Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(33) by Susan Mallery
He grinned. “Liar.”
She blinked. Was he teasing her?
Life was suddenly very confusing. She glanced down at the flowers.
“I should get these in water,” she said and ducked into the kitchen. Maybe if she left Reid and Madeline alone the sparks would fly. Only he followed her and watched as she tried to reach a vase on a high shelf and then gently pushed her aside to grab it himself when she couldn’t stretch that far.
“Zeke and I have been talking,” he said as he handed over the glass. “About ways to salvage my reputation.”
“Who’s Zeke?” she asked.
“My accountant. I fired Seth—he handled things like bookings and endorsements, and there aren’t going to be any of those anymore. So we talked about what I could do to improve my image. He mentioned a big benefit. What do you think?”
She filled the vase with flowers and set them into the container. As she had no knack for arranging, she was officially out of ways to occupy herself. She turned to him.
“It’s a gesture,” she said. “Don’t you think people are going to see it as such? You need to do something more. Something with a little staying power.”
As soon as the words were out, she wanted to call them back. Or disappear into the floor.
Staying power? Why those particular words? They were too close to what that reporter had said about Reid in that awful article.
“What I meant…” she began, only to have him grin at her.
“I know what you meant. Something more significant.”
“You weren’t talking about my ability to—”
“Not at all,” she said quickly. “I’m sure that’s…”
He waited, his eyebrows raised.
“Fine,” she mumbled.
“Better than fine.”
He grinned. “Exactly.”
“I LOVE EVERYTHING about this house except the lack of a dishwasher,” Madeline said when they’d finished dinner and cleared the table. She’d sent Lori off to rest and Reid had offered to help with the cleanup.
“It’s original,” Madeline continued. “Very forties. She bought that old stove from a place that restores them. She’ll let me keep a microwave on the counter, but heaven forbid one of the precious cabinets be taken out to make room for a dishwasher.”
He looked around at the brightly colored kitchen. The walls were yellow, the cabinets white, the tiles red and white with splashes of yellow.
“This suits her,” he said.
He reached for a dish cloth and grabbed the first plate she put in the rack. “I thought you’d look different.”
“Sick, you mean?” she asked.
“Something like that.”
“That will come. Right now most of the symptoms aren’t visible. I have some bruising on my torso—a sign that my liver isn’t working well. I’ll look worse as the disease progresses.”
“Should I not be asking about this?”
“I don’t mind talking about it,” she told him. “It’s a part of my life now.”
And her death. He’d never known anyone who was dying before. Gloria was old and had come close to death, but this was different. Madeline was still in her early thirties.
“You seem calm,” he said.
“I don’t think I’d be calm.”
She smiled. “You never know what you’re capable of until it happens. I was in shock and didn’t know what to do. Lori handled pretty much everything. She came to the doctor with me, asked all the right questions. My husband left and she’s the one who bullied the attorney to make sure I didn’t get screwed.”
“He left because of you getting sick?”
“Oh, yeah. It was charming.”
“I’m sorry,” Reid said, feeling awkward.
“Me, too. At least we didn’t have kids. Leaving me when things got tough was bad enough, but leaving them…” She rinsed a glass. “Okay, this is officially time to change the subject. Let’s talk about something happy.”
Just then Lori stepped into the kitchen. “I can help,” she said.
Madeline sighed. “No, you can’t. You cooked dinner. We’re cleaning up. Go rest.”
“I’m not tired.”
“Then watch TV. Read a book. Contemplate the ever expanding universe.”
“I’m going,” Lori muttered and left.
Reid stared after her. “She’s acting weird, even for her.”
Madeline smiled as if she knew a secret. “It will pass.” She rinsed another plate and handed it to him. “Lori is really special.”
“I wouldn’t want to see her get hurt.”
Okay, so he wasn’t as quick on the uptake as he could have been. Madeline wasn’t making conversation. She was probing and warning.
Normally that sort of thing made him want to run into the night, but now he found himself willing to have the conversation. Why was that?
He supposed some of it was that he liked Lori. He liked talking with her, annoying her, even kissing her. The kissing had been really good. Better than good. Under other circumstances he would have taken things further.
Need filled him. It had been a hell of a long time since he’d gotten laid. Under the circumstances, it was going to be a while longer. After that damn article, he wasn’t exactly eager to be with anyone. Not when he knew what the woman in question would be thinking. But Lori was different. She was…
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