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a chainbooks publication Chapter 1 written by Rochelle Devoe Chapter 2 written by Brooke Williams Chapter 3 written by Jordan WIlliams
Chapter 1 When Kendall Everett stepped out of the taxi she had no idea she was going to ﬁnd herself in the middle of scandal by the end of the week. She tilted her head staring at the regal hotel stretching up into blue sky. The eloquent building screamed sophistication and reﬁnement. Miraculously, so did she. Her normally wild tangle of mocha curls were tamed into an elegant French braid and her burgundy pantsuit telegraphed authority. She topped off her big city makeover with a pair of black pumps she borrowed from her sister. Her skin was tanned by the sun and her freckles were hidden underneath some well applied make-up. She didnʼt even feel like herself. " She left Mississippi on a plane early in the morning and arrived at the JFK airport an hour and a half ago. She ventured into the Big Apple for one simple reason. To see her best friend Quincy get married. She hadnʼt seen him in about ten years but she knew she couldnʼt miss this event. They stayed in touch over the years. First there were long letters where they discussed their lives. She kept him updated on who was sleeping with who, who left the town, who returned and he gave her plenty of detail on his life as a soldier. " Then he met Mary Lynn Beckford. " She stepped into the hotel lobby, her suitcase rolling behind her, and approached the front desk. Her clothes stated New York but her accent was one hundred percent Mississippi. “Hi, I have a reservation for a room. The name is Kendall Everett.” She could see a smirk lifting the corner of the hotel clerkʼs mouth and she stamped down her annoyance. " The clerk typed her name into the computer conﬁrming her reservation. When he determined she truly was a guest of the hotel he got her room card and handed it to her. “The elevators are right down the hall. Youʼre going to go up to the fourth ﬂoor and itʼs about half way down the hallway on your right. Room 456.” She noticed he talked slow as if she were a simpleton who had never used an elevator before. She couldnʼt help herself. The jerk was ripe for getting ribbed and his ignorance was the perfect reason. " She ﬁxed her vibrant green eyes on him and played up her southern charm to almost cartoonish proportions. “Well, golly gee! Thanks so much for helpinʼ a poor country girl like me. I reckon Iʼll get going that way.” " His stricken face gave her a nice ﬂush of satisfaction and she turned around letting him gape at her back. She dragged her suitcase to the elevator and waited patiently for the door to open. The doors separated but no one was inside. She ascended the four ﬂoors and soon was in her room. She marveled at the tasteful decoration. Vases with ﬂowers, a massive satin comforter and lots of pillows decorated her room. She stepped into the bathroom and squealed with delight. A jetted tub was nestled inside and she was itching to strip down and spend the evening enjoying the luxury. She promised
herself that as soon as she could escape the rehearsal dinner she would pour herself a big glass of wine and indulge. " The rehearsal dinner started in thirty minutes so she sat in the chair by the window. The sprawling panels of glass gave her a knockout view of Manhattan. She marveled at the famous skyline. Scenes of romantic comedies like Sleepless In Seattle and Youʼve Got Mail entered her mind. She was no Meg Ryan though. Even the surreal moment failed to keep her mind from wandering to the old friend she would see soon. " Her cell phone began ringing and she giggled as “New York, New York” chirped from her baggage. She unzipped the front pocket and answered laughter still dancing in her voice. “Hello, this is Kendall Everett from Everettʼs Nursery.” " “Hey Kendall! Have you seen Quincy yet?” " Her other best friendʼs curiosity traveled like electricity through the distance between New York and Mississippi. Helen Jennings was both an incurable optimist and a hopeless romantic and recently she was directing her over active fantasy life in Kendallʼs direction. " Exasperated by her friendʼs eager and well-meaning nosiness she sighed. “Not yet! The rehearsal dinner starts in ﬁfteen minutes.” " “Heʼs going to die when he sees you. You look so amazing.” " Kendall paced across the room stealing a quick glance in the mirror. She didnʼt think she looked amazing. In her mind she looked ridiculous. Like a tomboy playing dress up. She wanted her broken in jeans and white tank top and would gladly trade the suit and shoes for both articles of clothing. " “I donʼt even look like myself.” " “You might make him forget all about the city princess heʼs planning to get hitched to. He might follow you all the way back to Mississippi.” Helenʼs voice possessed a mischievous tone and Kendall had no doubt Helen believed her naïve delusions. " “I highly doubt it.” " Helen sighed and Kendall could swear she heard a wink and a nudge in her friendʼs ﬁnal words before she ended the call. " “Youʼve done a damn good job of pretending all there ever was between you and Quincy was friendship. I honestly think you and Quincy were the only two kids at Lakeview High who didnʼt think youʼd end up together. You canʼt ﬁght fate. Iʼll call you tonight!” "
