Marissa daydreams about being part of a special lunch for the ladies of the Magic Pack, and I thought I’d better make that scene a reality…
Ben looked up from the stove when Marissa came into the diner through the back door. He scowled, but in a way that usually made her blood sizzle a little bit, before tilting his head at her.
“Thought you weren’t coming in today.”
She scooted around the counters that separated them and came to hug him from behind. “I’m not working today. I told you this morning that I had a brunch.” She rested her head against his back, keeping her hold on him loose as he went back to whatever he was grilling.
“You’re brunch is here? At the diner?”
She had to laugh. “Where else would my brunch be?”
Ben stilled. “You know you can’t schedule a brunch here on the first Monday of the month. We’re rented out. Who are you meeting? I bet Bellamy would let you use something out at the Ranch House.”
Marissa laughed again. “Ben, my brunch is here at the diner. At ten a.m., with a group of very special women.”
He spun around, his eyes widening the slightest bit as he grinned. “Ris. You got invited to the Magic Pack brunch?”
Ben was the only person in Little River she’d told about wanting to have brunch with the women. Even though Mrs. Townsand had already outed Marissa as being famous, this was the first invite she’d gotten. Ben had offered to let it slip somehow to Addy, knowing that the second his sister knew that Marissa wanted in on the brunch, she would make the invitation, but Marissa had wanted to, well, earn it somehow.
She bounced on her toes and leaned in for a kiss. “I got invited to the Magic Pack lunch!” she squealed softly.
Ben scooped an arm around her waist and pulled her to him. Even though this thing between them had only been happening a few weeks, she wanted nothing more than for it to last a very long time.
“I am so happy for you. More happy than when you told me your agent loved your new manuscript.” Ben kissed her, but he had to make it quick. The sizzling sounds behind them attested to the fact that he was a little too busy for a make-out.
“Look at you using those fancy writer words,” she teased, finally pulling away from him as he shifted back into cooking mode.
“I was taught by the best.” He wiggled his eyebrows as he flipped the two burgers on the grill. Probably for Bellamy and Addy. Bellamy always called her order in ahead, and Addy had been texting Marissa about how much she wanted a really good burger the minute she got back to Little River. She and Tristan had just flown in the night before.
Marissa scoffed at Ben, placed a kiss on the back of his neck, and then slipped from the kitchen to the dining room.
June, Addy, and Hallie were already sitting in the corner booth, and all three looked up when Marissa came in. Addy scooted right out, hurrying to envelop Marissa in a hug like Marissa hadn’t seen her the night before. She’d been at Ben’s apartment above Addy’s garage when Addy and Tristan got in.
“I’m so glad you’re here. I can’t believe we didn’t think to invite you last time!” She looped her arm through Marissa’s to pull her into a seat next to her.
“She should’ve been here all along.” Hallie grinned at Marissa and reached across Addy to squeeze Marissa’s hand in greeting.
“That would have blown her cover,” June said, chuckling.
The bell for the door dinged, and Bellamy came in, a chubby one-year-old on her hip.
“Oooo, gimme gimme.” June held out her arms for Bellamy’s son, and Bellamy promptly handed him over. June had to adjust a bit to get the little boy to fit given her own rounded stomach, but she didn’t wait to smother his cheeks with kisses.
“Where’s Roxy?” Hallie asked.
Bellamy avoided their eyes as she scooted into the seat next to June and then dug in her bag for some treats to scatter across the table for her son. “Not feeling good.”
The other women all shared a look. Bellamy was terrible at keeping secrets, and her behavior made Roxy’s illness suspicious right off.
Bellamy huffed when she looked up and noted them all hiding smiles. “I told her to just text,” she muttered.
There was soft laughter before Delaynee approached the table. “Good—good morning,” she said, her expression stiff.
Marissa wasn’t the only one to bite back a smile. Kim Thompson had the week off, which meant that Delaynee had to cover the Magic Pack brunch, something that terrified her.
The women around the table shared a look again, each one having experienced Delaynee’s stage fright in front of them. Well, except Marissa. Delaynee hadn’t known she was famous until she already knew her well.
Delaynee didn’t have to utter another word as the women quickly gave their orders, except Addy and Bellamy, who told Delaynee that Ben already had theirs. Inwardly Marissa gave herself a pat on the back for guessing right about the two burgers already cooking when she’d arrived. When Delaynee left with their orders, Bellamy turned to Marissa, probably trying to avoid any probing into Roxy’s “sickness.”
“Well,” Bellamy said. “Since it’s your inaugural lunch, you have to spill all the ways life has been hard since people here found out about you being famous.”
Marissa scrunched up her nose in thought. “Ummm. Two people asked me last week when Ben and I were getting married.”
The other women laughed, but Bellamy scowled. “That’s it?”
“Nobody knows who I am. Mrs. Townsand’s announcement didn’t change anything.” Marissa chuckled at Bellamy’s disappointment. “Wait,” she said. “Actually a couple people came into the diner last week and asked me to sign a couple of my books that they’d bought at the bookstore, but I actually like it when people do that…”
There was more laughter, and the topic changed to everyday life. Addy asked when Marissa’s new book would be out and was disappointed that Marissa still had no idea. They teased Bellamy about Roxy being “sick,” and June shared the 3D ultrasound she’d gotten the week before. Marissa couldn’t help noticing that Hallie shifted a little uncomfortably when it was passed around, and Addy unobtrusively squeezed Hallie’s hand. Marissa found herself wishing she knew what that was about, but before her enthusiasm to be at the lunch could dip from not being part of something, June asked about her search for property in the area. As the women animatedly talked about wanting Marissa to buy something near them all, she felt more than included, and confident that, before long, she’d know why Hallie was uncomfortable talking about June’s baby.
She grinned through the whole lunch, reveling in the group friendship she’d missed since college. She didn’t see her writing friends nearly enough, and the belonging she felt with these women felt as great as those times when she did get together with other writers.
She found Ben in the back when the women dispersed, cleaning up the kitchen to get ready for lunch diners that would start coming in now that the Magic Pack brunch was over.
“Was it everything you’d hoped for?” he asked, his grin teasing.
“And more.” She flung her arms around his neck, enjoying a few moments of kissing him before diners started arriving.
“I love seeing that grin on your face,” he said when he pulled away.
“Get ready to see a lot more of it, because you and this town make me a very happy woman.” She leaned into him again, letting him kiss that smile he said he loved.
“Good to hear.”