Please, don’t let her have left me.

I go to the closet and everything hanging there belongs to me.

Why have you done this, Laurelyn?

I take my phone out of my pocket and dial her number. I hear my personalized ringtone and I follow the sound. I find her phone next to her Martin on the coffee table in the living room. There’s an envelope lying next to it with my name written in her handwriting.

This is bad. Very bad.

I hold the envelope without breaking the seal. She’s gone and she left this ink on paper here in her place. These are her final words to me. I open it and remove the folded paper.

This has been coming for three months and I’m no better prepared for it today than I was when we met. If anything, I’m less prepared. I didn’t love you the day I met you, or even a month later. But somewhere between hello and the goodbye I’m unable to bear, I fell desperately in love with you.

I know you don’t feel the same. That’s why I told you I was leaving tomorrow instead of today. I couldn’t bear to say goodbye and see how little you were affected by watching me walk out of your life forever. Because it is forever. I promised I wouldn’t contact you and I won’t.

You kept your promise to me. This has been the best three months of my life and I’ll never be able to top it. You made my every fantasy come true and that includes finding the love of my life. Now, it’s my turn to keep my promise.

I love you, Jack Henry, with every fiber of my being. Forever.

No! I thought I had more time to tell her, but she’s gone. She’s really gone.

And then it strikes me that she might not be. Her plane might not have left. When she wrote the letter, she expected me to find it hours later.

I race toward the garage. I get into the Sunset and drive faster than what’s deemed safe toward the Wagga Wagga Airport.

I arrive in record time and don’t attempt to find a parking spot. I abandon my car at the front entrance. To hell with it. They can tow it.

I race toward the first open counter. “I need help. I need to find out if a plane leaving for …” I stop to think. Damn. Would she fly home from here? No, Wagga Wagga is too small to have a flight to LAX. She would have to connect in Sydney. “Sydney.”

She’s clearly annoyed by me. “Sir, we have several flights to Sydney every day.”

“It’s an emergency. Can you check to see if all of them have left?”

She sighs. “I’ll check for you, sir. Any particular carrier?”

She’s in no hurry as she clicks her mouse, and I think she’s doing it to piss me off. “They’ve all left for today, sir.”

“What about returning flights to LAX out of Sydney?”

She sighs heavier. “I’ll have to check, sir.”

She clicks several times. “There are two flights to LAX today. One left at seven this morning and the other is scheduled to leave at three o’clock.”

Damn! That’s in two and a half hours. Even driving wide open in the Sunset, there’s no way I can make it to Sydney in that short amount of time.

I find my car still parked at the front where I left it. There’s a security guard standing behind it jotting down the plate number. He sees me coming his way. “Is this your car?”

“You can’t leave it parked at the entrance, sir.”

“Good thing you came when you did. I was about to have it towed.”

I didn’t give a roo’s ass and I almost told him as much. Any other time I would, but right now I didn’t care enough to tell him anything.

I get into my car and drive away from the airport. I don’t make it two miles before I’m on the side of the road thinking of anything I can do to get to Laurelyn, but I’m totally blank.

Think. Think. Think. Okay, as much as I hate to admit it, Ben Donavon is my only answer. He might not know how to get in touch with Laurelyn, but he can put me in touch with his sister.

I grind my teeth as I drive toward his apartment. It’s going to hurt like hell to ask for his help, but I’m willing to walk through fire to get to Laurelyn.

After I use the intercom to let him know I’m here, he buzzes me into the building. I knock on his door and wait. When he opens it and sees it’s me, he cocks his head to the side and shifts his jaw. He is going to enjoy the hell out of this and that pisses me off.

“You already know she’s not here, so what do you want?”

It kills me to depend on him as my only link to Laurelyn. Literally, I’m having chest pain because I’m lowered to this level. “I need to know how to reach Laurelyn.”

He narrows his eyes at me. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” He’s smirking and shrugs. “I wish I could help you out, bro.”

He’s enjoying this way too much. “Okay, let’s not pretend like you’re not loving this.”

The little fucker laughs. “I’m not pretending. I am loving this shit, but I still can’t help you out because I don’t have her number.”

He’s smirking bigger now. “Sorry. I’m not giving you my sister’s number.”

It’ll be a miracle if I don’t choke this little bastard. “You know I only want it so I can contact Laurelyn.”

He crosses his arms to let me know he doesn’t plan on giving in. “If Laurelyn wanted contact with you, she would have given you her number, so I think that means she’s dropped you.”

I feel panic coming on. If he won’t give me her number, how am I going to find her when I don’t even know her last name? I debate asking him and decide to eat shit if it means I find out. “What’s her last name?”

He’s shaking his head at me, judging me. “Dude! You just fucked her for three months and you don’t know her last name?”

“It was part of an agreement we had,” I spit out through a clenched jaw.

“I don’t know what the two of you agreed on, but apparently she left here keeping her end of it, so I suggest you respect her enough to keep yours.”

I watch the door slam in my face before I kick the hell out of it. Fuck! What do I do now?

I walk like a zombie to my car. I get inside, but I don’t drive away. I sit there. Thinking.

She tried to tell me she loved me and I wouldn’t listen. I refused to see I might love her in return because I was too unbending. I thought I had something to prove by not falling in love with anyone. Ever.

But I did fall in love with her, and now she’s gone.

I feel Addison shake my arm. “Wake up, Laurelyn. You’re freaking me out.”

I feel myself snubbing. At least that’s what my mom calls it when you’re crying so hard that your chest forcefully heaves so you can catch your breath.

I open my eyes and she’s staring at me. “You were crying in your sleep. Hard.”

I sit up in the uncomfortable airplane seat and warm tears roll out of the corners of my eyes. I suck back the snot threatening to drip from my nose. Then I remember. I was dreaming of Jack Henry.

She gives me her I know better than that look. “You’re a damn liar. I know you’re torn up about leaving him.”

I stare out the window. I don’t want this. I don’t want to talk about it. Him. I want to forget the whole thing ever happened.

“I thought fucking Lachlan would get Blake out of your system. I wouldn’t have encouraged you to go for it if I’d known you were going to fall in love with him.” His name isn’t Lachlan. It’s Jack Henry.

“You’re full of shit and it’s not an attractive look for you.”

“You’ve swallowed your vocal cords because you’re talking out of your ass.”

She sighs. “At least I can admit I love Zac and it’s killing me to leave him.”

I should be a friend and offer to talk to her about the man she loves, but I don’t. “This is a long flight and I’m not doing this with you.”

I get up from my seat and walk toward the back of the plane so I can get away from her. I go into the tiny bathroom and lock the door. I look like shit so I splash my face with water, but it doesn’t help. Water won’t wash this away.

I’ve known pain my whole life, but this is a new kind for me. It isn’t born of something wrong or ugly. This pain is conceived out of beauty—my love for Jack Henry McLachlan. I embrace it. I clutch it as tightly as I can with both fists because I never want to forget the love I have for him. Loving him will forever be my Beauty from Pain.