Most people would consider fourteen days anywhere in Hawaii the ultimate vacation, Avery included. After all, it was literally paradise on Earth, or at least she considered it paradise. Last year at this time, she would’ve gone even if Mom had made all the arrangements without consulting her first, a habit the woman had when it came to a lot of things. That was how much Avery loved it there.
Not this time.
Opening her water, Avery took a drink as she formulated a diplomatic response. “Mom, you know I enjoy our vacations. And I do want to go on one soon.” A few white lies now and then never killed anyone, especially if they softened the blow she was about to deliver. “But I can’t go away with you on Tuesday.”
Or at any point this summer.
“Monday, I’m heading back to North Salem.”
“So rebook your flight,” Mom said, dismissing Avery’s plans with a wave of her hand. “Trust me; the town will be there next month. I’m thinking about visiting for Natalie’s birthday. We can travel together.”
Sean will just love that.
Mia’s husband would prefer an audit by the IRS over a visit from his mother-in-law.
“No, Mom. I’m not changing my plans. In a few weeks, I’m closing on Dakota’s house, and I’m seriously considering moving there permanently.” If she put it all on the table now, she could have one argument with Mom rather than two.
“Not you too?” Mom asked, frowning and minutely shaking her head. “Are you really going to move across the country for a man you’ve known for a couple of months? I thought you were smarter than that, Avery.”
One. Two. Three. Does Mom ever stop to think before she speaks?
“What do you even know about him? And do you honestly want to saddle yourself with someone else’s daughter?” Mom continued, not giving her a chance to explain her decision.
Avery tasted blood as her teeth bit down harder on the inside of her mouth. “Mom, I’ve known Steve for nine months, so I could tell you a lot about him.”
True, when they’d first met, their relationship had been the casual you-can-date-other-people kind, but Mom didn’t need to know that.
“But I doubt you want to be here all day.” Not to mention she didn’t want her mom there all day. “And I’m not getting saddled with anyone. Believe it or not, I enjoy spending time with Morgan.”
Avery had considered not going out on a second date with Steve after he told her he had a twelve-year-old daughter. Even after she agreed, she almost called and canceled. Children, no matter their age, complicated a relationship. Something—Avery did not know what—stopped her from calling him, though. Whatever it had been, she was glad it had.
Either Mom was unwilling or unable to keep her opinion to herself today, because she didn’t drop the matter. “Avery, you’re beautiful, smart, and you’ve got connections other people dream about. You can be with anyone you want. Why settle for some guy from North Salem, of all places, and give up everything? If you insist on going back for a visit, do so after our trip.”
At first, she had thought little of North Salem too, so she’d give Mom a pass on that part of her comment. The rest she couldn’t ignore.
“First of all, just because Steve’s not an actor or professional athlete doesn’t mean I’m settling.” She’d dated both, and each time they’d turned out to either be first-class jerks or with her because of the connections she had. “Steve is a great guy and a fantastic father. If you get to know him, you’ll see that. And two, I’m not giving anything up. I can work from anywhere, and you know it.”
“Avery, just because your sisters—”
She already knew what Mom intended to say, and she didn’t want to hear it again. “Angie and Mia are both happy and with men they love, men that would do anything for them, Mom. Steve makes me happy, and I want to be with him, so Monday I’m leaving. If you come for Natalie’s birthday next month, I’ll see you then.”
Used to Avery giving in to her demands if she applied enough pressure, Mom sat there for several seconds in stunned silence. “I never thought the day would come when my eldest daughter doesn’t have the time for me.”
“Mom,” Avery began, unsure of what to say.
“It’s fine. I understand. You care more about Steve and his daughter than me. I’ll see if your grandmother wants to come with me.” Mom stood and picked up her shoulder bag. “Enjoy your visit.”
Oh, she planned to.
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