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Beauty From Love (Beauty #3)

By:Georgia Cates

cackling and witchy wringing of hands.

"Well, then find a plan B. I don't want to take the dogs with us."

"But I wuvs them … what will they do without their daddy and mommy to tuck them in at night for a four whole days?"

"If you wuvs me, Keify, then you'll stop talking like you've spent your childhood eating lead paint and find a dogsitter." I quickly email my dad back and tell him I'll call tomorrow, and thank you but you didn't have to do this. I'm out of the car before Keith has it in park. My appetite has been replaced with annoyance.

Time to give this body some narcotic sleeping aids and put it to bed.

But before that, before I can sneak upstairs and sedate my frustration, I have to get past The Door.

Her door.

A finger against my lips, I motion to Keith to shut up. At all costs, do not speak.

Squeeeeeak, mutters the first step. Shit.

"Hollie? Is that you?" Keith shoves past me and bolts up the stairs. I throw my Chinese takeout box at him, hoping it will explode against his back. It does not. Merely bounces and flies over the railing, splaying open on the grass. Asshole actually laughs at me.

"Yes, Mrs. Hubert. It's Hollie."

A tiny wrinkled body that I think was at some point human shuffles to her screen door. She's wearing the same housecoat as usual-snaps up the front, pockets bulging with spent Kleenex, her lucky, fifty-year-old Avon perfume pin clipped limply over where her left boob should be, if it weren't dangling down around her belly button. Suntan knee-high stockings crumple around bony, knotted anklebones, her feet stuffed in slippers that were pink in their former lives. Behind her, a sickly meow echoes through the kitchen.

"Hollie, I need half-and-half and some frozen peas. And Mr. Boots needs wet food. Go get it."

"Mrs. Hubert, I'm exhausted."

"And I'm a lonely, dying woman who spends her days and nights praying that Jesus will come for her. Have you seen my hands?" She thrusts her hands through the gap in the screen door. Her skin is so translucent, it's easy to trace the bulbous veins snaking up her arms and disappearing under yellowed sleeves. "Hurry up. Jeopardy is on soon and I don't want to have to get up again."

I lock eyes with this-this-creature, wishing the apocalypse would happen right this second and I would be saved from her terrible wrath. A look up the stairs proves that Keith is nowhere in sight.

Lifting my purse strap back over my shoulder, I do the only thing I know how to do.

I turn around and slither back to my car so I can go to the market to do Mrs. Hubert's relentless bidding, hoping that while I'm gone, Satan will come and claim the prize that's been missing all these years from his wicked collection.

"Take Mr. Boots too," I mumble.