Sample Chapter – Lost in You
The concluding part of the Swanson Court Trilogy.
What do you do when you take a leap of faith, and you don’t get what you expected?
You move on.
That is exactly what Rachel plans to do, to put aside her heartbreak, and concentrate on her work and the people she loves.
But Landon is not easy to forget. When he reappears in her life, is he offering the perfect ending she wants more than anything, or just another flirtation with heartbreak, pain, danger, and devastating loss.
I LOVE fall in New York. The crisp air, brilliant colors, clear skies and beautiful sunsets. But today, as the car from the airport comes to a stop outside my building, I hardly notice those things.
Once again, I’ve walked away from the man I love, even though it was the last thing I wanted to do. I still feel a strange kind of certainty from baring my feelings to Landon, but I can’t help wishing that things had turned out differently.
But they hadn’t. Landon reacted to my confession that I was in love with him, not with pity and regret, as I’d feared, or reciprocation as I’d hoped, but with the fear that somehow, he was going to hurt me.
That meant something, at least. It meant that I could hope, that maybe, just maybe, he could conquer whatever fears from his past made him reluctant to commit to me, the way I was committed to him.
Now I only have to wait. Sometimes, holding on is not the answer. Sometimes, you have to let go and let love find a way to work. If Landon’s feelings for me are strong enough for him to want to build something with me, he knows where to find me. If he chooses to let me go, then I’ll have no excuse to keep dwelling on him. I’ll have no choice but to move on.
And I’m strong enough to do that.
With that thought, I start to fish for the keys to my apartment inside my purse. The Swanson Court driver who picked me up at the airport is still standing at the top of the stairs, carrying my luggage. “Thank you,” I tell him with a small smile. “You can leave it here.”
He does as I say, giving me a polite nod before leaving. I let myself into the apartment, pausing at the door when I see Laurie and Brett seated on the couch. They’re facing each other, their heads close together and their hands clasped.
When they notice me, Brett starts to get up, still holding Laurie’s hands. His eyes are glistening with tears, contrasting with the wide heartfelt smile on his face.
I turn a puzzled glance to Laurie, who’s also standing now, facing me. She has definitely been crying, her cheeks are wet, but like Brett, she’s smiling through the tears.
“Hi Rachel,” she says softly.
Her voice tells me that it’s okay to hope that something has gone right. I look from her face to Brett’s, then back again. “Please tell me you’re not fighting anymore,” I whisper.
Laurie shakes her head. She lets out a happy laugh. “No, we’re not.”
Taking the few steps to where she’s standing, I envelop her in a hug before turning to Brett. “Glad to see you finally got it together,” I tell him, hugging him too.
“Me too, Rach.” He returns my hug and kisses both my cheeks. His eyes are still glistening. “Thank you,” he whispers.
“I’m just so happy for you both.” I roll my eyes at Laurie. “Finally!”
“We’re going to get married,” she whispers, an edge of excitement in her voice. She releases a shaky breath, as if she doesn’t quite believe it yet. “We’re getting married,” she repeats.
I turn to Brett, my eyes wide and my mouth open. He nods in confirmation and I scream, throwing my arms around Laurie again. “Oh Laurie! I’m so happy.” Now, I’m actually crying with happiness. “Wow!” I give her an arch look, “A lot happened while I was gone.”
Laurie giggles, “You wouldn’t believe.”
“I have to get back to the gym,” Brett says. He’s still grinning, his chest swelled with happiness. He bends to kiss Laurie on the forehead and she leans into him, wrapping her arms around his waist. Their intimacy and emotional connection is palpable, and I might as well not even be in the room. After a few seconds, they reluctantly pull apart. “I’ll leave you two to catch up,” Brett continues, his hand lingering around Laurie’s. He finally lets it drop so he can give me another quick hug. “I’ll come back later,” he tells Laurie, before leaving.
I wait for the door to close behind him then I scream again and give Laurie another excited hug. “How did this happen?”
She sighs happily and falls back on the couch. “Where do I begin?”
“At the beginning!” I throw up my hands. “Last night, you said… you and Chadwick…” I join her on the couch. “What the fuck happened?”
She covers her face, giggling behind her hands. “I couldn’t do it.” She drops her hands and gives me a shamefaced look before shaking her head. “I just couldn’t. I went there thinking that maybe I needed to get under someone else so I could get over Brett, and I was ready to. Chadwick is cute and sexy, you know?”
“Yeah…?” I shrug. “So what happened?”
