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Blair Mallory Book 1: To Die For (Chapter Seventeen)

The next morning I could move my arm more, though very gingerly. While Wyatt was downstairs cooking breakfast, I brushed my teeth and hair, and just to show him, even got partially dressed. I found my clothes hanging in the closet next to his, which gave me butterflies in my stomach, seeing them together like that. He must have unpacked my bag when he brought it up last night, because I certainly hadn't. I searched for my underwear and found it in a dresser drawer, all neatly laid out the way I would have done it instead of jumbled together the way I'd expected. The man had depth to him.

I looked through the rest of the drawers to see how he treated his underwear, and found that he was neat. His T-shirts were folded and stacked, his boxers were folded, his socks were matched and mated. There was nothing unusual about his underwear, just regular guy stuff. I liked that, because a relationship between two vain people can really cut into mirror time. One needed to be normal.

I admit that I'm vain. A little. I'm not as bad as I used to be, when I was a teenager, because as I got older I guess I got a little more confident about how I looked. Strange, isn't it? When I was sixteen, which you have to admit is probably a peak year for body and beauty, I would spend hours fixing my hair and putting on makeup, trying on outfit after outfit, because I wasn't sure I looked good enough. Now that I'm thirty, I'm much more comfortable, even though I know I don't look as good as I did at sixteen. Having dewy skin takes an effort now. I have to work out like mad to keep my weight under control. When I'm going out for a big date or something more formal than my usual stuff, I can still make a big deal out of hair and makeup, but for the most part I don't bother. A little mascara, a little lip gloss, and that's about it.

I still loved clothes, though, and was perfectly capable of trying on every item of clothing I had in an effort to find just the right combination. And some days I couldn't decide what color underwear I wanted. Was it a blue day, or a pink day? Or red? Or black? White, maybe?

Today was one of those days. First I had to decide what I was wearing, because that determines the color of your underwear. No dark underwear under white pants, right? I was feeling colorful, so I finally picked out a pair of aqua shorts, and teamed it with a pink tank top. My tank tops have wide shoulder straps, by the way, because I can't stand the bra-strap-peeking-out style. I think it's just tacky. Anyway, the pink tank top dictated that I couldn't wear anything really dark underneath, so that meant a pastel. Pink would have been the obvious choice, but maybe too obvious.

Wyatt appeared in the bedroom door. "What's taking you so long? Breakfast is ready."

"I'm deciding what color underwear I want today."

"Jesus," he said, and left.

Yellow! That was it! Maybe you think yellow wouldn't look good with pink, but the lingerie set was a pale yellow, and it looked great under the pink. Not that anyone other than me would see it-well, Wyatt would, because I still couldn't manage a bra-but it made me feel like the ice cream cone he had mentioned yesterday. Maybe it would put licking in his mind again.

Food was calling, so I carefully pulled on the underpants and shorts, but I got one of Wyatt's button-up shirts from the closet to wear until he could help me with the tops. I slid my feet into flip-flops-these had aqua sequins on the straps-and went downstairs.

He eyed me as I entered the kitchen. "Flip-flops and one of my shirts took half an hour to choose?"

"I'm wearing shorts, too." I lifted the hem of the shirt to show him. "You'll have to help me with the rest." I sat down at the table, and he took a plate of eggs, sausage, and whole wheat toast off the warmer and set it in front of me. A small glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee completed my feast. "I could get used to this," I said as I dug in.

"Do you cook at all?"

"Well, of course. I just don't get waited on all that often. And I usually eat on the run, because Great Bods opens so early."

"You open and close?" He took his own plate and sat down across from me. "That makes for a long day."

"From six in the morning to nine at night. But I don't do both every day. Lynn and I work it out between us; if I need to stay late, she'll open, and vice versa. One day a week, on Monday, I do both so Lynn can have a two-day weekend. All of my employees get two days off, but they're staggered. That's why yoga classes aren't offered every day, things like that."

"Why Monday? Why not Saturday, if she wants a two-day weekend?"

