Ashley Fletcher is legally separated from her husband and on the verge of a divorce when a man she met years before comes into her tobacco shop.
Bryce Haze is a man of daydreams, and they had a growing friendship before he completely disappeared from her life. Now he is back, and in light of her pending divorce, they jump headlong into the relationship both of them once dreamed of.
They spend three completely involved days together, but when they return to reality, they discover that a fast spreading pandemic has broken out. The virus leaves its survivors with a semi-mindless lust for blood and raw meat. As Bryce struggles to keep both of them alive, he fears that Ashley may have contracted the virus, but can he keep the only promise she ever asked him to make?
Ashley heard the door open and glanced over.
“Hey, beautiful, long time no see. Tell me that you dumped that stupid husband of yours and you’ll go out with me.”
Ashley smiled, her soft snort of laughter bordering on a snicker. “If it isn’t Bryce Haze. How you been?”
“Doing better. I had an urge for one of your great vanilla cigars, and I needed a walk.”
His eyes betrayed him as he glanced down at the floor. “Honestly, I was hoping you were closed, because I wasn’t sure if I was ready to face you again.”
“Face me? Why do you say that?”
“I don’t know how to explain it. I loved having coffee with you and talking. It was too hard, though. I wanted more than just friendship. I had to keep reminding myself that you were happily married. I started to think of you as a dangerous addiction that left me taking cold showers and waking up depressed in the morning. Like the drugs I used to take, the best way to come clean was to just quit. I missed you, though.”
“I missed you, too. I was just about to close up. Think you can handle having a cup of coffee with me now?”
“Probably not, but I would love to.”
“Give me a few minutes to lock things up. I can come back later and close out the computer.”
Ashley sealed up the display cases and set the computer on password standby. It was after her normal closing time, and she had been puttering around anyway.
Bryce was waiting outside as she turned and pulled down the grates over the door.
“Why are you open late?”
“I don’t have much to go home to anymore.”
He grimaced. “Did I stick my foot in my mouth before with my snide comment about your husband?”
“Kind of. I didn’t dump him, though. Randy’s mother got sick about six months ago. He took a leave of absence from work and went down to stay with her for a week. When he found out that she was dying, he stayed longer. He filed for a legal separation. He called me about a month later and said that he wanted a divorce. He also wanted me to wait so we could discuss splitting up our equity in person. I haven’t seen him since. I talked to my attorney about getting the divorce on this end, but she thinks that Randy will contest it. It’ll turn into a big court battle because I didn’t do as he asked. I hate to waste half our life savings on court fees and attorneys. I figure his mother is leaving him the house. He’ll be pretty well off. I have the store, and my hobbies. It seemed kind of stupid to push the issue. For the time being, I filed for a legal separation with a divorce pending. I’ve even changed my last name back to Fletcher.” A single tear dripped down her cheek, and Ashley swiped angrily at it. “I don’t want him to come back. I gave him twelve years of my life, and he shit on me. I’m sick of feeling angry.”
“One of my therapists told me the only one who controls my emotions is me. If you are angry, then it’s because you are allowing yourself to be so.”
“I suppose. Did he mention how to stop emotions from happening?” she asked in frustration. “Did he tell you how to turn off your brain? How do you tell the stupid memories and comments speaking in your mind to shut the hell up?”
“Find something better to think about.” Bryce honored her with one of his sly smiles, the gesture lighting his face like living sunlight. “I would be a good subject.”
“Who says I don’t think about you?”
The smile faded, his bottom lip dropping as he stared at her. “What?”