Home > The MacGregor Brides (The MacGregors #6)

The MacGregor Brides (The MacGregors #6)
Author: Nora Roberts

Part One - Laura

Chapter 1

It took six rings of the phone to reach a corner of her sleeping brain. By the eighth, she managed to slide a hand out from under the blankets. She smacked the alarm clock first and slammed the cheery face of Kermit the Frog to the floor. It was the third dead Kermit that year.

Her long, unadorned fingers patted along the glossy surface of the walnut nightstand, finally gripped the receiver and pulled it under the covers with her.

'"Lo."

"It rang ten times."

With the blankets over her head, Laura MacGregor winced at the booming accusation, then yawned. "Did?"

"Ten times. One more ring and I'd have been calling 911. I was seeing you lying in a pool of blood."

"Bed," she managed, and snuggled into the pillow. "Sleeping. Good night."

"It's nearly eight o'clock."

"When?"

"In the morning." He'd identified the voice now, knew which one of his granddaughters was burrowed in bed at what Daniel MacGregor considered the middle of the day. "A fine, bright September morning. You should be up enjoying it, little girl, instead of sleeping it away."

"Why?"

He huffed. "Life's passing you by, Laura. Your grandmother's worried about you. Why, she was just saying last night how she could barely get a moment's peace of mind, worrying about her oldest granddaughter."

Anna had said nothing of the kind, but the ploy of using his wife to finagle his family into doing what he wanted them to do was an old habit. The MacGregor appreciated traditions.

'"S fine. Everything. Dandy. Sleeping now, Grandpa."

"Well, get up. You haven't visited your grandmother for weeks. She's pining. Just because you think you're a grown-up woman of twenty-four doesn't mean you should forget your dear old granny."

He winced at that a bit himself and glanced toward the door to make certain it was firmly shut. If Anna heard him refer to her as a dear old granny, she'd scalp him.

"Come up for the weekend," he demanded. "Bring your cousins."

"Got a brief to read," she muttered, and started drifting off again. "But soon."

"Make it sooner. We're not going to live forever, you know."

"Yes, you are."

"Ha. I've sent you a present. It'll be there this morning. So get yourself out of bed and prettied up. Wear a dress."

"Okay, sure. Thanks, Grandpa. Bye."

Laura dumped the receiver on the floor, burrowed under the pillow and slid blissfully back into sleep. Twenty minutes later she was rudely awakened with a shake and a curse. "Damn it, Laura, you did it again."

"What?" She shot up in bed, dark eyes wide and glazed, black hair tangled. "What?"

"Left the phone off the hook." Julia MacGregor fisted her hands on her hips and smoldered. "I was expecting a call."

"I, ah…" Her mind was an unfocused blur. Laura shoved her hands through her sleep-tousled hair, as if to clear it. Mornings were just not her time of day. "I think Grandpa called. Maybe. I can't remember."

"I didn't hear the phone." Julia shrugged. "I guess I was in the shower. Gwen's already left for the hospital. What did Grandpa want?" When Laura continued to look blank, Julia laughed and sat on the edge of the bed. "Probably just the usual. 'Your grandmother's worried about you.'"

"I seem to remember something about that." Smiling a little, Laura plopped back onto the pillows. "If you'd have gotten out of the shower faster, you'd have caught the call. Then Grandma would have been worried about you."

"She was worried about me last week." Julia checked her antique marcasite watch. "I've got to run look at this property in Brookline."

"Another one? Didn't you just buy another house last month?"

"It was two months ago, and it's nearly ready to turn over." Julia shook back her curling mane of flame-colored hair. "Time for a new project."

"Whatever works for you. My big plan was to sleep until noon, then spend the rest of the afternoon on a brief." Laura rolled her shoulders. "Fat chance around here."

"You'll have the place to yourself for the next few hours. Gwen has a double shift at the hospital, and I don't expect to be back until five."

"It's not my night to cook."

"I'll pick something up."

"Pizza," Laura said immediately. "Double cheese and black olives."

"It's never too early for you to think about dinner." Julia rose, smoothed down the moss-green jacket she wore over pleated trousers.

"See you tonight," she called on her way out "And don't leave the phone off the hook." Laura studied the ceiling, contemplating the sunlight, and considered pulling the covers back over her head. She could sleep another hour. Dropping off at will or whim had never been a problem for her, and the skill had served her well in law school. But the idea of pizza had stirred her appetite. When there was a choice between sleep and food, Laura faced her biggest dilemma. Laura tossed the covers back as food won the battle. She wore a simple white athletic T-shirt and silk boxer shorts in electric blue. She'd lived with her two female cousins all through college and now for two years in the house in Boston's Back Bay. The thought of grabbing a robe never occurred to her. The attractive little town house—one of Julia's recent renovations, and their newest home—was decorated with an eclectic mix of their three tastes. Gwen's love of antiques vied with Julia's appreciation for modern art and Laura's own attraction to kitsch.

She jogged downstairs, trailing her fingers over the satin finish of the oak railing, glanced briefly through the etched-glass window in the front door to see that it was indeed a brilliantly sunny fall morning, then swung down the hall toward the kitchen. Though each of the cousins had a fine mind, conscientiously applied to their individual areas of expertise, none of them was especially gifted in that particular room. Still, they'd made it homey, with soft yellow paint setting off the deep blue counters and glass-fronted cabinets.

Laura had always been grateful that the three of them had melded so well. Gwen and Julia were her closest friends, as well as her cousins. Along with the rest of the MacGregor brood, as Laura thought of them, the extended kin of Daniel and Anna were a close-knit, if diverse, family.

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