Looking for any excuse to leave the house, I called Katie and asked her to meet me for coffee. I knew I was putting off the inevitable but I needed more time.
We sat in the coffee shop and talked about her date. I was only half listening.
“Enough about Derek. Did you and Mike get something to eat after the races last night?” Kate asked.
“Did your other halves join you, or was it just you and your main squeeze?”
“Just Mike,” I said, playing with the lid on my cup. I almost knocked it over, catching it just in time.
“You okay, Hail? Ya seem a little tense, even for you.”
“I’m great,” I lied, and jumped when my cell phone vibrated where it sat in the center of the table between us. I reached for it, but Kate was faster.
“Mmm, it’s Mike,” she said with interest. “What does good old Mike have to say?”
“Don’t.” I reached across the table. She smirked and held it out of my reach.
“Now I have to know.” She hit the message button and opened his text. “Hails, I love you,” she began in an exaggerated soap opera voice. “You are the only one for me. Dump Brent and marry me.”
I stared at her with my mouth hanging open. She laughed at her joke until she saw the expression on my face. I burst into tears.
“What the fuck’s going on, Hailey?”
I covered my face with my hands. “What does it really say, smart ass?”
“It really reads—Quit putting me off. We need to talk. Call me when you get this or I’m coming to find you.”
Kate moved around to my side of the banquette. She placed her arms around me. “Hailey, what the hell? What have you done?”
“I haven’t done anything,” I defended.
“Then why is Mike all hot and heavy about needing to talk? What happened at the races last night after I left?”
“Nothing happened!” I exclaimed.
“Okay, nothing happened, so you’re a blathering idiot for nothing, then. I know you, Hailey, and I know how you feel about Mike. Did you do something? Something you’re now feeling guilty about?”
“I kissed him,” I whispered.
Her eyes widened. “Well,” she said at length. “That’s not so bad. A kiss isn’t something you can’t recover from.” She took a deep breath. “Just a kiss? On the lips? Did he push you away?”
When I didn’t answer, she continued, “So, he didn’t. Oh, my God! Hailey, for Christ’s sake, give me something here!” She snatched at my hands, trying to get me to look at her. “Was there more than just kissing?” Her wide, accusing gaze burned into me. “What did you do? What did he do? What are you going to do now? What about Brent?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!” I whispered harshly. “I don’t even want to think. I thought this was what I wanted.” The skeptics who alleged you couldn’t love two men at the same time, were full of shit. You could. And it was excruciating.
She searched my face. “What are you saying? Are you thinking of leaving your husband?”
“I...” I hesitated.
“Look at me.” Kate used her stern voice, the way she used to in college. “This is not some story in your head.” She scowled. “You have created a whole life with Mike in that overactive organ you have stored under that gorgeous hair. You have to be sure. Be sure this is what
you want and that you haven’t made him out to be that hero in your stories. Make sure he’s worth it before you destroy everything you have with Brent. Sure you bitch and complain about him, but you have a great thing going there. Things we single girls would kill for. If you just want to screw Mike, you’ll just have to suck it up and get over it. You can’t leave your marriage because you are attracted to another guy. It will pass.”
“It’s been ten years, Katie. When can I expect it to wane?”
She rolled her eyes. “See,” she said angrily. “Who uses the word wane? No one but you, writer-girl? You’re just living out your story. Stop it. Stop it right now, before you hurt everyone you love.”
“So, why do you always push me towards him, then, Katie?” I accused. “You’re all for it—teasing me, joking about it, encouraging me to get my time with him, or tempt him into taking dirty pictures of me and such. It was all fun and games, but now all of a sudden, when it might not be all one-sided, now you’re disgusted with me?”
“I thought it was just a fantasy, Hailey. Just a big dumb crush you had on an older guy. In
college I thought it was fun. I guess I didn’t actually realize how serious you feel about him.”
“It’s not just in my head, Katie. I think I love him.” My heart pounded. That was the first time I’d ever admitted it out loud.
“You don’t love him! You love the idea of him,” she scoffed. “Ohhh, Hailey, how do you get yourself into these things?”
She was most likely right. I had to sort out my fantasy from reality. No one could slap me out of it like Kate. She was better than a therapist.
She gave me a squeeze.
“Don’t you ever get sick of saving me from myself?” I asked.
