Peach Tarts and Proposals by Raine O’Tierney

January 30, 2015

Title: Peach Tarts and Proposals

Author: Raine O’Tierney

Pairing: Giordan and Shane from Sweet Giordan, Please Remember

Prompt: ring

Beautiful morning light filtered into Chloe Devereaux’s kitchen and for a moment, Giordan was lost in the way it played through the blue and white checkered curtains. Maybe paints… Maybe prismas… Colored pencils weren’t his strongest medium, but there was something wholly inviting about the challenge of using pencils to capture the scene. His paints would have been too easy. He’d add glass bluebirds on the sill—likes the ones that had maybe belonged to his mother. Maybe. Probably. For a moment, he could almost see it. Was he making it up? Or was it a real memory?

“Gio?”

The sound of his name startled him and Giordan’s moment of almost-memory was broken. It was Chloe, sashaying back into the kitchen in her flowered broomstick skirt. Of course, she hadn’t known Giordan was drifting, or she would have let him drift. She always let him explore the boundaries of his amnesia, for seconds or minutes or hours even.

His expression must have told her what she’d interrupted because her prettily painted lips formed a little o of surprise and then she relaxed into a smile. “Remember anythin’ good this time?”

“Just my mother’s glass bluebirds,” he told her.

“You’ve painted those for me many’a time,” Chloe said, climbing daintily up on a stool at the island where Giordan leaned awkwardly. He’d sat for a while, but the pain in his stiff side got to him and he had to stand and relieve some of the pressure off his cramped nerves.

Giordan nodded. “This was a little different, though, Maman. I could see all the tiny bubbles in the glass and there was a fence outside the window. I could hear someone saying ‘blue bird of happiness.’ It felt really warm there.”

“Sounds beautiful. Thinkin’ another paintin’ is in the works?”

He nodded and then looked down, realizing that he hadn’t taken a single bite off the large plate Chloe had made for him. Here he was, supposed to be helping with an experiment in the kitchen, and he’d let himself get lost in the thought of glass bluebirds. His surrogate Maman followed his gaze, her lips quirking.

“They’re only sweets,” she said. “Ain’t gonna kill you. At least, I don’t think so.”

“I know.”

Giordan had not only lost his memory in the accident but, according to Chloe, his love of her chocolate pie as well. Maybe he had enjoyed it in the past, but it certainly didn’t agree with him now. For a long time she’d lamented this—altering the recipe by degrees to see if she could convince his taste buds to see her side of the argument. Finally, the sassy Southerner who rarely ever gave up, was forced to throw in the towel where pie was concerned at least, simply because one more alteration, she said, and she’d be making brownies instead of pie.

And then she’d had an idea: make brownies! And cookies. And crumble. And homemade ice cream. And all manner of good and sweet treats that she had, for years, brought to church picnics, sold at booster club, and competed with at the county fair. Chloe had spent the entire day cooking, and now Giordan had a small plate of bite-sized sweet treats.

“I want you t’be honest with me now, Giordan Stone,” Chloe told him in her melodic Reverie accent. “Try everythin’ and you let me know if somethin’ makes your pallet jump. And if it don’t, we’ll just get my grandmama’s cookbook right back out and start over. I’m gonna figure out somethin’ I can make you for dessert.”

Giordan nodded and dutifully tried a bite of the lemon cookie, Chloe’s large brown eyes on him. Slowly he shrugged and Chloe sighed. Luckily, he was not forced to face her disappointment further because there was a firm knock on the front door that called her away. Giordan spit the cookie into a napkin.

Even before Chloe opened the front door, Giordan’s heart began to thud happily. It was Shane, he just knew it. Despite what his lover said about not being able to get away from the office for the weekend, he felt him nearby. Then there was the deep rumble of Shane Devereaux’s voice as he greeted his Maman and Giordan’s smile could not be contained. He walked to the kitchen door, almost completely unaware of his limp, and waited to be swept up into Shane’s arms—except Shane did not immediately come.

Slowly Giordan pushed the door open, still expecting to find his green-eyed devil waiting to kiss him, but instead there was only the low hum of voices coming from the living room. Chloe and Shane were talking, very quietly, out of earshot.

