Chapter 23

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The crickets were in full song as Gretchen adjusted the shoulders of her dress, the balcony doors open bringing the crisp, Fall harvest scent in. It was almost dusk, and just outside, in the courtyard, strung lights gave the villa a festive, almost movie-set vibe.

She'd been here two days, and it was already heady beyond words. The first night had been sampling the villa's own wine, and the next day had been Sharla and Gretchen nursing hangovers by the pool. The heat had been high for the time of year, so it was also a welcome chance to just relax and gossip, nap and read.

Pure bliss.

The dinner they were going to this evening was apparently semi-formal, so she had pulled out a soft dark blue mid-thigh length dress that had a wide boat neck and was comfortable, but also form-fitting. A nip in the evening air meant the velvet-like fabric would keep her warm. Sharla walked in, adjusting an earring, let out a muffled 'rawr' and then they both giggled.

"Love this dress! I have never seen it before!" Sharla said as she stopped to sniff at her perfume on the table, and then fluffed Gretchen's hair, which did as it always did in humidity, pouf wildly. Sharla reached for her frizz-tamer spray and scrunched some through Gretchen's hair, then her own, as Gretchen patted her lips with a bit of gloss.

"I bought it for the trip. I figured sophisticated was a likely requirement, given Kevin's circles."

"Has Josh seen this?"

"Nope." she replied, grinning. "I'll wear it for him sometime, I suppose."

"He'll love it." she replied saucily. "And then he'll remove it."

"Shar. La!" Gretchen admonished, then they both laughed. It was true. He would probably do just that. She wondered if she could get away with wearing it in winter in Toronto. It got so damned cold, and the dress was short. Maybe next time they visited Travis and Felicia.

Giggling, they caught each other's eyes in the mirror, and Sharla put her head beside Gretchen's. They stood in the mirror, Sharla's wild red hair and flashing gold hoop earrings next to Gretchen's blonde mane and more sedate sapphire drops.

"I'm glad you are here." Sharla said, and squeezed her before letting her go. "I needed time with you."

Gretchen picked up her phone, but there were no recent messages. She missed Josh like mad, more than she even expected to. The romance of the landscape was intoxicating. She was loving time with Sharla, but there was just this empty spot beside her that he needed to fill. Her friend Jennifer had asked her, after they had all met Josh, when the wedding was.

She was giving him time, but part of her was hoping he would be ready soon. She loved him, she wanted him in her life, for life. To start their family. She never voiced it to him, not wanting to pressure him.

"He's fine, Gretch. Seriously." Sharla admonished her as Gretchen frowned and sighed. "You two are inseparable! Do we have to give you a fancy couple name, like 'JoGretch' or 'Greshua'?"

They both laughed at the silliness of that. The fan pages had not been kind to her at first, but no one had given them a moniker yet, thank God.

She had texted him that morning that she was headed to a fancy dinner tonight, and he'd responded with 'great, have fun!' but nothing since. He was likely neck-deep in World Series stuff in Boston by now.

"I don't know what-" Gretchen started, but then stopped. It was useless to pine for him, they were in one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world, dressed like movie stars, in a villa out of her dreams. She shook herself mentally. Obsessing was not something she did anymore. Josh had helped her throw off boring Gretchen forever, seemingly that first night in Vegas, and ever since.

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