“We got talking. Me and Chadwick. The food was horrible, God!” She grimaces. “Anyway, we drank wine, got slightly drunk, then I started talking about Brett, and even though I knew somewhere in my head that this was a date and I was supposed to be thinking of doing the dirty with Chadwick, I just couldn’t stop talking about Brett.”
“Poor Chadwick.” I sigh. “How did he react?”
“He listened.” Laurie smiles. “He’s really sweet, isn’t he? Underneath all that, ‘I can’t wait to get into your pants’ swagger.”
I laugh at her description of Chadwick’s harmless flirting. “He is,” I agree.
“Anyway,” Laurie continues, “At some point, it just became clear that what I needed wasn’t some quick fix to try to get over Brett. What I really needed was to tell him how I felt, to listen to him and try to make it work.”
I hug myself. “Awww. That’s so sweet.”
Laurie swats me playfully. “Chadwick called me a cab, and on the way, I called Brett. I took my own advice and told him everything I was feeling, my fears, everything I thought he didn’t understand.” She smiles. “He came over, we fought, made up, cried… Then it just kinda slipped out that he wanted us to spend the rest of our lives together. He didn’t plan to.” She holds up her hand. “See, no ring.”
I blink back tears. “I’m just glad you’re happy.”
“Me too.” Her eyes start to glisten and she blinks rapidly. “I can hardly believe how happy I am. I can’t believe that I was going to throw it all away because of a stupid hug in front of a stupid diner.” She looks at me. “He explained all about that too. She left her boyfriend and moved here to escape the ‘small town life’ and she’s been incredibly lonely. She’s been struggling with the desire to move back home, trying to find reasons to stay, but she’s finally leaving, and the diner was her goodbye lunch. Brett wasn’t even the only one there from the gym. He just came out with her because he was leaving too. Everyone else was still inside.”
“Really?” I chuckle, “And you made me power walk almost the whole way home.”
“Sorry.” She gives me a sheepish look. “I feel sorry now that I didn’t listen to him, but maybe we needed to go through all that to get here.”
I sigh. “You’re right,” I agree softly.
She takes my hand. “How did it go with Landon?”
I told him how I felt.
But he couldn’t bring himself to say he feels the same way.
Because maybe he doesn’t.
“I…” I shrug. “I don’t really want to talk about it, not right now.”
She gives me a long look, and for a moment, I think she’s going to insist. I really don’t want to talk about Landon. It’s not just because it would hurt me to remember, but also because I don’t want to tell her how last night went and be the one ruin the happiness of the moment.
Thankfully, Laurie changes the subject and starts to tell me more about what she and Brett talked about through the night. She’s full of excitement and happiness, but she hasn’t slept all night, so it’s not long before she’s nodding off.
After Laurie goes off to bed, I prepare for a nap too, wondering what Landon’s reaction was when he woke up in the morning and found that I had left him yet again. When I’d called Tony Gillies to arrange for my return on one of the early flights back to New York, I’d been afraid that he’d try to clear it with his boss, and some hopeful part of me had expected Landon to do something, like try to stop me.
But he hadn’t.
I’d flown back with Aidan, and even though we had a lively conversation on the plane, for some reason, we didn’t talk about Landon. It was almost as if he understood that there was something wrong, and that I would break apart at the mention of his brother’s name. In New York, a Swanson Court International town car had been waiting to drive me home. During the drive to my apartment, I waited for my phone to ring, for Landon to call, to tell me something, anything to make me believe something good would come out of what I’d told him last night.
But there was nothing.
When I’m under the covers, my arms curled around a pillow, I allow myself to think of the way Landon held me after I told him I loved him, the way his body shook, the tenderness with which he made love to me, and the tears start to fall.
I have to face the fact that we may never end up like Laurie and Brett, because not every love story has a happy ending. Maybe his aversion to commitment will overshadow his feelings for me. Maybe he’ll choose to continue the way he always has, and find someone else who would be willing to accept his terms of a commitment-free relationship, someone who wouldn’t make him face emotions he’d rather not feel.
Maybe he’ll forget about me.
Almost choking on the thought, I swallow my sobs and force myself to think of other happier things. I close my eyes, willing myself to fall asleep, and to believe that no matter what happens, I’ll be able to handle it.
DAYS PASS, and my strength starts to falter. I don’t hear from Landon, and the longer his silence lasts, the more an empty numbness spreads inside me. Every day, Rafael picks me up from my apartment for the drive to the Gilt building, and in the evening, he’s there to pick me up again. I don’t ask him about his boss, and he doesn’t volunteer any information.
