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Authors: Jennifer Haymore

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BOOK: The Reunion
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How could she do this again? Start thinking they actually had something when they both knew they didn’t. Nathan liked to live in the moment, she knew that. But she was more practical. She couldn’t spend a week on Sugar Cay, opening herself up to him over and over like she had last night.

Because if she did that, when she had to leave him again, it would tear her apart. She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t
need
him. And she already felt so close to needing him. One night with him was already way too much.

It had taken her years to get over him the first time—if she even had gotten over him to begin with. But this time…

She squeezed her eyes shut. This couldn’t happen. She had to get out of here.

Over the course of several minutes and feeling like some kind of contortionist, she extricated herself from his grip.

Ever so quietly, she dressed in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. Then she got her suitcase out of the closet and repacked her clothes. Nathan didn’t budge—he’d always been a sound sleeper. Especially after sex.

Swallowing hard, she closed her bag.

She straightened and looked at him for a long moment from across the room. She could only see his sandy hair bordering the slope of his cheek, rough from a day’s growth of beard. Parts of her body burned sweetly from where it had rubbed against her skin.

Love surged through her.
Love.
For Nathan.

Shit.
Not again. He’d broken her heart once, and there was no way around it happening again. Except to leave before it was too late.

She hefted her bag and slipped out of the bedroom. The house was silent—it was only a little after five, and everyone was still asleep. Besides her, Will was the only early riser in this crowd—sometimes he got up at this ungodly hour and went for a run. But she didn’t see any sign of him now.

She had to let Jake know what was going on, at least a bit of it. She went into his office, found a pen, and took a piece of paper from his printer tray.

 

Dear Jake,

I’m sorry, but I have to leave early. I am so sad I didn’t get to spend more time with you and everyone else. But I can’t stay. I just can’t. I’m so sorry. Thank you for your hospitality… As always, you are amazing, and so is Sugar Cay. I’ll call you next week.

Love,

Zoey

 

She left the letter on the desk, knowing they’d all realize she’d left because of Nathan. She wished she could keep from dragging them into this yet again, but there was no way around it.

No, she corrected herself, she wasn’t dragging them into anything. She was getting out before she created anything to be dragged into.

Now all she had to do was wake up Mason Quinn, Jake’s boat captain, and ask him for a humongous favor. If he said no… She couldn’t even think of what she’d do then.

Maybe there was a cave she could go hide in for the next several days. Maybe she could find a rowboat and row to Tortola.

No, Mason was her best bet. She’d have to beg him. He was a nice guy, and she had to bank on that little bit she knew about him.

The sky grew lighter as she walked toward the cottages on the other side of the cay. The clouds had cleared, raindrops sparkled on the leaves of the trees and shrubs bordering the path, and it promised to be a beautiful day.

She wished she wasn’t leaving. That she could go snorkeling with Will and get a massage with Rebecca and Ella. That she could hang out on the beach, go kayaking, enjoy the gourmet concoctions Jake’s cook came up with.

That she could stay with Nathan…be with him during the days and sleep with him at night…

That absolutely couldn’t happen. That would be far too dangerous.

Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t hear the footsteps until they were practically on top of her. She jerked her head up just in time to see Will appear, running around a bend in the path. He reeled to a halt, glanced down at her suitcase, then looked at her face.

It took him all of two seconds to figure it out.

He took a deep breath. “Nate?”

She nodded, then spoke through the giant lump in her throat, once again blinking back the water that seemed to want to pool in her eyes. “Yeah.”

He closed his eyes. “Damn. I’m sorry, Zo.”

“It’s…it’s okay. I just need to leave. I can’t be near him now, Will. It’s too… I just… I need to go home.”

“Okay,” he said. His lips twisted. “You look like you need a hug, Zo. And I’d give you one, but I just ran around this island ten times, and I’m sweaty.”

“I don’t care,” she whispered, shaking her head and swallowing hard.

Will stepped forward and pulled her into his arms. She gripped him tightly and buried her face in his shoulder, needing his comfort right now. He’d probably just run five miles, but the guy was in such good shape he wasn’t even breathing hard, and if he was sweating, she couldn’t tell.

