“Stay away from him,” muttered Luke. The darkness of the night, plus the brim of Luke’s hat, cast a deep shadow on his face. His arms were crossed and he was breathing heavy.
“Excuse me? Stay away from him? I didn’t date him!” she whispered vehemently. It took Luke three strides to get right in front of her. She could see the rage flashing in his eyes. His face was a cold mask.
“You think that I would…that Ashley…that I could do…what?” he managed to get out without strangling his words too much. He stepped back and put his hands up in surprise. She was about to get in his face when a hand on her shoulder stopped her. She turned and saw her dad’s kind, old face. He had a warning in his eyes.
“Sarah’s wondering where Mommy is, and there’s nothing Mom-mom or Pop can do for her” he said, talking quietly into Grace’s ear, “Relax, go get your girl. I’ll handle Luke.” She kissed her dad on the cheek and hurried to find her daughter.
Sarah was sitting in the kitchen with Grace’s mom. Sarah looked dead on her feet. She was insisting, however, that she could stay up later and wasn’t tired at all.
“Ready for bed, Sarah?” asked Grace. She could see the fight go out of her daughter. Just then, the kitchen door opened and May flew in. She raced to her friend’s side and whispered in her ear.
“I know they’re here, I just met them,” said Grace. May had whispered the news about the Moore family but Grace was way ahead of her. She picked up Sarah and went to head up the stairs.
“Whose here?” asked Grace’s mother. She looked curious and worried. May took Sarah from Grace’s arms and headed out of the kitchen. As the door swung closed, she called, “Fill her in and I’ll put Sarah May to bed.”
Grace began to fill in her mother with the gossip when her father came in the kitchen carrying Nick. Grace looked at the clock; it was 9:45, way too late for little kids.
“Let us put him to bed, okay?” said her dad. Grace nodded and headed back outside.
watched the truck pull up, letting the spunky red haired girl
out. She had been focused on the exchange between the girl and
her nephew and his friends. She was surprised when she heard
her name being called and even more surprised when Luke stepped
out in front of her and blocked her behind him. She peeked her
head around and found herself staring at John Moore.
He looked older but handsome all the same. He wore nice causal clothes and had filled out his frame since high school. He was holding his wife behind him the same way Grace was tucked behind Luke.
“Grace Parker! Or Grace Taylor now…I saw the newspaper clippings when you two got married! Never would have guessed it! Luke Taylor and Grace Parker! This is quite a place you have here,” he said, his accent thicker than Grace remembered. Luke grinded his teeth and gave John a stiff nod.
“Oh this is ridiculous, Luke, let me out. I’m not a child,” she whispered. Reluctantly, Luke lowered his arm to let her out. “John Moore? Well welcome back! I heard you moved back from Georgia, what the heck are you doing back?’
“Business is booming and I missed my old town. Meet my wife, or re-meet her….” Said John, as his wife stepped out from behind him. Grace gasped; she couldn’t help it.
“Ashley?” cried Luke, incredulous. He strode forward and pulled her into a hug.
Ashley Smithson, the beautiful red-haired ex-girlfriend from Luke’s past. They had dated for most of junior year in high school and into the summer. After they broke up, Grace only knew she moved away after graduation. Grace couldn’t believe it. John and Ashley—married? If they were married, then was the spunky red head their daughter? Grace didn’t have to wait to find out; the girl was dragging Teddy right up to the crowd of adults.
“Hi! Austin Moore, pleased to meet you,” she said. She smiled brightly at them all. She was gorgeous. No wonder Teddy looked thrilled that she hadn’t let go of his hand.
“Wow you look like your mother,” murmured Luke. Grace rolled her eyes. He was down memory lane with Ashley Smithson.
“Thank you, Mr. Taylor. Is that your kid?” she asked, pointing to Nick as he ran by the group.
“Yes, he’s mine,” Luke said, proudly. He scooped Nick up as he ran by again. “Say ‘Hi’ to some friends of mine, okay, bud?”
Nick smiled shyly, a first thought Grace, and said his hellos. As soon as Luke put him down, he was off running again.
“I was just telling Teddy I knew all about him,” said Austin. She smiled brightly at him.
“And I was wondering how…” Teddy finally spoke up. Annie got to her feet and joined the group.
“Austin’s momma and Uncle Luke dated in high school, Teddy. They were classmates with Aunt Grace and Mr. Moore.”
“In fact, Aunt Grace and Mr. Moore had a bit of fling too,” said Ryan, smirking. Luke’s smile vanished.
“And here we are, Grace, back at a bonfire!” joked John. He smiled slightly, looking slightly scared by Luke’s face.
“When did you two get together?” asked Ryan, as Austin and Teddy went to join the throng of teenagers that passed by.
“To be honest, I was pregnant with Austin way before graduation. We moved to Georgia and got John a job at my daddy’s car dealership,” said Ashley. The rest of the group took this information in. Teddy was born the summer before senior year, so Austin must be a year behind him.
“We sent Austin early; she’s a freshmen actually. She’s bright for her age,” said John. He looked uncomfortable.
Then Annie, always the saving grace in Grace’s life, spoke up, “Want something to eat or drink? Come on, we’ve got plenty.” The Moore’s were whisked away to the refreshments, leaving Luke and Grace alone.