I rack my brain for a way to cover my foolish mistake. "She didn't, but I have to be back at Avalon this afternoon. Maybe I can bring her next weekend." That is, if she hasn't left me by then.
"Why don't you go on back and I can drive her home in a few days after we've worn her out shopping?"
I don't think Laurelyn's gonna go for that. She isn't going to want to spend the next few days shopping for our wedding, but I don't have a reasonable excuse to give my mum. "I'll ask her when she gets out of the shower and have her call you back."
I end the call but dread telling Laurelyn about Mum's suggestion because I don't want to hear her response—my reality check for how she's considering calling off our wedding. I sit motionless on the bed until I hear the shower turn off. I consider knocking on the door but decide it's best if I wait until she comes out.
She emerges wrapped in a towel to get her things from her bag because she doesn't have clothes here at the apartment yet.
Yet. It occurs to me that after last night's encounter with that woman, she may never keep her things here.
"My mum called to check on you. She asked if I'd leave you here to wedding shop while I go back to Avalon."
She stops in front of her suitcase and looks at me. "What did you tell her?"
"I couldn't come up with a reason to tell her you wouldn't."
She digs through her suitcase. "I guess you didn't want to tell her I was having issues because you screwed around with another woman a week after I left."
She isn't going to forgive me for this. I already know it. I've hurt her too badly and now I fall into that category of assholes with the others—her mum, her dad, Blake.
She chooses her clothes and then looks at me. "I need my best friend right now."
I don't know Addison well and I have no idea how she'll advise Laurelyn. I'm inclined to think she won't encourage her to cut me any slack based on the brief conversation we had when she warned me about not hurting her best friend. "I know, and I'll make it happen if that's what you want."
"I'll call Addison. If she's willing to come, we'll stay here instead of Avalon and I'll do the shopping thing with your family. I can't afford to lose a day of preparation if I decide to go through with marrying you."
I cannot believe she is going to stay and continue to make plans for our wedding. Surely, that is a good sign—the first one I've gotten. "I'll have Daniel drive her over."
"I'll call Margaret and make plans for today, but I expect you to be gone when I get back."
Damn! That was cold enough to cancel out any perceived positive vibe. "Don't worry. I will be."
It's an utterly miserable day for me. What should be the happiest moments of my life are overshadowed by the discovery of what Jack Henry did with that woman. I can't get it out of my head because I have a face for her. I wish I didn't.
Aside from crazy Audrey, I have the luxury of not knowing what the others look like, and I'm fine with that. I'm not naïve. I realize this will probably happen again if I marry him. I could possibly run into the others who came before me, but I'm prepared to handle the priors. I can even deal with the crazy shit Audrey dishes out, but this one who came after me is a kick in the ass. And a stab in the heart.
Chloe is holding two bridesmaids gowns for me to look at and I realize I completely spaced out when I hear Margaret ask, "Honey, do you not feel well?"
No. I don't feel well at all, but it has nothing to do with being sick. I just can't handle being here picking out things for a wedding that might not happen. "I'm sorry. I don't think I'm quite over that migraine. Would it be all right if we postponed today's shopping until another day? And Chloe…maybe we can do the sampling next weekend?"
"Of course. Please don't apologize." She returns the dresses to the rack. "We'll come back when you're feeling better, and it's not a problem to wait about the food. That will give me a little longer to think about the cake."
I feel so guilty for lying to these precious women. The thought of not being Margaret's daughter-in-law, along with Chloe and Emma's sister-in-law, absolutely kills me. I almost wonder if I'd marry Jack Henry just to be part of his wonderful family. I truly love them as my own—more than my own. "I should feel better tomorrow."
Margaret and Chloe drop me off at the apartment and Jack Henry's car isn't in the garage, so I know he's gone as I requested. Okay, demanded. At least he's smart enough to listen.
I go inside and immediately see the ginormous bouquet of white roses and the letter beside them on the coffee table. I sigh, inhaling their beauty. I want to pick them up and chuck them in the trash. Or at Jack Henry's head. The latter would probably give me far more satisfaction.
