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Authors: Jennifer Haymore

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BOOK: The Reunion
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She punched it in, her heart beating way too fast, and then turned to look at the interior of the house. Everything was sleek and expensive-looking. Shiny wood floors, stainless-steel and granite, modern furniture, and lots of windows overlooking a lush but tiny backyard garden.

She was curious, but she stopped herself from snooping around too much. She was already invading Nathan’s privacy, but she didn’t want to go overboard. She just wanted to surprise him.

So she found a place on the sofa facing an enormous built-in TV screen. She reached into the front pocket of her suitcase and pulled out her book, along with her acceptance letter from an elementary school in the Mission District, which she laid on the table.

Then she opened her book as if she wasn’t the most nervous she’d ever been in her life, and began to read the paranormal romance she’d started on the airplane.

Two hours later, her nerves started to get the better of her, and she texted Ella. It was after eleven on the East Coast, but Ella had a habit of staying up late, so Zoey didn’t worry about waking her.

He’s not home yet. Maybe something’s wrong. What if something’s wrong?

Ella’s response came immediately.
He’s an investment banker, duh! He’s probably working late. Those guys always work insane hours. You know that.

What if he’s on a date?
Zoey typed. Because of all the possible scenarios, that one would be the absolute worst. To think she’d come out all this way to discover that he’d found someone else…

She closed her eyes. He’d talked about them being together beyond their time in Sugar Cay. The way he’d touched her, so reverent, so gentle. How could anyone who wasn’t in love with a woman touch her that way?

But she’d walked away from him. He didn’t owe her anything. He could be dating a different girl every night, for all she knew. And if he was, she couldn’t really blame him.

He’s not on a date!
Zoey could almost hear the annoyance in Ella’s text.

It is Friday night
, Zoey reminded her friend.

HE’S NOT ON A DATE!

Sheesh. You don’t have to text-yell.

Sorry, hon. But he’s not on a date. Trust me, okay?

Okay
, Zoey typed. She started reading again, in fits and starts.

Two hours later, she was really worried. It was almost eleven o’clock, two a.m. on the East Coast, and Ella would probably be asleep by now.

Zoey stared at the door, willing him to walk through it. A while ago, she’d come to the conclusion that she really hadn’t planned this out well. There was nowhere else for her to go, no place to stay, and she didn’t know anyone in this city.

She’d been dying to see him. She’d assumed he’d be thrilled to see her here. She’d assumed he’d welcome her with open arms. But that was impossible if he was out somewhere. Visions assailed her of him walking in with some Oksana-type hanging off him. Maybe they’d already be kissing, pawing each other, both of them giddy from a night of clubbing in San Francisco. And then they’d see her sitting here…

Zoey closed her eyes. He wasn’t necessarily out with a girl. He could be out with his guy friends. He could have gone to his parents’ or something. Ella could have been right—he could be at work. Nathan worked crazy hours. Sometimes until midnight. His job was insanely demanding.

If she kept thinking he was at the office and that he’d come home exhausted from an ultra-long day at work… He’d see her sitting here. She could picture the surprise on his face, then how it would brighten, and how he would smile and hug her when she showed him the job offer… She’d picture all that. Because picturing the Oksana-girl scenario was just too depressing.

She waited. And she waited. Until, finally, she fell into a fitful doze on his couch.

 

* * * *

 

At seven o’clock the next morning, Nate gave up on sleep. He got up, took a shower, then got into his rental car and headed to the address Jake had given him. He snuck in the locked main door behind an older lady carrying a bunch of grocery bags, offering to carry some of them for her. She scowled at him.

“Don’t you think I can handle my own grocery bags, boy?”

Nate looked at her, bewildered. “Sure, yeah, of course.”

“Well, then, why’d you ask?”

“Just trying to…uh…be helpful.”

She raised her spare red-tinged eyebrows. “You aren’t from around here, are you?”

He laughed. “No. Not really.”

She grudgingly gave him three of the bags, and he followed her up the stairs to apartment 3B. She went in through a crack in the door, then took the bags from him. “You don’t expect a tip or anything, do you?”

