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This set combines all 9 beloved stories in The Fab Five series. If you missed out on these heart warming stories now is the chance to get them all for one low price.
Follow this group of friends as they experience joy and sadness, love and loss and fall in love with The Fab Five.
Crossroad to Love
It had begun to rain. A slow, gentle drizzle, just enough to annoy the man behind the wheel. “When are you planning to tell him?” the man asked quietly, looking at the beautiful, blonde woman seated contentedly in the passenger seat of his new deep sea mica, state of the art Lexus LS. The automobile was decked out with every luxury imaginable. He had special-ordered it with every option available and had insisted they drive to Chicago for the weekend seminar, rather than fly from Indianapolis. He wanted to try it out on the open road. She had reluctantly agreed, preferring a short flight to the long drive, but knowing his excitement about the new car, she had finally given in.
“I’ll tell him tonight when we get in.” The woman sighed as she nervously removed the dazzling, three-carat, oval-cut, diamond and sapphire ring from the third finger on her left hand, placing it carefully into a black velvet box. She dropped the box into her handbag and replaced the ring with a small, plain gold wedding band. “Then we can finally, really begin our life together.”
The rain was coming down harder now, in sheets, making visibility difficult.
“Well, it’s about time. I’ve waited a long time for you to get to this point, my sweet.”
He made the fatal mistake of leaning over to kiss her, taking his eyes off the road for only a moment. In that split second, the world came to an end for the lovers in the blue Lexus.
And just before the deafening sound of crunching metal and breaking glass penetrated the silence of the night, the little girl in the back seat of another car said, “Daddy, my Girl Scout leader said I’ll have my badge by our next meeting.”
Katy Barron stood beside the large, four-poster bed in the upstairs bedroom of her charming, two-story Victorian home in Chicago, fastening the latch on her old, burgundy tapestry luggage. Thinking that she should have bought new luggage for the trip, she struggled until finally she was certain the latch was secure. There, that’s done, she thought as she smiled in anticipation of the week ahead, a week of fun and relaxation, catching up with her three oldest and dearest friends.
The phone on the antique oak night table next to the bed rang shrilly. She sat on the edge of the bed and hurriedly picked up the receiver.
“Hello, this is Katy.” She absent mindedly fingered a loose thread on the floral comforter and looked around her beautifully decorated, china blue and buttercup bedroom. She never grew tired of the serenity of this room. The tranquility had been a godsend all these years, her own private haven in which she could hide from the world and indulge her sorrow.
“Hi, it’s Lizzie. Are you packed and ready to go?” the voice on the other end of the line asked cheerily.
“I just finished not seconds ago.” Katy laughed as she asked, “How about you?” She reached for the antique Blue Willow cup on the nightstand and took a sip of her coffee, quickly setting it back. It had grown cold during her packing.
“Haven’t even started, but I should have plenty of time tonight. Rex is working late at the agency again and the twins are hardly ever here anymore,” Lizzie replied wistfully.
Katy detected the sadness in her friend’s voice. She knew things had been hard for Lizzie lately. She had always been the picture perfect wife and mother, but her family suddenly seemed to have outgrown her, putting her at a loss as to how to spend her days. Much like me, Katy thought sorrowfully.
“Have you spoken to Mari or Angie?” she asked her friend, keeping her voice light. She was determined not to be a killjoy on this vacation.
“Not since last week. Marianne was going to check with the hotel and make sure everything was perfect for the arrival of the ‘Fab Four,’ and Angie was snowed under with work as usual. She had a lot to get done before she could leave the Quad Cities.”
“Ever our career gal,” Katy giggled as she thought of their friend and her constant deadlines.
“You got that right,” Lizzie said. “So, sweetie, how are you doing today? I know it’s the tenth anniversary of the accident. Are you holding up okay?” Lizzie gingerly addressed the subject on both women’s minds that day.
“As well as can be expected, I guess. Every year it gets a little easier. Bree would be twenty now. It doesn’t seem possible, does it?” To Katy, Bree would always be a sweet, precocious, ten-year-old little girl. Her precious daughter, lost to her forever.
