Key of Light Page 73

“Yes, I’ve got Malory’s number. And I know how to dial nine-one-one, and to run out of the house if I set it on fire when I play with matches.”

“Smart guy. Come over here and give me a kiss.”

He made a show of dragging his feet, keeping his head dipped to hide his grin as he approached her car window. “Make it quick. Somebody might see us.”

“Just tell them I wasn’t kissing you. I was yelling at you.” She gave him a kiss, resisted hugging him. “See you tomorrow. Have a good time, baby.”

“You, too, baby.” He snickered, then raced for the house.

With a mother’s skill, she backed out of the drive while watching her boy until he was safely inside.

Then she headed off to Malory’s, and her first grown-up sleepover.

Chapter Seventeen


MALORY knew what was going on. Nobody wanted her to be alone, and her new friends were worried about her. Zoe had been so enthusiastic about the brainstorm of an all-girl sleepover that Malory hadn’t been able to refuse.

The very fact that she’d wanted to refuse, had wanted to burrow into her cave alone, forced her to admit she needed a change.

She’d never been a loner, nor had she been much of a brooder in the past. When she was troubled, she went out, saw people. Bought things, gave a party.

Zoe’s request for an all-nighter gave Malory the push to do all of that. She bought food and pretty new candles with citrusy scents. And fragrant soaps and fussy new guest towels, then some good wine.

She cleaned the apartment she’d been neglecting, spilled spicy potpourri into bowls. And groomed herself in the meticulous way that women groomed for other women.

By the time Dana arrived, she had cheese and fruit and fancy crackers set out, the candles lit and music set on low.

“Wow, pretty elegant around here. I should’ve dressed up some.”

“You look great.” Determined to be cheerful, Malory leaned in to kiss Dana’s cheek. “I appreciate you guys doing this.”

“Doing what?”

“Hanging out with me, giving me a boost. I’ve been feeling down the last couple of days.”

“None of us figured on the energy drain this deal would be.” She passed Malory a grocery bag, then set down her overnight case. “I bought extra supplies. Wine, Cheez-Its, chocolate truffles, and popcorn. You know, the four basic food groups.” Dana flipped through the movie selection next to the entertainment center. “Did you rent every chick flick ever made?”

“Every one currently available on DVD. How about some wine?’

“You don’t have to twist my arm. New perfume?”

“No, must be the candles.”

“Nice. That’s Zoe. Better pour another glass.”

Zoe came in through the patio doors, loaded down with bags. “Cookies,” she said a little breathlessly. “Videos, aromatherapy, and coffee cake for the morning.”

“Nice job.” Dana took one of the bags from her and handed her a glass of wine. Then she leaned closer and said, “How do you get your lashes to look like that? All sooty and spiky?”

“I’ll show you. This is fun. I went by the house today to do some measuring and to look at some samples there in the space and light. I’ve got wallpaper books and paint chips in the car if we want to look later. Bradley Vane caught me while I was there. What’s his story?”

“Golden boy with a social conscience.” Dana attacked the Brie. “Star athlete, high school and college. Track a specialty. Honor student but not a nerd. Semi-engaged a couple of times, but always managed to wiggle out before it stuck. Been friends with Flynn just about from birth. Excellent body, which I’ve been fortunate enough to see through various stages. Interested in seeing it yourself?”

“Not that way. I haven’t had much luck with men, so the only one who’s going to be in my life for the time being is Simon. Oh, I love this song.” She slipped out of her shoes to dance. “So, Mal, how’s it going with Flynn?”

“Well, I love him, so it’s pretty irritating. I wish I could dance like that.”

“Like what?”

“All long legs and loose hips.”

“Come on, then.” Zoe set her wine down, held out her hands. “We’ll work on it. You do one of two things. Pretend nobody’s watching or pretend that this guy, this incredibly sexy guy, is watching. Either way, depending on your mood, you just let go.”

“How come girls always end up dancing with girls?” Malory wondered as she tried to get her hips to move independent of the rest of her body, as Zoe’s seemed to do.

“Because we’re better at it.”

“Actually,” Dana said, helping herself to a little tree of green grapes, “it’s a kind of social, sexual ritual. The female performs, tempts, and teases, the male observes, fantasizes, and selects. Or is selected. Jungle drums or the Dave Matthews Band, it comes down to the same thing.”

“Are you going to dance?” Malory asked her.

“Sure.” Popping one more grape, Dana got up. Hips and shoulders went into a sinuous rhythm as she moved toward Zoe. They slithered into a dance that was, to Malory’s mind, both sexy and free.

“Now I’m totally outclassed.”

“You’re doing fine. Loosen your knees. And speaking of rituals, I have some ideas. But . . .” Zoe grabbed her wine again. “I think we should have some more wine before I bring it up.”

“You can’t do that,” Dana complained. “I hate that. What’s the idea?” She took Zoe’s glass, had a hurried sip. “Look, I drank more. Tell me.”

“Okay. Let’s sit down.”

Remembering her role as hostess, Malory brought the wine and the tray of food to the coffee table. “If this ritual has anything to do with leg waxing, I need much more wine first.”

“No.” Zoe laughed. “But I have an almost painless technique with hot wax. I can give you a Brazilian without anyone shedding a tear.”

“A Brazilian?”

“Tidy up the bikini area. It leaves just a neat little strip so you can wear the tiniest thong without looking, well, unkempt.”

“Oh.” Instinctively Malory folded her hands over her crotch. “Not even if you use morphine and shackles.”

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