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The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

By:Amy E. Reichert

• CHAPTER ONE •

Lou hoisted up her gown and winced as she tottered across the parking lot. The sparkly four-inch heels had looked so pretty in the box, but they felt like a mortar and pestle grinding each bone in her foot. She missed her green Crocs.

Lou plucked at the tight elastic, squeezing her under the sleek black dress her fiancé, Devlin, had given her. He walked five steps ahead of her, so she scurried to catch up.

“Overstuffed truffle and foie gras sausage,” Lou said.

Devlin’s face crinkled in confusion. “What?”

“It’s a new dish, inspired by how I feel in these clothes. Maybe served over brown butter dumplings . . .” Lou tilted her head, visualizing the newly formed meal. Devlin frowned at her and sighed.

She wilted at the familiar reaction. “I’m sorry. It helps distract me.”

His features softened as he looked at her. “You’ll be fine. You look stunning.”

Lou gave a feeble smile, stepping into the soft, yellow light of the Milwaukee Country Club’s foyer, the cushy patterned carpet springing back with each step. Black-and-white pictures adorned the buttery walls, telling the club’s upper-crust history. Many showed eager young men in white standing behind wealthy gentlemen in funny pants. Hunger for something more burned in the young men’s eyes. Lou understood.

Lou turned toward Devlin, looping her arm through his.

“You didn’t need to ship me off to the salon all day, or spend so much on this dress.” She smoothed the fabric over her hips, the snug undergarments matching the tightness in her stomach. She wore a floor-length, black strapless column of jersey with matching elbow-length gloves—simple, elegant, and too expensive.

“It’s my gift to you. You never pamper yourself.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Get used to it. The future wife of a prominent attorney should enjoy a little spoiling.”

“How am I supposed to top all this for your birthday?”

“For starters, you’ll make your grandmother’s amazing coconut cake. I’ll tell you the rest later.” He winked.

Devlin smiled down at her, and Lou’s breath caught a little in her throat. He looked dashing in his tuxedo. Its classic lines fit his athletic frame, giving him an air of latent power and manliness; the faint smell of cloves lingered around him. His thick, dark hair offset his crystal-blue eyes—her very own Disney prince. He set her bejeweled arm on his and resumed their progress into the crowd. Lou clung to his Italian-wool-clad arm as if it were a life preserver as they wandered through the perfumed and primped throng of attorneys and spouses at the annual firm gala.

The private club swam with glittering women and powerful men. Waiters in white tuxedo jackets swerved through the crowd, delivering twenty-year-old scotch and white wine to thirsty guests. Additional waiters carried trays with appetizers, the obligatory bacon-wrapped water chestnuts and peeled shrimp with cocktail sauce. Lou sighed at the dull offerings, imagining what she could do with this party’s budget.

Devlin steered her toward a group of older men with elegant women by their sides.

“Bill, how are you?” Devlin said, extending his arm toward the largest man. “And you remember my beautiful fiancée, Elizabeth.” All eyes turned to her. Lou gritted her teeth at his introduction.

Bill turned to Devlin and Lou. “We were just talking about the new restaurant critic for the paper, A. W. Wodyski. Have you read his reviews?”

Devlin shook his head. “I’ve heard of him but haven’t had the time to read. The Churman case is taking more time than expected. Any good recommendations?”#p#分页标题#e#

“The opposite. He obliterates every restaurant he reviews. But he does it in the most entertaining way. Like Dennis Miller as a restaurant critic.”

“Really?” Lou faked indifference, biting back the real commentary she wanted to share about such arrogance.

“He hasn’t ever given a positive review. I’ve even heard a few of the restaurants he reviewed had to close.”

“I don’t buy that,” said Devlin. “No one review could close a restaurant that was good.”

“It could if they were struggling to begin with,” Lou said softly, frowning. She opened her mouth to continue, but Devlin nudged her with his elbow. She nodded and stayed silent as the conversation flowed back to clients and billable hours. Lou flicked open her rhinestone-studded clutch and pushed a button on her phone. No new messages. She closed the bag.

A waiter appeared with drinks for the group. Lou looked at his name tag, then into his face and said, “Thank you, Tyler.” He startled a little, then nodded in acknowledgment. Lou smiled. The rest of the small group continued talking about upcoming trials and the difficulties of finding good nannies. Lou watched the waiter flit into the crowd toward the bar, empty glasses appearing on his tray as he crossed the room, bobbing swift nods as he took new drink orders efficiently. He served without interrupting, moved quickly without rushing. Lou had turned to follow him when she felt a tap on her arm.

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