Beauty from Pain, Page 6Georgia Cates
“It’s flowers and a catered breakfast. ”
“Awesome!” she says, throwing back the covers. “See? I told you I knew how to play the game. ” It looks like Ben is going to find out about Zac sooner than she’d planned.
We walk into the kitchen and there’s a floral arrangement on the counter next to a basket of breakfast pastries. Addison holds a bottle of champagne in one hand and orange juice in the other. “Mimosas for breakfast. Can you believe that? And this isn’t cheap champagne. It’s expensive. Very expensive. ”
She takes the card from the blank envelope and her smile fades after she reads it. “Oh. This isn’t for me. ”
I feel a surge of hope. Could all of this be for me? From him, the man with no name? “What does the card say?”
She holds it up. “‘You won’t regret saying yes. ’ It’s signed, ‘from Lachlan. ’”
I smile, but bite my lip in a failed attempt to hide my pleasure. His name is Lachlan.
I’m confused by this unexpected confession. He said names weren’t part of the game, so what has changed? Maybe he decided he is more interested in a normal relationship than the bizarre one he proposed last night.
I pluck the card from Addison’s hand because I want to read it for myself. I rub my thumb over his written words. The penmanship is masculine. I’m sure he signed it personally.
I hear a pop as Addison opens the champagne. “Laurie, this guy is jockeying hard for you, girl. ”
Ben’s arms are crossed and he looks pissed. “Come on. You just met this guy. Doesn’t this seem like a little much?”
“I’d love it if a guy did this for me. ” Addison tops up her champagne with some orange juice. “This is a guaranteed panty-dropper in my book. ”
Ben storms out of the kitchen and slams his bedroom door. “You shouldn’t have said that in front of him, and we both know why. ”
Addison reaches for a pastry. “Oh, he’ll get over it. So, what are you gonna do?”
There’s nothing wrong with trying it. If it doesn’t feel right, I can always back out. “He asked me to meet him tonight if I wanted to discuss it further. I think I’m going to go. ”
“That’s my girl. I love that he has to wait all day wondering if you’ll show tonight. He’ll be so hard up by the time he sees you walk in. You have to show up late. I have the perfect little black dress that will knock his socks off. The back of it is so low, you can almost see your ass crack. ”
She runs into our room and returns with a next-to-nothing black minidress. Wow, she’s right. It is low. And short. Maybe even too short. I hold it up and have no doubt it is going to hit me high thigh since I’m taller than she is.
“Isn’t this gonna be too short for me?”
“What do you mean too short? Have we met?”
It’s a lazy Sunday so we spend the day hanging out in the apartment after gorging on quiche and Mimosas. Ben is sullen the rest of the day, his attitude suggesting he is unhappy about the prospect of my new acquaintance. He doesn’t speak to me all day, but that’s all right. I may be staying with him, but I don’t owe him anything. And his behavior is making it a lot easier to not feel guilty about meeting up with another guy tonight.
It’s six o’clock and I decide to start getting ready to meet Lachlan. Addison wants me to be late so he’ll sweat it out, but if I’m tardy, it won’t be because I wasn’t ready on time.
I jump in the shower and shave my legs and pits twice, just in case, but in case of what, I don’t know. I apply my makeup as I stand with one towel wrapped around my hair and one around my body. I decide to go with smoky eyes—the sultriness will go well with the sensual dress and tall heels Addison has chosen for me.
It’s twenty minutes until eight and I stand in front of the mirror studying the final product. Hmm, not bad if I do say so myself. The smoky eyes and scarlet lips are definitely going to get his attention but my upswept hair makes my bare back call out to be touched, and quite possibly, kissed. I have never felt so alluring in all of my life—or so much like a ho—because I know why I’m going.
Addison surveys me and instructs me to do a spin. “Laurelyn, you’re smokin’ hot. ”
She is my best friend so it’s her job to say stuff like that. “It’s the dress. ”
“Hell no, it’s not. It’s all you, and he’ll know it when he peels that dress off you. ”
Someone’s awfully anxious for me to get it on with this guy. “He’s not peeling jack off me tonight. I’m just going to talk. ”
She takes my hands and looks like she’s going to give me some serious advice. I prepare because this isn’t something I would expect from her. “Listen to me, Laurelyn. The best way to get over somebody is to get under someone else. ”
Well, her record stands unblemished. She’s yet to blow my mind with deep, philosophical advice. I’m laughing when I hear my cab blow for me. “Cab’s here. ”
She hugs me before I leave. “Have a great time. Text if you see you’ll be late so I won’t worry. ”
“Yes, Mom. ”
It’s uncomfortable, but I look to where Ben is sitting on the couch. He doesn’t make a move to even glance in my direction, so I leave without speaking to him. It’s probably better that way.
