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Authors: Whitney Boyd

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BOOK: Iced Romance
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And when he gets back, I’ll be gone.

I grind my teeth and throw my purse onto the couch. I’ll pay for the extra suitcase. Money is not an issue. In fact, maybe I’m lucky, but for my whole life, it has never been an issue. The real problem? What do you bring with you when you have to fit your whole life into two suitcases, but you don’t
really
care since you’ve already lost everything important to you anyway?

My thoughts trail to my parents. They were always distant and intimidating, so caught up in their careers I don’t think they remembered they had a daughter. Yet they were still the most important things to me, and I tried so hard to please them.

When they died, my dad when I was twelve and my mom just before my eighteenth birthday, I felt lost. School, my friends, none of it mattered.

Until I met Todd, and finally somebody loved me. All the years of neglect from my parents faded. I had the world because I had Todd. And now, even he has betrayed me.

I groan and massage my temples. I can’t think about this now.

I walk into the majestic master bedroom and flick on the light. Everything is pristine. The towel I’d tossed onto the floor after my shower is neatly hanging in the en suite bathroom. The piles of clothes I had gone through while looking for my Prada jeans have disappeared, either gone to the laundry or folded and back into the wardrobe. The cleaning woman must have been here this morning.

Which means, I think happily, the fridge will be stocked with all kinds of yummy things. My stomach rumbles, right on cue, and I hurry to the spacious kitchen.

Mmm, fresh feta cheese and hummus from the Greek deli down the street, and pita chips from that little bakery I’ve come to depend on. There are some rich chocolate tortes in the dessert drawer. They’re Todd’s favorites, and I feel perverse satisfaction as I reach in and take all four. Even if I can’t eat them all, I’m not letting
him
get them.

I spread some hummus on a pita chip and pile a morsel of the feta on top while I think about my current situation. I’ll need money for my escape to Florida.

My trust fund has been depleted for years, but Todd and I have a joint checking account. I haven’t exactly contributed any money to the account, but that’s irrelevant. I’ve earned my share.

Being engaged to a hockey player means you don’t get to hold down a full-time job of your own. The engagement
is
the full-time job. All the photo shoots, the team family luncheons, the interviews where you stand by your man, smiling and nodding as he talks about how you make him a better person; not to mention the awards ceremonies and banquets and weddings of his friends and teammates.

I’ll take half of whatever is in there, I decide. I’m not going to rob him blind, but I’ve earned it. Besides, if we’d gotten married I’d get half of everything in the divorce settlement anyway. It’s not
my
fault that we’ve been perpetually engaged for the last three years without any sign of him agreeing to an actual date and making it so I
can’t
divorce him.

I finish off my pita chip and make myself another. I’ll pawn my engagement ring. That should get me extra money, and it’s not like I want to keep it for sentimental reasons. I hold out my hand and stare at it. It’s huge, a Neil Lane special creation, and it cost Todd a small fortune.

But it’s mine.

And I get to decide what to do with it.

I stuff the rest of the pita into my mouth and grab a bottle of Diet Coke from the fridge. I tap the top twice to keep it from fizzing over and then open it, the familiar smell calming my nerves before I take a sip.

I lean my elbows on the black marble counter top and rap my fingers nervously against the aluminum can. I should find a place to stay before Tuesday. Sure, I have the hotel for the first night, but I’ll need a house. I can’t just show up in Florida and expect everything to be great. This takes planning and preparation and—

Rapid tapping on the front door interrupts my thoughts. I wipe at my eyes to make sure I haven’t been leaking tears again, which lately I am prone to do, and silently step to the door. I peek out the security hole and sigh.

I could pretend I’m not home.

It’s not that I don’t
like
my neighbor, it’s just I need to be alone right now and figure stuff out.

She raises her hand to knock again and I see something in her hand. A plate of what appears to be chocolate chip cookies. And they look delicious. I need to have one of those in my mouth soon.

“Hi, Mrs. Lawrence!” I swing the door open, a smile pasted onto my face. I force myself to not look at what she holds in her hands so I can act surprised when she hands them to me.

