When it rains, it pours, Danae thought, not believing her streak of good luck. Within a week of meeting and beginning to date Andy, she had been offered the last spot at the talent agency, though the wording the agent used baffled her. “As a show of good faith…” Whose good faith, exactly? She wanted to ask but didn’t. She assured her new boss she wouldn’t let them down and went about the task of building her name. Her stage name, simply “Nae,” would be catchy and easy for people to remember. She was counting on that.
Her mornings and afternoons were spent at Verde Park, singing her heart out for tips. But without a position at the Sing-A-Gram service, name recognition would be much more challenging. Andy would swing by the park on his way home from the stadium, where he worked for his father on the team, and pick Danae up. Sometimes, they would get a cup of coffee at the Flying V, and other times they’d go to the dance club with Darcey and Clint, and double date. But since their first ‘date’ at Mick’s a few months ago, they had seen each other every day.
“Darce, what do you really think of Andy? Is he for real, or am I just hallucinating him? Because if he’s just a dream, I don’t want to wake up.”
Darcey giggled. “Oh honey, he’s the real thing. I wonder how Daddy feels about you dating his best friend’s son, though.” Danae stopped in her tracks. She had never even considered it.
“You know, that’s a good point. Now I’m afraid to ask him.” Danae paced nervously back and forth in their bedroom. “What if he says no?”
“Then you move out and see Andy anyway. He can’t tell you who to date, Nae.”
She nodded her head. I am a grown woman, she thought. But I still live under his roof. But, I don’t want to disappoint him, either. Danae’s thoughts made her dizzy, and she sat on her bed a little harder than she had intended. “I’m so conflicted.”
“There’s one way to find out, Danae. Go talk to Daddy. The worst he can say is no.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” she replied.
Quietly, she tiptoed down the stairs and found Charlotte and Travis in a tender moment by the fireplace. She was about to turn around and go back upstairs when the step creaked, giving her position away. “What is it, Danae?” Charlotte asked.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” she blushed. “It can wait…” she turned and took one step up.
“It must be something, or you wouldn’t have come down.” Travis smiled at her and patted the seat next to him.
Reluctantly, she walked to where they sat and joined them. “I’m sorry I interrupted you. I didn’t know —”
“It’s okay, Punkin. What’s on your mind?” Travis asked her.
“Well, it’s been a couple of months since Andy and I have… been together.” Danae blushed. “I never asked you how you felt about it, Daddy. I mean, he’s your best friend’s son, after all.”
Charlotte looked at him and giggled. “We were just talking about this yesterday, weren’t we, love?”
Travis laughed. “What makes you think I don’t approve of you and Andy?”
“It’s not that, Daddy. I just never asked how you feel about it. Maybe you thought Emmitt’s son was a schmoozer or a no-good… or maybe you didn’t think I was good enough for him.” She shrugged.
“Come on, Nae, Emmitt is my best friend. Of course, I approve. If you guys end up together, that will make us in-laws, as well as best friends. It couldn’t be better than that.” Travis brushed a stray lock of hair from Danae’s face. “Andy is a good man. And I happen to know he is crazy about you.”
“Really? Did he tell you that?”
“He didn’t have to tell me. Everyone sees it on his face. Emmitt says he talks about you constantly. In fact, I think Emmitt knows more about you than I do.”
“Don’t think we don’t notice how you feel about him either, Danae,” Charlotte added. “I hear you singing happy little love songs all the time. You and Darcey go on double dates together. I almost wouldn’t be surprised to have a double twin wedding.”
Travis looked at Charlotte. “Really? You don’t want to push this along too quickly, do you?” She stuck her tongue out at him and giggled.
“Well, that’s all I needed,” Danae said, getting up to leave before she was an inadvertent third wheel. “Goodnight, you two. The pre-nooky flirting can resume.”
Danae was not three steps from the staircase before she heard them giggling like children, and she rolled her eyes.