Forced to swear on a Bible, Giordan couldn’t say that he hadn’t meant to listen in. If he hadn’t meant to listen in, he would have gone back into the kitchen. He certainly would not have crept farther forward and avoided the planks in the gleaming hardwood that always creaked under his weight. He might have knocked on the sitting room door and let them know he was there. Instead he stood, and listened to their conversation.

“Why does Julian have my Granddaddy’s ring?” Chloe was asking hotly. When her temper flared, her slow drawl became quick and biting as a cat’s hiss.

“He picked it up.” Shane’s voice was a counterweight to his mother’s. Calm. Steady. Deep.

“Picked it up? Stole it?”

Maman, no. Of course not.”

“Then what do you mean picked it up?” She punctuated every word with a little exclamation point. “And why, pray tell, did that boy not then turn around and hand it right on back to you?”

“I….” Shane let out a long sigh and Giordan could imagine his lover rubbing the tense spot between his eyebrows. “I threw it into a trashcan on Main Street in downtown Midday—”

Chloe squawked in surprise.

Maman, stop looking at me like that. You know what I was going through. I… I thought I’d never see Giordan again. Thought I’d never get the opportunity to give him the ring, so I tossed it.”

“My Granddaddy’s—

“But Julian picked it up.”

“Thank God. Y’know I’ve always loved that boy.”

Giordan had to put his knuckles to his lips to keep from laughing.

“But he’s got to keep it a little longer.”

“I will drive to Midday right now and turn him over m’knee,” Chloe said. “That is my ring and I want it back.”

Maman—”

“And why on earth would that be? He could have any damned ring he pleased! He better not be givin’ it to some model fling of his. Oh, I swear—”

Maman,” Shane said firmly, wrestling the conversation back. “Stop before you’ve started a feud with my best friend’s family that can’t be undone for six generations. Just listen. Julian wants to pay for its restoration. As a gift.”

There was a long silence and then Chloe said stiffly. “Well, that is kind of him.” Then, suddenly the haze of annoyance lifting she said, much louder than before, “Oh! Oh my… Shane, honey, this… does this mean what I think it means? Are you plannin’ on askin’ Gio to marry you?”

As quickly as he could manage with his injured side, Giordan hurried back into the kitchen. For a long moment, he didn’t realize that he was smiling. Shane was going to propose again—and this time, Giordan would remember it. If he could have danced, he would have danced. He didn’t care how silly he might look.

He went to the cutting board Chloe had floured for a batch of cinnamon rolls and—grinning stupidly—he began to draw in the flour with the tip of his finger.

“So you overheard that, hmm?” Shane asked, running his thumb gently across Giordan’s cheek.

Giordan jerked away from the touch. He was startled, embarrassed. When did Shane come in and how did he get so close? “I guess maybe that was a little obvious.”

Shane bent to kiss his neck and Giordan leaned into the contact. “Are you surprised I want to marry you?” he asked, his lips pressed behind Giordan’s ear.

Giordan wanted to say No, of course not! But the words caught. There were mornings he awoke, pressed up against his beautiful lover, and still couldn’t believe they had found each other again. Giordan smiled. “I don’t know, maybe I was going to propose to you.”

“Oh, were you now?”

“You tend to take the lead. Maybe I want to do the getting down on one knee.” Then patting his bad leg, Giordan said, “Well, so to speak.”

“Are you?”

“Am I?”

“Proposing marriage to me, Giordan Stone?”

Giordan took Shane’s hand and tugged gently, bringing him around to where he’d played in the flour moments before. For a minute, Shane stood, admiring the work. “You’re so talented.”

But Giordan swiped the flower, creating a blank slate, and whispered soothingly as Shane groaned at the loss of the picture. Then he took Shane’s hand and placed it, top down, into the flour. When Shane lifted his hand, his dark skin was coated white and the flour canvass was left with the imprint of his hand.