“Hello, Kennedy, dear,” she replies in her raspy voice.

Her pinkish tinged hair is tightly curled and frames her face like a little poodle dog. She is wearing clothes that probably cost more than our condo, but they, like her, are ancient. They must have been stylish at one time, back in the fifties and sixties, but now they smell like mothballs.

I take a step back, still holding onto the door. “Would you like to come in?”

She nods and holds out the plate of cookies. “I was baking this afternoon and thought I’d bring you some.”

I’m sure the fake surprise on my face looks, well, fake, but I go with it anyway. “Wow! That’s really sweet of you,” I say, meaning every word of it despite my horrible acting skills.

I take the plate and the delicious scent of freshly baked cookies rises up and greets my nostrils. I sniff and say with a conspiratorial grin, “You’re trying to fatten me up, aren’t you?”

“You need it. All you young girls, thin as rails. Why, in my time, people envied girls with curves, you know. Marilyn Monroe was the sexiest woman on the planet, believe me.”

I suppress another smile and beckon for her to enter the condo. Mrs. Lawrence is quite possibly my only actual friend at the moment, which is both a touching and terrifying thought.

“I think Marilyn Monroe is still considered to be an icon,” I reply idly as I place the cookies on the counter, grab myself one of the largest ones, and step into the sitting area.

It’s a stylish area, one that Todd spent thousands of dollars on to get just right. Large, black, leather couches line two walls. There is a Monet painting on the wall and a glass coffee table on a thick, plush rug in the center. It’s artistic, minimalistic and youthful, or at least that’s what the overpaid designer told us when he showed us the sketches.

Mrs. Lawrence sits primly on the sofa, her ankles crossed and her hands in her lap. “You know,” she begins, and I swallow hard as I recognize the tone. I know where this is headed, the real reason for the visit and the cookies. “I’m not one to pry, my dear, but it’s been all over the news and I knew I needed to come see how you are.”

My cheeks flood with color. This is the most humiliating situation I have ever been in. Ever since the story broke, I’ve been overwhelmed with pity from strangers, friends, and everyone in between. I don’t know how Elin Nordegren put up with it all, to be honest. As a private person, I find the embarrassment debilitating. Yet they always say that the best self-defense is confidence. I just have to be confident and nobody will see how mortifying this is for me.

I smile warmly at Mrs. Lawrence. “Of course,” I say, “that is so thoughtful of you to be thinking of me. But, you know, things like this happen. It’s just life. People break up.”

See? I’m not heartbroken. Confidence is an amazing thing.

Mrs. Lawrence frowns and sits up a bit taller in her seat. “From what I’ve heard, it wasn’t a break up. He was the fox sneaking around the henhouse after midnight, if you know what I mean.”

Great. Even my 900-year-old neighbor knows that my fiancé is a dirty cheater. I hadn’t thought it was possible for me to feel worse than I did when I climbed the stairs home. Everyone must think I’m a horrible girlfriend, pathetic, unable to keep my man’s interest.

I shake my head. “No, no, you know how those tabloids are. People will say anything for attention. The truth is—”

I stop for a moment and think. What is the truth? That he’s scum and I finally realized it? That everything they are reporting in the tabloids is true and I’m an idiot for having believed him for so long? That he’s the newest Tiger Woods of hockey and I wish I had never met the guy?

“The truth is we just grew apart. He was on the road so much, and I decided it’s time to move on with my life.”

There. That sounds okay.

Mrs. Lawrence’s face falls. She seems disappointed. “Well, my bridge club will never believe that,” she says, and despite the awkwardness of the situation, I feel like laughing. Mrs. Lawrence and her bridge club friends are the cutest old ladies. And they always have to know everything about everyone.

I brush my hair over my shoulder and shrug. “They can believe what they want. It’s the truth.”

She nods and motions at the cookie in my hand. “Whether or not he cheated is irrelevant, I guess. The important thing is for you to be all right, my dear. Eat up!”

