Yep, I knew it. Early.
Lynn was already laughing as she opened the door. “Ter, I knew you would—”
The words dried up, locked in her throat.
In her doorway stood a man her rational mind had tried to convince her she’d never set eyes on again in her life.
They must have stood there for at least a minute, neither of them speaking, before he finally broke the silence.
She swallowed, tried to speak, fought the urge to throw up, and then tried again to talk. “Hi.”
Paul stood five inches taller than her at five eleven. His dark-brown hair had a little more grey in it than it had the last time she’d seen him, his hazel eyes looked far sadder than she could ever remember them, and he’d gained about twenty pounds. He also no longer wore the goatee beard and mustache she’d loved so much.
But it was Him.
His gaze dropped to his feet. “Look, you have every right to scream and yell at me and order me to leave, and I will. But I needed to tell you this in person. I’m sorry. Sarah and I are divorced. I moved out. It’s over between us. I don’t expect you to—”
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Terrie screamed as she ran up the walk.
Lynn found herself stepping between her best friend and the man who had the power to rip her heart out. Lynn was still trying to process what he’d said, the words he’d just now spoken to her.
“Terrie, don’t,” she begged. “Please.”
She tried to dodge around Lynn. “She’s finally starting to pick up the pieces of her life, and you show up now? Really? Get the hell out of here!”
“The driver’s waiting,” Terrie said, grabbing her. “Where’s your stuff. I’ll get it.”
“Can’t they wait for just a freaking minute?” She knew her friend wanted her away from Paul, and Lynn got it.
But the last thing she wanted to do was to leave now that He was in front of her.
“I-I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to hold you up. I’m sorry.”
“Wait, please?” Lynn said.
* * * *
Paul desperately hoped Terrie hadn’t gotten a concealed carry permit in the time since he’d last seen her. From the look on her face, she’d gladly take jail time to put him six feet under the ground.
Not that he blamed her.
This was like a bad imitation of Cris’ return to Tilly’s life.
The irony was, back then, he’d been one of the ones who wanted to take a swing at Cris.
Now, being on the other end of it, he got it.
Then he froze when he saw what lay around Lynn’s neck.
She’s still wearing it.
He’d searched for a while before paying Rebecca to custom make it for him out of stainless rings, the weave and ring size he’d wanted. Something Lynn could keep on all the time, heavy enough to be more than a necklace, but light enough she could comfortably wear it.
“We have to go,” Terry said. “The driver’s waiting and has a flight of people he has to meet up at TIA after he drops us off.”
Lynn threw Terrie an aggravated look before returning her focus to him. “We’re flying up to South Dakota. We’re helping Justin move down.”
His heart fell. “Justin?”
“Yeah. He’s a really nice guy.”
“Nicer than you,” Terrie growled in his direction.
His heart wanted to stop. “Oh.” He forced himself not to start crying right there. “I’d better let you get going. If you ever feel like talking, my number’s the same.”
Terrie had hold of her arm now. “Yeah, yeah. Don’t hold your breath, asshole.”
He ignored her. “I’m sorry, Lynn. You were all right, and I’m so sorry. I wish I could take it all back, but I can’t. I just hope you can forgive me one day. I did the best I thought I could. I’m sorry. That’s all I wanted to say. I know I owe you way more than that, but I wanted to at least say it to you in person. I felt I owed you that much.”
He turned and fished his keys out of his pocket, forcing himself not to break into a run as he headed to his car.
When he got in, Lynn still stood there in her doorway, staring at him, Terrie with a death grip on her arm.
He pulled out and forced himself not to look back.
Maybe if he’d sought her out immediately, maybe if he’d…
He wiped at his eyes as he waited for the exit gate to roll open so he could escape.
All he wanted to do now was go home and get himself drunk and pass out.
Then he’d figure out what to do with his damn shell of a life after that.
* * * *
“Lynn, where’s your—”
“He’s divorced,” Lynn said, shock still settling in as she stared after where he’d gone. “He said he’s divorced.”
“Yeah, I know he’s divorced. Where’s your stuff?”
She turned on Terrie, finally shaking free. “What? You knew? Since when?”