“No, but then Cara and Colt are twenty-two and that’s crazy too. Have you heard from Alex?” Lizzie inquired about Katy’s son.
“He called between classes this morning.” Katy spoke proudly of her only son, who had been her saving grace all these years. He had taken on the role of man of the family at the tender age of eight and had given her a reason to live. Now he was pursuing his own dreams with his mother’s reluctant blessing. She knew it was time, but it had been difficult to let him go.
“I couldn’t let the day pass without calling.”
“And I appreciate that more than you know, Liz. This trip couldn’t have come at a better time for me.”
“Or for me, that’s why I cooked it up. I really needed to get away and put some things in perspective. Like what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.” Katy’s friend replied jovially.
“I hear you. Now that Alex has gone off to college, I need to start living for myself again. Bill would want that for me.” And he would, she thought, thinking of the husband she had lost ten years ago today. Katy’s mind drifted to the gentle way he always caressed her cheek just before they made love. She remembered him holding her close as she fell asleep in the bed they had shared, the bed that was now cold and empty.
“Yes, honey, he would. Well, I’d better get off here and think about packing. I can’t wait to see you tomorrow. You have the gate number where we’re meeting in St. Louis?” Liz asked, bringing Katy back to reality.
“I have it. See you tomorrow.”
“Toodles, can’t wait to see you.”
“Bye, Lizzie.” Katy placed the receiver back in its cradle and sighed as she thought about the conversation she’d just had with Lizzie. I’ll have to find some time to talk with her alone next week, she thought as she headed to the sunny kitchen on the main floor of the house to find something in the cupboard for her lonely dinner.
* * *
Ryan O’Grady sat down to read the evening paper with a fresh cup of coffee. He glanced at the date, set the paper down, and closed his eyes. Ten years. Where had the time gone? Because of you, Marnie, no woman will ever break my heart again. But even knowing what I do, I would have never wished you dead. A flood of memories came rushing back, his mind a whirl of emotions. He remembered the night of the accident and the days, weeks, and months of numbness that had followed.
If it had not been for his younger brother, Shane, asking him to relocate to Dallas and go into business with him, he might never have survived. Now ten years later, the upscale, downtown restaurant was thriving, so much so that they were planning an expansion and also planning to open a chain of restaurants across the country. Life was good for Ryan, Shane, and his wife Chloe. But Ryan had stuck to his guns about women. Plenty of women had tried and failed to melt his cold heart. Some had made it to his bed, but he never stayed with one woman for long, thus earning the reputation as a playboy in the metroplex social circles of Dallas. He had even been dubbed as Dallas’s most eligible bachelor, and he intended to stay that way, a bachelor.
His thoughts returned to the present as he glanced at his watch and saw that it was time to go to work. It was his night to manage the restaurant. He said a silent prayer for his deceased wife, and for the man and little girl who had been in the other vehicle. And the man who had been with his wife.
Katy rolled over and saw the man lying next to her. She looked around the room, spying the trail of clothes on the floor leading from the door to the bed. She smiled, remembering. Am I dreaming again, or did last night really happen? Katy pinched herself, realizing this was no fantasy. Ryan was here, in her bed, in her apartment. Last night really happened… finally.
Katy Barron thought back to the past eight months. She had met Ryan O’Grady last fall, while on a vacation in Dallas, with her three best friends, Angie, Marianne, and Lizzie. The four had been friends since childhood, but had all scattered to different states over the years. The trip had been planned as a reunion and could not have come at a better time. Each of the four women had found herself at a crossroad, needing to make a decision that would affect the rest of her life.
Angie had recently come face-to-face with the man she had divorced fifteen years earlier. He had shown up the day before the trip, the architect assigned to work with her on a renovation project she was spearheading for the Quad City casino-hotel resort she worked in. She had never gotten over him, but a secret she’d kept had threatened to keep them apart forever. When Angie told Michael the real reason she had set him free was so that he could have a family with someone else, it had looked like they were over for good. Years ago, she had miscarried while he was out of town, and having been told by the doctor that she would never carry a child to term, she had decided not to tell him, divorcing him, instead. The reason she had given him at the time, was that she wanted to pursue her career. Marriage, and a family, did not fit her plans. Luckily, he was able to forgive her and they were reconciled now.
