Home > Loose Ends, Volume One (Loose Ends #1)(5)

Loose Ends, Volume One (Loose Ends #1)(5)
Author: Kristen Ashley

She had two girls from her first marriage, a good marriage to a man she loved who’d been killed.

She gave those girls to Cal.

He had a son from his first marriage, a shit marriage where his junkie wife committed negligent homicide, letting their baby drown in a bath, something that caused Cal’s sick father to have the heart attack that ended his days.

Cal thought nothing could pull him out of the pit that threw him in. He’d been drained so dry by that, it felt like his insides had split and cracked.

And there . . .

Right there . . .

All his wife had given him.

She said he balanced their scale of give and take.

She had no clue.

No clue.

No clue any time he was with Kate and Keira, any time he looked at Angie or Sam or Ben, any time he woke up to hear her breathing at his side in the middle of the night . . .

He knew he was the luckiest man on earth.

She thought she was the luckiest woman.

He stared at Violet Callahan smiling at the boy they made.

Yeah.

She had no clue.

On that thought, Cal walked into his house, through the den, into the kitchen, to his family.

The End

A novella tying up a Loose End from

the book Heaven and Hell featuring Hap and Luci

Second Best to a Dead Man

Luci

LUCIANA GORDON SAT in a chair on the eighth floor of Saks Fifth Avenue, the one on Fifth Avenue, staring unseeing at the boxes of shoes all around her.

She’d taken the express elevator.

She shouldn’t have bothered.

After she’d had a salad, alone in the restaurant, she’d wandered the enormous floor filled with shoes, sprinkled with handbags for decoration, and asked Elena, her salesperson, to bring her thirteen pairs of shoes.

She’d tried on one shoe of one pair.

And then she remembered like she often remembered, all the time, suddenly, with no warning.

She remembered Hap’s face after she’d pulled away from the kiss she’d given him. She remembered how hard her heart had been beating. She remembered how her skin felt heated and cold at the same time.

Desire.

And terror.

She then remembered how it felt to be swept up in his arms as he carried her from her deck to her couch.

That feel had been just desire.

She blinked her thoughts away and saw she had on a blue Aquazurra pump with a triple layer of fringe as an ankle strap.

It was fabulous.

It was also ridiculous.

She’d never wear that shoe in North Carolina, even in her shop, where she wore all her fabulous shoes.

She’d found a zone she never thought she’d enter.

Putting on a shoe that was too fabulous.

No. It wasn’t too fabulous. She could do fabulous anywhere, any way she pleased, even wearing shoe fringe at her boutique in Kingston.

It was that Hap would be in fits of laughter if he saw her in that shoe and there would be no end to the teasing.

This would be . . . back then. Back before she kissed him. Back before she pulled away from that kiss and saw that look on his face that was gentle and fiery and greedy and hesitant, and something more. Something so much more, something that held promise, something that held riches beyond imagining, all of this at the same time.

Back before he carried her to the couch.

Back before he stopped all the wonderful things they were doing on the couch, left her and ended any possibility of them.

Back when she actually saw him, which now she did not. Not anymore. Not for months.

Because he was avoiding her to make his point that all of that had been a mistake.

“Luci?”

Her head came up and for a second, she was so deep in her thoughts she did not recognize the petite, slightly stooped woman hovering beside her.

“Hon, are you all right?” the woman asked.

Oh Dio, she thought.

Pearl.

Pearl Bazer, wearing a purple velvet jumpsuit, a chunky purple, red, yellow, gold, black and green necklace, a clack of thick gold and black bangles on her wrist that had two indomitable, instantly recognizable interweaving Cs, gold rings on every finger, and the biggest, roundest pair of glasses ever made over her eyes. Glasses molded of Kelly green, embedded with rhinestones.

Oh yes.

And her signature ruby-red lipstick.

Her face was lined to profusion.

Her hair was short, spiky and white with just a hint of lilac.

And she was as she always was, without fail.

Unique.

Individual.

Dancing to the beat of her own drummer.

In other words, she was the most fashionable person on the planet.

“Pearl,” Luci murmured.

Pearl bent closer, peering harder at Luci’s face through lenses that made her eyes look enormous.

“Now that you’ve succeeded in remembering who I am, even though I met you at a Massimo show what feels like a lifetime ago, came to your wedding, had lunch with you not too long ago at your villa in Lake Como and spent time with you on countless occasions in between, would you kindly answer my question?”

Luci was confused. “Your question?”

Pearl fluttered a thin, veined, spotted hand with perfectly rounded nails varnished in cobalt blue between them.

“Are you all right?”

Vaguely, Luci looked to her feet, using that gesture to pull herself together before she looked back to Pearl, pinning a smile on her face.

That smile (among other things) had won her contracts for exorbitant fees in order for her to twist her body into insane positions in such places as under a red-hot sun, looking gorgeous and happy doing so (if the photographer called for that, which in fashion didn’t happen often—girls were expected to look bored, or expressionless, the better to divert attention to the clothes or make said clothes look superior).

“I’m shopping for shoes so obviously I’m fabulous,” she lied.

A bony finger with a blue nail wagged in Luci’s face.

“Yekirati, don’t kid a kidder.”

Luci blinked up at her.

“We’re going to Cipriani,” Pearl declared out of the blue, leaning back in a gesture that stated clearly, that was that.

Oh no.

She was not going to Cipriani with Pearl Bazer, one of the most eclectic, singular, extraordinary individuals Luci had met (and Luci had met a lot of people).

She was also one of the most opinionated.

And outspoken.

Maybe the most opinionated.

And outspoken.

“I . . . just had a salad,” Luci tried to demur.

“Not now,” Pearl stated, aghast. “You go to Cipriani for dinner. You order something with white truffles in it. I’m assured they’re kosher. But if they’re not, just don’t tell my rabbi. I’ll meet you there. Eight sharp.”

Luci started to stand as it appeared Pearl was going to leave it at that and totter off.

But Pearl stopped all movement and turned sharp eyes in her eighty-something-year-old face to Luci.

“If you’re not there, there’s nothing I can do. Except worry. Worry greatly. And you will be responsible for making an old lady worry. Worry and not enjoy her meal at Cipriani. And if you have that in you, Luciana Gordon, I will be sad that I ever met you.”

And with that, she tottered off, not very fast, and definitely not spry, in her green Doc Martens boots.

Luci settled in her chair, her head bowed, her eyes again not seeing the thirteen boxes of shoes around her.

She was not the kind of woman who would wish to make anyone worry, old lady or not.

She’d done enough of that recently, making people she cared about worry.

Too much.

Though she didn’t mean to.

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