Darcey and Clint decided on a wedding date. She would be a summer bride, which didn’t leave much time for planning. However, with her wearing Charlotte’s one-of-a-kind dress, the only other preparations were arranging flowers, the chapel and reception, and the tuxes for the guys. Invitations were sent out to only a select few people, as they didn’t want the wedding to be a huge social event, but a small, intimate ceremony for friends and family members.
Darcey was sorting through the guest list and found two sets of people from Bridgeport. She couldn’t remember Clint talking about a friend from home, and she knew he didn’t have any siblings. “Boo Bear, who is this?” she asked, pointing at an unfamiliar name on his guest list for the wedding.
“Oh,” he replied. This is going to open a huge can of worms, he thought. “Nick and Trisha are my old teachers from school. Well, Nick was. Trisha is his wife.”
“That’s nice of you,” she said sweetly. “You must have been close with them, no?”
“You could say that.” He browsed at the guestlist again and checked for his mother and step-father. “You got Walter and Felicity Parr, right?”
“Now, that’s your mom and step-dad, right?” Darcey asked, scanning the list.
“Yes, kitten.” He hoped that Nick and Trisha didn’t come up again.
“So Nick,” she asked again. “He was a teacher?”
“He was much more than a teacher.” He might as well get it out in the open. “Kitten, he was like my father when I needed one the most.”
“Oh, isn’t that sweet?” Darcey was all smiles.
“I need to tell you about my past, honey. I haven’t always been upfront with you about it.” He noticed as Darcey stiffened. She didn’t like being lied to, and her guard immediately went up.
“I’m listening,” she said, her voice chilly.
“Well, it has less to do with me, really, and more to do with my mom. My father… you know he died when I was a baby. And my mom, well, she didn’t have any education past high school, and no real work skills when she was widowed at nineteen with a one-year-old baby. She worked in a bar at night waiting tables for a while, until I was about six or seven.” His hands began to sweat. “And then she met someone who she thought was a potential boyfriend. Instead, he solicited her and left money on the nightstand. And it was a lot of money. She got lured into a lifestyle she hadn’t planned on and didn’t want. But at first, the money was good, so she didn’t mind turning tricks.”
The look on Darcey’s face was one of horror. He took her hands in his, and kissed them, hoping she wouldn’t be completely repulsed. “She did this for quite a few years, and at some point, over time she must have gotten mixed up with a pimp or something, because she always came home broke, beat up and bruised. Then one night, when I was fifteen, she came home nearly delirious. She had been assaulted repeatedly by multiple men. That was when she gave me my father’s ring and begged me to wear it. She didn’t want me to end up like her rapists.”
“Oh my goodness,” Darcey said softly. “How horrible.”
“So, I called emergency and they came and got her. I should have been in the foster system, or as it was known in Bridgeport, the ‘foster care express’ but my teacher, Nick, brought me to his house and took custody of me while my mom figured out her mess. He helped both of us. He helped her with a job and the house that she and Walt live in now, and helped me with college and my scholarships. But most importantly, he and Trish showed me love when I had none. It’s a debt I can never repay. I never mentioned this before now, because for a long time I was ashamed of her. But she’s completely different than she was ten years ago. Walt has been very good for her. But it was Nick and Trisha that made such a huge impact. I didn’t want our wedding to pass without at least inviting them, even if they don’t make it here.”
“Absolutely!” Darcey said, wiping tears from her eyes. “You know, Boo, yours and my Dad’s stories aren’t all that dissimilar. Except it was Emmitt who saved my Dad and Nick and Trisha who saved you.” She smiled at him sweetly. “I can’t wait to meet your second family.”
“You’re right, kitten.” Clint hugged her. “Thank you for not getting weirded out. It’s not a bright spot in my family history.”
“It made you who you are today. Be proud of it.”
“Easy for you to say when you’re a Jones.” He bit his tongue. “I’m sorry, kitten, I didn’t mean it how it sounded.”
“I know. It’s okay, Boo Bear.” She kissed him tenderly. “I didn’t really mean to press the issue, I’d just never heard you mention them before.”
