“Although I love the idea of you taking me to bed, he’s already out of my head. He was the second you kissed me.”

While we’re eating, I can’t stop myself from watching the way the candlelight dances on Laurelyn’s face. God, I’m going to miss her when she’s gone.

She notices me watching her and a smile spreads across her face. “A penny for thoughts?”

I reach for her hand and squeeze it. “I was just thinking about what I’m going to do after you go home. Damn, I’m going to miss you.”

She pulls her hand from mine and begins to clear the table. Her eyes are dodging mine. “You’ll do exactly as you’ve done all the other times. You’ll move on to the next town and find number fourteen.”

I can’t imagine there being anyone beyond number thirteen.

The time has come. I’m leaving today, but Jack Henry has no idea. He believes we have twenty-four more hours together. Why have I lied to him? Because I can’t bear to see him be all right with watching me walk away forever when I’m not at all prepared to do so.

He’s sleeping next to me. He takes a slow, deep breath and like clockwork, I hear a quiet snore every other breath. It’s his breathing cycle and after sleeping next to him for three months, I’ve come to predict it. To expect it. To love it. I don’t want to know what it’s going to be like not hearing it once I’m in my bed at home, so I decide I won’t. I go to my purse and take out my phone to record his sounds. It’s silly, but at least I can have this part of him with me after I’m gone.

When I finish, I sit in the chair in the corner of the room and scan through the pictures of us on my phone. I have come to love these images of us together. I decide I won’t give them up, either, so I silence both phones and go through the photos texting each one to my personal phone. He’ll never know I did this and even if he figures it out, what’s he going to do about it? I’ll be over nine thousand miles away.

When I finish transferring all the photos to my phone, I sit and watch this man I’ve come to love. I have no idea how long I sit staring at him. I only know I won’t get to do it again after tonight.

I curse the glowing time on the clock—4:36. I realize the time I thought would never come has. The flames burning from both ends of our candle are meeting in the middle this morning. My three months with Jack Henry has dwindled to less than three hours and is about to be snuffed out.

I pull my legs up and cradle them as I begin to cry. I’m forced to cup my hands over my mouth to muffle the uncontrollable sobbing. I hear him toss in the bed and I cup my hands tightly so he won’t hear me, but he does anyway. “Hey, what are you doing over there?”

I take a deep breath and my chest vibrates. The light from the cracked bathroom door is minimal in the corner where I’m sitting so he can’t see my face. I work to disguise the nasally sound I’m certain my tears have caused. “I’m memorizing everything I don’t want to forget after I’m gone.”

There. I said it. It’s the reality we’ve been ignoring. This is me giving him the opportunity to talk about me leaving. Say something. Anything. Please.

But he doesn’t. “Come back to bed.”

“Okay. I just need a minute in the bathroom.”

I splash my face with cold water and then hold a cool cloth over my eyes knowing it won’t help with the swelling by the time he gets up for work. He’s going to know I’ve been crying and there’s nothing I can do about it.

When I get into bed with him, I slide over and put my head on his chest. He wraps his arm around me and rubs it up and down from my shoulder to my elbow. “Everything okay with you?”

I agree. Nothing about this feels okay. I can’t tell him that, so I do the only thing that will. I roll to my stomach and rise to my knees. I hitch one leg over him until I’m straddling him and then my body covers his as I drop my mouth to kiss him.

We’re both still naked from our earlier romp. I feel him grow hard below me as I slide back and forth over his growing erection. My intention is only to tease him and myself, but then I feel him angled perfectly to slide inside me. I push him inside just a little, dying to slide his full length all the way in.

We’ve only gone without using a condom the one time last week when I told him I loved him and it was the best ever. I felt so close to him and I want that again before I leave. I need it one last time.

His hands are on my hips and he doesn’t push me away so I slide his length inside me a little more. “Laurelyn …”

“Do you want me to stop?”

He doesn’t answer me immediately. “No, I don’t want you to ever stop.”

I lace my fingers through his and use them as leverage as I sink his remaining length inside me until I’m completely full. I love you so much, Jack Henry.

