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NORTHERN EXPOSURE

By reading any further, you are stating that you are at least 18 years of age. If you are under the age of 18, it is necessary to exit this site.

“So, where were you last night?”

Roslyn sat at the kitchen bar, sipping her second cup of coffee. She contemplated Anna’s potential reaction to her dirty deed, but then remembered she needn’t fear judgment from her friend. She might be living down here in the holier-than-thou sticks, but Anna was a New Yorker through and through, and was well aware of Roslyn’s penchant for the not-so-fair sex. There were no delicate sensibilities to offend.

“I, um, met a guy after you and Trey took off.”

Anna paused in the breakfast prep to level Roslyn a questioning look. “What guy?”

Roslyn took another sip of coffee. “Some guy named Wren.”

“Wren?” Anna waved the spatula in front of her face. “Like the bird?”

“That’s what I said!” Roslyn snorted. “Who names their son after a bird, anyway?” She took an immediate interest in the chipped polish on her thumb. Didn’t really matter what animal he’d been named after. He’d rocked her world—three times. Roslyn felt Anna’s regard on her. As if she even had a chance to not elaborate. She raised cautious eyes to her friend.

“And?” Anna asked, dropping the spatula on the counter and leaning on both palms, staring expectantly.

“You know him?”

“Never heard of him. He’s not local, I take it?”

Roslyn shook her head. “Just passing through. Here on business.”

“On business?” Anna’s forehead scrunched. “Doing what? Nothing goes on in this place.”

“Hey, watch that mouth, Belle.”

Anna blushed and turned toward her husband as he walked into the room. “Oh come on, Trey. You know that’s true. The most exciting thing that’s happened around here in over six months is when Mr. Emerson’s mutt busted out and knocked up Mrs. McKendrick’s prize poodle.”

“Damn cute puppies, if you ask me.”

Anna picked up the spatula and swatted Trey on the ass. “Don’t get any ideas. The only offspring allowed in this house are ones that you and I make.”

He bent and nipped the side of her neck. “That an invitation?”

“Okay,” Roslyn said. She rose and motioned for them to cease and desist. “You’re making me uncomfortable. And that’s saying something.” She grabbed her mug and the paper with a plan to find solitude away from the happy couple.

Anna giggled. “Remember, Roslyn. Church in an hour.”

“Really?” she groaned. “Church? Surely God can do without me on this beautiful Sunday.” She delivered her most eager look.

Trey slid his arms around his wife’s waist and pulled her against his chest. “Nice try, darlin’. When in Rome and all that. Sunday morning in Liberty means church. They’ll grill Belle mercilessly if you don’t show.”

“How do they even know I’m here, for crying out loud? Did you send out a memo or something?”

“Small town,” Trey and Anna said in unison.

Well, wasn’t that fucking adorable? Roslyn rolled her eyes. “Fine. What’s the dress code for this extravaganza?”

A furrow formed on Anna’s forehead. “Church clothes. You’ve been to church, right?”

Roslyn raised an eyebrow.

“Gotcha.” Anna cocked an imaginary gun, or some such shit, and smiled. “Dress. Skirt. Blouse. That sort of thing. No jeans.”

“Fine,” Roslyn grumbled as she walked away. “I don’t recall this shit in the brochure,” she called over her shoulder.

Well, this should be interesting.

* * * * *

This would get her into heaven for sure. Sitting here listening to Reverend Dawson preach about the importance of looking outside oneself to the suffering of all of humanity, while not falling asleep, was about as righteous as Roslyn had ever been.

Her attempt to check her Twitter timeline had been met with a mutinous glare from Anna. So maybe her friend wasn’t a New Yorker through and through anymore. Hey, God had a Twitter account. Roslyn followed him. But she’d simply sighed and tucked her iPhone into her purse like a good girl.

Once the sermon reached its second half hour, Roslyn started wondering if they had communion here, and if so, if it would be frowned upon to take a double shot of wine. Probably. And they were seated way in the back because Roslyn had taken too long to get ready, or so Trey had said, so the chances of there being enough wine left when she made it to the front to partake would be slim anyway.

Twenty minutes later, Reverend Dawson was done with his spiel and there was no sign of communion. Just as well. It had been so long since her parents had forced her to go to church, she’d forgotten all the protocol. She’d surely commit some sort of faux pas that would land her on the express train to hell.

An off-key rendition of a hymn Roslyn vaguely remembered started and the congregation slowly filed out. She jumped at the chance and was among the first to exit the church. Trey and Anna trailed behind her not too much later. She greeted them with her sunniest smile. “So, we all set?”

Anna sent her a sympathetic look, which Roslyn immediately interpreted as more church fun to come. “Not quite. We need to hang out for a while, chitchat with the congregation.”

Standing before the firing squad at the law firm was preferable to this torture. But Roslyn was truly grateful for her friend’s hospitality, so she would pull on her big-girl panties and blend in as well as possible. “Absolutely,” she said as she tucked her hair behind her ear. “Whom should we chat up first?”

She almost laughed at her use of the grammatically proper “whom”. She would bet the farm half the people in this town had never uttered the word.

“Well,” Anna drew out the syllable, Alabama-style, “let’s start with the reverend. He’s right over there.”

“Throw me in the deep end, why don’t you?” Roslyn mumbled as Anna and Trey dragged her across the front lawn of the church. They approached a group surrounding the reverend and a deep belly laugh greeted her ears.

“And when I asked her nicely if she and her friend would mind keeping it down so the rest of us could hear the concert we’d paid to see, she told me to do something that was anatomically impossible.”

Not everyone in the group laughed, but Roslyn did. So the reverend was funny. Wouldn’t have guessed it from the sermon. This she could get on board with.

“Excuse me, Reverend?” Anna placed her hand on his arm. He turned with a smile. “I’d like for you to meet my friend Roslyn. She’s visiting from New York City.”

“Roslyn.” He took her extended hand in his warm grip. “Welcome to Liberty. Let me introduce you to my family. Lynne? Abigail?”

A plump woman who appeared to be in her late fifties joined the conversation. She gave Roslyn a smile, but not before she spent a little too much time eyeballing Roslyn’s attire. What she could possibly find wrong, Roslyn hadn’t a clue. The skirt nearly reached mid-thigh. But now that Roslyn thought about it, she hadn’t seen another woman’s knees since she got here.

The younger woman, who she assumed was the daughter, gave a warmer welcome. She sent Roslyn a conspiratorial smile and extended her hand. “I’m Abigail.”

“Nice to meet you,” Roslyn said as she greeted the young woman with a handshake. Abigail stepped aside to make room for her mother.

Lynne didn’t offer her hand, but gave what Roslyn assumed was an attempt at a warm smile. “Hello there. Roslyn, is it?”

“Yes. Very nice to meet you, Lynne.”

The reverend’s wife patted her silver updo. “Yes. You can call me Mrs. Dawson, though.”

Well, alrighty then. Reverend Dawson’s wife was clearly a piece of work. Roslyn pasted on a smile. “Of course, Mrs. Dawson.”

The reverend’s eyes darted between the two of them, as if he expected some sort of throw down. He cleared his throat and glanced over his shoulder before reaching for a passing gentleman. “Ah, son. Come here. I’d like you to meet some of our parishioners.”

The man in question turned and faced the group.

“Wren, I’d like you to meet Anna and Trey Jacobs. And this is their friend Roslyn. She’s in town visiting from New York.”

Oh holy fuck.


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