Marriage Terms(9)

By: Barbara Dunlop

Amanda feigned delight. “You’re going to kill off Daniel?”

“I’m going to get a makeover. And Daniel’s right. You should come with me.”

“Hey!” Bad enough when Daniel criticized her appearance. She didn’t need Karen jumping on the bandwagon.

Karen waved a dismissive hand. “Don’t be so sensitive. We’ll spend the weekend at Eduardo’s. Mud wraps, facials…” Her hand went to her chest, and she rolled her eyes reverently. “Oh, one of those heated stone massages will make you feel like a new woman.”

“I don’t want to be a new woman. And I can’t afford Eduardo’s. One of those heated stone massages would bankrupt me. I don’t need a makeover.”

“When did need have anything to do with a makeover? And you can make Daniel pay.”

Daniel pay? Let Daniel and his money anywhere near her life? Was Karen out of her mind?

“After all, it was his idea,” said Karen with a calculating gleam.

Amanda shook her head. “I think you’re missing the point of this conversation.”

Karen grinned unrepentantly. “I’m not missing the point. They nuked my cancer, not my brain.”

Amanda leaned forward in her armchair, folding her hands on the knees of her

khaki pants, making sure she was perfectly clear this time. “I don’t want to humor Daniel. I want your husband to help me get him off my back.”

Karen copied Amanda’s posture. “Maybe Daniel will get off your back if you get a makeover.”

“If I get a makeover, Daniel will think I’ve taken his advice.”

“Who cares?”

“I do. He wants me to stop practicing law. I give in on the makeover, you can bet what’s coming next.”

“It’s not like he can have you disbarred.”

Amanda paused. She supposed that was true enough. He couldn’t actually force her to stop working. Could he? The Elliotts were powerful, but she had to believe there were limits on what they could pull off.

He’d have to catch her doing something unethical—which she wouldn’t. Or he’d have to set her up—which he wouldn’t. Her folded hands tightened. But Patrick might. If Daniel asked him to.

Of course, Patrick couldn’t care less what Amanda did for a living, or whether she consorted with criminals. By the same token, neither should Daniel. Really, where on earth was this coming from?

Karen sat back in the chaise and gave an exaggerated sigh into the silence, smoothing the palm of her hand over her forehead. “I think a makeover would help me recover so much faster.” She turned her head toward Amanda and shamelessly blinked her long lashes. “But I really don’t want to go to Eduardo’s all alone.”

Amanda wasn’t fooled for a second.

Karen was milking the situation for all it was worth. But she had been through a terrible illness. And if she wanted company at a weekend spa, how could Amanda refuse?

A gull cried against the sheer cliffs outside, a second answering it as the surf roiled up against the rocks.

“If I say yes,” Amanda ventured, “we can’t tell Daniel.” If Daniel thought she was taking his advice, any of his advice, there’d be no stopping him.

A beautiful smile grew on Karen’s face. “I say we let them dye your hair.”

“No, we’re not…” When Karen’s expression faltered, Amanda paused. “You think I should dye my hair?”

“Oh, they can give you the most divine highlights. You’ll love it. I promise.”

Amanda didn’t want divine highlights, and she sure didn’t want to touch Daniel’s advice with a ten-foot pole. But she did love Karen, and she supposed highlights wouldn’t kill her.

“Okay. Highlights it is.”

Karen all but bounced back up into a sitting position. “Great. My treat.”

“No way.” Amanda wasn’t about to let Karen pick up the tab.

“Okay. Michael’s treat. I’ll make the reservations.” Karen reached for the phone.

“Your husband doesn’t pay, either.”

“But you said—”

“Final offer. We go to Eduardo’s, I pay my way and nobody tells Daniel.”