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Denial Chapter 1

Amy pulled nervously on the hem of her loose-fitting, paint-splattered sweatshirt and watched Josh hug his sister. A few inches shorter than his six foot two, Celeste’s dark hair moved around her shoulders as she hugged him tightly. Her striking hazel-green eyes blazed with happiness. 

Amy had waited a long time for this meeting. Hopping from one foot to the next, she noted how similar they were in coloring and complexion. Feeling a mess, she pulled her sleeves over her hands and wished for the zillionth time that she hadn’t hastily thrown the sweater on this morning.

Releasing Celeste, Josh introduced her. 

“Hi,” Amy said, holding out her hand.

Although painting was her passion, Amy was in her final year at university, and was working on her first real architectural project at a local farmhouse.  Yesterday, she had made the fatal mistake of telling the farmer that she hadn’t ridden since she was tiny. Being pushy, he had her saddled up within the hour telling her it was a docile mare and not to worry. And Amy didn’t until the mare left her flat on her ass halfway down the paddock.

A visit to the ER convinced Amy, as she hobbled home, that nothing short of a frontal lobotomy would force her back in the saddle. It wasn’t until this morning, staring at a fat lip and a nose so swollen it could hide a pair of Manolo Blahniks, that she saw the full impact of the evil little mare’s antics. 

Celeste slowly took her hand.

Embarrassed, Amy realized Celeste wouldn’t believe this badly dressed, frazzled, bruised creature standing before her was, in fact, her twin’s fiancée. 

Amy shook hands, and wished again that she hadn’t let Josh talk her into coming with him to the airport. Celeste was a doctor, he had told her as he cajoled her out the door, one who had treated all kinds of injuries and wouldn’t be fazed by a few bruises. Now would she?  

Amy tried giving the brunette her most charming smile, but the swelling made it lopsided. “Nice to meet you,” she said, feeling what little confidence she had left slip away. 

“What truck hit you?” Celeste asked, eyeing her.

Jeez…nice to meet you too?

Not sure if Celeste was really snarking or teasing, and feeling far too fragile anyway, Amy replied, “The truck was a ten-year-old mare named Ginger who went completely rodeo on me.”

Celeste raised her eyebrows, but didn’t say anything.

Not even a twitch of a smile, Amy thought, feeling the first tendrils of dislike. 

“I’ve really missed you, Celeste,” Josh said. He beamed a huge grin at his sister.

Amy closed her eyes briefly and fought an unusual urge to whack him for sweet-talking her. 

“I’ve missed you too,” Celeste said then grinned back at him. 

Oh…all soft and cuddly now, are you? Amy thought. Cow!

Hugging Celeste, Josh whispered, “I can’t believe it’s taken this long for us to get together.” He gripped her shoulders. “Every friggin’ time I try to catch up with you, you’re off on another adventure. Nigeria for vaccinations; Guatemala for the hurricanes. Where’s your next stop?” 

“Somalia.”

He let her shoulders go. “For how long?” 

“It depends on how long they need me.”

He frowned. “I worry about you.” He touched her cheek.

Amy eyed the small scar that ran from the corner of Celeste’s right eye to the tip of her cheekbone. She hadn’t noticed it in the family photos. Amy chewed on her bottom lip, suddenly aware that all she really knew about the brunette was that she worked for Médecins sans Frontières, was based in Paris and had that French chic look nailed. 

“Josh, right now, I’m here,” Celeste said gently. “Well, some part of me is here.” She frowned. “It seems my luggage is on its way somewhere else.” 

An airline representative approached them. The woman was small, slight and looked very tired. “Ms. Cameron, it’s not great news, I’m afraid,” she said, looking at her watch. “Your luggage is scheduled to arrive in London in the next hour.” 

Celeste looked at her. “Seriously?”

The woman’s cell phone rang. “Yes, and I’m so sorry about this,” she said. “Please excuse me, I won’t be a moment.” She walked away to take the call.

“This is unbelievable,” Celeste said. “Twice this has happened in the last two months!”

Josh shrugged. “We’ll get it sorted.”

“Josh, right now I don’t care what happens to my luggage.” Celeste looked at the official. “It’s taken me thirty-six hours to get here.” She eyed the exit. “I’m outta here.” 

Startled, Amy watched Celeste walk away. She blinked then looked at Josh. 

Josh ran a hand through his hair.  “Can you take care of this?”

“Eh?” Amy asked. “Take care of what?”

“Could you give the woman my contact details?” 

Unable to believe Celeste had stomped off, Amy glared at Josh. “Whoa...you’re joking right!” She pointed in Celeste’s direction. “I know Celeste’s tired, but who does she think she is just walking away like that.” Amy shook her head. “And what kind of comment was that about what hit me?” she asked. “Didn’t you tell me she was in the caring profession?” Amy crossed her arms. “Who does that woman care for...corpses?”

“Honey…please,” Josh said, rubbing her arms. “Look, Celeste gets really cranky when she’s jet-lagged,” he said as if the explanation excused his sister’s behavior. “I’ll take her to the car and meet you out front in a few minutes. Okay?”  

Before Amy had a chance to respond, he was gone. 

Mortified by how shabby and how much of a bruiser she appeared, a flush rose all the way up Amy’s cheeks and straight to her blonde hairline. She tried to smile as the airline official approached her.

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