Remembrance, p.34
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       Remembrance, p.34
 

         Part #7 of The Mediator series by Meg Cabot

  “I’ll have your stepbrother take it to her.” Jesse signaled to Brad, who was acting as de facto bartender at the de facto bar, a couple of saw horses we’d placed a board between, then covered with a red-and-white-checked tablecloth. “If she’s a therapist, he’s exactly who should be speaking to her anyway. He needs a little career counseling. He’s not going to be working for his father-in-law much longer, you know.”

  I sucked in my breath. “What?”

  “No. He was telling me last night. He’s hit up your parents for a loan so he can enroll in the police academy.”

  “A cop? Brad?” Somehow, preposterous as it sounded, it also seemed strangely right. Brad had thrived after the babies were born, loving the structure fatherhood brought to his life. A job on the police force would provide him even more structure. “Wow. Ackerman family get-togethers are about to get even more interesting.”

  “Yes. In the meantime, there’s someone here who wants to speak to you.”

  “Who? I can’t talk to anyone else, frankly. I’m in too much shock. Besides, I’ve already spoken to everyone, except the one person I most want to talk to. You.” I turned to put my arms around his neck. “I’ve barely had a minute alone with you all day. What do you think of my dress? You’re the only one who hasn’t told me.”

  He reached up to take the empty champagne glass out of my hand and place it on a picnic table.

  “I have an opinion on it,” he said, “and you’re definitely going to hear it, but not now.” He removed my arms from his neck and spun me around to face Father Dominic a few yards away, still sitting tucked beneath a blanket in his wheelchair beside an outdoor heat lamp we’d rented.

  “But I’ve already talked to Father D,” I whispered. “Several times, as a matter of fact. And Sister Ernestine. She completely loves me since I got Father Francisco arrested. She says I’m hired . . . on conditional probation, of course, but that’s fine by me. So since I’ve done all my obligatory chatting to the sweet old people, can we please just sneak—”

  “Susannah,” Jesse said, basically steering me until I was in front of a giant wearing a long black leather trench coat who was standing beside Father Dominic’s wheelchair. “Do you remember Jack Slater?”

  I had to crane my neck to look into the giant’s face. When I did, I saw that it bore only the slightest resemblance to the child I remembered babysitting so many years earlier at the Pebble Beach Resort and Hotel.

  “Jack?” I heard myself ask in a voice that sounded nothing like my own, it was so squeaky.

  The giant smiled. “Hi, Suze,” he said in a strangely youthful voice. He held out a massive right hand. He was wearing fingerless gloves in the same black leather as his trench. “Congratulations to you and Jesse.”

  I slipped my hand into the giant’s and allowed him to pump my fingers up and down. Glancing surreptitiously at Father Dominic, I saw him grinning, though after such a long day—Dr. Patel had only granted him permission to leave the hospital for a few hours—I imagined he had to be feeling overwhelmed.

  “Thanks, Jack,” I said, feeling a bit overwhelmed as well. “You look . . . different.”

  “I know,” he said with a chuckle. “Weird, right? Hey, it was really decent of you both to invite me.”

  This sobered me up even more quickly than the sight of his giant teenage hand. Jesse and I exchanged glances.

  “Uh,” I said. “No problem. We’re so glad you could come.”

  But of course we hadn’t invited him. I hadn’t wanted Paul to discover we were getting married—we’d had enough trouble from him to last a lifetime.

  So I’d taken care not to allow anything about the event to be posted online, and I’d especially not sent an invitation to Paul or his younger brother, Jack, though I’d felt badly about it.

  “Er, yes, Susannah,” Father Dominic said, looking slightly embarrassed. “Wasn’t it nice of Jack to come? And all the way from Seattle, where he lives now.”

  I gave him a dirty look. Now I knew who’d invited Jack.

  “Yes,” I said. “So nice.”

  “I see that my brother isn’t here,” Jack said. “I asked him if he was coming, and he said he wasn’t sure. Did he not get invited? He hasn’t caused any more trouble, has he?”