After a few days, Joe replaces him as my driver, a sure sign that Landon is back in town. The thought that he’s staying away from me even though he’s so close is almost too painful to bear. But I continue to wait, trying to be strong, trying to convince myself that whether he comes to me or not, I can live with it.
He doesn’t come, but from all directions, I’m assailed with news about him. The media is ecstatic about the Gold Dust, and the reviews are beyond marvelous. He even makes the cover of a popular news daily. “Glitz And Glamour as Landon Court Opens New Hotel,” the headline screams, with a heartbreakingly beautiful picture of Landon on the cover.
I can’t resist reading that, as well as the numerous articles on the internet. Many of them dwell on the connection with Ava, whose family originally owned the hotel, and they pair their articles with pictures of Landon with her. Only a few of them mention me as Landon Court’s date, but why should they bother, I’m just one in the long list of ‘dates’ that had come and gone.
I read about Landon’s trip to Europe as the guest of the head of a corporate group with interests in hotels worldwide. There’s a party on a large boat, with lots of models and actresses. In the pictures, I can tell nothing from Landon’s face. As always, he maintains his detachment, his seeming lack of interest in the things going on around him, and looking at his face, I wonder if he’s thinking about me at all.
His successes continue – rumors of the acquisition of a Vegas property, a news publication publishing a retraction and apology about a negative article written about him. Investors courting him…
Without a word.
And just like that, the sliver of hope I’d been holding on to, disappears, along with the belief that what he felt for me, the things I’d felt in his arms would conquer whatever held him back. I have to face the knowledge that when I walked away from his suite in San Francisco, I had finally and irrevocably ended us.
EVERYONE around me is ecstatic about Laurie and Brett. I am too, but in my current state of mind, I’m not strong enough to be constantly cheerful and excited. The effort it takes to hide my pain is draining, but I have to, for Laurie.
“Your auntie Jacie thinks we should go to Barbados for the wedding. I think it’s an excellent idea. A change of scene for all of us. What do you think?”
I’m on the phone with my mother, and we’re having yet another conversation about the wedding. Our parents are over the moon, of course, and my mom and aunt Jacie have made and shelved enough plans in one short week than most wedding planners make in a year.
“I would love to go to Barbados,” I tell her. If anybody needs a change of scene, it’s probably me. Laurie’s grandmother, Auntie Jacie’s mom, lives in Bridgetown, and over the years, we’ve spent a few holidays in the Barbadian city. Having the wedding over there meant that Nana wouldn’t have to travel, and Laurie could have her wedding in one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
“It would be lovely wouldn’t it? Taylor and Jacie will iron it all out with Brett’s parents, and we’ll make a holiday out of it.”
“Is that what Laurie wants?” I ask, aware that my mom and aunt Jacie could very well make a plan and run halfway with it before checking with Laurie. It was just their nature.
“Yeah…” she says slowly. “I believe Jacie’s talked about it with her.”
I chuckle. “If Laurie’s okay with it, I don’t see why not.”
“Exactly!” I can tell my mom is excited at the thought. She starts to go on about plans, color schemes, flowers and so on while I do my best to pay attention. “Laurie told me that you and Landon have run into another hiccup,” she says finally, when she’s out of other things to say.
A hiccup? I sigh. Talk about making a molehill out of a mountain. “I don’t really want to talk about it mom.”
“Okay,” she says quickly. “But if or when you do, I’m here, all right?”
We’re both silent. “Are we going ahead with the engagement party?” I ask, changing the subject.
It works. “Of course!” she exclaims. “We’re thinking next weekend, but we’ll conclude tomorrow at dinner with Brett’s parents. We’re looking forward to seeing you.”
Laurie’s dad is taking us all to dinner at his old club. The three sets of parents, Laurie, Brett and me. Another evening of trying to be cheerful and happy, when deep inside, I just want to curl up somewhere and cry. “I can’t wait,” I say brightly.
“Good.” She sighs. “Your father says hi.”
“Hi dad,” I call out.
I hear his voice in the background followed by my mom’s laughter. “See you tomorrow sweetheart,” she says, “and take care of yourself,” she adds softly.