The phone went silent and it was time to go downstairs. " She walked down the hallway and approached the double doors. Before entering she took a deep breath. Puzzled by her sudden nerves she chastised herself with the reminder it was just Quincy. Fancy setting and big city ways be damned. " She opened the doors. " The ballroom was ﬁlled with ﬂowers and immaculate women ﬂoated between table buzzing like honeybees. Men were grouped for safety in the corners of the room working hard at doing nothing. Most men knew not to risk getting in the way of women who had wedding fever. She wished she could hang out with them and kick off the shoes making her feet scream uncle. Her eyes skimmed through the faces and she looked for someone she recognized. She saw his mother but she couldnʼt bring herself to approach yet. His mother, Henrietta Miller, would make a terrible fuss over her and she didnʼt want all eyes on her. " Then she saw him. " He was talking with a couple of other guys on the far side of the room. He ran a hand through his wavy strawberry blonde hair. His eyes crinkled when he laughed and his smile was broad and undemanding. He had on black dress pants and a crisp white dress shirt. Unlike most of the men present his tie was already hanging loose around his neck and his jacket was slung haphazardly over his shoulder. She smiled watching him. " She struggled to actually begin moving towards him. She felt like an intruder in this posh setting. Like she had been starring in some movie about a girl growing up in the country chasing ﬁreﬂies who stumbled off her set and ended up in a completely different ﬁlm. Yet, she knew the leading man so well. She knew his favorite songs, who he lost his virginity to and how he was terriﬁed of spiders. She found herself wondering if the future Mrs. Miller knew any of those things. " She wondered if he would even recognize her if he turned in her direction. It had been three years and when they went to lunch she wasnʼt really the picture of style. At the time, her jeans were baggy and she excelled at erasing any curves she possessed. Her shirt was only slightly more ﬂattering. Her hair had been a mass of wild curls and she remembered the time well. It was the ﬁrst time she ever felt self-conscious with him. He was dressed like had a business meeting to attend and she appeared as if she just stepped off a construction site. " Which wasnʼt all that far from the truth. "
A voice, cool and patronizing, addressed her. “Can I help you?“ She whirled around facing the person who delivered the pointed question. She could feel the older womanʼs eyes assessing her. Kendall met her eyes and the verdict of disapproval was clear. " “Yes, Iʼm here for the wedding. Quincy is a friend of mine. We grew up together.” " “Oh. Well, as you can see, heʼs right over there.” The women tugged on her powder blue jacket and raised her chin. " “Thanks!” " She hurried away from the cool gaze of the women and towards the group of men huddled together. She tentatively called his name and waited for him to turn around. Her hands were ice cold. She knew that if she held them out her hand would quake just a little. He would notice and she didnʼt have an explanation. " “Quincy?” " He didnʼt turn. The room was noisy and the guys surrounding him were probably the nosiest of all those in the room. One man seemed very satisﬁed with himself while the rest guffawed at the punch line he just delivered. She was close enough now to hear the timbre of Quincyʼs laugh and the familiar sound bolstered her courage. " “Quincy Miller.” She said his name louder and his head whipped in her direction. He studied her for a moment and horror clenched her heart. His face remained blank. His eyes lingered on the details of her polished ﬁnish. When he met her eyes recognition exploded across his handsome features. He whooped so loudly the bustle of the room went into shocked silent. She seriously doubted anyone in this circle heard a countriﬁed whoop in their lives. " He moved like lightening. One minute he was standing a few feet away and the next he was lifting her off the ﬂoor and clutching her tightly. " “Kendall Ann Everett! You made it!” He set her back down on shaky legs and it took every ounce of concentration not to wobble on the towering heels. He pushed her back and exclaimed “Let me get a look at you. I didnʼt even recognize you!” ********************************** " Henrietta Miller heard a whoop of excitement and knew immediately the sound belonged to her son. She ﬁnished arranging the ﬂowers and adjusted her full ﬁgure so she could see the action unfolding across the room. She saw Quincy with his arms around a pretty brunette and one of her big brown eyes lifted watchfully. When he ﬁnally let go of the slender girl getting all his attention she recognized the sweet face. All the make-up couldnʼt hide the shine in Kendall Everettʼs eyes. "
