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balancing act trying to carry the plate and operate the cane at the same time but he managed and
felt a surge of self-satisfaction.
With Ashley supporting him and motivating him every step of the way, he was achieving his
goals more quickly than he ever thought he would. He found a seat, moments later Ashley joined
him. She had focused on the chicken breast with mushrooms, carrots, green bean casserole, and
macaroni and cheese. He looked at her in surprise when he didn t see her with a roll. Mr.
Bennett s bread was Ashley s weakness. It always had been. He wondered why she didn t have
She looked up and caught him staring at her. She smiled.  So did you really enjoy the
He nodded and he had. No one had ever gone though the hard work of getting the number of
people that were present in one place just for him. This was probably one of the best adult
birthday s he d had besides his twenty-first birthday. It felt good to see everyone laughing,
joking, eating and introducing themselves to each other. Leaning over, he placed a brief kiss on
Ashley s lips. He was glad when she didn t pull away. It meant there might be hope for them yet.
* * * *
Andrew walked by, clearing his throat.  None of that now. We have enough strays running
around here as it is.
Ashley laughed.  If only you had followed your own advice.
Andrew s face fell playfully.  I tried but it is just so much fun making them.
Chris shook his head.  Where is your wife?
Andrew pouted.  No fair trying to call in reinforcements.
Ashley watched the two brothers banter with each other playfully as they always had. Karen
must have had a sixth sense because she appeared and dragged Andrew away. She had to admit
he seemed to go very willingly. She also looked around the room to make sure that everyone was
okay. There was no need to worry. Everyone was milling around like one big family. They had
made themselves at home and were talking amongst themselves to introduce themselves to each
Her gaze came to a halt when she saw her mother sitting next to Virginia. Their heads were too
close together for anything good to come out of it. She elbowed Chris to get his attention.
 Our mothers are together and it doesn t look too good.
Chris looked up and smiled.  Good. I can use all of the help that I can get.
Ashley elbowed him again.  Believe me you don t need any help. You have been persuasive
His eyebrows rose.  I have?
She bit her lip then nodded.  Yes, you have.
More than he would ever know. She took a bite of her macaroni and cheese. When she had
finished chewing she looked back over at him. Good thing too or she might have choked. The
man was sexy as hell and he was nice. He was a man that any woman in her right mind would
love to be with.
She was learning that more and more each day. She spent more time with him outside of physical
therapy but she had made sure that it couldn t be mistaken for more than friends having a good
time together. It was obvious that he didn t like it. Yet, he hadn t protested. Even so, he put up
with her hesitation, especially about taking their relationship beyond a friendship level. Today
something was different. Seeing all of their friends and family together and getting along so well
made everything click into place. A smile came to her face when she leaned over to whisper in
his ear.  Besides, after tonight you won t need any help except mine.
Ashley laughed when Chris turned red under his tan and choked on the bite of potato salad he
had just eaten. She patted him on the back while noticing they had caught the attention of a few
others. Catching Raymond s eye, she winked and he smiled at her. He probably had a good idea
of what she had said to make Chris choke and blush. Between her mother and Raymond they
could exchange one look and know what the other was thinking. It was one of the ways her
mother had known if they were telling the truth or not.
Raymond and her mother knew Ashley too well, in her opinion. Sometimes better than she
wanted them to. Although it had come in handy the times when she was so hurt that she couldn t
bear to speak. Lately she had been speaking more openly to Raymond than to her mother [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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