Lizzie had been suffering from empty nest syndrome. She thought she wanted to work in her husband, Rex’s, ad agency in Columbus, Ohio. She did not know how to broach the subject, when a solution landed in her lap. During that fateful trip to Texas, she had met Chloe O’Grady, co-owner of a restaurant, who needed a new ad campaign. Lizzie had offered to come up with some slogans and had landed the account.
Marianne had believed her husband, handsome Dallas surgeon, Jon Jacobi, was having an affair. She was using the week away from him to decide what to do about it, when it all had come to a head, halfway through the vacation. Jon had shown up at the hotel where she and her friends were staying, followed by the supposed mistress. During the heated arguments that followed, it was discovered that Jon had never betrayed his wife. He was being stalked by the young lady in question.
All of Katy’s friends had gone home from the trip with a happy ending and a bright future, except Katy. She had met, and fallen head over heels for, playboy Ryan O’Grady. She had also secured his restaurant, as a client, for her new interior design business. The job had later led to a permanent position with O’Grady Enterprises, with Katy relocating from Chicago to Dallas. But one night, after professing their mutual feelings for one other, Ryan and Katy discovered that they had a connection from the past. Ryan’s wife and her lover had been in the car that had hit Katy’s husband and little girl head on, killing all four of them. Ryan felt they could never have a relationship after that. Katy had spent the past eight months working with him, and trying to put her feelings for him to rest.
Last night, after the restaurant closed, they had both been working late. Ryan had finally admitted that he still loved her. And he had asked her to marry him. They had made love for the first time, in the private dining room of the restaurant. Afterward, he had come home with her, where they had spent the better part of the night making up for lost time.
“Well, hello there.” Ryan was awake now.
“I just pinched myself, to make sure I wasn’t dreaming,” Katy replied with a smile.
“If you are, then I’m having the same dream and I don’t want to wake up.” He pulled her to him, kissing her, to prove that he was real, this time, and not a dream.
“I love you,” she said, gazing into his brown eyes. The gold fleck in each of his eyes sparkled.
“And I love you, my yellow rose. But right now, I need to make a call.” Putting his finger to his lips, indicating he wished her to stay quiet, he picked up his cell and dialed.
“Hello, Shane. I’m not going to be in today. I have some personal things to take care of… Yes, that’s right. And by the way, Katy won’t be at work today, either. She worked pretty late last night, so I gave her day off… Gotta go, Bro. Bye.”
Katy stifled a giggle. “What did he say?” Shane was Ryan’s younger brother. Ryan, Shane, and Shane’s wife, Chloe, co-owned a restaurant named Chloe’s Place. They recently had expanded the original restaurant. They were in the process of building a corporate office, as well as several chain restaurants, across the country. Shane handled the finances, Chloe was in charge of menus and chefs, and Ryan was handling the openings of the new restaurants. Katy was their decorator.
“He said okay, and I said goodbye before he had a chance to ask any questions. We’ll surprise them with the news, later, but first we need to go shopping.” He lifted her left hand, adding, “I want the whole world to know you’re mine, so we’re buying a ring today.”
“I only need you. I don’t have to have an engagement ring.”
“But you’re getting me and a ring, so don’t complain.” He laughed as the gold flecks in his beautiful brown eyes flickered once more.
“Okay, Boss, whatever you say.”
“You’ll find that being Mrs. Ryan O’Grady comes with a few privileges.”
“There’s only one privilege I’m interested in. I think you know what that is, after last night.”
“Don’t tempt me, baby, or we’ll never get out of this bed today. You get in the shower, while I make breakfast. Now scoot.” He pretended to push her out of bed, as she forced herself to get up.
