Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(62) by Susan Mallery
Her humor faded. “I mean it, Walker. Okay, yes, you’re right. This isn’t something we should be doing at work, but we were and so what? It doesn’t hurt anyone.” She paused and her smile returned. “I like him. He thinks I’m sexy and after what happened with Hugh, I deserve that.”
He could have resisted almost anything but Dani’s smile. “Is it going anywhere?”
“I don’t know. I want to say yes, but we haven’t known each other for very long and I’m still going through my divorce. So I’m not sure. But given my choice, I’d want it to be.”
“Don’t get hurt,” he told her.
“I won’t. This time I’m keeping my heart out of play until I’m sure. But what we’re doing is really nice.”
“I don’t want details.”
“Are you sure?”
It was good to see Dani happy again. Hugh had been a real bastard, first asking for a divorce—after Dani had nursed him and supported him for ten years—then blaming the breakup on Dani. That was bad enough, but finding out he was cheating on her, as well, had made things really tough.
“I should let you get to your meeting,” she said.
“It should be your meeting.”
“No, I don’t want the job. I mean it,” she told him. “When Penny’s back, I’m leaving. Right now it’s fun to thumb my nose at Gloria. I know it makes her crazy to have me here, but eventually, I’m going to want to get back to my actual career.”
“Anything I can do to help?”
“Not at the moment. You’ll always be there for me. I appreciate that.” She smiled. “Don’t get mad at Ryan for being involved with me. It’s not his fault. I’m just too darned irresistible.”
SATURDAY MORNING ELISSA checked Zoe’s small suitcase three times.
“I have everything,” her daughter told her patiently.
“I know. I just want to be sure.” Elissa ignored the fact that anything forgotten could be delivered in less than thirty minutes—much like a pizza. “You’re going to have a good time,” she said, much more for herself than for Zoe.
“I know.” Her daughter beamed. “Grandma and Grandpa are taking me to the zoo this afternoon. And we’re making cookies and then we’re watching TV tonight. It’s gonna be really, really fun.”
Elissa had been looking forward to the time alone. She could use it to work on inventory for the craft show. But now that it was actually time for Zoe to leave, she didn’t want her to go.
“This is your first sleepover,” she said. “It might seem strange at first.”
“Mommy, I’m five. I can do this.”
Before Elissa could answer, her mother pulled up. Zoe ran to the front door and flung it open.
“I’m ready,” she called.
Elissa moved more slowly, trying to think up excuses to keep Zoe home. Unfortunately, nothing came to her.
She walked to the open door and smiled. “Hi, Mom.”
“Hi, girls.” Her mother turned to Zoe. “Are you ready?”
“Uh-huh. I’m packed. I even brought my sleep teddy.”
“Good for you.”
Elissa picked up her suitcase and then put it down. “It’s her first time away from home,” she said. “She’s only five.”
“She’ll be fine. Don’t worry. I’ve raised children of my own.”
“I know. It’s just…”
Her mother waited patiently, but Elissa couldn’t say what it was. So she shrugged and carried Zoe’s suitcase to the car.
Zoe followed with her worn bear and placed it carefully on the backseat. Then she ran back to the house.
“I’m going to say goodbye to Mrs. Ford,” she yelled.
“Okay.” Elissa crossed her arms over her chest and waited until Zoe disappeared into the house before turning to her mother. “She likes a glass of water before bed. Not a big one, or she’ll have to get up. And sometimes she doesn’t eat all her dinner, which is fine. I never make her finish it.”
“I know all this,” her mother said. “It’s what I did with you.”
“Okay. Right.” Elissa couldn’t shake her feeling of dread. “Look, I think it’s too soon. Zoe’s too young and we need more time for her to get to know you.”
Her mother’s hazel eyes narrowed. “More time? You mean the time I would have had if you’d come home when you’d found out you were pregnant? The time I would have had if you’d never run away in the first place?”
Elissa took a step back. “What?”
“I’ve done my best to be patient and understanding,” her mother said in a low angry voice. “But don’t push me, Elissa. I’m hanging on by a thread.”
“You’re hanging on? What have you got to be upset about?”
“What? How about the fact that my daughter disappeared for eight years? Eight years. We didn’t know if you were dead or alive. One day you were simply gone. Do you have any idea what that was like? Do you know how many nights I waited, desperate for a phone call or any word at all, yet terrified of what it would be? I half expected them to find your body. But they didn’t and in a way the not knowing was worse.”
Her mother’s voice was heavy with emotion and she looked as if she were going to cry at any moment. At that point, Elissa didn’t much care. It was all she could do to ward off the unexpected attack.
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