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Sweet Heat at Bayside(4)

By:Addison Cole



"She's not you," he said, and stalked into his office.

"Well, maybe you can pretend she's your younger sister or something."

He looked over his shoulder, glowering at her.

Serena stifled a laugh. "I'll miss that scowling face when I'm gone.  Maybe you can send me a selfie every once in a while." They texted each  other often, hung out after work, and were partners in all their group  activities with their friends. But the idea of Drake sending a selfie  made her laugh.

"Oh, I'll be in touch. Don't worry. Someone's got to look out for you."

"My butt they do."

"How about we keep men away from your butt," he said a little too sharply.

"Ha ha," she said sarcastically. "You're going to hate not being able to watch me like a hawk, aren't you?"         

     



 

He was glowering again.

Teasing him was so much fun. "How did you ever survive when I was away  at college?" As she turned to leave she remembered how often he'd come  to visit Mira when they were away at school. She spun around, gaping at  him. "Oh my gosh! You weren't visiting your sister-you were checking up  on both of us, weren't you?"

A cocky smile spread across his face. "Like I said, someone has to look out for you."

"Geez. You're … " Her phone vibrated with a text, and she snagged it from  her purse as Chloe's name appeared on the screen. "Shoot. I've got to  go. I have to shop for clothes for my new job, find boxes, and start  packing. It's going to be another late night."

"You okay, Supergirl?" he called after her.

She turned, struck by the concern in his eyes. Not for the first time in  the last twenty-four hours, and probably not for the last, sadness  swept through her at the reality that the friends who were as close as  family and the man who had always been there for her would no longer be  just a few minutes away.

This is my dream job, my chance to have a better life, she reminded herself.

Breathing deeply, she said, "I will be," and headed out of the office.

The drive to The Now, a new upscale boutique in Orleans, was long enough  for Serena to pull herself together about leaving and to think about  the clothes she needed to buy. Business-appropriate clothing for the  small beach community was a world away from the posh clients she was  sure to work with in Boston.

"Uptown Funk" was playing in the boutique when Serena arrived,  immediately lifting her spirits. Colorful skirts and blouses filled  racks and dressed mannequins. The walls were lined with upscale fashions  of varying styles. At least it wouldn't be hard to find a few nice  outfits.

A tall blonde called to her from behind the cash register. "Hey there. Welcome to The Now."

"Thank you!" Serena spotted the girls in the back of the store and  weaved around the racks toward them. Chloe, having come directly from  work, looked elegant as always in a simple blue shift and heels. Mira  looked fresh and gorgeous in a cute maternity sundress, which was  similar to Desiree's more revealing outfit. Emery wore her usual yoga  pants and tank top. Serena should have felt like she fit right in with  her blousy top and miniskirt, but she was still so harried from her busy  day, she was sure she looked as frazzled as she felt.

"Finally!" Emery said. "I was beginning to think you and Drake had decided to christen the music shop."

"You're getting more like Violet every day. We weren't even there,"  Serena said flatly. "He took forever interviewing a girl for my  position. I'm sorry I'm late. It's been an insane day."

"Did he hire her?" Mira asked.

"No, the big dork. He said she didn't have the right personality. She  was too sweet and too friendly. Can we please not talk about Drake? He's  annoying me. I can't believe how much work there is to do before I  leave. Between organizing the office so the next person can walk in and  understand how we do things, setting up the new Bayside Music and Arts,  and nailing down everything for my move, I swear I'm going to lose my  mind."

"Don't lose it before the wedding, please," Desiree said. She and Rick were getting married in September.

"No promises if Drake keeps being a pain," Serena said.

Chloe sifted through a rack of blouses and asked, "How many lists have you made?"

"One for the music store, one for the resort, and one for the work I  just finished up for Shift Home Interiors," Serena said proudly.

