Front Porch Promises #6
November 11, 2018
Indie Published
Available in: e-Book, Trade Size (reprint)

A Baby to Call Ours

This contemporary Christian romance is book five in the Front Porch Promises series.

When Jimmy Cunningham has a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity with his uncle’s company, Jimmy hopes to prove to everyone in his small hometown that he can be a success despite his bad-boy past. But will his uncle’s unreasonable request that Jimmy find a wife and settle down send his career dreams up in smoke?

Kelsey Reynolds wishes she could turn back time a few weeks and change the course of her life, but she can’t undo the mess she’s made. Jimmy offers her a solution, but is marrying a man she barely knows—even one as good looking and kindhearted as Jimmy—any better than facing her family with the truth?

How can a marriage built on a pretense survive?

Originally published July 2018 in eBook.

Chapter One

“Jimmy, thanks for coming in to talk to me.”

“My pleasure, sir.” Jimmy Cunningham shook his uncle Graham’s hand.

“Have a seat.” Graham Cunningham motioned toward the black leather chair next to his massive mahogany and cherry desk.

“Thanks.” Jimmy settled in the chair, hoping this meeting meant more business for his painting company. His uncle had real estate dealings in the area and could probably use a good painter. When Jimmy was younger, he’d let his uncle intimidate him, but he wouldn’t let that happen today.

Graham eased into his chair and steepled his hands as he propped his elbows on his desk. “I have a business proposition for you.”

“Yes, sir.” Jimmy couldn’t contain his smile. “I’d like to hear about it.”

Eyeing Jimmy, Graham eased back, his hands still steepled as he rested his elbows on the arms of his chair. “You know ever since Mitch got his MBA I’ve been begging him to get involved in some of my business holdings, but all he wants to do is run that garage.”

“Yes, sir. I know how much Mitch loves to work on cars.” Jimmy never understood his cousin, Mitch, Graham’s older son. Jimmy would’ve given anything to have been in Mitch’s shoes growing up. Mitch’s family was the toast of their little Tennessee town, Pineydale, while Jimmy and his family were the also-rans. Despite the times Jimmy had bested his cousin in their ongoing rivalries, Jimmy had always envied Mitch. “And he has a fine business of his own there.”

“That’s true, but I need to train someone to take over the business here in Pineydale when I retire in a couple of years. Alec is already running things over in Johnson City.” Graham leaned forward again. “What do you think about stepping into those shoes? I’ve seen the way you’ve run your painting company and expanded it over the years. I think you would do a good job working for me.”

Jimmy could hardly believe what his uncle was saying, but Jimmy didn’t dare show his shock or too much enthusiasm for the idea. Taking a slow breath, he quickly formulated a positive but cautious response. “That sounds very interesting. Can you give me more details?”

Graham smiled as he nodded. “You’d be put in a type of internship role.”

Jimmy didn’t like the sound of the internship. “Does this mean I’m on trial, and if I don’t perform according to your liking, then I’m out? Or would this be more of an apprenticeship, where you mentor me and bring me along to your satisfaction?”

“I’ll be mentoring you, but there are no guarantees with this.” Graham’s eyes narrowed. “I like to see results before I make any decisions about the permanency of this position.”

Jimmy didn’t dare squirm in front of his uncle. The man always drove a hard bargain. “And how long is this trial period?”

“Six months to a year. I like to leave things flexible.” Leaning forward, Graham narrowed his eyes even further. “There are two stipulations for this job. One, you need to finish your college degree. Two, you need to find a wife. I want my executives to have a steady family life as well as a college degree.”

Jimmy used every bit of his willpower not to overreact to his uncle’s over-the-top demands. Getting a college degree was within reason, but getting married was another can of worms. He didn’t even have a steady girlfriend. Going into this meeting, he’d promised himself he wouldn’t be daunted.

“Uncle Graham, I’m for getting my college degree, but you can’t expect me to get married just to have this job.”

Graham lifted his chin as he eyed Jimmy. “That’s exactly what I’m expecting. You have proven your work ethic with the painting business, but your personal life is something you have to address. Having a wife and a settled family life will make a difference.”

His uncle was being unreasonable, but was there any wisdom in arguing with him? He was probably thinking of the mess Jimmy had created when he’d come between Mitch and his fiancée. “I can make good on my personal life without getting married.”

“You don’t have to get married immediately, but if you take the job, I have to see some progress on that front.” Graham’s gaze bored into Jimmy.

