Taming Natasha Page 42

All right, he thought. He could get around that. A little time and the most subtle kind of pressure. He would get around it, he promised himself. For the first part of his life, he’d thought nothing would ever be as important to him as his music. In the last few years he’d learned differently. A child was infinitely more important, more precious and more beautiful. Now he’d been taught in a matter of weeks that a woman could be as important, in a different way, but just as important.

Freddie had waited for him, bless her. He would wait for Natasha.

“Want to go to a matinee?”

She’d been braced for anger, so only looked blankly over her shoulder. “What?”

“I said would you like to go to a matinee? The movies.” Casually he walked back to the table to join her. “I promised Freddie I’d take her to the movies this afternoon.”

“I—yes.” A cautious smile bloomed. “I’d like to go with you. You’re not angry with me?”

“Yes, I am.” But he returned her smile as he began to eat. “I figured if you came along, you’d buy the popcorn.”


“The jumbo size.”

“Ah, now I begin to see the strategy. You make me feel guilty, so I spend all my money.”

“That’s right, and when you’re broke, you’ll have to marry me. Great eggs,” he added when her mouth dropped open. “You should eat yours before they get cold.”

“Yes.” She cleared her throat. “Since you’ve offered me an invitation, I have one for you. I was going to mention it last night, but you kept distracting me.”

“I remember.” He rubbed his foot over hers. “You’re easily distracted, Natasha.”

“Perhaps. It was about my mother’s phone call and Thanksgiving. She asked me if I wanted to bring someone along.” She frowned at her eggs. “I imagine you have plans.”

His smile was slow and satisfied. Perhaps the wait wouldn’t be as long as he’d thought. “Are you asking me to Thanksgiving dinner at your mother’s?”

“My mother asked,” Natasha said precisely. “She always makes too much food, and she and Papa enjoy company. When it came up, I thought about you and Freddie.”

“I’m glad to know that you think about us.”

“It’s nothing,” she said, annoyed with herself for stringing out what should have been a simple invitation. “I always take the train up on Wednesday after work and come back Friday evening. Since there is no school, it occurred to me that you both might enjoy the trip.”

“Do we get borscht?”

The corners of her lips curved. “I could ask.” She pushed her plate aside when she saw the gleam in his eyes. He wasn’t laughing, she thought, as much as planning. “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. It’s simply an invitation from friend to friend.”


She frowned at him. “I think Freddie would enjoy a big family meal.”

“Right again.”

His easy agreement had her blowing out a frustrated breath. “Just because it’s at my parents’ home doesn’t mean I’m taking you there for…” She waved her hand as she searched for an appropriate phrase. “For approval, or to show you off.”

“You mean your father won’t take me into the den and ask me my intentions?”

“We don’t have a den,” she muttered. “And no. I’m a grown woman.” Because Spence was grinning, she lifted a brow. “He will, perhaps, study you discreetly.”

“I’ll be on my best behavior.”

“Then you’ll come?”

He sat back, sipping his coffee and smiling to himself. “I wouldn’t miss it.”


Freddie sat in the back seat with a blanket tucked up to her chin and clutched her Raggedy Ann. Because she wanted to drift with her own daydreams she pretended to sleep, and pretended so well that she actually dozed from time to time. It was a long drive from West Virginia to New York, but she was much too excited to be bored.

There was soft music on the car radio. She was enough of her father’s daughter to recognize Mozart, and child enough to wish there were words to sing along to. Vera had already been dropped off at her sister’s in Manhattan, where the housekeeper would holiday until Sunday. Now Spence was directing the big, quiet car through the traffic toward Brooklyn.

Freddie was only a little disappointed that they hadn’t taken the train, but liked snuggling up and listening to her father and Natasha talk. She didn’t pay much attention to what they said. Their voices were enough.

She was almost sick with excitement at the idea of meeting Natasha’s family and sharing a big turkey dinner. Though she didn’t like turkey very much, Natasha had told her that there would be plenty of cranberry sauce and succotash. Freddie had never eaten succotash, but the name was so funny, she knew it would be good. Even if it wasn’t, even if it was disgusting, she was determined to be polite and clean her plate. JoBeth had told her that her grandmother got upset if JoBeth didn’t eat all her vegetables, so Freddie wasn’t taking any chances.

Lights flickered over her closed lids. Her lips curved a little as she heard Natasha’s laugh merging with her father’s. In her imaginings they were already a family. Instead of Raggedy Ann, Freddie was carefully tending to her baby sister as they all drove through the night to her grandparents’ house. It was just like the song, she thought, but she didn’t know if they were going over any rivers. And she didn’t think they would pass through the woods.

Her baby sister’s name was Katie, and she had black, curly hair like Natasha. Whenever Katie cried, Freddie was the only one who could make her happy again. Katie slept in a white crib in Freddie’s room, and Freddie always made sure she was covered with a pink blanket. Babies caught colds, Freddie knew. When they did, you had to give them medicine out of a little dropper. They couldn’t blow their noses themselves. Everyone said that Katie took her medicine best from Freddie.

Delighted with herself, Freddie snuggled the doll closer. “We’re going to Grandmother’s,” she whispered, and began to build a whole new fantasy around the visit.

The trouble was, Freddie wasn’t sure that the people she was pretending were her grandparents would like her. Not everyone liked kids, she thought. Maybe they wished she wasn’t coming to visit. When she got there, they would want her to sit in a chair with her hands folded on her lap. That was the way Aunt Nina told her young ladies sat. Freddie hated being a young lady. But she would have to sit for just hours, not interrupting, not talking too loud, and never, never running in the house.

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