Sitting beside Sadie on the couch in her parlor, I studied the woman sitting across from me. She looked a lot like Sadie, only...well, more womanly. Mostly because of the confident, experienced look in her eyes. Unlike Sadie's, they were a sparkling blue. She and Sadie shared the same skin tone, the same golden hair, the same face shape and features. But this woman was taller, slimmer than Sadie. She looked like a runway model.
"I'm so confused. I thought you guys weren't coming down until the last july weekend." Sadie didn't sound only confused. She sounded offended. Puzzled, I tightened the arm I had around her waist. The woman I guessed was Sadie's sisterseemed to notice. Her eyes zeroed in on my arm before flickering up to meet my gaze. She gave me a slow smile that made me mentally raise a brow.
"Well we were, but after you sent us that last letter, Chloe here insisted we come sooner." Sadie's great aunt Dixie had a bit of a twang, which was surprising. I figured all of Sadie's relatives would be rich and proper.
The infant in Sadie's brunnete cousin Bridget's arms cooed. Dixie brushed back her own chestnut-colored hair and said, "It isn't inconvienant for you, is it Sadie?"
Sadie rubbed a hand across her temple as though weary. "I have to work everyday, but..."
"I'll come with you." Chloe spoke up at once.
Sadie lowered her hand, staring at her sister in shock. Even Dixie and Bridget looked startled.
"You're going to work with Sadie?" Bridget said, sounding stunned.
Chloe lifted a shoulder, let it fall. Geez, she even shrugged gracefully. "Sure. I have nothing else to do."
Sadie narrowed her eyes. To my surprise, I noticed a hard glint in them. She didn't seem to like Chloe. "What are you doing here?" she said abruptly.
Chloe's beautiful blue eyes widened. "What do you mean?"
Sadie glared at her even while Dixie frowned. "You know exactly what I mean."
"Hey now," Dixie interjected. "We came all the way down here, so we are all gonna get along. Ya'll understand?"
Reluctantly, Sadie and Chloe nodded.
"So this is Luke, Sadie?" Bridget piped up, her brown eyes curious on mine.
"Oh." Sadie jumped a little. "I'm sorry. Luke, this is-"
"Dixie, Bridget and Stephanie. And Chloe," I added just a little too late.
Chloe's full, plump lips twisted ruefully. "I see my baby sister failed to mention me."
"Of course not," I said quickly, but my cheeks burned, giving me away. Damn. "Alright, uh, Sadie, I think I'm going to head home, okay? Give you time to catch up."
Sadie nodded and stood up once I did. "I'm going to walk him out. Give me a minute," she murmured to her family. They nodded.
Sadie seemed robotic as she walked me to the front door. She was obviously worried about something, as she was chewing on her lower lip like she always did when she was preoccupied.
"Hey," I said in a low voice as I opened the front door. "I don't have to leave."
She shook her head, her sunlit curls tumbling around her. "No, I need to...I need to talk with them. I don't understand why Chloe..." she trailed off, sinking her teeth into her bottom lip again.
"Why didn't you mention her before?"
She shook her head again. "Later. Drive safe, okay?"
My brow knit as she closed the door in my face. Half a beat later, it was yanked open again, and her arms locked around my neck as she kissed me. When she withdrew, she gave me a half-hearted smile. "See you tomorrow."
I nodded, sticking my hands into my pockets as I walked to the car.
I felt numb as I closed the front door and walked back into the parlor. Dixie gave a whoop as I re-entered.
"Someone seems to be serious about a relationship for once!" Dixie teased.
"Luke seems to really like you," Bridget winked.
Chloe was silent, watching me with that predatory look in her eyes I'd grown to recognize and to hate.
"Upstairs," I snapped at her. "Now."
"Oh dear," Dixie said, laughter leaving her face at once.
I ignored it and followed Chloe's strut upstairs. The minute my bedroom door was closed, I said, "Why are you here?"
Chloe gave me that familiar coldly amused look. "Whatever do you mean, baby sister?"
"You know what I mean. I talk about Luke in one letter and you have to fly down here?" I demanded. Chloe's condenscending expression never changed. "Why are you here?" I repeated.
"The same reason as last time, Sadie Merideth." Chloe angled her head, watching me, caculating me. God, she was so much smarter than people took her for. Only I knew her. Only I ever would. I stared at her in disgust as she slid her hand along my dresser, crossing the space between us to stand before me, a full head taller than me. I hated how I had to look up to see her. "The exact same reason. To steal your boyfriend and make your life hell."