Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(37) by Susan Mallery
Lori reached for the leather handbag by the bookcase and passed it across to her patient.
“Maybe I like my life,” she said, more than a little annoyed. “Maybe I don’t appreciate your criticism.”
Gloria slipped on her reading glasses and pulled out a Palm Pilot. “I’m the queen bitch, girly. What makes you think I care?”
Lori tried to hide her smile, but couldn’t. “You’re not all that.”
Gloria looked at her over her glasses. “I’m all that and more. Write this down.” She read off a phone number. “You want Ramon and only Ramon. Tell him I sent you. That should put the fear of God into him.”
“Who, exactly, is Ramon?”
“My hairdresser. And don’t panic. I’m an old woman and he does what I say. But with your hair, he could do something amazing.”
Lori resisted the need to finger her long, wavy hair. It had always been a disaster she didn’t know how to control. Deep down inside, she’d always wondered if a great cut could make a difference. But she’d been afraid to try before, so she’d left her hair long and kept it back in a braid.
Still, she was tempted. Would changing her hair make Reid see her differently? And how much did she hate that he was the first place her mind zipped?
“Thanks,” she said. “I’ll think about it.”
“You’ll call,” Gloria said. “That’s an order.”
“Good.” She glanced at the clock. “Now put my purse away and help me to the bathroom. Penny will be here any minute.”
TWENTY MINUTES LATER Lori opened the door to find an attractive woman holding a baby on the wide porch. The woman seemed tense and apprehensive.
“Penny Jackson,” the woman said with a tight smile. “Not Buchanan. Which I’m sure Gloria hates. For a woman who was a pioneer in her day, she has some very particular ideas about the rest of the world. Not that I care. I don’t care. Except she’s Cal’s grandmother and my grandmother-in-law, so even though I don’t want to care, I actually do.”
She paused, sucked in a breath and seemed to relax. “You’re probably thinking you don’t want to let the insane inside. I totally get that.”
Lori grinned. “I’m a professional. The insane don’t scare me.”
“Good to know. What about mean old ladies?”
“I wish I was.”
“You will be. I’m Lori Johnston, Gloria’s day nurse,” she said as she stepped back. “Come on in.”
“Do I have to?” Penny asked, but she stepped inside. “I’m married to Cal, Gloria’s oldest grandson, which you might have figured out from my senseless rant. This is Allison.”
Lori stepped close to smile at the baby, ignoring the audible ticking of her biological clock. All she had to do was see a small child and her body sent up hard to ignore get-pregnant-now messages.
“She’s beautiful,” she said honestly, gazing down at the sleeping baby.
Allison was all pink skin and pale wisps of hair. She smelled like powder and vanilla and her mouth was that perfect rosebud shape women spent the rest of their lives trying to duplicate.
“I think so,” Penny told her. “You should see Cal. He’s crazy about her. I know some men are freaked out about babies, but he’s not. He wants to be a part of everything. He’s even crabby that I’m breast-feeding because it means he can’t help.” She sighed. “He’s a great guy.”
Lori felt a flicker of envy. Not because she was the least bit interested in Penny’s husband but because she was stupid enough to want a great guy for herself. Which wasn’t likely to happen. She had never been in love. Not even once. Obviously there was something wrong with her.
Her lack of love wasn’t all one-sided—after all, no one had ever been in love with her, either. Although she wasn’t sure if that made the situation better or worse.
Lori grabbed the large diaper bag hanging from Penny’s shoulder.
“I’ll put this in the kitchen for you,” she said. “Would you like anything while you’re visiting Gloria? Tea? Decaf? A sandwich?”
Penny sighed heavily. “I want to say a speedy escape, but I have a reputation for being tough. Difficult even. I once stabbed a man. It was an accident, but still. I refuse to be afraid of one small old woman.”
Lori felt her eyes widen. “You stabbed someone?”
Penny shrugged. “Assuming I survive this, I’ll give you the details.” She raised her head and thrust out her chin. “Okay. I’m braced.”
“You don’t need to be braced,” Lori told her. “You’ll do fine. Gloria has changed.”
“So I’ve heard, but as I’ve yet to see any flying pigs, I’m reserving judgment.”
Lori resisted the need to say, “You’ll see.” Instead she led the way into Gloria’s temporary quarters.
“Penny’s here,” she said as she stepped aside to let in Cal’s wife and the baby.
Gloria raised her bed and smiled welcomingly. “Penny! How delightful to see you. Thank you so much for coming. I know you must be busy, between taking care of Allison and cooking those delicious meals at the restaurant.”
Penny came to a stop and stared at Lori, then looked back at Gloria.
“Come here,” Gloria said, coaxingly. “Oh, what a beautiful little girl. So precious. She’s perfect and she looks just like you.”
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