ON SATURDAY evening, I join my family at the private club where we’re all having dinner, apart from Dylan, who’s in school. Brett arrives with Laurie, and his parent’s join us a few minutes later. Hugs and kisses are exchanged all around, and dinner is served at the large table we reserved while the parents bond, talking wedding plans, retirement, and then wedding plans again.
After dinner, Brett and Laurie get up to dance to a slow song the band is playing. I watch them from the table, happy for them, and yet, envious of their happiness.
“You look like you need a break,” my mom remarks, leaning toward me. Her remarkably youthful face is only marred by her expression of concern. “Have you been working too hard? You should come home and rest a little.”
I shake my head, wondering how much of my misery is evident on my face. “I’m fine, mom.”
“No, you’re not,” she whispers. “I’m your mother, and I have eyes. I can see that you’re not fine.”
I paste a bright, fake smile on my face and give her a pointed look. “Do I look miserable? Mom, I’m perfectly happy.”
She looks at my dad for help, a sign that they’ve shared their concern about me. I take a frustrated breath and close my eyes, hating the fact that they’re worried enough about me for it to be an issue they’ve discussed. My dad gets up and comes over to take my hand. “Come on,” he says. “Humor your old man with a dance.”
“Your mother’s just worried about you,” he tells me, when we join Laurie and Brett on the floor.
“I know,” I reply. “I’m not mad. It’s just… I’m fine, really.”
He nods, buying the lie, or at least pretending to. “Well then, let’s give your cousin and her fiancé a run for their money.” He signals to the band and they change the music to a livelier number, and somehow, for the rest of the evening, I’m able to let go of my pain and actually enjoy myself.
THE FINAL consensus is that there’s going to be an engagement party on the coming weekend. We’re home on Sunday evening when Laurie receives the news while on the phone with her mother.
“What does an engagement party even mean?” She grumbles, pretending to be pissed, though I can clearly see that she’s enjoying all the attention. We’re eating chips from a bag, passing it back and forth while we watch a bunch of hot-ish guys talk about how excited they all are to be vying for one ‘lucky’ woman’s love.
“Usually, it means parents want any excuse for a party,” I tell her, laughing. “But this time, it makes sense to have one. There’s bound to be a couple of people who won’t be able to make it to Barbados for the wedding.”
Laurie makes a face, then spends a long moment admiring the stunning yellow diamond on her finger. Brett had quickly remedied the absence of a ring during his proposal, and Laurie was in love with the spectacular ring he’d bought her. “Do you think it’s silly, going all the way to Barbados to get married when we could just go to Vegas and get done with it?”
“Of course not! Your Nana would never forgive you if you pulled a Vegas stunt. Neither would your mom or mine for that matter.” I shake my head, imagining the catastrophe that would result if she did something like that. “At least, nobody’s asking you to be part of the preparations for the engagement party. They’re probably having a swell time planning it.”
“I know.” She sighs, then shrugs and reaches out to take the bag of chips from me. I hand it to her, my eyes going back to the TV. One of the guys is earnestly telling the camera why he thinks he’s the right one for the woman in question. I roll my eyes at the ridiculousness.
“He still hasn’t called at all?” Laurie’s voice is soft.
I shake my head without looking at her. It’s been a week and one day now. “I don’t think…” I pause, willing myself to say the words without falling to pieces. “I don’t think he’s going to call again.”
Laurie is quiet. “I’m so sorry,” she says finally. “I thought… I really thought that if you told him how you felt…”
Frowning, I turn to face her. “It’s not your fault. You were exactly right. I had to tell him and I’m glad I did. Imagine if I hadn’t. I’d still be hanging on to him, losing a bit of myself every day. If I’d left him without letting him know that I was in love with him, then I’d be torturing myself with the questions, possibilities, and regrets, wondering if telling him would have made a difference.” I shrug. “Now I know for sure that the only way he wants me is if there’s no deep commitment.”
“It’s his loss,” Laurie declares, her voice defiant. “I was convinced that he had enough sense to have fallen in love with you, but if he can’t see what you’re worth then he doesn’t deserve you. You are beautiful, clever, funny, and all-round awesome. Landon Court has no idea what he’s lost.”
I only smile in reply. I’m grateful for her support, but somehow, it’s much better when I don’t talk about Landon at all. I think about him. I miss him. Sometimes, I allow myself to remember how it felt to be happy, in those blissful moments when I was actually happy with him. I will always have those moments to draw on, those memories to treasure, and there’s some sort of consolation that comes from that.
