On Second Thought(4)

By: Kristan Higgins


Ainsley, who’d been with Eric since college, considered her own de facto mother-in-law as her best friend. She and Eric’s mom went away for shopping weekends together and met for drinks at least once a month, laughing and giggling like...well, like sisters.

That would never be Eloise and me. I took a deep breath and hit Call Back. “Hi, Eloise, it’s Kate.”

“What can I do for you, deah?” She had an upper-crust Boston accent, rather sounding like Katharine Hepburn—that clenched jaw, the slight slur.

“You wanted to schedule a portrait?”

“Oh, yes, of course. Unfortunately, I’m terribly busy today. Would you mind ringing later? I’m afraid I must run.”

“No, no, that’s fine!” My voice was chirpy. Trying too hard. “Have a great day!”

“Well, I’m off to visit children in the burn unit at the hospital, so I probably won’t, but thank you for your good wishes. Goodbye, deah.” She hung up.

“Shit,” I muttered.

I was determined that if Mrs. Coburn—Eloise—would never really warm up to me, I would never hate her. Nathan was close with his family—Brooke, his older sister, was married and had two sons, Miles and Atticus, who were in elementary school. Once a month or so, Nathan went out for a drink with Brooke’s husband, Chase. (I know. The names came right out of the WASP directory.) Nathan played golf with his father and sent his mother flowers on the first of every month. I wasn’t going to mess that up.

I thought of that pregnancy test, buried in the trash upstairs. Two lines would’ve made a lot of people happy. Two lines, and we could tell the elder Coburns that they’d have a Coburn grandchild. We could announce it just before their anniversary party, and by then, we might know if the baby was a boy or girl.

My parents, too, would be glad; Mom had thought Nathan and I were rushing (she had a point), and a baby would reassure her. My father adored kids in the “Let’s see how high I can throw this little fella!” way. Ainsley would be a very fun aunt, I knew. My brother, Sean, had two teenagers, Esther and Matthias, and three years ago, he and his wife, Kiara, had a surprise pregnancy, resulting in the delicious and adorable Sadie.

A cousin, another baby in the family, would be very welcome.

Maybe next month.

But of course, Nathan would be dead by eight o’clock tonight.

I just didn’t know it yet.





Chapter Two

Ainsley

There, tucked beneath Eric’s blue-and-red yacht flag boxer shorts, was a small turquoise box, the words Tiffany & Co. written across the top.

Thank the baby Christ child.

Not that I was looking, of course. No. I was searching. I was a bloodhound on the trail of a missing child who’d stuffed his pockets full of raw meat. I was Heathcliff looking for Cathy. I was Navy SEAL Team 6.

I’d been hoping to find this box for years now, and especially these past few months. But it was so like Eric to wait for tonight, for his “To Life” party, for a crowd. He’d definitely developed a flare for the dramatic since being diagnosed with cancer. And I had to hand it to him. Proposing to me tonight, celebrating not just his life, but our life, and our future...it would be perfect.

“Hon?” I yelled to ascertain that he was indeed downstairs, rearranging the photo montage for the tenth time. Our dog, Ollie, the world’s sweetest little dachshund mutt, was lying on the bed with the ratty blanket he dragged everywhere. He pricked up his ears, thinking I was talking to him.

“Yeah, babe?” Yep. Downstairs.

“Oh, never mind. I couldn’t find my phone,” I lied. “Got it right here.”

Should I wait to see the ring? I should. Eric wanted to surprise me, and I should let him. “Should I wait?” I whispered to Ollie. He wagged his tail. “I don’t think so, either.”

After all, I’d opened other turquoise-blue boxes before, and they hadn’t contained engagement rings. On our fourth Christmas together, upon seeing the small box, I burst into tears and threw myself into his arms.

Gold hoop earrings.

On my twenty-ninth birthday, an opal pendant.

Both lovely, mind you. Just not what a woman expects when presented with a box of a certain shape and color. So tonight, if there was anything other than an engagement ring in that box, I needed to know before a hundred people watched me open it.

Like a cat burglar, I slid the box out of the drawer and removed the turquoise lid. Inside was the black velvet box, just like those that had held the earrings and pendant.

I peeked, then inhaled sharply.

It was an engagement ring.

The diamond glittered at me, pulling me under its spell, the depth and sparkle of it, the mystery. It was perfect. A gorgeous solitaire, simple but so elegant, tiny diamonds on the band, the bigger stone dazzling. And big. A carat and a half. Maybe more. Oh, Tiffany! Well done!