The One For Me(6)

By: Sydney Landon

She’d been to both Jason Danvers’s and Gray Merimon’s homes since she was friends with their wives, Suzy and Claire. Well—technically, her sister, Ella, was friends with them. Crystal was more like an acquaintance through her family connection. She liked both women a lot, though, and sometimes had lunch with them along with Ella, Suzy’s sister-in-law Beth, Mia, and more recently, Emma, Ava, and Gwen. Gwen Day and Mia Gentry were her best friends, and she was lucky enough to see them at work almost every day.

“I thought you lived in Charleston,” Crystal blurted out before realizing that she wouldn’t know that unless she’d been looking him up online.

He didn’t seem to find anything strange about the question, though, saying simply, “I have homes in several places. Living in a hotel gets old after a while, and since I’m spending a great deal of time in Myrtle Beach now, it just made sense to have a more permanent place here.”

Mark flipped on another light and she saw they were now in a gourmet kitchen straight from the pages of a magazine, with designer black granite countertops and a huge island. Next to it were a commercial-size stainless steel stove and refrigerator. The area was easily five times bigger than her galley kitchen in her own apartment. If she had this kind of space, she thought, then she might actually enjoy cooking, a pastime that had been spoiled for her during her marriage to her ex-husband. Bill had insisted on a full meat-and-potatoes type of meal each evening, which in itself might not have been bad if he hadn’t felt the need to criticize her efforts the entire time he was cleaning his plate. No matter what she made, it was never good enough for him.

She perched on the edge of one of the barstools that he’d indicated before saying, “You have a really nice kitchen. Do you cook a lot?”

He smirked as if she’d said something amusing. “I’d like to say that I’m a whiz in the kitchen like the Merimon brothers, but my skills in that particular area are pretty basic. I can do enough to get by, but I’m on the go a lot, so I tend to eat before I come home.”

Laughing, Crystal said, “I’ve heard Suzy and Beth talk about how Nick and Gray were raised to work out their problems in the kitchen. I guess they cooked with their mother while they talked. It sounds as if they could open their own bakery if they ever decided to change professions.” Thinking of her own overbearing mother, she added, “I wish I had grown up with someone that nurturing.”

Mark paused for a moment in the act of adding bread to a toaster, then he said quietly, “Yeah, I wouldn’t know a whole helluva lot about that either. Celine DeSanto’s idea of parental bonding was to help my father remain upright until dinner was finished. Otherwise, he’d be passed out cold before the salad course was over.”

Crystal didn’t know what to say to the information that he’d just revealed. The stiff set of his shoulders said that he wouldn’t welcome her sympathy, so instead, she changed the subject. “So, why am I here? I’ve put together enough to know that I must have gotten sick—possibly on your shoes,” she added weakly. “But I don’t recall anything other than that.”

He worked silently for a moment before setting two pieces of dry toast in front of her along with a chilled bottle of water from the refrigerator. “I know it’s not a great breakfast, but I think we should be cautious since you were still feeling nauseous just a short while ago.” Pointing to the food, which she still hadn’t touched, he added, “Now eat, while I talk.” She began nibbling on the bread while he seated himself across from her. “I was walking a few steps behind you when you left Danvers two days ago.”

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