"Because Saturday is our busiest day, and Monday is our slowest. I don't know why, but it's that way for beauty shops, too. Most of them are closed on Monday."

He looked as if he didn't know where to go with that bit of information. As a cop, you'd think he would see the value in knowing things like that. What if someday he had to arrest a mad hair stylist? He could save time by not going to the shop, if it was Monday.

"So," I said, changing the subject, "why did I even bother to get dressed today if you're chaining me in the bathroom? I hope you've thought this out, because besides the obvious benefit of being there, just how am I going to get something to eat?"

"I'll make some sandwiches and put them in a cooler for you." His eyes held a glint of laughter.

"Just for the record, I do not eat in the bathroom. Yuck. Just think of all the bathroom cooties waiting to jump all over your food."

"I'll make it a long chain so you can stand just outside the door."

"You're all heart. A warning, though: when I get bored, I get into trouble."

"Now, what trouble could you get into in the bathroom?"

Right off the bat I could think of several things, but I didn't share them with him. He must have read something in my face, though, because he shook his head. "It's tempting, but no way would I leave you on your own all day."

"So it's back to your mother's, right?"

"I'm afraid so. I've already called her this morning."

"And apologized for being a sorehead, I hope."

"Yes, I apologized," he said wearily. "I think I might as well make a recording and give it to you so you can play it whenever you think it's needed."

I thought that totally missed out on the spirit of an apology, and told him so. "That's the idea," he replied, and I saw I hadn't gained as much ground as I'd thought.

This time I helped him clean up the kitchen. I was very careful when I moved my arm, but it was time to start giving it some gentle movement and exercise. Then we went upstairs to get ready, and again it had that comfortable, intimate feeling, as if we'd been doing this together for years. He liked the yellow bra, and insisted on pulling down my shorts so he could see my matching yellow underpants. That was his excuse, anyway. The hand he slid inside my underpants gave away his true intentions, though. I swear, the man was a lech.

I quickly said, "No!"; and with a wink, a pinch, a pat, and a teasing probe of his finger that put me on my tiptoes, he withdrew his hand.

Oh, damn him. My heart was pounding and I felt flushed. Now I had to deal with being horny all day at his mother's house.

I got back at him. I bent down and lovingly kissed my way down his zipper. He jerked, and threaded his hand through my hair. "Just think," I purred, "how it would feel if these pants weren't in my way." His hand tightened, and he shuddered.

I straightened and said briskly, "But they are, and you need to get to work."

"That's dirty," he growled, eyes hot.

"That's payback. If I'm going to be horny all day, so are you."

"Gonna be interesting tonight," he mused as he restored my clothes to proper order.

"It might not. I'm getting better at heading you off," I said with satisfaction.

"Then I'll just have to get to your neck faster."

I had another uneventful day at Mrs. Bloodsworth's house. I talked to Lynn and she gave me an update on the computer situation, plus how many members had returned now that we were reopened. I was gratified when she told me, because I'd expected a slow couple of weeks. Evidently the weight room was full, the cardio machines were occupied, and almost everyone had asked if I was okay. The comments about Nicole's murder ranged from "I didn't care for her, but she didn't deserve that" to "I'm not surprised." One person asked for his membership to be extended because our facilities hadn't been available for his use for three days. I told Lynn to give him a four-day extension. There's an asshole in every crowd. When she told me who he was, I wasn't surprised. He was one of the city bigwigs who thought he was privileged. What he was, was tolerated. Barely.

I called Mom, and brought her up to date. I didn't tell her Dwayne Bailey's name, just in case he was innocent. I did tell her about my computer woes, and she filled me in on hers. Mom's in real estate, and she keeps all her records on a computer in her little office at home. Her electronics were evidently in a state of revolt against her. In less than a week, her printer had died, her copy machine had to be taken in for repairs, and her computer had experienced two mini-crashes. She was in the middle of preparing her quarterly taxes, and her frustration level was high. I hadn't helped by getting shot.

