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It didn’t seem to matter that his character was suspect. Her body wasn’t interested in the three thousand other women he’d had sex with. It just wanted to be number three thousand and one. How sad was that?
She picked up the top sheet of paper from the stack Reid had been going through.
“What’s this?” she asked as she scanned a letter from a boy wanting an autograph.
“A bunch of crap sent over by my manager,” Reid grumbled. “I let his office handle all my fan mail, which might have been a mistake.”
Lori remembered the slams about Reid ignoring kids in need in the newspaper article.
He flipped the tortilla. “I didn’t want to bother,” he said grimly. “That’s my big crime. So I trusted others to take care of things and apparently they did a piss-poor job. Seth’s response to everything was to send a check.”
“Seth’s the business manager?”
He nodded. “I was invited to a hospital opening and didn’t know. They put me on the program and everything. That’s not good.”
“But if you didn’t know, it’s not your fault.” Wait! Was she defending him? She resisted the need to slap herself. Didn’t she consider him useless? Hello, na**d pictures. That had to mean something.
“Tell that to the people waiting for me to show up.” He grabbed a plate from the cupboard and slid the quesadilla onto it. “It gets worse. Some kid who was dying wanted to meet me as his last wish. But I didn’t show up. Instead he got an autographed picture and a signed baseball.”
Reid handed her the food, then slumped down across from her. “It all just sucks.”
She was torn, both feeling sorry for him and wanting to shake him. “You’re some famous baseball player, right?” she asked before taking a bite. The quesadilla was perfect—hot, with melted cheese, grilled chicken and just a hint of spice.
“Used to be.”
“Then you’re in a position to make a difference on a much bigger scale than most people. Things went bad. You can’t change that, but you can fix things. The paper mentioned some kids who got stranded with no return ticket. Pay them back. Call the kid and go see him now. Manage your fan mail, yell at your manager or fire him. Get involved.”
Reid stared out the window over the sink. “It’s not that easy.”
Okay, now shaking him had a definite priority over pity. “It can be. I know you were too busy with your exciting life before, but you don’t have that excuse anymore. You have a responsibility. Be the person everyone expects you to be. Grow up. You might surprise yourself.”
“You don’t think much of me, do you?”
He gave her a slow, sexy smile. One that gave a whole new meaning to the phrase blown away. If he’d shown her the slightest bit of interest, she would have ripped off her clothes and done it with him right there on the kitchen table.
Of course, according to Cassie’s article, Reid wasn’t all that great in bed. Except she had a feeling Cassie was lying. She had to be. Everything about Reid, the way he moved, he teased, he spoke, declared that the man loved women. All women.
Well, all women except her.
Reality splashed over her like cold water. Time to end the fantasy fest. She wasn’t his type. She would never be someone he could see as appealing. If he knew how he got to her, he would only pity her.
The thought of that shamed her and she spoke before she could stop herself.
“Just so we’re clear, I’m not interested in you,” she said coolly. “Or anyone like you. You’re no one I could like or respect.”
The words hung there in the silence. She desperately wanted to call them back. What had she been thinking? He was Reid Buchanan—he could emotionally eviscerate her with a couple of well chosen words.
She braced herself for the attack as he rose and stared down at her. But he didn’t say what she’d expected.
“I thought you were different,” he said quietly. “I didn’t think you were the type to kick me when I was down. Guess I was wrong.”
And then he was gone and she was alone.
Shame returned, but this time it had nothing to do with wanting a man she could never have. Instead it was about hurting someone who didn’t deserve to be hurt. Fortune slots free online.
She’d been trying to make herself feel better by saying he was nothing more than an empty shell—a pretty façade, not a real person. But she’d been wrong. Reid was very real.
She’d been disrespectful and dismissive. Pretty much acting the way she’d expected him to act. The way others had acted toward her.
She’d become someone she didn’t like and she didn’t know how to fix that.
LORI STARED at the ringing phone. “Are you going to get that?” she asked.
Gloria continued to flip through the DVD magazine. “There’s no one I want to talk to.”
“Then I guess I’ll talk to them.” Lori grabbed the phone. “Hello?”
“This is Cal Buchanan. You’re, ah…”
“Lori Johnston. We spoke when you called before. Hi. How are you?”
“Good. I’m phoning to check on my grandmother. I thought I might come by later and visit.”
“That’s great.” Lori covered the phone and smiled at Gloria. “It’s Cal. He wants to see you.”
Gloria didn’t bother looking up. “No. Tell him to go away.”
Lori uncovered the phone. “She’s thrilled and can’t wait to see you.”
Cal chuckled. “Want to let me hear her say that?”
“Not really. She doesn’t always say what she means. You have to read between the lines.”
Gloria glared at Lori. “Hang up this instant. You will not answer my phone again, nor will you speak for me.”
Lori took a step back so she was out of reach. “Your grandmother is doing great. She’s making progress every day. Even her physical therapist is impressed and he’s one tough guy to please. She’s gained a little weight. Not as much as I would like, but then I’m just bitter at how good she must look in her clothes.”
Gloria’s scowl didn’t soften. “You’re annoying me. Hang up. Or tell Cal he can visit, but just him. Not that whore he married or her horrible baby.”
Lori winced. She hadn’t had the phone covered and based on how Cal swore, he’d heard every word.
“Why do I bother?” he asked before he hung up.