“I’m glad you did. Now, it’s all out in the open, and you know my mom’s secret.” Clint smiled. He was proud of her now, but it was a long road to get there.
Darcey and Clint were tired, having been on their feet for most of the day, but they had their house choice narrowed down to two. Because of Darcey’s income potential, Clint’s standing at the city and the down payment they had saved, they qualified for a very nice house in the hills near the Jones house. It was truly their first choice because of the location, but also because of the size. Darcey wanted to start a family as soon as they could, so she hoped it wouldn’t take long to fill the three-bedroom home with giggles and squeals. The other house was closer to the coastline, and though it was very nice and roomy, the one in the hills had grandparents close by. So when it came down to it, they chose the home near Travis and Charlotte. Their closing was two weeks before the wedding.
Charlotte busied herself with wedding prep, finalizing every detail on her off days, and coordinating flights, stays at the resort for out-of-towners, and planning the rehearsal the evening before. Clint’s family was flying in from Bridgeport, both his mother and step-father, and his second family, and he was excited to show them around his new home. In many ways, Starlight Shores wasn’t all that much different than Bridgeport, except for the high crime rate, the subways, and the pay gaps. It was still noisy, and a lot of rich, famous people lived in town.
Darcey and Clint signed the papers on their house on schedule and began moving furniture that Travis had been given as promo items to the house. Most of the furniture had never been used, stored in a facility and covered in plastic waiting for a place to sit. Now that the main expense had been covered, Darcey and Clint had a shortlist of things they needed for the new house. Clint moved into the house right away, wanting the privacy of window coverings and blinds, but he stayed there alone until their wedding. It was only two weeks away, and they decided there was no need to ruffle feathers. Darcey missed seeing him every morning before work, though, and couldn’t wait to move to the new home with him.
Andy and Danae were cuddled up on his bed, watching television. Her head rested on his bare chest, and she listened contentedly to his heartbeat. Playfully, she ran her fingers through his chest hair, and he turned his eyes to her as he brushed her hair from her face. “You’re not even watching this,” he teased.
“I know,” she cooed at him. “The view is better down here.” She ran her fingers down his chest, tracing the muscles in his stomach, almost a fully developed six-pack.
He squirmed as she touched him. “You keep that up, and we’re going to have a problem,” he laughed.
“What problem?” she teased.
He picked her left hand up from his chest, her fingers still twirling. “This problem, my sweet,” he said, pointing to her ring.
“Oh, yeah,” she sighed. “That thing.”
“I might not know everything there is to know about it, Nae, but I do know it’s a promise. One you ought to keep. Your dad knows where I work,” he chuckled. “He could beat me to a senseless pulp inside of three minutes.”
“You’re not afraid of my dad, are you?” she asked.
“Me? No, I’m not afraid of him. I’m petrified of him.” Andy belly laughed. “He may have a few years on me, but he also has about four inches and 50 pounds of sheer muscle. I’d have no chance.”
“He likes you, Andy. He wouldn’t hurt you.” Danae continued to touch him. “Besides, you’re his best friend’s son. He would never jeopardize that.”
“Okay, then I’ll ask you. Please don’t, Danae.” He moved her hand from his chest. “You’re driving me crazy, touching me like that.”
Playfully, she pouted at him, until she realized he was dead serious. “I’m sorry, Andy. I’ll stop.” She pulled away from him and sat up.
“You don’t have to get up, Nae. Just, please don’t tease me like that. It’s not fair.” He gently touched her shoulder to coax her back to him, but she continued to sit up, keeping her distance.
“Mama said this would be hard,” she said, trying to hold her emotions in check. “I don’t know why I didn’t believe her.”
“Maybe because you didn’t know you’d meet me,” he joked. “It’s my raw appeal, isn’t it?” He wanted her to lay back down with him, but the moment had passed. “You know, crazy isn’t a bad thing, just not something I can deal with right now.” He wanted her, so very badly, but he respected her. And he knew if he gave her the right signals, she would throw it all away in a heartbeat.
