When All The Girls Have Gone(6)

By: Jayne Ann Krentz

One of the many advantages of her job at Rainy Creek Gardens was that it was just a twenty-minute walk from her apartment. Actually, when she thought about it, everything she needed was within a twenty-minute walk of the apartment. Seattle had big-city lights, good shopping and all the other amenities of urban life, but it was still, in many ways, a small town. Brian Conroy and the rain aside, she was glad she had heeded Jocelyn’s advice and made the move from Oregon.

An expensive-looking luxury car pulled into the small parking lot in front of the entrance. The driver’s-side door opened and a man climbed out from behind the wheel. He jogged toward the shelter of the covered entranceway. When he saw Charlotte, he smiled with just a polite hint of masculine appreciation.

“Really coming down,” he observed. “But at least it’s not too cold.”

“True,” she said.

“You look a little young to be a resident,” he said. “Visiting a relative?”

“I work here.”

“Yeah?” He glanced thoughtfully at the lobby entrance. “I was hoping maybe you had a family member here.”


“Because I wanted to ask your opinion of the place. The family has appointed me to shop around for a retirement community for my grandmother. Since you work here, though, I guess your opinion would not exactly be unbiased, huh?”

“I work here because I like this community a lot,” she said. “There’s someone inside who can answer all your questions, but you really ought to bring your grandmother here to take a look for herself. Moving into a retirement community is a major lifestyle change. She needs to be involved in the decision.”

Damn. She sounded way too earnest, even to her own ears. She could hear Jocelyn’s voice in her head.

That’s right, Charlotte, a good-looking man flashes you a sexy smile and asks a simple question and you go straight into lecture mode. You’ve got to lighten up, woman.

The stranger’s smile dimmed a couple of degrees.

“Right,” he said. “The thing is, I’m just trying to get a feel for the options that are out there. Grandma has lived in the same house for fifty years. She’s nervous about moving into a community full of strangers.”

Charlotte felt herself on solid ground now. Forget trying to flirt with him, she thought. Just stick to business.

“Does your grandmother play bridge, by any chance?” she asked.

He seemed surprised by the question, but he recovered quickly.

“Are you kidding?” he said. “She plays killer bridge.”

“Then she’s golden,” Charlotte said. “Trust me, as soon as the word gets out in the community that she plays, she’ll have no problem making friends.”

“Thanks, I’ll let her know.” He paused, as if trying to decide whether to engage in further conversation with her. “What do you think the in crowd will be playing when you and I are ready for a retirement community?”

“Video games, probably.”

He chuckled and some of the warmth returned to his smile.

“You’re right,” he said. “Well, thanks for the info.”

He went through the glass doors and disappeared into the lobby.

She went out into the rain and walked briskly along the sidewalk. She had managed to amuse him for a moment. That was the good news, she thought. The bad news was that she had not been trying to be funny. She had blurted out “video games” in answer to his question because it was the first thing that had popped into her head.

She hadn’t exactly flirted with a stranger, but there had been a little whisper of the female-male vibe in the exchange and that realization boosted her spirits. Maybe whatever it was inside of her that had been crushed by the Brian Conroy fiasco wasn’t dead after all. Maybe it had just been hibernating.

A little flicker of awareness prompted her to glance back over her shoulder. She didn’t expect to see the man again. By now he would be at the front desk in the lobby asking for more information and perhaps a tour of the village.

She was surprised when she caught a glimpse of him on the other side of the glass doors. She could have sworn he was watching her.

The knowledge that he had apparently found her interesting enough to warrant a lingering glance should have given her another pleasant little rush of feminine satisfaction. But for some inexplicable reason, it didn’t. Instead it sent a shiver of unease across the back of her neck.

Great. Now I’m getting paranoid.

Maybe the experience with Brian had affected her nerves, as well as her confidence in her own judgment.

That was not a cheerful thought.

She walked a little more quickly, very aware of the damp chill of the fading day. She suddenly wished she had been able to accompany Jocelyn to the secluded island convent. There was a certain appeal to the idea of going off the grid for a few weeks. But she had been on the job at Rainy Creek for only a year. There was no way she could have taken a whole month off.

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