I FINALLY tell Joe that I don’t need him anymore. At first, he looks as if he’s going to argue and he actually follows me all the way to work, driving slowly beside me. He also does it on the way back home, and the next day too, but I ignore him.
And I do my best to stop thinking about Landon.
I see him everywhere I go. Sometimes, I feel as though he’s only just a few feet away, on the other side of a crowd on the street. Every car that passes seems to be one of his. Every hazy face behind the tinted windows appears to be his face. I can’t seem to stop conjuring him into my consciousness.
But I have to, because I can’t continue to view my separation from Landon as a temporary thing, and the sensible thing to do is to wean myself off everything that has to do with him.
I work feverishly, researching, writing, and editing articles with Mark, who welcomes my hectic pace and doesn’t hesitate to increase my workload.
Every day, I work until I’m exhausted, with barely enough energy to talk with Laurie when I get home. Luckily, she’s spending most of her time with Brett, so I don’t have to pretend all the time that I’m not fighting the huge block of unhappiness weighing me down.
Every day ends the same, with me trying to sleep, while my lack of Landon tortures me in my dreams. Every song takes on a new meaning and even my favorite books lose their appeal. I wake up every morning with tears on my cheeks and an ache in my heart, and even though I tell myself that it’s getting better, that I’m getting better, it takes all my strength to push myself out of bed and go on with my life.
One morning, Joe isn’t waiting for me downstairs. The absence of the car on the street outside my building is like the final note in the sad song of my relationship with Landon. Proof that as far as he’s concerned, we’re really over.
For a long moment, I stand at the door of my building, looking out at the empty street, a shaft of pain lancing through my heart. I want to go back upstairs, curl up in my bed and cry until there are no tears left, but somehow, I command my body to move, to take the steps to the sidewalk, and then to work.
It’s all right, I tell myself over and over. Even if Landon doesn’t want to have a place in my life, he’ll always have a place in my heart. And that’s alright.
EVERYTHING blurs into work and sleep, and the temptation to call Landon. I want to tell him that I understand why he’d want to end things, but that I would have appreciated it if he’d chosen to tell me to my face. Then I remember the way I left him in San Francisco while he was asleep. I’d been so sure that it was the right thing to do. It had made sense at the time to give him the space to decide for himself that he wanted to be with me, above anything else.
Now, I’m no longer sure of anything. Just like the song, I’d left my heart in San Francisco, and it had come back to me, bloody and broken.
One day, the pain will dull. It’s what I tell myself, with more hope than any kind of certainty.
My mom has been calling almost every day to ask how I am and chatter about party plans. I suspect she’s actually calling to make sure I’m all right, but I don’t mind. The distraction helps. Most times, I check my emails while we talk, and today in particular, she’s going on about some artist friend of hers who might be at Laurie’s engagement party when I open and read a strange email from The Gilt Review.
At first, I think it might be information about my subscription to the magazine, and I have to bite back my shock when I see that it’s a response to my application, from two years ago. I frown at the screen, unsure if the invitation to schedule an interview is a mistake.
“Are you there, sweetheart?” I hear my mom say.
“Yeah…” I’m still frowning. “Something came up mom, I’ll call you back.”
When she’s off the phone, I read the email again, unsure what to think. It’s from someone called Liz Buckley, one of the senior editors over at Review. Certain that there’s been some kind of mistake, I call her office, and she confirms that they want me to come in for an interview.
It’s always been my dream to work at the Gilt Review, and I’d continued to nurse that dream after I applied there, but got the job at Gilt Traveler instead. I always assumed that one day, when I made editor, I would apply again, but I never expected them to invite me for an interview two years later, without any effort on my part. I can almost swear that something like this has never happened before.
Yet, I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially with everything else that’s going on in my life. I need a change of environment. I need the feeling of starting afresh, even if it’s only on a different floor. By the time I leave for home at the end of the day, I’m already looking forward to my interview, hoping that I’ll get the job, and that the new set of new challenges and responsibilities will help me to stop dwelling on Landon Court.
THE NEXT day, I run into Jack Weyland in the ground floor lobby on my way out to lunch. I haven’t seen him since the night he kissed me outside Landon’s club, but I’m still pissed at him, so when I see him across the wide marble space staring at me, I look away and keep walking.
He catches up with me outside the building and falls into step beside me. “Hello, Rachel.”
“Hi Jack,” I say dryly, letting my voice communicate how much I don’t want to talk to him.
“Come on.” He stretches his hand out to stop me. “Rachel, can I just have a minute?”
