Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(21) by Susan Mallery
“Very nice,” he said.
She laughed. “You couldn’t be less interested. Don’t worry. I’m not offended.” She crossed to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of white wine. “The good news is after I cash all the checks, I’ll have enough to pay you for the tire.”
“You don’t have to. Why don’t you keep the money and buy yourself a new rear tire for the other side?”
She appreciated his concern and the suggestion. “I’d like to do that, if you don’t mind keeping to our payment schedule.”
“You know I don’t.”
He was right. She suspected he wouldn’t care if she never paid him back.
She grabbed two wineglasses and led the way into the living room. As she set everything on the coffee table, she suddenly realized what she’d done. It was late, she’d gotten out wine and had assumed he would stay.
“I, ah, just thought we’d talk,” she said. “I didn’t mean to imply or suggest that we’d…”
He raised his eyebrows. “We’d what?”
“Don’t be difficult. Do you want a glass of wine or not?”
“Are you going to make a pass at me?” he teased.
She groaned. “No.”
“Then I’ll stay.”
He took a seat while she poured them each a glass. She settled at the far end of the sofa and faced him.
“To a good day,” she said, holding out her drink.
“A good day.”
They each took a sip. She doubted he was used to drinking anything this cheap, but she refused to apologize for her choice. It fit her budget and it wasn’t too bad.
“You like color,” he said, glancing around at the living room.
“I do,” she said. “The landlord doesn’t care if I paint the walls or put up drapes.”
“Sure. You’re taking on all the costs and the labor. What’s not to like?”
“You should see Zoe’s room. It’s princess central. I painted a mural that looks like a castle. Everything is either lavender or pink. Very girly. You probably had an all blue room.”
“I think there were some green accents. But yeah, it was all boy.”
“Why did you go into the military?” she asked. “Lifelong dream?”
“I’d thought about it,” he told her. “I didn’t know if I wanted to go to college. My parents died when I was young, so my grandmother raised me. She’s a tough old bird.”
“Like Mrs. Ford.”
He looked at her. “Aside from being female and over seventy, they have nothing in common. Gloria is determined and manipulative. She wants everyone to do what she wants and she does what it takes to get that to happen. The harder she pushed me, the harder I pushed back. Some of it was her, some of it was me being a teenager. Finally I got so mad, I joined up the day after I graduated from high school.”
“To spite her?”
“Yeah. It was worth it, just to see the look on her face.”
She couldn’t imagine having that kind of relationship with her grandmother. Not that the woman was still alive, but she and Elissa had been close before she died.
“That doesn’t sound very familial,” she said, trying not to be judgmental.
“Gloria isn’t a family person. I try sometimes with her. I can’t figure out why she won’t bend. I’m close to my two brothers and my sister, though.”
Elissa had a feeling Walker wanted a better relationship with his grandmother. Now that he was out of the Marines and living nearby, maybe that would happen.
He looked at her. “What about you? Have you lived in Seattle all your life?”
“Except for a brief time in Los Angeles, yes.” She hesitated, then shrugged. “I was a typical middle-class kid. When I was a senior in high school, I fell for a guy in a band. Mitch. He was sexy and dangerous—at least in my seventeen-year-old eyes. When he left to go back to L.A., I went with him.”
“Zoe’s dad?” he asked.
“No. That would be too simple. Once I got to L.A., I realized Mitch wasn’t a rock star. He wasn’t very good. Or faithful. We split up. I was upset and humiliated and determined not to go crawling back home until I’d made something of myself. And I liked dealing with the music business. I ended up getting a job as a roadie of sorts. I arranged travel, food, that sort of thing. I was good at it.”
He smiled. “A rock star roadie. I would never have guessed. So what happened?”
She grimaced. “I met Neil. I’m still not sure why we hooked up. He’s seriously into the drug scene and I never was. I couldn’t see the point.” She sighed. “Don’t get me wrong. I partied plenty, but I’m a cheap date. Two margaritas and I’m on my butt. Anyway, Neil’s emotionally tortured, self-absorbed, and borderline abusive. Perfect for a displaced nineteen-year-old pretending to be an adult. I fell hard and he let me. When I found out I was pregnant with Zoe, I came home.”
The family-friendly version of the story, Elissa thought, but she didn’t know Walker well enough to tell him the truth. More to the point, there was no reason for him to know every last sordid detail of her past.
“What about you?” she asked quickly. “Any exotic ex-wives lurking in the background?”
“Never married,” he said. “I don’t do serious relationships. It was too difficult with my job. I was gone six to nine months a year, every year. I saw a lot of guys get left. I didn’t see the point.”
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