Not in Her Wildest Dreams(3)

By: Dani Collins


Slapping the lid on the box, she stood, being careful to keep her hand over the broken end.

“Always a pleasure to see you, Sterling,” she said as he rose in front of her. She punctuated with a brilliant smile that she conjured purely to annoy his father.

It died on contact. Sterling wasn’t easy to lie to. His gaze traveled from her to his father and back.

Then he returned her killer smile with his own, letting his gaze linger as he surveyed her face as if he had every right to take a long perusal of her lack of make-up and dismayed scowl.

“Likewise,” he said, super friendly and edging toward charismatic, punishing her, she supposed, for daring to attempt to use him in a power play.

Rich and good-looking wasn’t enough for him. He had to be perceptive, too. Jerk.

He hadn’t changed much from the few times she’d spotted and avoided him, when they’d both been in town over the last fifteen years. He had filled out the way some men did in their thirties, from lanky to perfect, but he still had the celebrity air that made him the alpha-male just by showing up.

While she felt like the ultimate scullery maid, standing here with her broken board game, tongue-tied in the presence of the Homecoming King.

“No time to catch up,” she said with an edge of mockery. “I’m just saying ‘bye to Dad before I get on the road back to Seattle. Nice to see you.” Die.

“I hope he recovers quickly.” Sterling was better at sounding sincere than she was. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

Sarcastic ass. She wanted to show him her finger.

He looked to his father as a signal they leave.

She turned toward the corridor that would take her to her father’s room, but she hadn’t gone two steps before she heard, “Whoa, there.”

Seriously?

And why was part of her oddly pleased that he was calling her back? She ought to ignore his condescending order, but spun around to see what that arrogant pr—

Oh no.

Rosie.

Sidestepping to the nearest wastebasket, Paige threw the game away then cupped her hand for a few squirts of disinfectant. She rolled it into her skin as she walked to where Sterling was helping her father’s girlfriend stand upright.

“Sweetie, I thought you were sleeping? How did you get here?” Paige asked her.

“Drove,” Rosie slurred.

No, no, no. Rosie was smashed, swaying in her heels, blond curls crushed by the pillow where Paige had left her. Her make-up was smudged and she looked even more tired than Paige felt. Yet younger, wearing skinny jeans and a crop top. Paige felt about a million years old next to her, despite the fact they were both thirty-two.

“You drove Dad’s car? Rosie, you can’t drive like this.” Paige said it firmly, but without anger. She didn’t shame, didn’t let herself engage too deeply at all. Years of dealing with alcoholics had taught her there was no point in taking this personally, although she would check in with the police, make sure there hadn’t been any hit and runs in the last fifteen minutes.

This was awful.

“Let’s sit down,” Sterling suggested, starting to steer Rosie toward the lounge.

“Actually, can you help me get her to my car? I have to take her home.” No way could she leave Rosie here to get herself back to the house. The car, however, would stay here at the hospital. The keys might even come to Seattle with her.

“Sterling.” Walter’s bushy brows lowered with disapproval.

“Dad,” Sterling shot back, impatient at being scolded. “Go ahead. I’ll meet you at home.”

“I want to see Grady. Is he okay? I need to see he’s okay,” Rosie whimpered. “Every time I close my eyes...” Her voice trailed off into an anguished moan.

She had already treated Paige to the play-by-play of exactly how and when her father’s heart attack had happened. Super awful. Paige felt for her, she really did, but seriously, way too much information.

Why did you move all the way to Seattle, Paige?

Because she couldn’t afford airfare to Australia.

“Let’s get you home,” Paige said, pointing Sterling toward the elevator. “You have to work tomorrow, remember?”

“They fired me!”

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