Jared's Counterfeit Fiancee(9)

By: Brenda Jackson

Again Jared opened his mouth to speak but his mother’s voice drowned out any words he was about to say. “Jared and Dana. They just got engaged! He gave her a ring! Oh, I am so happy. I can’t believe that one of my sons is finally settling down and getting married.”

Jared and Dana suddenly became swamped with words of congratulation and well wishing. He glanced over at Dana and saw she was as shocked with the way things were escalating as he was. He reached over and gently squeezed her hand, hoping that he was assuring her that he would straighten things out. He knew that he should do so now but couldn’t recall the last time he’d seen his mother this happy.

Sarah Westmoreland began crying again. “You have really made me happy today, Jared. Who would have thought that of all my sons you would have a change of heart about marriage? But I could feel the love flowing between the two of you when I opened the door and saw you standing there together.”

Dana glanced over at Jared. She read the message in his eyes that clearly said: Trust me, I’ll get us out of this mess, but for now, please let my mother have her moment of happiness. She gave him a silent nod to let him know she understood what he was asking. She inhaled deeply. Of all the misunderstandings she’d heard of, this one was definitely a doozy.

“Dana and I are leaving,” Jared said, taking Dana’s hand and leading her out of the kitchen.

“But—but we haven’t celebrated your good news,” his mother called out when he headed for the door.

He turned to look at his relatives, wanting to tell them that they wouldn’t be celebrating it, either. They had followed the couple to the door and were crowded around them. He frowned at the “glad it’s you and not me” look on the faces of the other single Westmoreland men. “I’ll see everyone tomorrow,” he told his family.

Then without saying another word and holding Dana’s hand firmly in his, he walked out of his parents’ house, closing the door behind him.

“I’m sorry about what happened back there,” Jared said. Talk about the wrong information getting blown out of proportion. “I just couldn’t tell my mother the truth. She was so happy.”

Dana nodded. “I understand.”

Jared lifted his head and gazed over at Dana, met her gaze and something about the way she was looking back at him told him that she really did understand. “Thank you.”

She smiled. “You don’t have to thank me. This was a special day for your family. I saw how happy your mother was when she’d thought we’d gotten engaged.”

Jared nodded, grateful for her understanding. “I’ll talk to her tomorrow and straighten things out,” he said quietly.

“All right.”

Satisfied, Jared put his car in gear and backed out of his parents’ driveway. At the first traffic light they came to, he glanced over and noticed the engagement ring was on Dana’s finger. He frowned, remembering his mother’s insistence that she put it on. For some reason he didn’t like seeing her wearing Luther Cord’s ring. “Now that you have the ring back what are you going to do with it?” he asked, trying to keep his voice neutral.

Dana glanced over at him before looking down at the ring. “What I had planned to do all along. Hock it and use the money to pay off the remaining wedding expenses. I’m surprised Luther returned it to me.”

Jared wasn’t surprised. During the last conversation he’d had with Cord, he had suggested that he do the decent thing and relieve some of the financial burden breaking the engagement had placed on Dana. He had strongly recommended that although he wasn’t legally obligated to do so, he should consider letting her keep the ring. Evidently the man had taken his advice.

When the traffic light changed, Jared glanced over at Dana. Her eyes were closed and her head was back against the headrest. He couldn’t stop the smile that touched his lips. No doubt this had been a tiring day for her. He was used to his huge family, but a stranger might be overwhelmed.

“Considering everything, do you regret going to my parents’ home for dinner?” he couldn’t help but ask.