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Everlasting Love, An
Brynne Armstrong looked up at the sound of the knock on the open door. Her office, like most of the offices in the Sheppard Women's Crisis Center, was cramped, barely able to hold the oak desk, visitor chair, file cabinet, and sofa beneath the window. The center was housed on the third floor of an older building near the Wayne State University campus, on Cass Avenue in downtown Detroit, Michigan.
"Brynne, you just have to say yes." Laura Murdock, a social worker at the women's center, was also a friend and fellow member of the Elegant Five Book Club. "I'm begging you to -- "
Brynne interrupted, "Hold on a second. Let me get this down." She went back to typing the summary of her notes of the last session with Joyce Lewis into her laptop. Brynne was a counselor at the center, who specialized in helping rape victims.
Laura made herself comfortable in the chair in front of the desk. The instant Brynne looked up from the computer screen, Laura started in on her. "I really need you to come with me tonight. I don't want to go alone. It's not every day that a gorgeous, ex-NBA player throws himself a birthday party and invites us." She laughed, "Didn't I tell you I was going to get Ralph Prescott to notice me?"
"Yes, you did." Brynne tried not to wince at the familiar last name.
It brought back painful memories. She leaned back in her chair with an indulgent smile on her pale brown face. Prescott was a common name, and she had no business getting upset because of it. Hadn't she made a point of not asking a single question about the possible connection? Asking that particular question was the same as giving in to the despair that never quite went away. She refused to look backward. She had kept her feet firmly planted forward since she left St. Louis years ago.
"Well what? Laura, he invited you to the party, not me. He doesn't know me from a hole in the wall." Brynne's beautiful face, with its small African features, was framed by stylishly cut, short, dark brown curly hair. "Believe me, I won't be missed. Besides, it's a week night. Did you forget I'm a single mother with a three-year-old to consider? At twenty-six, I'm old enough to know better than to try and dump my child on one of my friends."
"That sweet baby girl goes to bed at eight o'clock. She isn't going to know you aren't home."
Brynne shook her finger at the other woman. "Spoken like a single woman without a care in the world. Won't know I'm gone? Hardly."
"You know what I mean. Both Vanessa and Trenna will be happy to keep her, and you know it. I, on the other hand, can't go to that man's house alone. What will he think?"
"That you're there for the party? That you're a grownup?"
Laura was right, their mutual friends, Vanessa Grant and Trenna McAdams, dearly loved her daughter, Shanna. The two other women, along with Maureen Sheppard, were all single and members of the Elegant Five.
"Just because they're willing does not mean I'm willing to impose. I'd like to keep the friends I do have. And believe me, that isn't how you go about it."
"I don't see the problem. So what if it's a week night? Your group session at the center is on Thursday evenings. Pl-e-e-a-se. You aren't doing anything but going home and put your feet up and spend the evening in front of the television pigging out on popcorn."
"Honestly, Laura, when are you going to give up? You've been badgering me since you got that invitation. Call one of your other girlfriends. Believe me, you won't hurt my feelings if you go without me."
"You have to be kidding. Every one of those women is on the prowl. This one is too fine to let get away. At least with you, I don't have to worry about you going after my man. You are immune! What's up with that?"
Brynne quirked a perfectly arched brow. "If you want me to come, you're taking the wrong approach."
"I take it back. Honestly, Brynne, you've had days to find a babysitter."
"Doesn't that tell you something? I don't want to go. I'd rather stay home with my little girl and do nothing more exciting than watch a Barney tape."
Laura shot back with, "Sad! You are pitiful, Brynne Armstrong. You should be out there trying to find a daddy for that pretty little cupcake. Heaven knows, you could use some backup."
Brynne compressed her lips. Her child's father was beyond a touchy subject with her. It was something she didn't discuss with anyone, even her close friends.
Laura stopped suddenly, recognizing what she'd said. "Honey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. I'd forget my head if it weren't attached. I'm truly sorry if -- "
"Forget it. It's okay. I don't see why you need me to go with you. You're a beautiful, confident professional woman."
Laura smiled, letting out a small sigh of relief. Like Brynne, she was petite, but her skin was a dark rich caramel and her shoulder-length black hair was braided. "Yeah, yeah. I know, but I plan to look good. I'm wearing my green leather pantsuit. I really want to impress this man."
"Why? You don't know the guy."
"What I know, I like. He's rich and can afford me." She giggled.
Brynne joined in. She waved a pointed finger at her friend. "You're so wrong. The trouble is, you're serious, but I'm not about to get into a rich man, poor man argument with you. It will be just your luck to fall in love with a gorgeous brother without a dime to his name."Everlasting Love, An. Copyright © by Bette Ford. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.