“Drew, my friend, what is wrong?”
Drew turned around to find Pavel standing in the doorway, a dark bottle in his hand and a concerned look on his face. “Nothing,” he lied, forcing a smile to his lips. “Why?”
“Because this is a party for you and Molly, your family is due any minute, and rather than being out in the backyard with your guests, you are hiding in the living room of your soon-to-be brother-in-law’s house, in the dark,” Pavel said, leaning against the door frame. “So pardon me if I don’t believe nothing is wrong.”
He couldn’t deny that, so Drew shrugged. “It’s nothing, really,” he said. “I’m just tired. It was a long day yesterday.”
Pavel looked keenly at him. “I don’t believe it,” he said finally. “You look worried, not tired. You have been worried all week.” He paused and said, “Are you have second thoughts about the wedding?”
“What? No!” Drew stared at him, appalled. “How could you think that?”
“Then what is it?” Pavel said. “What is so bad that you would rather brood than share it?”
Drew hesitated, then shook his head. “It’s not the wedding, but there’s a small issue with one of the guests,” he said finally.
“Problem with a guest?” Pavel eyed him. “You point them out, I take care of them. No problem.”
“It’s not that easy,” Drew said, chuckling ruefully.
“Who is the guest?” Pavel finally came into the living room and sank down into Nathan’s recliner. “Tell Uncle Pavel everything.”
Drew was about to reply when Schrodinger came into the room. Drew, Drew! Molly sent me to find you! Your family is here!
“It’s too late,” Drew told Pavel. “It’s just too late.” He sighed. “Let’s go.”
Schrodinger looked from Drew to Pavel, puzzled. What’s wrong?
“Nothing.” Drew squared his shoulders and went out of the room.
Pavel looked at Schrodinger. “We should follow him. This could go badly.”
“Because family is complicated,” Pavel said, and Schrodinger had no answer to that.
Molly met Drew as he came out of the house. “They just pulled in,” she said, smiling up at him. “At least, I think it’s them. I’m not sure who else it could be.” She glanced around the yard. “After all, I think half the Cove is here.”
“It’s just because you’re loved,” Drew told her.
“Because WE’RE loved,” she corrected him, and grinned, hugging him. “Come on. I’m dying to meet your family.”
He let her lead him from the backyard to the driveway, wondering if she’d be as thrilled once she saw who was here.
The rental car had just parked when they came out, Schrodinger and Pavel trailing behind them. A large car, more suitable for a family rather than his aunt and uncle, and Drew smiled despite himself.
“Did they really need that big a car?” Molly asked him quietly.
“That’s Uncle Larry,” Drew said. “He’d drive a tank if he could.” He stepped out and waved his hand.
His Aunt Janice was out of the car almost before the engine had shut off, and Drew felt guilty as he saw the grey in her formerly dark hair. But her voice was the same: warm, very nearly the same as her sister’s, his mother’s, had been. “Drew!” she said, hugging him tightly, and he smelled cinnamon and nutmeg. Aunt Janice always smelled like she’d been baking. “You look so good!” She stepped back and looked over at Molly. “And you must be Molly!”
“Molly, this is my Aunt Janice,” Drew said, and Molly got her own hug. “Aunt Janice and Uncle Larry raised me after my parents died.”
“It’s good to meet you, dear,” Aunt Janice said. “I’ve heard so much about you from Drew!” Then she looked back up at him and winked. “You know, I hope it doesn’t put you out, but we brought someone extra with us, Drew. Someone who can’t wait to see you.”
He braced himself. “Oh?”
She nodded and turned back to the car, gesturing to someone Drew couldn’t see. And then, as the person got out of the car, his jaw dropped.
His cousin grinned and held out his arms, and Drew ran into them, thumping his back. “Did you really think I wouldn’t come back for your wedding?” Doug demanded, chuckling. “Come on!”
“Well, I was hopeful, but you never responded to the invite, so we weren’t sure you’d gotten it,” Drew said, his grin matching his cousin’s. “Damn, it’s good to see you!”
“And you. Besides, it gives me a chance to introduce you to some new members of the family.”
Drew’s eyebrows went up as he watched Doug open the car door and help someone out. “You got married?”
“He ran away and did it,” Aunt Janice said dourly, but she grinned. “But he brought me back a grandson, so I forgave him.”
“A grandson?” Drew said.
“Meet your cousin Ryan,” Doug said, showing him a sleeping infant in a carrier. “And this is his other father, Tim.” He put his arm around a tall man with an easy smile.
“Congrats, man!” Drew reached out for Tim’s hand, shaking it enthusiastically. “Welcome to the family!”
“Thanks.” Tim had a surprisingly deep baritone, and his smile was warm. “I’m a lucky man.”
“We’re lucky men,” Doug corrected him.
“And this is Molly,” Drew said, drawing her closer to him. “Molly, my cousin Doug, his husband Tim, and their new baby Ryan.”
Molly gave them both smiles. “Welcome to the Cove!”
Both Doug and Tim’s eyes went wide as Schrodinger came up.
“And this is Schrodinger, the CrossCat that lives with us,” Drew said, exchanging a grin with Molly. “Welcome to the Cove, as they said.”
“A CrossCat?” Tim asked. “What is that?”
“Has Doug told you what I do for a living?” Drew asked.
“Not really,” Tim admitted. “He said it was something to do with gate maintenance or something, but I couldn’t follow it all.” He was still staring at Schrodinger. “He talks.”
Doesn’t everyone? Schrodinger said, tilting his head sideways.
“You aren’t from a CrossRoads town, are you, Tim?” Molly said gently.
“A what?” Tim said.
“No, he’s not,” Doug said, chuckling. “This is going to be quite the trip for him.”
“You’re mean, not telling him,” Drew said. “Especially coming here.”
“Why?” Doug said.
“Because Carter’s Cove is a bit more…colorful than most CrossRoads towns,” Drew said, chuckling. “Schrodinger is only the beginning.”
True, the CrossCat said. I’m much less interesting than the Snow Queen or Old Man Winter.
Tim choked a little at that, and Molly laughed. “Come on, Tim,” she said, taking his arm and then taking Doug’s. “Let me introduce you to the family.”
Drew watched them go, admiring how she put both men at their ease. Then he turned to greet his uncle, who had finally come around the other side of the car.
“Hello, sir,” he said, shaking the older man’s hand. “I’m glad you could come.”
“As if we’d miss your wedding,” Uncle Larry said. “Even I would travel for that, and you know how I hate to fly.”
“You could have come via Gate,” Drew reminded him.
Uncle Larry shuddered. “No, thanks. That’s even worse.”
Drew peeked down into the car. “No Phoebe?” he said, knowing he couldn’t not ask.
“Not today, no – she had certain things that needed to be done,” Aunt Janice said. “She’s coming to the ceremony, though.” She looked at him closely. “She missed you. Just like we all did.”
“I missed you too,” Drew said, and hugged her again. “I’m glad you came out.”
But as he walked them to the backyard, he had to admit to himself that he was just as glad that Phoebe wasn’t going to be there before Saturday. It gave him some more time to decide just how to let Molly know about her.
- Day 3 – The Bachelorette Party
- Day 5 – The Rehearsal Dinner