"You'd also have to close your laptop and try to talk to us," Charlotte said.

"When will I see you?" Allison asked, ignoring the barb about her social skills.


"Hopefully, tonight. I made dinner reservations at our hotel for eight o'clock."

"How do you know I don't have plans?"

"I just assumed you wouldn't be going out. How long has it been since you've had a date?"

"We're getting off topic here."

"You just don't want to answer the question."

"I haven't had any real dates . . . or at least what you'd call a date," she said in all honesty. She wondered what Charlotte would do if she told her about the sex with Liam. She'd probably applaud, Allison concluded.

"That's a pity," Charlotte consoled.

Allison laughed. "It kinda is. I'm really happy you're here," she blurted. "When do you have to go back to Seattle?"

"Tuesday," she answered.

"About tonight . . ."


She tucked her cell phone in the crook of her neck and opened the yogurt container, then swallowed a spoonful before answering, "I have to attend a cocktail party for one of my professors. It's at the Hamilton," she added. "It starts at six thirty and I'll probably be there until eight."

"Okay, I'll move our reservation back to eight thirty," Charlotte said. "The Hamilton Hotel is just around the corner from the Four Seasons. It won't take you any time at all to get here."

"Are you sure you wouldn't rather come to my apartment? We'll order pizza."

"No, every time we get together we eat pizza. Getting dressed up and dining out will be fun. You'll have to be dressed for the cocktail party anyway. Are you going to wear makeup? Do you have any? I don't think I've ever seen you wearing lipstick or mascara in real life."

That was probably true, even though Charlotte had seen the pictures from Giovanni's photo shoots. "Yes, I have makeup, and yes, I'll wear makeup."

"It's going to be fun." Charlotte sounded so giddy she practically giggled her response.

Allison smiled at her sister's enthusiasm. "You don't get out much, do you?"

"More than you."

"I want to ask you something."


"I hate to ruin your good mood, but have you heard from Aunt Jane or Uncle Russell?"

"No, not since Oliver and I cut them out of our lives. You should have done the same a long time ago."

"You're right," Allison agreed. She rinsed the spoon under the faucet and dropped it in the dishwasher. "I finally severed connections, but they keep harassing me. It's awful."

"We'll talk about it tonight. Oliver and I have something to tell you, and we don't think you're going to like it. I've got to go-"

"Oh no, you don't. You can't say something like that and not tell me now."

"It has to be face-to-face."

"That means it's bad, right? I'm right, aren't I? Are you and Oliver having problems? You're not thinking of divorce, are you? Charlotte, you're never going to find anyone as sweet and patient as he is. Have you tried marriage counseling?" Her imagination was getting away from her. "He's perfect for you, and he's-" 

Charlotte cut her off. "No, dummy, we aren't getting divorced."

"Okay, good," Allison said with a sigh of relief. "So now I have to think you're going to try to talk me out of something or into something. I'm right, aren't I?"

"See you tonight."

Charlotte disconnected the call before Allison could coax her into explaining.

Allison absolutely refused to worry about what Charlotte and Oliver wanted to talk to her about, so she did exactly that the rest of the day. She came up with all sorts of horrible things, and by the time she had showered, curled her hair, and applied makeup, she decided either Charlotte or Oliver was dying, or they were moving to some remote country and she would never see them again. She realized how mental she was acting, but she told herself she was just a worrier and not out of her mind.

Time was getting away from her. She needed to hurry if she was going to make it to Father Basher's party on time. She opened her closet door and studied her clothes. Creating outfits was not one of her strengths, but luckily Giovanni had been a good teacher and she channeled his expertise now. She decided to wear one of her favorites, a short fitted dress the color of deep burgundy wine. The sleeves came to her elbows, and the hem of the rather tight skirt didn't quite reach her knees. The slit up one side, though provocative, was necessary so she could walk, but the scoop neckline was modest with only a hint of cleavage. Small hoop earrings and her delicate gold watch, a gift from Charlotte and Oliver, were her only accessories. She tried on two different pairs of heeled sandals before choosing. Standing in front of the full-length mirror, she surveyed her reflection and decided Giovanni would have approved.

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