The Wingman(5)

By: Natasha Anders

“Ooh, one more,” Shar cooed as she lifted the huge box from the center of the table. She directed a smug little smile at Daisy, and the latter curled her fingers into the palms of her hands as she realized that Shar—tonight’s “events coordinator”—had deliberately not told her about the gifts. What a spiteful cow. Daisy had no clue why Shar and Zinzi disliked her so much, but they had always gone out of their way to make her feel like a total idiot in public.

“It’s eight o’clock, Lia,” Daisy said, properly speaking for the first time all evening. “You have to get to your dinner with the Edmontons, don’t you? My present isn’t important. You can open it at home.”

Lia, despite the company she kept, was a sweetheart, and even though she didn’t quite “get” Daisy, she was loyal to a fault. Unfortunately that trait worked against Daisy in that moment.

“Nonsense,” Lia said in her sweet voice. “I’ve been dying to see what’s in this box all evening. A few more minutes won’t do any harm. I can’t very well leave my baby sister’s gift unopened, can I?”

“Yes, you can. I don’t mind,” Daisy said, and Daff glanced at her sharply as if picking up on her desperation.

“Yeah, Lia, we can open it later,” Daff chimed in, and Daisy slanted her a grateful look.

“But we’re all really curious now,” Zinzi said with a sharklike grin, and Lia nodded, her mind made up, before tugging the bright-red ribbon off the box. Daisy sank back against the sticky leather seat of the booth and kept her face expressionless as her sister tore off the wrapping and then glanced down into the box.

“Oh,” Lia said blankly as she lifted one of the practical fawn-colored hiking boots from the box. She stared at it for a long moment. “This is . . . nice.”

“It’s for your honeymoon,” Daisy explained bleakly. “Because you guys are going . . .”

“Oh, Daisy,” Lia said softly, a beautiful smile lighting up her face. “How thoughtful. Thank you.”

Lia and Clay were going on a hiking and horseback honeymoon in Peru, which had surprised the hell out of Daisy because Dahlia was not into the great outdoors. The idea must have been Clay’s, and Daisy just wanted to get her sister something to help her prepare for an adventure Lia was totally ill-equipped to deal with.

“Guess you didn’t get the memo about the gifts,” Zinzi pointed out with a snide little smile.

“Shut up, Zinzi. I think it’s an awesome present, and I wish I’d thought of it,” Daff said. “Lia’s going to need that and more for the honeymoon from hell her future husband has planned.”

“I think it’ll be romantic,” Lia said defensively. She was always sensitive to even the slightest hint of criticism aimed at her precious Clayton.

“It will,” Daisy soothed, shooting her eldest sister a warning glare, causing Daff to roll her eyes.

“Anyway, I really love the boots, Daisy.” Lia wrapped her arms around Daisy’s shoulders and hugged her. “So sweet. Thank you.”

“Hmm,” Shar purred. “So practical. But you’re a practical kind of girl, aren’t you, Daisy? Not one for all the naughty frivolities of the evening, I suppose? Well, that’s to be expected, of course. Lack of experience and all that. I hope we haven’t embarrassed you too much?”

“Jesus, Shar, must you be such a cat?” Daff asked in disgust.

“Anyway,” Lia intervened quickly when it looked like Shar was about to retort. “I must be off. Thanks for a lovely evening, ladies.”

Zinzi and Shar got up too; they had been trailing after Lia like lapdogs lately. The news of her engagement to one of the most eligible bachelors in the region had made them latch on to Daisy’s middle sister even more tightly. It was sickening to watch them fawn all over her, when both Daisy and Daff were fully aware that either woman would stab their sister in the back in an instant. Zinzi and Shar had never meant to stick around after Lia left the party, and the other women knew that, which was why they had arranged to stay a bit longer after the hen party disbanded. They wanted to have some real fun, which was almost impossible with Zinzi and Shar around.

Everyone said their good-byes, and lots of air kisses were exchanged. Daisy received a hug and kiss from Lia, but the two other women simply “overlooked” her in the flurry, which Daisy didn’t mind at all. The remaining women watched the trio leave and then sat down with huge grins.

“Why do we hang out with those two again?” Nina asked and a chorus of “dunnos” followed.

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