Lot sat on the edge of her bed, still wrapped in her towel, staring at her painted toenails. She was vaguely aware that she’d been sitting here too long, her hair was starting to dry in untidy curls around her face, and soon people would start showing up to help her do—well, whatever it was she was supposed to be doing today. She was sure people would forgive her for not being the most perfect host, grief being an excellent excuse and all, but she wasn’t sure they’d like it if she went about her day only wrapped in a towel.
She managed to lift her eyes away from her toes to the outfit hanging on the hook next to her mirror. The red shirt may have seemed a bit bright, a bit flamboyant for her role as grieving daughter, but that had been her Mom’s favorite shirt on her. Lot wouldn’t dare wear anything else. Besides, she could just hear it. “Oh, don’t wear black, Lotte. Pale skin, dark hair, red lips, you put on all black and you look like a vampire want to be. You can read Twilight if you must, but I will put my foot down when you start looking at fangs to glue to your teeth. Honestly, you think we have the skin tone to wear black? Use your eyes.” Lot almost laughed at the disbelieving tone her mother’s voice took, before remembering it was just a memory—an echo in Lot’s head, and then she felt like crying again. Either way, it was decided, she wasn’t going to wear black to her mother’s memorial. But now she just had to work up the energy (or was it the courage?) to stand up and actually put her clothes on.
There were three little taps at the door, and then it swung open slightly, revealing a tall beautiful man with his hands half covering his face, peeking through his fingers. “Lot, you decent? Oh damn, you are.” He let his hand fall to his sides and offered her a ‘let me know if I’m pushing it’ smile. He wasn’t. God bless Colt. He seemed to be the only one who knew how to balance the line between treating her like glass and being so normal that it was calloused. She was more and more grateful for him with every passing moment.
Ashleigh appeared behind him, peeking around his shoulder with a ‘tsk.’ “She’s not dressed, Colt.”
“That’s the way I like her best,” Colt teased, dropping on to the bed next to Lot, causing her to bounce a little. He leaned over and kissed her on the top of the head, before looking up at the outfit she had hung as well. “Oo, I like that outfit too. Is there a reason that you haven’t gotten around to putting it on? Were you hoping that I’d show up?”
“Colt,” Ashleigh protested weakly.
“It’s fine, Ash.” Lot’s voice sounded rough to her own ears, and she realized it was the first time she’d spoken since she and her uncle had left the crematorium the afternoon before. They hadn’t wanted to do a big thing for the actual cremation, so now everyone was coming over to the house for a low-budget memorial. Her mom’s lawyer was coming to, to help them go through her will and figure out exactly what was happening with the estate. Her brothers—men she literally hadn’t seen since she was five—might be coming as well, according to her Uncle Charlie, but Lot was selfishly hoping they wouldn’t, because that was just an added level of stress she didn’t want to deal with. It all washed over her, and for a moment she felt sick. She leaned against Colt’s shoulder and looked up at Ash with tears in her eyes. “I don’t want to do this.”
“Yeah,” Ashleigh said sympathetically, leaning against the door frame, while Colt rubbed small comforting circles on her back. “I don’t really want to do it either. Miss Bobbi was a good woman, we know that, but we have to go out there and let everyone say she was such a good woman, and that they are sorry for your loss, but Colt is here for you, and I am here for you, and we just have to get through today.”
Colt dropped another kiss on the top of Lot’s head, and she gave him a one-armed hug, making sure to hold her towel in place for Ashleigh’s sake. “Thanks, guys, I appreciate it.”
“Come on,” Ashleigh stepped forward to grab Colt’s arm and pull him away from the bed, “If I leave you two alone in here, I know that you guys will lay down for ‘just a minute’ and then you’ll be asleep and I won’t see either of you again for hours.”
“She knows us too well,” Colt protested as he let Ashleigh lift him up, “Love you, Lot. We’ll be back in fifteen minutes.” Colt reached out for her, as if they were in a dramatic romance movie, being forcibly separated by armed guards rather than the gentle pushing of a woman a least half a foot shorter than he was, and not nearly as strong. Lot smiled again, even as Ashleigh rolled her eyes at them both before shutting the door.