Chloe arched a finely manicured brow. She was as blond as Serena was  dark, but she wore her hair in a cute pixie cut and had a soft, pretty  face to pull it off. "Keep going, baby sister. I know you've got  more-like what to pack, what to buy, what you don't want to forget … "

Serena groaned and began looking through a rack of dresses. "So I'm a list maker. It keeps me sane."

"I make lists, too," Desiree said.

"Not me," Emery chimed in. "I'd lose them, or one of the cats would steal them."

Emery and Dean's cats, Tango and Cash, were always stealing things.  Emery told tales of missing underwear, keys, jewelry, anything the  little thieves could get their paws on.

"Serena's been making lists since she realized there were certain kinds  of boys she needed to avoid." Chloe grabbed a sharp-looking royal-blue  blouse and held it up to Serena. "I love this color for you."         

     



 

More precisely, she'd started her list with Drake Savage and all his finest points, followed by all of his faults.

"That's a fantastic blouse." Emery snagged an off-white skirt from a rack. "Pair it with this skirt."

"Wait," Serena said. "How much are they?"

Chloe gave her a get serious glare. "Serena, you have more money than  you'll ever need. You can afford nice clothes for your classy new job."

"I don't want to dip too much into my savings. How much is the blouse?"  She'd been tucking away four hundred dollars a month since she'd started  working full-time after college, with very few exceptions. She figured  she couldn't miss what she didn't have, and she was right. She'd never  missed the hundreds of dollars she stowed away in her bank account, and  now she had a nice nest egg. Before the job in Boston, she'd dreamed of  buying the cottage she was renting. She loved living around the corner  from the beach, even if she had to trek through the woods to get to it.  But dipping into her savings made her nervous. She'd allotted one month  of her usual savings for new clothes, and if she was careful, she could  build a whole wardrobe around it.

"Twenty-eight dollars," Chloe said. "And you're trying it on."

"And the skirt?" she asked tentatively.

"Same," Emery said. "We know how thrifty you are, but come on. They're  beautiful, and you need to look the part in Boston. What size? Six?"

"Eight," Serena said. "I've got curves, woman."

"Curves Drake has noticed a lot since I moved here," Emery pointed out.  "He seemed really upset at breakfast Monday, and even this morning he  was edgy. Now that you're leaving town, I think you should fess up about  your tryst with him. That man is so possessive of you-don't tell me  you've never slept with him."

Serena rolled her eyes. "Would you please get off the Drake train?"

"Hey!" Mira covered her ears. "I don't want to hear this!"

Serena pulled Mira's hands down and said, "You'd be the first person I'd  tell, even if you didn't want to hear it. I told you about the duet,  remember?"

Desiree and Emery exchanged a curious glance as they all moved to another group of clothing racks.

"The dreaded duet," Chloe said. "Please don't bring that up. She was a mess for weeks."

"I was not!" It was months. She focused on the professional-looking cap-sleeved dress in front of her.

Chloe sidled up to Serena and said, "I wanted to kill him."

"What are you talking about?" Emery demanded. "What duet? The guys had a band as teenagers, right? Did you sing in it?"

"No. It was just stupid kid stuff." Like the way I used to listen to  them practice, pretending I wasn't counting the number of times Drake  glanced my way. "Drake and the guys had entered their band in the beach  talent show, and I asked Drake to do a duet with me." Even now, when  Drake played the guitar, Serena was thrown right back to those early  years. There was always a moment of reflection, a longing for what she'd  missed out on, and then the sting of rejection would hit, bringing her  firmly back to the present.

"Those beach talent shows were the best for meeting guys from other  towns," Chloe pointed out. "You were so swoony over Drake back then, and  he was so full of himself. I wanted to choke the life out of him after  he ditched you."

"He ditched you?" Desiree's eyes widened. "I can't even imagine him hurting you on purpose."

"He was just being a teenager," Serena said, as if it were no big deal,  although back then it had been a very big deal. She chose a black dress  from the rack and moved to another display. The girls moved with her.

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