Blog Tour: The Marriage Test by Suzanne Redfearn
From Suzanne Redfearn, the bestselling author of In an Instant, comes a heartfelt short story about one couple’s journey to discover if there really is a secret ingredient to happily ever after before their upcoming holiday wedding in The Marriage Test.
The server appears. “Something to drink with dinner?”
“Do you have a white burgundy?” I ask, feeling like something bright to match my mood.
The server points to the French section of the wine list.
“Oh,” I say, as the list is limited and pricey. “I only want a glass. I’ll just take a—”
“A bottle of the finest white burgundy you have,” Justin interrupts.
He waves me off.
The server leaves, and I lean in to kiss him. “I love you.”
“For ordering a bottle of wine?”
“For ordering a bottle of wine to make me happy.”
I sit back again, and he returns his hand to my knee. “Good evening.”
I look up, and my breath catches. Standing a foot from our table is Annabelle Winters, my chef idol since college. She’s five feet tall with narrow shoulders and wide hips. Curls of wild black hair escape her white cap, flour dusts her black chef coat, and in her hands is a cutting board with a round loaf of bread.
“I understand tonight is a special occasion,” she says, a Mediterranean accent rounding the words. I tilt my head as Justin nods. “In my home country, we have a tradition: remarkable moments are celebrated by the breaking of bread. So, I made this loaf specially for you.” She sets the board on the table, wisps of steam spiraling from the golden, flaky crust. “This is pogača, the bread of my childhood and a symbol of love.”
With a small bow, she pivots away.
“That . . .that was . . .I can’t believe it . . .that was Annabelle Winters.”
Justin smiles wide, a proud grin that crinkles his cheeks. “You told her it was a special occasion?”
“It is,” he says. “We are together.”
I look at the loaf. “Wow. Pogača. My grandmother told me about this bread. It doesn’t use eggs or milk, and it’s cooked on a hearth over an open fire.”
“It’s still warm,” he says. “It must have just come out of the oven.”
I lift it to my face and inhale deeply, warm yeast and flour filling my nose. “Mmmm.” I hold it toward him.
He takes a breath, then leans back and nods. “Well, go on . . . break bread.”
Grinning like a kid at Christmas, I grip the edges and start to twist.
“Wait!” Justin yelps, stopping me, the loaf suspended.
He falls from his chair to the deck, my leg flopping from his lap along with his napkin.
I giggle. “What are you doing?”
“Okay,” he says, now kneeling on one knee. “Keep going.”
The people at the table behind us have stopped what they were doing and are now looking at us, and I notice Annabelle Winters beside the entrance watching as well. I look at the bread, then at Justin, then back again, and blood rushes to my face as I realize what is happening.
“Really?” I say.
He nods toward the bread.
Cheeks spread wide, I tear it in two, sending gold crumbs raining onto the tablecloth.
Poking from the steaming center is the corner of a stainless-steel cylinder.
I dig my fingers in to pry it loose and set it on the palm of my hand. An inch and a half tall and two inches in diameter, it’s engraved on top with two doves surrounded by a ring of leaves.
The woman behind us shifts for a better view.
Heart pounding, I prize off the lid. Sitting on a bed of white satin is a stunning sapphire ring, the center stone blue as the deepest ocean, a single diamond baguette on either side.
“Ava Nicole Barnes,” Justin says, his voice elevated for the audience, “keeper of my heart, guardian of my soul, and woman of my dreams, will you make me the happiest man on this earth and do me the great honor of becoming my wife?”
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