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|Moonlight on Nightingale Way(On Dublin Street #6)(81) by Samantha Young|
Maia stepped into the restaurant wearing one of the slogan T-shirts I’d bought her and the skinny jeans. I’d managed to talk her into wearing some jewelry and a pair of heeled boots to dress it up a little, and I’d insisted on putting waves in her hair. She looked so pretty. And so not aware of what lay before her!
I felt like a big kid, giddy for her reaction.
“Ah, Logan, Grace.” Marco’s uncle Gio greeted us from behind the host’s desk, having apparently been waiting for us himself.
A few days ago I’d met with Gio and his wife, Gabby, to give them the decorations and work out logistics for Maia’s party. They’d very kindly rented out the back room of the restaurant to us at a crazily discounted price.
“And this must be Maia?” He held out his hand.
Maia shook it, seeming bemused by the attention of the owner of D’Alessandro’s.
“Come, come. I’ll show you to your table.” His eyes twinkled with mischief.
We followed him through the front room and down a narrow hall that immediately opened up into a large room.
Maia jolted to a halt at the cries of our new friends and her new family. All of the girls were there with their partners and kids, as promised, and Ellie’s mum and dad were there, too, along with Jo’s boss and Olivia’s dad, Mick, and his wife, Dee.
The children were jumping up and down with excitement as Maia stared around the room in shock.
Streamers hung from the ceiling and every nook and cranny. A massive silver banner printed with HAPPY SWEET SIXTEEN, MAIA was draped along the back wall. Tables were set up around one half of the room, a large buffet of food on one of them, a stack of presents on another. As discussed, we had a projector on the wall adjacent to the banner wall, and at that moment pictures of Maia with all of us were flicking on a slide show. We had a couple of Pixar movies to put on it later to occupy the younger children. Chairs and beanbags were placed in front of it for the kids.
“Oh my God,” Maia whispered.
Logan put his arm around her and pulled her in to his side. “Happy birthday, sweetheart.”
She looked up at him in teary-eyed awe. “Dad…”
He kissed her forehead. “Grace and the girls put this together for you.”
“But it was your dad’s idea,” I added.
“I don’t know what to say.”
Before we could reply, an older couple stepped out from the group, followed by a woman who didn’t look that much older than me. She had dark hair and pretty features that reminded me of Shannon.
I knew immediately who they were.
“Maia.” Logan put his hand on her back and led her forward. “This is my mum and dad and my other sister, Amanda.”
Not wanting to intrude, I skirted around them and strode into the room with Gio at my side, trying, unsuccessfully, not to worry about Maia. “The place looks great,” I said. “Thank you again.”
“No need. We’re happy to host it. Marco’s told us all about Maia and Logan. He’s doing a good job in a tough situation.” I watched Gio walk over to Marco and Hannah, wondering if Logan realized how much people admired and respected him.
Before I could muse too long over the question, Shannon came forward to hug me.
When she pulled back, her brow was wrinkled with worry. “The place looks great.”
“She said with a frown,” I teased.
She nodded her chin in the direction behind me. “They’ve barely said two words to me and Cole.”
“Why? I thought you had worked out your issues.”
Shannon sighed. “A few months ago I asked Logan to walk me down the aisle. Logan asked me to discuss it with Dad first, and of course Mum and Dad fell out with me. And then the whole Maia situation blew up.”
I hissed, “It is kind of a kick in the teeth asking your brother to walk you down the aisle.”
She blanched. “I know that. Don’t think I didn’t stew over it. But I want my life with Cole to be honest and real, and having my dad walk me down the aisle when he’s never really believed in my relationship with Cole, and he’s definitely never really believed in me, seemed hypocritical. It didn’t feel right.”
“So you asked Logan,” I said. “Well, I think that was brave.”
“Thanks, Grace.” She smiled sadly. “Some people at school think I’m a shit when I tell them.”
“They don’t know what you went through and how your parents weren’t there for you when you needed them the most. They can’t judge. No one can. It’s a difficult situation you’re in, and ultimately you have to make the decision that sits right with you.”
She nodded, expression grave as she looked past my shoulder again. “I don’t want them to hurt her. They have this wonderful way of acting like good parents only to disappear as soon as you disappoint them even slightly.”
Cole drew up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and drawing her back against him. She was so short next to him, he looked like a warrior come to protect her. “You okay, shortcake?”
She nodded and clutched his hand. “I’m just doing my usual freak-out.” Her eyes widened slightly. “They’re coming over here.”
“Should we abandon Grace to them or hang tough?” Cole whispered dramatically.
He succeeded in making her giggle. “I couldn’t live with myself if I abandoned Grace to them.”