Angelica took Caroline's hand, then gently embraced her. "So good to meet you." Her smile faltered. "I'm so sorry for your loss. Buzzy sounded like a wonderful person."
Mike turned to me. "Our family's good friend, Riley Rhodes." Angelica and I shook, her grip bone-crushingly strong.
"And this is"—Mike hesitated for a split second—"Emily Weinberg."
The two women nodded as they shook hands.
Nina walked over and put her hand on Caroline's shoulder, her hazel eyes warm. Tall and slim, with her thick, ash blond hair styled in a simple bob cut, wearing a classic black suit and pearl necklace, Nina radiated calm good taste. "Kyle just got a call he has to take and he insisted on walking Mrs. D to her car. Once again, our condolences. If you need anything, please give us a call."
"Thank you, Nina."
"Hello, Riley, nice to see you." Even though we hadn't traveled in the same circles in high school, Nina was friendly to everyone. "Em." Nina and Emily were old friends. "Mike, we'll see you tomorrow."
"For sure," Mike said.
Nina's calm evaporated when she turned to Angelica. "You're Angelica Miguel! We're huge tennis fans from way back." Nina grinned as she shook hands. "I'm so pleased to meet you."
"Nice to meet you too," Angelica said.
"Sorry, I have to run. See you later." Nina gave Caroline a small smile as she hurried after Kyle and Dandy.
Mike wrapped his arm around Angelica's waist. "Riley, can you take Caroline back to the house? I'll show Angelica the way. Nice to talk with you, Emily."
Emily nodded, tossing her waterfall hair as she turned on her heel and stalked off.
So much for dinner with Emily.
As Mike and Angelica strode to Angelica's Porsche, I thought how well suited they were, both strong, tall, and athletic. Mike helped Angelica into her car then jogged over to his sedan.
"His latest?" I asked as Caroline and I crossed the parking lot.
Caroline shrugged. "I guess. She seems like a catch. A pro tennis player."
"Makes sense," I said, "considering his real estate development company builds golf and tennis resorts."
Caroline sighed as we got into the Mustang. "This is a great car." She ran her hands over her leather seat as I pulled out of the parking lot. "You always did like to go fast, Riley."
Her head dropped back and she closed her eyes. "Oh, I'm tired." Lines I'd never seen before etched either side of Caroline's mouth and sunlight picked out strands of gray in her hair. Painting was something she turned to when troubled, and I noticed bits of paint flecked her hands and there was even a splotch of blue paint among the white cat hairs that clung to her black skirt.
"Are you painting?" I asked.
She nodded. "I just started a landscape. I can't resist all the sunflowers on the farm."
"How's Sprinkles?" Sprinkles was Buzzy's cat, an ageless Persian with the haughty demeanor of a queen forced by a stroke of cruel luck to live with the servants.
"She who must be obeyed?" Caroline brushed at the cat hairs and tightened the knot on a dove gray silk scarf I'd bought her in Paris years ago. "Spoiled beast as always."
Sprinkles had been hiding when I picked up Caroline for the funeral. "I can't wait to see her."
Caroline's breathing deepened as the movement of the car lulled her to sleep. My mind wandered as we drove to the farm where I'd spent so many happy moments riding Buzzy's sweet ponies and playing Capture the Flag after dark. And eating ice cream, of course—as much as I wanted.
Ten minutes later, just outside of town, I joined a slow-moving line of cars. The roads around Penniman had been designated scenic byways, and every summer day brought traffic jams to the narrow lanes. I didn't mind the slowdown. I drank in the scenery: Farmland greened into soybeans or cornfields on both sides of the road. Red barns stood tall beside white farmhouses with black shutters. We passed the gray stone walls and pillars that marked the drive to Moy Mull, Penniman's artists' colony.