Only a few days left before Ashley Gallegos' Last Chance Baby hits shelves!
What's the best way to celebrate?
With an excerpt, of course.
Last Chance Baby
It was like Hailey had never left Maggie’s side all those years ago. She treated everyone to an amazing made-from-scratch feast complete with ribeye steaks, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, and a large chocolate cake that had Hailey drooling since she first walked in the door. She even had a bottle of local sparkling cider on hand for Hailey to toast the meal with. Hailey was sure that she ate enough for everyone but she wasn’t ashamed, like she would have been back in Seattle. Here, people kept encouraging her to eat more for the baby. Everyone in Corrales said she was too skinny and it seemed to be a town goal to fatten her up
“How is it, Hailey? Have you had any cravings with the pregnancy? If there is anything you are craving, I can see if I can whip it up for you.” Maggie smiled at her from across the table.
Hailey smiled as she shook her head. “I haven’t had any weird cravings. Mostly I just eat more of everything. But this is delicious.” She smiled genuinely, something she hadn’t done much until very recently. “Thank you so much for inviting me. I think I’ve eaten about twice as much as everyone else combined! This might even be better than Gram’s cooking but I’ll deny it if you tell her I said that.”
Everyone laughed. It was well-known in Corrales that Gram’s cooking was her point of pride. “Actually, she was the one who taught me how to cook. I was worried about burning everything once I married John and so Theresa invited me over for cooking lessons. It was fun and I think it helped.”
Hailey’s heart dropped a little bit, catching Maggie’s meaning.
Chuck looked confused, as if he was missing out on some sort of insider secret. “Helped? With the cooking? I would hope so. That was kind of the point, wasn’t it?”
Hailey’s smile wavered slightly. “I think she means that it helped Gram after I left.”
Maggie nodded slowly. “It helped me too. I missed you so much. I missed my best friend.”
She reached across the table and grabbed Maggie’s hand. “I missed you too.”
After the meal, John and Chuck went outside to look at the car that John was working on and Maggie and Hailey cleared the remains of the meal from the table. They were washing the dishes when Maggie suddenly stopped and hugged Hailey tight to her.
“I just can’t believe you’re back, Hailey. I thought you must have been so mad at me to leave and never say anything.” She took a deep breath. “I am so glad you’re here. It just hasn’t been the same without you.”
Hailey let Maggie hug her and felt her chest grow tight. She had missed so many pivotal moments in Maggie’s life. Since Hailey fled to Seattle, Maggie met the love of her life, gotten married, and moved into this big beautiful place. They’d promised each other as kids that they’d be there for each other always because that’s what besties did, but Maggie didn’t even send an invitation to the wedding.
Maggie pulled back and saw the tears and guilt in Hailey’s eyes. “Hey, no more sadness. We’re all here and everything is good. Tears are bad for the baby, okay?” She put her arms around Hailey, who managed a small giggle as the men walked back in.
“Everything okay in here?” John asked quietly, with Chuck coming in behind him. Chuck made eye contact with Hailey for a moment. His expression was gentle and full of concern, and Hailey was genuinely grateful for his presence.
“We’re all good,” Hailey said as she wiped a tear from her eye. “Preggo hormones are the worst.” Hailey’s laugh was genuine this time and shared with the group, although Chuck and John were visibly less comfortable with the level of estrogen in the room. Maggie broke the tension with hot cups of cocoa and coffee and Chuck gestured toward the cozy living room. Soon the four of them were engaged in good conversation and even better gossip. It was a Corrales tradition to exercise your jaw after a good meal.
Maggie and John caught Hailey up on all the small town news she had missed. They told her who was married, divorced, pregnant, and more. She laughed until her side hurt and commiserated with the friends who had misfortune in their lives. For a little while, Hailey felt normal, whatever normal was. She savored the experience of just chatting with good friends.
“Oh, Hailey. Did you see the news today? It’s so good that you came back. Seattle is getting to be so dangerous. It’s so sad about that poor woman.” Maggie shook her head as she leaned forward and put down her mug.
“I haven’t actually seen anything on TV since I’ve gotten back. I’ve been working in the store and Gram’s been catching up on her Lifetime movies. What woman?” Hailey also put down her mug, uncertain of what Maggie was about to say next, and braced herself for the inevitable. The horror she left behind wasn’t just small town gossip. The monster chasing Hailey was big news and she knew there was no town tiny enough for her to hide from the specter of this reality. As if on cue, the baby started to kick and Hailey put her hands on her stomach as if to protect the child from the nightmare of it all.
“Well, let’s turn on the TV. John, will you turn it on please? It’s been on all day. It’s like a car accident—I just can’t stop watching. Mark my words, this is going to be the next big national headline.” Maggie adjusted herself in her seat so she could see the TV as John flipped the channels to CNN.
Hailey felt her heart start to pound as she and Chuck turned around to see what Maggie was talking about.
What she heard then was like a dream, full of words she didn’t want to hear. “The recent death of Seattle socialite and heiress Erin Dalton who was discovered unresponsive three days ago in her Queen Anne mansion is now being investigated by the police as a homicide. A spokesman for the Seattle police department has declined to comment on any possible leads. Her husband, Derek Dalton, the CEO of Dalton Enterprises, Inc., has been said to be overcome with grief and unable to leave the home despite its crime scene status. More information will be reported as it becomes available…”
Her body grew rigid as she fought the urge to vomit, her hands wrapped around her belly. The world tilted and everything around her seemed to fade in slow motion. Panic overwhelmed her and Hailey tried to call out to Chuck but was only able to catch his eye as her entire world turned black.
©Copyright Ashley Gallegos, 2017