With one of the fancy toothpicks Chloe kept—the sort with ribbons of colored cellophane on the end—he began to draw again, using the white medium to create a ring on the appropriate finger of Shane’s handprint. He did not lose himself to the sway of the art trance now, only drew, as carefully as he could, in the flour with the toothpick.

He gave the ring form and depth, shadowing the edges. And when he was satisfied, he finally looked up, cheeks a little ruddy at the silly thing he’d just done, wondering what Shane would think. But Shane had swiped a tear away from the corner of his eye—just the one and quickly. He was still so consumed with pride sometimes.

“Yes, absolutely.” Shane nodded.

“You will? You’ll marry me?”

“Of course.”

Shane grabbed him into a kiss, careful, as he always was, not to jar Giordan’s bad side. Their lips met and melded, Giordan’s tongue slipped past his lover’s lips. No, not just lover. Not friend nor boyfriend nor lost-and-found-again love, but fiancé. Shane’s mouth gave back playfully, excitedly, careless that they were in his Maman’s kitchen. He tasted sweet, like peach tart. It wasn’t half bad.

Suddenly Giordan became aware that Chloe was nearby.

“Oh, don’t mind me a bit, boys,” she said, her normally calm voice tinged with excitement. She’d done her own eavesdropping, it seemed.

Shane broke the kiss and looked over Giordan’s shoulder at his mother, “Maman? Is that Daddy’s old camera?”

Giordan turned then to find Chloe snapping a photo of the flour artwork with a camera that seemed almost too big for her.

“Just gettin’ pictures.”

“Any particular reason?” Shane teased, still holding Giordan possessively to him. Giordan leaned his head against Shane’s chest, listened to the steady thump of his heart, and was comforted by it.

“For the scrapbook,” she said pleasantly, her accent light and airy. “Have to get a shot before y’all sweep the whole thing in the trash and, I dunno, try to christen my new marble countertops—doncha dare, by the way.”

“We’ll keep our celebrations to the bedroom, Maman,” Shane promised. “Or at least our own countertops.”

Even Giordan’s toes turned red at the comment.

“So… are y’all gonna announce now or…?”

“Well, Maman,” Shane said. “It seems you already heard.”

“’Course I already heard,” she said with a chuckle. “Though I’m waitin’ to be formally told so I can get out my phone and call every person I know, includin’ Ophelia Morton.”

Giordan had heard Chloe go on about Ophelia—the new member of her women’s group who had just given her granddaughter “The Weddin’ of the Decade” down in Ounair. Something to outstrip the Westbrook wedding even.

Chloe’s eyes twinkled mischievously as she spoke. “Can’t you just imagine it? You’ve got that connection with the parks department. And your father knows that man who does those handsome pavilions. Oh! Think of it! No one, far as I know, has been allowed to marry on the Hawthorn Plantation in more than a hundred years. But I bet I could convince the Historical Society. Weddin’ of the century.”

“But Maman,” Giordan smiled, safe in Shane’s arms. “What if we were thinking of eloping?”

Shane’s rumbling laughter filled every part of Giordan and he melted into it. Even Chloe’s scandalized look was worth that laugh.

“You made a joke,” Shane crooned. For a moment, Chloe’s delicately plucked eyebrow remained arched and then she softened and laughed too.

“I’ll support anythin’ you decide to do,” she said slowly.

“But you’d prefer to gift us with a wedding so large it will shame Ophelia from ever mentioning her granddaughter’s wedding again?”

“Maybe.”

“I don’t care at all,” Giordan said, more to Shane than to Chloe. “I just want to be married to you. Always.”

“So now that we’ve got all the romantics out of the way,” Shane teased. “What’s with the bakery explosion?”

“Oh!” Giordan smiled. “You should help me. I’m testing my palate against every one of Chloe’s dessert recipes… that peach tart was a pretty good place to begin.”

“You liked that, huh?” Shane asked, grinning.

Giordan said, “Maybe everything just tastes better on your lips.”

Chloe threw her hands into the air with a dramatic sigh and told her son and future son-in-law, “No Christenin’ my countertops.”

“Yes Maman,” they said together.

Did you enjoy Raine O’Tierney’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code RaineOTierneyFlash. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 28, 2015.

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