The Sweetheart Deal
Nancy leaned toward her and whispered, “Isn’t John Adair handsome? Don’t you think he looks like that movie star Burt Lancaster?”
Ellen choked slightly. “No, not really.”
“John lives near Hollywood, you know,” Nancy said, her eyes alight. “Near the ocean!”
Ellen nodded politely. Even Boris Karloff would seem dreamy to Nancy if he could be her ticket out of Pitney.
“So, tell,” Nancy said.
“Did you know him?” Nancy’s eyes widened. “I mean, when he worked for your dad.”
“I, ah…” Ellen patted down her dress’s exaggerated puff at her hips. “Yes, sure.”
The man himself strode to the dance floor with Ellen’s mother. Ellen’s throat tightened, and her pulse beat like a conga drum. Swallowing hard, she commanded her body to behave. It didn’t.
Damn. She was hardly some school girl to go all gooey at the sight of him.
Ellen had to admit she was impressed by the elegant way John led her mother around the dance floor, a skill he wouldn’t have learned on a farm or in a factory. His transformation from the boy she had known was complete. He was now perfectly groomed, his wavy red hair tamed by a generous application of pomade, his bulky shoulders filling up the black tuxedo jacket. He had made it. Good for him. But she prickled with irritation. Why did he have to come back?
John continued to whirl her mother around the dance floor. When the waltz was over, he escorted her straight to Ellen. Her mother withdrew a lace handkerchief from her beaded wrist purse and delicately fanned her face with it, as if it were the 1850s, not 1950s. Nancy arched her back slightly as John approached. Ellen crossed her arms.
Apparently oblivious to Nancy, he said, “Hi, Ellie. I was just telling your mother how much I appreciate the effort your family has made to welcome me here tonight.”
Ellen gave him a perfunctory glance, but then her breath caught. Shoot! Just the sight of him did that to her, as well as other reactions in her lower region she was trying to ignore.
It wasn’t just his broad shoulders or his handsome, rugged face that made her react. She’d been around plenty of attractive men. But John had an intensity of expression that had almost knocked her flat the first time she met the young factory worker, who spent his off hours, unbelievably, at the library. As she looked at his once much loved face, she saw he still had that effect on her. But that could be controlled. She’d will it to be so.
Her expression flat, her voice a monotone, she said, “Riesel Lang is an important distributor of Hamilton products.”
John scanned the room. “Quite a gathering. It almost matches the effort I know your family made with my departure.” Acid dripped from his words, which made no sense. What right did he have to be angry? After all, he was the one who had hurt her and jeopardized the family business.
“Oh, really?” Daisy perked up. “I don’t recall a party for you before.”
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