Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(23) by Susan Mallery
Gloria opened her mouth, then closed it. “I will not be dead soon.”
“You will if you don’t get off your bony ass and focus on getting better.”
Lori braced herself for the screaming, or at the very least another threat of firing. Instead tears filled Gloria’s eyes again.
“I don’t want to die alone,” she whispered. “I don’t want them to hate me. I want them to love me.”
Lori hugged her again. “I know you do. The best way to get love is to act loving.”
Gloria didn’t answer. Instead she held on tight for a long time before leaning back against her pillows. She wiped her face, then said, “According to you, I shouldn’t worry about being taken advantage of. I won’t be around long enough to mind.”
“That wasn’t exactly what I meant, but if it works for you, go for it.”
“Do you really think I can change?”
“If you want your life to be different. It’s entirely up to you. You have the power to do whatever you want. Does this really matter? Do you want your grandchildren to love you and miss you when you’re gone?”
The old woman nodded slowly. “Yes,” she whispered. “I do.”
AN HOUR LATER Gloria was sleeping and Lori escaped to the living room to regroup. She felt as if she’d been run over by a train.
Had she done the right thing, pushing Gloria? Would the emotional upset impact the healing process? But if Gloria did manage to change enough to reconnect with her family, wasn’t that a good thing?
Lori stood in front of the massive window that overlooked the city and Puget Sound beyond. It was a rare clear day, with the sky a color of blue that God grants only after weeks of rain.
Maybe she’d been talking to herself as well as Gloria, she thought, not sure she wanted to see the truth but unable to avoid it. Maybe she needed to be a little less bitchy with her own family. Not that she was bitchy with Madeline, but there was always that damned ambivalence lurking in the background, not to mention all the issues she had with her mother. Maybe she should—
“There you are,” Reid said as he walked into the room. “I’ve been looking all over for you. We have to talk.”
She turned slowly and looked at him. He was still one of the most handsome men she’d ever seen. Not perfect, but appealing on so many levels. She wanted to lean into his body and feel his heat. She wanted his arms around her, flesh on flesh, touching, reaching. She wanted to give herself up to him in a version of surrender that left her breathless.
On the heels of the longing came a fierce anger, both at herself for her weakness and at the man who caused it. He was easy enough to blame—especially considering what she’d so recently learned about him. In the land of Reid, the hits kept on coming.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said, moving close and staring into her eyes. “You have to help me. I’m totally screwed. Remember those kids, the ones I was supposed to send to their state finals? The ones who didn’t have a return ticket?”
He didn’t bother waiting for her to answer. “I called their coach. I wanted to make it right. Seth had sent a check and I thought things were fine. But the bastard only sent a thousand dollars. Some family got their car repossessed because of me and my manager only sent a thousand dollars?”
He ran his hand through his hair and stalked to the window. “How did this happen? How did everything get so messed up? You know what the guy said to me? The coach? I offered to send everyone to Disney World, you know, to make up for it. And he blew me off. He said they couldn’t afford my brand of charity.”
He turned back to her, looking genuinely confused. “It’s me,” he said. “Doesn’t that matter?”
Something inside of her snapped. She actually felt it go and heard the popping sound.
“You are exactly like your grandmother,” she began, aware of Gloria sleeping and keeping her voice low. “You are totally self-absorbed and selfish. I had thought, and let me tell you how stupid I feel about that now, that there was a person inside of you. I thought you might actually have some small crumb of decency. But you don’t. You’re nothing but a sex-starved, useless jerk. You’re taking up space that should go to someone who actually matters.”
She curled her hands into fists and fought the need to beat some sense into him. As if she could actually hit hard enough to make him notice.
“Start taking responsibility,” she told him, her voice thick with anger and contempt. “You keep blaming your manager, but ultimately, you’re responsible. So take the damn responsibility. Show up, do the right thing. It’s really not that hard. Oh, wait, you’d have to stop being the center of the universe. That will be tough.”
He stared at her. “What’s got up your butt?”
“Oh, right. It has to be me, right? I’m a hysterical female. Oooh, maybe I have my period. There’s a great excuse. But I’m going to say it anyway. Fire your damn manager. He’s making you look like an ass. You do that well enough on your own—you don’t need to pay someone to help with the process. You’re supposed to be some hotshot baseball player. Well, with that comes responsibility. Stop letting down little kids. Be a grown-up.”
“Why are you so mad at me?”
“Because you could be so much and you’re not. I hate wasted potential.”
He continued to watch her, looking confused, as if even he knew that couldn’t possibly generate that much energy. “What’s the real problem?”
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