As he listened to the second phone call from his mother, Greg Jenkins noted the increased tremor in her voice.
“Samantha still hasn’t arrived. And she’s still not answering her phone. I’m so worried. Should I call the hospitals? What—”
“Whoa. Slow down, Mum. Don’t stress out. Remember what the doctor said. Don’t worry about Sam. We all know how bad she is with time. She’d be late for her own funeral.” Greg laughed, hoping to ease his mother’s tension.
“Please, Mum, I’m sure you’re worrying unnecessarily. Sam has—”
“Gregory, dear, I wish you wouldn’t call her that. Sam’s a boy’s name.”
“Okay, Mum.” He started again, using the name Sam herself loathed. “Samantha’s a big girl now. I’m sure she’s all right, but just to put your mind at rest I’ll go and check on her. She’s probably so wrapped up in her new man she’s forgotten she was supposed to visit you this weekend.” He laughed again.
“What new man?” The pitch of her voice rose.
Greg could almost see her gripping the phone in both hands as she waited for her eldest child to answer. Silently berating himself for opening his big mouth, he wrestled with what he could say without digging himself into a bigger hole.
“Sorry, Mum, there’s someone at the door. I’ll have to go, but I promise I’ll get Sam… Samantha to phone you as soon as I can. Now don’t get all worked up. There’s nothing to worry about, you’ll see. Bye, Mum.”
He hung up, sucked in a deep breath and slowly released it. There was no one at the door but at short notice, it was the only thing he could think of to get out of what would’ve been the inevitable interrogation. His sister needed her butt kicked for letting down their mother like that. Sam, of all people, knew how over-
Greg picked up the phone again, and pressed the two buttons that would dial his sister’s home phone a suburb away. As he waited for the call to connect, he wandered through the house into the kitchen. The phone started ringing. Cradling it between his chin and shoulder, he filled the kettle. The phone rang out, which was good. It probably meant Sam was en route to their mother’s place. Maybe she’d been unlucky enough to end up with a flat tyre or broken down. It was bound to be something as simple as that.
The kettle boiled as he tried Sam’s mobile number. It too went unanswered, but at least this time Greg was able to leave a message. He looked at his watch. He’d give her half an hour and if she hadn’t called him back by then, he would have to think of what else he could do to try to track her down. Younger sisters, who’d have them?
Twenty minutes later, he’d emptied the coffee pot and finished off the best part of a packet of shortbread biscuits without realising it. His mother’s anxiety had started to rub off on him. He didn’t wait the half hour out. Instead, he reached for the phone and dialled Sam’s mobile first and then her home again, ending up with exactly the same results as before. No answer at either.
Had it been a Freudian slip when he’d inadvertently mentioned the new man in Sam’s life to his mother? Greg knew nothing about the guy except he was, in Sam’s words, “tall, dark, and drop-
Megan Brighton peered around the edge of her menu, flinching as her eyes met the ginger-
“So what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” asked the man seated on her right, before laughing.
She groaned inwardly. Why’d she allowed herself to be talked into this? She didn’t belong there. She was single because she chose to be. A single, professional career woman. Well, at least that’s what she told anyone who cared to listen, including herself.
“I’m not sure,” she said, her gaze not shifting from her menu. “It’s not quite what I’d imagined.” If it hadn’t been for Brenda, Megan knew she would have scarpered as soon as she caught sight of the ten or so white-
A beefy hand cut through her vision. “It’s Wayne, by the way. Wayne McGurk.”
She blinked and forced a smile. “Nice to meet you, Wayne. Megan Brighton.”
“So what do you do?”
“Recruitment consultant. And you?”
Wayne puffed out his chest. “Property entrepreneur. Units, villas, townhouses, duplexes, houses, vacant land, commercial, residential. You name it. Not good to have all your eggs in one basket. The key is to buy well under market price to minimise risk. Instant equity…”
Megan’s gaze swept the table. Next to Mr Ginger Moustache, whose place tag actually named him as Robert, sat Nick, a square-
“…investment. You have to have the gift.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Megan caught Brenda smirking. Under the cover of the tablecloth, she kicked her foot sideways and connected with her friend’s ankle. Brenda chuckled before wincing in overplayed mock pain and indignation.
A giggle bubbled in Megan’s throat. She swallowed hard. The guy with the spectacles was looking her way, a smile playing on his lips. Heat flooded her face. What the hell was she doing there?
Shielded by her menu, Megan leaned to her left and elbowed Brenda in the ribs. Her so-
More importantly, she exuded a warmth that men and women alike were drawn to. They’d been friends since high school and Megan, like others, found her hard to resist. So, here she was in a room full of strangers trying to put together an escape strategy that wouldn’t offend her well-
Oblivious to the elbow jabbed in her ribs, Brenda turned to Megan and grinned. Brenda actually looked like she was enjoying herself. No accounting for some tastes. “Hunk alert at nine o’clock.”
Brenda cupped her hand around the left side of her face. “Over there,” she said, holding a finger close to her cheek, but still managing to indicate the general direction of the door.
Twisting in her seat, Megan watched the man ambling across the room towards the table. At first glance, he reminded her of a younger and darker-
He reached the table and, smiling half-
In her peripheral vision, she glimpsed Brenda stretching an arm across the table in the act of swapping her place tag with the one at the still vacant chair, the one next to Lawson.