The Immortal Who Loved Me(Argeneau, book 21)(32) by Lynsay Sands
Sherry nodded and peered down at their entwined hands, trying to think of another topic, something less depressing to discuss. After a moment she said, “If Atlantis was that advanced back then, imagine how much further ahead it would be now.”
“Hmmm,” Basil murmured, and then pointed out, “On the other hand, they might eventually have found a fix for the nano issue and then I would not be here to meet you.”
She nodded silently at that, acknowledging it was true. She hadn’t known the man long, but she was definitely glad to have met him . . . so far.
“So . . . why a kitchenware store?” Basil asked suddenly.
Sherry glanced to him with surprise and then grinned at his somewhat baffled expression. She supposed to a man, opening a kitchenware store would be the last thing he’d think to do. Especially a man who hadn’t eaten in forever. Shrugging, she said simply, “Because I love food.”
Basil considered her answer for a moment, but his expression didn’t clear and he finally asked, “Well, then why not a restaurant?”
“Because I suck at cooking,” she said honestly, and chuckled at the dismay this brought to his face. After a moment she assured him, “I don’t really suck at it, but I’m not good enough to run a restaurant. Besides, I love all the gadgets and whosits in my store; pasta makers, ice cream makers, the gadget that peels, cores, and slices your apples . . .” She shrugged. “There are so many nifty things out there now that make cooking easier for women like me who are busy and want to save time. And then there are lovely serving sets, pretty wine decanters, cool stone ice cubes, and so on. There are so many innovations and new ones almost weekly.”
“And you probably have every one of them in your own kitchen,” he guessed with amusement.
“I do,” she confessed with a self-deprecating smile, and then confessed, “I have pretty much everything and anything necessary to throw fabulous dinner parties. Sadly, I never get to use them. I never have the time, and even if I did, I haven’t had the time to make much in the way of friends. I have a couple, but I’ve been so busy getting the store up and running that I let a lot of friendships drop.”
“So a social butterfly who is held back by work?” Basil suggested gently.
Sherry considered that, then smiled with self-deprecation and said, “That or a wannabe social butterfly who hides behind her work.”
Basil appeared surprised by her candor, but merely asked, “How long have you owned your store?”
“Three years,” Sherry answered.
“And you’re thirty-two now?” he asked.
“Yes, I opened it on my twenty-ninth birthday.”
Basil raised his eyebrows and gave a silent whistle. “Impressive.”
Sherry smiled faintly and shook her head. “Not that impressive. While I worked hard and saved every spare penny after university, I still couldn’t have opened the store that young on my own.”
“Then how?” he asked curiously.
Sherry shrugged, and avoided answering by telling him, “I could have opened it six or seven years earlier than that. Luther offered me the money to open a store when we graduated, but I refused.”
“Luther?” Basil asked, obviously curious.
“Oh.” She gave a slight laugh. “A friend. His name is really Lex, but I used to call him Lex Luther as a joke and then somehow it just became Luther.” She shrugged and then smiled reminiscently before saying, “He’s the best friend I ever had. We met in university, ended up both renting rooms in the same house when I moved off campus after my first year, and we’re still friends today, though I don’t get to see him anymore.
“Anyway, he comes from a rich family,” she added. “So when graduation came, he offered to bankroll me on the store. We’d be partners. But—” She paused and grimaced. “I wanted to do it on my own. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it, and I had a plan. Besides, I didn’t want to gamble on his money. I’d have never forgiven myself if the store failed and I lost his money.”
“Is this Luther the man you were dating but were not exclusive with?”
Sherry noted that he was talking about it in the past tense, as if she’d agreed to break off her casual relationship with the man she’d been dating. But she let that go and shook her head. “No. Luther has only ever been a friend.” She smiled and added, “Actually, I haven’t seen him for years. He was offered a really good position with a company in Saudi Arabia about the time I opened my store, and other than the occasional e-mail, we hardly talk anymore. But before that he was kind of like a combo girlfriend and older brother all in one. And I think he’s gay, although he hasn’t admitted that to me yet.” Sherry paused to ponder that briefly, wondering why Luther wouldn’t admit it to her. It wasn’t like she’d care.
Shrugging that concern away, she continued, “Anyway, he offered me the money to open the store, but I said no and set out to do it on my own. According to my big life plan, I would have saved enough to open my own store by the time I was thirty-four, and I would have owned it free and clear, no loans or anything.”
“But instead you were able to open it at twenty-nine,” he murmured, and then asked, “What happened? Did you win a lottery?”
“I wish,” Sherry said softly, and shook her head. “No. I’m afraid my mother died. A heart attack at fifty-four.”
“I am sorry,” Basil said quietly.
“As you said about your wife, so am I.”
“I presume you used your inheritance to start your store early?” he guessed.
Sherry nodded. “Mom had an insurance policy. I put it toward the store. I think it’s what she would have wanted. She was always supportive of my dream.”
Basil nodded. “And your father? Siblings?”
Sherry shrugged. “I had a brother, Danny. He was a year younger than me, but . . .”
She paused and swallowed and then it suddenly came out. Tumbling over her lips like wine out of a bottle, she blurted the whole story of how she’d lost her brother.
“He drowned when I was eight. We were on a boating trip to Cedar Point. We went with several other families we often boated with. We arrived just before dinnertime and were supposed to visit the park the next day. The boaters decided to barbecue at the dock that night, to save money for the next day, I guess. There were picnic benches and stuff on the shoreline for boaters to use. Us kids were playing while the adults barbecued on hibachis . . . hot dogs and hamburgers. Mom forgot the hot dog buns. Dad sent Danny back to the boat to get them.” She glanced out toward the backyard again and said, “It took a while for anyone to realize he hadn’t returned with the buns. When they went to check on him, Danny was floating between the boat and the dock. He was a good swimmer. We both were, but there was a gash on his forehead. They think he must have slipped getting on or off the boat and hit his head.”
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