“I know. Andy, I…” she wanted to tell him, but she was afraid. She didn’t want to lay it on the line and risk the rejection. She loved him. Yes, she fell for him, head over feet, and she was terrified he didn’t reciprocate her feelings.
“You what, my sweet?”
“Nothing.” Danae bit her tongue.
“Well, then I’ll say it. Danae, I love you.”
She turned her head, a look of shock on her face. “You love me? Me. Danae.” She looked around for someone else. “You love me?”
“Why does that surprise you?” Andy looked amused.
“Because things like this don’t happen to me.” She looked at him, smiling. “I love you, too.”
He smiled at her. “See? I knew that’s what you were going to tell me.” He kissed her. “You really can’t say that things like this don’t happen to you anymore. Your words make a liar of you every time.”
“This time, I’ll be happy to be a liar.”
Summertime arrived, and with it, Darcey and Clint’s wedding day. It would be the last time she would wake up alone in bed, in her room, with Danae nearby. It would be the last morning she would have breakfast with her family. It would be the last time she would wake up pure and innocent. She smiled as she saw the sunbeam through the window, and heard the birds chirping outside. Her wedding day.
Charlotte was up making breakfast, and Darcey nearly skipped to the coffee maker, though she had so much energy, she almost didn’t need the caffeine that morning. Travis was on his way back from the gate, his morning paper in hand. “Good morning, bride-to-be,” Charlotte greeted her older daughter.
“Good morning, Mama,” she replied, a happy, dreamy look on her face. “I realized as I woke up this morning, this is my last morning in this house.”
“Don’t remind me, Punkin,” Travis said as he caught the last part of their exchange. “This house won’t be the same without you here.”
“Aww, Daddy, we live just down the street.” Darcey wondered if Clint was awake yet, and considered calling him.
“I know, baby girl. But it’s your time to spread your wings and fly. Start your new life with your husband.” Travis was so proud of Darcey.
“Cakes are up,” Charlotte said, thankful that mouths would be too full to chat. The conversation was making her emotional. She was not ready for the day.
Danae and Devin joined everyone for breakfast, and no one said much. Danae was all too aware that in the morning, she would be alone in her bedroom for the first time. And Devin was losing his favorite sister. Even though he loved Danae, he had a stronger connection with Darcey. He would miss her terribly.
The wedding was scheduled for one o’clock. Charlotte had brought the gowns, both Darcey’s and Danae’s, and hers, to the church the night before, after rehearsal. At eleven, the ladies piled into a limousine that Travis had reserved and made the short trip to the chapel. The wedding party was only Danae as her maid of honor, and Darcey. Clint had asked Andy to be his best man, for the lack of anyone else to do the honor for him. Charlotte had a lovely floor-length gown, and the guys were all in tuxedos, and Clint had tails with a white woolen scarf.
After the girls left the Jones house, Clint drove himself down the street to meet up with Travis and Andy. There, the guys dressed in their tuxes, and Travis drove them the quarter-mile to the chapel at twelve-thirty. Charlotte was making sure everything was set up, the cake, the buffet, and the music when Travis came looking for her.
“Hey baby, we’re here. Are the girls ready?” he asked.
“Hey honeybear,” she answered. “Yes, Darcey is more than ready. You’re going to be floored at how beautiful she looks.”
“Ugh, I know what you mean now, honey. I’m not ready for this, either.” She kissed his cheek.
“I have tissues in my purse if you need them.” Charlotte smiled at him and caressed his face gently.
With five minutes to go, Clint stood under the arch in the front of the chapel, waiting for Darcey. Devin did the honor of escorting Clint’s mother down the aisle and sat her in the front row, and then he escorted Charlotte down the aisle and sat her on the opposite side, in the front row. He took his seat behind Charlotte, joining Chris and Greg.
Danae came out first, and Andy looked at her, shaking his head. “Wow, my sweet. You look beautiful,” he said.
“You look so handsome in that tux, Andy.” He held his arm for her and together they walked down the aisle.
