Do you take this rebel - By Sherryl Woods


The thick white envelope had all the formality of a wedding invitation. Cassie weighed it in her hands, her gaze locked on the postmark—Winding River, Wyoming. Her hometown. A place she sometimes longed for in the dark of night when she could hear her heart instead of her common sense, when hope outdistanced regrets.

Face facts, she told herself sternly. She didn’t belong there anymore. The greatest gift she’d ever given to her mother was her having left town. Her high school friends—the Calamity Janes, they’d called themselves, in honor of their penchant for broken hearts and trouble—were all scattered now. The man she’d once loved with everything in her…Well, who knew where he was? More than likely he was back in Winding River, running the ranch that would be his legacy from his powerful, domineering father. She hadn’t asked, because to do so would be an admission that he still mattered, even after he’d betrayed her, leaving her alone and pregnant.

Still, she couldn’t seem to help the stirring of anticipation that she felt as she ran her fingers over the fancy calligraphy and wondered what was inside. Was one of her best friends getting married? Was it a baby announcement? Whatever it was, it was bound to evoke a lot of old memories.

Finally, reluctantly, she broke the seal and pulled out the thick sheaf of pages inside. Right on top, written in more of that intricate calligraphy, was the explanation: a ten-year high school reunion, scheduled for two months away at the beginning of July. The additional pages described all of the activities planned—a dance, a picnic, a tour of the new addition to the school. There would be lots of time for reminiscing. It would all be capped off by the town’s annual parade and fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Her first thought was of the Calamity Janes. Would they all be there? Would Gina come back from New York, where she was running a fancy Italian restaurant? Would Emma leave Denver and the fast track she was on at her prestigious law firm? And even though she was less than a hundred miles away, would Karen be able to get away from her ranch and its never-ending, back-breaking chores? Then, of course, there was Lauren, the studious one, who’d stunned them all by becoming one of Hollywood’s top box-office stars. Would she come back to a small town in Wyoming for something as ordinary as a class reunion?

Just the possibility of seeing them all was enough to bring a lump to Cassie’s throat and a tear to her eyes. Oh, how she had missed them. They were as different as night and day. Their lives had taken wildly divergent paths, but somehow they had always managed to stay in touch, to stay as close as sisters despite the infrequent contact. They had rejoiced over the four marriages among them, over the births of children, over career triumphs. And they had cried over Lauren’s two divorces and Emma’s one.

Cassie would give anything to see them, but it was out of the question. The timing, the cost…it just wouldn’t work.

“Mom, are you crying?”

Cassie cast a startled look at her son, whose brow was puckered by a frown. “Of course not,” she said, swiping away the telltale dampness on her cheek. “Must have gotten something in my eye.”

Jake peered at her skeptically, but then his attention was caught by the papers she was holding. “What are those?” he asked, trying to get a look.

Cassie held them out of his reach. “Just some stuff from Winding River,” she said.

“From Grandma?” he asked, his eyes lighting up.

Despite her mood, Cassie grinned. Her mother, with whom she’d always been at odds over one thing or another, was her son’s favorite person, mainly because she spoiled him outrageously on her infrequent visits. She also had a habit of tucking money for Jake into her dutiful, weekly letters to Cassie. And for his ninth birthday, a few months back, she had sent him a check. There’d been no mistaking how grownup he’d felt when he’d taken it into the bank to cash it.

“No, it’s not from Grandma,” she said. “It’s from my old school.”

“How come?”

“They’re having a reunion this summer and I’m invited.”

His expression brightened. “Are we gonna go? That would be so awesome. We hardly ever go to see Grandma. I was just a baby last time.”

Not a baby, she thought. He’d been five, but to him it must seem like forever. She’d never had the