Today’s Snippet Saturday is author’s choice which means I get to choose my favorite scene. You’d think I’d be doing a handstand, but I have so many favorite scenes from my books. The scene where Sam climbs out on a ledge to break into Rosie’s apartment in Personal Protection, the one where he tells her about what caused him to quit the FBI, the scene in Private Property where he’s telling Mark about how Jodi’s special and he needs to rethink his relationship, (Wow, lots of Sam scenes here, but then he’s such a larger-than-life character) .
But the one below is also a favorite for a several reasons — one, the character of Gramma Barnett came alive as I was writing this scene. You don’t see her again in the story, but she is such a real character to me. An amalgam of my mother’s mother and what I imagine I’ll probably be at some point in a few years (heaven help my children), as well as a few other grandmother’s I’ve met — I’m not sure if city grandmothers can get away with this plainspokenness, but the rural/farming grandmother’s I’ve met sure do. And the story that she tells about her grandfathers’ and their love for her grandmother…even as I was writing it I knew there was more to it than she even realized. And suddenly her grandparents’ story just had to be told…and you’ll be able to read about it in June when Tangled Past releases. But for the scene that started it all….
Dillon hopped out of the truck and swung Nikki down. She noticed that Brett kept a decent distance away from them. While she knew it was necessary to maintain the illusion, she wanted to hold his hand at the same time.
She was chewing on her thumbnail when the front door swung open. Mrs. Barnett swooped onto the porch with a smug look on her face. She hugged Dillon first, then Brett, and turned to Nikki. “I’m so glad y’all could come today. With Griff working all over the state these days and Ethan at college, it’s the first time the whole family’s been together in ages.”
She led them into the house, talking over her shoulder as she went. “When Dillon phoned, I thought he was going to try to cancel again. But I told him that if he did, I’d just pack everything up and bring everyone over to his place.”
As they passed the living room with its faded couch and upright piano, Brett leaned over and whispered, “You didn’t believe us, did you?”
She shook her head as they entered the dining room. 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?”
Mr. Barnett’s chair scraped across the floor as he pushed it back. “Coming, Momma.”
No one else moved or said a word until they heard the front door close. Then everyone erupted in laughter at exactly the same moment.
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