Jared's Counterfeit Fiancee(8)

By: Brenda Jackson

There were Jared’s male cousins, Dare, Thorn, Stone, Chase, Storm, Clint and Cole. They all favored each other and it was easy to tell they were kin. There were few women in the Westmoreland family: Jared’s cousin Delaney who was married to a Middle East sheikh, a tall, dark, handsome man; his cousin Casey who lived in Texas and was sister to Clint and Cole, as well as Shelly, Tara, Madison and Jayla, the wives of Dare, Thorn, Stone and Storm. She also met Jared’s uncle Corey and his wife, Abby.

She had never seen so many relatives gathered in one place before, and for a moment a part of her had felt a tinge of jealousy that some people had such a huge family while others had none. But that bout of jealousy soon dissolved when she saw just how friendly and down-to-earth everyone was. At first they had been curious because Jared had never brought a woman to any family function before, but eventually they began to treat her like one of the family, without hesitation, but with a few questions that she felt she effectively answered to satisfy their curiosity. When Jared’s brother Quade arrived, all of the attention had momentarily shifted off her, but now it was back on her again.

Jayla was pregnant with twins and the women invited Dana to join them on a shopping trip they had planned for next weekend to help select items for the babies’ nursery. Since Dana knew Jared intended for this to be the last time she socialized with his family, she declined, coming up with an excuse about all the errands she had to do Saturday morning, but had thanked them for the invitation.

She glanced over to where Jared stood talking to his brothers and cousins and her heart thumped an unsteady beat just watching him. As if he felt her looking at him, he cocked his head in her direction and their gazes connected. Goose bumps skittered along her arms and she expelled a long, silent breath before breaking eye contact with him.

Needing to distract herself, she glanced out of the window. Jared’s parents’ home sat on three acres of land and the huge, two-story, Southern style structure was simply stunning. A huge window provided a view of a lake. It was late afternoon and getting dark, which was a stark indication that Easter was almost over.

“I need to talk to you privately for a moment,” Jared whispered softly in her ear.

She sucked in a sharp breath. She hadn’t heard him approach and the warmth of his breath touched her neck and the faint spicy aroma of his aftershave made her skin tingle.

She wondered what he had to talk to her about and knew his family wondered, as well, when he took her hand and guided her into the kitchen, closing the door behind them.

He leaned against the kitchen counter and for a moment they stared at each other, not saying anything. Then he cleared his throat. “I should have given you this earlier at your apartment when I picked you up but I forgot.” Jared knew he could have waited until he returned her home, but for some reason he wanted to get her alone, even if only for a few minutes. “Luther Cord sent a special delivery to me on Friday with instructions that I give you this. After arriving in California he evidently had a change of heart and decided he wanted you to keep it.”

Dana raised a curious brow as she watched Jared reach into his pocket to pull out a small white box. She immediately knew what it was. “My engagement ring?” she asked startled.

Jared saw the surprised, but pleased look on her face and couldn’t help but smile. “Yes, it’s for you,” he said handing the small box to her.

“I knew it! I just knew she was the one!”

Jared jerked his head around when his mother burst through the kitchen door. Her face was all aglow.

“I happened to be passing by the door and heard the words engagement ring. Oh, Jared, you have made me so proud and happy,” his mother exclaimed between bouts of laughter and tears of joy. She then hugged Dana. “Welcome to the family.”

Jared’s head began spinning when it became crystal clear what his mother had assumed. He was just about to open his mouth to set her straight when the kitchen door flew open again and his entire family poured in.

“What’s going on?” Jared’s father asked when he saw his wife in tears.