Now Terrie had the decency to turn red in the face. “I was looking something up online a few months back and happened to punch his name into the county clerk’s database and saw the filing. It wasn’t final when I saw it, though.”
Lynn blinked, staring. “You knew he’d filed for divorce and didn’t fucking tell me?”
“What the hell was I supposed to tell you, huh? I had no clue what was going on. It was all I could do to make you take in a few hundred calories every day. Okay? I wasn’t going to get your hopes up just for you to get crushed again. That’s what friends do. They shield the people they love from the raging shitstorms in their lives and try to keep them moving forward.”
Lynn stared at her for a long moment. “Were you ever going to tell me?”
Terrie straightened and ran a hand through her hair. “Honestly? No. Not unless I hunted the son of a bitch down first myself and asked him what the ever-lovin’ fuck. No way in hell was I going to expose you to him unless I knew for sure he wasn’t going to fucking finish killing you from the inside out. I love you, but honey, you’re killing yourself. Look at you. Why’d you lose all that weight, huh? You’re like a fucking bunch of goddamned bones. This isn’t healthy. Now where are your bags?”
“Inside the door,” Lynn said, numbly staring in the direction he’d driven. “Make sure Vinnie didn’t get out, please.”
They didn’t talk much during the rest of their lunch. Lynn knew she’d need some time to regroup and figure out what she wanted to say to him.
Things she didn’t want to say in an increasingly busy restaurant, when she knew dang well she’d be crying through a lot of it.
Paul’s phone didn’t go off again, either.
“Did you want to go anywhere?” he finally asked. “Sightsee?”
“I would like to see Falls Park. It sounds pretty. Not like we get to see many of those in Florida. Waterfalls, that is.”
“Where is it?”
She pulled it up on her phone. “Not too far from here. It’s just north of downtown.”
“Do you want me to reserve a separate hotel room when we get back?”
Staring at him, she realized he was serious. “No, I don’t want you to get a separate room. Why would I want you to do that?”
“I’m just asking. I didn’t want to assume anything.”
“I didn’t just spend two years forcibly separated from you to not have you in the same room.”
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that you don’t hate me.”
She fought back the prickle of tears threatening to break through again. “I’ve never hated you. I hated the circumstances and what happened. I’ve always loved you. I knew you didn’t want this to work out the way it did.”
Outside, the sky had clouded up, and the temperature had dropped a little more, but it didn’t feel like rain yet. With Lynn navigating, they soon found their way to the park. Hand in hand, they walked over toward the falls and stood there, reading the information on one of the placards, Paul finally stepping behind her and wrapping his arms around her.
She pulled her phone out and took a selfie of them together. Their first in two years.
Even if this flamed out and crashed, she knew she would in the future spend countless hours staring at that one picture.
She slipped her phone back into her pocket.
“This is nice,” he said. “Thank you for suggesting it.”
School must have still been in session because there weren’t many people around, and those they saw were adults, not kids.
“It’s amazing what the force of water can do,” she said. “Cutting through rock like that.” The breeze blew over them, the sound of the falls rushing below them. “I fell hard for you once already. I never stopped falling. Then I got buried in an emotional rockslide. Don’t jerk me around. I refuse to manipulate you like she did, but I’m going to be honest that I can’t and won’t go through that misery again. I can’t promise I won’t get bitchy sometimes over this, either.”
He nuzzled her left cheek. “I’m not going anywhere. I promise. This time, it’s a promise I will keep.”
She turned in his arms, draping hers around his neck, staring into his eyes—
And then her phone rang, Terrie’s ringtone.
“Shit.” She fumbled her phone out of her pocket again. “Hey, what’s up?”
“I’m here safely, and he’s landed. Just waiting for him to deplane. How you holding up?”
“Oh, fine. Had lunch and now I’m at Falls Park.”
“That’s cool. Is it pretty? Take pictures.”
“Yes, it is, and yes, I am. I’ll probably hit their visitor center.”
“Get a receipt if you buy anything. If you use it in a book, don’t forget, it’s tax deductible.”