Jimmy stared back. “Uncle Graham, I understand why you might think I need a more stable personal life, but even if I don’t have to be married right away, you can’t expect me to get married just to have this job.”

“So you’re saying you don’t want the opportunity?”

Jimmy wouldn’t let his uncle see him sweat. Was it possible to make Uncle Graham see the fallacy in his marriage requirement? “I find the prospect interesting, but I can’t create a love interest out of thin air.”

A superior smile claimed his uncle’s face as he stood. “If you want the job, marriage is one of the requirements. Take it or leave it.”

“I understand.” Jimmy manufactured a smile as he stood. “Thank you, sir, for considering me. I’ll think it over. I would have to find someone to run my painting business if I decide to accept your offer.”

Graham joined Jimmy on the other side of the desk. “You let me know what you’ve decided a week from today. We can go from there.”

Jimmy extended his hand. “Thanks again. I’ll let you know my decision in a week.”

“You’re welcome.” Graham grinned, as if he knew what Jimmy was thinking. “I look forward to hearing from you.”

With a nod, Jimmy left his uncle’s office with a slow, deliberate pace. What had seemed like a golden opportunity to become part of his uncle’s company had turned into fool’s gold, or at least, that was the way it seemed to Jimmy as he hunched his shoulders deeper into his coat to ward off the wind of a late-winter day. With a sense of foreboding, he slid into his company van. He wanted to prove himself to Uncle Graham—show the man what Jimmy Cunningham was made of—but would it turn out to be chasing after an impossible dream?

Jimmy drove down Main Street until he reached the lumberyard. He turned left and slowed the van to a crawl. He wanted to talk to his cousin Mitch but wasn’t sure it was a good idea. After all, Jimmy and Mitch hadn’t always been on the best of terms.

After stopping the van in front of Wilbur’s Garage, an all-white block building, Jimmy sat there still holding the steering wheel with a death grip, as if it could save him from a wrong decision. Wilbur had been Jimmy’s great-uncle who had owned this garage until he died from cancer several years ago. Now Mitch ran the place. With a loud sigh, Jimmy exited the van and trudged to the door. Maybe Mitch was already aware of his dad’s plan. Even if Mitch knew, Jimmy needed to have this conversation to make sure Mitch was on board.

“Hey, Johnny, how’s your day going?”

The man behind the counter with the thinning brown hair looked up. “Hey, Jimmy. Day’s going great! What brings you by? Got trouble with your van?”

Glancing around, Jimmy shook his head. “I’m here to talk to Mitch. Is he here?”

“He’s out back working on one of his restorations.” Johnny cocked his head in that direction.

“All right if I go back to talk to him?”


“Thanks.” Jimmy went through the door at the back of the waiting area. His breath created a cloud in the cool air as he approached the small block building at the back of the property.

He opened the door. “Mitch. You here?”

“Yeah.” Mitch appeared from the far side of the red sports car that gleamed in the light beaming through the window on the far wall.

“Wow! Amanda’s car looks fantastic!”

Mitch knit his eyebrows. “You haven’t given away my secret, have you?”


Mitch smiled. “Good. I want this to be a wedding surprise.”

“Amanda will definitely be surprised. She probably thinks you sold this long ago.” Jimmy eyed Mitch. “Ready to give up the bachelor life?”

“Ready as can be. I can hardly wait to make Amanda my wife.” Mitch rubbed the back of his neck. “I know you and I haven’t always gotten along, but I wanted to say you did me a favor when you came between Whitney and me. Marrying her would’ve been a big mistake.”

“Thanks for that.” Jimmy thought about the messy business with Mitch’s former fiancée. “She wasn’t good for either one of us.”

“You can say that again.” Mitch raised his eyebrows. “I need to ask a favor of you.”

“Sure.” Jimmy couldn’t imagine how he could help his cousin.

“I was planning to have Alec drive this car up to the country club during the reception and surprise Amanda when we leave, but I forgot he doesn’t know how to drive a stick.”

Jimmy laughed. “You mean your little brother never learned to drive a car with a manual transmission?”

Mitch shook his head. “Yeah. He couldn’t be bothered.”

“Be glad to do it. Just let me know the details.” This friendly talk made Jimmy reluctant to bring up the conversation with Mitch’s dad. Jimmy didn’t want to ruin the camaraderie, but he had to know what Mitch thought of his dad’s job offer. “By the way, I had a talk with your dad today about doing some work for him.”

