Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(40) by Susan Mallery
“You do what you want,” Sandy said. “You’re going to anyway. But don’t count Reid out just yet. I think he’s hot for you.”
Lori didn’t know what to say. Worse, she could feel herself blushing, which she hated.
Sandy was a great person with a generous personality. She wasn’t the type to be cruel on purpose. No doubt she actually thought Reid could be interested in Lori—a fact that made Lori question her intelligence.
But what was worse was the awkward combination of hope and resignation Sandy’s faith inspired. Lori wanted Reid to have feelings for her. But as much as she wished that, it was so unlikely as to be impossible to imagine. It was like being sixteen again—but with a level of self-awareness that made her ache.
“I should be going,” Lori said. “See you tomorrow.”
“Have a great night.”
Lori collected her purse and jacket, then walked toward the front of the large house. But as she passed the staircase, she found herself turning and climbing up.
Her first couple of days in Gloria’s employ, she’d explored the old mansion. But after getting a basic layout of the place, she’d never gone looking around again. Once Reid had moved in, she’d decided to make the upstairs off-limits.
Even so, she had a good idea of which suite he’d claimed for his own. In the back of the house was a bedroom, living room, bathroom combination with a balcony and a great view of the city.
She walked to the half-open door and knocked.
From the hallway, she couldn’t see anything, but seconds later, Reid appeared.
She’d just spent most of the afternoon with him, so seeing him shouldn’t have been any big deal. But it was. Her blood raced through her body and she had the amazingly stupid urge to flip her hair over her shoulder. Fortunately, it was safely secured in a tight braid and therefore unavailable for flipping.
“Hey,” he said with a slow, easy grin that made her insides shimmy and shake. “I thought you’d gone home.”
“I’m going now,” she murmured, barely able to form words.
What was it about this man that got to her? Why him? Why now? Sure he was good-looking, but she’d never been into appearance before. So what else? What combination of chemistry and need made her unable to dismiss him?
He stepped back and she followed him into the living room of his suite. The furniture was elegant but comfortable, the colors dark. Like everything else in Gloria’s house, it was perfect.
Reid wore jeans and a sweatshirt. Sometime after coming upstairs, he’d kicked off his boots and wore only socks on his feet. He was still substantially taller than her, which made her feel feminine and incapable of rational conversation.
There was an open bottle of beer on the coffee table. She recognized the label as one from a local microbrewery.
“Want one?” he asked.
She shook her head, then changed her mind and said, “Sure. Thanks.”
He collected her a beer from a built-in refrigerator disguised as an end table, opened it and handed it to her.
She took the icy bottle, then put down her purse and perched gingerly on the edge of the sofa. He joined her at the opposite end, looking interested and expectant. Right. Because she didn’t usually spend her free time up here.
“I’m sorry about before,” she said slowly. “About what I said and what we talked about.”
He frowned slightly. “Can you be a little more specific? I don’t exactly remember what moment you’re thinking of.”
“Oh. Sure. Before. I was ragging on you about the women you’re with and you told me about Jenny. I didn’t know there was something like that in your past. I shouldn’t have judged you.”
He picked up his beer and took a sip, then turned his attention back to her. “You like judging me. It makes you feel superior.”
Guilt and embarrassment made her flush. “That is so untrue,” she said, lying and proud of it.
“Come on, Lori. You think I’m totally useless.”
“Not useless. Just lazy.”
“You don’t try because you don’t have to. Like with Jenny. Did you really just give up on love because she rejected you or was it a convenient excuse to never fall in love again?”
“Double ouch. You really don’t like me, do you?”
She saw a flicker of emotion in his eyes. Had her questions hurt him? She knew he was capable of being wounded, she just didn’t think she could do it herself.
“I do like you,” she said impulsively. “A lot.”
Oh, God. She could feel herself blushing. “What I mean is I think you’re a great guy. You just like to hide your assets.”
He raised one eyebrow and she blushed again.
“My assets,” he said slowly. “Interesting. And they would be…?”
He was baiting her. She wanted to think he was flirting with her, but she wasn’t totally sure.
“You’re smart, you care about people. You have a heart, you’re perceptive. But you conceal all that under a façade of being superficial and useless.”
“Playing baseball isn’t useless.”
“I wasn’t talking about your job, I was talking about your attitude. You act as if none of this is your fault. Like sleeping with the nurses. You want me to believe it just happened. But it didn’t. You made it happen.”
She felt a little more comfortable and relaxed slightly. “You don’t take responsibility in your relationships. Now I kind of know why.”
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