Henrietta was careful not to smile too big or be too obvious in her pleasure. She prayed the girl would show up and now she could only hope her son saw what she had always known. That girl was meant to be with him and he was a fool for her. She remembered him moping around the house when she had a relationship with the McClainʼs son. Henrietta saw the sadness in his eyes when she drove him to Ft. Bragg. His eyes were glued to the rear view mirror until Kendall faded out of sight. " Her eyes crossed over to Mary Beckford. Mary was wrong for him in pretty much every way. Her blonde hair was arranged with immaculate care and perfection. Her make-up ﬂawless and her pink dress stunning, she was the picture of a princess. Kendall, on the other hand, already had a few curls springing loose from her French braid and Henrietta could see her shifting on her feet clearly yearning to kick off those deathtraps on her feet. Quincyʼs appearance mirrored Kendallʼs perfectly with his lazy smile and forsaken tie and jacket. " Henrietta didnʼt want to meddle in her grown sonʼs business. She took pride in the fact she let her kids make their own decisions. Yet, she couldnʼt help herself when fate gave her a chance to push things in a certain direction. Fate only takes one so far and then good old fashioned meddling did the rest. She talked Kendallʼs aunt into giving her the time off. She talked Kendall into buying the ticket. Kendallʼs sister, also on team Kendall and Quincy, gave her some tips on how to be a fashion model instead of a women who made a living digging in the dirt. The ﬁnal touch was Helen who was ﬂighty but had a mile wide romantic streak. Helen also happened to work in Henriettaʼs store. Maybe she meddled just a touch. Yet she knew if she was wrong about things all the meddling in the world wouldnʼt change things. " She wasnʼt wrong though. " Mary was on the move crossing the ﬂoor with not only purpose, but smoke in her pale blue eyes. Henrietta new people and she new the look in the girlʼs eyes. She was wound up tight as a tick. She also was a possessive, manipulative woman. She knew she was going to try to make everything snap in line. The wise mother also knew that in the whole time she had seen her boy with Mary she never inspired a whoop. More like a polite smile and a peck on the cheek. " Henriettaʼs lips tugged into a grin despite her best efforts. This week was going to be very interesting she thought. Very interesting indeed. ************** " Quincy heard his full name being shouted and he couldnʼt avoid turning his head. He recognized the voice but he didnʻt immediately recognize the woman calling out to him. The woman was beautiful but clearly seemed awkward and out of place in the environment. Her suit was snug and sexy as hell. Her hair was pulled in a simple but tasteful braid of some sort. She had long legs, a nice pinched waist and full, inviting breasts.
" Then he looked into those big green eyes and recognition ﬂooded him like a torrential rain. He felt as if he had been sucker punched. All the air whooshed from his lungs and he found himself suspended in time. Despite the classy clothes and the restrained hair she moved through him like a summer breeze. " Kendall. " He didnʼt expect her to come. He just couldnʼt see her leaving Mississippi and coming out to New York City. She had the nursery to tend to and he knew her life was full and busy back home. She loved the small town life and she wasnʼt just a resident of the state. The land ran through her blood just as strongly as it ran through his. He certainly didnʼt expect the image in front of him. Her face was free of the freckles he loved so much and while he knew make-up magic erased them he couldnʼt tell by looking. Her lips were tinted a warm brown color with red undertones and her emerald eyes were enhanced in ways he never saw in the past. Was she wearing mascara? " The whoop escaped his lips and he didnʼt think to tame his exuberant welcome for his old friend. He didnʼt mean to sweep her up that way either. Yet, he crossed the small space between them and grabbed her as if he were in tenth grade again. He remembered that year she had just returned from spending the summer in Georgia with her grandmother. Ten years was a lot longer than three months. As he pulled her in for the hug he could feel a slight tremble in her body. This bafﬂed him. But as he began to observe all the faces staring at them he realized this was an intimidating scene for her. " He turned to her and said. “I didnʼt think you would come. After you went to Atlanta you said nothing would get you in the big city again.” " Her eyes, bright and warm, found his and he felt something shift inside him. She said, “Well….I guess youʼre an exception.” Then she punched him playfully in the shoulder. " The crowd parted and Mary Lynn Beckford made her presence known. She slipped through the bodies staring at the happy reunion and arrived without so much as a warning. Quincy felt the icy daggers shooting from her eyes and inwardly he winced. He loved Mary but sometimes she could be so damn possessive. Her lips, frosted pink and shaped into an artiﬁcial pout, parted and she sliced with her words. The slashes were directed at Kendall. " “Well, you must be Kendall. Nice to ﬁnally meet you.”"
