Staring at the man across from her, Sydney McAdams watched his thin lips moving and knew she was missing the words was coming out of them. Sitting across the antique oak desk, the funeral director was compassionate, not minding repeating himself. What a sad job he had, day after day, making decisions with people about the end of a family member’s life.
This was Sydney’s second meeting to confirm all the final details of her grandmother’s funeral...and she wasn’t supposed to be sitting here alone, with her daughter.
Haylee’s soft voice pulled Sydney from her thoughts. Turning her head, she looked at the younger mirror image of herself, only her deep brown eyes didn’t come from Sydney. They were the replica of Haylee’s father−
“Mom, how many sandwich trays? Six? Is six enough for everyone?” Haylee asked.
Sydney didn’t know. How many people were coming? Family? Close friends? The customers who bought her pies? The whole town?
Confusion must have read volumes across her face, as the warmth of her daughter’s hand laced in hers.
“Can we have a break?” Haylee asked, as if she was the adult. “We just need to step outside for a second.”
Of course, he didn’t mind, rising with them, and giving them all the time they needed. There would never be enough time to do what had to be done and Sydney was supposed to have her three sisters here helping? Where were they?
The cold fall air was refreshing.
“Did you get a hold of your aunts?” she asked Haylee, who had texted them earlier.
Haylee quickly filled her in on her youngest sister, Abby, not answering any texts all day. Her oldest twin sisters, Peyton and Kate had texted, but both were to say they were running late. Peyton stopped by their dad’s house first and was taking dads suit to the dry cleaners for wake the following day. Kate wasn’t even in town yet, she’d been delayed at the air port, or something. Sydney wasn’t really sure. It was so hard to concentrate besides the fact her Gran was dead. Dead.
“But,” Haylee said, in a slightly more delightful tone. “I did get a hold of someone who was more than willing to drop everything and meet us.”
Only one person popped into Sydney’s mind and relief like no other filled her. She looked up, finally focusing on the driveway lined my large, old maple trees, to find that very same man was walking away from his motorcycle. With the same dark hazel eyes as her daughter, Jake Stow zeroed in on only Sydney, silently telling her he was there and she would be alright and having him here, she knew she would be.
“Hi,” Jake said.
“Hi.” A half-smile touched her lips, more than it had all day.
Jake wrapped his arms around her, like friends did, pulling her into his warm, protective embrace.
They’d been friends, they’d been more than friends too, and now, here they were, for over ten years later, being just friends. She tried not to want more, tried not to let the deeper feelings she knew she had for him, cloud her mind, ruin their friendship. It was hard. Especially now, when her emotions were on high gear with sadness, confusion and longing.
“Bye,” Haylee chimed in, breaking up a hug that was likely longer than appropriate.
“I have track and Meg’s mom is picking me up.” As if hearing the words her daughter had just spoken, Meg’s mom honked her horn a few vehicles behind them.
Haylee hugged her mom. “Love you,” she whispered in her ear.
“Thanks baby,” she whispered back and like that Haylee was walking down the driveway, away from what was likely her crazy mother.
Sydney looked back at Jake.
He’d probably just left The Cliff House, the bar and grill passed on to him when his father died. He smelled like food and beer, but there deeper was the scent of him and it was intoxicating.
He combed his hands through is dark hair. Against his tanned skin, he always looked like he just came from a day at the beach. Suddenly, she felt a little guilty pulling him away from the bar.
“Jake, if Haylee pulled you away from a busy bar, I’m fine,” she lied.
Please stay. I need you.
“There’s not much left for me to do.” The lies continued to follow. She had tons to do, including meals and who would be better than to know how many sandwich plates they needed than a man who owned a restaurant?
He smiled down at her, all his attention on her.
“I’ve booked off the whole afternoon for you darlin’, so don’t be thinking you can get rid of me that quickly.” He took her hand. It warmed her entire body. If only he knew what her thoughts were. “Are you ready to go back in?”
“Well, if you booked the whole afternoon off, let’s get in there and get this over with. It’s a beautiful day to be outside.”
He grinned. “I agree.”
THE END OF DELETED CHAPTER
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Hope you enjoyed, Shannyn xoxo