Without stopping, I pull my arm out of his reach. “Don’t touch me.”
He swallows and steps back. “I’m sorry.”
I sigh, sorry for snapping at him, but convinced that he deserved it. Slowing down, I turn to face him. “What do you want, Jack?”
“To apologize about the other night.” He looks contrite. “I really am sorry.”
I pause for a moment before giving him a small nod. “Okay. Can I go have my lunch now?”
“Can we at least talk?”
“No,” I exclaim with a grimace, turning on my heel and starting to walk again.
He follows me. “Please,” I hear him say. “Let me join you. I just want to apologize.”
I don’t reply, but I don’t tell him to get lost either, so he follows me all the way to the deli around the corner from the office. We used to eat there together all the time, in those days when I was still waiting for him to realize that he loved me.
Now I guess he had, but it was too late, for both of us.
We make our orders, and while we’re waiting for the food to arrive, I give him an impatient glare from across the table.
“I don’t know why you need to make a big ceremony out of apologizing,” I say. “Seriously.”
Jack is quiet. “I meant what I said that night,” he starts, “about my feelings for you.”
I roll my eyes. “Not again, Jack. I can’t do this again.”
He holds up a hand. “I know. I just wanted you to know that I didn’t say those things because I was jealous of Court, or the fact that you were happy. I meant them.” He closes his eyes and gives me a small, sad smile. “I’m leaving Gilt.”
“Oh!” I can’t hide my shock. He’d been at Gilt Traveler for far longer than I had. He was one of our most talented and well-traveled writers, and he actually knew how to write. I frown, not sure that I understand. “Why?”
He shrugs. “I need a change of scene, I guess.”
Did that have anything to do with me? It’s strange to think that his feelings for me could be so intense that he couldn’t stand to work in the same building. What an irony that would be, I think uncomprehendingly, before dismissing the idea. There was bound to be another reason.
“Where will you go?” I ask.
“I have a deal to extend my three episode specials to ten episodes seasons,” he shrugs. “So I’m moving to LA. I’ll be working more closely with the producers anyway. I might as well take the distance out of the equation.”
“Of course.” His TV appearances had been remarkably successful. I imagine all the dangerous things he’ll have to do, year after year, all the places he’d have to travel to, to keep people interested in watching him on TV, but that was what he loved doing, so I guess it wasn’t such a bad deal.
“I’m thinking of writing a book too,” Jack continues. “I’ve had enough experience to write a few, I think.”
I nod. “You’re a great writer. I’d read anything you wrote.”
There is a small pause. “It’s really nice to hear that,” he says.
Our food arrives, and while we eat, we talk about what his life will be like in LA. There’s an undercurrent of sadness in our conversation, but I choose not to dwell on it, concentrating instead on how change really was the only constant thing.
“I got an email today,” I mention, deciding to tell him about my invitation from the Gilt Review. “I have an interview with the Review. The strange thing is I didn’t reapply. Somehow, they responded to my application from two years ago.”
He raises an eyebrow, then chuckles. “I guess my mom really liked you.”
His mom? I remember that strange evening with Gertrude Weyland that ended with Jack trying to kiss me on the street. “What do you mean?”
“She’s been in talks to take over as the new editor in chief of Review. She finally said yes, last week, I think. She’s been reviewing files from home. Maybe after talking to you she decided that she wanted to work with you.”
I shake my head. I’d thought his mother had a certain charm despite the weird relationship with her son. However, what would it be like to actually work for her? And was I sure I wanted to find out?
“Is that why you’re leaving Gilt?” I ask Jack. “You don’t want to work in the same building as your mother?”
He shrugs noncommittally. “Maybe.” After a pause, he continues. “So will you take the job if you get it?”
I think about it. “Most likely, though I don’t understand at all.” I give him a look. “Should I be worried?”
“Jessica Layner won’t want to let you go, but if she does, my mother would be a fool not to do everything to make sure you stay with her. You’re an asset at Traveler. You’ll be invaluable to Review and she’d be lucky to have you.”
I smile, touched by his encouragement. “Thanks.”
His eyes linger on my face for a long moment. I’m done with my food, and I know that it’s time to go back, to walk away, not just from the restaurant, but from Jack.
“I hope it works out in LA,” I tell him.
“Yes,” he grins, then sobers and reaches across the table for my hand. “I hope you’ll be happy,” he says. “You deserve it, and if Court gives you that, then I wish you all the best.”
