Annabelle sank lower in her seat. She'd been a decent actress, taking solid supporting roles in a couple of university productions and directing some studio plays. But by her junior year, she'd realized theater wasn't her passion, just an escape into a world where she didn't have to be Doug and Adam Granger's incompetent little sister.
“And look what happened with Rob,” Kate went on. “Of all the— Well, never mind about that. The point is, you've bought into this New Age nonsense that all you have to do is want something badly enough, and you can get it. But life doesn't work that way. It takes more than desire. Successful people are pragmatic. They make plans that are rooted in reality.”
“I don't want to be an accountant!”
A long, disapproving silence followed this outburst. Annabelle knew exactly what her mother was thinking. That Annabelle was being Annabelle again, high-strung, overly dramatic, and impractical, the family's lone failure. But no one could upset her like her mother.
Except her father.
And her brothers.
“Stop screwing around with your life, Spud, and settle on something practical,” Adam, the big-shot doctor, had written in his last e-mail, which he'd thoughtfully copied to the rest of the family plus two aunts and three cousins.
“You're thirty-one,” Doug, the big-shot accountant, had noted on her recent birthday card. “I was making two hundred grand a year when I was thirty-one.”
Her father, the ex-big-shot surgeon, took a different approach. “Birdied number four yesterday. My putting game's finally come together. And, Annabelle… It's long past time you found yourself.”
Only Nana Myrna had offered support. “You'll find yourself when the time is right, sweetheart.”
Annabelle missed Nana Myrna. She'd been a failure, too.
“The accounting field is wide open,” her mother said. “It's growing by leaps and bounds.”
“So is my business,” Annabelle retorted in a mad act of self-destruction. “I've landed a very important client.”
“You know I can't give you his name.”
“Is he under seventy?”
Annabelle told herself not to take the bait, but there was a reason she'd earned her reputation as the family screwup. “He's thirty-four, a high-profile multimillionaire.”
“Why on earth has he hired you?”
Annabelle gritted her teeth. “Because I'm the best, that's why.”
“We'll see.” Her mother's voice softened, driving the point of her maternal knife home. “I know I aggravate you, baby, but it's only because I love you, and I want you to fulfill your potential.”
Annabelle sighed. “I know you do. I love you, too.”
The conversation finally ground to an end. Annabelle stowed her cell, slammed the door, and jabbed the key into the ignition. Maybe if there wasn't so much truth behind her mother's words, they wouldn't sting so badly.
As she backed out of the parking place, she gazed into the rearview mirror and uttered little Jamison's favorite word. Twice.
Match Me If You Can
Dean Robillard entered the club like a frigging movie star, a linen sports coat draped over his shoulders, diamond studs glittering in his earlobes, and a pair of Oakleys shading his Malibu blue eyes. With his sun-bronzed skin, rakish stubble, and blond, surfer-boy hair all shiny and gel-rumpled, he was L.A.'s gift to the city of Chicago. Heath grinned, glad for the distraction. The boy had style, and the Windy City had missed him.
“Do you know Dean?” The blonde trying to drape herself over Heath's right arm watched as Robillard flashed the crowd his red carpet smile. She had to raise her voice to be heard over the crap music coming from the dance floor of Waterworks, the site of tonight's private party. Although the Sox were playing in Cleveland and the Bulls hadn't drifted back to town yet, the city's other teams were -well represented at the party, mainly players from the Stars and Bears, but also most of the Cubs outfield, a couple of Blackhawks, and a goalie for the Chicago Fire. Added to the mix were a few actors, a rock star, and women, dozens of them, each more beautiful than the next, the sexual plunder of the rich and famous.
“Sure he knows Dean.” The brunette on his other side gave the blonde a condescending look. “Heath knows every football player in town, doncha, lover?” As she spoke, she surreptitiously slid her hand around his inner thigh, but Heath ignored his hard-on, just as he'd been ignoring all his hard-ons since he'd gone into training for marriage.
Going into training for marriage was hell.
He reminded himself that he'd gotten where he was by sticking to a plan, and being married before he hit thirty-five was the next step. His wife would be the ultimate symbol of his accomplishments, the final proof that he'd left the Beau Vista Trailer Park behind him forever.