Chapter 2 “Nice to meet you too,” Kendall replied, pasting a fake smile onto her face. " “Arenʼt you just the cutest thing?” Mary Lynn commented, pressing her nails harder into Quincyʼs arm. “You talk just like Quincy. Though I think Iʼve been able to shake a little bit of the south out of his voice.” " Kendall smiled. She liked Quincyʼs accent. It sounded like home. He sounded like home. She didnʼt like Mary Lynn. She didnʼt know Mary Lynn, but she was certain she didnʼt like her. The woman was insulting her ﬁancé the very week of their wedding. How much more awful would she get once they were married? " “I bet you could tell me all sorts of stories about this ﬁancé of mine. You two go way back, right?” Mary Lynn asked, with her perfect smile surrounded by perfect pink lips that encompassed perfectly white teeth. Kendall wondered if her hair always looked perfect too. Surely if she were caught in the rain. Or maybe a windstorm… " “Quincy said you were a childhood friend, but by the way he talked about you, I was expecting a tomboy,” Mary Lynn added, piling on insult to injury. " “Well, I do enjoy a good roll in the dirt,” Kendall replied, just to throw Mary Lynn off a bit, “But I clean up pretty good too.” " Quincy grinned. Kendall could tell that he was as annoyed as his ﬁanceʼs ignorant comments as she was. So why was he marrying her? She would have to ask him later. Surely, there were deep things in the girl that stood before her. Deep emotions and feelings so sweet and thoughtful that she could keep Quincy happy for the rest of her life. At least Kendall hoped so. All she wanted for her best friend was for him to be happy. " Henrietta approached the group of three and threw a beefy arm around Kendall. “Kendall, darling, how have you been?” She gave her a side hug and took a step back. “Would you look at yourself? You look lovely! Quincy, doesnʼt she look lovely?” " Kendall couldnʼt be sure but she thought she noticed Henrietta Miller giving Mary Lynn a slight bump with her hip. As if she wanted her as far away from her son as possible. " “I was just telling her that I hardly recognized her myself,” Quincy said, gazing at her once again with appreciation.
" “And I was just trying to get her to tell me childhood stories about our Quincy here,” Mary Lynn chimed in, quickly realizing she was being left out of the conversation. " “I canʼt believe how grown up you are,” Henrietta beamed, as if Mary Lynn had not spoken at all. “How long has it been?” " " " “Ten years,” Kendall and Quincy said at the same time and then laughed. “I guess we still do that,” Quincy stated. “Do what?” Mary Lynn asked.
" “Say the same thing at the same time,” Henrietta answered, ﬁnally turning to include Mary Lynn. “They used to do that all the time. It was like they had the same mind or something.” She grinned at Kendall with an added twinkle in her eye. " What is she up to this time? Kendall wondered. Kendall remembered Henrietta from her childhood days. She had never known a sweeter woman. Mrs. Miller would do anything for anyone and she had proven it time and again. When the neighbor down the street broke his leg in a car accident, it was Henrietta Miller who had cut his grass. When the neighbor up the street had a problem pregnancy, it was Henrietta Miller who had cooked and delivered all of her food to ensure that she didnʼt have to get out of bed. Henrietta Miller always found the good in everyone. But if Kendall wasnʼt mistaken, she had a chip on her shoulder when it came to Mary Lynn. She would have to subtly ask about that later as well. " “Well, Mary Lynn,” Henrietta breathed, as if she were saying a bad word. “I suppose you and I better go check on…well, there are things we need to check on.” " Kendall smiled. Smooth Mrs. Miller. Very smooth. She may as well have said that she wanted to leave Kendall and Quincy alone to catch up. That woman was deﬁnitely up to something. " Mary Lynn nodded and allowed herself to be led away by her mother-in-law to bed, her pink dress swishing perfectly around her knees. " “Whatʼs with them?” Kendall asked, knowing that with Quincy, she didnʼt have to resort to subtitles. " " " " “Oh, you know my mom,” he replied with a nonchalant shake of his head. “Yes, I do and she loves everyone. What does she have against Mary Lynn?” “Itʼs that obvious, is it?” Kendall tilted her head and raised her eyebrows in agreement.
" “I donʼt know, really, we havenʼt talked about it,” Quincy replied. “I guess she just doesnʼt think sheʼs good enough for me.” " “Good enough? Quincy, look at her, sheʼs a specimen!”
" “Well, I know that!” he said, chucking her on the shoulder. “Iʼm the one who asked her to marry me, remember?” " " " Kendall nodded once again, feeling a slight sagging in her heart region. “Itʼs just that Iʼm her little boy and she doesnʼt want to let me go.” “Little? Does she still call you that after all these years?”
" Kendall wasnʼt sure, but she thought Quincy blushed. “Every chance she gets,” he replied. “Itʼs pretty embarrassing. I donʼt know how many times Iʼve asked her to stop.” " “Itʼs cute,” Kendall said, being sincere. “To her, no matter how tall and strong youʼve gotten,” she continued, nonchalantly squeezing his bicep, “youʼre always going to be her little boy.” " “And Iʼm always going to be your best friend,” Quincy added, placing his large hand over her small one on his arm. Their eyes met and Kendall felt something she had never felt before. Was this what they meant by chemistry? She and Quincy had always had feelings for each other. They had been friends for decades. But there was never any more to it. Or was there? " Kendall pulled her hand out from underneath his and cleared her throat. “I donʼt want to keep you,” she said, “I just wanted to say hi and let you know I was here.” " “Itʼs so good to see you. Really, Kendall. I wasnʼt planning on your being here, but now that youʼre here…I really donʼt know if I could have made it through this whole thing without you.” " Kendall smiled, glad to hear how much her presence meant to him. The long plane ride had been worth it. Quincy was worth it. " “I better go see if Mary Lynn needs anything.”
