Page 25 of The Other Man

And just outside, looking harried, outraged, like he was trying, and had tried, to charge into the house, was my ex-husband.

Eduard had always been a handsome man, and still was—dark eyes and black curly hair that set off his olive skin.  He was tall and lean, but next to the bulky mountain that was Heath, he suddenly looked thin to me.  Skinny.  Had he lost weight, or was it just that the comparison left him lacking?  I really didn’t know.

Eduard saw me and stilled.  “What the fuck is this, Lourdes?” he called out, sounding outraged, like he’d caught me at something.

He’d always had a nerve.  When we’d been young I’d called it pluck and found it charming.

That was a very long time ago.

I almost laughed.

Instead I shook my head at him.  “What in the world are you doing here, Eduard?”

“What’s he doing here?” he shot back as though he had some right to question who should be at my house.

“What are you doing here?” I repeated.

“He spent the night?” Eduard cried out like he was honestly shocked.

“What gave it away?” Heath asked him dryly.

“What do you want, Eduard?” I asked him.  “This is not a good time.  If you have something to say to me, you need to call, not just show up at my house.”

“I can’t believe you!  How long has this been going on?”

It was strange.  The divorce had had opposite effects on us.  The longer we were apart, the more indifferent I became to him and the more bitter he grew toward me.

It was a refreshing change from our marriage where I’d cared too much and he too little.

I looked at Heath, who was calm as could be, just watching me while he kept my ex easily out of the house.  “Just shut the door on him,” I told him.  “If he has something important to tell me, he can call and leave a message that I may or may not listen to.”

“I’m telling the boys about this!” Eduard shouted as the door started to close on him.

“They already know!” I shouted back.

“We all had dinner together last night,” Heath added and shut the door in his face.

“Does he show up here often?” Heath asked me, the doorbell ringing enthusiastically to punctuate his words.

“No.  Hardly ever.  Did he say what he wanted?”

“No.  I think the sight of me changed his focus, but I’m pretty sure I can guess what he came here for.”

“What?”

“You.  He wants you back.”

I couldn’t help it.  I made a face.  “God, I hope not.  That’s never happening.  Not in a million years.”

“Good.  I’ll have a word with him sometime; make sure he gets the message loud and clear.”

“You don’t have to do that.  I can handle him.  He’s harmless.  Just an annoyance these days.  Honestly.”

He didn’t say another word about it, which should have worried me more, but I was distracted just then, as he took me back to bed.

We didn’t get a day in bed, but we did get a morning, so I couldn’t exactly complain.

Heath left for a few hours in the afternoon, for work, he said, but told me he’d be back in time for dinner.

I thought it was him at the door sometime later, and so was doubly surprised when I opened it to find a young blonde girl standing there.

“Is Heath here?” she asked me.

I was caught off guard, for obvious reasons.  “Um, no, no he’s not.  He stepped out for a bit.  Can I help you?”

“Could I wait inside for him?  I’m supposed to meet him here.”

I let her in.  What else could I do?

I went back into the kitchen.  I’d just been about to open a bottle of wine, so I offered her a glass.

“Oh, no, thank you.  I’m pretty sure I’m pregnant, so I definitely shouldn’t.”

“Excuse me?” I asked her.  I just didn’t know how to place her in my mind.  Who was she, and why had she come here to find Heath?

“Also, I’m not actually old enough to drink,” she added.

That had me studying her.  She was a young thing.  She had white-blonde hair and was drop dead gorgeous.  She looked like something you’d see in a Victoria’s Secret catalogue come to life wearing sweats and nerdy glasses.

She studied me right back.

“I’m Iris,” she said, breaking a long silence.  “And you must be Lourdes.  So nice to finally meet you.”

“Nice to meet you,” I mumbled back.

Iris beamed at me.  “So you and Heath, huh?”

She sounded so happy about it that I found myself studying her face some more.  And then it hit me.  Of course.  Aside from their different, striking eye colors, they even looked alike.  “You’re his sister.”

She laughed.  And laughed.  I didn’t get the joke, but her laughter was contagious and so I found myself smiling.

“Oh my God,” she gasped.  “You are so much more observant than Dair.  It took him forever to figure that out.”

I blinked at her.  “Dair . . . Alasdair Masters?  You know him?”

For that, she started studying me again, her eyes intense in a way that made me think I’d underestimated her.  Greatly.

“Yes, I know him,” she said quietly.  “He’s a friend of yours, right?”

“Well, yes, we’ve worked together a few times, and we’re friendly.  How do you know him?”

She shook her head sharply.  “Long, long story.  How are things going with you and Heath?”

I didn’t know how to answer that.

And she didn’t seem to need an answer.

“I didn’t really come here to find Heath,” she said.  “In fact, he’ll be upset when he finds me here, but I actually wanted to talk to you.”

Saying unexpected things clearly ran in the family.  “Oh?” was the only response I could come up with for her.

“I just wanted to give you some background on him, on why he doesn’t let anyone get close.  It’s not because he doesn’t care.  He—he’d do anything for me, I know this, he’s proven it, but even me he won’t open up to.  He can’t.  It breaks my heart the things he’s been through.  I can see the burdens he carries . . . I carry some of my own, but his, I’m sure you’ve noticed some of his issues, if you’ve spent any time with him.”

I just nodded that I had.

“He’s been hurt bad.  Tortured.  Well, I don’t have to tell you.  You’ve undoubtedly seen all of the scarring.  And he’s had to do some things that people just don’t come all the way back from.  But his stint with the CIA is just one piece of the puzzle.  The dysfunction runs deep in our family.  We were raised as feral things.  We come from a family of pathological liars.  We’re packaged to sell, though.  We learned to hide it.  Learned to hide everything.  We were taught to lie so consistently that it still comes more natural than the truth.  It’s not malicious, the way we lie.  It’s protective, if that makes any sense.”

“Protective of what?”

Her pretty mouth twisted.  “I can’t say.  I’m sorry for being so vague.  And I’m telling you all of this because I know he’ll be just as vague.  More so.  I think he cares about you, and I just hope that, in spite of all of that and all of his other issues, you’ll give him a shot.”

I opened my mouth, to say what, I haven’t a clue, when the doorbell rang.

Iris cursed.  “He figured it out faster than I thought he would.”

“Figured out what?”

“That I came here.  You see, he left you earlier to look for me.”

“He told me he left for work.”

“That’s actually not a lie.”

I was more confused than ever.  I moved to answer the door.

“Don’t tell Heath about the pregnancy thing I mentioned earlier,” she said quietly behind me.  “He’d freak.”

No way would I ever be telling the volatile Heath that his too young to drink sister might be pregnant.

Not a chance in hell.

When I opened the door, Heath didn’t even address me, instead headed straight for his sister, who was hovering in the doorway to the kitchen.

“I’ve been out looking for you,” he barked at her.  “I can’t believe you pulled this again, and for what?”

“I wanted to meet Lourdes.”

His hand went up to pinch the bridge of his nose, as though relieving pressure.

His other hand was clutching a bouquet of roses.

He’d brought me flowers.

“Do you know what you’ve done?” he asked, addressing Iris.

“No, Heath,” she said, clearly distressed.  “No.  Please.  I’m sorry. No.  No one followed me, I swear.  Nothing’s been compromised here.”

He looked back and forth between the two of us.  “She’s scared of me,” he told me.  “My own sister is frightened of me.”


Tags: R.K. Lilley Romance
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