I’m finally, almost, at LAST!! Ready to break 40K. I’ve been stuck in the 30Ks for months. Ugh. But this morning Dark & Early, I finally hit the emotional candy bar scene that I’d been dreading and looking forward to. Mama and Vicki on the same page. Here’s just a tiny snippet, first draft only.
“Vicki.” Mama smiled and held out her arms. Her face felt frozen and brittle, but Vicki hugged her and gave her a dutiful peck on the cheek. “How’s my girl?”
“Fine, Mama.” She knew Mama wanted an introduction or at least an excuse about what was going on, but Vicki refused to give an inch. Make her ask. That keeps the advantage with me.
It worked at least a little, because Mama’s jaws tightened and her eyes narrowed. She turned to Elias and held out her hand. “Lt. Reyes.”
“I thought you were out of the picture.”
Elias’s neck turned red, which was almost enough to make Vicki laugh out loud and relax. Almost, but not quite, because she was more worried about the other man standing on her right.
“I’m Jesse Inglemarre, ma’am.”
Mama took his hand, squeezing hard, evidently, because Vicki noted the way his face tensed a moment before melting away. His shoulders relaxed, easing into the fierce grip like he did when she touched him, and she was suddenly so pissed, so mindless with jealousy and fury, that she couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t move. She wanted to strike out with violence, even against her mother.
“Ah,” Mama breathed out and released him. “So the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree after all. When you picked Reyes, I honestly started to wonder. I thought maybe I’d been wrong.”
“You’re never wrong, Mama.” Vicki didn’t even try to keep the bitterness out of her voice. At least that was better than violence. “I learned that a long time ago. Just another way I’ve let you down, right?”
“Is that what you think?”
Unperturbed by Mama’s unusually quiet voice, Vicki wrapped her arm around Jesse’s waist and pulled him against her. With Elias on her other side, she felt shielded from the fiery darts Mama would lob at her. “I know it. First I quit my job at the firm after years of grad school and grueling overtime to make partner on a lark—to start my own clothing line. Now I’m dating two men at the same time. You’ve despaired of me ever getting married and settling down.”
“Quitting that law firm was the best thing you’ve ever done.”
Braced for an I-told-you-so tirade, it took Vicki several moments to realize that was actually a compliment. Stunned, she could only stare at Mama, searching those dark eyes so like her own for the truth. What she saw horrified her.
A tear streaked down her mother’s face. “So that could only be your self-doubt, honey, if you think I’m disappointed in you. Same with Reyes. I knew you two were fire and oil, too explosive together. You’d kill each other before you’d ever work out enough of a truce for marriage, but that’s exactly what you wanted. In a way, you were punishing me by picking an upstanding man I had to like but you never intended marriage. Don’t look at me like that, Beulah Virginia.”
Gaping, Vicki flinched at both the use of her real name and the sharper tone of voice, even while Mama dashed her tears away impatiently.
“Don’t stand there so innocently shocked. I didn’t raise a wallflower or a doormat. If you’d really wanted Reyes, then you would have demanded he marry you or get the hell out. Forget this polite ‘dating’ and sometimes sleeping together crap. Either you love him or you don’t. Make up your damned mind and quit punishing me.”