas - she should then grab her late father's shotgun, drive down the street to the law office parking lot and pelt the tires of Martin's beloved Ford Ranger with bullets.
Excerpted from The Best Man In Texas by Kristine Rolofson Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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