It Had to Be You
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Phoebe Somerville outraged everyone by bringing a French poodle and a Hungarian lover to her father's funeral. She sat at the gravesite like a fifties movie queen with the small white poodle perched in her lap and a pair of rhinestone-studded cat's-eye sunglasses shielding her eyes. It was difficult for the mourners to decide who looked more out of place -- the perfectly clipped poodle sporting a pair of matching peach satin ear bows, Phoebe's unbelievably handsome Hungarian with his long, beaded ponytail, or Phoebe herself.
Phoebe's ash blond hair, artfully streaked with platinum, swooped down over one eye like Marilyn Monroe's in The Seven Year Itch. Her moist, full lips, painted a delicious shade of peony pink, were slightly parted as she gazed toward the shiny black casket that held what was left of Bert Somerville. She wore an ivory suit with a silky, quilted jacket, but the outrageous gold metallic bustier beneath was more appropriate to a rock concert than a funeral. And the slim skirt, belted with loops of gold chain (one of which sported a dangling fig leaf) was slit at the side to the middle of her shapely thigh.
This was the first time Phoebe had been back in Chicago since she'd ran away when she was eighteen, so only a few of the mourners present had ever met Bert Somerville's prodigal daughter. From the stories they'd heard, however, none of them were surprised that Bert had disinherited her. What father would want to pass on his estate to a daughter who'd been the mistress of a man more than forty years her senior, even if that man had been the noted Spanish painter, Arturo Flores? And then there was the embarrassment of the paintings. To someone like Bert Somerville, naked pictures were naked pictures, and the fact that the dozens of abstract nudes Flores had executed of Phoebe now graced the walls of museums all over the world hadn't softened his judgment.
Phoebe had a slender waist and slim, shapely legs, but her breasts and hips were plump and womanly, a throwback to an almost forgotten time when women had looked like women. She had a bad girl's body, the sort of body that, even at thirty-three, could just as well have been displayed with a staple through the navel as hanging on a museum wall. It was a bimbo's body -- never mind that the brain inside was highly intelligent, since Phoebe was the sort of woman who was seldom judged by anything except appearances.
Her face wasn't any more conventional than her body. There was something off-kilter about the arrangement of her features, although it was difficult to say exactly what since her nose was straight, her mouth well formed, and her jaw strong. Perhaps it was the outrageously sexy tiny black mole that sat high on her cheekbone. Or maybe it was her eyes. Those who had seen them before she'd slipped on her rhinestone sunglasses had noted the way they tilted upward at the comers, too exotic, somehow, to fit with the rest of her face. Arturo Flores had frequently exaggerated those amber eyes, sometimes painting them larger than her hips, sometimes superimposing them over her wonderful breasts.
Throughout the funeral, Phoebe seemed cool and composed, despite the fact that the July air was heavy with humidity. Even the rushing waters of the nearby DuPage River, which ran through several of Chicago's western suburbs, didn't provide any relief from the heat. A dark green canopy shaded both the gravesite and the rows of chairs set up for the dignitaries in a semicircle around the black ebony casket, but the canopy wasn't large enough to shelter everyone attending, and much of the well-dressed crowd was standing in the sun, where they'd begun to wilt, not only from the humidity but also from the overpowering scent of nearly a hundred floral arrangements. Luckily, the ceremony had been short, and since there was no reception afterward, they could soon head for their favorite watering holes to cool off and secretly rejoice in the fact that Bert Somerville's number had come up instead of their own.
The shiny black casket rested above the ground on a green carpet that had been laid directly in front of the place where Phoebe was sitting between her fifteen-year-old half sister, Molly, and her cousin Reed Chandler. The polished lid held a star-shaped floral spray of white roses embellished with sky blue and gold ribbons, the colors of the Chicago Stars, the National Football League franchise Bert had bought ten years earlier.
When the ceremony ended, Phoebe cradled the white poodle in her arms and rose to her feet, stepping into a shaft of sunlight that sparked the gold metallic threads of her bustier and set the rhinestone frames of her cat's-eye sunglasses afire. The effect was unnecessarily dramatic for a woman who was already quite dramatic enough.
Reed Chandler, Bert's thirty-five-year-old nephew, got up from his chair next to her and walked over to place a flower on the casket. Phoebe's half sister Molly followed self-consciously. Reed gave every appearance of being grief-stricken, although it was an open secret that he would inherit his uncle's football team. Phoebe dutifully placed her own flower on her father's coffin and refused to let the old bitterness return. What was the use? She hadn't been able to win her father's love while he was alive, and now she could finally give up the effort...