Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(54) by Susan Mallery
“You don’t pay me to model.”
“I pay you to cater to my whims. Now go on.”
Feeling foolish and a little self-conscious, Lori did as instructed. She stood in the center of the room and turned in a slow circle.
Gloria studied her, then nodded slowly. “Better,” she said. “Much better. You saw Ramon?”
“Yes. He did the cut and showed me how to use some fairly sticky products on my hair.”
“The clothes are nice, as well. You finally look like a woman instead of a blob.”
Lori chuckled. “Blob, huh?”
“If I had to see that brown sweater one more time, I was going back to the skilled nursing facility.”
“I doubt that.”
“Your sister help you with your clothes?”
Lori thought about saying she was more than capable on her own, but they both knew it wasn’t true. “Yes. She picked everything out. It’s kind of embarrassing that I don’t know what looks good on me.”
“You do now.” Gloria leaned forward. “But we have to do something about those glasses.”
“I can’t wear contacts and don’t start on me about the Lasik surgery. I’m not interested in getting my corneas burned off, okay?”
“It’s not like they burn off the whole thing, but fine. You look lovely. Reid will be very impressed.”
Lori froze. Technically she’d had sex with Reid under Gloria’s roof, but it had never occurred to her that her patient knew about it. She couldn’t. That would be too humiliating for words. They had to be talking about something else. Reid in general. Or the fact that Lori had a crush on him, which no one was supposed to know either.
“I didn’t do this for Reid,” Lori mumbled.
“Of course not, dear. I just want you to be careful. I care about you and I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
Lori appreciated the gesture. She knew Gloria spoke from a place of caring and concern. But what really got her was the assumption that Reid would do the hurting. That there was no way she could ever be the one to leave or wound him.
Yes, it was realistic, but just once she would like to be the one with the power instead of the one left begging.
“I’ll get your coffee,” Lori said, and walked out of the room.
She entered the kitchen and was startled to find Reid already there. He looked up, started to speak, then stopped and stared at her.
“What?” she demanded. “Is there a problem?”
“No. Hi. I’m glad to see you. I missed you yesterday.”
“I get a day off.”
She knew she was being a bitch and the real reason had nothing to do with him.
“No one’s saying you don’t.” He moved close and kissed her. “I like your hair.”
“I got it cut.” She felt stupid and self-conscious.
“You weren’t sure you wanted to before. It looks good.” He smiled. “In fact, you’re gorgeous.”
“Now,” she said, unable to keep the hurt out of her voice. “You forgot to say now. But, hey, it’s great to be out of the ugly camp and in with you beautiful people.”
“What’s wrong? Why are you mad at me?”
She wasn’t. She was mad at herself, but he was easier to yell at.
“I’m pathetic,” she announced. “Horribly pathetic and I hate it. Why can’t you have a crush on me? Why can’t you be worried I won’t be interested anymore?”
“What makes you think I’m not?”
She grabbed the coffee pot and poured, then glared at him. “Oh, please. Get real. I had a makeover. I’m actually wearing makeup and a thong. And I’ve done it all for you. To what end? What’s my point? This is crazy and it’s all your fault.”
“My fault? What? How?”
She heard him sputtering as she left, but didn’t turn around. Talk about a mistake, she thought grimly. Who was she fooling? She didn’t fit in. She never would. Trying was a mistake. Better to be safe and not risk the pain.
VALERIE’S GARDEN WAS a restored old Victorian on an acre lot. To the right was the parking lot, but the rest of the house was surrounded by a wild and beautiful garden. Even in winter there were lush plants and hedges, trees and pathways that called to Dani. She wanted to wander the stone walkways and discover all the secrets of the beautiful space.
Instead she walked through the front door and into the open dining area.
She was greeted by a young woman in khaki pants and a white long-sleeved shirt covered by an apron edged in embroidered flowers.
“We’re closed for lunch,” she said with a smile, “but I can probably persuade the chef to whip up something to go. How does that sound?”
Dani appreciated the effort and made a note of the server’s name. “Thanks, Bethany. I’m Dani Buchanan. I have a two-thirty appointment with Valerie.”
“Oh, right. She’s waiting for you. Her office is right this way.”
Bethany took her to the back of the house, then up a narrow flight of stairs. Valerie’s office had once been a bedroom. The wallpaper was floral and mostly purple. Valerie herself was a fifty-something woman who had long graying blond hair pulled up on top of her head and wore flowing, romantic clothes.
“Dani Buchanan, Val,” Bethany said.
“Wonderful.” Valerie stood and stepped around her painted desk. “Dani, I’m so happy to meet you. I’ve been looking for a manager forever. It’s so difficult to find the right blend of philosophy and talent, but based on everything Penny told me about you, I have a wonderful feeling about this interview.”
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