Nate grinned. “Nope.”

“Good!” And she shut the door in his face.

Nate took a deep breath, then turned toward the stairway. He ascended two more flights. The landing was tiny and led to three doors: 5A, 5B, and 5C. He turned to 5C and stared at the door for a long minute. So this was “Crappy Apartment.” He took a deep breath and knocked.

He held the breath he’d just drawn in, and waited. And waited.

There was no answer. Shit. He knocked again. Again, there was no answer.

Zoey wasn’t home.

He took a step back, not sure what to do. He stood there for about ten minutes…just to make sure she hadn’t stepped out. But he knew she hadn’t. He had no idea where she was, but she sure as hell wasn’t home, and he had no idea when she’d be back.

He got back into his car and texted Jake.

She’s not home.

Jake took a moment to respond. Nate sat there, leaning his head back against the cloth headrest. After several minutes, he turned to look at the folder on the passenger seat. The folder containing his approval to transfer offices from the West Coast Headquarters in San Francisco to the smaller office in DC. It was a demotion, but it was worth it.

He was ready to do it. More than ready. After Zoey had left him in Sugar Cay, he’d gone home and done a lot of soul-searching. He understood her desire to stay in DC. He’d realized that it was his own selfishness that had kept them apart for so long. His unwillingness to consider her life here, her career as important and worthy.

He could have a career here—a different career from the one in San Francisco, but no less worthy.

He wanted her back. If she’d have him.

Finally, his phone beeped with an incoming text from Jake.

Where is she, then? It’s only a bit after seven.

I have no idea.

She can’t be far. Wait for a while
.
Or you could try calling her?

That would ruin the surprise.

Okay, wait. But if she doesn’t show up, just call her
, Jake advised.

He waited. And waited. And when the sun was high overhead, he texted Jake again.

Still not here. Shit.

Hold on a minute…
was Jake’s response.
I’m checking with Ella. She might know what’s up.

Nate closed his eyes. He’d been sitting in his car for hours, watching the door to Zoey’s apartment building. Several people had gone in and out. None of them were Zoey.

A few minutes later, his phone rang. He looked at the display. Jake. Huh. Jake far preferred texting over calling.

He answered. “Hey, what’s up?”

“You’re going to think this is crazy.”

Nate sat up straighter, frowning. “What? What is it?”

“Zoey is in California. Looking for you.”

 

* * * *

 

When Nathan hadn’t arrived by morning, Zoey called a cab to take her to the airport. There was nothing else to do but go home. Nathan had spent the night somewhere else. Unless it was at his parents’ house—which she couldn’t really see—then him spending the night somewhere other than his house was a Very Bad Thing.

And she wanted to be away from that Very Bad Thing as soon as possible. She felt like the elephant who’d stood on her chest when she’d seen Nathan and Oksana go to bed together had done jumping jacks on her heart, smashing it to a pulp.

She wanted to go home to Crappy Apartment and curl up in bed and cry until summer was over and she went back to work.

On the never-ending, miserable drive to the airport, she alternated between staring out the window and staring at her phone.

She could call Nate, ask where the hell he was.

But she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She was pathetic that way…or maybe she was just too much of a coward.

She’d thought she’d been so brave coming out here. But she’d come with certain expectations, only considering how happy Nathan would be when she surprised him. She’d never let herself think the worst might happen.

When she arrived at the airport, she bought a standby ticket. She didn’t make the first flight to DC. Or the second. The third wasn’t until ten fifteen in the evening—a red-eye.

Zoey had slept terribly last night; she needed a shower; her heart felt like so much pulp. She sat there in an uncomfortable state of misery, people flowing all around her, though she barely saw anyone or registered anything that happened around her. She was in a haze of misery, only pausing once for a cry session in the women’s bathroom.

She’d never felt so lonely.

All she could think about was getting home to Crappy Apartment. She needed that small space, her comfy, threadbare PJs. She needed her pillow and her soft Snuggie, and she needed to curl up in her bed.

