John and Violet dated all week, getting to know each other well. Her parents kept the dogs while John and she went out to eat, to movies, and even bowling. But she didn't care what they did, as long as she could spend time with him. He was just a great guy with so much talent in many areas. But he never made a move on her, as if he wanted to only be her friend. The thought frustrated her, but she never complained.
It was Saturday and her sister's wedding. Since Violet was the maid of honor, she had to be at the church early. John picked her up and they traveled together.
"My parents really like you," she said, on the way to the church. "I think they're going to adopt you into the family today."
He chuckled as he drove. "I get that a lot from a lot of people. But I don't care what others think. I care what you think."
He took her hand. "Yeah. I really want to date you a lot more, but I'm worried that things might be going too fast for you. So I'm holdin' back, but darlin', you're a wonderful gal."
He chuckled. "We have to work on that self-confidence. You have a lot of talent, too. That master's degree in English really paid off."
She snapped her head toward him. "How did you know I have a master's in English?"
He sighed. "That just slipped out. I have to know who I'm working with before I dive in. You have an outstanding personnel record. I just want to know why you're working at a greeting card business when that master's in English could get you just about anywhere."
"Not in this town," she said. "And with the dogs, I have to stay near family so the team can run around all day long and get tired out."
"Ah." He nodded. "The family. I should've guessed. They'll be okay in the cages for a bit, right?"
"Yes. My brother-in-law is going to stop by the house and let them out for a while, as soon as the ceremony's over. He hates weddings." She chuckled. "If it were up to him, he'd skip the wedding and just go to my place to play with the dogs. They're his buddies, or so he says."
"Nice guy. That's Dave, right?"
Her eyebrows lowered. "How did you know that?"
"Well, I sort of met him that day we photographed your parents with the dogs. He was over there checking up on his buddies, because your sister, Emma, was bugging him about having kids. He said he'd rather have dogs than kids." John laughed. "He doesn't know what he's missing without kids."
"Yes, he probably does, with Emma as his wife. She wouldn't be good with kids, and knows it."
John held onto her hand a bit tighter. "But you do. You'd be great with kids."
"Me? I think you have me mistaken for someone else."
He shook his head. "Nope. I see how you deal with those dogs. A baby's not a lot different, just more dependent."
Babies were a lot different, but she wasn't going to debate him on it. "I can't have children because I'd have to take off work," she said in a defiant tone. "I have to work or the dogs and I will be out on the street."
"But a husband could support you."
She chuckled. "Like any man would do that these days. Yeah. Not going to happen. I'll never marry, either. I'm always the odd one out."
He kissed the back of her hand. "No, but that's a different discussion."
Her eyebrows rose in surprise. He was a family man, too, or so it seemed. Everything about John kept getting better and better, but she wasn't going to think about any future with him. He'd probably run off with someone at the wedding, and she couldn't blame him. She had little to offer, to make him stay with her.
Once at the church, they went their separate ways. John sat in a pew, alone, while Violet had to deal with the bride and groom, Ronnie, who was her youngest sister, and Rick, her fiancé. Even though Violet had to help make sure both of them were calm, she kept thinking back to John and his comments.
The wedding began and once the wedding party was at the front of the church, they turned toward the minister. Violet stood between Ronnie and her other sisters in the front of the church. Her older sister, Ashley was extremely pregnant, and Violet hoped she didn't have the kid right there.
The wedding progressed and they got to the 'I do's.' Ashley grabbed her stomach and sat down as she whined.
"Not now," Emma said. "Leave if you're going to have a kid."
"I can't get up." Ashley put her head down. "This kid's coming. I can feel it." She screamed and Greg, her husband, Violet's parents, and her brother, Ben, who was a doctor, all ran to the front of the church. They took Ashley out the back and continued with the ceremony, as if nothing had happened.
John stared at Violet as if confused, but she just shrugged. It was typical for her family.
Once the happy couple was married, a baby cried outside the sanctuary. "It's a boy!" Violet's mom yelled from the back of the church.
People laughed and cheered, and the sound of an ambulance pierced the air. At least Ashley would get to the hospital with the little guy.
The wedding party filed out and greeted everyone as they left the church, heading for the reception at a big hotel's conference room.
