defense, and took a deep breath before he opened the bathroom door.

Nonna stood on the other side. “Antonio.” She smooshed his cheeks in her scratchy, onion-scented hands and smiled the saddest smile he’d ever seen.

All he could do was hug her, squish her weathered body against him and wish he were strong enough to expunge the cancer with one good squeeze. “Love you, Nonna.”

She pushed out of the hug and patted his cheek. “Why you want to be alone?”

Of all things…she was bringing up his marital status today. “I’m not alone, Nonna. I have all of you.”

Both of her hands patted his face. “Life should be shared.”

“And I am sharing my life.” He slid his hands around her wrists and held them in his.

“No wife. No bebe.” She nodded. “You make a good priest.”

He bit back a laugh. A tattooed, Harley-riding priest. Come to think of it, he’d like to see that. But not him. No way. He was pretty sure celibacy was bad for his health.

“I’m fine, Nonna.”

But she wasn’t.

She nodded and shuffled past him to the bathroom. He wondered if she was going in to get away—like him. But if losing Pops taught him anything, it was that cancer left nowhere to hide.

“Tony, you need to be out here for this.” Ma poked her head into the hallway and flagged him back into the dining room.

Aunt Josie was speed talking in a whisper when he walked into the room. “How do you know she can fly?”

“I’ll check with the doctor,” Aunt Carmella said.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Ma added.

“Aunt Carmella and Uncle Gene have offered to take Nonna back to Lucca for a couple weeks,” Angie explained in Tony’s ear. “And when she gets back from Italy, Aunt Jo and Uncle Mike are going to surprise her by flying her brother in from California. Sort of like a surprise bucket list.”

Tony nodded. A lot could happen during ten minutes holed up in a bathroom.

“I’m going to become Catholic,” Ma announced. Her sisters-in-law gasped.

Angie flashed a look at Tony. Even Dad’s illness hadn’t prompted a gesture like that. But in the years after his death, Ma and Nonna had grown close, close enough that Ma declared her the mother she’d never had. And now this? Talk about grand gestures.

Tony watched as Angie wrapped her arms around their mother’s neck and squeezed. “I want to do something, too,” Angie said. “I’ll have to think about it though. Tony, what about you?”

If the burn from the air hitting his wide eyes was any indication, he looked like a deer in headlights. His family stared back at him.

“Take your time, Tony. Something will come to you.”

But all around him, they didn’t look convinced.

Nonna shuffled into the kitchen. “Mangia. Mangia.” She pointed at the table full of food.

With the conversation stalled, everyone took their seats and ate—everyone except for Tony. He stared at his pasta, in between glances at Nonna. His family was united in giving her months—hopefully years—to remember. They expected him to join in. He’d ignored their expectations without a care before, but this time was different.

Something will come to you.

Nonna slurped a noodle into her mouth and offered him a small smile. She wanted him to join the priesthood or fall in love.

Anyway Tony looked at it, he was screwed.


Trish squeezed a Murano vase between her forearm and bicep while she carried a trash bag stuffed with throw pillows. Using her free hand, she punched a code into the lock box hanging from the Jorgen’s front door, and removed the key to the monstrous French provincial home. Once inside, she dropped the bag of pillows on the Carrera marble floor and admired the glossy white woodwork and matte gray walls. The design was crisp, clean, and sterile, which was exactly what Johann wanted. However, the colorful vase in the crook of her arm and the whimsical chandelier hovering above the entryway were bright, fun, and creative, which was exactly what Amanda wanted. To an interior designer, few things were as satisfying as fusing opposite tastes into one harmonious space.

Kicking her heels aside, Trish walked barefoot over the ice-cold tile. The Jorgens had asked for a runner, but she talked them into leaving the gleaming tile bare. After all, children racing down the stairs and weaving into the living room and out through the dining room could trip on a rug’s edges. Not to mention how much easier it would be to power a riding toy along a smooth, stone surface. She smiled, because even better than fusing opposites was creating a beautiful home that wouldn’t crumble under the blessed bedlam of babies.

Setting the vase on a Grecian-style sofa table and family heirloom the couple received as a wedding present, Trish admired the living room, which was anchored by a Chippendale sofa that had been expertly reupholstered by Tony. She ran her fingertips over the black-and-silver jacquard print and visualized the complementing wingchairs. She’d done good. She always did good when it came to decorating houses. If the rest of her life could be so simple…

Trish wandered to the high-gloss white bookshelves that sandwiched floor-to-ceiling windows, and adjusted Johann and Amanda’s family photos. She tried to concentrate on the gilded frames instead of the sentimental scenes, but Amanda’s pregnancy portrait caught her eye. Ethereal and joyful, the black-and-white photo made Trish’s stomach cramp until, with a tiny growl, she banished the longing and turned her back on the photos. She marched through the living room and into the hallway, determined to reach the pillows and keep her mind focused on work. Self-pity was not acceptable while standing in a home she had decorated from million-dollar top to million-dollar bottom.

Two steps from the plastic bag, her phone vibrated against her hip. She freed the white rectangle from her tunic and grimaced at the caller ID. Her mother. And Trish knew exactly why she was calling.

“I haven’t talked to Jackson,” Trish said without offering a hello.

“Darling, what are you waiting for? I cannot bear for you to call Aunt Clarise and decline your ‘plus one’ simply because you’ve tossed another eligible man aside. How embarrassing. Call him. Beg him to escort you. It’s the only way.”

Trish turned her head to muffle a groan. “Begging a man to be my escort is embarrassing, too.”

“Pick your poison, dear. It’s either show up alone after RSVP’ing for two, or swallow your pride and grovel to Jackson. Who knows, you might have such a lovely evening he’ll ask you out again. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

“I don’t want him to ask me out again. We weren’t compatible.”

“Nonsense. He’s successful. You’re successful. He’s handsome. You’re beautiful. Your father likes him. He likes your father. What more could you want?”

Trish’s stomach cramped again. “Mother, I have to go. I’m at Amanda’s house, waiting on a delivery, and then I have to be at Meyer’s.”

“Fine. But, darling, call him…before it’s too late.”

Silence echoed through the empty house as Trish stood frozen in the foyer. She didn’t want to ask Jackson for anything, but she didn’t want to show up to this wedding alone, opening herself up to questions about her relationship status and the pity that went along with being over thirty and single. What to do?

She walked then, returning the phone to her pocket. Maybe she would go alone. It wasn’t like she deserved anyone’s pity.

Her mother was right about one thing—Trish was successful. She was independent and thriving really. If it

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