  “No, not trouble, exactly,” I said, while beside me I saw Jesse set his jaw. I couldn’t hear him grinding his teeth over the sound of the music, but I was sure that’s what he was doing.

  Now we knew how Paul had found out we’d moved up the wedding date, despite the care I’d taken.

  The box had arrived via FedEx earlier that day, along with a card from Paul wishing us “many years of happily wedded bliss.”

  Inside the box was a framed notification letting the applicant know that, per their request, 99 Pine Crest Road had been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, due to its being associated with “events that have made a significant contribution to the broad pattern of history” and with the “lives of persons significant in our country’s past.” As such, the property could never be torn down or altered in any way.

  The request had been made by the Carmel-by-the-Sea Historical Society four months earlier. The notification was dated the day after Paul would have begun demolition on my house . . . if I hadn’t stopped him.

  I thought that Jesse and I had already had more than our fair share of miracles. But I was happy to take this one, too.

  Jesse took a great deal of satisfaction in prominently displaying the notification over the fireplace in the front parlor. An official seal—the same as the one on the wall outside the Monterey County Jail, another historic landmark in which Jesse had spent time—would be following, according to the notification, as soon as it could be engraved.

  To give Paul credit, I don’t think he could have found a better wedding present . . . then again, the text he’d sent me later probably expressed his true feelings about my marriage:

  El Diablo Guess you don’t have to worry about your something old, do you, Simon?

  When you’re finally ready for something new, call me.

  NOV 28 1:24PM

  Insulting as it was, it was nice to know he was feeling better. It meant that while his jaw might have been broken, his heart never truly was—if he had one, which I wasn’t sure.

  I’d already decided, however, that it would be best not to reciprocate with a framed copy of the results of the paternity test I’d paid an extra thousand dollars (out of my own pocket) to have rushed during a holiday week.

  Paul’s probability of paternity for the triplets (or Child A, B, and C as they were referred to by the lab) had come back at a whopping 99.999 percent certainty . . . not that I’d ever doubted it, nor had any intention of telling anyone else, save Jesse. It was just a nice piece of insurance to have in case I ever needed it in the future.

  “Yeah,” Jack was going on. “Paul and I aren’t very close anymore. Not that we ever were, really. I basically only see him at shareholder meetings.”

  “Oh?” Father Dominic asked. I could tell that the old man was thoroughly enjoying himself. Bored from having been cooped up in the hospital for so long, even a normal wedding would have been very exciting to him. But this one was of particular interest to him. “Did your grandfather leave you a stake in his company?”

  “Oh, no, not at all,” Jack replied. “Gramps didn’t leave me a dime. I bought into Paul’s company with my own money. I design video games. Turns out I’m pretty good at it. Who’d have thought I’d be good at anything, right, Suze?”

  He laughed at himself in a self-deprecating manner that was completely unlike his brother. The laugh, however, reminded me eerily of my stepnieces.

  “Video games?” I echoed. “I thought you liked to write screenplays.”

  “What? No. Well, sort of. See, it’s a bit stupid, actually. You’ve probably heard of one of them.” Jack said the words aloud even as I mouthed them along with him. “Ghost Mediator.”

  Jesse look
ed astonished. “That’s you?”

  Jack laughed some more, shaking his head as if he couldn’t believe it himself. “I know. Weird, right? I mean, I know we’re supposed to keep the mediator thing a secret, but I never expected anyone to see my game, much less take it seriously. I submitted it to a contest. Honestly, I never expected to win. They’ve even made a stupid TV show based off it.”

  “I’ve heard of it,” I said woodenly.

  “I know, it’s really bad.” Jack looked a bit deflated by my lack of enthusiasm. “It’s taken off, though, internationally, and I get a ton of residuals. That lady who stars in it—”

  “She’s fake,” I interrupted. “Her readings aren’t real.”