I look down at his hand over mine on the table, tempted to tell him that Landon and I are no longer together. I’m feeling emotional, from saying goodbye to Jack, and from the reminder about Landon and his long, painful silence.
“Thanks,” I smile at Jack again, sure that my eyes are glistening. I pull my hand back from his and get up. “Thank you, Jack.” I put some money on the table before I go, leaving him sitting there, sure, but not necessarily regretful, that we will never have another intimate conversation ever again.
“I’M GOING to move in with Brett,” Laurie tells me on Thursday evening. She looks worried, unsure of how I’ll react. “He asked and I said yes.”
It’s day twelve after Landon, and while I’m still feeling tender, I’ve been trying to concentrate on all the things I can still look forward to and anticipate with pleasure. My interview, for example, as well as Laurie’s engagement party, and the wedding.
“When did this happen?” I ask, delighted for her.
“Today at lunch.” She smiles, “You know the gym has been growing.”
I nod. They’d recently opened two more locations, and with his business partner, Brett had developed a line of fitness products and videos that had been getting rave reviews.
“Well, with the success of the gym, the bigger apartment, and us getting married, he thinks it’s time.”
I nod, already missing her. “It’s what you want too, right?”
“I’m glad then.” I smile at her, and then cast one look around the living room of our apartment, the home we’ve shared for two years. “Everything’s changing,” I saw with a sad smile. “I’m happy, but it’s scary.”
Laurie nods, agreeing with me. “I’ll miss living with you.”
“Will you be alright?”
I shrug. “I’ve been planning to kick you out forever so I don’t have to watch those awful reality shows.”
“You love them,” she says with a playful grin. “You’ll watch them when I’m gone.”
“Only when I miss you.”
“Probably all the time.”
I smile at her and suddenly we’re both crying, happy and sad at the same time.
“Being grown up is so weird,” Laurie says finally. “Everything was so much easier when we were kids.”
Later in bed, I’m thinking of all the ways my life is going to change, when I get an alert on my phone. It’s one of the email notifications I set up for news about Landon. I’m tempted to open it, to read about what he’s up to, to feast my eyes on the pictures of him and wonder what he’s thinking, and if he thinks about me at all.
I resist the temptation, and before I go to sleep, I delete all the alerts and the notifications I set up for him. I won’t be reading about him anymore. I won’t continue to torture myself by dwelling on him. There’s simply no need.
ON SATURDAY, Laurie and I go upstate. The cab drops me off at my parents’, before taking her the further twenty minutes to her parent’s home, where the engagement party is holding. I’m spending the night at home, and then we’re all going together to Uncle Taylor’s and Aunt Jacie’s in the morning.
My dad stays in his study most of the day, and my mom is on the phone with Aunt Jacie, and with vendors, making last minute preparations. I remain in my old room until my brother Dylan arrives, and we stay up most of the night watching movies and snacking.
In the morning, we all troop over to join Laurie and her parents. My mom immediately throws herself into bullying the decorators, the florist, and all the other vendors with Aunt Jacie, while Laurie and I watch them from upstairs. My dad and uncle have disappeared somewhere, the study or the den, and Dylan is watching TV downstairs, so it’s just Laurie and me.
“It feels as if you’re getting married today,” I tell her.
“Right?” She sighs. “It feels as if my mom has been waiting for this moment since I was born. I don’t even want to think about the real wedding.”
“It’ll be beautiful,” I assure her.
“I know.” She laughs. “I just wish all the preparations were over and we were like, married already.” She looks at me. “I shouldn’t be complaining though. When’s your interview?”
“Next week.” I sigh. “At least there’s that for me to look forward to.”
Laurie gets up and takes my hand. “Let’s have fun today. It’s a party after all.”
She’s right. The party starts in the afternoon, spilling from the garden into the lawn, and it is fun. After the toasts and congratulations and the buffet, the DJ kicks it up and everybody moves to the lawn to dance. Laurie and Brett are in the midst of it all, making up their own dance moves and laughing hysterically.
I’ve danced with Jordan, Brett’s partner at the gym, with Dylan, Chelsea, who arrived early and joined us upstairs in Laurie’s bedroom. An assortment of Laurie’s colleagues also come – cute lawyerly types with nice haircuts and tattoos that wouldn’t be visible under their suits. One of them, I’m not sure which one, even slipped a card into my hand and asked me to call him to hang out sometime.
