I’m not scared. I’m bored. And lonely. I want Lachlan here with me.
I call Addison, but don’t get an answer, so I leave a voicemail. “Hey, Addie. I thought we might get together for lunch tomorrow. Give me a call if you’re up for it.”
I turn on the television, but can’t find anything I want to watch. I decide Lachlan’s absence might be the perfect time to use my pole for a workout. I haven’t used it for exercise once since it’s been installed. Every time I try, he puts on some sexy music and my workout becomes a show for his pleasure.
I put my hair into a bun because I’m going to get hot and sweaty. I change into the two-piece set I bought for practice. It isn’t sexy like the ones Lachlan buys for me. It’s a practical black racer-back top with matching sport shorts, the same type of outfit I would wear if I were going to class.
I go into the gym and turn on the receiver. I put “Lift Me Up” by Christina Aguilera on repeat. I’ve been thinking about choreographing a slow, graceful routine to that song for months and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to be alone with a pole.
When I finish stretching, I start by doing the Phoenix pose. I’ve practiced it in my head time and time again. I think I stick it perfectly, but it sucks not having an instructor to tell me if I’m doing it right. All I can do is watch in the mirror and judge it based on memory.
I do several spins and transitions I’ve mastered to get warmed up before I try a new invert—the Rainbow Marchenko. It’s difficulty level is a 5, and I have no business trying it without an instructor, but this could be my only chance to go for it without Lachlan around to see me drop on my head if I don’t stick it. Hopefully, Mrs. Porcelli won’t find me with a broken neck in the morning.
I manage to do it without killing myself and now I have a feel for it. I know I can do it more gracefully, but my heart rate needs to return to normal before I give it another go. I lower myself to the floor to catch my breath.
I’m standing with my hands on my hips when I see motion in the mirror through my peripheral vision. I spin around to see if my eyes are playing tricks on me, which is a real possibility, but they’re not. There’s a woman standing in the middle of the gym floor and she’s staring at me.
I don’t know why, but I sense that she’s been there for a while watching me. There’s no initial shock on her face, at least not like what’s on mine right now. Who is this woman, and why is she here?
I tell myself she could be Lachlan’s sister, or Mrs. Porcelli’s daughter, but I know it’s wishful thinking. My gut tells me I’ve met a pit bull in a dark alley, ready for a fight.
I reach for the remote to turn off the music and she speaks before I have the chance. “That’s a beautiful song. It goes well with the slow spins, but not that upside-down thing you were doing.” She uses her fingers as she speaks.
“I wouldn’t know because I’m not a stripper.”
I admit she had me for a brief moment with her friendly opening statement, but the stripper comment is her attempt to put me in my place. This is no sister or friend to Lachlan. This is a former girlfriend or companion, and she’s pissed about me being here.
She’s tall and slender in an elegant taupe dress with matching heels. Her natural red hair is cut in a medium-length bob with bangs that are too blunt, just like the way she walked in here and called me a stripper.
I want to tell her Lachlan isn’t here, but I don’t know what to call him, so I go for generic. “He’s not here.”
She’s laughing. “Honey, you don’t even know his name, do you?”
“And I know he’s not here because I left him at his parents’ house. I wanted to see you when he wasn’t around so we could get a few things straight.”
Now, I’m confused. I know he’s at his parents’. How does she know and why does she say she left him there? “I’m sorry, but I’m at a bit of a disadvantage here. You seem to know me, but I don’t know you.”
She slinks over to the chair Lachlan uses when he watches me dance. She sits and crosses her legs as though she plans to stay a while. “How rude of me to not introduce myself. I’m Audrey, his wife.”
No. This is not happening again.
I feel sick. I’m devastated. He could have had any number of women who didn’t mind if he had a wife—except me. I agreed to all of his crazy-ass rules and the only thing I asked of him was to not lie about being married.
“Laurelyn,” she repeats. “What a pretty name. I’ve never heard it before.” She’s smiling at me in a friendly way. It’s confusing. “I’m not angry with you. I can read your face and tell that you didn’t know he was married, but you can understand why I must ask you to stop seeing my husband, can’t you?”
