|George Spencer Herbert Elliot IV|
“Oh Gooshie!” Penelope tittered, cradling Dad’s arm in both her hands, like a creeping vine growing around a statue.
I’d heard enough. I grabbed Ellie’s arm and pulled her into the kitchen.
“Did I seriously just hear that woman call our dad Gooshie?” I seethed when we were alone.
Ellie grimaced and jerked away. “What’s your deal, Meredith?”
“That’s our father she’s talking to! Not her pet Chihuahua!”
My sister smirked. “I think it’s cute!”
“Cute?” A paralyzing chill crept over my body. I covered my eyes, as if that would make the whole scenario disappear. “Elaine Savannah Melissa Elliot, do not tell me that Penelope and Dad are—“ I couldn’t bring myself to say it.
She giggled. Just like Penelope, I thought. “Not till recently,” she confirmed. “Isn’t it adorable?”
“Ellie, she’s not much older than you are!”
“I know! It’ll be just like having another sister!”
I would have slapped her silly if I thought it would help. “Since when did you care about having another sister? Why not just start calling me Mom and leave Penelope out of the family?”
“Penelope would never be our mom!” Ellie protested, sneering at me. “Don’t be such a prude. She’s already my friend, and if she makes Dad happy, where’s the harm?”
She exited the back of the kitchen and sauntered up the stairs to her bathroom, where she primped like some middle-aged cougar wasn’t trying to seduce our father. As she examined her reflection, I caught a glint in her eye; I knew that look.
“Going somewhere tonight?” I asked casually.
A revving motor in the driveway answered my question. Ellie was in the doorway at a bound. “He’s here! Oh crap!” She ran into her room. I followed just in time to see her throw open the door of her closet and start digging through dresses.
“Who’s out there?” I asked.
“Oh, nobody!” She sang in that joking voice that never fooled anybody. “Just George!” She emphasized the name like she expected me to be jealous or something.
I didn’t have to pretend ignorance. “Who’s George?” I asked.
Ellie came out of the closet and posed in front of the mirror. She had paired a floral Coldwater Creek top with neat Ann Taylor slacks and Jimmy Chu gladiator sandals. She smirked and winked at her reflection and turned to me. “Oh, you remember George!” She sat at her vanity and began applying makeup unconcernedly.
I folded my arms. “Nope.”
Ellie finished her eyeliner and mascara and shot me a derisive glance. “Georgie? From Upton? The Heir?” She stretched the word to two syllables.
Then I remembered—and I knew why I didn’t recognize him. “I never actually met him, Elle. He never showed up that summer, remember? Besides, didn’t he marry some diplomat’s daughter or something?”
Ellie gave her lips one last swipe and smacked them. She sniffed. “Wall Street executive, Mer. And they were engaged, but not married—and it’s over now.” She bounced to the door of her room and winked at me. “He’s single and breathing, he has two legs, and he’s interested in me!”
I huffed at her. She ran down the stairs and disappeared into the living room.
The doorbell rang. “Could you get that?” she hollered.
I moaned and sauntered down the stairs. “I just think you need to rearrange your priorities if you’re going to ignore a potential threat to our family’s happiness over some punk named—“ I stopped as I opened the door and beheld a tall, tanned figure with blue eyes and bleached hair.
“—George,” I squeaked, as the man from Port O’Connor grinned at me.
“Hello, stranger,” crooned George Spencer Herbert Elliot IV.