Love, Laughter, and Happily Ever Afters Collection

Love, Laughter, and Happily Ever Afters Collection by Violet Duke Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Love, Laughter, and Happily Ever Afters Collection by Violet Duke Read Free Book Online
Authors: Violet Duke
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Contemporary, Collections & Anthologies
laughter and the astonishment of a bodily process that couldn’t be controlled. “How old are you?” Hiccup.
    “T-Twenty-seven,” she said. “Almost twenty-eight.”
    “Oooh!” Camilla said. “So, you get to have a birthday soon.”
    Sammie hiccupped again.
    “I just turned seven three weeks ago,” Camilla added. “When’s yours?”
    “In July,” Elizabeth admitted. “The fifth. The day after Independence Day.”
    Hiccup. “Cool,” Sammie said. “My birthday’s not—” Hiccup. “Until November. That’s too far away.”
    Elizabeth smiled at him then snatched a glance at Rob. He was staring at her curiously.
    “This is my sister-in-law Maria-Louisa,” he said as the petite woman sat down.
    “Nice to meet you, Elizabeth,” Tony’s wife said. “I see you’re getting to know Camilla and Sammie. These are the triplets.” She pointed to the cluster of three identical boys jumping on either side of her. “Matthew, Mark and Michael. They’re three and a half.”
    A chorus of Hi ‘Lizbet’s greeted her. She looked deep into their brown eyes and fell instantly in love.
    “Hello, boys.” She gave them her warmest smile. “Are you three ever b-big. Are you going to sit right here with us?”
    “Of course,” Alessandra Gabinarri broke in. “Everyone should gather ‘round the same table. To give thanks. To eat. To talk about the day. I wish the others were here, too.” She turned to the triplets. “Boys, sit down.”
    Her grandsons did as she commanded but, Elizabeth couldn’t help but notice, nothing could keep their little bodies from squirming.
    “Antonio, time to eat. Now .”
    “Yes, Mama,” Tony said, looking sheepish as he sauntered into the room and took his place at the head of the table, between two of his children and opposite his mother.
    For a moment, Elizabeth wondered about this. Tony was only two years younger, it was true, but didn’t the head of the table traditionally go to the eldest male present? Maybe being a married father carried extra weight with Alessandra Gabinarri.
    She caught Rob staring at her again and being surprisingly silent amidst the family chaos. Elizabeth, meanwhile, answered questions galore from Camilla, Sammie and even an occasional triplet. Dishes clattered as roasted potatoes, manicotti with meat sauce, grilled carrots and tossed salad with crouton cubes were passed back and forth. Hunks of bread slathered in garlic butter were distributed to the crew. Wine or soft drinks were offered. Nobody dared refuse anything.
    “None of that stinking low-carb stuff for us Gabinarris,” Tony whispered to her with one eyebrow cocked while his mother heaped several spoonfuls of potatoes onto little Sammie’s plate.
    Alessandra stopped abruptly, ladle in the air. “What happened to my music?” She looked accusingly around the table. “Roberto, was it you?” she said.
    Rob shook his head, wide-eyed but with upturned lips, and his mother’s gaze fixed on Tony.
    “Antonio?”
    “Oh, all right. Yes, it was me.” Tony rolled his eyes and threw his hands in the air.
    His mother continued to glare at him.
    “I’ll go put it back on,” Tony said.
    “You do that, Antonio.” She set down her bowl and crossed her arms. “Fooling with my CD player,” she muttered until the strains of Madonna’s classic “Get into the Groove” floated into the dining room. “Hmm. That’s better,” she said when Tony returned. And the clattering, clanking, chattiness and general chaos resumed again at the table.
    Fifteen minutes later, Elizabeth had managed to mostly relax. The children’s queries kept her occupied and Marie-Louisa tossed encouraging smiles her way. She released a deep, pent-up breath. She’d almost done it. She’d nearly made it through the meal without saying or doing anything too embarrassing, thank goodness. In another half hour she’d be able to go home.
    She glanced around the lively table. The triplets were making a game of poking holes in

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