I hear a deep groan from him and the sound alone is such a turn-on. Knowing I’m the one who makes him come undone gives me a kind of pleasure I’ve never known.

He flexes his hips up every time I slide down. “Oh, that feels so damn amazing, Laurelyn.”

I would do this everyday if it were up to me, but it’s not my choice. It’s his. And he’s choosing to let me go.

Now his hands are on my hips and he encourages me to move up and down faster under his splayed hands. “I’m close, Laurelyn.” His fingertips are digging into my skin. “Is it okay to come inside you?”

His fingertips close around each of my hipbones and he pulls me down hard against him. He makes his come sound that I love so much because it always has my name behind it. “Ooh, Laurelyn.”

I feel him twitch inside me and I know he has just filled me with a part of him.

When he releases my hips, I collapse against his chest and his arms wrap around me. “God, I’m going to miss you.”

And there they are. My walking papers. I no longer hold out hope he will ask me to stay, and I feel the tears. Thank God I turned off the bathroom light when I came out so it’s dark and he can’t see me. And I won’t see the love he doesn’t feel when he’s holding me.

I feel the stream slide down my cheek.

“What is that?” He slides his hand between us and feels the wetness. “Are you crying?”

“You are crying. What’s wrong? Did I hurt you?” He slides up in the bed, although I’m on top of him. I feel him reach for the lamp on the nightstand, but I grab his hand to stop him.

“No. I’m not hurt. I’m fine.” Yes, I’m hurt but not the way you think.

I lace my fingers through his so he won’t try again to turn on the lamp. I don’t want to attempt to explain this.

He doesn’t say anything else about it and neither do I. I spend the next two hours lying next to Jack Henry with my head against his chest. I’m listening to his heartbeat—another thing I’ll never hear again.

He kisses the top of my head. “Mmm. I’m going to be late if I don’t get ready for work. I’d hate to get fired.”

“Yeah, that’s a mean ol’ mister you work for,” I laugh, but even I hear how phony I sound.

The sun is up and I watch Jack Henry walk naked to the bathroom. Damn, I’m definitely going to miss seeing that every morning.

When he’s ready for work, he comes over to kiss me like he has every morning that I’ve been in his bed, but this time is different. “I’ll see you this afternoon, baby.”

I kiss him like it will be the last time I ever see him. Because it is. I clutch him in my arms. This is our last kiss. Our last embrace. Our last everything.

“You’re squeezing me like this is it.” Can he read my mind? Sometimes I wonder. He kisses my forehead. “Are you sure everything is okay?”

I nod because I’m so unstable. I’m about to burst into tears and I have to keep it together just a little bit longer.

“I’ll try to come in early so we can do something special tonight.”

This is it. Here it comes.

I watch Jack walk out of my life forever as he leaves the bedroom. And that’s when it all sinks in. We’re over. Forever.

At twelve o’clock, I decide to call it a day because I’m getting nothing accomplished. All I can think about is Laurelyn and how she’s going to walk out of my life tomorrow. It’s all I’ve thought of for a week since I heard her say that she loved me.

This has been the shortest three months of my life. My chest quite literally aches with the thought of never seeing her again. We agreed on three months, and our time together is up. I promised her the time of her life, but I’ll be damned if she didn’t turn it around on me. I’m the one who had the best three months of my life, and there’s no hope for ever topping it.

I love her too much to let her leave and I need to tell her right this minute.

“Harold, I’m taking the rest of the day off.”

Within minutes, I’m at the house and Mrs. Porcelli greets me in the kitchen. “Mr. McLachlan, would you care for some lunch?”

She looks peculiar. “She left this morning not long after you went to work.”

She didn’t say anything about needing to go into town. “Did she say where she was going?”

Mrs. Porcelli hesitates. “She told me she was going home. I thought it was strange you weren’t going to the airport with her, but I didn’t think it was my place to question it.”

No. She’s wrong. That can’t be right.

“Laurelyn!” I run toward the bedroom and nothing seems out of place, but it’s too clean and in order. Laurelyn isn’t this organized. Something of hers is always tossed on the chair in the corner, but it’s free of clutter. I open the top drawer of the chest where she keeps her intimates and find it empty.