" Kendall nodded again. Mary Lynn. The name didnʼt sound natural coming out of his mouth. It was too…staunch or stoic or something. It just wasnʼt quite right. She liked the way he said her name. Kendall just seemed to roll off his tongue with an affectionate tone. She didnʼt think he said any other word with quite the same inﬂection. She was glad her name was special.
" Okay, Kendall, she thought, now youʼre thinking crazy thoughts. What kind of friend stands around at her best friendʼs rehearsal and analyzes the way he says her name? As if it even matters? " Henrietta Miller left Mary Lynn at the water cooler to talk to the caterer about the entrees and appetizers. She took her cell phone into the hall and placed her call. It wasnʼt that long ago that these new fangled cell phones had completely boggled her mind. When she was growing up, her family hadnʼt even had a phone at all and now everyone carried one at all times, in their pockets or purses. Henrietta had ﬁnally learned to use one herself, after much poking and prodding from Quincy. " “What if you got hurt?” he had said. “Or what if you need help? If you have a cell phone you can make a call in an emergency?” " Henrietta had shaken her head. “Iʼve gotten by just ﬁne without them for the last 65 years, I think Iʼll manage.” " “Iʼm sure you will,” Quincy had replied. “But can you get one for me? Just consider it a favor. You donʼt even have to use it. You donʼt even have to turn it on. Just keep it with you and I will feel so much better about you running around without me.” " Henrietta had smiled lovingly at her son. It was nice that he was concerned about her. She loved him with all her heart and the truth of the matter was that there was nothing she wouldnʼt do for him. Even carry a cell phone. " For the ﬁrst few months, Henrietta had carried the small cell phone in her handbag, unused and in the off position. After awhile, she felt as if it was a waste to have such a device right by her hip at all times and never use it. She began making small calls here and there to test it out. First, she called her doctor to conﬁrm her appointment change. Then, she called the bakery to place an order for the wedding shower a few months back, which she grudgingly agreed to host. Before long, Henrietta had become a pro. She could now dial without even looking at the phone and she had even received a text message or two, though she had no idea how to reply. " Henrietta was always careful with her phone. She didnʼt really want people to see her using it. It was part of her old-fashioned charm. She didnʼt understand why people used their phones in the middle of the street, in line at the coffee shop, and even in the restroom. It was so rude. No one had any sense of politeness these days. Henrietta may enjoy her phone, but she was never going to sink to their level. " She also did not like admitting it when she was wrong. That was probably partly why she never wanted Quincy to see her using the phone, though he knew she did. He called her on it every now and then and since she answered, he knew she had it on and
close by. But just because he knew she used it on occasion did not mean that Henrietta had to admit it and openly use it in front of him. She may have been polite about her cell phone usage, but she was also stubborn about it. " “Max?” she asked in whispered voice as she looked up and down the hall. “Are we all set for later this week?” " She paused as she heard his words of afﬁrmation on the other line.
" “No, no, donʼt do anything yet. We have out plan and weʼre going to stick to it. Thereʼs no need to move things up at this point. In fact, an interesting addition just walked in a few minutes ago. I want to see how things play out on this end. Itʼs possible we wonʼt even have to follow through.” " Henrietta paused again as Max spoke.
