Home > All the Pretty Poses (Pretty #2)(8)

All the Pretty Poses (Pretty #2)(8)
Author: M. Leighton

“How do you know I have a cat?”

“Educated guess.”

She sniffs at my reply. “Aren’t you being a little presumptuous?” she asks sharply.

“Not at all. You’re a smart woman. You’ve looked at your options. You’ve weighed the merits of working the summer in my club and planning for the dream you may or may not achieve on your own, versus working for me and getting a once-in-a-lifetime audition that you could likely never get on your own, and you’ve concluded that there’s only one sensible choice.”

“Just like you knew I would,” she says quietly.

I can’t help but smile. I’m sure she hates that I’ve engineered the situation so perfectly. But if I didn’t know how to make offers people can’t refuse, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be who I am today.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. There are very few people who can deny me.”

“And, aside from me, who might those be?”

“You’re not denying me.”

“I’m taking you up on an offer, but you can rest assured that I’ll be denying you in every other possible way.”

“I guess we’ll see, won’t we?”

I hear her soft huff and I smile again. This might be even more fun than I anticipated. And I anticipated a whole hell of a lot!

Before she can argue further, I cut her off. “I’ll see you at four.”

I hang up.

I’m still smiling, thinking, planning when the phone rings in my hand. It’s a number I don’t recognize. The switch to Harrison Spencer is swift and automatic.

“Spencer,” I answer brusquely.

“Mr. Spencer, my name is Oswold Bingham. I represent Malcolm Spencer’s estate. Would you be available to attend the reading of his will today? You’ve been mentioned in a recently-notarized codicil.”

I frown. I never expected to be named in Malcolm’s will. It makes me feel even worse about my protracted absence.

“What time?”

“Three pm, sir. The reading will be done here at Bellano. In the study.”

I don’t bother to hide my sigh of irritation. “Fine, but I can only give you until 3:45. No later. I’m flying out this afternoon.”

“I’ll make sure to accommodate you then, sir. I’ll be seeing you at three?”

“Yes,” I respond.

“Thank you.”

I hang up in a much pricklier mood than I was two minutes ago.


As I shower and dress, I still question the wisdom of taking Reese up on his offer. It’s a golden opportunity. All I have to do is just resist him long enough to make it off that boat and get what I came for.

Just resist him.

Like it’s that easy.


Impulsively, I decide to visit Tanny. All my life, she’s been my go-to person for advice. And comfort. And trustworthy friendship. Growing up at the back edge of Bellano with my foster father, Hank, in the grounds keeper’s cottage left me with little in the way of playmates or companions that lived nearby, so Tanny was it.

And Reese.

For a while.

Out of habit, I drive around the property and park at my old house, one that now sits empty since Malcolm hired a company to care for the grounds. I walk the old, familiar trail through the woods, the one that bursts into the lush grass surrounding Bellano, right behind the garage at the kitchen door.

I rap my knuckles on the screen and wait for a response. Tanny is an early riser, but even if she weren’t, eleven is plenty late for an impromptu visit.

Within a minute, I hear the click of a lock and the wooden door swings open, revealing Tanny’s smiling face behind the screen between us.

“I was wondering when I’d see you,” she says with a smile, flipping the latch on the screen so that I can enter.

“What made you think I’d come today?” I ask as I enter the kitchen. It smells just like it always has, like a mixture of something sweet baking, coffee and Malcolm’s pipe tobacco. It’s the most comforting aroma in the world.

“Yesterday was hard for all of us. In all kinds of different ways,” she adds meaningfully, sending me a knowing look over her shoulder as she pours me a cup of coffee.

“Tanny, it was awful! He saw me dancing the other night. That was bad enough, but then to have to see him and talk to him…and for him to ask me to work on his boat…”

She turns around at that. “He asked you to work on his boat?”

“Yes. In exchange for getting me an audition with the Altman troupe. Can you believe that?”

Her smile is slight. “Yes, actually I can.” I don’t ask what she means by that. “Have you decided what you’ll do?”

I sigh and circle my fingers over one throbbing temple. “I think so. I’m not sure it’s the right thing, but I just can’t see me letting an opportunity like this pass me by.”

Tanny nods her head, sipping her coffee and holding her tongue.

“I mean, I got over Reese a long time ago. And this is work. Not to mention that it could mean a totally different future for me.”

“That, it could,” she agrees.

“Right?” I ask, looking for her validation and her encouragement, and maybe someone to tell me I’m doing the right thing.

“Will you be able to live with the regret of not taking this chance?”

“I learned a long time ago that I can live with a lot of regret and still survive, Tanny. But the thing is, do I need to? Can this really be as amazing as it seems? Or is it too good to be true?”

“What, exactly, are you worried about, Kennedy?” Tanny asks, setting her mug down and taking my free hand in both of hers.

“Oh, Tanny. I’m worried about me. I buried that poor girl who we all knew a long, long time ago, but…”

“But what? If you buried her, then there’s nothing to worry about, is there?”

“I wouldn’t think so if I just didn’t feel so…so…”

“So what?”

“So drawn to him. God, it’s like no amount of hate can kill what he does to me. What he’s always done to me. But I know I can’t trust him. He is a man, after all. Even if he makes me feel like no man ever has.”

A look of sadness comes across Tanny’s face. “Despite everything you’ve been through, despite all the reasons you have for feeling the way that you do, you can’t go through life thinking you’ll never find a man you can trust.”

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