Mrs. Perfect(8)

By: Jane Porter

My face suddenly feels hot. She knows I’ve been reading the book and have it on DVD, too.

Thankfully, Nathan saves me from having to answer by placing his palm on my bare thigh. “We should head home.” He lightly rubs down to my knee. “Feed the kids dinner.”

Grateful, I cover his hand with mine and squeeze. I’m ready to go. My little gin-and-tonic buzz has abruptly worn off, and all I want to do is escape. Rising, I start gathering the girls’ things, organizing the sundresses and sandals to expedite getting to the car. It’s while I tuck suntan lotion and little-girl sunglasses into the tote bag that I hear Nathan invite Lucy over.

“We’re just throwing some salmon steaks on the grill,” Nathan is saying to Lucy, “and I can pick up some burgers on the way home for the kids. Why don’t you join us?”

My head jerks up.

Lucy for dinner? Lucy to our house . . . tonight? After the day I’ve had? No, Nathan, no. I don’t want company over. I’m not in the mood to entertain, and if I was in the mood, it wouldn’t be Lucy.

“That’s so nice of you, Nate,” Lucy answers, “but I don’t want to put you and Taylor out—”

“If it were an inconvenience, I wouldn’t have offered.” Nathan smiles down at her. “We haven’t seen much of you lately, and it’d be good to catch up.”

“Let me go talk to the kids. We were just going to hang out here until they kicked us out, but it’d be fun to go to your house. We . . . haven’t seen much of our friends this summer.”

She disappears, and I just stare at Nathan. He sees my expression. “What?” he demands quietly, hands outstretched.

My friends turn their heads away while I just keep staring at Nathan. I hear Patti start talking about the back-to-school brunch as Nathan crosses to my side.

“I thought she was one of your friends,” he hisses.

“She is,” I hiss back. But my tone isn’t convincing. I don’t know if Lucy and I are still friends. Angrily, I stuff Brooke’s terrycloth jacket into the tote. “It’s just been a busy day, Nathan—”

“They’re going through a hard time. Just look at her, Taylor. She’s obviously very lonely.”

“I know, but I’m tired, Nathan, and you and I need some alone time. We need to destress, and having Lucy over isn’t going to destress me at all.”

“This isn’t about your mom, is it?” he asks, a deep furrow creasing his brow. “Because this is completely different. Your mom ran off—”

“Nathan.” I cut him short, shoot a swift side glance at the others, but they’ve segued from the annual brunch to discussing Tuesday’s Welcome Coffee at the school. I lift the tote bag, sling it over my shoulder. “Okay, yes, I’m concerned about having Lucy and the kids over. I’m concerned about the fallout for our kids. If there’s going to be sides drawn, I’m not sure we should be taking Lucy’s—”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“It’s not ridiculous.” My voice trembles, and I find myself clenching my hands. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be rejected by everyone. I do. I have. And I won’t allow that for my children. “I’m protecting our girls.”

“You’re overprotective, Taylor.”

“The house isn’t even clean—”

“It’s spotless. It’s always spotless.”

“There are dishes in the sink and toys scattered on the lawn.”

“I guarantee Lucy and the kids won’t notice.” His tone softens. “Taylor, honey, they need us. Look at them.”

Reluctantly, I glance past him to where Lucy is corralling her kids, her arms wrapped around the shoulders of her twins, her head bent as she talks to them. She seems to be having quite the heart-to-heart with them. She’s always been a good mom. It would be tragic if she lost the kids.

“Fine . . .” I sigh. “We’ll all have dinner.”

The Points Country Club is only a mile or so from our home in the tiny town of Yarrow Point. Yarrow Point is just that, too, a point of land that juts into Lake Washington with loads of low waterfront footage. You pay to be on the water, though. I honestly don’t think you can get a house on the water for less than four million right now. I could be wrong, but I think even that price is low.

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