" “Iʼll let you know when I know more. I want to give this new…development a few days before we work on our timeline further, okay?” " Max spoke again as Henrietta spotted Mary Lynn exiting the room into the hallway. " “Okay Max, she said in a hushed voice as she turned toward the corner. “Weʼll talk soon.” She snapped the phone shut and threw it into her handbag, grabbing out a tube of lipstick and a small mirror. " “Hey Henrietta,” Mary Lynn said, approaching her from behind. “Or should I just call you mom?” she asked, a look of expectation in her eyes. " “Mrs. Miller will do just ﬁne,” Henrietta said icily as she stared into her little hand mirror and pretended to reapply her lipstick. " “Oh, okay,” Mary Lynn said, the hurt apparent in her voice. “I was just going to ask if you had the number for the bakery. The caterer wanted to coordinate the space for the cake. " Henrietta took her time with her lipstick and then twisted the knob, replacing it into the tube. She snapped the cap on and placed it and the mirror back into her purse. She dug around awhile and ﬁnally brought her hand back out with the bakery calling card between her ﬁngers. “Here you go,” she said briskly, dismissing Mary Lynn without giving her so much as a glance. " Mary Lynn walked away from Henrietta Miller with more questions than answers. What had she ever done to that woman? It was obvious she had a bad taste in her mouth when it came to Mary Lynn. Mary Lynn straightened her skirt. She had to do something. She had to ﬁx this relationship or Quincy was going to have to step in. She
simply couldnʼt live with that woman if she was going to be treated this way. She shouldnʼt have to. " Henrietta had never been overly friendly, but she had seemed to accept Mary Lynn when the ﬁrst met. It was only recently, once they began planning the wedding in earnest, that the tides had ofﬁcially turned. Mary Lynn would give her one more chance and they she would go to Quincy. She knew it was a risk. He was a mamaʼs boy through and through. But if she was going to marry him, he simply had to make a choice. It was Mary Lynn or his mother. And he better choose her, if he knew what was good for him. Who wouldnʼt choose her? She wore a size 2, had her hair and nails done every week and kept her body toned. Mrs. Miller couldnʼt have been more opposite in appearance or character. No, there really was no choice. OF that much she was certain. " Kendall situated herself near the bar and began to survey the room. She watched as Henrietta left with a secretive look on her face. She saw Mary Lynn leave a few minutes later and then return with a shocked look on her face. Yes, there was deﬁnitely something going on there. Kendall was surprised that her next thought was of Quincy. She was curious about Mary Lynn and Henriettaʼs relationship. But more than anything else, she just didnʼt want Quincy to be caught in the crossﬁre. He deserved better than that. He deserved better than Mary Lynn. Whoa, Kendall stopped herself, where had that last thought come from?
Chapter 3 Kendall cleared her mind and surveyed the room. Minutes later, Henrietta returned, the secretive look still on her face. She looked pleased, somehow. As if she were up to something. Kendall knew Henrietta and her penchant for mischief. She only hoped that whatever she had up her sleeve was some sort of fancy surprise for the happy couple. " Why am I wishing them well when Mary Lynn is so obviously not right for Quincy? She thought. Kendall shook her head, chastising herself immediately after the thought crossed her mind. Why wouldnʼt she wish them well? Quincy was her best friend and she didnʼt want anything or anyone to hurt him. Especially not his own mother. She would make it a point to pull Henrietta aside later and see if she could ﬁnd out what she was up to. " Kendall sipped her drink and watched as Mary Lynn regained her composure. She wondered what had happened in the hallway and began putting two and two together. As she realized that Henrietta and Mary Lynn had been missing for the same brief moments, she remembered the way Henrietta treated her daughter in law to be when they were talking in a group. There was deﬁnitely something going on there. " Before she could take herself any farther down that path, she felt someone lean up against the bar beside her. " “Alone at least,” Quincy said, close to her ear. " Kendall shivered. “You mean I get to spend time with the ever popular groom?” she teased as she turned to face her friend. " “I wouldnʼt have it any other way,” he said, giving her a meaningful look that told her she still meant the world to him. “This thing is going to be wrapping up pretty soon,” he said, with relief in his voice. “What do you say we meet up for some dessert?” " “Dessert?” Kendall exclaimed with mock surprise. “What if you donʼt ﬁt in your gown on the big day?” " Quincy chuckled. “You never change, do you?” he said with joy. " “Didnʼt know I was supposed to,” Kendall returned with mock hurt in her voice. " “If you ever do, Iʼd never speak to you again,” Quincy responded. “Meet me in an hour. Thereʼs a coffee shop on the corner. Itʼs open late. They have the best cookies Iʼve ever had in my life.” " “Better than mine?” Kendall asked. " Quincy chuckled again, “If theyʼre edible, theyʼre better than yours.” With that, he moved back across the room to stand beside his ﬁancé. " Kendall watched as he strolled across the room. Since when did he walk with such conﬁdence? She let her mind take her back to the day they made cookies together. It had been a disaster. She had told Quincy she knew what she was doing. After all, they had the recipe. It wasnʼt rocket science. And they were both dying from cravings for a home made chocolate chip cookie. " But having the recipe hadnʼt been enough. Kendall had told Quincy to just sit back and watch. And despite how badly he wanted his cookies, he had let her put in tablespoons of salt instead of teaspoons and he watched as she dumped in way too much ﬂour. The cookies might have even been okay had they not gotten into a ﬁght with the little ﬂour that was left over and allowed them to sit in the over way too long.