“That’s great. Are you painting some houses for him?”

“Not exactly.” Jimmy hesitated. “He said you weren’t interested in taking over the business dealings in Pineydale and asked if I’d be interested in an internship to learn the business.”

If Mitch was surprised, his expression didn’t show it. “What did you say?”

“I didn’t make a decision, but I have to give him my answer a week from today.” Jimmy eyed Mitch. “I just want to make sure this is okay with you.”

Mitch clapped Jimmy on the back. “If you want to deal with my dad, be my guest.”

“So you actually don’t have any desire to be part of your dad’s business?”

Mitch motioned toward the area around him. “And give up all this? Never. I love my dad, but his demanding business approaches rub me the wrong way. I’m happy right here.”

“Yeah, talk about demands. Your dad says I need to get my college degree and find a wife.”

Shaking his head, Mitch laughed out loud. “Welcome to Graham Cunningham’s world.”

Jimmy wasn’t sure he could trust his cousin’s advice, but he had to ask. “So do you think I’d be crazy to take him up on his offer?”

A wry smile painted Mitch’s expression. “It’s up to you. I’d say the degree is a slam dunk, but the wife thing is another matter. Got any prospects?”

Jimmy let out a halfhearted laugh. “Not many prospects around this town unless they drop in out of nowhere, like Amanda did for you.”

“Yeah, she’s a gift from God. If her car hadn’t broken down here, we would never have met.” Mitch rubbed his chin. “Maybe you should pray about it.”

“Were you praying to find a wife when that happened?”

“Got to admit I wasn’t, but Aunt Charlotte was.”

“Maybe I should get Aunt Charlotte on my team.”

Mitch nodded. “She’s already on your team. I’m pretty sure if you ask her, she’ll tell you she’s been praying for you to find the right woman ever since you were old enough to think about girls.”

“For real?”

“Yep. If there ever was a praying woman, it’s our great-aunt Charlotte.”

Jimmy put a visit to his great-aunt on his to-do list. “Maybe she can give me some advice.”

Mitch shrugged. “Maybe. If not advice, some prayers. Ask her to pray for some warmer weather for the wedding.”

Jimmy laughed. “You could’ve waited until summer to get married.”

“If I’d had my way, we would be married by now no matter what the weather, but Amanda wanted her sister, Kelsey, in the wedding. So we’re getting married while she’s on her spring break from college.”

“Yeah. I remember Kelsey from last fall when she came to see Amanda perform at the Ryman in Nashville.”

Mitch raised his eyebrows. “As I recall, you two hit it off. Too bad she doesn’t live closer. She might be a good wife prospect.”

“Yeah, she’s a fun girl.” Jimmy extended his hand to Mitch. “Thanks for your input about your dad.”

“Anytime.” Mitch shook Jimmy’s hand. “I’ll be in touch about the car, and you shouldn’t let my dad steamroll you about anything.”

“I’ll try to keep that in mind.” Jimmy waved as he departed, still not sure how he should deal with the job offer. At least he had Mitch’s blessing.

Minutes later Jimmy stopped his van in front of Charlotte’s house, a century-old foursquare that sported a big front porch with rockers and a swing. Charlotte and her late husband, Wilbur, had had no children of their own, but they had welcomed their nieces and nephews to their home. Over the years Jimmy hadn’t availed himself of their hospitality as much as Mitch had. Great-uncle Wilbur and Mitch had had a special bond.

Jimmy took the front steps two at a time. Before he could ring the bell, Amanda answered the door. “Jimmy, you’re early for supper.”

“I didn’t know I was invited.” Jimmy stepped into the front hall.

“You know if you visit near suppertime, you’re sure to get invited.” Amanda grinned. “You have business with Charlotte?”

“Maybe.” Jimmy wasn’t sure he wanted Amanda to be privy to what was on his mind. “Is Charlotte around?”

“Yeah, she’s cooking up something perfect for a blustery day in March.” Amanda motioned toward the kitchen. “I’m off to meet Mitch. We have to see the caterer about some last-minute stuff for the wedding.”

“See you later.”

Amanda grabbed her jacket from the hook near the front door. “We’ll be back for supper.”

Glad to have Charlotte to himself, Jimmy sauntered to the kitchen. “Do I smell something delicious?”

“White chili.” Charlotte looked up from the pot she was stirring, a slow smile emerging as she looked his way. “Jimmy, what brings you by?”

Jimmy gave his great-aunt a kiss on the cheek. “Need some advice, and I thought of you.”

