In yesterday's excerpt, Neha's hard-won quiet just went out the window when her sisters came to visit. What else has brewed?
Catch the previous excerpts!
pages 1-5 here;
pages 6-8 here.
Full book is available at all these places! Amazon US ~ Amazon UK ~ Decadent Publishing ~ Barnes & Noble (Nook) ~ AllRomance Ebooks ~ Smashwords
Stepping closer to the island, she drew a stool and sat down.
“All at Mum’s place. Dad’s over the moon to have all the grandkids, and Mum’s tipsy to have the sons-in-law there to boost her ego and tell her what wonderful girls she brought up.”
She had to laugh. Lara had summed up their family pretty nicely. “I better go tell Suze and Rishi their cousins are over at Mum’s place.”
“And where’s Kunal?” Diya asked.
“At the gym. Again.”
After the Muay Thai debacle, she’d known her son would come looking for some violent martial art here, too, whether legally or illegally. She’d thus signed him up for kickboxing training at a gym run by a former boxer who’d turned to training the next generation of Mauritian athletes. At least with him, Kunal would be in good, responsible hands. She trusted the man after having met him a few times and asked around about his reputation. He wouldn’t let any harm come to her son.
“Good grief, Neha. I’ve never seen you frown so much. Another few like the ones you’re giving us and you’re gonna need Botox,” Diya said.
“Dee.” Lara’s tone held a warning.
“No, seriously.” Diya turned her intensively mascara-ed eyes onto Neha. “Stop worrying so much about the kids. You gotta let them live a little. And get a life for yourself, too, in the process.”
Don’t you start. But she remained mum. Wouldn’t want to start a verbal argument with the family’s sharpest tongue.
“Dee,” she said, “they’re teenagers. Of course I’m gonna be worried.”
“Bull. I’ve got teens at home, too, in case you don’t know.”
Right—Diya’s two stepsons. Angels, both of them.
“Dee does have a point,” Lara said.
Neha bit her lip to refrain from replying. What would they know about her existence? They weren’t one parent down in their households. Though she’d always manned the family unit alone….
“Face it. When was the last time you did something for you? Or for fun? Like go to the spa,” Diya asked.
“She always says she doesn’t have time, Auntie Dee,” Suzanne said as she joined her aunts at the counter.
Just what she needed, Suzanne joining the clan against her.
“All that beauty stuff is not for me.” She stood. “Anyone want a cuppa?”
“Now, who’s playing hooky?” Diya asked. The beautiful young woman who could still pass for a teenager scrunched her delicate features. “Good grief, Neha. That blouse of yours was in style when? Two decades ago? And when did you last tweeze your unibrow?”
“Don’t bother.” Suzanne rolled her eyes. “What Mum needs is a makeover. Her look is so passé, it’s scary.”
“What you need is a purpose, like a job,” Lara said.
“And who’ll take her when she looks like this frumpy desperate housewife?”
“Dee, shut up, will you?” Lara scolded, and for once, Neha agreed with her. How could they discuss her as if she weren’t in the room?
“I don’t want a job, thank you. I’ve got one that satisfies me plenty,” she replied.
“Dirty laundry and in the kitchen all day with a cleaning spray stuck to your hand. Yeah, right, Mum. You loooove your life.”
Well, true how, painted this way, her world looked drab, but what if she got her kicks out of doing laundry?
“Communications science and media management. Your major for the degree you got in South Africa, innit?” Lara asked.
How did she remember? Neha nodded. “But I’m not looking for a job. Now cut it out. Who wants cupcakes?” She went over to the cake stand on the opposite counter where she retrieved a tray of frosted vanilla little cakes in their paper cups.
Diya reached for one. Lara swiped a little butter cream off Diya’s cake.
“Have one,” she told her sister.
“No, thanks,” Lara replied.
Hmm. Lara probably didn’t want to disrupt her faultless figure which, even after three pregnancies, resembled a statuesque model’s.
Gravel crunched again outside and a knock resounded. A tall, blond young man with a sobbing toddler in his arms pushed the door open.
Diya shot out of her seat and reached for the baby. “He woke up?”
“And started crying for you, Ma,” the lad replied, gently placing the child’s head on Diya’s shoulder.
The sobs stopped the minute the kid placed his cheek on his mother’s shoulder. “Oh, Luke. Mummy’s here,” Diya crooned in his ear, appearing like a responsible adult in the blink of an eye.
“Hey, Matt,” Suzanne called out.
“Hiya, Suzie.” He walked into the kitchen toward Neha. “And how are you, Auntie?” he asked as he dropped a kiss on her cheek. “Hmm, cupcakes.”
“Go ahead,” Neha said with a smile.
Suzanne waited until he’d wolfed down the treat, then she tugged at his arm and pulled him out of the kitchen. “You’ve got to see this. I stumbled on this video today on YouTube….”
The rest of her words drifted incoherent as they went upstairs to her room.
“These two make a stunning couple, don’t they?” Lara asked. “And it’s obvious Suze’s got a major crush on him. Matthew is the only one who gets away with calling her Suzie.”
“But nothing’s gonna happen there,” Neha said in a rush. Her daughter was too young to be thinking about love and men.
“Matthew’s her cousin by marriage only.” Diya bestowed a tender glance on the baby who had gone back to sleep on her shoulder.
Neha couldn’t shake the image of Diya with her eldest stepson in her kitchen. At sixteen, Matthew could pass for twenty, a grown man already. He and Diya appeared of the same age, in fact. “Don’t people mistake Matthew for the twins’ father?”
Diya rolled her eyes. “Tell me about it. Half the time when I’m alone with him and one or both of the babies, people give us these dirty looks, like we’re teenage parents or something.”
They all laughed.
“Is it my fault if I don’t look my age? Speaking of which” —she stared right at Neha— “you could seriously lose five to ten years off your face with a better haircut.”
Oh no, here we go again. Tenacity represented a big, bad trait of Diya’s. “Don’t start.”
“What about the job?” Lara said. “The kids are all into school now, and you’ve got a degree gathering dust in a forgotten drawer. Why not put it to good use?”
“I did the degree to kill time, and also because the campus sat so close to our house. Rahul thought it’d keep me busy since we had household staff in South Africa.”
“Think about it.” Lara would not let her off the hook. “Neha, sweetie, money doesn’t grow on trees. How long do you think you can keep on like you’ve been living?”
Her sister did have a point here, and she cringed. “I can manage.”
Get the full book from Amazon US ~ Amazon UK ~ Decadent Publishing ~ Barnes & Noble (Nook) ~ AllRomance Ebooks ~ Smashwords
From Mauritius with love,