“Naw, that’s what I do. Can’t guide my own life, but I can...” She paused. “Oh shit, Hailey,” Kate said, staring at the door. “He really meant it.”
I wiped my eyes.
“Mike’s here,” she whispered, right before his shadow crossed the table. My stomach cramped. I wasn’t ready for this.
“Hey, Mike,” Kate greeted. “I was just about to get another coffee. Want one?”
“Sure,” he said, not even looking at her. “Thanks.”
Kate vacated the seat, and Mike took it. “I told you I’d come find you,” he said, matter-of-factly, when Kate was out of earshot.
“I wasn’t avoiding you,” I lied.
“You’ve been crying.” His gaze narrowed.
“Did you tell her?”
“Then what did you tell her you were crying about?”
“Perhaps my crying has nothing to do with you.”
“I know you better than that, but I’ll play along. Does it have anything to do with your unhappy marriage, then?”
“I never said I was unhappy in my marriage,” I shot back.
“Then why were you rolling around in my truck with me last night?” he gritted out.
“Are you saying you were rolling around in your truck with me last night because you are unhappy in your marriage, Michael?” His jaw ticked but he did not immediately respond, as Kate returned to our table. She placed a steaming mug in front of Mike.
“Sorry guys, gotta go. Got a text from Derek. He wants to meet me for lunch to apologize for last night. Call ya later, Hailey. Nice to see you, Mike.”
I gave her a look—the traitor, leaving me to hash this out with Mike when I had no idea what to tell him.
“You didn’t tell her, huh?” he accused once we were alone.
“I told her I kissed you. I didn’t incriminate you in any way.”
“Nope, no recriminations there,” he retorted angrily.
“It’s not as if she’ll tell anyone.”
“Why can you talk to her but not to me?”
“Are you telling me that you really wish to have this conversation? You are notorious for burying your feelings. Can’t we just leave it alone? You had a few beers and I took advantage of you. It won’t happen again. Do you want me to apologize? Fine. I’m sorry.”
“Well, I’d probably go along with that, if I could stop thinking about it.” He looked around the coffee shop, at anything but me.
“And why is that?” I asked. “If you were so repulsed by rolling around your truck with me?”
“I was not repulsed, and you goddamn well know it.” He finally looked at me. His lips set in a hard line. “And how do you figure you took advantage of me? Because that would imply that you wanted to roll around with me, and that these feelings are not something new for you. It wasn’t just impulse.”
“Are they new for you?” I blurted, before I thought better of it.
He frowned and shook his head slightly, then sent me a questioning stare.
“I mean,” I hurried to explain, “we’ve just been spending so much time together, I guess I just, uh...I don’t know, it was just inevitable that we got too close. And...Brent’s away so much and I guess I just rely on you far too much, and maybe we should just stop hanging out so much, and...”
“Yeah, thanks for pointing that out. I think we should stop seeing each other.”
“We can’t just stop seeing each other, Hails. That won’t work. In-laws can’t break up.”
“Why not? I think Cheryl and Brent would enjoy it if you and I didn’t spend so much time together.”
“Maybe. But I’m not sure that I would like it.” I watched him, as he struggled to articulate. “I like being with you. I guess I’ve come to rely on you, too.”
My eyes filled.
He sighed heavily. “Okay. We make a pact—right here, right now. No more rolling around in my truck. Or anywhere else for that matter. We keep our lips and our hands to ourselves from now on, and we promise each other it will never happen again.” He stuck his hand out.
I hesitantly took it, remembering how his warm palm had felt skimming over my ribs, lifting my T-shirt, settling around my breast, setting my skin on fire. I couldn’t promise him anything. I still wanted him as much as I always had. No, that wasn’t true, either. Now that I’d had a preview, I wanted him even more.
For a +18 excerpt hop on over to Pick a Genre Already and enjoy the infamous ‘groping in the truck’ scene teased about in the blurb and in the snippet above.
H K Carlton is a multi-genre Canadian author of romance—From naughty to nice, historical to contemporary, time travel to space travel, and everything in between.
H K has over thirty titles in publication including Editor's Choice [historical romance] The Devil Take You, and Fan Favorites [romantic suspense, mafia romance saga] The Always Cambridge Series, and [forbidden love, erotic rom], Swap.
Variety is creativity’s playground—It’s where you’ll find me