“Well, that didn’t go far.” At the sound of Jeremiah’s grunt, Gabriel chuckled and settled his hands over his golf club. “You’re not at your best today, Jere… What gives?”

Jeremiah’s concentrated frown eased up as he glanced up, smiling. “Who else?”

“Oh-ho,” Gabriel chortled. “She at it again?”

“Of course. She’s having a hay day, fixing up Zeke’s bedroom for the girls and intends on painting the guest room too.” He surveyed the putting green, noting only a handful of golfers were out on this humid Saturday. “I don’t have the heart to tell her Zeke’s probably gonna find his own place instead of settling in his old bedroom.”

“Yeah, you better not.” Gabriel smirked, watching Jeremiah set the golf ball on the tee and adjusted his stance. “Those women are too alike, if you ask me.”

“We married them, so it’s our pill to swallow,” Jeremiah muttered dryly and swung his club, driving the golf ball over the lake and sand hill. He smirked victoriously when Gabriel whistled in awe and turned to his friend. “Now what was that you were saying?”

Gabriel snorted, walking over to Jeremiah. “Just pure luck, my friend.” He pulled out the golf ball from his pocket and dropped it to the grass. “Let me show you how it’s done.”

Jeremiah squinted into the distance. “By the way… I’ll have to go to Abbeville soon.”

Tilting his head, Gabriel cocked one brow at Jeremiah’s grave expression. “Aunt Neve?”

“Yeah.” Jeremiah ran a hand over his cropped graying hair. “She’s not doing so well…”

Solemn, Gabriel returned his gaze to the ball. “Have you told Sheena?”

“Not yet,” Jeremiah heaved a sigh, scanning the fields. “I’ll have to go alone.”

Gabriel only grunted and moved to swing the ball when he heard Jeremiah inhale sharply. Alarm made him jerk his eyes to Jeremiah who stared ahead of him with his jaw slack, his thick brows raised in shock. Frowning, he turned his head to scan the field and stiffened at the sight of an odd couple strolling around a golf cart just a few feet from the fairway.

The man, probably in his early thirties, cut an imposing form in a dark navy golf shirt and khaki shorts. The woman beside him, older in years, leaned into him. Her thin frame was draped in a blue cotton dress that billowed in the wind; an odd and slightly inappropriate choice of attire for golfing. Maybe that was why they stood out among the small group of golfers. Or the fact that they were statuesque in form, putting off an air of elegance in such a casual place.

Both Gabriel and Jeremiah stared slack-jawed as the couple traipsed the putting green, two other men trailing behind them.

“No way…” Gabriel breathed, his voice trembling slightly.

Jeremiah didn’t answer and couldn’t look away.

Topher chuckled, draping a protective arm around Nadine’s shoulders. “This is Nadine Chance, my favorite lady. Nadine, these are the guys I told you about on the way here. Anand Pourahmadi and Weston George, my colleagues at Ziemens.”

“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Chance,” Anand greeted Nadine with a cheerful grin, reaching for her hand.

She wrinkled her nose before placing her hand in his. “That’s Miss Chance.”

Topher smirked at his bemused colleague. “And don’t you forget it,” he chuckled when she elbowed him.

Anand chuckled with a nod. “I stand corrected, Miss Chance.”

“You look quite lovely in blue, Miss Chance,” Weston said, grinning wide.

Amused, Topher watched a dusky tint color Nadine’s cheeks.

“I see you have charmers for friends,” Nadine groused halfheartedly as Weston took her hand.

“Looks like you like the attention,” Topher countered with a grin.

“Oh please. Stop with your silliness,” she tossed her nose in the air. When the three men burst in laughter, she grinned, preening at their undivided attention. Then Nadine straightened her frame and tilted her eyes to the tee-box. “What are we waiting for? Let’s play ball.”

Topher laughed, squeezing her gently in a quick hug. “That’s basketball, Nadine.”

“Ball is ball,” she tossed back, smiling when his friends chuckled. “So tell me, gentlemen. Is my boy any good?”

Anand choked on a laugh. Topher rolled his eyes.

Weston grinned. “Depends… He’s a little better than Flitcroft.”

“Flint-who?” Nadine’s brow knotted in confusion, tilting her caramel gaze to Topher’s face.

As his friends howled in laughter, Topher shook his head . “Pay them no mind, Nadine. They’re only jealous because they can’t match my skills.” He grinned cheekily when Nadine raised a brow, his friends choking in laughter.

Once Gabriel’s car disappeared down the hill, Jeremiah lowered his waving hand. Waiting until the car disappeared around the corner, he turned swiftly and started back up the incline to the clubhouse.

At the entrance, he sidestepped two young caddies lugging golf bags and strode up to the counter. “Excuse me…” he addressed the concierge, heart racing hard.

“Yes sir,” the bland-faced man drawled, gruff brows lifted in question.

“I-I’m afraid I lost my company for a second when I stepped out for a toilet break,” Jeremiah tripped over his words. “Could you help me locate them again?” He curled his fingers into his sweaty palms.

The concierge nodded slowly. “Sure. Do you have a name we can look up?”

Jeremiah swallowed hard. “O-Odetta Chance…” he stuttered over the name he hadn’t uttered in such a long time.

The concierge’s frown deepened as he typed the requested name. Then his blue eyes lifted in regret. “Sorry sir. There’s no one by that name here.”

Jeremiah gaped at the concierge and shook his head in disbelief. “O-okay, thanks…” he mumbled and moved away from the counter. Dazed, he trudged out of the clubhouse and down the graveled path to his car.

Leaning back in the seat of his car, he stared listlessly at the putting green, recalling the slender woman in blue. “Odetta…” he whispered softly, a cold shiver trickling down his spine.

<<Chapter 6 || Chapter 8>>