Crazy For You

By: Harper Bliss

Pink Bean Series - Book 8

To all the survivors.

Chapter One

Jessica stood in front of the mirror with her eyes closed. She let her robe slip off and took a deep breath. She opened one eye to a slit through which she couldn’t really see anything, then screwed it shut again. It was amazing how much of your own body you could avoid seeing if you applied yourself to it. But she had to look. It was time. Laurel would be there in fifteen minutes.

Jessica had seen the scars before, of course. She’d caught glimpses in the mirror. In an unguarded moment in the shower, she’d run a finger over their coarse texture—the red lines of remembrance. She’d never done that again.

Showering had never been a long dragged-out affair before, but now it had become an even more frenetic process. She disrobed with her back toward the mirror, hopped in, soaped up as quickly as she could, and only allowed herself to relax when hot water cascaded down her skin and she knew the ordeal of washing—of being confronted with her naked body—was over again.

Jessica sighed. She knew she couldn’t avoid this forever. That was one of the main reasons she had made an appointment with Laurel. It would force her to confront what she was missing in a way she did not feel ready for at all. But she would never be ready if she didn’t push herself out of her comfort zone. Comfort zone. Jessica hated the term. Her father had used it a few too many times when she was younger. But now she was using the exact term to get herself to do something she didn’t want to do. It just went to show. In the end, she was a chip off the old block indeed.

“This. Is. Ridiculous,” Jessica said to no one. Not even to her mirror image because her eyes were still closed.

She turned around, picked up her robe from the bathroom floor and pulled it safely around her shoulders. Only then did she open her eyes.

She couldn’t do it. Yet. So what?

She took another deep breath. Should she cancel Laurel? It was probably too late. Canceling was always possible, of course, but she would have to pay the full amount if she canceled this late before the appointment. She knew the rules. In that case, Laurel might as well come over. If just to have a chat. She had no idea what had happened to Jessica. If she and Laurel only talked, Jessica could pretend nothing had changed.

Her body hidden away by the fabric of the robe, she looked into the mirror and examined her face. Strangely, little about her face had changed. Granted, her cheeks were a little hollower. Her eyes, at times, a little more sunken, but most of her features had remained the same. As if nothing had changed at all.

Jessica brushed her hair and forced a smile to her lips. She’d been lucky. One surgery and everything had been taken care of. It could all have been so much worse.

The smile remained without her having to strain to keep it. She’d have it ready for Laurel. How long had it been since she last saw her?

Jessica turned away from the mirror again and went into her bedroom. She’d taken clothes from her walk-in wardrobe earlier and laid them on the bed. The wardrobe had too many mirrors and she only went back in there once she was fully clothed.

She dressed and counted the weeks since Laurel had last come to her house. It had been so long that she lost count. Christ. It was time.

She headed down the stairs and waited. Outside, darkness had fallen. The clock read three minutes to nine. Laurel was never too late and never too early. Jessica knew the bell would ring at precisely nine o’clock.

She had opened a bottle of Cabernet earlier to let it breathe. Laurel liked red wine. Jessica didn’t know why she wanted to please Laurel so much. She was the one paying her. Laurel was coming over with the sole purpose of pleasing Jessica. Yet she felt guilty for not having booked her for so long. For being out of touch. It was the craziest thing to feel bad about. No feelings had gotten hurt. Maybe that was what stung the most.

The bell rang as the big hand of the clock slid to nine.

Chapter Two

Jessica inhaled deeply and turned the doorknob. In a split second she would come face-to-face with Laurel’s dark complexion, her surprisingly kind eyes—the warmth in them had always taken Jessica aback—and her easy demeanor. It was this particular quality of Laurel’s that Jessica craved most right now. Since her surgery, it seemed that no one was willing to be easygoing around her anymore. As though acting normal would somehow break her even more than she’d already been broken.

Jessica opened the door wide.

“Good evening,” the woman standing on her stoop said. A woman who was decidedly not Laurel.

“Who are you?” Jessica blurted out.

“Hi, Jessica.” The woman held out her hand. “I’m Elizabeth, but do call me Liz.”

“I was expecting someone else.” Jessica ignored Liz’s hand.

Liz nodded apologetically. “I know you were expecting Laurel. May I come in and explain?”

“No. I mean, not before I see, er, some sort of credentials. You could be anyone.”

“I hate to say it, but I don’t have my police badge on me.” The woman produced a wide smile. She was nothing like Laurel with her soft curves and enchanting eyes. Liz was more angular. Taller. She looked somehow more unmanageable to Jessica. What the hell was going on here?