It’s a short drive to the hotel and I’m almost hyperventilating by the time I walk up to the hostess. “I’m meeting someone. ”
I smile as I say it. “Lachlan. ” It’s ridiculous that I feel like I’ve won some sort of battle by knowing his name. Laurelyn, one. Lachlan, zero.
She doesn’t look happy about my arrival. “Oh, yes. He left word he might have a guest joining him. Right this way. ” She leads me to a table for two in the same dimly lit corner we occupied last night. As I walk toward him, he looks up from the menu. His gaze follows my body from my feet up to my eyes. He smiles.
I can’t wait to see his reaction to the back of this dress.
He stands and walks around to slide my chair out for me, just as he did the prior evening. “I didn’t know if you’d …” He trails off and I know he’s giving his full attention to the back—or lack thereof—of my dress. He clears his voice. “I didn’t know if you’d come or not. ”
Yeah, I think he likes the dress just fine. “I didn’t intend on coming, but here I am all the same. ”
“I’m very glad you did. You look lovely. ”
“Thank you, Lachlan. ” His light blue eyes lock with mine and I give him a smug smile, letting him know I’m happy I won.
The smile he gives me in return is complacent. “Did you like the Sauvignon Blanc last night?”
“I did. ”
“Would you like to have that again or try something else?”
I shrug. “That’s fine. ”
He orders our wine and then sits back in his chair, seemingly pleased with himself. “I assume you’re here to discuss my proposal. ”
I sit up straighter when I take notice of myself slouching. I can’t show any sign of weakness if I’m going to keep the upper hand. “It would seem so. ”
“Ask me anything. ” He’s so beautiful and confident. Dammit, it’s unnerving.
I lace my fingers together and prop my elbows on the table. Yes, I know that’s considered rude at dinner, but I like the confidence it gives me. “You have no qualms about asking me to do this. I assume you’ve done this before?”
“Yes, but never for more than three to four weeks. Three months would be new for me, but I’m excited about trying something different. ”
I’m anxious to point out how he has already tried something new by giving up one of his biggest stipulations for me. “You told me your name, so that’s different. Does that mean your issue with being anonymous has changed?”
He takes a big drink of wine. “Lachlan isn’t my real name. You needed something to call me, so that’s what I c
“Oh. ” I feel my silly girlish hope deflate. “How many times have you done this?”
It could be in the hundreds. Or worse, maybe he has no idea.
“Is that really important?” He’s stalling, so knowing the number becomes crucial to me at this point—a make-or-break kind of significance.
“It’s important to me. ”
His brow wrinkles and I think he’s doing the math in his head. “I guess there’s been twelve. ”
I admit twelve is far fewer than I’d imagined, but he has to guess? We’re not talking a hundred and twelve, so is it really that hard to be sure? “When did you start doing this?”
“The first time was four years ago. I did it on a whim and I liked it. It works for me, so I haven’t had any other type of relationship since. ”
Twelve women in four years. That wasn’t … terrible. “And you didn’t tell any of those women who you are?”
Here comes the biggie. “Do you always have sex with the women who agree to a relationship like this with you?”
“Yes. ” That’s what I expected him to say, but hearing him admit it gives me more of a reality check. I would be added to a list occupied by twelve others before me.
He sees the reality of it all registering in my head. “Don’t think about the others. I don’t. ”
And he wouldn’t think of me either three months from now when he moves on to the woman after me. I’m surprised by how that bothers me. “I don’t know if I’m cut out for this. ”
He reaches across the table and puts his hand on top of mine. “I won’t feel like a stranger to you for long. You’ll come to know me quickly. And it’ll be the real me, even if you don’t know my name. ”
I’m attracted to this man, but I’m not sure I can ever feel comfortable enough to have sex with him when I don’t know his name.