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|Moonlight on Nightingale Way(On Dublin Street #6)(82) by Samantha Young|
“And Grace would never talk to you ever again,” I muttered under my breath, all my muscles stiffening as I watched Logan and Maia approach with the rest of the MacLeods in tow.
Thankfully, Maia was smiling, and her grandparents seemed genuinely happy to be with her.
Logan got to us first. He made a point of kissing Shannon’s cheek and nodding at Cole before sliding his arm across my shoulders and drawing me into him.
I studied Maia on closer inspection, and although she didn’t look upset, she did look slightly overwhelmed. I put my hand out to her subtly, and she immediately grabbed it and burrowed into my side. Logan’s parents and sister watched this interaction with interest and something that seemed a lot like suspicion. I braced myself.
“This is my girlfriend, Grace,” Logan said.
Very quickly I schooled my features.
It was a surprise to hear myself called that. Yet… I found it was a good surprise. I liked the sound of it. This last week Logan had worked very hard to exorcise my demons and insecurities.
I doubted there was a woman alive who felt more wanted than I did right then.
“It’s nice to meet you.” I held my hand out to his mum first, a petite woman with red hair and violet eyes. She was young-looking and still very pretty, and could probably pass for Shannon’s sister. Logan’s other sister, Amanda, had inherited her dark hair and eyes from her father, although his hair was peppered with gray.
He shook my hand after Logan’s mum did. “And what do you do, Grace?” he asked immediately, the question containing more than a hint of interrogation.
Logan tensed against me.
“Grace is a freelance book editor,” Maia piped up. “She’s really good at her job. She has bestselling authors as clients.”
I smiled down at her gratefully. “You make me sound cooler than I am.”
She shot me a look of mock horror. “Are you suggesting books aren’t cool?”
“Ooh, you walked into that one,” Cole teased behind me.
I shot him a look over my shoulder, and he grinned unrepentantly. “Thank you, Mr. Walker, for the narration.”
“You’re very welcome.”
“So how long have you been dating?” Amanda stepped forward. Unlike with her father, there seemed to be just curiosity in the question.
“A while,” Logan replied vaguely. “And before you ask, it is serious. But this party is not. Question time is over. The birthday girl has guests to greet.” Logan led us toward the rest of the tribe, diplomatically making his point. His parents and sister had been invited, they were welcome to get to know Maia, but other than that they had no rights to know anything else about our lives. Not yet.
“You’re kind of wonderful,” I whispered in his ear.
“Just realizing that now?”
I pushed at him playfully, and he laughed, hugging me closer. We watched on in delight as Maia was engulfed by the Carmichaels, Walkers, MacCabes, Sawyers, and so forth. The kids clambered for her attention while she received hugs and kisses from the adults.
“You’re going to crush her,” a tall girl with curly blond hair and blue tip-tilted eyes said, hovering over Maia protectively. Eleven-year-old Beth Carmichael had inherited her father’s height, her mother’s hair and eye shape, and her dad’s pale blue eye color. She was an extremely pretty child, even if she did wear this constant expression of weary disdain that was hilarious on a little girl.
Maia had met Beth when she babysat for Joss and Braden a few weeks ago. According to Maia, the eldest Carmichael child had adopted her as one of her own.
“Okay, we’re done.” Beth fluttered her hands at everyone. “Let her breathe, but most importantly, let her open her presents.” She grinned and stepped back, nodding her head encouragingly at Maia.
Maia smirked. “I think you need to sort out to your priorities, Beth. Breathing always comes before presents.”
We tittered while Beth made a face. “Uh… only just. Presents are, like, the most important part of a birthday.”
Joss, who was holding her baby daughter, Ellie, in her arms, shot her husband a look. “What are you teaching our children?”
“Nu-uh!” Their eight-year-old son, Luke, crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head stubbornly at his sister. “The best part is the food!”
“What are you teaching our children?” Braden countered.
Logan pressed his forehead to the top of mine and chuckled.
“Can we just do something?” Maia said. “So… you know… everyone will stop staring at me.”
“Why?” Beth seemed genuinely bemused by this. “You’re the birthday girl. You should get all of the attention. It’s the third-best part, after the food.”
“You’re not my child,” Joss joked.
Beth put her hands on her hips. “You can’t run from it, Mother.”
Everyone laughed, Braden’s laughter the loudest.
Joss grinned and wrinkled her nose at her daughter. Beth stuck out her tongue and grinned back. “You can’t either,” Joss reminded her.
“I’m younger. I probably could.”
“You run, baby. I’ll run after you.” She winked at her, and Beth smiled before turning her attention back to the still-overwhelmed Maia. I felt happy for Joss and Beth but envious of their teasing. I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like to have grown up in a home where my mother not only loved me, but treated me like a friend.