Hot as Sin Page 13

Realizing her legs were beginning to quiver, she made her way back to the bed. Scooting onto the mattress, she was pulling the blankets back up when a line from a song suddenly ran through her brain: “Listen to me now ’cause I’m calling out. Don’t hold me down ’cause I’m breaking out.”

In the rental car, she’d thought the lyrics had only applied to April’s life, to the emotional hurdles that her sister was leaping as she became a woman. But suddenly, Dianna could no longer hide from the chilling truth: That song could have been about her own long days on a set with the crew and her guests, her dates with men she didn’t care one fig about, even the girls’ nights out where she was afraid to reveal too much in case she seemed too high maintenance. For years, she’d gone out of her way to make sure people had no reason to abandon her.

Her hands stilled on the blanket, halfway up her legs. For so long, she’d pushed forward with her career, with her façade of perfection, willing to do anything if it meant proving to the state that she would be a good guardian for April. Wasn’t it time to stop covering up her true feelings with false smiles, with perfect makeup and hair and the latest designer clothes?

Feeling terribly shaken, this time from the inside, rather than from any surface injuries, she reached into her purse for her cell phone. She’d distract herself with work.

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d gone this long without her phone in hand. Pulling it out, she wasn’t surprised to see that there were a dozen messages. She settled back against the pillows with a pen and pad of paper to take notes for Ellen Ligurski, her best friend and producer, who was supposed to be dropping by the hospital within the hour.

But instead of someone from her staff calling with a problem at the studio, the first message was from her sister.

“Oh my God, Dianna, I just found out about your accident. I know you probably can’t get this message, but just in case you can, I want you to know that I’m coming to the hospital right away.”

Dianna pulled the phone away from her ear and stared at it. April had been at the hospital?

She hit the nurses’ call button, and when the woman poked her head in, Dianna said, “I’m sorry to bother you again, but was my sister here earlier when I was sleeping?”

The nurse looked confused. “No. I don’t think so.”

Dianna’s brain raced. “Could she have seen me in the ICU?”

“I could call over there to ask, if you’d like.”

Using the phone beside Dianna’s bed, the nurse quickly confirmed that April had, indeed, visited Dianna in the ICU when she was sedated. One of the nurses recalled seeing her sleeping on a chair in the waiting room a couple of hours earlier.

When the nurse left, Dianna called April’s cell phone and left her a message saying she was all right and that she’d love to see her. But why, she wondered anxiously as she hung up, hadn’t her sister come back for another visit?

Just then, her friend Ellen came rushing into the room. A ball of energy who never walked when she could run, and never ran when she could sprint, Ellen was a big reason that West Coast Update was such a success. Were it not for her friend’s recommendation to the network’s producers, Dianna might have remained just another green-eyed blonde waiting in the wings.

“Oh honey, how are you feeling?” Ellen asked mid-hug. “I wish I could have been here sooner, but I couldn’t get a flight back out of San Francisco until late this morning.” Not stopping for a breath, she said, “Oh boy, I have to tell you about a simply breathtaking man sitting across the aisle from me. Big shoulders, wounded eyes. What I wouldn’t give to make things all better for him.”

It was so nice to have Ellen’s soft, warm arms around her that Dianna felt tears coming. Taking a deep breath, she blinked them away before sitting back against her pillows.

Smiling at her friend, she teased, “Did you take a covert picture of him on your cell phone?”

Ellen snapped her fingers. “No picture, darn it, but do the words ‘tall,’ ‘dark,’ and ‘gorgeous’ mean anything to you?”

Dianna felt her smile wobble. Tall, dark, and gorgeous sounded like Sam. Exactly like Sam.

She hadn’t thought about him this much in years. Hadn’t let herself. She must really be feeling bad if she was letting a bunch of old feelings about an ancient relationship get to her.

Wanting to change the subject, she said, “I can hardly believe I was in such a bad crash. Honestly, I feel more hungover than anything.”

Ellen sat down on the edge of the bed and held Dianna’s hands in both of hers. “Oh my gosh, honey, I shouldn’t be talking about a man. What’s important is that you’re feeling better. We were all so worried about you. No one wanted to stay in San Francisco at the studio. They all wanted to come here to be with you.”

Her staff at West Coast Update were as close as she got to family. Well, she had April, but they didn’t exactly hang out and joke around. She was godmother to three new babies, and attended every birthday party she was invited to, even though she was usually the only childless, husbandless woman there. Years ago, she’d been on the verge of becoming a sleepless, but radiantly happy, new mother. Now she was resolutely single, without a family anywhere on the horizon.

At least she’d found a place where she belonged, where no one questioned where she’d come from. Her coworkers assumed Dianna had always been confident. Beautiful.

No one knew how hard she’d worked to transform herself.

Ten years ago, she’d come to San Francisco with just enough money to rent a crappy apartment. She’d needed to find a job. Fast.

She’d done surprisingly well in her communications course at Tahoe Junior College, given how shy she’d always been, so after carefully studying the morning newscasters and realizing she could probably do what they did, she went to a training salon. For ten dollars they gave her a cut and color, transforming her dirty-blond locks into golden waves.

They also told her about clothing resale shops, where she soon found a couple of beautiful outfits in her size with the tags still on them. She’d marveled over the fact that some people had so much money that they would give things away without ever using them, but she was thankful, too, because she no longer looked like a hick from the mountains. She looked like a young professional, ready to make her mark on the world.

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