I take a quick bite and let out a low moan of pleasure. “Mmm, Mrs. Lawrence, these are delicious!”

The heat from my fingers have melted some of the chocolate chips, and I transfer the cookie to my other hand so I can lick my fingers.

She beams and refolds her hands in her lap. “Yes, well, it is my secret recipe after all.”

I close my eyes and take another bite. “I’m going to miss these.”

“Why? Are you moving out? I figured that Todd would be the one leaving, since he is gone so much anyway.”

Her eyes are bright again as she leans forward. Her gossip meter must have just gone off, and she’s probably desperate to get some tidbit of information for her bridge club to titter over.

I can’t give her anything essential. Bare minimum and all that. I nod my head, fighting with every ounce of self control I possess to keep my cool. “Nope, I’m leaving, but it’s because I want to. I’m going to branch out, see new places. Part of moving on with my life is moving to a new city. I’m excited for the adventure.”

“Where are you going?”

“New Mexico.”

The lie comes easily but I don’t feel guilty. In case Todd ever asks her, I don’t want her to know the truth. I want to disappear into thin air and have a normal life, with him left behind, wondering what went wrong.

“New Mexico?” Her eyes widen and she shakes her head. “That’s just a desert. A little pale thing like you won’t last long. You can’t go there; it’s the middle of nowhere. I’ve seen shows about that place. I think they may even have,” she leans forward and whispers loudly, “Indian groups. It won’t be safe for you.”

I stifle a giggle. “Yes, there are probably Native Americans there, but they are civilized, wonderful people like you or me. I met some great ones when I lived in Canada. Some of my favorite people were of the First Nations.”

She frowns and shakes her head again. “If you say so, Kennedy.” Her voice does not sound convinced.

Maybe I should try a little honesty. I finish off my cookie and wipe my hands on the couch cushions.

“I want a normal life, Mrs. Lawrence. I hope you can understand that. For the past five years, I’ve been living in the shadows of the high life with Todd. Before then, my parents made sure I always had money and the right clothes, and I’ve never had a real job or anything. I want the storybook life, you know, like in the Sophie Kinsella books. Normal girls, normal problems. I need to get away from all this drama.”

I glance at the cookies on the counter, but decide against another one. Mrs. Lawrence is watching me, her arthritic fingers clenched in her lap. “You are moving away and starting a brand new life? Are you all right, dear?” Her voice cracks a bit, concern evident.

I’ve probably said too much. What if she tells Todd even this little bit? I decide to end the conversation right here and now.

“Look, I appreciate your concern and the cookies and everything, and I don’t want to be rude, but I have a lot to do before I go.” I stand, hoping she’ll get the hint.

Her brow is still puckered, but she gets to her feet and follows me to the front door. “You be safe, dear. The world is a dangerous place for a pretty girl.”

Impulsively, I reach out and give her a hug. “Thanks for everything. I mean it. You’ve been like a grandmother to me. Take care, okay?”

She hugs me back and I feel her thin shoulders tremble a bit. “You too, dear girl. I’ll miss you, but if you ever want to visit, please do. I’ll make you cookies.”

I hold her for a second more. She wipes at her eyes and I feel a swell of emotion. She is a sweet lady. A gossip, yes. A busybody and a snoop, undoubtedly. But also the only person who seems to genuinely care about me.

I wish I could give her something, something to let her know what I feel.

And then I know.

Just before I close the door, I whisper, “It’s all true, you know. The tabloids and news reports. He cheated, not just with one or two, but last time I counted it was eight or nine different women for sure, probably more. I only found out a week ago. He tried to talk his way out of it, but I’ve had enough. I need to get out of here. And yes, it hurts, so badly that whenever I think about it, my lungs constrict and it’s hard for me to breathe.”

The look of pity, sadness, joy, and pleasure that floods her face is completely worth it. She pats my hand, says goodbye and then hurries down the hall, no doubt to call one of her girlfriends.

I close the door, feeling tears prick my eyes. For the first time I said the truth out loud. And the truth sucks.

BOOK: Iced Romance
10.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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