Fiance by Friday(10)

By: Catherine Bybee


Gwen remembered. Domestic help filled the halls of the home of a rich duke. And although she wasn’t much of a cook, she wouldn’t take three decent meals a day in return for privacy again anytime soon. Gwen glanced up at the camera she knew was hidden in the corner of the room.

Almost private.

“So what does this have to do with Karen?”

“She’s a suitable match. He needs someone attractive enough to convince his fans that he’s found the right match. If he’s as sought after as everyone tells me, he could have anyone.”

“He could,” Samantha told her.

“Karen’s beautiful. They’ll make a very handsome couple. Karen isn’t rattled by his celebrity status. I doubt there are many women in our database we can say the same about.”

“I agree.”

Gwen kept listing Karen’s attributes. “Her closest friends are you, Eliza, and myself. If she needs to bend our ear about her marriage we can be there for her without her slipping to someone talking with the media. She understands the stakes better than most. She only has to convince the kids at the Boys and Girls Club that she’s helplessly in love.”

“She might be the perfect match,” Samantha agreed. “That is, if everything checks out.”

“Oh, I think so. They’d get along very well.”

“She hasn’t met him yet?”

“No. I’ll wait until you’re done before introducing them. How long do you think you’ll be?”

“Give me forty-eight hours. Michael Wolfe. How exciting. You know what that means if this all works out, right?”

Gwen blew out a breath, anticipating Samantha’s reference to what was coming next. “It means I’ll finally get some privacy around here.” Gwen loved sharing the home with another woman her age, but the last thing she wanted was for anyone in the family to feel sorry for her. They all knew she’d never lived alone.

“You don’t fool me, Gwen.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Oh, would you look at the time? I have a few more phone calls to make. Do be a dear and give my brother a kiss from me, will you?”

“Leave the acting to Michael. You suck at it.”

Gwen chuckled, sent her love, and hung up.

“Hey, Gwen?” Karen called from the back of the house.

Gwen followed Karen’s voice and found her staring out the kitchen window.

“What do you make of that?” Karen pointed in the backyard, beyond their fence. A crane on the street behind them was hoisting a large wooden box over the edge of the house.

“I’ve no idea.”

“I know the old owners were foreclosed on. The ‘for sale’ sign went down a couple of weeks ago. I wonder what the new owners are doing.”

Gwen opened the back door. The sound of a dozen male voices speaking in a minimum of two languages filled the kitchen. Gwen walked through the back door and peered over the fence to the neighbors’ house. The wooden box hung on a large cable that tilted close to the eaves of the house. She held her breath when someone from the other side of the fence shouted for whoever operated the crane to stop. Karen moved to Gwen’s side and stepped up onto a lawn chair to get a better look.

“Do you see anything?”

Their small backyard was fenced with a combination of cinder blocks and wood. The fence that separated the two properties stood no more than five feet tall. A few trees helped separate the space, but no matter how you looked at it, the backyard privacy was nonexistent.

“I think it’s a hot tub.”

The wooden box swung in midair, the hydraulic hum of the machine holding it hiccupped, and the tub jolted about an inch closer to the house.

“I hope it doesn’t fall into the roof,” Karen said.

“I’m guessing that’s what everyone over there is worried about, too.”

Neither of them could stop watching the swinging box until the crane set it safely on the ground.

“What are we doing down here? Your room is the perfect place to watch,” Karen said.

Gwen moved back into the house. “Suit yourself.” Watching the neighbors, especially colorful ones, was a nice source of entertainment, but Gwen hadn’t seen any men in their neighbors’ yard worth gawking over.

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