Travis stood outside the bride’s room, waiting, and Darcey opened the door. And there stood his little girl, wearing her mama’s wedding gown, a veil covered her face, her hair done up pretty and looking so very mature. His eyes welled with tears, and he was speechless. “Aww Daddy, don’t cry,” she whispered to him.
He looked at her again, a tear rolled down his cheek. “Too late, Punkin.” He sniffled, and dabbed his eyes with a tissue Charlotte had given him. “You are stunning, so much like your Mama.” He held his arm for her, and they waited. The music began, and Travis began the walk he had dreaded since the twins were born. The last time he would hold his little girl, because today, she became a woman. Someone’s wife. Slowly, they walked down the aisle, and Clint’s mouth dropped open. Andy nudged him gently, and he smiled. Charlotte wept as Darcey and her father made their way down the aisle, and when they reached the arch, he waited with her.
“Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” the pastor asked.
Travis spoke. “Her mother and I do.” He lifted her veil and kissed her cheek. “I love you Bug,” he whispered to her, and gave her to Clint. He took his place next to Charlotte and took another tissue from her.
The pastor spoke briefly, and the couple exchanged vows they wrote for each other. Clint went first.
“Darcey, when we met, I had never seen a more beautiful woman than you. I wasn’t expecting to find you, but when I did, I never wanted to let go. And now, I can’t wait to see what our future holds, together. Kitten, I love you, and I know I always will.” Clint wiped tears from his eyes and kissed her hand.
“Do you, Clinton Adam, take Darcey Isabella to be your wife? Do you promise to love her and keep her, honor and cherish her, in sickness and in health, and keep yourself for her alone, as long as you live?”
“I do,” Clint answered, beaming with happiness.
Darcey spoke next. “Clint, when I was little, I dreamed of meeting someone like you. And when I finally did, you made it so easy to love you. Your smile is contagious, your love is astounding, and your bravery is amazing. You have had my heart since the beginning, and you will have it forever. I love you, Boo, and I always will.”
“Do you, Darcey Isabella, take Clinton Adam to be your husband? Do you promise to love him and keep him, honor and cherish him, in sickness and in health, and keep yourself for him alone, as long as you live?”
“Oh, I do!” Darcey exclaimed, happier than she could remember.
“By the authority vested in me by the county of Starlight Shores, and in front of these witnesses, I pronounce you husband and wife. Clint, you may kiss your bride.”
Clint took her hands and pulled her close to him. He reached for her and kissed her so tenderly, she nearly melted on the spot. In the crowd, Charlotte and Travis embraced as she cried, and he comforted her.
The pastor smiled. “I present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Clint Scroggins. Congratulations!”
The couple walked back down the aisle and stood to greet their guests. The first one there was Emmitt. “Darcey, Clint,” he said. “Congratulations! I know your father is very proud of you,” he said to Darcey. “Take good care of her, Clint. Her daddy is a big man,” he teased, and then shook his hand.
“Oh, baby boy!” Felicity hugged her son tightly. “Clint, look at you! You are all grown, and you’ve trimmed down quite a bit! I couldn’t be prouder of you, sweetie.” She turned to Darcey. “And you, what a lovely young lady you are! My son has good taste. Honey, I know that boy loves you to pieces. Be good to each other, and you’ll do fine.” She hugged both of them and moved on.
“Clint, my son, how are ya?” Nick held out his hand, and Clint hugged him instead. “You look great, your wife has a good effect on you.” Nick held his hand out, with Trisha right behind him, beaming at the young couple. “Pleasure to meet you, Darcey. I’m hoping your husband has told you about us.” He hugged her, and Trisha did, too.
“He did! I so looked forward to meeting you. Clint speaks highly of you both.” Darcey smiled. “It was good to meet you, finally.” They both hugged Clint again and moved on to allow Charlotte and Travis the opportunity they had waited for.
“Oh, honey, you look so beautiful,” Charlotte cried. “I’m a mess, but you are a vision of grace and perfection. Congratulations, sweetheart.”
