Her jaw dropped the moment she flung open the door. There, in the flesh, stood her mother and, ohmigosh, Alex Crawford! Oh no! Oh no! What were they doing here? What did they want?
"Mother, Alex! What are you doing here at this time of the morning? Why didn’t you call first?" she demanded.
Mrs. Lane, a larger, older version of her daughter, rolled her eyes at Elizabeth. "Since when does your mother and your fiancé need an invitation to visit you? You and Alex were sup-posed to have dinner with me last night, remember? I was worried about you. Why didn’t you call and tell us you couldn’t make it? Did your shoot last longer than you thought?"
Alex stepped around Mrs. Lane and entered the house. Elizabeth tensed when he caressed her shoulder through the thin fabric of her robe and placed a light kiss on her lips. Thank God Richard didn’t see that. He’s jealous enough as it is. I don’t want to think what he might say or do if he saw Alex touch me. She shivered. It wouldn’t be pretty, she knew that.
"Don’t scold her," Alex sweetly admonished Mrs. Lane. "She looks tired this morning. Did you have a bad day yesterday, sweetheart?" Elizabeth steeled herself not to jerk away from him when he fondled the sash on her robe. If Richard came in…
"Oh, I had a very tiring day," she agreed. Well, I told the truth this time. All of yesterday’s emotional upheaval was exhausting to say the least.
Mrs. Lane sniffed. "Do I smell coffee?"
Elizabeth’s thoughts raced. Kind and generous to a fault, Alex deserved to hear her news in private. She had to make him and her mother leave until she got Richard out of here. He probably wouldn’t want to go so…
She had waited too long. The bedroom door opened with a click that sounded abnormally loud in her ears. "Elizabeth? Do you know where my shirt is? I can’t find it."
All eyes in the room swung to Elizabeth whose heart had started to pound so loudly she heard the blood roaring in her ears. She wanted to rush across the room and shove him back into the bedroom, to keep her secret hidden, but of course she couldn’t do that. "It’s on the back of the sofa."
Richard stopped short as he came into the living room. His hair still dripped from his shower while several drops of water streaked down his bare chest. When he saw the two silent, disapproving guests, a faint flush spread across his cheekbones, but Senator Lovinggood had trained him well; he crossed the room and pulled on his shirt as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
What awful timing! Oh, why couldn’t he have waited for ten more minutes? He inclined his head to her mother who looked as if she’d rather shoot him than talk to him.
"Mrs. Lane, how are you?" he asked. "Do you remember me?"