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by Margaret Nava
Description: If you like Debbie Macomber, Joan Medlicott, and great "Mom Lit" romantic women's fiction in general, you'll enjoy the Angela Dunn stories by Margaret Nava. HUMMINGBIRD RIDGE continues sixtyish Angela's new life journeys begun in EGRET COVE. Now married to Gilberto, the rakish Italian she met in Florida, Angela sets up housekeeping at their new cabin in the mountains of Hummingbird Ridge, West Virginia. Wise, warm and filled with great friends, love, drama and joy, Angela's adventures make for cozy reading. Coming in 2010: MARIPOSA LANDING.
eBook Publisher: BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books, 2009 Trade Paperback
eBookwise Release Date: January 2010
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [289 KB]
Reading time: 177-248 min.
1 A New Life
A gentle breeze ruffled Angela's dress as she and Gilberto walked across the white sand beach. Her cherished friend, Katherine, helped choose that dress. It was shell-pink chiffon with a Battenberg lace insert at the bodice and a handkerchief hem that barely brushed the top of her ankles. With delicate pink flowers in her hair and a simple gold cross around her neck, she looked and felt beautiful.
Even though it was December, the sun shone bright and the sky was almost cloudless. Hurricane season was long gone and the holidays were just around the corner. Last year she spent the holidays at a boat parade and a basketball game, the year before she had been in Indiana. She'd come so far since then. She'd given up her job, driven herself all the way to Florida, met some strange and wonderful people, lived through a hurricane, cut all ties with her ex-husband and, now, was just about to start a brand-new life. If anyone back in Indiana had told her she was capable of doing half those things, she would have questioned their sanity.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" whispered Gilberto.
"Positive." Angela squeezed Gilberto's hand and gazed into his eyes. "I've never been surer of anything in my life." She had come so close to losing him. Now, she would never let him go.
Their friend Steve stood waiting in a small white gazebo under the palm trees. Instead of his usual turtleneck or muscle shirt, he wore a black clerical shirt and stiff white collar, vestiges of his days as a Catholic priest. He smiled as Angela and Gilberto approached and motioned for them to kneel when they entered the gazebo. Placing his hands on their heads, he began the ceremony.
"Heavenly Father, our hearts are filled with great happiness on this day as Angela and Gilberto come before you pledging their hearts and lives to one another. Grant that they may ever be true and loving, living together in such a way as to never bring shame or heartbreak into their marriage. Temper their hearts with kindness and understanding. Rid them of all pretense and jealousy. Help them to remember to be each other's sweetheart, helpmate, best friend and guide, so that together they may meet the cares and problems of life bravely. May the home they are creating today truly be a place of love and harmony where your Spirit is always present."
Looking out around the gazebo, Angela noticed her brother Tony and his wife Fran sitting on linen-covered folding chairs. Steve's wife, Monica, was next to them, and Katherine and her husband Mongo were directly behind. There were about twenty other people in the small group, including Gilberto's bocce friends, Katherine's Foxy Ladies and Mrs. Snodgrass, the woman from the rundown trailer park, who was escorted by Gilberto's long-lost nephew. Everyone was smiling and seemed to be wearing their Sunday-best clothes. Even Tony. It made her feel good to know she had so many caring friends.
Steve extended his hands as Angela and Gilberto rose to their feet. Then, sounding very much like a protective father, he continued. "Gilberto Fontero, in front of God and all these people, do you take Angela Dunn to be your wife?"
Smiling at Angela, he asked, "Angela Dunn, in front of God and all these people, do you take Gilberto Fontero to be your husband?"
"Gilberto, is there something you would like to say to Angela?"
"Si, there is. Angela, on this wondrous day, I take you to be my wife and my friend, the one I will live with, dream with and laugh with. You have brought sunlight and joy into my life. I hope that I can bring happiness to your life. From now until forever, I will cherish you. I will look with joy down the path of our tomorrows knowing we will walk it together side by side, hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart. And I will love you for as long as we both shall live." Gilberto trembled as he placed a simple gold band on Angela's finger.
"Angela, is there something you would like to say to Gilberto?"
"Yes, there is. Gilberto, when we met, my life was filled with confusion and despair. You showed me the true meaning of love and helped me learn to trust again. I love you above all others and treasure our friendship as a precious gift. I promise to stand beside you in sickness or health, in times of prosperity or hardship, in peace or in turmoil, and I promise to love you as long as we both shall live." Angela smiled as she placed a matching gold band on Gilberto's finger.
"Angela and Gilberto, in as much as the two of you have agreed to live together in Holy Matrimony and have promised your love for each other by these vows and the giving of rings, I now declare you to be husband and wife. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May He lift up His countenance unto to you and give you peace. Gilberto, you may kiss your bride. Angela, you may kiss your husband."
Gil and Angela kissed as Steve concluded the ceremony. "Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I present to you Mr. and Mr. Gilberto Fontero."
Tony was the first to jump out of his chair and rush toward Angela. "Guess I can quit worrying about you now," he beamed.
Katherine poked him in the ribs. "What were you worried about? That girl always knew what she wanted. She just didn't know how to get it. That's where I came in."
"Oh, so you're saying you're the one that got Angela and Gil together?" Tony's grin dissolved into laughter.
"OK, you two," scolded Monica, "cut it out. This is Gil and Angela's day, don't ruin it."
"Nothing could ruin it," shouted Angela. "I'm so happy I could kiss them both." She grabbed Tony and Katherine and planted a big, wet kiss on each of them.