" Kendall tried to remember what had stopped them…the smell of burning, or her mother entering the room and screaming at the sight of her ruined kitchen. They had spent the rest of the evening cleaning ﬂour from every crevice of the kitchen. And attempting to scrap the rock hard cookies from the tray. And they had laughed uncontrollably every second of the way. " Kendall smiled as she stared off into the distance. It had been too long since sheʼd spent quality time like that with Quincy. People grew up, she supposed. They moved on. There wasnʼt much she could do about that. But, she vowed, she had this week. She was going to enjoy her time with her friend and make some more cherished memories to carry her through the next ten years. She didnʼt anticipate getting to see him much more often once Mary Lynn was a permanent ﬁxture in his life. " As if thinking of her made her magically appear, Mary Lynn appeared at her shoulder, as perfect as ever. Not even a smudge of lipstick out of place despite the fact that she had a drink in her hand. " “I canʼt believe Iʼve ﬁnally met the famous Kendall,” she drawled in her syrupy accented voice. " “I didnʼt know I was famous,” Kendall replied, pasting a smile onto her face. " “Well, according to Quincy you are,” she waved her hand at Kendall as if dismissing servant. “He canʼt talk enough about the time yaʼll spent together growing up. I swear, if I have to hear that story about that time you all went to the pool and you went down the slide and lost your top…” " “He told you about that?” Kendall asked in mock embarrassment. They had been young. She had hardly had anything up top to speak about. She had pretty much forgotten the moment altogether. But she was amused that Quincy remembered. And that he apparently told his bride to be the story repeatedly. " “Oh, honey, he tells me everything,” Mary Lynn said with pride. " Kendall wondered if that was really true. She wondered if he told her about the time Quincy dared her to kiss him…just to see what it was like. " But instead of asking what she really wanted to know, Kendall just nodded. " “You and I have just got to get to know one another,” Mary Lynn gushed, placing her hand on Kendallʼs wrist as if they were long lost friends. " “Iʼm sure youʼre really busy this week…with the wedding and all,” Kendall said, attempting to give Mary Lynn an out. " “Oh, everything is going along just ﬁne. Besides, any friend of Quincyʼs is a friend of mine.” Mary Lynn looked across the room and found Quincy. He met her eyes and raised his glass to her. She took her own ﬁngers from her glass and gave him a tiny wave as well. Quincy looked at Kendall and winked. Kendall stuck out her tongue. " “Do you have any plans for brunch tomorrow?” Mary Lynn asked, turning her attention back to Kendall. " Kendall wasnʼt sure sheʼd EVER had plans for brunch. She wasnʼt really sure what the point of brunch was in the ﬁrst place. Was it just so people could sleep in and eat breakfast later? Or was it so people could have just one meal instead of two? " “Nope, no plans. Iʼm here for the wedding. Anything else is up in the air at this point.” " “Perfect,” Mary Lynn said as if it were all settled. “Meet me at the hotel restaurant at 8.” She sashayed across the room without another word.
" 8? Kendall thought. Who eats brunch at 8? She was pretty sure brunch was supposed to be more of a mid-morning thing. Like 10, maybe 11. But 8? Wasnʼt that just plain breakfast? " Kendall was still pondering the thought when she saw Henrietta rush by, cell phone in hand. Kendall was caught by how strange it looked. The older woman seemed uncomfortable with the phone. As if it would bite her if she held onto it too tightly. Kendall took her leave from the bar and followed Henrietta back into the hall. She was furiously punching away at the phone by the time Kendall caught up to her. " “Henrietta!” she called. " Henrietta turned, startled to hear her name. “Oh, hello Kendall, dear!” she said with pure joy in her voice. “You startled me, I didnʼt hear you coming!” " “Have an important call to make?” Kendall asked, hinting that she knew Henrietta was up to something. " “Oh, this,” Henrietta said. “Do you know Quincy forces me to carry this contraption?” she asked, waving the phone at Kendall. “Says he wants me to have it in case of emergency. What does he think I am? Old and about to have a heart attack or something? Does he think Iʼd be able to give him a call if I did?” She shook her head. She was pretty sure she had successfully changed the subject. " But Kendall called her bluff. “If itʼs just for emergencies, why do you have it out, Henrietta?” " Henrietta looked from Kendall to the phone and back to Kendall again. “Okay, you got me, but no more questions. I donʼt want you involved.” " “What are you talking about? Does this have to do with Quincy? With the wedding?” " “I said no more questions,” she hissed. “Iʼll take care of everything. I donʼt want you to worry about a thing. Just keep doing what youʼre doing.” " Kendall tilted her head. “What am I doing?” " “With my son!” Henrietta urged, as if Kendall should know what she was talking about. “Keep doing what youʼre doing with my son. Iʼll take care of her…” " “Okay…” Kendall said with confusion in her voice. She was about to ask what Henrietta meant by her comments when the doors burst open beside them. Quincy and one of the groomsmen appeared. " “Here are the ladies of the hour,” the groomsman said, throwing his arm around Kendall. She was pretty sure Mary Lynn should be the “lady of the hour,” but she didnʼt correct him. " “How rude, no one has even thought to introduce us,” he slurred. “Iʼm Adam, Quincyʼs very best friend.” " “Actually…” Quincy corrected, “Adam is Mary Lynnʼs brother. And Adam, this is Kendall. My very best friend.” " Adam turned slightly so he could check out the side of Kendallʼs face. “Well, what do you know?” he drawled. “The famous Kendall.” " Had everyone heard of her? " “Mary Lynn had told me all about you.” " “Mary Lynn?” Kendall asked, trying to extract her hair from beneath Adamʼs arm. “But we only just met.”
