“Ms. Freemont, this is Dr. Maloney. I’m sorry to be calling you out of the blue like this, but your parents told me that there might be some cause for concern. Could you please call me back and let me know if you’re all right, and where you are? Your parents are very worried, and I would like to get you the help you need and deserve.” He left his number and then hung up.
I stared at the phone, blinking at it like it had slapped me.
Was that a . . . psychiatrist? Did they think, just because I didn’t want to marry Prescott or stick around in their plastic little world, that I was having some kind of mental breakdown?
But then, I had fled the scene without a word and headed for California. That would worry any parent, I was sure. Even if my mom’s Botoxed face was no longer capable of expressing emotion, surely there was a heart left rattling somewhere in that impossibly narrow chest cavity of hers.
Conflicted, I clicked on the next message and listened.
“Charlotte, darling, it’s me.” My mom’s voice floated over the line, airy and light, as if she were calling to see if I was available for tea this afternoon. “I know you must be in a state right now. You probably think you’ve ruined everything, and I won’t lie. It is a little tough around the club,” she said with a cluck of her tongue that set my teeth on edge. “But you have to remember other girls have still made worse mistakes. Remember when Nina Weiss’s daughter ran away and eloped with that boy she met on the subway, of all places? Anyway, what I’m saying is come home. Prescott and Daddy will forgive you. Just come home and forget this momentary lapse.”
The message ended and I looked down at the phone again. She hadn’t asked if I was okay—hadn’t even asked where I was. Though, of course, I knew why.
It didn’t matter. Or it wouldn’t until I was exactly where they told me to be.
“Well, better make the rounds of it,” I mumbled and held up the phone to listen to my dad’s message.
There was a long moment of silence, then the sound of men laughing and the clicking of glasses followed by low chatter. Someone said something that was too muffled to make out, and Dad replied in a booming voice, “So then Duff says, you think that’s bad, you should see the other guy!” More laughter followed, and I clicked the message off without waiting to hear the other forty-three seconds.
My father had butt-dialed me. As far as he knew, I was missing and heartbroken, and he was out somewhere drinking and laughing with his buddies, telling tired old stories?
I set my jaw, trying to ignore the sting, and scrolled down to find another message from my mother. I clicked on it more out of righteous anger than interest, and when her voice floated over the line again, I gritted my teeth, waiting for her to ask me this time where I was, or if I was okay.
“Charlotte, honey, it’s me again. I wanted you to know I’ve paid everyone from the reception and that’s all handled. I’ve also arranged for you to see a few doctors, so they should be calling you in short order. I hope to see you soon.”
She hoped to see me soon? That was it?
No I love you?
My mother’s only concern was for her checkbook—and her image. And that was exactly why I’d escaped—and exactly why I hadn’t told Luke about my past. I didn’t want him believing I was some silly society girl who only cared about the label stitched into her clothes or the number of zeroes in her bank account. I wasn’t like them. I wasn’t. And even though I knew that I shouldn’t have lied to Luke when he asked me about Prescott, I just wanted so badly to believe that all of that was behind me, and never speak of it again.
I slammed my phone on the kitchen table and huffed out a sigh, blinking back angry, frustrated tears.
I was just about to slam it again, just for the satisfaction of it, when a deep male voice behind me made me jump.
“Early to bed, early to rise, I guess,” Luke murmured, looping his arms around me and pulling me back against his chest.
I could feel the long, rigid outline of his cock against my ass. It was amazing how just the feel of his heated skin could mellow the fury in my chest while unfurling a whole other kind of heat inside me.
“What was all that about?” He nodded toward my phone, and I shook my head.
“Nothing. Checking for word about the car.” The lies were coming quicker and easier, and I hated myself for that, but there was no sense in dragging him into my drama when I was leaving in two days.
“I’m guessing it’s not ready by that reaction. I hate to say it, but I wouldn’t hold your breath on hearing about that anytime soon.”
“I know, I know. It’s Saturday, so Wayne’s drunk.” I rolled my eyes. “It doesn’t take long to learn the ins and outs of a place like this.”
He stiffened and paused, still in the process of nuzzling my hair. “Something wrong with that?”
I wanted to bite my tongue off. “Not at all,” I said, shaking my head. “What does Saturday normally look like for you?”
“When there’s a beautiful woman in my house, I tend not to leave the bed. Especially since she was asleep when I got home last night.” He laced his fingers with mine and spun me around to face him. “What do you say, beautiful? Want to go get dirty together?”
“I’d say that would be perfect,” I murmured as he leaned in to kiss me, but I put my finger on his lips, calling on every bit of my willpower to hold him in place. “If we didn’t have so much work to do. You said you wanted my help, and I want to help you. Now tell me, where do you work best?”
With a long-suffering sigh and the promise of a reward when we were done, Luke arranged all the papers and forms I needed on his dining room table, and I settled in to work. For the next couple of hours, we pored over the papers and drew out designs.
When the morning became the afternoon, Luke disappeared into the kitchen to make us sandwiches, leaving me alone to take a break. I found myself glancing around his house, still sort of pinching myself that I was there.
It really was a sweet little place—bright and cheery with all the homey touches I would never have expected in a bachelor pad. It was a house built for a family, and as I stared around the table, I pictured tiny little Lukes sitting in those empty chairs, all joining hands and saying grace before their Sunday meal.
It was like a fantasy family life, certainly not anything I’d grown up with, and for the first time I felt a little envious of Luke. His parents were gone but he still had Duke and Molly, and the legacy of that early family life would always be with them. They could all still sit around this table, and if he went missing . . .
Well, there was no doubt that one of his loved ones would at least ask where he was.
My heart gave a squeeze and I gnawed on my lower lip, trying to push the thoughts of my family from my mind. Luckily, Luke reappeared a few seconds later and sat a turkey sandwich in front of me, the crusts cut off and the sandwich itself cut into four perfect triangles.
I laughed, my melancholy evaporating under the warmth of his boyish grin. “Wow, gourmet.”
“Only the best for you, city girl.”
There was no malice in his words, though, and I picked up the sandwich and bit in. It had been years since someone had made me a sandwich like this, but there was no denying the simple goodness.
He took a seat across from me and dug in as we talked. He told stories about his friends and the business, and about Duke and Molly. Suddenly, the image of all of us sitting around the table became even clearer in my mind, and I got so wrapped up in the flow of conversation that I found myself speaking before I stopped to think.
“What do you think the odds are of your wife having twins like you and Duke?” I asked, taking a hasty bite of my sandwich to distract from my reddening face.
Oh Lord, I’d really done it now. He was going to think I was some sort of loony stalker, naming our twins after what amounted to nothing more than a little fling.
He shot me a quizzical glance. “I don’t know. Why do you ask?”
“No reason at all,” I said brightly, shaking my head. “I just feel bad for her and her vag and all. Probably rough on the old girl, squeezing out doubles, you know?”