“All right,” he said soothingly, rubbing his hand up and down her back. “So…what are you going to do?”

“I was going to ask Mason to take me to Tortola. I…I know it’s a lot to ask, but if he’s willing to take me, I can get a flight from there.”

He pulled back, looking into her face, his dark eyes searching. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yes. I am. One hundred percent sure. I have to.”

“Okay.” She breathed a sigh of relief. Will always took her words at face value, and she loved that about him. He took her bag from her. “Mason’s already up. I saw him working on the powerboat. Come on. I’ll take you to him.”

 

* * * *

 

Mason agreed to give her a ride, saying he already planned to take Tyler, Rebecca’s pilot, to Tortola this morning. Leaving Zoey and Will on the pier, he went off to find Tyler, but he returned alone a few minutes later.

“Where’s Tyler?” Will asked him.

Mason shrugged. “He said his plans changed and he didn’t need to go after all.”

Zoey chewed on her lip. “Are you still okay with taking me?”

“Sure, no problem.”

He jumped aboard, then reached out a hand to her. She looked at the word written in large blue letters on the side of the boat.

Freedom.

Was that where she was going? To freedom? Why, then, did it suddenly seem as if she were tied to her life by ropes thicker than those that held the
Freedom
to the dock?

She turned to Will to say good-bye, but he shook his head. “Don’t even think about it. I’m coming with you.”

She knew that tone of voice. There was no point in arguing with him. Nodding her acceptance, she took Mason’s hand and stepped aboard. Will followed behind her with her bag. They sat in the cockpit, and Will released the ropes while Mason went up to the captain’s chair and navigated the boat out of the bay.

Sugar Cay grew smaller as they drew away from it, and then it finally disappeared over the horizon. She didn’t know if she’d be back next year. She wouldn’t be able to come if Nathan was going to be here.

The trip between the two islands seemed to take forever, and by the time they reached Tortola, the sun had burned away the gray of dawn, the sky was jewel blue, and the Caribbean was a deep sapphire.

Will helped her find a taxi to the airport, and when she’d bought her ticket back to DC for a flight later that afternoon, they finally said their good-byes.

“Thanks for being there for me this morning,” she said, trying to force her lips into a smile.

“I’ve got your back,” he told her. “We all do.”

“You’re the best friends in the world.”

He seemed to hesitate, but then he said, “I’m not sure if this will help at all, but I want you to know something.”

“What’s that?”

“Nate never stopped loving you, Zo.”

She brushed it off with a laugh that sounded far too strained. “Yeah, he did. What about Oksana? All the others?”

Will’s look was dead serious, his lips flat. “Those were just his pathetic attempts to forget you. They didn’t work.”

She blinked hard. “Well,” she said shakily, “he needs to forget. Just like I do.”

Will nodded slowly. “Okay. Just remember…he feels it as much as you do.”

How could he? He hadn’t been willing to change his plans to go to Stanford. He’d expected her to decide to just go along with him, like he expected her to drop her life in DC now, as if her life, her dreams and goals, were worth nothing.

“Right,” she said shakily. She gave Will a game smile. “You’d better go. Mason said he needed to get back by noon.”

“All right, as long as you’re good here.”

“I’m good. I’ll just read at the gate while I’m waiting.”

He bent down and kissed her cheek. “Take care, okay? Call me if you need anything.”

“I will,” she promised, and she meant that, at least. She actually did believe Will and the others had her back.

 

* * * *

 

Nate opened his eyes and stretched lazily. He’d been drifting in and out of sleep for the past hour or so, because this bed was damn comfortable, and it smelled like Zoey, and he felt like he could sleep all day all cozy and wrapped up in her scent.

She wasn’t in bed, and although he would have liked to wish her good morning—in the carnal sense—this was normal behavior for her. She’d always gotten up earlier than him. She was probably downstairs drinking coffee with Will, the other early riser.