A short while later, when Katy walked into the dining room of her Frisco, Texas apartment, breakfast was already on the table. Ryan had prepared ham and cheese omelets and toast. He was pouring coffee into mugs as she sat down.
“I could get used to this real fast.”
“Well, I do own a restaurant, you know,” he teased. “And I intend to pamper you, my yellow rose. I’ve wasted too much time, holding you at arm’s length.”
He had given her the nickname of his yellow rose because that is what she had reminded him of, the day after they’d met. She had walked into the restaurant for a meeting, wearing a pale yellow dress. That had been the day she had bowled him over, with her decorating ideas, and her charm.
As they dove into the scrumptious omelets he had prepared, they discussed how they would tell their families and friends, about their engagement and upcoming marriage. They came up with a plan and finished their meal. She made phone calls, while he loaded the dishwasher.
Katy called her son, Alex, first, and then her parents. They were all, of course, elated for her.
Next, she dialed the number of her friend, Lizzie, in Ohio. As she waited for Lizzie to answer, she blew a kiss to Ryan. Damn, he looks good, working in my kitchen.
“Hello.” Lizzie’s voice came on the line.
“Lizzie, it’s Katy. How are you?”
“I’m fine, just going crazy helping Cara with this wedding of hers.” Lizzie laughed. Her only daughter was getting married soon, a source of concern, as she was marrying a virtual stranger, and not the boy everyone had expected her to spend her life with.
“How’s that situation going?”
“We’re going to meet his parents this weekend. I guess we’re just going to have to accept the fact, once and for all, that Nick isn’t going to be our son-in-law.” Lizzie and Rex had both been disappointed that their daughter was not marrying her long time boyfriend, Nick. Instead, she was planning a wedding with his college roommate and good friend, Caleb Walters.
“I’m so sorry this has been so confusing for you. But I have some news that may cheer you up.”
“Ryan and I got engaged, last night.” Katy waited for the scream and was not disappointed.
“Finally, I had begun to think it wasn’t going to happen. How did it all take place?”
Katy gave her a quick description of the proposal, adding, “Mum’s the word, if you talk to Mari. We’re going to tell her at dinner.”
“Okay. I wish I could be there.”
“I do, too. I have to go now, I need to call Angie. Give my love to the family.”
“Okay, bye, Katy.”
Next, Katy called Angie, in Iowa. Her reaction was similar to Lizzie’s.
Now, it was time to call Marianne and Jon. Marianne answered on the third ring. “Hello.”
“Mari, hi, it’s Katy. I was wondering if you and Jon could join me for dinner, at the restaurant tonight.”
“Let me check with Jon, he hasn’t left for the hospital yet.” She came back on the phone and said, “We can be there about seven-thirty. Will that work for you?”
“That’s perfect. I’ll see you both then. I have to run now.”
As Marianne hung up the phone, she said to her husband, “I wonder what that was all about.”
“Katy probably needs some friend time. It has to be hard for her to work with Ryan, every day, with nothing happening in the romance department. She really has it bad for the guy. And he’s about as stupid as they come, for not latching on to her.”
“I agree, but you know, there’s a lot of baggage there. I thought when she moved out here, though, things might change.”
“Got to run, Babe, I’ll see you tonight.” Jon kissed Marianne goodbye, leaving her to the rest of her day.
Cara Reid hung up the phone in disbelief. She had known her dad was under a lot of stress with the ever-increasing workload at his ad agency, but never dreamed he was in danger of suffering a heart attack. She dialed her mother-in-law’s number, then drummed her perfectly manicured nails on the granite countertop. Looking at her baby son sitting contentedly in his swing, she waited for an answer, praying Kathy was at home. With her free hand, she impatiently brushed her auburn hair away from her face.
“Hello.” Kathy Reid’s pleasant voice came on the line.
“Kathy, it’s Cara. They've just taken Dad to the hospital. Would you be able to come over and stay with Caleb while I go there? They’ve taken him to Mt. Carmel East.”
“I’ll be right over, honey. Do you know what happened?” Kathy asked in a concerned voice.
“Colt said they think it’s a heart attack. Please hurry,” Cara replied tearfully.
