Fresh Tracks
turn in the bathroom. Sophie watched her go, feeling guilt, anger, disappointment, hurt,
    attraction, and curiosity. She dropped down onto her own bed, suddenly exhausted, and
    wondered how she could possibly feel so many feelings all at once and not simply have her
    head explode.
    Wednesday, December 28
    LAURA
    A
    s had become her habit since living on her own, Laura Baker was awake at the crack of
    dawn. "Oh Dark Thirty," Amanda would have called it; she hated getting up early. Amanda's idea of a perfect Saturday was to sleep until eleven and then wander around in her pajamas
    until dinnertime. Laura had always hoped there would come a time when she and Amanda
    shared a house and they could spend a Saturday in just that way. Now, it would never
    happen.
    As usual when she thought of Amanda and what would never be, her stomach cramped, her
    body's very physical way of warning her off the subject. She shook the dark-haired,
    smiling temptress out of her head and sat up in the twin bed. She felt rested, surprisingly
    so given such a small sleeping space. But it was comfortable, the mattress firm. Stretching
    her arms over her head, she glanced across the nightstand at Sophie's sleeping figure in
    the next bed.
    Sophie was definitely attractive, her dark skin smooth and unblemished. Her curly hair was
    tousled and spread out all over the pillow, and Laura smiled when she thought about the
    mess it would most likely be when she sat up. The smile slid away, though, when she recalled
    the conversation over coffee the previous night and Sophie's obvious revulsion. She
    understood Sophie's pain, she really did, but Laura had enough of her own guilt. She didn't
    need somebody she'd just met heaping more on top of her. Stephen had made his hurt
    very, very clear; she could see it on his face any time they were in the same room, and the
    responsibility she felt for it made her head ache and her stomach churn. That, combined
    with Amanda's betrayal, had made her
    wonder how she hadn't just curled up into the fetal position in a corner and withered away
    to nothing.
    She lifted some clean clothes from her bag and tiptoed quietly to the bathroom, hoping
    neither Sophie nor Molly across the hall was awakened by the squeaky hinges on the
    bedroom door.
    As she brushed her teeth, she thought about the last year of her life. She hadn't
    withered away because she'd surprised herself with her own strength. That didn't mean
    she didn't feel horribly guilty about the devastation she'd caused Stephen. It didn't mean
    she didn't feel annihilated by her misjudgment and loss of Amanda. What it did mean was
    that she was a much stronger person than she'd given herself credit for. And that made
    her proud.. .lonely, but proud.
    After dressing in jeans and a turtleneck, she padded quietly down the stairs, past what she
    assumed was the sleeping form of Darby on the couch—it looked like nothing more than a
    large pile of blankets—and was startled to find Jo at the dining room table, sipping a mug
    of coffee and reading the paper. A new fire was crackling to life in the fireplace.
    "Morning," Jo whispered. "Did you sleep okay?"
    Laura nodded. "I slept great."
    "Coffee?"
    "Not yet. I think I'd like to take a walk first. Is that okay?"
    "Sure." Jo pointed toward the back of the house. "There's a path that starts about here and cuts through the woods. Stay on that and it loops around." Her arm made a semicircle, her finger ending up indicating the garage. "You'll come out over here. It's about a half hour. You could do it twice if you wanted to be out longer."
    "Once should be enough. I like to get the blood flowing first thing in the morning. Helps me wake up."
    "You got boots? Gloves and hat? It's not snowing now, but we got a little overnight and
    we'l probably get more today."
    Laura smiled at Jo's motherly concern. "Yep. I brought it all. I'm good."
    "Okay. Enjoy." Jo went back to her paper.
    Laura was surprised that a paper got delivered out here,

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