Cheater's Regret (Curious Liaisons 2) - Page 35

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Yeah, I officially hated Thatch’s neighbor.

“Sounds lovely,” I said in a sarcastic tone.

His eyes narrowed. “You don’t know shit. Then again, I imagine he’s just waiting to drop the bomb on you like he did me—now look at me!” He flailed his arms wide. “Woke up in my own vomit.”

“This has been a really great conversation, but I need to go.” I backed away toward the door and then made a run for it down the street to my car. Once I got inside, I locked my doors with shaking hands and dialed Thatch’s number.

It went straight to voice mail.

I started the car and headed toward campus, thankful that I could at least focus on something, no matter how irritating, instead of the creepy next-door neighbor.

I shuddered again and quickly turned off my car, then made a mad dash toward the business building.

Only to find a note on the door:

Email me your final thoughts on your project, what you learned, and how you can apply it, by five thirty this evening. Professor Asshole. Fine, so it didn’t say “Asshole”; I added that part.

Ugh. Creepy run-in with the neighbor, and all for nothing. I could have slept in! Drunk all of Thatch’s chocolate milk and then overanalyzed our relationship!

With a grimace, I stomped back to my car, got in, and checked my phone.

Still nothing from Thatch.

Should I be worried?

It just wasn’t like him.

Not at all.

Finally, a bit of desperation kicked in and I called his office.

Mia answered in her usual cheerful voice. “Seattle Plastics, how may I direct your call?”

“Hey, Mia.” I chewed my thumbnail. “It’s Austin Rogers. Has Dr. Holloway come in yet?”

“I haven’t seen him.” I could picture her bright smile as she checked his calendar. “Looks like he doesn’t have any appointments until this afternoon.”

I sighed.

“Oh, wait!” The tap-tap of her fingernails was driving me a bit batty. “He did mention something about brunch when he called in this morning to double-check his one o’clock.”

I swallowed the dryness in my throat. “Did, um, did he say where?”

“I wrote it down.” She cleared her throat. “The Downtown Fifth Street Bistro, you know it?”

“Yeah.” My stomach clenched. I knew it alright. It was one of my mom’s favorite places to escape to, especially now that she was in the limelight so much. She loved the intimate atmosphere, and it was really dimly lit.

“Thanks, Mia!” I hung up and checked my phone.

Brunch.

But it was still a bit early for brunch. Maybe he meant to surprise me and just hadn’t texted yet? Regardless, I really needed to grab some more clothes from my parents’ place.

Decision made, I drove the short distance to my house, expecting it to be empty.

Instead, my dad was home.

He was never home this late in the morning.

“Hey, Dad.” I walked in and tossed my keys on the table. “Everything okay?”

His shirt looked ruffled, and his eyes were a bit distant. “Is it true?”

“Huh?”

“Are you going to keep dating Thatch Holloway? I thought it wasn’t serious?”

Taken aback, I didn’t answer right away. Why did it matter? “Look, if this is about Braden—”

“Well, it damn well will be about Braden.”

“Dad!” I never raised my voice at him. “What’s going on?”

“Are you.” He stood to his full height. “Dating him?”

“Well, yeah,” I finally said. “I love him.”

My dad’s eyes widened a fraction of an inch before a cruel smile passed over his features. “I’m sure you think you do, but, honey, these things, they pass.”

“Love? Passes?” I shook my head. “Are you even listening to yourself?”

“Are you?”

“Dad, what’s this really about?”

“He’s not good news,” my dad said coldly. “I’m sure by now you know the whole story, his drunken father, his mom—”

“Whoa!” I held up my hands. “That’s none of my business, and it’s none of yours either!”

“Oh?” His eyes were like ice. Why was he acting this way? And what did it have to do with Thatch?

“You’ll see for yourself. Love just opens you up to pain, and then, when you allow yourself to finally believe that everything’s going to be okay, a bomb drops.”

“Is this about Mom?”

“Your mom?” Dad repeated, his eyes a bit crazed. “Of course it is!”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“She’s cheating on me!” Dad shouted.

I gasped and covered my hands with my face. “Are you sure?”

He broke eye contact. “She hasn’t been home.”

“So you don’t know for sure?”

“A cheater knows a cheater,” Dad said in a hoarse whisper.

“Wait, back up, are you saying—”

Dad shrugged. “I’m not saying anything.”

“But you just—”

“Austin!” He yelled my name, causing me to stumble away from the barstool. He never raised his voice at me. “Just do yourself a favor and break up with that boy before you get hurt.”

“But I love him.”

Dad nodded. “Does he love you?”

“YES!” Now it was my turn to yell. “Of course he does!”

“Have you met his parents?”

I gulped. “Well, no, but he’s really private about family stuff.”

“Uh-huh.” Dad scratched his head. “And the reason you guys originally broke up? He just happened to have a change of heart?”

“Yes.”

“And you still haven’t met his parents?”

Why was he repeating himself? “His parents have nothing to do with this!”

“Oh, honey.” Dad’s smile was unpleasant. “I sometimes forget how young you are. Why, you’re just a girl.”

A girl.

Thatch said he wanted a woman.

My eyes stung with unshed tears.

That had been weeks ago.

And he’d only said it to be mean.

Right?

He said I was perfect.

Beautiful.

I couldn’t stay in that house any longer. I left without saying another word, without grabbing any more clothes, and drove blindly toward the bistro downtown.

He was just having brunch.

Probably with Lucas.

They had bro dates all the time.

It was totally fine.

Everything was completely fine.

With a deep breath, I tugged open the door to the small restaurant and searched the sparse tables for him.

Sure enough.

In the back corner.

He was sitting, sipping coffee, his expression worried.

And then, a woman placed her hand on his; he squeezed it and hung his head; she stood and kissed him on the freaking forehead.

I let out a little gasp.

Just as the woman turned around and paled.

My mom.

And suddenly everything clicked into place.

He wanted the older version of me.

He wanted a woman.

She’d come to see him at his office!

Was I the way in?

Or just in the way?

Nothing made sense.

And in my pain and confusion, I turned on my heel and ran.

Past my car, down the street, in the rain, until the water from the sky mixed with my tears, and I cried until I had nothing left.

Chapter Thirty-Five

THATCH

That morning, I had left a sleeping Austin in my bed.

My warm bed.

She glowed, like an angel, her hair spread across the pillows while her arm was tucked under her head. She was peaceful, like she didn’t have a care in the world. The last thing I

wanted to do was leave.


Tags: Rachel Van Dyken Curious Liaisons Romance
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