“Come in, come in!” Celeste opened the front door to her adorable little lingerie boutique, Between the Sheets. “How’re you doing, sweetie?”
“I’m good. I’m fine.” I leaned into my friend’s enthusiastic hug. Celeste was one of the brightest, most positive people I’d ever met, and I often wondered why she liked someone like me who tended to teeter on the cliff of pessimism.
But she did like me, and I knew I was lucky to have both Coral and Celeste in my life. When we’d met at that volunteer rally back in college, I never could have guessed how long we’d know each other and how deeply they’d both impact my future. Hell, I lived in Georgia because after we’d finished our undergrad studies, Celeste had been determined to start up a business in Burton, her hometown. Coral had already written her first book by that time and knew she could work anywhere, so she’d decided to stick around and share a rental house with Celeste.
I’d gone to medical school in Atlanta, close enough that my girls could come to me at least one weekend a month. They’d cheered me on, getting me through those three long years of insanity, and when I’d landed a spot in a residency program in Savannah, we’d all been thrilled to live within about forty-five minutes of each other.
And now, all three of us had realized our dreams: Coral’s books were bestsellers, the kinds of books that were optioned for movie deals even before their release dates; I was working in a cutting-edge breast cancer treatment hospital, heading up some of the most promising studies and trials; and Celeste owned this totally kick-ass lingerie store on the main boulevard of Burton.
She studied me now, her eyes clouding with concern. “You don’t look fine.”
“Oh, stop with the flattery, Celeste, you’ll make me blush.” I rolled my eyes. “I just came off a twenty-four, and I only had time for a couple of hours of sleep before I had to drag my ass to Burton for this meeting.” I yawned big. “So sorry if I don’t match your sparkle. Cut me a break.”
“Whoa there, angel pants. Slow your roll. When I said you didn’t look fine, I only meant that there’s something in your eyes. Something that says you’re not at all fine and good. You’re upset.”
“Am not.” The denial flew fast from my lips. “Like I said, I’m just . . . tired.”
“Okay.” She shrugged, and she might have said more, but just then the bell over the door jingled as Coral came in, followed in short order by a group of three young women.
Celeste wore her official saleswoman smile as she glanced at me. I nodded, understanding that she had to deal with these last-minute-before-closing customers, and gestured to Coral to follow me behind the counter and into the small sitting room in the back of the store.
“Ugh, I saw those girls getting out of their car right after I did, and I kept sending them mental vibes: don’t go into Celeste’s store. But I guess my Jedi mind power must be a little rusty.”
“Oh, it’s fine. She’ll schmooze them, sell them a couple hundred dollars’ worth of sexy silkies, then send them on their way.” I sank onto the overstuffed loveseat. “God, it feels good to be off my feet. It’s been a long week.”
“Sorry about that.” Coral kicked off her shoes and curled into the opposite corner of the small sofa. “Just work stuff?”
I hesitated. I’d been vacillating all week on whether or not to spill my guts to the girls about Wesley. They both knew of him; they’d heard the story early in our friendship, on one of our very first margarita sleepovers. I’d gotten sloppy drunk and sobbed out my heartbreak. Still, I wasn’t sure I wanted to let them know that the first guy who’d broken my tender heart was now helping to transform my home.
“Yeah, just work,” I answered Coral finally. “A lot of challenges right now.”
“I’m sorry.” Coral reached over to pat my hand. “Want to talk about it?”
“No.” I shook my head. “Comes with the territory, you know.”
“Sure, but . . .” She shrugged. “We’ve all been there. Or at least near there.”
I had to swallow hard over a lump that had risen suddenly in my throat. Coral, Celeste, and I called ourselves the Bosom Buddies for two reasons: first, we’d met at a volunteer rally for Young Survival Coalition, and second, we’d all three gone into lines of work that had something to do with, well . . . boobs. I worked in breast cancer research and treatment, Celeste sold fancy and sexy bras, and Coral wrote historical romances that all featured those famous and stereotypical heaving bosoms.
But behind the truth was pain that was still scarred and hurting, at least for Coral and me. I’d lost my mom to breast cancer when I was only five years old. That was why obliterating the disease was my daily personal crusade.
Coral, though, had actually fought breast cancer herself. She’d been diagnosed at age seventeen and battled for three years before going into remission. Now, nearly ten years after she’d finished treatment, it was sometimes hard to remember that she’d ever been that sick—it had happened before Celeste and I had met her—except that every now and then, I happened to look into her deep gray eyes—those old soul eyes—and caught a flash vulnerability. And then I remembered my friend’s enormous courage.
I scooted over on the loveseat and slipped one arm behind her back. “Thank you, Cor.”
She gave me that heartbreaking half-smile. “I didn’t do anything.”
“You do stuff all the time. You’re always here for Celeste and me. You listen, you encourage—you’re the best cheerleader a woman could want. I love you to pieces, and I don’t say it nearly enough.”
“Oh.” Coral ducked her head, embarrassed. “We all do that for each other.”
“Well, we try. I don’t think I’m as good as you are.” I nodded my head toward the door that led to the front of the shop. “By the way, did you think Celeste sounded funny on the video chat last night when she asked us to meet up here today?”
“Funny how?” Coral tilted her head.
“I don’t know. Funny like . . . she’s hiding something. Or like something big is happening.”
“Oooooh!” Coral’s eyes got big. “Do you think it’s a guy?”
“Jesus, Cor, does it always have to be about a man?” I rolled my eyes.
“Not all the time, no, but every story’s better when a man’s involved,” she shot back, all sassy like. For all of her wise ancient spirit energy, Coral really was a hopeless romantic. It was probably why she was so good at her job.
“I don’t know about that,” I sighed, thinking of Wesley and our tense encounter at my house last week.
“Aha!” She wriggled to sit up straighter. “See. There’s something else going on with you, girlfriend, and it’s definitely man-related. I can just tell.”
I never lied to my friends, but that policy didn’t stop me from trying to redirect Coral’s attention. “Do you think Celeste is too stressed about this holiday benefit? Taking on the chairperson job was a big decision.”
Coral narrowed her gaze. “Stop trying to change the subject. Also . . . yes, I think she’s stressed, but no, not too stressed. You know her. She thrives under pressure.”
“Hmmm. Maybe.” I nudged her with my elbow. “Hey, do you have to be up early tomorrow?”
She frowned. “No. Not particularly. Why?”
“Because I’m off for a few days, and I was thinking we could crash at Celeste’s place tonight after dinner. We could have a margarita sleepover. We’re way past due for one.”
“That sounds like a plan.” Coral grinned. “Celeste will have to get up to open the store, but you and I can sleep in. Oh! And we could go to Kenny’s for waffles!”
“Now you’re speaking my language.” I loved the small diner in the center of Burton’s downtown. It was one prime reason I’d chosen to settle so close to this little town—but I wasn’t going to admit that to Celeste or Coral.
“This is perfect.” Coral rubbed her hands together. “While we’re here, we’ll gang up on Celeste and get her to spill whatever she’s hiding. And then tonight—” Her grin turned wicked. “We’ll find out what it is you’re trying to keep from us.”
I sent her a withering glare. “I will never talk. No matter how much you torture me.”
My friend snorted, smirking. “Oh, we’ll see about that, Sabrina. We’ll just see.”
Want to know what comes next?
The details of this meeting–and what’s up with Celeste–are all revealed in
which is part of the holiday benefit anthology
Releasing October 5th
But the next episode of BOSOM BUDDIES releases on Friday–
and it’s all about the margarita sleepover!