Liz grabbed one of the paper bags he held and reached for the other. "Where's your brother?"
He shrugged. "Around."
"Justin. Come help unload the trunk." She carried the bags toward the house.
followed with his backpack and her
overnight case. "Take them upstairs." Brandon
As she passed the living room to enter the hall beside the stairs, her father-in-law sat up. "I can help you with those."
"You could track Justin down."
"Impossible. He's so like Derek was. Never could find that boy when there was work to be done."
She wished he would stop comparing Justin to his father. That seemed to give Justin license to behave erratically. The constant comparison also hurt
Still, she was fortunate to have Pop's help with the boys. Working would have
been nearly impossible if he hadn't moved in and taken over the child care. Brandon
Liz put the bags on the counter and unpacked the tea kettle and a canister of sugar. After putting water to heat, she checked the refrigerator. Milk, butter, and eggs stood on the shelves. In the freezer, the ice bin was full, and two bags of ice lay on the lower shelf. Thanks,
she thought. Laurel
She looked around the room and admired the efficient use of space and the features she hadn't found in an apartment kitchen. The counters were marble with streaks of green that were echoed in the painted walls and the curtains. The stove had double ovens and a rotisserie. A microwave hung beneath one of the green cabinets. The large window above the sink overlooked the backyard.
Justin emerged from the basement. "Mom, there's a big freezer down there with food and ice cream. Can I have some?"
She handed him an orange. "Here . . . . It's good for you."
"Ice cream tastes better. One for Bran." She tossed him a second, and he ran off.
By the time she had two pitchers of lemonade and two of iced tea cooling in the refrigerator, the first of her guests arrived.
strode into the kitchen. Her long brown braid slapped against her back.
"Left Johnny with your boys. Did you find the stuff in the freezer?" Laurel
"Justin did." Liz hugged her friend. "You're looking good. Marriage must agree."
stepped back. "Like the curls.Reminds me of Megan's." Laurel
"Unlike hers, mine are induced. Decided a new job deserved a new style." She reached for two glasses. "About the food. You didn't have to. I plan to shop tomorrow."
"Sorry I missed the wedding."
"So am I, but I didn't want to give Alex a chance to change his mind. Was a small simple ceremony. Sue Lee came. She won Johnny's heart."
Liz raised an eyebrow. "She the next recruit?"
"Will she come? Isn't she working toward becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner?"
"Shouldn't keep her from being nurse manager. I've enrolled for my Master's, and Jen's nearly done."
"The Grantley gang rules."
"Where else can you find the best nurses? Our clinical group took top honors."
"Liz, where are you?" Megan called.
"In the kitchen."
Moments later, Megan rushed in and nearly knocked Liz down. "It's good to see you again."
Liz laughed. "Hasn't been that long." Her friend's blonde curls always made her think of dandelions.
"Saw the boys. They've grown. Eric and Alex are organizing the unloading."
"Where's Jenessa?" Liz asked.
"Where else but outside trying to take charge?" Megan said.
Liz groaned. "Let's go before she accuses us of slacking off." She headed down the hall, and the others followed.
"Glad to see you've decided to work." Jenessa stood with her hands on her hips. "Welcome. Eric and Alex are in the truck."
"Then let's begin," Liz said.
With laughter and teasing, the truck was soon unloaded, and the boxes and few pieces of furniture were delivered to the rooms where they belonged. "Let's have a competition," Jenessa said. "Laurel and Alex can have the kitchen. Eric and I will take the living and dining rooms. Megan, you and Liz can work in the study. The first group to empty their boxes gets a prize."
Justin bolted up the stairs. "Bran, Johnny, let's do our room and the bathroom stuff. What's the prize?"
"I'll think of something. Eric, help."
He laughed. "Was your idea."
Megan joined Liz in the study. She looked at the boxes. "These all books? I suppose you want them in alphabetical order."
"Why? On the shelves is fine. This is a competition, remember."
Megan ripped open a box. "Mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, romance. When do you find the time?"
"Little or no social life. The job and the boys take most of my time. These represent my escape."
"What about yourself? Love . . . romance?"
Megan grinned. "Invited my dad to come and help. He turned me down."
A chill rolled along Liz's spine. Did Megan suspect the infatuation? Did her friend have matchmaking in mind? An impossible mission. Liz recalled the day of her interview and
's housewarming. Jeff Carter had been
completely uninterested. "A wise choice on his part." She emptied a
box of nursing texts and opened a second. Laurel
"Probably a good thing for us. He was in a foul mood."
Liz frowned. "Why?"
"A med error on one of his patients." Megan shoved books on a shelf. "Your new unit is a mess. Four nurse managers in three years. There’s been some resistance to having computers. Your unit is the last one. Hope you're not going to throw up your hands."
"Does it look like I plan to leave in a hurry? As for the computers I’ll push for them to arrive." She placed two thick medical texts on the oak desk that had been her father's. She was glad Dr. Carter had opted out. Monday would be soon enough to face him.