John waited for Violet, and as soon as she could get free, drove her to the hotel. "That was the weirdest thing," he said. "No one seemed to care that Ashley was having a baby. They just kept on going."
"Yeah. That's my family. Ben's a doctor, and he's the oldest. I'm sure he took care of everything, too." For some reason, she felt like a failure, her own family embarrassing her.
"That makes sense, then. I guess it was smart to just keep going. But I'd be worried about Ashley. Aren't you worried?"
"I'm sure if there were problems, Mom and Dad would've told everyone. Mom lives for that type of stuff. She used to be a nurse, so she convinced Ben to become a general practitioner, at least."
John just sighed and shook his head. "So it's just the reception yet? What are you doin' after that?"
"Nothing. I think my aunts and uncles are going to my parent's house, but I'm staying home with the team. Dave can't have them." She chuckled. "See why Emma doesn't need kids? She's mean, yelling at Ashley like that when the poor woman was in labor."
"Yeah. Dave has his hands full." John pulled into the lot for the hotel and parked. "Let's go have fun. I hope there's dancing."
"Dancing? I've never danced."
His blue eyes seemed mischievous as he glanced at her. "I'll help you. It's fun. I wish it were square dancin' but I'll take anything right now." He got out of the car and Violet opened her door. Before she could get her feet out of the door, considering the long dress she had to wear as maid of honor, John was at her side, helping her out.
"Thank you," she said, but was more than happy he'd helped her. She had high heels, which kind of threw her off balance.
He took her arm and helped her negotiate the blacktop into the church. He was such a nice guy. The thought frustrated and embarrassed her, because she really wasn't in his league. She didn't even know what his 'league' was, but she knew she wasn't in it.
They went inside and sat down to a beautiful meal. After they ate and had cake, Ronnie threw the bouquet, but Violet stood back. She wasn't even going to try to catch it. Let one of her cousins get the thing.
The garter was next, and when Rick, Violet's new brother-in-law, threw it, he aimed right for John, who gladly caught it. Violet was more than disgusted, and left the room to wash her hands. She didn't need to see John enjoying himself. She also didn't want to dance. If only she'd driven, she could go home, but John seemed too happy, talking to everyone around him.
She left the bathroom and ran right into a big chest. As she lifted her eyes, John stood right front of her. "Are you okay?" he asked.
"Sure. My hands were sticky from the cake." She could lie as easily as anyone else.
"I want to dance and was waiting for you." He grinned, and she tried to return the smile, but she really wanted to go home.
"Okay. But you teach me."
"Just follow my lead. I won't step on your shoes." He chuckled and glanced downward. "I hope you don't, either. Those heels are lethal."
She grinned, but it was half-hearted.
They went into the room, which had been set up to be a dance floor. People were slow dancing to a familiar tune, and John took her hand and began to dance with Violet, too. Her cousins pointed and laughed, but with John in the lead, it was easy.
Right when the music stopped, Violet's older uncle Gene stepped forward and touched John's arm. "Jake Oakwood. I can't believe it. How's that greeting card business of yours doing? Are you keeping your dad busy?"
"It's doing well, Mr. Ranger. Are you doing well at your little five-and-dime?" Both men laughed.
Violet looked at her uncle. He was the owner of the huge chain of Ranger Department stores and she knew him but not well.
But Gene knew John? He'd called him Jake Oakwood, as in Oakwood Greeting Cards. Wait. John was the owner of her company? But the owner was supposed to be some old guy in San Antonio.
She stepped away, staring at John…or Jake…or whatever his name was.
John turned toward her, his face forming a frown.
"You own my place of employment?" she whispered.
"It's not what you think," he said, stepping closer.
"Oh, I think it is what I think." She walked away and wound her way through the big crowd until she found her brother-in-law, Dave, on the side, talking to her cousin Jim.
"I want to go home," she said to Dave. "I have to check on the team."
"Aren't you with John? I was just going to go check on them myself."
She sighed. "John's a liar. I want to go home, now."
"I'll take you. I can't have you beaten up by a liar." He excused himself and they both grabbed their coats and got into Dave's truck. It was time for Violet to quit her job and move on.