That was all she needed. Well, all that, and maybe some Ben & Jerry’s.

Finally, they began to board the ten-fifteen flight to Dulles. They boarded the entire plane before calling the standby passengers. She was number one on the list—one little perk for being there all damn day.

Finally…
finally
, they called her name. She grabbed her carry-on and headed toward the woman who was scanning the boarding passes.

“Zo?”

She stopped in her tracks. Then turned slowly, searching for the source of the voice.

He was hazy at first, like everything had been today. Unclear and blurred. She stared, and as she did so, her vision cleared, until she could see every part of him, every line and angle from the jean-encased legs to the slightly wrinkled button-down and how one side of his collar was bent up. Then, her gaze moved up, and she saw the line of his jaw, dark with what looked like two days’ growth of beard, his sharp cheekbones, his untamed blond hair. And his eyes. Blue like the Caribbean sky. So blue. And the way they were gazing at her right now…

“Miss?” the woman behind her said.

She glanced back over her shoulder, then returned her attention to Nathan. “What… Why are you here?”

“For you,” he said plainly.

“Where were you last night?”

He took a deep breath. Without breaking his gaze from her, he said, “I was in DC last night, Zoey.”

She looked around, confused. “But we’re in San Francisco.”

“I flew back as soon as I heard you were here.”

“How did you know that?”

“Jake. Ella told him.”

“But why were you in DC?”

“Miss?” the woman behind her said again.

She kept her gaze on Nathan and raised the ticket she was clutching in her hand, wrinkling the paper. “I finally got on a flight.”

He took a step forward, shaking his head. “No, babe. This time, I’m not letting you go.”

He reached out and pulled her to him as the voice of the woman rang out behind her, irritated now. “Miss, you really need to board the airplane so the crew can close the doors.”

She buried her face in Nate’s chest. Beyond the scents of airplane and airport, he smelled so good. Like laundry detergent and man…and Nate. He smelled like home.

He pressed a kiss to the top of her head, then looked up to the woman. “She’s not going anywhere. She’s staying with me.”

 

 

Chapter Six

 

The ride back to Nathan’s house was quiet, mostly. Zoey rested her chin in her palm, her elbow on the door as she gazed out the window. It seemed all the fog from the city had condensed inside her head. Now, the air was clear and the city sparkled around them.

Before, the ride to and from the airport had seemed so long, but this time it felt like only a couple of minutes had passed before they were pulling into Nathan’s small garage. He turned to look at her. “Jake said you came here.”

She nodded, then shook her head, her lips twisting. “Not exactly. I didn’t go into your garage.”

“But you did go into my house.” His voice was flat—she couldn’t read it. Was he angry she’d broken in?

“Yes.” She straightened her shoulders, because she could defend that decision with
so much
ammunition.

But then he grinned, and the tension melted from her muscles. “Did you like it?”

“It’s amazing,” she said. Because that was the truth. Head and shoulders above Crappy Apartment.

“There are equally amazing places in DC.”

She tilted her head at him and narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean by that?”

He just shrugged and got out of the car. Before she could open her own door, he’d done it for her. She looked up at him, one eyebrow cocked. “This isn’t a first date, Nathan. You don’t need to impress me by opening my door for me.”

“I just couldn’t wait to see you again, babe.” He held out his hand to help her out. She took it. His hand engulfed hers, warm and firm, and she let him pull her out of the low bucket seat of his BMW.

He didn’t let her hand go as he unlocked the door and led her inside. He flicked on the lights as they moved down the hall and then into the kitchen. He released her hand, and she stood by the granite island while he continued on to the refrigerator.

“You look like you’ve been through hell,” he commented as he opened the fridge and bent down to look into it.

She had. And now…now she was just confused. She didn’t know how to interpret his actions since he’d met her in the airport. And she was so tired. Her head was pounding from the hellish day she’d just had.

“Do you want some orange juice?” he asked.

BOOK: The Reunion
12.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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