Dr. Caroline Graham stood at the side of Angus Fitzgerald’s casket, her oversized sunglasses protecting her eyes from an unrelenting Texas sun. Her gold charm bracelet clanked on the dark-grained wood as she rested her hand gently on the glossy lid. Her heart ached with a soul-deep sadness.
Until she’d moved to Whispering Springs, Texas eighteen months ago, she hadn’t been close to her great-uncle Angus. She’d have never moved here without the encouragement—or should she say demand?—of his sister, Mamie Fitzgerald Bridges—her grandmother. Now she couldn’t imagine not seeing his scruffy face and hearing his gruff voice every day.
“I’m sorry I didn’t spend more time with you through the years, but I’m so glad we had these last months together. Mamie would have been here today if she could. She sends her love.” She sniffed and wiped at the tears. “She said to tell you to prepare to get your ass kicked in checkers as soon as she joins you.” She sniffed again. “I have to be honest, Uncle Angus. I hope that’s a long time away. I’m not ready to lose her too.”
A hand landed softly on her shoulder. She turned her head to look into a pair of blue Montgomery eyes. Kathryn Colleen Montgomery, aka KC, squeezed Caroline’s shoulder.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” KC said.
Caroline wiped her cheeks free of tears with a handkerchief. “Thanks, KC. You’ve been a good friend to Angus and me. I know how much he thought of you.”
KC hugged her. “I loved the old coot.”
Caroline laughed softly. “I know. So did I.” She pulled out of KC’s embrace to lay her hand on his casket again. She gave a sad chuckle. “I’ll miss his cranky rants about all the politicians and—”
“Their thieving ways,” KC finished.
Both women smiled.
“Yeah, I’ll miss those too,” KC said.
Caroline dabbed at her nose and then turned to lay a single long-stemmed orange rose on his coffin. “Rest in peace,” she whispered. “You deserve it. Tell Great-Aunt Bernice I’m sorry I never got to meet her.”
She stepped back and turned toward the gravediggers standing respectively to the side. “Thank you for waiting. I’m done.”
The men moved in to finish the job of lowering the coffin into the ground and replacing the dirt.
“Are you sure we have to meet today?” Caroline asked as she and KC stepped away to give the gravediggers room to work. “Reading Uncle Angus’s will so soon after his funeral seems so…I don’t know…ghoulish.”
KC nodded. “That was his request, but it doesn’t have to be right this second. Take a break, go home and get some rest. You can come to my office later this afternoon if that works better for you.”
She shook her head. “No, let’s just get it done.”
“Okay then. I’ll meet you at the office.”
KC turned, her leather-tooled cowboy boots grinding in the loose gravel near the grave site, her long skirt whipping around her ankles as she marched toward her battered truck.
After blowing one last kiss toward the grave of her late great-uncle who’d welcomed her with open arms, Caroline left the cemetery. The entire Montgomery clan stood in a cluster in the parking lot. She returned their waves as she drove past. Her stomach clenched when Travis Montgomery removed his hat and dipped his head toward her.