Home > The Mission (Bad Bridesmaids #2)(5)

The Mission (Bad Bridesmaids #2)(5)
Author: Noelle Adams

“I’m not laughing at you.” Before she could argue, he added, “I’m laughing, but not at you.”

“It’s mean to laugh at people.”

“But it’s not mean to laugh around people. That’s what I’m doing.”

She peered at him suspiciously before she relented. She slurped down some more of her now lukewarm hot chocolate and wiped her mouth on a napkin. “I’m done. Is Mommy finished yet?”

“I don’t know. She hasn’t texted to say she’s ready, so she’s probably still busy with dresses.” Keith glanced down at his phone.

“I want to see Mommy in the bridesmaid dress. I bet she looks beautiful!”

“I’m sure she does.”

“Don’t you think Mommy is the most beautiful woman in the world?”

It was an innocent question, but a little too on the nose for Keith’s comfort. He cleared his throat as he hefted himself to his feet and extended a hand to help Eva up.

She got up willingly after counting the amount of tip he’d left on the table.

He was congratulating himself on escaping from the awkward question as they stepped out onto the pleasant sidewalk that lined the few blocks of Azalea’s downtown area, leading down to the park they’d visited earlier.

Their timing was perfect. Serena was across the street, standing in a huddle with her friends. They were clearly finished with the dress fitting, and after she’d said her extended goodbyes, she’d be on her way over to the bookstore where they’d been hanging out.

From across the street, Keith saw her eyes flit over in their direction. Her face warmed as she saw them, softening in a way that made his heart skip a few times.

Then Eva said in an unfortunately loud, shrill voice, “You don’t think Mommy is beautiful, Uncle Keith?”

The other women glanced over, clearly hearing the dismayed question.

“Of course I think she’s beautiful,” Keith replied quickly. “You know I do.”

“Yes, but you didn’t say so.” Eva’s lower lip stuck out as she gave him a narrow-eyed glare. “You’re supposed to say so.”

“I’m saying so now. She’s the most beautiful mommy in the world.”

This was clearly what Eva wanted to hear. She beamed up at him and reached to take his hand. “I think so too!” She finally noticed her mother across the street and screamed at the top of her lungs, “Mommy! Mommy! Are you done? Uncle Keith says you’re the most beautiful lady in the world!”

Keith rubbed his eyes with one hand and groaned.



KEITH HAD BEEN IN A good mood all day, but he wasn’t on the ride back to Richmond.

He was trying to be reasonable and mature about the situation, but he felt like grumbling and couldn’t hide his scowl.

After about twenty minutes, Serena gave him a light poke on the arm. “Stop pouting.”

“I’m not pouting,” he replied coolly, giving her a look he was sure would reflect his current mood. “But you can’t expect me to be happy that you’ve suddenly decided to interfere with my life.”

“I’m not interfering with your life. I want to help you. There’s no reason for you to get huffy about that.” She glanced into the back seat, but Eva was listening to music with headphones and was clearly unaware and uninterested in what they were discussing. “What’s the big deal?”

“The big deal is that I’m capable of managing my own social life. If I wanted help finding a date, I’d ask for it.”

“I know you don’t need help finding a date. You clearly have those coming out of your eyeballs. I’m trying to help you find love.”

“If I needed help with that, I’d ask for it too.”

“But you do need help. When was the last time you dated someone for more than a month?”

Keith arched his eyebrows and didn’t answer.

“Tell me. When? It was college, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” he admitted.

“How on earth do you expect to find someone to marry and start a family with if you don’t give any woman more than a couple of weeks of your time?”

“Who says I even want that?” He wasn’t a particularly private person—not with Serena anyway—but some things went very deep. This was one of them. And when something went deep, he had trouble putting it into words.

“Don’t you?” Her eyes looked green in the afternoon sun, and they were fixed on his face whenever he glanced away from the road to check her expression. “You used to want that. I assumed you still did. Are you saying you don’t want a family anymore?”

Her tone wasn’t challenging, proving she’d believe him if he told her he’d changed his mind. But he couldn’t lie to her like that. So he said gruffly, “I haven’t changed my mind.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

He knew the answer. The same answer that had been tripping him up for way too long.

He couldn’t find anyone else that he loved and wanted the way he did Serena.

For a long time, while she’d been married to someone else, he’d convinced himself he’d gotten over his adolescent feelings. That someone else would appear and replace her in his heart. But then her marriage had fallen apart, and she and Eva had moved in next door to him. And he’d had to admit reality—to himself if no one else.

He was never going to get over her.

He’d love Serena forever. And if he could only love her as a friend, then he’d spend his life single.

It wasn’t the worst thing in the world. He could certainly manage. It would be far better than fooling himself into marrying someone else and never being able to give her all of himself.

“Keith?” Serena prompted when he didn’t reply to her question.

He glanced over at her, blinking. “What?”

“You didn’t answer.”

“What was the question?”

“If you still want to have a family, why don’t you do anything but casually date?”

“I haven’t found the right person yet.” It was an easy answer. The kind people used all the time to foist off inconvenient questions. But he recognized his mistake as soon as he voiced the words.

“That’s what I thought! That’s why I want to help. Why can’t I help you find someone who might actually be the right person?”

Keith bit back a groan and weighed about a dozen options all in a few seconds. There were only two viable possibilities, however.

He could tell Serena the truth about how he felt—and in doing so change their whole worlds.

Or he could accept the help he didn’t want.

“Fine,” he muttered. “You can try to help. But don’t expect a lot of success. If I can tell there’s no future, I don’t keep dating someone. It doesn’t seem fair. To either of us.”

“That’s fine. But maybe you’re just not trying to date the right kind of people. I know you better than anyone in the world, don’t I?”

“Yes,” Keith admitted. “You do.”

“So I’m the best person to find a good match for you.” Serena was smiling and rubbing her hands together, clearly excited about the prospect.

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