I made soothing noises to her, and promised to keep her apprised of my situation. She asked after Wyatt, which I guess is normal, since he'd insisted on taking her daughter home with him. She liked him. She said he was a hottie. I thought about him naked, and agreed with her.

Business taken care of and the home front covered, Mrs. Bloodsworth and I settled in for another uneventful day. She worked in her flower garden for a while, and to be on the safe side, I didn't. I doubted Nicole's murderer was going to drive by Mrs. Bloodsworth's house and spot me pulling weeds in her flower garden, but until Wyatt sounded the all clear, I wasn't taking any chances. I had a very sore arm to remind me of how dangerous this guy was.

I read. I watched television. I watched the clock. I didn't call Wyatt, though I was tempted. I knew he'd call when he had anything, so there wasn't any point in harassing him.

I did some light yoga, to keep my muscles limber. Mrs. Bloodsworth came in while I was doing it, and was intrigued. She changed into less restrictive clothing, got her exercise mat, and got on the floor beside me. I showed her some basic yoga positions, and we stretched our muscles and entertained ourselves until it was time for lunch.

Around two, Wyatt called. "MacInnes and Forester interviewed Dwayne Bailey this morning, in the presence of his wife. Evidently she'd had some suspicions he was cheating on her, and the family scene got intense. Bailey broke down and confessed on the spot; his story is that Ms. Goodwin was threatening to tell his wife if he didn't come through with some money she needed, so he shot her. He's in custody."

I went weak with relief, and collapsed back against the sofa. "Thank goodness! I don't like this hiding-out stuff. So I can go home? And go back to Great Bods? It's all over?"

"Looks like."

"Was he the one who opened my gate?"

"He denies that. He also denies shooting you, which is smart on his part. A good lawyer can get him second-degree on Ms. Goodwin's murder, but shooting you would be premeditated and automatically carry a longer sentence."

"But you can prove it, right? Ballistics and all that."

"Actually, we can't. Two different weapons were used. We found the weapon he used to kill Ms. Goodwin, but nothing that matches the caliber of the slug that hit you. That just means he ditched the second weapon, but without it we can't prove squat."

I didn't like that, because I guess I wanted official vengeance or something. If he wasn't charged with shooting me, then it was like he got away with it. I wanted him to get that longer sentence.

"Will he get out on bail?"

"Probably. Now that the jig is up, though, there's no point in killing the witness, right?"

He was right, but I was still unhappy about the man wandering around loose. He might snap, and decide he needed to finish the job.

"If it helps," Wyatt said, "he isn't a homicidal maniac. He was a man desperate to keep his wife from finding out he cheated on her; then he was desperate to keep from getting charged with murder. Both of those things have already happened, so he isn't desperate anymore. He's cooperating."

Okay, I could understand that. You only fear something that hasn't happened. Once it has happened, all you can do is deal with it.

"Is it okay if I tell Mom and Dad?"

"Sure. It'll be on television tonight anyway, and in the papers tomorrow."

"That's wonderful news," Mrs. Bloodsworth said, when I told her about Dwayne Bailey. "But I'll miss having your company during the day. I think I'll rejoin Great Bods; I've been bored since my accident, and I didn't realize how much."

I called Mom and gave her the good news, then Siana, then Lynn. I told her I'd be back at work tomorrow, but asked her to open up again in the morning. Until I could use my arm more, doing anything in a hurry was off the table.

I thought Wyatt would take me to Mom's house, which was logical. She could spoil me for a couple of days until I could handle dressing by myself, and then things would get back to normal.

I was ready for a little normalcy. For almost a week my entire life had been topsy-turvy, and I wanted everything to settle down. I evidently had a lover, try as I might to keep him under control, and he was bound to complicate things. But now with this threat out of the way, we could settle down into the routine of real life and find out if we had something lasting between us, or if the chemistry would go flat with time.

Things were looking up. I could hardly wait to get started on this new situation between us: routine.

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