“I do, but you don’t have to ask. I’ll gladly leave on my own accord.”
“Thank you, Laurelyn. I want you to leave tonight and never see him again. I know my husband’s … tastes. I trust you don’t know his real name and he doesn’t know yours.”
There’s no point in telling her I know his last name. “That’s right.”
“And you won’t call him on the phone he gave you? You’ll leave and never come back?”
She even knows about the phone? “I can’t leave tonight because I have nowhere to go, but I’ll be gone first thing in the morning, before he comes back.”
“Thank you for being so understanding, Laurelyn. I love my husband very much and he has a problem, but I’m willing to work through it for our children.”
Children? That’s when I can’t look at her anymore. “If you’ll excuse me, I have some packing to do.”
I go into the extra bedroom to get my luggage. I toss the suitcases onto Lachlan’s bed and go into the closet to strip my clothes from the hangers. I hurl them in without any kind of structure. I know all of my things are never going to fit in there like this, but I don’t care. I’ll leave what I can’t jam in.
Somehow, I make everything fit. I pull my luggage into the kitchen and park it by the door for my departure first thing in the morning. I remember I’ll need a ride. I call Daniel, the only other contact programmed into the phone given to me by Lachlan.
“Hi, Daniel. It’s Laurelyn. I need you to drive me to town in the morning. Can you be ready at seven?”
“Certainly, Miss Beckett. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Miss Beckett. I feel a frown form on my face and I sigh. “Thank you, Daniel.”
I survey the pile of luggage and wonder where I’ll go in the morning. I have no idea. I’m short on money so a hotel for longer than one night is out of the question. I can’t ask to come back to Ben’s after the way I left, so I guess I have no choice. I’m forced to go home. Jolie will be happy.
I decide to shower tonight so there’s no delay in getting away from this place first thing in the morning. Under water that’s as hot as I can stand, I need this torment to be washed away. I’m unsuccessful at ridding myself of the pain, and the water eventually runs cold, much like the feeling I have deep inside.
I’m lying in bed, but nowhere near sleep, when Lachlan calls for the fourth time. I finally silence the ringer because I don’t want to hear Bret sing anymore. It’s too bad I’ll never hear him sing again without thinking of Lachlan Henry.
I can’t stay away from Laurelyn until tomorrow afternoon. I leave my parents’ house early to come home to be with her, but not without hearing a shitload of trash talk from my brother about being pussy-whipped. I may be, but I’m not complaining.
I come through the garage door and stumble over a pile of luggage. I turn on the light and recognize the bags as Laurelyn’s. What the hell is going on here? First, she wouldn’t answer my calls and now her luggage is by the door?
I walk to the bedroom, not sure of what I’m going to find. Please don’t be gone, Laurelyn. I hold my breath as I stop in the doorway. It’s pitch black, so I turn on the bathroom light and see her asleep in my bed. I release the breath I was holding.
It’s three in the morning and I only want to strip down and climb into bed with her, but I don’t because I know something isn’t right. I sit on the bed next to her and brush her soft cheek with the back of my fingers. “Laurelyn.”
She stirs, but doesn’t wake, so I say her name again. “Laurelyn, baby.”
She opens her eyes and bolts up in the bed, taking the sheet with her. “What are you doing here?”
This isn’t the welcome home I’d imagined. “I live here.”
“You told me you wouldn’t be home until this afternoon.”
“I left early because I wanted to be with you. I’ve sort of developed a habit of doing that.” She doesn’t say anything. “What’s going on? Why are your bags by the door?”
I feel my heart jump into my throat. “Why?”
“Your wife thought it would be the appropriate thing for me to do and I tend to agree with her.”
What the hell is she talking about? “I don’t have a wife.”
“Audrey paid me a visit, and she says differently. She’s stunning, Lachlan. And I should know because she stunned me.”
That psycho has traced me to Avalon. She’s getting smarter. And braver. Attempting to destroy two of my vineyards was ballsy, but now she has walked into my house and fucked with my personal life through Laurelyn. “I’m not married to that woman.”
“I swear I’ve never been married.” She doesn’t say it again, but I see she doesn’t believe me. I run my hands through my hair. How am I going to prove this to her?