THE GARDENS RESTAURANT
was such a wonderful idea!" Jillian Stokes exclaimed as she took a sip of
her champagne. "Lorraine, I just can't thank you enough for
"Well, I thought it would
be fun for all of us to get together," Lorraine Davis smiled warmly.
"After all, this will be our last chance to get together while you're still
a single girl. It's only a few days until the wedding."
"Oh, and I can't
wait!" Jillian let out a small giggle. "I'm just surprised
that you went to all the trouble to put this together."
after everything you've done for me," Lorraine smiled as she reached across
the table to take Jillian's hand, "it's the least I could do. If it
weren't for you and your support, I would never have had the strength to marry Douglas. You were right. That was the best thing for me to do."
"I'm just glad that
you're happy," Jillian nodded. "I told you that everything would
work out for the best." She paused, leaned back in her seat, and
looked at the table of girls who had gathered together in honor of her upcoming
is just going to be the best wedding ever!" Helen Van Dyne exclaimed.
"I just can't believe that you haven't even shown me your dress! I'm
your maid of honor, for pete's sake!"
"I just want it to be a
surprise," Jillian laughed. "Trust me. You're going to
love it." She glanced across the table at Grace Davis and
smiled. "I guess since I'm going to be married to Reginald, you and I
are going to be almost like family, too, Grace."
do you mean?" Grace stammered, feeling rather awkward around Jillian and
"Well, you're seeing Trevor." Jillian paused and grinned. "I can only expect
that it's a matter of time before there's another Callison wedding. You
and I could wind up sisters-in-law."
Grace nervously looked away. The topic of her relationship with Trevor
wasn't something that she felt comfortable going into. "Trevor and I
aren't really all that serious. I...think it's a little soon for us
to be discussing marriage."
"Oh, you know what I
mean!" Jillian reached across the table and patted Grace's
hand. "If you and Trevor get married, we'll be family, too."
Grace sunk down in her seat
and bit her lip. Why did she have to bring up Trevor? Why did she
just have to assume that they'd get married? Why did Lorraine have to drag
her to this silly luncheon? Grace barely knew Jillian and didn't really
know Helen at all. Filled with anxiety, Grace twisted the linen napkin
that lay in her lap and looked away. She just didn't belong there with
them. In fact, she wasn't sure she belonged with Trevor. How long
would it be before he realized that and just cast her aside for someone more
suitable for his class of people?
"Grace, are you all
right?" Lorraine whispered as she eyed her curiously. Her
sister-in-law's uneasiness wasn't lost on her.
Grace muttered softly. "Just a little...out of place."
Lorraine took a deep breath
and silently wondered if it had been a good idea to include Grace in the
afternoon. It had seemed like a nice gesture at the time considering that
Grace and Trevor were seriously involved. Besides, Grace had seemed so
distant since her mother's passing. She barely seemed to want to go out of
the house. Lorraine was certain that a lively lunch with the girls would
have cheered her spirits. Now, however, she wasn't sure.
"And, from the way Paddy
talks," Jillian continued, unaware of the distant thoughts of Lorraine and
Grace, "we won't even have to worry about Stephanie trying to upset things
like she did at our engagement party. According to him, Steph seems to be
shooting for sainthood!" She laughed at her own comment.
Sainthood? That was the funniest thing she'd heard all week! Sure,
she was probably trying to stay on her best behavior to impress Patterson, but
Jillian was certain that whatever good deeds that Stephanie was performing were
nothing more than an act. It would take a lot more than a few small
gestures to convince Jillian that her one time rival had made a change for the
At the sound of Stephanie's
name, Helen flinched slightly as she remembered their previous run-in.
Stephanie had revealed that she knew all about Helen's secret romance with Mark
Linford, Jillian's own brother-in-law, and had threatened to tell all.
Maybe Clark had been right in his insistence that they carry on with their
vendetta against her. Maybe they could finally end Stephanie's
threat to Jillian's happiness once and for all. But, then again, maybe
they were only stirring up more trouble than they could handle. Maybe it
was all something that was just better left alone. However, Clark had
insisted and Helen was certain that he wouldn't let her back out of their plans
whether she wanted to or not.
"In fact," Jillian
continued, "I'm going to declare my wedding day completely Stephanie and
Dane free! The last thing I want to have to deal with is those two!"
Grace winced at the mention of
Dane's name. Lorraine was quick to notice and looked at her
curiously. Silently, Lorraine began to wonder about exactly what had
happened the night that Dane and Grace had been stuck in the snow storm.
She was becoming more certain that there was much more that Grace wasn't
"Lets not...talk about
Dane and Stephanie," Helen spoke up. "Even mentioning them in
the same breath as your wedding might be a jinx."
right," Jillian sighed. "Considering everything else that's
going on, the last thing I need hanging over our heads is a jinx.
Reginald's got enough trouble as it is with the investigation into Annabelle's
murder." She hesitated for a moment and then shook her head.
"But, no, I'm not even going to allow myself to think of that,
either. This is going to be a happy day. In fact, I think that being
here at The Gardens is actually going to be good luck."
"What do you mean?"
Lorraine looked at Jillian curiously.
"Well, after all, this is
the place where Reginald proposed." Jillian closed her eyes, took a
deep breath, and smiled. "In fact, I can remember it just like it was
"I have never met anyone like you in my
entire life. I have danced with some of the most prominent young men in
New York society and even got proposed to a couple of times..." She
felt a catch in her throat when she realized she'd mentioned proposals.
She didn't want to feel like she was leading him in that direction.
Jillian didn't want Reginald to ask her to marry him because he felt like it was
something he was supposed to do. She wanted him to do it because he wanted
to do it. "I mean...no one could ever hold a candle to you. You
are the greatest love I've ever had."
"So you've loved others?" He
grinned wickedly as he teased her. He leaned back in his chair as he
watched her squirm a bit trying how to untie herself from her own words.
"How many others have there been?"
"One or two." She smiled
innocently as she realized exactly what he was doing. He always enjoyed
the more playful aspects of their relationship. She remembered the time he
had too much to drink and put ice down her dress. She was so mad at him at
the time, but she could never stay mad for long. There were always so many
more facets to Reginald that no one else ever saw. No one but her.
He interrupted her memory by reaching across the table and taking her hand in
"Jillian, I love you like no one else in the
world." He rose from his chair knelt down beside her while he reached
in his pocket.
"Reginald?" Was this it?
Was this the moment?
He pulled a tiny satin box out and held it in
front of her. Slowly, he opened it to reveal the most beautiful princess
cut diamond that she'd ever seen. "Jillian Marie Stokes, will you do
me the most gracious honor of agreeing to become my wife?" Jillian
felt the tears of joy begin to form as she held out her hand.
"Oh, yes, Reginald, yes!"
"This is going to be the
most perfect wedding that this town has ever seen!" Helen exclaimed, nearly
giddy with excitement as she pushed thoughts of Clark and Stephanie out of her
head. "You're going to be the most beautiful bride."
"And I'm going to have
the most wonderful husband in the world," Jillian sighed. "Mrs.
Reginald Callison---Jillian Callison. It has such a nice ring to
it, doesn't it?"
"I know it's going to be
a beautiful wedding," Lorraine nodded.
"Reginald and I are
finally going to get the happy ending we've always wanted," Jillian
smiled. "And, for once, nothing and no one is going to be able to