“We were. Actually, the later the better for me. How about lunch? While we eat, I can bring you up to speed on what we plan. After lunch we can go look at the location. It’s the old billiard room.”
“That will be good. Lunch will be the best time for me,” Lila said, crossing to the sideboard to pick up a plate and napkin.
“At three on Monday, there is a TCC meeting and I plan to attend, but you and I will be finished by then,” Shannon said.
“I’ll bet my dad is suffering over the thought of turning the billiard room into a child-care center.” Lila laughed and Shannon joined her.
“It’s time to shake them up a little,” Shannon said. “Besides, they’ll get a new billiard room. That renovation will be next.”
“Shannon, do the Gordons have the construction contract?” Lila asked, realizing for the first time that she might see a lot of Sam.
“As a matter of fact, no, they don’t.”
“Why not? I’d think they would have been awarded the contract without any conversation about it,” Lila said.
“I wondered about that, too. I was told they bowed out because of a ‘conflict of interest,’ but frankly, in my opinion, they wanted to avoid it because they hate to see the center become a reality.”
“Could be. The Gordon brothers are as old-fashioned as my dad.”
“Maybe they’re that way because they lost their mother when they were so young. Perhaps their dad just settled into a chauvinistic manner toward women.”
“Probably. Even with a mom, my dad’s influence, unfortunately, is stronger on Hack than my mom’s.”
Lila and Shannon browsed, each selecting small bites of the pale, steaming artichoke dip and dainty bits of pineapple, strawberries and kiwi. As soon as both had tall glasses of ice water, Lila waved toward the wide hallway. “Let’s go sit on the porch, where we can talk. Everyone’s in the back or in the house.”
They walked outside on the porch and sat in tall cushioned rocking chairs. The music was diminished, the sounds of the crowd muffled, while shadows grew longer and the sun slanted lower. “You look great, Shannon. Married life becomes you.”
“You have to meet Rory. Right now he’s back in Austin. My foreman is ill and I’m needed here, so I’m at the ranch.”
“You’re newlyweds, very happily married. What else? Bring me up to date on your life,” Lila said.
Shannon shrugged. “While I’m here, it’s just the same old, same old. I run the family ranch,” she replied, raking her blond hair from her face with her fingers.
“I don’t know how you do it,” Lila said, shaking her head. “I’ve never figured out how you manage the Bar None all on your own.”
“Just one of the boys,” Shannon replied dryly, and Lila laughed. “I’m not alone anymore, not since getting married. It’s just that Rory is busy in Austin.”
“Too bad you have to be apart.”
Shannon shrugged. “When my foreman is back on his feet, I can go to Austin. Right now, this is a rare moment, this party, and I’m enjoying it. I’ve told you about me. Let’s talk about you, unless you don’t want to. We’re good friends or I wouldn’t ask—what’s wrong?”
“Wrong?” Lila said while her heart missed a beat.
Shannon shrugged. “If you don’t want to talk about it, I understand. I thought you might need a friend right now.”
Shocked that Shannon could so easily tell that something was wrong in her life, Lila ran her fingers in a circle over her knee and debated confiding in her friend. So far her mother was the only Texan she had talked to.
“All right. It’s confidential for now. Since I’ll be here anyway in a couple of weeks, I came home early to rest and talk to Mom. Not my dad. Never Hack. I’m pregnant, Shannon.”
“Great grief.” Shannon’s eyes widened. “Someone in the movie business? An actor? A star? A producer who’s married?”
“Hey, wait,” Lila said, laughing and feeling a lift to the worries that weighed on her only moments earlier. “Stop jumping to conclusions. A married producer? I wouldn’t go out with one of those. I shouldn’t have gone out with the man I did,” she said, becoming somber again. “Shannon, he’s local. He’s here at the party.”
“You don’t have to say who it is. Are you going to tell him?”
“Not until I make some decisions. When he finds out, he’s so old-fashioned he’ll want to marry me.”
“Oh, great grief. If it had to be a local, why didn’t you pick someone who’s open and liberal and not still thinking a woman’s place is in the kitchen and bedroom?”
“Hindsight is always better.”
“I’m sorry. I’m not helping. I can understand why you don’t want to marry him, but if he’s old-fashioned, he’s going to want to marry you. Oh, boy, is he going to want to marry.”
“I’m not marrying one of the locals to move back here and give up my career and my independence.”
Shannon tilted her head to study her friend. “When are you breaking the news?”
“I wish it could be after I’m back in California and there’s half the U.S. between us, but I’ll probably tell him before I go back. Okay—absolutely between the two of us. It’s—”
“Don’t tell me,” Shannon said, covering her ears. “I don’t want to know.”
Lila laughed. “You do make me feel better. I can tell you and you’ll probably guess anyway.”
“No. I don’t need to know. I don’t even want to know, because it will be easier later if someone gets to quizzing me. You know, you can keep that quiet only so long,” she said, glancing over Lila. “I guess that’s why you’re wearing a dress that covers your middle.”
“That’s right. I’m three months along.”
“Oh, my. How long will you stay in Texas on this movie-production business?”
“Probably till the end of the month. Sometimes it’s shorter, sometimes longer, but once I start really working, I don’t think I’ll see the significant person often.”
“Does your mom understand? Your dad isn’t going to.”
“She’s supportive. I don’t even understand what got into me.”
“I think it’s called hormones,” Shannon remarked dryly. “And he’s probably adorable because we have some goodlooking, fun, great guys here.”
“Oh, yes,” Lila replied, thinking that was a fitting description of Sam. “As for Mom, we’re close. Mom has two sides to her. The one my dad sees and others think she is, and then there’s a side that’s not that way at all. Mom manages to get her way with my dad. He just doesn’t realize it. She’ll help me.”
“Good. Sorry, Lila. You’ve complicated your life.”
“That’s an understatement. Thank heavens I can leave Royal and go back to California.”
Two men emerged from the front door and turned toward them. Lila recognized both of them as ranchers from a neighboring county.
“Hey, ladies,” Jeff Wainwright said. “I thought I saw you two out here. You’re missing the fun and a really good hoedown in the barn. Right now they’re having line dancing. Want to give it a whirl?”