“I’m on my way, sweetie. Try and stay calm.”
Cara dialed her husband’s office number next. When dark-haired, handsome Nick Reid answered his phone, his wife spoke in a barely audible voice. “Nicky, they’ve just taken Daddy to Mt. Carmel East. They think he’s had a heart attack. Can you meet me there? Please.”
“I’ll leave right now, Cara, and come get you. I don’t want you driving yourself. What about the little guy?” he asked.
“Your mom is on her way over. Please hurry. They think he’s had a heart attack and I don’t know how bad it is. Colt said they took him in an ambulance.”
“Sweet Jesus, I’ll be right there, baby. I love you.”
Kathy arrived five minutes before Nick did. As soon as her husband pulled up in front of their apartment, Cara was out the door and in the car. She looked over at him with tears in her hazel eyes, and asked him to hurry.
Nick leaned over, taking her hand in his in an attempt to reassure her. The two of them had been through a lot in the past year. She had lost her first husband, Caleb Walters, in a tragic plane crash days after learning she was carrying his child. Nick had been Caleb’s best friend, but he also had been Cara’s first love. He had broken her heart, driving her into the arms of his friend. Realizing he still loved her, he had comforted her in her grief. But when he had asked her to marry him, she had refused, thinking he asked out of pity. It had taken a lot of fights and make-ups before Nick had finally convinced Cara he was in love with her. Then she had developed problems with her pregnancy, putting things on hold again. They finally were able to marry just weeks before her baby was born. It had only been recently that they had been able to enjoy a weekend honeymoon trip. Life was finally beginning to become normal. Rex was only in his forties, how could this have happened to him?
“We’re almost there, baby, please don’t cry. It may not be as bad as we think.”
“Colt sounded so scared on the phone. He was there when they carried Dad out and put him in the ambulance.”
When they arrived at the hospital, he dropped her off at the entrance to the ER before finding a parking spot. After parking the car, Nick hurriedly made his way into the hospital and spotted a doctor speaking to his mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and wife. He walked toward them, fearful of what the doctor was telling them.
“Nicky, they’re going to put some stents in his heart,” Cara told him nervously.
“I believe that’s a fairly common procedure these days, isn’t it Doctor?” Nick asked as he took Cara’s hand and squeezed it.
“As in all procedures there is a certain element of risk involved, but I believe Rex will be fine. You can see him now for just a few minutes before we prep him for the procedure.”
The doctor told a nurse to take them to Rex. He left them to prepare for the procedure.
The group of four was led to a small cubicle where Rex Hart lay with the oxygen mask still covering his nose and mouth. He’d been connected to an IV. He looked pale and tired.
His wife, Lizzie, leaned down and kissed his forehead. “We’re all here, sweetie.”
Looking up at her, Rex attempted a weak smile. Then he looked at Cara, Colt, and Nick, and waved his hand in greeting.
“Dad, I don’t want you to worry about a thing.” Colt told him sadly, “I was actually on my way to your office to tell you that I turned in my notice at work. I was planning to start my new career at the Hart Ad Agency next week, but I’ll move it up and start right away.”
Lizzie gasped. She hugged her baby boy. “Colt…”
Rex nodded, as he reached out to touch his son’s hand. Then he glanced over at his daughter.
“I’ll show him as much as I know to get him started. Then you and Mom can work with him whenever you’re able to come back to work.”
“Maggie…” Rex said weakly.
“Maggie can show him some things, is that what you’re trying to say?” Lizzie asked.
Rex nodded. Maggie was his office manager. She had been with him since he’d opened his doors twenty years ago.
The nurse informed them it was time for them to go to the surgery waiting area. “It’s on the second floor.” She gave them directions, telling them they could grab a bite to eat if they wished. “You’ll have time and it’ll take your mind off the procedure.”
None of them had an appetite. They went directly to the waiting room. When they settled, Nick went to get coffee for all of them while Colt attempted to comfort his mother and twin sister. The three of them sat silently for several minutes, praying for their loved one to come through the procedure.
