This week’s Snippet Saturday is “Make ’em Laugh”. This scene from Texas Tangle always gets me chuckling, and it’s also a scene that gets the most comments–everyone seems to identify with Dillon’s grandmother. I can easily envision myself being a “Gramma Barnett” in the future. I look forward being the curmudgeonly old matriarch who isn’t afraid to say what she thinks damn what anyone else thinks. Of course, not everyone in the family thought Gramma was particularly funny. But that’s a story for another day (yup, Jackson’s reaction here will foreshadow some of the conflict in Griffin’s story.) And this scene is also handy because it is the scene that inspired my upcoming Carina release, Tangled Past.
While she already knew Dillon’s family, her nerves jumped to see Dillon’s brothers, Griffin and Matt, grinning a smile identical to Dillon’s as if they knew full well what had happened the night before. Middle brother Ethan and Dillon’s sister Lilly sat on the opposite side of the table. While they were nodding and smiling, they didn’t make her stomach flip-flop. She took a deep breath and took her seat, telling herself she could get through this meal.
At least until she glanced to the head of the table where Dillon’s father sat, a frown on his face, his dark eyes, normally sparkling like Dillon’s, solemn and penetrating. She wiped her hands on her skirt. Did he suspect what had happened?
From the chair to his left, another pair of sharp chocolate eyes scanned her. Mrs. Barnett placed her hands on the shoulders of Dillon’s grandmother. “Nicole, you remember Jackson’s mother, Ruth, don’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am. How are you, Mrs. Barnett?”
Gramma Barnett flicked her gaze from Nikki to Dillon for a moment then turned to Brett and pursed her lips. From the few times she’d met Dillon’s grandmother before, she got the feeling that little escaped the woman’s attention. With a curt nod of her head, Gramma tapped on the table. “Glad to see you made it this week. Now where’s dinner? I’m hungry.”
Feeling as if she’d just been judged, and passed inspection, Nikki exhaled a slow breath.
As plates were passed around the table, and the family settled into a half-dozen different topics in which everyone voiced an opinion, Nikki gradually relaxed. She’d half expected that Dillon might try something inappropriate considering he was sitting right beside her, but he kept his hands to himself the entire time.
The main course finished, they’d moved on to Mrs. Barnett’s famous apple crumble pie when the discussion drifted to the headlines. Dillon reached over and grabbed the last slice, bobbling his plate when his grandmother changed the direction of the conversation.
“Did you see that story on the news the other night about a woman over in Cleburne who was arrested for marrying two men without them knowin’ about the other?”
Trying not to draw too much attention to herself, Nikki leaned close to Dillon and whispered, “Please tell me you didn’t say anything to her about me dating both of you.”
“I swear I never said a word,” he whispered back.
Gramma Barnett frowned at them and pointedly raised her voice. “Apparently, she travelled a lot for her job, and neither suspected the other existed. From what I saw of the report, she’d been married twenty years to one, then married another half her age over in Austin a couple years back. Both men said they were both as happy as a pig in shit.” An earthy chuckle erupted, starting deep in her belly. “At least until they found out the other existed.”
Nikki chanced a glance sideways at Brett and met his puzzled gaze. He lifted one shoulder a half inch and shook his head. Was it merely a coincidence that Gramma Barnett had mentioned the subject? Or had she picked up on something they’d done—some way they’d looked at each other?
Faith joined her mother-in-law’s laughter. “As long as she didn’t have to do their laundry, good for her.”
Mr. Barnett wasn’t as forgiving. “Mother, Faith! What type of example does that set for Lilly?”
The conversation hitting a little too close to home, Nikki sipped her iced tea in hopes it might cool the blush creeping into her cheeks.
Gramma Barnett stabbed the last bit of pastry on her plate and waved it toward Nikki. “Nothin’ wrong with a woman living with two men, Junior, s’long as everyone’s amenable to the arrangement. Look at this little filly and how she’s keeping your boys so happy.”
A chorus of “Gramma!”s echoed around the table while Nikki choked on her drink.
“What? It’s an honest opinion.” Gramma Barnett thumped on the table. “What woman wouldn’t be tempted by two fellas as good lookin’ as my boys? If she’s not, there’s somethin’ wrong with her.”
Dillon’s father fixed his mother with a glare. “I hardly think this is the appropriate venue for this discussion, Momma.”
“Bah.” She leaned toward Nikki as if she was going to whisper a secret, but didn’t lower her voice. “My grandparents had a permanent threesome all their adult lives. Betcha Dillon never told you that before.”
“No way! Really?” Lilly piped up, though instead of shock, her eyes were wide with interest.
“I could hardly tell her something I didn’t know myself, Gram.” Despite his tan, Dillon’s cheeks bore an unmistakeable hint of a blush.
“Yup.” She dabbed her mouth as delicately as if she were presiding over a state dinner, then realizing she had the attention of the whole table, placed the napkin on her lap. “And I’ll tell you something else—they weren’t the only ones in the county with more than two to their bed.”
She glared around the table as if warning anyone who dared challenge her. “Times were hard back then, and there weren’t as many women around as there are now. According to my daddy, his daddies decided instead of fighting for the hand of the woman they loved, they’d all live together. Musta worked out because they’re even buried side by side by side out in the churchyard.” She pointed at Nikki then waved her bony finger between Brett and Dillon. “You should do the same thing. You’d be a fool to pass up the opportunity to bed down with such fine-looking specimens. And it’ll keep these boys on their toes—make ’em keep you happy both in the bedroom and outta it, in case you decide to kick one o’ ’em out. The good Lord knows young Dillon here needs something to keep him out of his mischief.”
All the eyes that had been staring at Mrs. Barnett trained on Nikki, waiting to see her response. Feeling like a bug under the microscope, Nikki looked to Dillon for help. That was a futile hope, as he was dissecting the remains of his apple crumble. For his part, Brett stared at his plate, his brows drawn together. No help there either. The pie that had been so delicious moments before now lay as heavy as a rock in her stomach. “Um, th-thank you for the advice, Mrs. Barnett. I’ll certainly keep it in mind.”
“You do that.” Mrs. Barnett put down her fork and pushed her plate to the center of the table. “Close your mouth, dear. You’ll attract flies.” She stood with a groan then shuffled to the door. Halfway down the hall, she called, “Jackson, get off that keister of yours and drive me home. Or are you gonna make your poor old momma walk all the way?”
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