I don’t remember how long I stared at the dresser drawer that once held Kathleen’s lingerie. But it was a while.
Eventually, I left my bedroom to join my ex-wife and our daughter for dinner. I went through the motions of the mealtime ritual, but my thoughts and concerns about Kathleen distracted me. I hadn’t heard if she’d arrived in Denver and was aware of her absence.
Despite our strained relationship, it was comforting to know I could see her at the office. As painful as our growing separation was, I’d held out hope for us. Since returning to work, I’d planned to seize every opportunity to nurture our love and find a way back into her arms. But now that she had gone to Colorado, there was nothing to look forward to.
I left my untouched dinner on the plate. I offered Allison an expression of regret and packed up my uneaten food for lunch the following day. I helped with the dishes, and when there was nothing left to do, I stepped outside and took a seat on the swinging bench I’d once shared with Kathleen.
At the beginning of the summer, we’d sat in this spot together and talked about Allison. I remembered with heartache how Kathleen promised me she would never interfere with my family. She never wanted to cause trouble between Allison and me. As far as I was concerned, Kathleen had kept her promise. The reason I was sitting there alone was because I hadn’t followed her example.
I leaned forward, placing my elbows on my knees and resting my face in my palms. I missed Kathleen. I’d missed her for weeks, but with her away from Bend, I no longer felt whole. I worried she was gone for good. I hadn’t experienced fear like this since the day of Heide’s accident. I hadn’t grieved like this since my father died. I didn’t know how to win Kathleen back, but I didn’t want to live the rest of my life without her.
“Jack?” Allison’s soft voice at the same moment she rested a light hand on my shoulder startled me. Consumed in my own emotions, I hadn’t noticed her approach. I sat bolt upright and realized I was crying. It wasn’t something I was prone to, and I brushed a hand over my eyes to remove the evidence.
Allison sat next to me, angling her body toward mine. When I dropped my hand back to my lap, she cradled it in her own. It was a touch, a fit, I remembered well. It wasn’t the hand I was desperate to hold; nevertheless Allison’s offer of comfort was welcome.
We sat still, adjusting to the moment. I couldn’t make eye contact with her. Instead, I distracted myself by looking at the recognizable outline of the Big Dipper.
“What’s the matter?” she finally asked.
I hesitated to answer.
“Please,” she persisted. “Let me help. Don’t shut me out anymore.”
I blinked, thinking of my past actions and Kathleen’s need to secure a peaceful future.
“It’s Kathleen,” I confessed while continuing to watch the stars. “I’ll understand if she’s the last person you want to talk about.”
“Will things be all right between the two of you?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Last weekend was the first time I’d seen her since we were in Portland.”
I looked at Allison. “Where did you see her?”
“Here. She drove you to the house. You were drunk, so I asked her to take you to her place until you sobered up.”
“Oh? I don’t remember that.”
“You were passed out in her car, so that’s not surprising.” Allison’s grip on my hand tightened just a bit.
I waited to hear what she would reveal next.
“She asked me why I left you.”
“What did you tell her?”
“Nothing, because the question means one of two things. You either haven’t told her why, or she doesn’t trust the information you gave her. Knowing you the way I do, I’m certain it’s both.”
I thought long and hard about Allison’s conclusion. If there was anyone capable of understanding both my mind and Kathleen’s, it was my ex-wife. I looked at her and took the leap of faith.
“She thinks I want you back.”
Allison leaned back as confusion flashed across her face. “Who gave her that idea?”
Allison’s eyes grew wide. “You?”
Check out this beautiful, shiny cover by my pub sister, Jennifer Locklear! Congratulations to Jennifer on her new release, book two in the Constellation series.
We weren’t supposed to be friends. We weren’t even supposed to like each other. I’m Michael Grath. I’ll admit I was elected to Congress on my Republican family history. I was out to make a name for myself, until I met Jessie Clark, a spitfire Democrat. She’d be my nemesis, if I could just stop thinking about her. We’ve got nothing and everything in common, and one big issue that divides us. All of this is going to land us in more than one compromising position. And like I said, we weren’t supposed to be friends, we weren’t even supposed to like each other, and we certainly weren’t supposed to fall in love.
Even before she graduated from law school, Mary Whitney knew she wasn’t cut out to be a real lawyer. Drawn to politics, she’s spent her career as an organizer, lobbyist, and nonprofit executive. Nothing piques her interest more than a good political scandal or romance, and when she stumbled upon writing, she put the two together. A born Midwesterner, naturalized Texan, and transient resident of Washington, D.C., Mary now lives in Northern California with her two daughters and real lawyer husband.