Lori put down the phone. “What is wrong with you?” she demanded. “Why would you do that? He’s your grandson. This is the second time he’s called, wanting to come see you. To me that shows an impressive level of commitment. If he was just being polite, he would have stopped after one call.”
Instead of answering, Gloria turned her attention back to the catalog.
Lori snatched it from her and tossed it on the ground. “I’m talking to you.”
“I have no interest in this conversation. You need to be careful. You’re coming very close to overstepping your bounds.”
“Excuse me while I tremble in fear.” Lori stalked to the bookcases and turned back to face the bed. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked again. “Why are you acting like this? It doesn’t make any sense. I know you’re lonely. I know you’re hurting and feeling a sense of your own mortality. Who wouldn’t after what you’ve been through? So you deal with that by connecting with people. But you don’t connect. We’re talking about your family and you keep pushing them away. Why?”
“I will not discuss this with you.”
“Too bad, because I’m not leaving until I understand.”
Gloria folded her arms across her chest and looked out the window. Lori stared at her.
“I thought you had the most selfish grandkids in the world,” she said slowly. “You’d lost your only child, you took them in, raised them, ran the family business and your reward was for them to ignore you. But it’s not like that, is it? You push them away. What are you trying to prove?”
“Stay out of this,” Gloria told her, her face tight with anger. “This isn’t your business. You will stop right now.”
“Who’s gonna make me? You? You think you’re so tough, but I’m not afraid of you.”
One corner of Gloria’s mouth twitched. “Very mature.”
Lori held in a grin. Oh, my. Was that a crack in the armor? A sign of humanity? It couldn’t be.
“I don’t care about mature,” Lori told her. “I do what works. What’s going on with Cal? Why don’t you want to see him?”
Gloria turned to the window again, but this time the action seemed more about pain than defiance. “He’s never respected me.”
“I doubt that.”
“You don’t know. And that woman he married. She was pregnant with another man’s baby. That child he’s raising isn’t his.”
And people thought home care could be boring. “Did she cheat on him?”
“No. She was pregnant before they got together.”
“So technically she didn’t do anything wrong.”
“That’s not the point.”
“Actually it is the point. Is Cal happy?”
“Any fool can be happy.”
“I’ll take that as a yes.” She leaned against the side of the bed. “You might want to be careful about pushing people away too many times. Eventually they stop trying to get close.”
“You must know this from experience,” Gloria said, turning to look at her.
Lori blinked. “Excuse me? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Of course you do. But it’s not so comfortable to have someone analyzing you, is it?” Gloria looked her up and down. “How long have you done your best to ignore your appearance? One might even say you play down your looks.”
Lori did her best not to react, and that included blushing. “I wear scrubs because it’s appropriate for my job.”
“They’re shapeless and ugly. Your hair isn’t horrible, but you pull it back in that ridiculous braid. No makeup, those glasses.”
“They help me see,” Lori said. “Blind nurses are much harder to employ.”
“You use humor as a weapon. I would say I’m not the only one pushing people away. So what’s your excuse? When did you stop trying?”
A long, long time ago, Lori thought grimly. When she’d realized her older sister was totally perfect and that she, Lori, would never measure up.
“So, now you don’t have quite so much to say,” Gloria said calmly.
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“I prefer telling other people what’s wrong with them, but I can handle whatever you say. I wear my hair back because it’s practical. I dress like this because it’s appropriate. I don’t wear makeup because I have limited time in the morning and I’d rather spend it on a run than painting my face.”
“Excellent excuses. Have you used them before or did you come up with them all right now?”
Lori stared at her patient. The good news was Gloria was showing a healthy, if slightly twisted interest in life. The bad news was she’d shot a few unpleasant truths right into Lori’s gut while doing it.
“What do you want from me?” Lori asked. “Is there a purpose or are your comments their own kind of fun?”
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“I want you to wear regular clothes. Jeans and a sweater. Looking at you in those…what did you call them?”
“Right. Looking at you in those scrubs is depressing. I’m already near death. I don’t need my demise hurried along by looking at your ugly clothes.”
Lori flipped up the hem of her shirt and pretended to look for a tag. “There’s no warning label that being seen in scrubs can cause death.”
“Crabby old biddy.”
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Gloria pressed her lips together, as if holding in a smile. “You will wear regular clothes starting tomorrow.”
“You actually can’t make me.”
Gloria ignored her. “In return, there is a slight chance I might be willing to see one of my grandchildren.”
That was a victory. And worth wearing jeans. “You have a deal.”
Gloria eyed her head. “We also need to do something about your hair.”
“Not likely. The price for that is you singing karaoke.”
DANI WAITED for her large nonfat latte at the crowded Daily Grind across the street from the downtown Nordstrom.
This had always been her favorite of Seattle’s Daily Grinds—probably because it was the first one her brother Cal had opened. She’d stood in line the very first day while Cal had worked the counter and waited to see if his business would take off.
It had. Now there were Daily Grinds all over the West Coast. The company was expanding and giving Starbucks a run for its money.
Of course, thinking about Cal’s success made her own life look just a tad more grim, she thought with a wry smile. Decisions were going to have to be made. No, that wasn’t right. She’d already made the decisions. What she lacked was action.
The barista called her name and she grabbed her coffee. It was time to give notice at The Waterfront and go look for a new job. One where she would succeed or fail based on her performance and not because of her family.
She turned, only to have someone bump into her from behind. She glanced over her shoulder and saw a pleasant-looking man backing away.
“Sorry,” he said, shaking his head. “I zigged when I should have zagged.”