  “Yeah, I know. But people really seem to like her. I try to give a lot of the money to charity. Animal shelters, mostly, but children’s charities, too. Hey, I could give some to the hospital where you work, Jesse. That would really annoy my brother.”

  “That sounds wonderful.” Jesse slapped Jack on the shoulder. “Keep up the great work.”

  Of course Jesse would say this.

  “Thanks.” Jack looked around shyly. “So, I don’t suppose there are any, uh, girls my age here? It’s cool if there aren’t. I know it’s asking a lot.” His gaze was following Gina, who looked amazing, as usual, but had just finished dancing with Jake. Both were smiling at nothing. Gina had been doing a lot of that lately, not only because her romantic life was improving, but because she’d landed a plum role in Carmel’s outdoor production of Pippin. Local theater wasn’t exactly Hollywood, but it was better than nothing.

  “Not her,” I said to Jack. “She’s too old for you. And I think she might be taken.” I looked around, noticing that Adam and CeeCee were having one of their epic debates over by the cake table. Then I spotted Becca.

  “You know what?” I smiled. “That girl sitting over there by my stepbrother David, looking bored? She actually likes Ghost Mediator.”

  Jack brightened. “Does she? Oh, great, maybe I’ll go say hi. Thanks again for inviting me. I’ll talk to you later.” He was smiling as he made a beeline toward Becca, casually sidestepping his nieces, who were teaching Dr. Patel’s children how to play “flower girl” (in their version, it was played by violently hurling pinecones at one another).

  “So,” Father Dominic said, hardly bothering to lower his voice. “The boy doesn’t know those girls are his brother’s children?”

  “Shhh!” I glared at Jesse. “You really did tell him everything.”

  “Of course. You told her everything.” He pointed at Dr. Jo, who’d recovered from her shock and was enjoying cake and champagne with Becca’s father and stepmother. I couldn’t tell if she’d met them before—perhaps because they’d set up an appointment for family counseling—or if their meeting was merely felicitous.

  “Not everything,” I said with a glower. “Thanks a lot for inviting assorted randos from my past to my wedding reception, Father D. Who else can I expect to show up? If you say the Backstreet Boys, I won’t be held responsible for my actions.”

  “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Susannah,” Father Dominic said. “Jack Slater shouldn’t be ostracized because of his brother’s antisocial behavior. Now who is that lovely woman over there?” He gave Dr. Jo an appraising glance. “Why have I never met her before?”

  I looked from Dr. Jo to Father Dominic and then back again. “Nope,” I said firmly.

  He had the grace to appear discomfited. “Oh, Susannah, please. I’m not interested in her romantically. I took a vow of chastity over sixty years ago and that’s not something I’m likely to abandon, even if others in my profession seem to take it—and every conceivable limit of morality—lightly.”

  It was going to take him far longer to get over the revelations about Father Francisco than the injuries he’d sustained at the hands of Lucia.

  “Whatever, Father,” I said. “I’m not introducing you.”

  “Susannah, you do have a tendency to think the worst of people—even people you supposedly know and trust. I’m not saying she isn’t a very pleasant-looking woman. I’m only saying it would be enjoyable to get to know someone my own age who isn’t affiliated with the church or the school. This is a small town and I rarely meet new—”

  “Nope,” I said again, even more firmly, and took Jesse’s hand. “You’re on your own with that one, Father D. You wheel yourself over there and make your own introductions. We’re going inside now. I need to have a word with my husband.”

  Husband! It was fun to say, and even more fun to drag Jesse from the party and into the house—the house that we owned—and not have anyone say a word about it. They couldn’t, because we were officially a couple now, and it was officially our house, and we could do whatever we wanted in it.

  It was quiet inside since everyone was gathered outside, drinking, eating, laughing, and listening to the loud, joyful music. Now that we’d had the chimney swept and the power transferred to our names, so that there was wood burning in the fireplaces at night, and air-conditioning cooling the rooms during the day, the house did not smell so much like “books” anymore.

  But there was still a faint odor of them, and not only because Jesse owned so many, enough to fill all the built-in bookshelves, and then some.

