Killer Curves

By: Naima Simone

Sloane groaned, the slight pounding in her temples edging toward full-blown headache. This topic was nothing new either, yet the sour swill in her stomach and tight squeeze in her chest never eased. Her mother honestly meant no harm with her “helpful tips.” Neither of her parents were—or had been—openly demonstrative. Not with each other or their children. Reserved was a good description. “Decorum above all” should be the family motto. Still, in her own way, her mother saw recommendations for nutritionists, trainers, and surgeons as concern and her own brand of affection. Mallory couldn’t see that each piece of advice poked at the tender place in her soul that never felt good enough.

“Don’t pout, Sloane,” her mother chided. “I only sent you that information because he came highly recommended from several of the women I lunch with.”

“Great,” Sloane drawled. “So the topic of conversation at the country club has been my weight. Wonderful.” The same women she would most likely have to spend the weekend with, socializing. Oh goody.

“Oh stop. Dr. Colbert could help you manage your lifestyle, give you better nutrition tips, and assist you in being more active. What is the harm in that, Sloane? You have such a pretty face.”

The “If only your body matched” remained silent but blared so loudly, her elderly neighbor could’ve caught it without her hearing aid. The vise on her chest squeezed harder.

Clinophobia is the fear of beds.

She inhaled, and after a moment, slowly exhaled, the grip on her rib cage easing a fraction.

Part of her understood the criticism didn’t originate from a place of malice—her mother honestly did worry about Sloane’s happiness and future. But the other half… God, the other half longed to ask her mother if she could just lay off and accept her for who and what she was. Mallory’s concept of a fulfilling, purposeful life differed from Sloane’s. Did she sometimes wish she possessed the slender, hipless builds her mother and sister had been blessed with? Yes. Did she sometimes envy them their marriages and children? Of course. Especially in the last two months since her engagement ended, and the house seemed to echo with deafening silence. And loneliness. Even if her sister had separated from her husband, she’d experienced the fulfillment of companionship, family, and security. Of love.

An image of sky-blue eyes in a face of strong, sexy angles flashed across her mind followed by a hot spiral of heat coiled low in her belly. If she hadn’t run from the patio and avoided Ciaran for the rest of the evening, she might have ended up under him in her bed, writhing in orgasm. She’d called him dangerous, and the label fit. With one conversation, he’d had her questioning herself. Had her contemplating taking another risk. Had her—just for an instant—considering the risk would be worth the one night of sin his piercing gaze had promised. Yes, he was dangerous. Even more so than she’d originally supposed.

Phillip had enchanted her with his attractive features, flawless charm, and pretty compliments. But Ciaran’s blunt honesty and unapologetic sexual magnetism had captivated and aroused her in ways her ex hadn’t in the two years they’d been together. At the end of her relationship with Phillip, she’d been a timid, bullied shell of who she used to be. Phillip had battered her pride; she suspected Ciaran would destroy it, not even leaving scraps.

A wry smile twisted her mouth. Not that it mattered. Ciaran hadn’t approached her, either. Which solidified her assumption that she’d either been a lark, an amusing distraction to pass some time, or wasn’t worth the chase to him. At this moment, he’d probably forgotten all about the size-fourteen school teacher whose panties he’d melted with an offer to maim or kill and had picked up a Victoria’s Secret model wannabe who didn’t need to wear Spanx beneath her dress. Why that thought should sting so badly was beyond her.

God, I’m so pathetic. She continued up the sidewalk, eager to get inside, down some aspirin, and veg out in front of the television and whatever Housewives were cat-fighting tonight.

“Sloane, there’s another reason I called.” Well, damn. She’d almost forgotten her mother was still on the line. Sighing, she tuned back in to the conversation, but Mallory’s uncharacteristic hesitation echoed in her ear, and disquiet pulsed inside Sloane like a flashing caution signal. “I should have let you know earlier, but…” Her mother cleared her throat. “Phillip is coming to the party.”

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