"Yuk," sputtered Katherine. "You haven't been kissing that crazy dog of yours lately, have you?"
Angela gave Katherine a friendly shove then turned to the rest of her guests. "Gil and I are so grateful you were able to join us today that we'd like to invite you back to his, sorry, our home for a little celebration. Nothing fancy, just some finger food and cake."
"What?" protested Tony. "No beer?"
"No," replied Gilberto. "But we have champagne punch."
"Whoop-dee-doo," scoffed Tony. "Sounds like a fun party."
Back at Gilberto's trailer, several tables were covered in white tablecloths and laid out with Italian canapes, pate and caviar on crostini, antipasto, imported cheeses, a fresh fruit tower, assorted Italian breads, a three-tiered red velvet wedding cake laced with raspberry preserves and covered in cream cheese frosting, and a huge cut-glass punch bowl filled with champagne, orange juice and delicate white magnolias.
"Gee, I'm glad you didn't fuss," joked Katherine.
"Nothing is too good for our friends," replied Gilberto.
"Speaking of which," boasted Katherine, "Mongo and I have a little something for you."
"It's not rabbits, is it?" Monica frowned and shook her head. "No, it is not," barked Katherine. "Why would we give them rabbits?"
"I don't know," mocked Monica. "Maybe because you have too many?" Right after she and Steve announced they were buying a farm in West Virginia, Mongo started raising rabbits to give to them as a housewarming gift. The hurricane altered his plans, but maybe he'd started over.
"Shall I say grace?" interrupted Steve.
"Please," muttered Tony. "I'm about to starve."
"Dear Lord, we thank you for bringing our two friends together and showing them that all things are possible with you. We also thank you for this beautiful day and for the food we are about to receive. May your sun always shine on Gilberto and Angela and may their table always be filled with your goodness. Amen."
"Amen," exclaimed Tony. "Let's eat."
"Wait a minute," objected Katherine. "We haven't given them our gift yet."
"Oh, all right," grumbled Tony. "But make it quick."
Mongo dragged a large box out from under the picnic table. It looked like he was having trouble moving it so Katherine ran to his rescue. "Ever since we got married, he's been acting tired. Think I'm too much woman for him?"
"Katherine, please," laughed Angela. "You're in mixed company."
"Oh, yeah," teased Katherine, "like Father Steve and Sister Monica don't know what I'm talking about."
"Hurry up, Angela," snickered Steve. "Open the box before she gets too graphic."
Gilberto helped Mongo lift the box to the table then he and Angela removed the bow and wrapping paper. "Wonder what it could be?" asked Angela.
"We will know in a minute." Gilberto sliced the box open with a pocketknife.
"Balls?" questioned Angela when she looked inside.
"Not just balls," corrected Katherine. "They're bocce balls and they're personalized with your names. See? This one says Angela and this one says Gil." She held up two balls for everyone to see.
"Thank you so much," stammered Gilberto. "I am sure they will be very useful."
"Sure," giggled Katherine, "when you get tired playing bocce ball you can throw them at each other."
"We'd never do that," chuckled Angela. "And the game is called Bocce, not bocce ball."
"Excuse me, Mrs. Fontero. I stand corrected." Katherine's eyes glistened as she beamed at her friend.
Angela thought back to the day she first met Katherine. Even though the redheaded woman was loud and brash, there had been an immediate connection. She offered friendship to Angela when she needed it most. She shared her life with Angela and made her feel like family. She was everything Angela was not. Katherine was adventurous, Angela was timid. Katherine was boisterous, Angela was quiet. Katherine was a flirt, Angela was not. It was those differences that made them friends, and it was those differences that would keep them friends.
Tony cleared his throat. "Well, as long as we're giving gifts, here's one from Fran and me." He reached into his pocket, pulled out two small boxes, handed one to Angela and the other to Gilberto.
Angela opened her box first. Inside was a small gold charm and chain. The charm was in the shape of a little girl on a bicycle. Tears came to her eyes when she looked at her brother.
"Just in case you need to find your way back home." Tony took a deep breath then nodded his head toward Gilberto. "Now open yours, Gil."
Gilberto opened his box and found another charm, this one in the shape of a little boy pushing a little girl on a bicycle.
"In case she ever needs help," mumbled Tony.
Several people sniffled and blew their noses.
Monica broke the mood. "We didn't bring our gift because it wouldn't fit in a box."
Angela borrowed Gilberto's handkerchief and wiped her tears. "You and Steve drove all the way down here just so he could preside over our wedding. You don't have to give us anything else."
"But we want to." Steve cleared his throat and hugged his wife. "Monica and I would like the two of you to spend your honeymoon on our farm. You can go hiking, do some bird watching, pick black walnuts or maybe even go fishing. There's an old trailer on the property. It's not much to look at, but it'll keep you warm and dry. You can just kick back, relax and enjoy yourselves. Monica made me promise not to bug you too much. With all the work she makes me do, you probably won't even know I'm around."
"That is so generous," replied Gilberto. "But we would be an imposition."
"No, you would not," argued Monica. "In fact, if you want to know the truth, I need someone to show me what to do with all those rabbits Mongo gave me."
"How many did he give you?" asked Angela.
"Too many," replied Monica.
"Well, as long as you think we could help ... "
"You would be a big help," admitted Steve. "Please say yes."
Gilberto and Angela looked at each other, smiled, and replied in unison, "We accept."