Daniel Gardner is making a grand entrance at his brother’s wedding. The problem is, no one has seen him in years. Unsure of his welcome, this prodigal son needs the years and the hearts of his family to miraculously melt…but he may not be the only one needing to make amends. Lane Taylor doesn’t realize how much she still loves Daniel until she’s standing face-to-face with him after so many years apart. Once upon a time, they’d dreamed of a life together. Now, when it seems they might get a second chance, she has to decide whether to divulge the secret she’s sure will shatter their happily-ever-after.
Awards & Other Kudos
Best Romance Short story winner, 2010 PredEd Readers Poll
This was it. Showtime.
Drawing in one long, deep breath, Daniel stepped over the threshold of the Martin’s Mansion catering hall, his heart pounding to the beat of the keys he jingled in his pocket. His mouth felt full of cotton balls. The place hadn’t changed since he’d last been here—when was it, his high school prom or something? In fact nothing in town seemed to have changed much in nearly ten years. Men and women in fancy clothes entered around him, ignoring him and checking their coats before heading into the reception hall. As they passed, strains of music flowed into the lobby. He tried to move his feet forward but felt glued to the spot on the marble tile floor. A waiter walked by and stared at him openly. Cold air rushed past his ears as the glass doors behind him swooshed open again and again. It amazed him that the blood pounding behind his eyes wasn’t sufficient to warm him.
Someone lightly touched his shoulder, and he turned to see that his escort had arrived.
“Daniel, are you ready?” Liza smiled, probably meaning it to look encouraging.
She wasn’t good at encouraging.
He nodded but answered, “No.”
“Yes, you are. You’ve been anticipating this moment for how many years?” Liza patted his arm. “Look at it this way: your reception here will be much warmer than mine will be.”
Daniel glanced down at her. “That’s probably true. Are you sure you want to go in here? I can make the grand appearance on my own.”
Her hand still on his arm, she nodded slowly. “It’s something I need to do. Let’s pray first.” She bowed her head, her long neck stretching from the white sweater she wore.
He wondered briefly if she’d worn white to look pure and innocent.
“We’re like lambs going in for slaughter.” An uneasy laugh belied her confidence, and she tugged at him. “Let’s go.”
With head held high, Daniel situated Liza at an open table, and then strode toward the head table. His heart pounded above the noise of the band’s quick beat. The wedding guests chattered as they do, and Daniel strode right into the middle of the hubbub, glasses clinking around him.
And then all was quiet.
The band stopped.
The chatter fizzled, and a good fifty well-groomed heads turned in unison to stare holes into Daniel’s head.
Or so it felt.
He said nothing, but moved to stand directly in front of his parents. They had aged, he realized with pangs of regret. It was as if the ventilation system was pouring tension into the room. Long moments passed, and Daniel stepped back, preparing to leave.
And then Mom smiled.
She rushed for Daniel, wrapping him in warm arms and soggy tears of welcome. His father followed, letting loose a swarm of various relatives who joined them in a huddle to greet the long lost son. The breath he hadn’t known he held eased out and his gut unclenched in relief. He knew the questions would come eventually, but for now, knowing his family still wanted him was all he needed.
“Dance with me?” His mother smiled and held out one hand. They moved to the dance floor and began to sway to the classic, “Someone to Watch Over Me,” a song Daniel thought very appropriate.
Mom moved closer so he could hear her. “Are you staying?”
He nodded, and her eyes lit up, and they finished the dance in a comfortable silence. As they turned he spied Liza, grinning at him with that “I told you so” look, and she winked.