Bitten Under Fire(85)

By: Heather Long

Of course, I don’t. I spent the whole trip—well, at least the part I was awake—staring at Cage. The man had captivated her from the beginning. Discovering him in Austin had simply allowed her to get to know him.

To care about him.

Returning to the living room, she picked up her phone. Instead of calling Cage, she called the one woman who’d always understood her. A woman who’d lived life on her terms and raised her daughter to do the same. The phone rang twice.

“Darling girl,” her mother said by way of greeting. “Your ears must be burning.”

They were, but probably better not to admit it. “Hi, Mom. I’m not catching you at a bad time, am I?” Doctors were always busy. There were always emergencies and patients needing their care.

“Not at all, sweetheart. Your father and I are being terrible physicians today. We’re sitting in a gorgeous hotel, eating room service, and drinking wine. We have two whole glorious days.”

“Indoor plumbing.” Her father raised his voice, laughter rippling between them. “Air conditioning, fancy soap.”

“Hush, Harry.” Her mother was still laughing. “Your father is delighted by the toilet paper, but then, you know how that goes.”

Yes, yes she did. Every few months, no matter where their work took them, her parents found a way to take a few days at some posh hotel. The idea had been they worked hard and sometimes they needed the recuperation time. She’d seen her first swimming pool in one of those places.

“It sounds like you’re having a good time.” Just hearing her mother’s voice settled her, grounded her. “I shouldn’t bother you.”

“Of course, you should bother us. If I wasn’t certain you weren’t in the middle of some crisis of your own, I’d insist you fly out and join us.” The invitation jolted her. How could her mother know something was wrong?

“Um…” They hadn’t been told about the kidnapping; in fact, she hadn’t called them at all. They’d been on an assignment. She meant to catch them up when she was in front of them rather than scare them.

“Did you lose her, June?” Her father’s voice was much closer to the phone.

“No, she’s trying to work out how I know what’s going on in her life.” Smug maternal knowledge warmed her tone.

“Your mother is magic, baby girl. You know that.” Harry laughed. “I’m going to go check out the facilities while you two catch up. Convince her to come see us.”

Mom chuckled, then sighed. “You know you’ve been together too long when your spouse tells you he wants to play in a bathroom.”

A giggle escaped. “That’s Dad.”

“Yes, it is. All right, catch me up. You’re calling me, and a little moody sounding, which means something is troubling you. Doctor Mom is in, what can I do?”

Tears made her vision swim. “I miss you, Mom.”

“We miss you, too, baby. I won’t try to cajole you into visiting, no matter what your father says. Though, if you do come, I’ll have someone to go get a pedicure with. My toes look like troll feet.” Warmth flooded Bianca. Her parents were crazy, devoted to their work and each other, but they always managed to include her.

“I’d love that, but I can’t get away just now.”

“Next time then,” her mother assured her.

“I promise,” she said, and no matter what came up. She would make it happen. “Actually, I called for an entirely different reason.”

“I figured.”

“I need your advice,” Bianca said, blowing out a breath and walking with the phone into her kitchen. It was—three in the morning. “I met someone.”

“Oh?” Keen interest sharpened in her mother’s voice. “Boy or girl?”

“Boy, Mom. Well, man.”

“Gotcha, trying to be all progressive here. So tell me about him? Will I like him?”

“You went from had I met a boy or a girl to will you like him?” She set the coffee pot to brew. “Kind of fast-tracking it, aren’t you?” The quipping belonged. It normalized the world for her, made it more reasonable.

“You’re calling me about someone you’ve met, and you’ve never done that. You’ve had boyfriends, you’ve had lovers, and you’ve had one-night stands—”

“I had one one-night stand, Mom. One.” And it had ended horribly. So this time she had a fling—and it wasn’t going much better.

“Yes, dear, I know. That’s my point. You’ve had relationships before, but you’ve never called me about one. So this guy must be special.”