Prick / Page 18

Page 18


"Eat," she orders. "In my day, if you were skinny, it was because you couldn't afford to buy food."

"Yes, ma'am." I don't have to be told twice to eat a giant cinnamon roll. Tearing off a piece with my fingers, I pop it into my mouth, and my eyes roll back in my head. It's still warm from the oven, homemade all the way, not that crap from the refrigerated section of the store.

When I open my eyes, Rose looks at me expectantly, with one flour-covered hand on her hip and the other holding the rolling pin, paused mid-air. "Well?"

"Well, what, Rose?" I ask, smiling.

"Don't sass me."

"These are amazing. Of course."

She smiles, and goes back to rolling out her dough.

"You're to blame if the newspapers talk about how the Senator's daughter is now fat, instead of the re-election campaign," I say, shoving a bigger piece of the baked good into my mouth.

Rose snorts and gestures at me with the rolling pin. If she didn't look almost exactly like Mrs. Clause, with her gray hair piled on top of her head in a bun and her glasses sliding down to the end of her nose, she would almost be menacing. "Don't ever let me hear that word come out of your mouth again, Kate Harrison."

"What?" I ask.

"You know what I'm talking about. That word. Fat."

"I'm saying that's what the media would say," I protest.

She shakes her head at me. "You sound like that woman," she says. That woman is Rose's way of referring to my father's PR manager. I think the official term is communications director. Mona. Rose knows her name but refuses to use it. "That woman, the one who dresses you up and talks about brand."

I sigh, thinking about what Mona will say the next time she sees me, the lecture I'll get on the "absolute catastrophe" I've created for my father with the picture in the newspaper of Caulter and I giving each other the finger. I'd love to see her face if she knew that Caulter had given me more than just the finger. "You know her name, Rose," I say. "It's Mona."

She goes back to rolling out dough. "You look more and more like her, you know?"

"I do?" I ask, my mouth full, picturing Mona, tall and stick-thin, with her fiery red hair clipped in a perfect bob and suits meticulously tailored to her model figure. "I don't look anything like Mona."

Rose waves at me dismissively with a spoon in her hand, then dips it into the bowl and ladles cinnamon filling across a swath of dough. "Not Mona. Don't be daft. You look like your mother."

"My mother was elegant, polished," I say. "I'm the exact opposite of that. I was trying to be polished. But after the photos in the newspaper..."

Rose hasn't mentioned the photos in the newspaper yet. I know she's seen them. She clips the ones that mention me and saves them all in a scrapbook. She doesn't look up from her dough, but I think she might be smiling. "I saw that one of you and that boy, the new --"

"The new step-brother."

She rolls pieces of dough into pinwheels and lays them out in the pan. She's on her second tray of cinnamon rolls and I'm beginning to be afraid she's cooking them all for me. "Step-brother. I guess that's what you'd call him."

"Have you met Ella?" I ask. I wonder if my father has already brought Ella here. I wonder how long he's been keeping his little secret.

Rose purses her lips. "It was news to me too," she says. "Although the fact that I didn't know about it wasn't surprising."

"She's a big celebrity."

Rose raises her eyebrows. "That part isn't surprising, either. You know your father's political aspirations."

I grunt my response as Rose adjusts the dough and slides the pan into the stove. "They'll be here tomorrow, you know."

"I'm prepared." I'm lying through my teeth, and we both know it. I'm not prepared to see them. But I'm more unprepared to see Caulter.

"Uh-huh." She rinses her hands under the faucet, her back still to me. "That's why you've been wasting away inside here all week instead of being out in the sunshine, down at the beach the way you used to be." She turns toward me, her hands on her hips. "It's not healthy, you know, moping around your room. She's not going to replace your mother."

"That's not it," I protest. It isn't. I'm not a little girl who thinks a celebrity is going to come in and replace her. I'm irritated with the way he sprung it on me after being hypocritical enough to insist on dictating every part of my life.

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