Charlotte’s smile broadened as she put the spoon on a little tray next to the stove. She motioned to the barstools at the counter. “Let’s sit down, and you can tell me what this is all about.”

Hoping this was a good idea, Jimmy pulled out a stool from under the island countertop and straddled it. Then he proceeded to recount his conversation with his uncle. After Jimmy finished, he raised his eyebrows. “What do you think?”

Charlotte frowned. “Sounds like Graham’s trying to manipulate lives again.”

“Yeah. That’s what I thought, and I’m not sure I want to jump through his hoops.”

Charlotte waved a gnarled finger in Jimmy’s direction. “But do you want the opportunity?”

“I do. I honestly do, but I don’t know what to do about that wife part.” Jimmy frowned. “That certainly is controlling.”

“It is, but if you want the position, you will eventually have to find a wife.”

Jimmy’s shoulder sagged. “Guess I’ll have to bow out.”

“So you’re saying no one will ever fall in love with you and marry you?”

Jimmy shrugged. “Could be. I don’t exactly have a stellar reputation with the ladies around here. Besides, Graham’s demand sounds so calculating. Not the reason to get married.”

“True.” Charlotte eyed him. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t be on the lookout for a wife. Something tells me that Whitney broke your heart and you’ve never gotten over it.”

Was that true? Jimmy had pretty much avoided thinking about Whitney. She made him feel guilty, despicable, and inadequate. He had tried to wipe her from his thoughts. Even Mitch’s confession about her today didn’t make Jimmy feel any better.

Jimmy narrowed his gaze. “What makes you think that?”

“You’ve never had a serious girlfriend since.”

“I’ve been too busy to think about a relationship. Besides, there aren’t many available women my age in Pineydale.”

Raising her eyebrows, Charlotte tilted her head. “So that’s your excuse.”

Jimmy lowered his head and rubbed his forehead. Talking about Whitney gave him a headache as well as a heartache. She’d been his girl until he’d partied too much, dropped out of college, and joined the army. She had her sights set on someone with more ambition than him. She thought Mitch fit the bill until he chose the garage over his dad’s business.

Even though Jimmy was positive Whitney had always loved him and not Mitch, Jimmy hadn’t been good enough for her. He’d come up short. That haunted him still. Was he chasing after this job offer because he wanted to show people he was somebody, not just a college dropout who painted houses for a living?

“You’re pretty quiet. Got no response?” Charlotte eyed him.

“Aunt Charlotte, I’ve got no excuse or response.” Jimmy released a heavy sigh. “Maybe I should just stick to painting houses. I’m good at that.”

“It’s your choice, but maybe you should consider challenging yourself. Don’t sell yourself short. There’s a young woman out there who will love everything about you. The good and the bad. Get out there and find her.”

“I wish I had your confidence.” Jimmy never let anyone see his vulnerable side, but here he was putting it on full display for Aunt Charlotte. “I’ll consider it. I have a whole week to think it over.”

“And I have a whole week to pray about it, and so should you.”

Nodding, Jimmy chuckled. “Mitch said you’d be doing that.”

Charlotte hugged Jimmy. “I was blessed to marry into the Cunningham clan, and I’ve been praying for Wilbur’s kin since then.”

Jimmy returned his great-aunt’s hug. “And we’re blessed to have you. Thanks for listening.”

“Anytime.” Charlotte patted him on the back. “You stay for supper.”

“Thanks for the invite, but I’ve got a lot of thinking and praying to do on my own.” Jimmy saluted her. “See you at the wedding.”

Charlotte clapped her hands. “You sure will. I can hardly wait.”

“I’m happy for Mitch and Amanda. They’re good for each other.”

“You can say that again. Now we have to find someone for you.” Charlotte wagged a finger at him. “The Lord has the perfect woman picked out for you already.”

“If that’s the case, I hope He lets me know who it is sooner rather than later.” Jimmy gave Charlotte a peck on the cheek. “Now I’ve got to get going.”

Jimmy waved to Charlotte as he raced to his van. He wanted time alone to think about the advice he’d been given. And he needed to pray, but he hadn’t done much praying in recent years. He had straightened out his life to some degree, but he had a long way to go. Having a conversation with God was a good place to start.




Organ music drifted into the room at the back of the church, where Kelsey Reynolds helped her sister, Amanda, with the last-minute preparations before she walked down the aisle. Kelsey took a calming breath and fought back the nausea, which she’d been experiencing most of the day. She prayed she wouldn’t get sick and ruin her sister’s wedding, but Kelsey wasn’t sure God would hear her prayers. Maybe for Amanda’s sake, He would.