He rolled his head and looked at the clock on the nightstand, then widened his eyes. It was later than he expected—almost ten o’clock. Everyone was probably up by now. He really needed to get out of bed.

After another languid stretch, he got up and pulled on his jeans and T-shirt from yesterday. He slipped out—the hallway was empty, which was good, because he wasn’t sure if Zoey wanted anyone to know about last night just yet.

He went two doors down to his own bedroom, where he took a quick shower and changed his clothes. Then he went downstairs in search of Zoey.

The house seemed unnaturally quiet. The living room was empty, and so was the dining room. Nate wandered around for a while, finally knocking on the closed door to Jake’s office, not really expecting anyone to answer. But a voice came from inside—Jake’s voice. “Come in.”

Nate opened the door, then stepped back in surprise. Jake, Ella, and Rebecca stood inside the office, and they all turned to him, grave looks on their faces. “Oh, hey,” he said lightly. “I was just looking for Zoey. Do you guys know where she is?”

Silence. And then Jake held out his hand to Rebecca, who handed him a folded piece of paper. He came to Nate and held the paper out. “I’m sorry, man.”

Nate unfolded the sheet of paper and read. With each word, he felt heavier. He read it again. And again, combing his fingers through his damp hair.

Shit. He should have expected this. He knew her so well, so why hadn’t he predicted it?

It felt as if his heart were being cleaved in two. He’d wanted to be with her again, but until this moment, he hadn’t realized how important she was to him.

When he looked back up at his friends, his chest hurt so bad he could hardly breathe.

He just stared at them through stinging eyes. He had no idea what to say. But his thoughts must have been written all over his face, because Ella and Rebecca both came to him. They wrapped their arms around him and squeezed him tight.

She’d left him.

Even though she’d told him to go, walking away from Zoey three years ago had been the hardest thing he’d ever done. But this time, she’d left him. She’d ended it.

He’d failed. He hadn’t won her back; he’d driven her away.

 

 

Chapter Five

 

June

Zoey thanked the cab driver and paid him. Straightening, she turned toward the turquoise-blue house. It was pretty—an interesting architectural mix of Victorian and modern, and hemmed in on both sides by other pretty houses, each of them with a distinctive look and painted in distinctive colors. The street was at such a steep slope that one of her feet was noticeably lower than the other. Her suitcase handle tugged at her hand, gravity tempting it to go rolling down the street.

She wrapped her jacket around her—the woman sitting beside her on the airplane had informed her that it was always foggy and cool in San Francisco this time of year, and it was definitely chilly. And foggy. Nate had mentioned once that he had a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay from his house, but she couldn’t see much farther than a few houses down the block.

She went into the building, using the key Ella had miraculously procured for her. She hadn’t questioned how—with her charm and looks, not to mention money, Ella always found a way to get what she wanted.

She’d just been playing with the idea of getting a key and waiting for Nathan to come home from work and surprising him that way, but when she’d told Ella and Rebecca her idea, they’d said Zoey just
had
to do it.

Zoey had made this decision all the way back in March. From the time she’d left Sugar Cay, she’d been working hard sawing away at those thick ropes that bound her to her life in DC.

What she wanted was here. In San Francisco. She could have her life as a teacher. San Francisco was a big city with the same kinds of inner-city schools and the same kinds of kids she’d loved teaching in DC. She barely saw her family anyway, except on holidays, and she could still fly across the country for that. And there was always FaceTime.

Here, she could have Nathan. She could have a fulfilling job and the man of her dreams.

She’d always known this. But letting go of her fierce independence, her strict adherence to how she thought her life should go—that was the hard part. She’d done it, though. And when she’d finally cut away the last of those binding ropes, she called the San Francisco Unified School District and applied for a job.

She walked up the steps and opened Nate’s door. Thanks to Ella’s magical rich-girl powers, she even had the security code. She’d almost melted into a puddle on her kitchen floor in Crappy Apartment when Ella had called her to tell her what it was.

0527. The security code for Nathan’s house was May 27
th
. Zoey’s birthday.

BOOK: The Reunion
8.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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