“Will do. So what will—”
Somewhere nearby, a loud siren started blaring, making her jump.
“Lynn?” Terrie asked. “What the hell is that?”
“I don’t know.” She and Paul were both looking around in confusion. People were starting to run. “It’s a siren. I don’t know where it’s coming from.”
“A siren? Hold on, I’ve got my iPad with me.” Terrie spoke seconds later. “Fuck, it’s a tornado warning. Get out of there!”
“Where do I drive to?”
“Not your car! Whatever you do, stay out of a car. It can pick them up and toss them. Get into a building, someplace solid.”
Lynn turned, scanning, and spotted a small, concrete bathroom. “Over there.” They started running, Paul grabbing her free hand and not letting go.
“The tornado?” Terrie shrieked.
“No, a bathroom. We’re heading there now.”
“Take shelter. Hold on to the toilet if it hits the building.”
“How do we know it’s safe?”
“The siren will stop. And check your phone weather app. You’ll be able to see the radar. You’ve got like ten to fifteen minutes before that system hits. I think it’ll be to the northwest of you, but get inside now.”
“I’ll call you back.” As they raced toward the ladies room, she shoved her phone back into her pocket. They dove inside and scurried down to the farthest stall from the door, the large, wheelchair-accessible stall, where they locked themselves in and hunkered down.
She stared at Paul.
He stared back.
Heart pounding, Lynn grabbed Paul and kissed him, hard, shoving him against the concrete wall.
Outside, the sirens still wailed as she reached for his belt to unfasten it, fumbling at it until he pushed her hands away and grabbed hers, quickly working it free and opening her jeans.
He spun her around, her back against him and cradling her body against his, his left hand gently cupping the front of her throat, the right sliding down the front of her jeans, into her panties, her clit tingling as his finger immediately found its target.
“Who’s my good girl?” he whispered in her ear.
A shiver raced up and down her body, gooseflesh rippling her skin. “I am, Sir.”
“How long’s it been since—”
“I haven’t,” she admitted, wishing he’d just shut up and give her some relief.
“What?” When he started to release her throat, she clamped her hand over his and refused to let go.
“Please, Sir,” she whispered. “Please!”
The hand cupping her throat tightened again, the other hand…
Her eyes dropped closed as his fingers stroked her clit, and a moan escaped her. Her hands slid from his left wrist and to his lower arm, where her fingers closed around him, holding on.
His left hand, over her throat, slid north, covering her mouth. His warm breath blew across her right ear as he nuzzled it with his lips. “Come for me, pet.”
She did. Hard. Tears streaming down her face, she rocked her body against his, the first orgasm she’d had since the last time they’d been together filling her with pleasure, relief, release long denied her.
The hand over her mouth firmly pressed down, muffling her cries, a wise move on his part.
His right hand sped up, relentless, apparently she was not the only one who still remembered how things had been between them. He kept her orgasm going, spinning. “My good girl,” he whispered in her ear. “Such a good girl.”
Tears rolled down her cheeks, emotions overwhelming her, her brain short-circuiting. Somewhere, she was vaguely aware of the tornado sirens and the sound of rain now pelting against the roof, but she didn’t care.
If irony struck and the tornado killed her right then, she’d die a happy fucking woman.
She dug her fingers into the flesh of his arm, afraid to let go, that maybe this was just a dream and she’d open her eyes and find herself in her bed at home, alone, no lotto ticket, no Paul.
His fingers slid lower, into her pussy and back again, up and down, stroking, finger-fucking her with two and wringing more pleasure out of her body. Finally, he pulled his hand out of her pants. He swapped hands, sliding the two fingers into her mouth as his left arm dropped, encircling her waist. He nibbled on the side of her neck as she deep-throated his fingers, sucking her juices off him.
Finally, he loosened his hold on her, and she turned, dropping to her knees and freeing his cock, his gasp of pleasure as her mouth engulfed his hard shaft sending another jolt of need to her pussy. He held on to her head, tight, fingers digging into her scalp.
Automatically, her hands slipped behind his thighs, holding on, the warmth of his body through the denim warming her palms as she let him fuck her mouth, use her.