I take a sip from my fruit punch and watch the rest of the party from my place on a lawn chair, studiously ignoring Laurie’s calls to come back and dance. Now that I’m tired, it’s easy for my mind to return to Landon. I’ve tried my best to enjoy myself, but it’s still hard to look at Laurie and Brett with the knowledge that it will never be Landon and me announcing our love to the world, and that it was always ridiculous to hope.
“Hey.” It’s one of the guys from Laurie’s office, Brad or Tatum? He’s new, so I’m not quite sure. He grins and takes the chair beside mine. “You’re not dancing,” he states.
He has beautiful dimples, and he’s probably nice too. For some reason, that thought makes me sad. I think it’s the realization that Landon has ruined me for every other guy, no matter how cute, or nice. “I’m a little tired,” I reply with a small smile.
“Okay.” He’s still smiling. “Laurie says you work at Gilt magazines.”
“I read the men’s style mag sometimes,” he tells me. “Must be interesting to work there.”
I nod. “It is.”
The conversation flags. On the lawn, everyone is still dancing. Had he been about to ask me to dance? I don’t think I can bear another round of smiling and pretending to enjoy the music that’s only making me feel lonelier than ever.
I get up and give him an apologetic smile. “I’m gonna fetch something,” I murmur. “It was nice talking to you…”
“Jamie,” he says. He smiles again and the dimples are heartbreakingly cute. “My name’s Jamie.”
I nod. “It was nice talking to you, Jamie.”
After that, I walk away from the party, but I don’t go inside. Instead, I walk along the side of the house to the end of the garden, where there’s a small white gazebo overlooking aunt Jacie’s tulips. It’s where she goes when she wants to read in the peace of the garden. Now, even with the noise of the party, the music, and laughter, it’s still somewhat peaceful.
Taking one of the seats inside, I draw up my legs, wrapping my arms around them and resting my chin on my knees.
Two weeks, and not even a single word.
I’d known the risk I was taking when I told Landon that I was in love with him, but still, I’d hoped that it would make him realize that he had feelings for me too. Now, it was obvious that he did not, that I’d probably always overestimated what I meant to him.
At times like this, my mind starts to run over everything he ever said to me. All the things that made me believe that what we had was special, that I wasn’t the only one who had been drawn into the wild emotional vortex that was him and me.
But I was, obviously. While I’d been falling madly in love with him, he’d remained unscathed, able to walk away without looking back. While I was barely holding on to reason, he was perfectly able to let me go, and go on, with maybe only a few regrets.
He was Landon Court, after all, and he didn’t do commitment.
Taking a deep breath, I close my eyes. I can’t keep waiting for him. It’s clear now, more than anything, that I have to move on with my life. I have to forget him.
My heart rebels against the thought, giving in to the aching feeling that follows it. I don’t want to move on. I want to hold on to my memories and my feelings. I want to live on them for as long as I can, because as strong as I’ve tried to be, the thought of a life without Landon makes me want to hide somewhere and cry my heart out.
A gentle breeze rustles the trees surrounding the garden, and I hug myself tighter, letting a single tear drip slowly down my cheek. One day, I’ll stop the self-immolation and move on with my life, but for now, I just want to think about Landon, to remember what it was like to be with him.
I stiffen at the sound of the familiar voice, sure that I’ve only imagined it, and yet, desperately hopeful that it’s real. I don’t want to move, I don’t want to turn around to look, for fear that he won’t be there, that my desire for him has conjured him as a tortuous trick on my mind and I’ll see only the flowers in the garden, not Landon.
In the long silence that follows, I only hear the distant sounds of the party, the rustling of the leaves, and the pounding rhythm of my heart.
“Your mother told me you’d be back here,” I hear the uncertainty in his voice. I loosen my arms from around my knees and drop my feet to the ground. I turn around slowly, tightening my fingers around the edge of the bench, because even after hearing his voice, I’m still not sure.
At the sight of him, my eyes water, but I let them rove over him, hungrily taking in the tousled, burnished hair, his beautiful face, now clouded by a tentative frown. His body looks perfect in a dark jacket over a crisp white shirt and slim pants, and the tender expression in his eyes washes over me like a soft wave.
“Landon?” My voice is shaky, my mind still unable to wrap itself around the thought that he’s actually here.
“Hi.” He tries on a small smile, but it quickly fades from his lips, and I hear him breathe heavily. My own chest tightens. “I hope you don’t mind if I join you.”
I close my eyes, and when I open them again, he’s still there. “No,” I say softly. “No, I don’t.”