Travis hugged Darcey for the first time as a married woman. “I guess you’re not my little girl anymore,” he said, wiping tears from his eyes. “Darcey, I am so proud of everything you’ve become. And Clint,” he said, as he broke his embrace with his daughter, “I couldn’t be happier to have you in our family. She couldn’t have done better.”
“Thank you, Travis. That means the world to me.” Clint hugged his father-in-law and choked back his emotion. To have Travis’ approval, and to hear his compliments made him happy.
The rest of the family had their moments with the couple, and then they went to cut their cake together. Taking a small slice, Darcey fed the first bite to Clint, and then he fed her a small bite. Neither of them made a mess, but they didn’t waste any time kissing the sweetness from each other, either.
Clint led Darcey to the dance floor for their first dance, and as he had done on their first date, he led her skillfully, and she followed his lead flawlessly, almost as if they had been dance partners for years. Charlotte and Travis joined them, and Danae and Andy did as well.
When the party was dying down, Travis pulled Darcey aside, handing her a slip of paper. “Your mama and I have paid for the honeymoon suite at the bed and breakfast for a couple of nights. The reservation is under Jones because I wasn’t thinking. I’m so sorry, Punkin.”
“Oh, it’s okay Daddy. In my heart, I will always be a Jones.” She hugged him, and he kissed her forehead. “Thank you and mama both. I love you, Daddy.”
“Oh Punkin, I love you more than you’ll ever understand.” Travis embraced her and rocked her gently. He broke the embrace and looked into her eyes. “Tonight is what your promise was all about, honey. This is what you’ve anticipated, and your wait will be worth it. Treat him well, and he will do the same.”
Clint and Darcey were getting ready to leave the party, but he didn’t want to go without saying goodbye to his mother, Walter, Nick and Trisha, because he knew they would be leaving in the morning for Bridgeport.
“Thank you all for coming,” Clint said. “It wouldn’t have been the same if you hadn’t made it, and I’m so thankful you did.” Clint was painfully aware this would most likely be the last time he saw any of his family. “I love you all.” One by one, they embraced the young couple and said their farewells.
Travis caught up with them on their way out. “Your mama has some stuff at the inn for you, so you have nothing to worry about.” He hugged both of them. “Go on, now. Go be together,” he said.
“Thank you, Daddy, for a beautiful wedding, and for your blessing on our marriage. It means everything to me.” Darcey hugged her father one last time and took Clint’s hand. Together, they walked to the limousine and got in.
“So, I guess this is what it feels like to be a Jones,” Clint remarked at the limo. He had never been in one before, and he was impressed.
“I was thinking that this is what it feels like to be a Scroggins, Boo.” She smiled, took his hand in hers, and with their fingers intertwined, she rested her head on his shoulder, happy and content.
“Miss Danae Jones? This is Sheila from the Sing-A-Gram of Starlight Shores. We saw your resume and we are very interested in you. Please return this call at your earliest convenience.”
Danae listened to the message, but she couldn’t believe her ears. This was the break she was looking for, and it came on the heels of Darcey’s wedding. She knew Andy was working, but she wanted to share her news with him first.
Andy! The Sing-A-Gram wants to see me! This is what I’ve wanted so badly. Yay me!
Her next call was returning the phone message.
“May I tell her who is calling?” the receptionist asked.
“This is Danae Jones. I’m returning her phone call.”
“Just a moment, Miss Jones.”
“Danae!” the happy voice rang on the other end of the phone. “It’s Sheila. Thank you for returning my call so quickly. Yeah, so I was looking at resumes and I saw yours. I don’t know how we’ve overlooked you for so long, but we would love to have you on staff here. Your skillset is impressive, and I’ve heard it said that your voice is reminiscent of a legend.”
Danae blushed. “Well, Destiny Hill was my great grandmother,” she replied. “Many people have told me I sound exactly like her.”
“And that was the legend I was referencing. I don’t even need an audition. Just report to the office in the morning. We’ll get you on the schedule, and get your paperwork finished.”
“I can’t wait. Thank you, Sheila. This is a dream come true!” Danae hung up the phone and screamed with joy. “No more singing in the hot sun for tips. Oh my goodness!”
