Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

Previously: Nathan says he won’t be on the show. At first, SarahJane doesn’t want him to intrude on her experience, but she realizes she’s missed him and she does want him to stay. She talks him into it by reminding him of the free publicity he’ll get for the farm and the new organic acreage of peaches.


The Bandbox Hat

Chapter Thirty-Three

“How will April get home?” Nathan asked.

Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner!

The RV door banged open and Liam emerged. I waved him over and repeated Nathan’s question.

“I’ll have a driver take her back.” He tapped on his tablet.

Nathan and I exchanged a glance. “Not in a million years. Her mother would skin us alive if April showed up with a stranger who hadn’t been investigated and vetted by Anna herself,” I said.

“I’ll take her back,” Nathan said. “And pick up some clothes.”

Liam shook his head and I knew he was afraid if he let Nathan go, he’d never come back. I sighed. “I’ll go.”

Liam paused his tapping to look at me.

“I’ve signed something. He hasn’t. I’m contractually obligated to be here so it’ll be a turnaround.”

“All right. It’s—” he glanced at his watch “—almost three. So you’ll be back at …what, seven?”

Since I’d become one of them, I’d noticed that some LA people don’t know that they live in a long and narrow state and they’re near the bottom of it. They persist in believing LA is the center of the state and nothing is more than a couple of hours away.

“It’ll be closer to eleven,” I said. “Or midnight.”

“I’ll have to send someone with you.”

“I’m not going to run away.”

“It’s for your safety and my peace of mind.”

I capitulated and turned to call April. She came running, tugging Austin’s hand to tow him along. “We have to go, Punkin.”

Her face fell. “I just started having fun.”

Austin scooped her up and tossed her over his shoulder and took a half step away. “I’ll save you, Princess Starshine.”

April giggled and I had to laugh, too. Nathan just looked irritated. Liam made waving signs to the nearest camera guy.

“I know you came a long way, but guess what?” I asked. “I’m going to take you home so we’ll have the whole drive to talk and catch up.”

She squirmed in Austin’s arms to face me. “Really?”

I nodded. “Go get your stuff and say goodbye to Uncle Nathan.”

She wiggled and Austin let her slide to the sand before she ran to her pile of clothes. “You’re leaving? he asked. “I thought we were getting along. I was looking forward to getting to know you better. My mom really likes you.”

A glow started from inside my chest and I felt it reflected in my smile. “I’ll be back.”

He grinned and I swear his gaze pierced me to the soles of my feet. “Good.”

Nathan cleared his throat and Austin’s eyes moved to him before he stuck out his hand. “I hear we’re going to shake things up and take this show’s ratings into the stratosphere.”

Nathan shook his hand while shrugging. “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”

Austin leaned close and spoke in a low voice. “Just don’t make any promises and keep an open mind. Remember the point of the cameras is to create drama and conflict.”

I took a step back. “That’s right. It’s all about drama.”

Nathan cut me a glance. “I’ll remember.”

April hurried up just then, her belongings bundled in her arms and her flip-flops leaving sand trails in her wake.

One of the drivers slogged through the sand. “I’m Justin, I’ll be driving. Are you ready, Miss Richter?”

I nodded. “Hug Uncle Nathan, April.”

“I don’t want to.” She glared at me. “Why does he get to stay with you if I can’t? It was my idea to come visit.”

“And I’m so glad you did.” I grasped her hand and steered her toward the parking lot.

Justin followed and sidestepped around us to guide us to a black Suburban. We climbed inside and April burst into tears.

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