" Adam nodded. “She says Quincy talks about you all the time. Donʼt worry, Miss Kendall. Iʼll take your mind off ole Quincy here.” Adam swayed a bit. " “Okay, partyʼs over,” Quincy said, wrenching Adamʼs arm from around Kendall and placing it around his own shoulders instead. “You two can get to know each other later. Right now, itʼs time for bed.” " Kendall watched as Quincy half walked, half dragged Adam away. Henrietta shook her head. “I was pretty sure he was having more drinks than everyone else at that party combined,” she said, still clutching the cell phone. " “Henrietta,” Kendall began, about to get her back to the original topic. " The doors burst open once more and this time Mary Lynn appeared. “Have you all seen Quincy?” she asked. " “He just headed that way with your brother,” Kendall pointed. The two men were still visible in the distance. " “Poor Adam,” Kendall said. “He just doesnʼt know when to stop.” " “Iʼll say,” Henrietta mumbled. “And heʼs not the only one.” She gave Mary Lynn a look and Kendall knew she just had to get to the bottom of this story. For Quincyʼs sake, if not to satisfy her own curiosity. " “Henrietta,” Kendall said, “we need to discuss a few wedding details, can you come with me?” She grabbed the older womanʼs arm and dragged her down the hall, hands waving with the details she was likely going over. " Kendall shook her head. She would have to corner Henrietta another time. On that note, she was pretty sure the party had broken up. She decided her best bet was to move on to the coffee shop and wait for Quincy. Once he delivered Adam to his room, he would likely follow shortly. " Kendall left the building and walked the half a block to the corner shop. It was getting late, but the coffee shop window boasted “Always open,” and she was glad to push the door open and breath in the coffee smells. Kendall wasnʼt a big coffee drinker herself, but she loved the smell of the stuff. And the cookies that lay beneath the glass window on front of the counter looked amazing. Kendall bent down to get a closer look. She couldnʼt decide what to order so she got a full dozen. She ﬁgured whatever they didnʼt eat tonight, she could savor throughout the week. " She chose a cozy couch in the back of the shop so she and Quincy could ﬁnally have some privacy and really talk. They had a lot of catching up to do. She wanted to hear more about Mary Lynn. In reality, Mary Lynn was the last thing she wanted to talk about, but she knew the wedding was the reason why she was here and she needed to know more about her best friendʼs bride to be. After all, he had picked Mary Lynn to be his wife for a reason. " Kendall had just ﬁnished off the ﬁrst colossal cookie and had picked up a second when she heard Quincy approach. " “Thanks for waiting,” he said with sarcasm as Kendall froze the cookie halfway to her mouth. " She took a huge bite. “Any time,” she said, “want some?” " Quincy sank into the couch beside her. “You better believe it. What a day.” " “Yeah,” Kendall nodded. “Something tells me thereʼs more to this story. What was up with that Adam guy?”
" “I know, right? Heʼs a real piece of work. And the rest of Mary Lynnʼs family is so…well, theyʼre just so perfect.” " “Perfect,” Kendall repeated. “Yeah, thatʼs exactly what I thought every time I spoke to Mary Lynn. But…” Kendall paused, “is she perfect for you?” The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. She couldnʼt believe she had put it so bluntly. " Quincy took a bite from an oatmeal raisin cookie. Kendall didnʼt know why he had chosen that cookie over all of the other delectable options. He chewed slowly, torturing her as she waited for his answer. " “You know, Kendall,” he said, “you always had a way of asking the most blunt questions,” he said, looking at her intently. “There was never any way of getting anything past you. And Iʼve already pointed out that you never change.” " Kendall looked over her most recent cookie and met Quincyʼs eyes. It was at that point that all of her feelings rushed to the surface. She didnʼt want this wedding to happen. Quincy was her best friend, but her sore feelings against Mary Lynn werenʼt due to anything Mary Lynn had done. They were because of how she felt for Quincy.