Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(30) by Susan Mallery
“I wouldn’t have believed it,” he told Reid.
Lori busied herself setting out a tray.
“She’s a totally different person,” Walker continued. “Warm, friendly. She told me I was doing a good job and I think she made a joke.”
Reid grinned. “Hang in there, big guy. You’ll get used to it.”
“I hope it lasts.”
“Me, too,” Reid said. “But if you want a for-sure answer, talk to the master.”
Lori looked up to find them both staring at her. She shrugged. “I’m not the master of anything. Gloria was feeling lonely and sorry for herself. I just pointed out that the reason people avoided her is that she’s incredibly difficult to be around. I suggested she try being nicer.”
“That’s it?” Walker asked. “No water torture?”
Lori smiled. “She’s been through a lot. The heart attack, the recovery from her hip. She’s in pain and feeling vulnerable. I think both of those events pushed her to want to do something different. I’m hoping the changes are permanent, but I can’t promise.”
“Either way, it’s a miracle,” Walker said. “We owe you big time.”
Reid walked over and before she knew what he was going to do, he put an arm around her. “I’m the one who found her. Don’t forget that.”
Walker shook his head. “You’re never going to grow up, are you?”
“Not if I can help it.”
He gave Lori’s shoulders a squeeze, then he released her. He and his brother returned to Gloria’s room with coffee and a plate of cookies. She was left alone in the kitchen.
His touch hadn’t meant anything. She knew that. It had been a quick, casual embrace and if he knew it had left her shaken, he would feel bad for her.
“An impossible situation,” she murmured into the silence.
She knew better and yet here she was. Trapped.
She was going to have to get over Reid and fast. And she knew exactly how to make that happen.
DANI PLACED HER ORDER for her latte and then moved to the right to wait for her name to be called. She glanced around the crowded café and stiffened slightly when she saw Gary.
He was bent over what looked like a pile of term papers, a red pen in his hand.
Dani turned back to the counter and waved when her name was called. After collecting her latte, she hesitated. While she’d enjoyed speaking with Gary a couple of weeks ago, she didn’t know if she wanted to go up and say hello. She wasn’t interested in any man romantically and from her limited personal experience, men weren’t interested in being friends.
Before she could duck out, she heard him call her name. She turned and smiled.
“Hi.” He waved her over, then motioned to the empty seat on the other side of the tiny table. “Do you have a moment?”
She barely hesitated before nodding. There was just something about him, she thought as she took a seat. He defined…nice.
“Looks like a lot of work,” she said, motioning to the papers. “Are they good?”
“Some. The assignment was to compare three religions, past or present, finding similarities and differences. There are a few Web sites that provide very tidy lists. Some of my students went there and copied the lists. They won’t be happy with their grades.”
“I can imagine. Going online is easier than going to the library.”
He nodded. “I don’t object to using the Internet for research, but I do expect them to assimilate what they’ve learned and write it up using their own words.”
He smiled. “They won’t see it that way. So, how’s the job search going?”
She shrugged. “Not as well as I would like. I think…” She hesitated, then leaned forward. “I turned down a great job. It was at a very popular and upscale restaurant. The food was good, the money excellent. In theory, it was everything I wanted.”
“But I had a funny feeling. I just didn’t like the owner. I can’t even explain what it was specifically. He was a little over the top, but that’s fairly typical in the business. There was just something about him. Something…”
“Dark? Dangerous? Threatening?”
She smiled. “Thanks for helping. Actually he was…cold. The staff seemed afraid of him and not in a respectful way. More like they were worried he was going to have them shot at dawn. And the kitchen was too quiet.”
Gary frowned. “How can a kitchen be too quiet?”
“Have you ever worked in a restaurant?”
“They’re crazy places—especially in the kitchen. It’s hard work with a lot of pressure. The kitchen staff is loud, insulting, especially if they’re gifted. But it wasn’t like that. I just wasn’t comfortable.” She sighed. “I turned down the job. I still can’t believe it.”
“Sounds to me like you listened to your gut. Finding the right job is important. It helps define who you are as a person. Why would you want to spend the majority of your time in a place that didn’t feel right?”
She stared at him. “When you say it like that, I feel positively in tune with the universe.”
“You are. Dani, this has to be right for you. You’re not desperate—don’t settle.”
His gaze was steady, his expression kind. She nodded slowly.
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