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“Maybe I can help. I’ve got hose.”

Catherine bought the wine and had it gift-wrapped. “For the vice president of clinical affairs,” she explained.

The woman seemed pleasant enough, but there was a trace of curiosity in her look; maybe she was making a judgment about her as Mike Boudreaux’s date. Well, no matter. She couldn’t go bare-legged in a short dress to a formal dance. And the Otherson woman seemed willing enough to help.

In the narrow hall, she walked slightly behind Catherine to the Othersons’ room. “I brought two short casual dresses,” she explained.

“That would be fine anywhere else. But this is a pretentious bunch,” Catherine said.

“Maybe I shouldn’t go. Would it hurt Michael if I just bagged it?”

“I really don’t know,” Catherine said. She removed a key card from the pocket of her white linen slacks. Rosie took the package with the bottle of wine to free her hands. Catherine paused before inserting the card.

“We’re about the same size,” Catherine said looking at her. “I could lend you a dress.”

Rosie was surprised. “Oh, no, really . . . I couldn’t . . .”

“We drove and I threw dresses into the car. I had no idea what I wanted to wear. You might fit into one.”

“What if you need it?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. This will be fun.”

Catherine called to Clayton. No one answered. “Good,” she said, “He’s in the bar politicking. He comes with a list of people he’s got to convince of one thing or another.”

In the bedroom, Catherine picked out a dress that fit Rosie perfectly – like a hand in a glove. Clothes were obviously important to Catherine, a statement of wealth and class.

“It’s beautiful,” Rosie said. The perfect tailoring made her feel alluring and elegant. “Are you sure it’s okay?”

“You do it justice,” Catherine smiled. “On me, it’s not a favorite.”

In her pleasure, Rosie gave Catherine a grateful embrace.

“I’m so pleased it fits,” Catherine said.

Rosie went back to the room with the dress draped carefully over her arm.

“Hi,” Mike said without looking up from the chair where he was reading.

She dressed out of his view, in the bedroom. “I met Catherine Otherson in the gift shop,” she called to Mike.

“Did you like her?”

“From the start,” she said. “She loaned me a long dress for the dance.” As she adjusted the dress in front of the mirror, she flushed with pleasure.

Mike did not respond. Minutes later she touched his shoulder. She stood back and gave a twirl, her face radiant.

“You look wonderful,” he said.

“You’ll be proud of me?”

He stood and wrapped his arms around her. “You’re the best.”