“How are my two girls?” Wearing a kilt for the Scottish wedding, Grady Reynolds stepped into the room.

“Ready to get married.” Amanda rushed over to her dad and hugged him. “Dad, you look handsome in your kilt.”

Grady smiled as he brushed a hand down the Cunningham tartan, then straightened his dark jacket. “I’m not sure about wearing this thing, but I’m ready to give you away.”

Amanda laughed. “I think you’ve been saying that since I was thirteen. And you look absolutely fabulous in a kilt.”

“If you say so.”

Amanda laughed again. “I do.”

“You have given me a few sleepless nights, but you girls make me proud.” Grady stretched out his arms and drew his daughters close. “I love you more than you know.”

Amanda hugged her dad back. “And we love you.”

Kelsey didn’t say anything. She just wanted to get through the wedding without making a scene. She turned and grabbed her bouquet. “Time to take my place. See you at the altar.”

Amanda hurried over and hugged Kelsey. “I love you, little sis.”

“Me, too. You look beautiful.” Kelsey blinked back her tears. “Now I’d better get going.”

Kelsey stood in the entrance at the back of the church. People of every age filled the dark wooden pews with the white trim. The setting sun shone through the stained-glass windows on the west side of the church and cast an iridescent glow through the sanctuary. White flowers and lighted candles decorated the platform.

Dressed in their dark jackets and kilts made with the red-and-black Cunningham tartan, Mitch and Alec, the best man, stood at the front with the pastor who would perform the ceremony. Kelsey had to walk down the aisle just like in the rehearsal. She could do this. She would pass by the smiling faces and pretend everything was perfect—everything but her.

As the bagpipes signaled her entrance, she ran a sweaty hand down the skirt of her red dress, which matched the Cunningham tartan. The filmy material beneath her fingers did little to calm her nerves. The dress only served to remind her of the day she’d picked it up in Spokane and made a discovery that spun her world out of control.

Pasting on a smile, she took that first step. Put one foot in front of the other. That was all she had to do, but the aisle seemed a mile long, and for a second everything swam before her eyes. She couldn’t faint. That was supposed to happen to the bride or groom, not the maid of honor.

Mitch smiled at Kelsey as she took the next step. She adored her future brother-in-law. Amanda had made a good choice. Kelsey wished she’d done the same. She smiled back and determined she would make the best of this day. She had to for Amanda.

When Kelsey reached the front, Mitch gave her a subtle thumbs-up, then turned his attention to the back. Amanda stood there, her arm looped through Dad’s. She was all smiles and beauty in white. The expression on Mitch’s face told everyone in that church that he was a man in love. Kelsey wondered whether a man would ever look at her that way. She feared not, but this day wasn’t about her. It was her sister’s day. Kelsey put that thought squarely in her mind as the folks in the pews stood.

While the bagpipes played, Amanda made her way down the aisle until she stood beside Mitch, who smiled down at her. Despite her own troubles, Kelsey was happy for her sister.

Like an automaton, Kelsey made her way through the rest of the ceremony—the vows, the exchange of rings, and the unity ceremony. Then the kiss sealed them all.

Accompanied by the sound of the bagpipes, the bride and groom held hands as they hurried to the back of the auditorium. Kelsey breathed a sigh of relief. She had made it through the wedding without incident. Maybe the worst of the nausea and dizziness were behind her. She could only hope as she prepared to stand in the reception line and greet a lot of people, mostly strangers. She shook hands, smiled, and made small talk as the guests filed out of the church.

Finally Kelsey spied a familiar face as her stepcousin, Max, and his wife, Heather, drew closer. “Max and Heather, it’s so good to see you. I’m so glad you made it.”

“So are we.” Max hugged her. “We wouldn’t miss Amanda’s wedding.”

Heather hugged Kelsey. “Are you okay? You look a little pale.”

Kelsey forced a smile. Even though Heather was a nurse, there was no way she would know what was wrong. “Too many late nights studying for exams before I came.”

“That’ll do it.” Heather patted Kelsey’s shoulder. “You’d better get some rest after this is over.”

“I intend to. That’s why I’m housesitting for Mitch and Amanda while they’re on their honeymoon.” Kelsey hoped a week to herself would help her sort out her life.

