Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(84) by Susan Mallery
“You don’t know that.”
“Of course I do. Did it ever occur to you that Lori’s actions have nothing to do with you? That she and her sister have been close for years and that the loss has devastated her? Did it occur to you that she’s withdrawn as a way to deal with the pain? Or maybe because she thinks you don’t care enough to deal with her grief. Have you talked to her at all?”
“There’s nothing to say.”
Her expression tightened. “I don’t remember you being this much of an idiot before. If you don’t get your act together, go to her and tell her how much you love her, I’ll write you out of my will.”
That nearly made him smile. “I don’t need your money, Gloria. I have plenty of my own.”
“Fine. I’ll fire you.”
“I already quit.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Then I’ll stop loving you.”
That got him. He straightened. “I didn’t know you did.”
She looked away. “Of course I do. You’re my grandson. I’ve watched you grow up and become, until today, a relatively decent man.”
“You’ve never said the words.”
She sighed and returned her gaze to his face. “Fine. I love you. Are you happy?”
It kind of surprised him, but, yeah, he was happy to hear it.
He stood, walked around the table and hugged her. “I love you, too,” he said.
“I know. So stop telling me and go say it to someone who matters.”
LORI WAS SORRY she’d started crying the day of Madeline’s funeral. It had been nearly a week and she couldn’t seem to stop. She wasn’t eating or sleeping. Instead she lived in a world of pain where she missed her sister in ways she hadn’t thought possible.
The pain was made worse by the loss of Reid. She’d known letting him go was the only thing that made sense. He couldn’t possibly want to hang out with her while she mourned, so when he’d wanted to leave, she’d let him. But as he’d been her only anchor in a swirling, scary world, now she was alone and it terrified her.
Her mother had gone back to her little trailer. All her friends gathered around her and she seemed to be doing all right. But Madeline had been one of Lori’s only friends.
“I’m pathetic,” Lori muttered to herself as she walked into the kitchen to make some tea. “I have to pull it all together.”
She had a job. Although she’d talked to Gloria a few times, she’d yet to make a commitment on returning. Part of her knew that Gloria was well enough to survive without her. Which meant she, Lori, should start looking for another job. But where? The thought of having to deal with someone else right now, to start over at yet another house with another family, was more than she could stand.
She put a spoonful of tea leaves into the pot while she waited for the water to boil. As she reached for a mug, she almost called out to ask Madeline if she wanted tea, then remembered Madeline was gone.
The wave of agony was sharp and fresh. It cut through her, slicing away her strength until she could only collapse and slide toward the ground.
But instead of falling, she was caught in strong arms. She turned and saw Reid standing there.
Gratitude replaced a little of the pain. She threw herself at him.
“You came back.”
“I had to,” he said, his eyes dark with emotion. “To tell you I’m sorry. I know this is all my fault. I know I’m the reason she’s gone.”
The kettle began to whistle. Lori released him and turned off the burner.
His fault? How could he think that? “You don’t have anything to do with Madeline dying.”
“I found the donor. I pushed for the surgery. I made it happen. She wasn’t ready. She made that clear. If I hadn’t pushed, she could have survived another year.”
Lori supposed a soft, gentle caring response was in order, but she was too stressed. She folded her arms over her chest and shook her head.
“I’ve always suspected you had delusions of grandeur, but I never expected this. Madeline died because her heart stopped beating. That’s it. Unless you have a direct line to God and put in a request to end my sister’s life, you had nothing to do with it.”
“Stop,” she told him. “Just stop. Madeline was going to die from her disease. One way or the other, she was lost to us. Do you know what it’s like to live day after day, knowing the end is coming? Sure, we’re all going to die eventually, but most of us get to pretend that moment is a long way off. We get to live normal lives. But that wasn’t going to happen for her. She was going to get more and more sick. The liver cleans the body from the inside. So she would get more toxic as time went on. Massive bruises would cover her torso. She would be poisoned to death by her own body.”
She dropped her arms to her side, but she didn’t touch him. She wanted him to listen, to not be distracted by anything else.
“You gave her what no one else could, Reid. You gave her hope. In fact you gave it to all of us. Don’t ever make that less than it is. Hope is everything. Hope is a miracle.”
“So if you don’t blame me, why did you send me away?”
“What? I didn’t,” she said. “I thought you wanted to be gone. I know I’ve been caught up mourning Madeline. It just seemed like you would want to be somewhere else.”
He glared at her. “Dammit, Lori, why do you always do that? Why do you assume I’m here because it’s convenient or easy? Why do you think I’m going to disappear at the first sign of trouble?”
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