Cara spoke first. “I’ll call the family and I’ll let Aunt Katy know what’s going on. She can let the rest of the girls know.” Katy was one of Lizzie’s closest friends, part of a circle affectionately named the ‘Fab Five.’ Marianne, Angie, and Chloe completed the circle of friends.
“Okay, thank you, honey,” Lizzie said absently, wiping her eyes with a tissue.
“And I need to call my boss, to let him know I can’t work out the last week of my notice. I don’t think it will be an issue under the circumstances. I have some vacation time they owe me anyway,” Colt added, his mind spinning with all that had happened in the past few hours.
“I should call Kendyl. She might want to come here to the hospital. She’s pretty fond of Dad,” Cara said suddenly, as she dialed her phone.
“I’ll call her. I need to cancel our date for tomorrow night and I’d rather do it in person. I’ll talk to her about it when she gets here,” Colt replied sadly.
Cara glanced at her twin brother. She had almost forgotten he had finally asked her best friend, Kendyl, out on an actual date. The two of them had been attracted to each other for years, but only recently had Colt finally taken the plunge. How ironic that important first official date would have to be postponed.
Colt sighed as he reached for his phone. He phoned his boss first. Just when his life was staring to make sense, this happened. Rob answered the phone, interrupting his thoughts.
“Rob, it’s Colt. I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. My dad suffered a heart attack this afternoon. I’m going to have to step in right away.”
“I’m so sorry. Please tell your family I’m thinking of them. And don’t worry about next week. We’ll put you down for vacation. You’ll need to stop in one day next week to clear out your office and see Human Resources for the exit paperwork, though.”
“I will and thanks. I’m sorry I couldn’t work out my full notice.”
“Not a problem. We hate to see you go, but I perfectly understand your desire to work in your family’s business. Your family needs you.”
Next he dialed Kendyl’s number. When her sweet, cheerful voice came on the line, he closed his eyes before speaking. “Kendyl, it’s Colt. Something’s happened. Dad’s had a heart attack and they’re doing a procedure on him right now. We thought you’d want to know.”
“Oh, no, I’m so sorry. Which hospital?” she asked.
“Mt. Carmel East. Can you come?”
“Of course I will. He’s strong, it’ll be okay,” Kendyl said in a reassuring voice.
“I hope so. I’ll meet you in the main lobby,” he said, adding, “Thank you. I…I need you here.”
Her heart leapt at his words. “Okay, I’ll hurry. Tell Cara and your mom I’m on my way.”
“I’m on my way. I’ll be there soon.”
He sighed as he walked back to where his mother and sister talked with Nick.
“I’m all set to start learning the advertising business on Monday,” he said to his sister solemnly. “I squared things with Rob. He sends his best wishes.”
“Did you talk to Kendyl?” Cara asked, looking at him questioningly.
“She’s on her way. I’m going down to the lobby to wait for her.”
“I reached some of the family members. They’ll contact the rest of the clan. Aunt Katy sends her love, Mom. She’ll talk to the other ‘Fabs’.”
“Thanks for taking care of the calls. I just can’t talk to anyone right now,” Lizzie said, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue once more.
“I’m going downstairs to wait for Kendyl,” Colt said as he stood up.
As he turned to go, Cara said, “I’m so sorry you have to postpone your date with Kendyl. I know it meant a lot to you.”
“It’s not your fault, Sis. I guess it’s mine. If I hadn’t been such a selfish and bratty son, I would have seen Dad needed me long before now.”
“Sweetheart, it’s not your fault,” Lizzie said, smiling.
“Yes, it is and you all know it. I’ve got to go talk to Kendyl.” He turned and walked away, shoulders hunched.
“He can’t let it go, can he?” Cara asked as she looked at her mother and her husband.
“Give him some time, baby. He’s bound to feel bad,” Nick replied. He leaned over and planted a tender kiss on her forehead.
“I feel bad for him, though.”
“I know, sweet Cara, I know.” He pulled her close and whispered soft, comforting words to her as Lizzie watched them and smiled.