“Yeah, a week of relaxation is probably just what you need.” Max hugged her again before he and Heather proceeded to shake hands with Alec.

As Kelsey looked toward the folks waiting to greet the wedding party, Jimmy Cunningham sauntered her way, a grin splitting his handsome face. “Well, well, if it isn’t the prettiest maid of honor I’ve seen all day.”

Kelsey couldn’t help grinning back even though her stomach roiled again. She sure didn’t want to barf on his shoes. “Should I take that as a compliment? I believe I’m the only maid of honor you’ve seen all day.”

He leaned closer. “That’s a compliment for sure. I hope you’re saving a dance for me.”

“I’ll see if I can fit you in. You know the maid of honor is in high demand as a dance partner.” Kelsey remembered how much fun she’d had with Jimmy when she’d been in Nashville last fall for Amanda’s concert. But he was a smooth talker just like that lowlife Brandon, who’d broken her heart and left her life in a shambles.

“High demand or not, I expect a dance.” Jimmy winked as he moved on.

While Kelsey tried not to think about any man, especially charmers like Jimmy and Brandon, Mitch’s great-aunt Charlotte grasped Kelsey’s hand with her gnarled fingers.

“What a wonderful wedding. You and your sister look lovely.”

Kelsey resisted the urge to embrace the older woman and just hang on for dear life. Something about Charlotte’s presence gave Kelsey a sense of peace. Charlotte had a way of turning gloom into sunshine. “Thanks. Amanda deserved this day, and the weather has been perfect.”

“Splendid. Warmer than normal.” Charlotte squeezed Kelsey’s hand again. “We prayed for just such a day, and God granted our prayer.”

Kelsey nodded as Charlotte reached out to Alec. Charlotte’s statement reminded Kelsey that God had also granted her request to get through the wedding, but she still had to survive photos and the reception. Lord, please get me through the rest of these activities so nothing will distract from Amanda’s day.

The photographer made quick work of the wedding party and family photos, much to Kelsey’s relief. She rode with her dad and stepmom to the Pineydale Country Club for the reception, while the bride and groom stayed behind for more photos.

When they reached the country club, Kelsey hurried off to the restroom. But the nausea never came while she stood in the stall. She closed her eyes as she leaned her head against the cool door. If she was going to be sick, why couldn’t it be now? She should be thankful that the sick feeling had fled, but she worried that it would return at the worst time.

Kelsey washed her hands and studied her reflection in the mirror. She was pale, just as Heather had said. No one else had mentioned it. Kelsey pinched her cheeks and hoped that would give her face a little color. She joined her parents as they talked with Mitch’s parents while a DJ played soft music in the background. All she really wanted was to go somewhere and hide, but she had a dinner to get through and a toast to give.

The bride and groom arrived with great fanfare, and Kelsey took her place at the head table with the rest of the wedding party. Soon servers brought food to the tables. Kelsey swallowed hard as she stared at her plate. Did she dare eat? Just the smell of the food was making her stomach churn. She cut a piece of the chicken but pushed it around with her fork.

Amanda leaned Kelsey’s way. “Don’t tell me you’re trying to lose weight again.”

“No.” Kelsey smiled. Thankfully, Amanda didn’t have a clue what kept Kelsey from eating. “Just a little nervous about giving the toast.”

Amanda put an arm around Kelsey’s shoulders. “Don’t worry about the toast. It’s all for fun. Whatever you say will be fine.”

Kelsey offered a slight smile. “I just want your day to be perfect.”

“It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be fun.” Amanda raised an eyebrow. “Mitch and I just want to share this with the people we love.”

“Yeah. That’s the important thing.”

“Now eat.” Amanda motioned toward Kelsey’s plate. “You need your energy to give that toast and catch the bouquet.”

“I’ve got plenty of energy. I’m fine.” Kelsey wished she was fine, but she couldn’t share her problems with her sister or her family. She didn’t know what to do about the mess she was in.

When the server whisked her plate away, Kelsey had no complaint. She leaned back in her chair and tried to relax. She fingered the little note card on which she’d written a few reminders about what she wanted to say during the toast. She looked over at Amanda, who laughed at something Mitch had said. For the first time ever, Kelsey envied her sister.

Growing up, they’d often been at odds. Amanda had been the rebellious one, and Kelsey had been the parent pleaser. Now everything was falling into place for her sister, while everything was falling apart for Kelsey.

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Long Contemporary Inspirational Finalist FHL Reader’s Choice Award

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