Page 36 of The Other Man

Had he meant nothing to me at all?  Had I just been using him as a rebound?

The answer made me feel guilty.  I’d expected better from myself.

“Just make sure he knows it’s fucking final.  Hammer every nail into that fucking coffin.”

He was jealous, and I didn’t blame him.  I’d have been just as jealous.

“I will.  I won’t leave him hanging.  It wouldn’t be fair.”

Somewhere in the house, my cell started ringing.

I tracked it to the bedroom.

Eduard was calling.

What the fuck?  Could I not get a break?

Heath was right behind, and he saw the name on the screen when I did.

He plucked the phone from my hand and answered it with an oh so charming, “What the fuck do you want?”

I perched on the edge of my bed and watched him, arms folded across my chest.  Hell, maybe he could talk some sense into my idiot ex.  I’d sure as hell never been able to.

I couldn’t hear what Eduard said on his end, but I could see from Heath’s reaction that he didn’t like it.

“Her fucking man, that’s who,” he thundered into the phone.  “There’s nobody else.  Just me from here on out, motherfucker.”

I tried and failed to keep from smiling.

“Suing?  You have the nerve to talk about suing her?  Are you fucking crazy?  You threaten her again, and I’ll make you sorry.”  Pause.  “How?  I’ll hurt you, slowly, you piece of shit.”

Okaaaay, I thought to myself.

That was about enough of that.

I plucked my cell from his hand and hung it up, giving him an exasperated look.  “I can handle him.  Trust me.”

He opened his mouth and I held up my hand.  “Trust me,” I repeated.  “You have enough on your plate.  I can deal with my pain in the ass ex all by myself.  Okay?”

He nodded, but he sure as hell didn’t look like he liked it.

And then, because I couldn’t prolong it forever, I asked the question I’d been dreading.  “How long can you stay?”

He cursed, and I knew I wouldn’t like the answer.

And I didn’t.

He was gone within the hour.

I did what any woman would do when she’d just had a night of absolute bliss in the arms of an ex.

I called a girlfriend.

Danika knew the most about my current fucked up dating situation, so she got the honors.

“I had sex with him five times last night.”

Danika paused for a few beats on the other end.  From the background noise, I could tell she was at work, in the gallery at the Cavendish resort.

“Him who?” she asked.

I winced.  It was a fair question.  Thus the wince.

“Heath.”

“Dayum.  So it’s not really over between you?”

“It’s complicated.”

“It always is,” she said wryly.  “But five times does not sound like it’s over.”

“It’s not.  We’re back on; it’s just, you know, he’ll be gone a lot.  It’s a long story, but the short version is I have to make a very unpleasant phone call to Kevin now.”

“Well, hell.  I’ll bring the wine.”

It was a few hours later.  I was on my third glass of wine, and I was cooking Danika dinner.

The unpleasant phone call had gone about how I’d expected.

“So what do you do now?” Danika was asking me.  “What are the particulars of dating a super spy?”

“I’m not exactly sure.  I’ll keep you posted.  A lot of going about my life as usual and waiting for him, I suppose.”

She made a grunt of a noise at that.  I looked at her.

“You think I’m a fool,” I noted.  “That I shouldn’t wait for him.”

She shook her head, eyes widening like I’d misunderstood her.  “I didn’t say that.  Only you can say if it’s worth it to wait.  I’ll tell you one thing I learned the hard way, though.  You can’t unlove someone just because you want to.  Trust me on this.  So if you love him, really love him, then of course it’s worth waiting.”

“Even years?”

“Even your whole life.  What’s the other option?  Settling for Kevin?  That wouldn’t work.  I had a Kevin once, too, you know, back in the years when I thought that Tristan and I were hopeless.  And just like you can’t unlove a person, you can’t make yourself love somebody, either.”

“So I’m not a total fool for this?”

“No.  Hell no, you’re not.  I’ve taken the foolish route, and it involves going against your heart, not following it.  You are in love with him, aren’t you?”

I don’t know how it happened, but I didn’t even have to think about my answer.  “I am.”

“Then no wait is too long, if you ask me.”

I thought of something, and grinned at her.  “God, I’m terrible at casual sex.”

We both laughed long and hard at that understatement.

“Join the club,” she told me.

CHAPTER THIRTY

I was freaking the hell out.  Straight up tripping.

I didn’t even know whom to call to talk it out with, girlfriend-wise.

This was embarrassing and too crazy to be believed.

It was nothing obvious that tipped me off.  That’s why it took me so long to notice that something was different about me.

It was the smell of pizza that did it.

It was just a few days after Heath had visited me.  My boys were over for dinner.

It was Gustave’s turn to cook, and he was making his best dish: Margherita pizza.

I’d taught him the recipe.  We all knew it by heart.  I could pick out by smell and taste every single ingredient he put into the sauce, but as he cooked it, it smelled off to me.

Not like anything had gone bad.  It wasn’t even necessarily a smell I didn’t like.  It was just wrong.

“What’s that smell?” I asked Raf.  We were in the dining room, setting the table.

“That is the best pizza sauce in the world that you taught us both to memorize at birth,” Raf shot back, grinning at me.

He didn’t smell it.

I went into the kitchen, looking over Gustave’s shoulder at the saucepan.  “Did you do something different to the sauce?” I asked him.

He shot me a puzzled look over his shoulder.  “Are you kidding?  Who messes with perfection?”

Well, hell.

Gus didn’t smell it either.

I tried to ignore it, but ended up thinking about it more and more.

The smell of a lot of things had changed to me of late.  But it took something that familiar, a family recipe, to make me realize that it wasn’t the food that was off.

It was me.  I was changing, and that wasn’t the only change.

I’d gained a bit of weight, but I’d attributed that to the fact that I’d gone out to eat so much when I’d been dating Kevin.

And so back to me, freaking the hell out, driving to the store after my sons left, in the middle of the night, to grab a home pregnancy test.

It’s impossible, I reassured myself, for maybe the thousandth time.

It’s at least improbable, I tried telling myself when the impossible didn’t work, because it was simply a lie.

My God, what was I going to do?  This was not a problem I should be having at this stage of my life.  It was ridiculous.  Too silly to give any credence to.

Dammit.

I’d always had problems with the pill, and Eduard had gotten a vasectomy after Gustave was born, so it wasn’t something I’d had to worry about for a very long time.

Until that one night, months ago, when Heath had decided to show up to my house without condoms.

Dammit.

I couldn’t believe it.  It was too silly.  I was too damn old to be dealing with a mistake like this.  Okay, making a mistake like this.

I bought five home pregnancy tests, brought them home, laid them out on my bed, and just stared at them.

And then I used them each, one by one.

And just stared at them.

Five plus signs.

I was well aware how unlikely it was to get five false positives.  The home pregnancy tests were pretty damn accurate these days.

Even so, I made an appointment with my doctor, taking her first available window.

But I knew what I needed to know.

I was pregnant.

Heath had knocked me up.

My first reaction, and it lasted a while, was pure shock.

Heath had left me a number, nothing else, and he’d said very clearly that it was for emergencies only.  That’s why I waited until after my doctor’s appointment to call it.  I wanted to be absolutely certain before I freaked him the hell out right along with me.

“Jimmy’s Market,” an unfamiliar male voice answered the phone.

I thought at first I’d dialed wrong.  But I asked anyway.  “I need to talk to Heath.  It’s an emergency.”

“No Heath here.  Wrong number, lady.”

His tone was abrasive, but I checked the card, and the number I’d dialed, and they were the same, so I went on.  “Tell him Lourdes needs to talk to him,” I tried.


Tags: R.K. Lilley Romance
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