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Rachel's eyes scoured my outfit for the third time. I didn't understand why she was having such a hard time liking it. She had been the one to pick it out, after all.

"Maybe it's too businessy," she mused, thumb and forefinger thoughtfully grasping her chin.

"It's a conference," I reminded her. "I can't show up looking like a scrub. This dress is fine."

"Okay. I just want you to be in something hotter."

"What?"

"You might not be able to date our teacher, but there might be a beautiful and talented writer guy at this conference," she said. "If I put you in something with a little more cleavage—"

"Yeah, I don't think so." I grabbed my purse and the manuscript that Mr. Whitaker suggested I bring and left my bedroom.

"Okay, okay!" Rachel was scrambling to keep up with me. "No cleavage! You look like a sexy beast as is."

Snorting, I quipped, "You're starting to sound like Grace again."

"Oh, please."

We ate a light breakfast, mostly because we were short on time. Mr. Whitaker would be here in five or so minutes to pick me up. My parents, thankfully, were still asleep. I couldn't believe they'd actually let me go on this little adventure. It was probably because they liked him so much.

As we stepped outside on the porch, Rachel dusting off the muffin crumbs from my dress that I failed to catch, I watched the sun inch up over the horizon. It was really early to be functioning this well. I turned to my best friend and wrapped my arms around her.

"You're amazing," I told her. "I can't believe you sacrificed your precious sleep to help me get ready this morning. God will bless you for your kindness."

She snickered. "A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. And I'm this girl's best gal, so I gotta help you however I can."

"Thank you. I would be lost without you." I sent her a wink.

"Oh, I know. But please, keep telling me how brilliant and clever and funny I am."

"I would love to, but I'm afraid my horse-drawn carriage is coming along now," I said, gesturing to the silver Toyota heading in our direction.

"That's his car?" Rachel demanded incredulously. "Shouldn't he be in a Camaro or a Mustang? That's such a mom car."

Laughing, I replied, "Maybe he's just ready to start a family. Or maybe it's a rental."

"Don't make excuses for this infamy."

"I'll try not to." I pulled her in for another hug as the car drove up my driveway. "I'll see you at church tomorrow."

"Uh huh. You better text me tonight so I know when to put your wedding on my calendar."

"Will do."

Mr. Whitaker waved at me through the windshield as I walked around the hood of his car. There was a man in the passenger seat, who Juno was sitting behind. She didn't seem overjoyed to see me when I slid into the back row with her.

"Good morning, Hazel," Mr. Whitaker greeted.

"Morning, everyone." I smiled at Juno before locking eyes with the stranger.

He was the oldest out of all of us, though he looked to be in his early thirties. The man had ghostly pale skin and thin chestnut hair. Aside from that, he wasn't terribly hard on the eyes. If anything, he seemed a little nerdy. I could work with nerdy.

Meeting Mr. WhitakerWhere stories live. Discover now