Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(18) by Susan Mallery
She straightened and stared at him. Why did he have to look so good? Why couldn’t he be ugly or even normal-looking? Why did his eyes make her want to get lost in whatever he was saying and why did his mouth make her long for some sexual acts that might still be illegal in the more conservative red states?
She tried to push past him. When he didn’t move, she said, “I have to check on Gloria.”
“I just did. She’s asleep. I want to talk to you.”
Panic seized her. This was not a conversation she wanted to have.
“I’m busy. Let’s reschedule.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Busy doing what?”
“Stuff. Important stuff.” She groaned silently. Talk about pathetically lame.
She couldn’t handle him today. Not when she was still fighting the embarrassment of their last encounter and she was feeling emotionally vulnerable because of what was going on with Madeline.
Just thinking about her sister drained the last of the fight out of her. Her shoulders slumped and she stared at Reid.
“Fine. What do you want to talk about?”
“You can’t just give in like that,” he said. “It’s not right.”
“You’re complaining because I let you win? You might want to rethink your priorities.”
“Something’s wrong,” he said. “What is it?”
She turned away. “Nothing.”
“I know enough about women to know that really means there’s something but I’m going to have to work to get at it.” He grabbed her arm. “Tell me.”
She didn’t plan to tell him anything. That was the hell of her situation. There was no one to talk to. Certainly not Madeline, who had enough to deal with herself, and not their mother who was a pretty useless kind of person.
She hated that she was tempted. Even more she hated that despite everything, she was hyper-aware of his fingers on her arm. Even through her sweater, she felt heat and need and a whole list of other desires that would go seriously unfulfilled.
“Go away,” she said, able to appreciate that she was starting to sound like Gloria.
“Maybe I can help.”
“Like you’ve helped all those kids who wrote you?” she asked, twisting free and glaring at him. “I don’t think so. But, hey, if you’re so big on knowing, here’s the thing. My sister’s dying. Okay? Are you happy now that you’re well informed? She has a bad case of Hepatitis C she got from a transfusion years ago. A liver transplant could save her, but she has a rare blood type so the odds aren’t good. So I’m thinking you’re not going to be much help at all unless you happen to be AB negative and want to give up your liver to a really good cause.”
She started out of the kitchen, but before she’d gone more than a few feet, she was swamped with feelings. Maybe Reid was a jerk, but he’d never been jerky directly to her. She had no right to lash out at him. In his own shallow way, he probably had been trying to help.
She glanced back at him, taking in the stunned expression darkening his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I shouldn’t have said that. The doctor didn’t have good news and that kind of pushed me over the edge.”
Then she shocked herself and probably him by bursting into tears.
Even as the tears poured down her face, she struggled for control. She didn’t cry—not ever. It wasn’t allowed. She was practical and logical and take-charge. She didn’t allow weakness in herself and she didn’t respect it in other people.
But she couldn’t seem to stop crying.
Suddenly Reid was there in front of her. He pulled her close, wrapped his arms around her.
As she couldn’t seem to stop crying, she let herself lean on him for a few minutes. She let herself be comforted and held.
He was tall and strong, she thought as she held on to him. For once her thoughts where he was concerned weren’t about sex. She had the oddest sense that he could be someone she could trust. Which was totally insane. He was as stable as quicksand.
Still, being held felt really nice. She gave in to weakness until the tears dried up, then she sniffed, took a step back and wiped her face on her sleeve.
“Sorry,” she said, staring at the hardwood floor. It was really shiny. Maybe she should put new floors in her place.
“What happened at the doctor’s appointment?” he asked quietly.
She risked looking at him and saw only sympathy in his eyes. She shrugged.
“I’ve known since the diagnosis that it wasn’t going to be good. I mean, I’m a nurse. I can figure out the steps. But I guess it wasn’t real to me before. I guess I thought nothing bad could happen to my sister. Until this, she’s lived a pretty perfect life.”
She sucked in a breath.
“Her doctor talked about how long she had and how we needed to think about hospice care. That really got to me. Talking about the end.”
Reid reached out and took her hand in his. “What’s the time frame?”
“About a year. She moved in with me a few months ago. She’s starting to have bad days. She’s working part-time, but that won’t last long. I took this job because the hours allow me to spend more time with her and the money is great. I’m saving as much as I can so I can take off the last couple of months to be with her.”
She squeezed his hand and fought tears. “She wanted to talk about that today. On the drive home, she said I shouldn’t put my life on hold for her. That she was fine going into a hospice. But I don’t want that for her. I can take care of her.”
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