She drove home with a renewed joy. Just as she pulled into the driveway, her phone rang.
“My sweet!” came the happy greeting. “Congratulations, my love,” Andy was ecstatic for her. Since meeting her, she had accomplished everything she dreamed of, and he was proud of her.
“Hey Andy,” she sang. “Thank you!”
“Why don’t I take you for dinner tonight? We’ll go to The Tower, so dress in something smashing.”
“How can you get into The Tower? That place is bonkers.” Danae was impressed.
“I have connections. Shoot, you have more connections than I have, my sweet. You could walk into The Tower anytime you want and have a table. You’re a Jones.”
Danae blushed. “What time?”
“How about in an hour?” he suggested. “I’ll be off work in about 30 minutes, and I’ll pick you up.”
“It sounds delightful,” she swooned. “I’ll be ready.” Charlotte was inside making dinner when Danae almost ran into the house from the garage. “I won’t be having dinner here tonight, Mama. Andy is taking me to The Tower to celebrate!”
“What are you celebrating, Nae?” Charlotte was curious.
“The Sing-A-Gram company hired me today, sight unseen, based on hearsay. My resume didn’t hurt, either.”
“Oh, baby girl!” Charlotte was overjoyed to hear the news. “Andy looks so good on you. I guess others can see his magic touch as well. I’m so proud of you for not giving up, even when it looked like nothing was going your way.” Charlotte hugged her daughter. “Do you need a dress and shoes? I have Nana Bella’s stuff in my closet. Something might fit you well.”
“I’d love to see some of her dresses.” Danae knew Nana had impeccable taste in clothing, and she was hoping to find the dress that would impress Andy.
Charlotte turned off the burner on the stove. “Let’s go check.” The two women walked up the stairs together, and Charlotte opened her closet door. “Try on anything you see. She had a lot of nice stuff in here. Just not the red dress your daddy bought me. That one is special.”
Danae picked through the closet until she found an evening gown she thought she remembered seeing in photos of Nana Destiny. It was a black fitted gown encrusted with rhinestones, and it was beautiful. “I’ll try this one,” Danae said, stripping her outfit off right there in the bedroom. She slipped into it, and Charlotte zipped the back. It fit her like a glove.
“Oh honey, that is gorgeous on you. Andy will love it.”
Danae smoothed out the fabric and admired herself in the mirror. Even she had to admit it was perfect. “I love it.” She turned around and checked out the fit from the rear, and it accentuated every perfect outline of her body.
“Here, let me fix your hair,” Charlotte offered, pulling it up into a bun, and secured it with bobby pins. “That’s adorable. I love it!” Charlotte raved over her. “Here, try these strappy heels with it. I think it will be perfect.” Charlotte handed her the shoes, which almost fit her.
“I think I have black shoes in my closet,” she stated, as she walked to her bedroom and opened her closet door. Rifling around, she came up with a shiny pair of gorgeous pumps. “Found ‘em!” she said excitedly. She slipped into them and hiked the dress up, so Charlotte could see them.
“Perfect!” stated Charlotte. “Remember your promise, Danae Elizabeth. You’re not married to him yet.”
Danae rolled her eyes. “I know Mama. He wouldn’t let me, even if I tried.”
“Good,” she said, relieved.
With ten minutes to spare, Danae was ready for Andy to pick her up for dinner. Charlotte fastened a diamond and platinum necklace around Danae’s neck. The necklace had been Destiny’s, given to her on her last birthday before Arthur’s passing. It was perfect for the occasion, and Charlotte had worn it several times on dates with Travis. It would eventually be Danae’s anyway.
Andy’s call on the box came in on time, and she walked gracefully to meet him. Andy got out of his car and held the door open for her. “Oh my sweet, you look ravishing tonight.” He kissed her tenderly as she took his hand.
“You’re not so bad yourself,” Danae admired him. He was in his PR outfit, which was nearly identical to Travis’, except for the color. His vest was a peach color, and the pants were black. It looked very sharp on him.
