Loving Lies

By: Linda Kage

Dedication

This one is for Alaina Cayenne, and no one else,

because no one pushed me as hard as she did to get this story finished,

and also because I’m really, really sorry

I forgot to type her name

in the acknowledgments of that other book!





Chapter One

IT WAS A GOOD DAY to be a good person.

As Tess Simpson strolled toward the entrance of Granton Regional Medical Center, she drew in an invigorating lungful of February air. Of course, not everyone shared her opinion. Next to her, her best friend grumbled about the frozen breeze blowing through her coat. Bailey yanked a pair of gloves from her pocket and pulled them on without finesse. Then she cast the clouds a petulant glare before flipping up her hood.

“I cannot believe you talked me into doing this. You hate me, don’t you?”

“Actually,” Tess said as she cheerfully bumped her elbow into Bailey’s, giving her an exaggerated wink, “I love you so much I want to be with you always. You complete me.”

The teasing remark made Bailey snort, but Tess decided to ignore her lack of enthusiasm. Nothing was going to burst her bubble. Humming to herself, she applied a layer of Mighty Mango lip gloss before slipping the tube back into her purse just as they approached the front doors, which swished open to welcome them inside.

“And these outfits are ridiculous,” Bailey ranted on. “I mean, really? Who makes their volunteers wear true candy striper costumes anymore?”

“Oh, come on. The auxiliary who trained us explained the uniforms. With so many students pouring in lately to help out, they needed an easy way to distinguish the true nurses from the volunteers.”

Bailey sent her a sideways frown, full of dry impatience. “Gee really, is that why?” With a sniff, she rolled her eyes. “I went to the training sessions too, you know. You don’t have to repeat everything the auxiliary said back to me verbatim.”

“Well, you don’t have to act as if you’ve forgotten what she said either.” Tess was used to her friend’s cranky attitude, but Bailey was on a roll today.

Not that she was going to let that bother her either. She just wouldn’t.

“I’m just sayin’. I feel like I’m in a jail cell.”

Only Bailey would think of jail from seeing red and white stripes.

“Psht!” Tess snapped her fingers over Bailey’s mouth, squishing her lips together and successfully shutting Bailey up. “This is for a good cause. We’re needed. Just think of how much of a better person this’ll make you feel.”

Bailey batted Tess’s hand away. “Yeah right. This ain’t goodness I feel oozing out of my nose.” She pulled a tissue from her pocket and pretended to blow her nose. Then, in a voice crammed with as much nasal blockage into it as possible, she whined, “I think I’m coming down with a cold.”

“Oh, you are not. Faker.” Tess pressed the button for the elevator before she set her hands on her hips and stared Bailey down with a determined arch of the eyebrows. “Don’t you dare flake out on me. You said we could do this.”

“Well, remind me to never agree to anything you suggest again,” Bailey muttered. She stuffed the tissue away. “And by the way, we are so not needed since there are already other student volunteers just—” she made air quotes “—pouring in. Your words. We’ll probably be in the way.”

The elevator dinged, and a pair of silver doors yawned open to their left. Grabbing Bailey’s arm to force her along, Tess swept them into the car. “Too bad. You already promised. A deal’s a deal. We’re doing this.”

With a little moan of resigned acceptance, Bailey folded her arms over her chest as Tess pushed the button for the third floor. When Bailey didn’t complain after the doors shut, Tess grinned and opened her coat to smooth her hands over the outline of her red and white striped apron.

“And I like the outfits. They remind me of candy canes, not jail cell bars.” With a wiggle of her butt, she grinned and added, “Plus I look good in mine.” As Tess twerked against her friend’s leg, determined to coax a smile out of her, Bailey only snorted again and elbowed her away, though Tess swore she saw the corners of Bailey’s tight lips tugging up.

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