I hold the letter in my hands. I dread opening it. I know it's going to say things that will tear my heart out—that's the intention, right? To get me to stay and marry him.
I plop down on the couch and pull out the single folded piece of paper and look at his lovely penmanship, comparable to calligraphy. It shouldn't belong to a man but it does—a beautiful one who I love.
I'm crying before the end of the first sentence and sobbing by the third. In my heart I know he didn't mean to hurt me, but that does nothing to stop the pain or the images I see in my head—the ones where he's in bed naked with that woman. I wish it would stop, but I don't know how to make that happen. That's how I spend the next couple of hours until Addison arrives—sitting on the couch, strumming my guitar in hopes of getting it all out of my head.
"You didn't ask me here for a girls' excursion. What's happened?"
I don't want to say the words because they're so painful, but I manage to spit them out in between my sniveling. "There was another woman after I left."
"Another…companion?" She's makes a confused face as she says the word.
"No. It wasn't like that. He was drunk and propositioned a woman about being the next one. He took her upstairs to a hotel room and got naked with her. He was going to fuck her because he said he thought it would get me out of his head."
Addison lets that sink into her brain for several moments. "You say he was going to. Does that mean he didn't do the deed?"
"He says he couldn't. Because of me."
"Do you believe him?"
I don't have a reason not to. "I do, but he still had the intention, even if he didn't go through with it."
"And this would be after you left without telling him your name or giving him a goodbye?"
I sometimes conveniently forget that part. "Yes, but only a week later. He said he was in love with me, but I don't understand how a person goes out to find another companion to sleep with if he's so in love with me."
I can already tell I'm probably not going to like what she's about to say. That's how well I know Addison. "I'm sorry, Laurie. You know I love you and always have your back, but I can't really take your side on this one. You left Jack without telling him your name or giving him a goodbye, so I'm certain he thought he'd never see you again. And he wouldn't have if he hadn't hired a detective to search for you. You know I've always said the only way to get over someone is to get under someone else. You were gone, and I think he probably was of the same mentality but couldn't go through with it. That proves way more to me than the part about him being with another woman. When faced with getting a piece of ass, he couldn't do it because of how much he loves you."
Even if I can manage to get past that part, he didn't come clean when I flat out asked him. "But he lied to me about it. I only found out because we ran into the woman. She cornered me in a bathroom to warn me about him. It was humiliating to stand there with his ring on my finger and have another woman tell me about going up to a hotel room with him."
"That's who he was—not who he is now—and it sounds like you need to decide if you can deal with what he used to do."
She isn't getting my issue here. "I can deal with the others but this one is different because she happened after me. It feels like our relationship is tainted."
"Think about this. I know you had a little something trying to get started with Charlie when Jack found you. Would you want him to hold that against you?"
It's apples and oranges. "But that was almost three months after we were over. Not a week."
"You have an argument for everything I say, so I don't know what you want to hear. Do you want me to tell you to throw away everything with him because he almost screwed someone else? Think about this, Laurie. Could you really walk away from him forever, not because of something he did but because of something he almost did?"
I didn't expect her to take his side, but she's making some good arguments in his defense. "It just hurts so much. How can I love him with all my heart but want to kick him in the nuts at the same time?"
"It's because there are three guys in a girl's life: one she loves, one she hates, and one she can't get enough of. The three have one thing in common. They're all the same guy, and right now, Jack is the one you hate. You want to kick his nut sack into his gut, but you have to remember that he's also the one you love and can't get enough of."
I consider Addison to be so shallow—and she can be—but not today. "You're right. I know I'd be miserable without him."
"You know I'd tell you to drop him if he was a sleaze, but he's not. Yes, he's been a manwhore in the past, but what guy hasn't been when you really think about it? The real question here is if you can get over this and move on. Will you be able to forgive this and not hold it against him and bring it up every time you have a fight or a problem?"