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"It's no longer about Wolford nylons and Agent Provocateur thongs, Gemma honey." Helen arched a brow at her before turning her eyes back to the road. "It's all about informed decision making."
"I can't believe I let you drag me along."
"You agreed last night," she said quickly, obviously afraid Gemma was about to dig her rubber soles in and back out.
"Agree is a very strong term," stalled Gemma.
"What word would you use?" Helen shot her another look, the kind she probably used on her class during a pop quiz.
"Decimate and coerce."
"You fed me straight vodkas and then coerced me into this outrageous scheme. I was in no state to take responsibility for my mind."
"Was that before or after you grabbed my arm and hissed, 'My biological clock is spinning, Helly, it's spinning down like a bloody stopwatch on Viagra'?"
"That's my mother's fault."
"I'm sensing a theme here."
"They raised me on good old-fashioned values"
"Your parents were workaholics." Helen gave her such a long frown, they nearly sideswiped a heavy-duty truck off the bridge as they crossed over into Brooklyn.
"Precisely." Gemma was too accustomed to her friend's driving to be overtly concerned with the near-miss. "So what's up with them taking early retirement?"
"Oh, honey, is this still about them buying that farmhouse in Tuscany instead of moving back out here?"
"It's a vineyard. That's all Tuscany is, vineyards and potholed roads and a whole lot of nothing. And she tootled her fingers at me," snapped Gemma in disgust. "When I pointed out that most people moved closer to their children when they retire and asked how she thought she'd have any kind of relationship with her grandchildren one day, she tootled her fingers at me. 'We'll pass that hurdle if it ever comes to it,' she said. If...!"
"She's going through a post-midlife crisis. She retired to a country whose national pastime is four-hour siestas. The woman worked her life away and now she wants to make up for it double-time, instant grandchildren and all."
"Tootling. You forget the tootling and big fat IF."
"She was the editor-in-chief for Glossy Gals for twenty-odd years." Helen cut a teetering left down a narrow street of broad-leaved trees and brownstones. "If there's one thing your mother probably knows, it's the inner workings of a modern city girl. Emotional blackmail became redundant in the nineties, but nothing makes a glossy gal charge for the finish line faster than suggesting she might not have what it takes to win."
"I wasn't aware it was a race."
"Of course it's a race, honey, a race to grab a man before the best ones are either taken or damaged. You had a late start, thanks to Simon."
"Simon was over five years ago," groaned Gemma.
"Simon may be history, but the bastard ate up most of your twenties. He promised you forever and did a one-eighty halfway up the aisle."
"Technically," Gemma corrected with a smile, "he sent a text the night before."
"From Helsinki! You may have developed a stiff upper lip from all those years in London, but I don't buy in to this crap about a stiff upper heart." Her words were harsh, but Helen's voice was butter-soft. "I haven't even met the lowlife scum and I hate him more than you ever allowed yourself to."
"What was I supposed to do? Hold a grudge against the poor man because he changed his mind?" She'd done the next best thing. She'd put the Atlantic between herself and all that heartbreak.