Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(25) by Susan Mallery
Lori stared at her amazingly beautiful sister and knew that dozens of men had been stupid about Madeline, but they’d managed to keep their heads around her.
“I’ll figure out a way to manage this,” Lori said. “A way to get over him.”
“I still wish you’d try to make things work. You deserve a fling and Reid sounds like perfect fling material.”
Lori supposed it was really sweet of her sister to think that the choice was actually hers, but before she could say anything, there was a knock at the back door.
“Oh, good,” Madeline said, walking toward the rear of the kitchen. “She’s here.”
Lori got a knot in her stomach. “What did you do?”
Just then the back door opened and their mother walked in. She smiled at both women and held up two large bags.
“I brought Chinese,” Evie Johnston said. “You’ll have leftovers for days.”
“Great, Mom,” Madeline said as she put the bags on the counter, then hugged and kissed her mother. “It smells heavenly. I’m starved.”
“Good. I don’t think you’ve been eating enough.”
Evie stepped free of Madeline and smiled at Lori. “How are you?”
Lori smiled tightly as she battled both annoyance and the sense of being the odd one out. It didn’t matter that this was her house and these people were her family. Whenever she was around her mother and sister, she no longer belonged.
Evie faced Madeline. “You look good. Are you getting plenty of rest? You’re doing what the doctor says?”
Madeline laughed. “I’m fine, Mom. I feel terrific. Lori keeps me in line.”
“She should. She’s a nurse, you listen to her as well. Lori, you need to take better care of your sister.”
Lori ignored the criticism and began sorting through the boxes of takeout. She was used to her mother thinking she didn’t measure up. Years ago, when she, Lori, had announced that she was going to be a nurse, her mother’s semisober response had been, “You’ll never pass the tests to be an R.N. and you won’t enjoy emptying bedpans for a living. Try beauty school.”
Madeline and her mother continued talking. Lori set the kitchen table and put the food in the center.
She would be the first one to admit Evie’s life hadn’t been easy. She’d married young, gotten pregnant fairly quickly and had lost her husband to another woman before Lori, her second and unwanted child, had been born.
Evie had lived her whole life in a double-wide trailer, taking whatever jobs she could hang on to between drinking binges. The only bright spot in her otherwise grim existence had been to have one perfect daughter.
Madeline had been pretty from birth, an early talker and walker. She’d been popular, friendly, charming and open to the world. Lori had been none of those things and her mother had never forgiven her for it.
Evie carried plates to the table. “Lori, you shouldn’t drink wine. You know it’s bad for you. Plus Madeline can’t have any and it makes her feel uncomfortable to see it.”
Madeline grabbed Lori’s wineglass and set it by her place. “Mom, I’m fine with it. Lori works hard. If she wants a glass of wine at the end of the day, she should have it.”
“It’s not right,” Evie said, then pressed her lips together.
Lori wasn’t sure if her mother’s concern was really for Madeline or herself. Evie had been sober for nearly seven years.
“I’ll put it away,” Lori said as she shoved the cork in the bottle, stuck the bottle back in the refrigerator. “I wouldn’t have opened it if I’d known you were coming over.”
Evie looked at her. “I’m fine. Being around alcohol doesn’t bother me.”
“Then why do you always mention it?” Lori asked.
“Alcohol isn’t good for you.”
“You already said that. I hardly think an occasional glass of wine means I have a problem.”
“That’s how it starts.”
Lori swirled her glass. “You would know.”
“Yes, I would,” Evie told her. “I know you think I’m critical, but I’m just trying to help.”
By telling her everything she did wrong? But Lori didn’t say that. Instead she dumped her wine down the sink.
“I’ll get the iced tea,” Madeline said. “I made a fresh pitcher earlier today. Doesn’t that sound refreshing?”
It was all Lori could do to keep from running screaming into the night. Her sister desperately wanted peace in the family and while Lori really wanted to respect her wishes, there was too much history between her and Evie.
“Lori was just telling me about her day,” Madeline said as they all sat down. “She’s doing home health care for a real difficult old lady and today they had a run-in.”
Evie turned to Lori. “What happened?”
Lori briefly recounted some of Gloria’s more outrageous behavior and the confrontation earlier that afternoon.
“I think she’s really going to work on changing. I hope so. Her family keeps trying and she keeps shutting them out. What a sad way for her to live.”
Her mother continued to stare at her. “You’re telling her if she changes she gets a second chance?”
Lori instantly saw the dangerous direction of the conversation, but didn’t know how to change the subject. “Something like that.”
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