  I pulled Jesse by the hand up the stairs, using the other to hold the train of my very long dress, so I wouldn’t trip.

  “What’s so important,” he wanted to know as he followed me, “that we couldn’t talk about it downstairs?”

  “Nothing,” I said when we got to our room. It really was our room now, not mine. Jake had helped move Jesse’s enormous bed from Snail Crossing, and it now took up a tremendous amount of space—and had been nearly impossible to wrestle up the stairs. But it was worth it. “I just thought it was time for us to gracefully retire to the bedroom.” I reached out to playfully tweak his bow tie as he lay down beside me. “I need you to unlace this corset so I can breathe, pardner.”

  “If that is another remark about me being a cowboy, you know I do not appreciate it.” He traced a shape on the swell of my breast above the neckline of my wedding gown. “Do you really want to take off your dress? You haven’t heard yet what I think of it.”

  I rolled over onto my back. “Oh, I have a pretty good idea what you think of it already.”

  He laughed and climbed on top of me. “Do you? You have a very high opinion of yourself.”

  “Healthy. I have a healthy opinion of myself.”

  He kissed me, laughing. “I think dresses like this are what you ought to be wearing all the time, Susannah. Although I suppose I’m lucky you don’t, or I’d be in the Monterey County Jail every night.”

  “Ha! Are you saying I’ve finally done something of which your mother would approve?”

  “I wouldn’t go that far,” he said, and kissed me some more.

  A little while later the last slanting rays of the sun were creeping into the room, making bright gold splashes on the walls and wainscoting and occasional bare patches of skin—we’d been in too much of a hurry to bother to unlace the corset—and I was dozing in his arms. I’d discovered, after so many years, that I could fall asleep easily, as long as Jesse was in bed beside me.

  Of course, I might also have been dozing because he was reading aloud to me from one of his innumerable ancient books, this one by the poet William Congreve.

  “ ‘Thus in this sad, but oh, too pleasing state! my soul can fix upon nothing but thee; thee it contemplates, admires, adores, nay depends on, trusts on you alone.’ ”

  I heard him close the book, then lean over me.

  “Susannah,” he whispered. “Susannah, are you awake? We’ve been away from the party for too long. We should get back to our guests.”

  “In a minute.” I reached to wipe the corners of my eyelids.

  “Susannah.” He sounded pleasantly astonished. “Susannah, are you crying?”

  “No,” I said with a smile. “It’s my allergies again.


  Jesse laughed and kissed me as the sun slipped beneath the sea.

  about the author

  MEG CABOT was born in Bloomington, Indiana. In addition to her adult contemporary fiction, she is the author of the bestselling young adult fiction The Princess Diaries and The Mediator series. Over twenty-five million copies of her novels for children and adults have sold worldwide. Meg lives in Key West, Florida, with her husband.

  Discover great authors, exclusive offers, and more at hc.com.

  other books

  BY MEG CABOT

  THE PRINCESS DIARIES SERIES

  THE MEDIATOR SERIES

  HEATHER WELLS SERIES

  Overbite

  Insatiable

  Ransom My Heart (WITH MIA THERMOPOLIS)

  QUEEN OF BABBLE SERIES

  THE BOY SERIES

  She Went All the Way

  THE 1-800-WHERE-R-YOU SERIES

  ALL-AMERICAN GIRL SERIES

  Nicola and the Viscount

  Victoria and the Rogue

  Jinx

  How to Be Popular

  Pants on Fire

  AVALON HIGH SERIES

  THE AIRHEAD SERIES

  ABANDON SERIES

  ALLIE FINKLE’S RULES FOR GIRLS SERIES

  FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF A MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCESS SERIES

  credits

  Cover design by Emin Mancheril

  Cover illustrations © Shutterstock

  copyright

  This book is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locales are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used fictitiously. All other characters, and all incidents and dialogue, are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.

  REMEMBRANCE. Copyright © 2016 by Meg Cabot, LLC. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

 
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