He drove them to The Tower, where the valet happily took the car to park. With her on his arm, Andy approached the host station. “Murphy, party of two,” he announced.
The Maitre D’ checked the reservations and found his name. “Right this way, sir.”
The table was tucked into a corner, quiet and secluded from the rest of the dining room. It was similar to the one Jen had years back, but in a slightly different location. On the table, Andy had ordered a half dozen roses, one for each month they had dated, and a bottle of the finest champagne available. Danae looked around in awe. She hadn’t been there since her thirteenth birthday, and it was bigger and grander than she remembered. “Oh babe, this is extravagant,” she marveled. “You shouldn’t have done all this.” She knew tonight would cost him more than she believed she was worth, and she began to feel guilty.
“Why not, my sweet? I think you’re worth it.” He kissed her hand gently. “Besides, you have a great cause to celebrate, do you not?”
“Well, yes, but —”
“No more buts! Let me spoil you, okay?” Andy smiled at her sweetly.
“No more arguments here,” she agreed.
The waiter brought two chilled champagne flutes, and popped the bottle open, pouring each of them a glass. Andy raised his glass, and toasted. “To my favorite couple in the whole world, us.”
Danae blushed, his sweet words rendered her speechless. All she could do was raise her glass, which she did, and took a sip.
“Why are you so bashful around me, my sweet? You know I adore you.”
“Because you’re so sweet. And sometimes, I still catch myself wondering why I got this lucky. I have to remind myself this is real.” Danae took a sip of champagne.
“I want to know why you still feel this way, Nae. Am I not sufficient for you?”
“Of course you’re sufficient for me! You’re more than enough. Andy, I love you with all my heart and soul. It’s just, I guess, Darcey and I were never competitive, but when she started to really excel in her life, I felt I was the lesser of us. I didn’t handle it well. It’s left me with a lot of insecurity. Am I really worthy of you? Sometimes I still ask myself that.”
“My sweet, it hurts me to know you feel this way about yourself. So I want you to hear me, and believe my words. You are worthy. You are loved. You are more than enough. You are mine.”
Danae smiled at him, nodding her head. She took another sip of champagne and felt it was starting to affect her. “Whoa, I have to slow down on that,” she remarked. She was feeling heady.
“How about we order when the waiter comes around again? That will help,” he suggested. Danae nodded.
“I guess I’m just so… afraid something will happen, and I’ll lose you.”
“Nope, not gonna happen,” Andy said confidently. He reached for her hand and took it in his. “Danae Jones, I love you. You’re stuck with me now.”
The waiter reappeared, and Andy ordered for both of them. “I hear the calamari is good here?”
“It is indeed, sir.”
“Let’s try that, and take your time with dinner. We are in no hurry.” The waiter excused himself and walked away. In the middle of the room, a large grand piano sat, with a very skilled pianist playing romantic ballads. “Would you like to dance?” he asked her.
“I would love to,” Danae answered. He stood and held his hand for her, and together they walked to the small dance floor by the piano. They danced together for a couple of songs, her head resting on his chest. After the third song, he led Danae back to the table to sit for a while.
“You dance nicely,” he complimented her. “But I already knew that. Danae, I have something I want to ask you.”
“I’m an open book, Andy. What do you want to know?”
“Well,” he reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring. “I was hoping you might like to, you know, um… marry me.”
“Wait, what did you just say?” She wasn’t sure she heard him correctly.
“Danae, will you marry me? Please say yes.” Andy opened his hand to show Danae a beautiful, one-carat diamond engagement ring.
“Andy!” She felt a squeal building up inside her, and she knew this wasn’t the place to let it out. “Oh my gosh! I will so marry you!” And out it came. He slipped the ring onto her left hand, in front of the purity ring she wore. “This is such a surprise! Oh my goodness!”
“I can’t live without you in my life,” he said. “When something is this perfect, it has to be good, right?”
“Good? We’re better than good. Andy, I really, really love you.”
“I’m so glad to hear you say that, because I really, really love you too.”
Up Next: Chapter Five, Generation Five