Olivia nearly laughed at just how wrong every word in that sentence was. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“I like my life here.”
“You don’t have a life here, Sharlyn, you have lies here.”
“I’m not leaving.” She was surprised at how easy it was to say. “I’ve met someone.”
“Uh-huh. And does this guy know you’re just playing your latest role?” Jolyn asked. Her gaze suddenly shifted to something behind Olivia, her face brightening as she straightened. “Well, hello,” she purred.
Olivia went stock-still and then whipped around. Oh, God. Cole.
He had a hammer in one hand, a two-by-four in the other. He’d shoved up the sleeves of his shirt and was covered in sawdust, and still he looked like the best thing that had ever happened to her.
Had he meant what he’d said? That people got mad, and then they got over it? Hope slammed her heart into her ribs painfully. Maybe her happy marker didn’t have to come up.
But then he met her gaze, and the hope died so fast her chest felt like it had caved in on itself.
With one last long look at her, he turned and walked out.
Cole couldn’t remember walking out of Unique Boutique, but when he blinked, he was standing outside in a very light mist. He actually had to look down at himself and make sure he was still upright, he’d gone that numb.
Reeling, he shook his head. She wasn’t Olivia Bentley. That was just someone she’d made up. Her entire life was a lie. No, scratch that. She hadn’t told him enough about herself to equal an entire life. Just bits and pieces.
But those bits and pieces had all been lies.
His brain was stuck on that. He’d opened himself up and revealed himself to her. And she’d lied about…everything.
As if from a distance, he saw himself shoving his hand into his pocket for his keys and heading for his truck. He was on autopilot, which worked for him. Numb.
“Cole, please stop.”
He didn’t until he was at his truck and she put a hand on his arm.
“How much did you hear?” Olivia asked.
He stared at her. “Seriously? Is that the concern here?”
“I can explain,” she said.
Yeah, he’d heard that one before. From Susan’s lips on the day of Gil’s funeral. And hell if he was going to be made a fool of for a second time in a row.
Too late, asshole.
Shrugging her off, he hauled open the door of his truck and slid behind the wheel.
Olivia stepped into the space between the cab of the truck and the door so that he couldn’t close it.
“We need to talk,” she said.
He let out a harsh laugh and tilted his head back to stare up at the roof of the truck. “Now she wants to talk.”
“Please,” she whispered.
He closed his eyes and his heart to the pain in her voice. “It’s too late for that.”
“No,” she said. “When I walked out last night, you said it was okay, that I was just mad. That’s what this is, right? It’s your turn to walk out mad, and later it will be okay. Right?”
“Wrong.” So very wrong. “Olivia, you let me think you didn’t have any family. You stood in my mother’s house, moved by my relationship with my family, and let me console you because you were alone. I wanted to make things better for you.”
She was pale and wide-eyed. “It’s…hard to explain.”
“No,” he said. “It’s one word. Lies.” He turned the key. His truck engine roared to life, which was a relief. Something was working.
She reached for him but he caught her hand in his, and put his other hand to her stomach to hold her back.
But touching her was a mistake, a big one. His brain hadn’t yet gotten the message that he’d been screwed over yet again. And plus she was shaking.
Apparently he could feel something after all.
“You don’t understand,” Olivia said softly, hoping to reach him. Desperate to reach him. “All my life, it’s been me playing someone else, so that I didn’t even know who I really was. I stopped being honest with people a long time ago.”
“That was your choice,” he said.
“Yeah, a hard-learned choice. The last person I told the truth to was my college boyfriend. He had a film fest and charged admission to the party without warning me. I showed up and it was…” She shook her head. “Humiliating, to say the least.”
“Jesus.” He scrubbed a hand down his face. “That was a real asshole move, but I’d never have done that to you, and you damn well knew it.”
“I just wanted to start over,” she said. “So I came here and erased my past.”
“You can’t erase your past,” he said. “It’s a part of you. You have to accept it before you can move on.”
She met his gaze. “Is that what you did after Gil and Susan? You accepted it and moved on?”
He stared back for a long beat. “I actually thought I was doing just that. And I thought I was doing it with you.”
She searched desperately for some softening in him and saw nothing but cool, calm resolve. He’d made up his mind about her. She hadn’t met his expectations, and it was over. Done. The thought made her shiver.
“Go inside,” he said, sounding as weary as she’d ever heard him. “It’s too cold and wet out here.”