Heart to Heart. Kayla Perrin
concern himself with. To him, she was an aunt who had had success in the music industry. There was no doubt that the kids in his class would be fascinated with her, as he was.
Kwame had asked her a million questions about her career, but the toughest one was, “When are you gonna make another album?”
That question had been the hardest to answer, and the most painful, given what had recently happened with Brian.
Pushing the thought from her mind, Deanna said, “Sure, hon. That sounds like something I can do.”
“Cool!” Kwame exclaimed. Then he bounded out of the room and back onto the patio.
No sooner than he was gone Callie stuck her head through the door and said, “Why are you in here by yourself? Everyone’s going to think that you’re antisocial.”
“Sorry,” Deanna said. “I was just trying to check something.” She held up her iPhone.
“That’s the problem with today’s technology—people are too addicted. They forget their families exist, even when they’re at a family gathering.”
“I know, I know,” Deanna said. “And you’re totally right. It’s just…I was trying to find more leads regarding our mother. I keep feeling that the one clue we need is just around the corner.”
“I hear you,” Callie said. “And you know I want the same thing. But there’ll be time for that later. Besides, who knows how many more beautiful weekends we’ll have like this?”
Callie was right. It was mid-September, and the weather had already started to cool down. There had been some downright chilly days in the past couple of weeks, but today was bright and sunny, definitely a day that should be spent outside.
So Deanna slipped her phone into the pocket of her slacks and headed back out onto the patio. Happy chatter filled the air. It was a small gathering, the immediate family with one notable guest: Michael Jones.
Natalie was now dating the wide receiver for Cleveland, and they both seemed radiant. Even Uncle Dave’s spirits had improved dramatically in the past month. Seeing two of his nieces find love was bringing him immeasurable joy.
Deanna’s gaze went from Natalie and Michael, who were sitting side by side and holding hands, to Callie and Nigel. They both stood at the barbecue, where Nigel was placing the newly grilled corn onto a plate, and Callie was basting them with butter. The two had fallen into a happy, domestic routine, and to the outside world it would seem they had been together for years. Perhaps they had been—in their hearts. Deanna had never seen two people more in love than Nigel and Callie, and the fact that they had reunited after being apart for ten years proved that they had the kind of love that could stand the test of time.
“Grilled corn,” Callie announced, walking with the plate toward the patio table. “Get it while it’s hot.”
“My favorite,” Deanna said, snagging the first piece. The others quickly snatched up the remaining ones.
“So, Deanna,” Callie said as she took a seat beside her. “Nigel’s wondering if you have a boyfriend in California.”
At the question, Deanna’s eyes widened. “What?”
“A boyfriend,” Callie repeated. “You know, someone you’re seriously dating.”
“I know what you mean.” Deanna made a face. “But I’m wondering why the question. I’ve been here four months and you haven’t heard me mention any male friend.”
“I know,” Callie said, “but Nigel didn’t want to assume.”
Deanna eyed her sister tentatively. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”
“Oh, good.” Callie smiled. “So you’re free and single.”
Deanna noticed that Michael and Natalie were no longer gazing into each other’s eyes but staring at her with interest. She made a face. “I’m wondering why Nigel is concerned about the status of my love life.”
Callie looked toward Nigel. He gave a nod, indicating his agreement for her to explain why. “Nigel has a friend at the police station,” Callie said. “He thinks that maybe you two will hit it off.”
Deanna raised both eyebrows. Her future brother-in-law was interested in her finding a man? Deanna highly doubted that. She would bet her last nickel that Callie had put him up to it, and maybe even Natalie, too. Now that both Callie and Natalie had found love, would they have a steady stream of police officers and football players for Deanna to choose from?
“So because both of my sisters are happily coupled off, I have to find someone, too?” Deanna asked.
“Something like that,” Natalie said, grinning widely. Though she and Michael were sitting beside each other and holding hands, Natalie’s legs were now extended and stretched out on Michael’s lap. They were completely at ease together, totally content. Deanna didn’t remember seeing her sister ever look quite so happy.
“And Nigel thinks that Marshall would love you,” Callie went on. “You said he’s a fan of her music, didn’t you, sweetie?”
“Yep,” Nigel agreed. “He said he’s followed your career, loves your music, thinks you’re beautiful.”
Deanna refrained from rolling her eyes. She didn’t want a man who liked her for her music. All too often, a man was enamored with her public persona and not the real her.
“If it’s all well and good, I think I’ll pass on being set up.”
“Come on,” Callie said. “What could it hurt?”
“I never do well on blind dates. I don’t know why, I just don’t. I guess I feel too awkward, which causes the whole date to spiral downhill.”
“Then don’t think of it as a blind date,” Callie said. “Think of it as an evening where you’ll be meeting someone new.”
“I’ll still say no,” Deanna said with a frown.
Callie shook her head. “So stubborn.”
“What could it hurt to meet him?” Natalie asked. “Maybe Callie and Nigel could have us all over, so it’d be less awkward.”
“Right now, the last thing on my mind is dating,” Deanna said. “I’m more interested in finding our mother.” She didn’t want to add that the experience with her ex Brian had really
shaken her. She could happily remain single for a long, long while.
Deanna hadn’t chosen wisely before when it came to love. She’d had her heart broken, and she knew that she had also broken her share of hearts. There had been men who were into her—perfectly nice men whom she hadn’t been able to give all of her heart. For the most part, her career had been her everything, her main focus.
Which was what made the demise of her relationship with Brian even harder to stomach. In a sense, he had been the perfect man for her because he was involved in the music industry. He was an established producer, and Deanna had met him at a party and had been ecstatic when he told her that he admired her music and wanted to work with her. It hadn’t taken her long to realize that Brian was also romantically interested in her. They’d gotten along well, their banter had been easy and the flirtation had been fun. So Deanna had decided to throw caution to the wind and take a chance on love with Brian. She had begun to fantasize that they could become a music industry super-couple….
Instead, Deanna had learned a horrible lesson about mixing business with pleasure.
It was a lesson she had learned when she first left Cleveland and went to Hollywood. When, as a twenty-one-year-old girl, she met the man who would help get her career off the ground.
“Dee?” Natalie said tentatively.
Jerking her eyes to her sister’s, and seeing the look of concern, Deanna realized that she was gripping the beer bottle in front