Beauty from Pain, Page 22Georgia Cates
I take out a satin lavender slip gown and hold it up for him to see. He shakes his head before reaching into his bureau and tossing one of his T-shirts in my direction. “Here. Wear this. ” Yep. We are officially on coitus hiatus until we can get our hands on a different batch of condoms.
He’s seen me naked, but I still turn around to take my clothes off and slip into his shirt. I’m not sure wearing something of his is helping with the coitus hiatus effort because I can’t help but notice how good it smells. Just like Lachlan.
We go into the bathroom together to do our bedtime rituals. He’s on his side and I’m on the other. I watch him in the mirror as he brushes his teeth. It feels so domestic. He glances over and I’m not sure if it’s because he’s sneaking a peek at me or if he feels my eyes on him.
When we’re finished, we climb into bed and he pulls me close. He doesn’t ask me to tell him about the pain I’m hiding. He simply holds me until we fall asleep. It’s something I’ve never done. And it’s beautiful.
I wake the next morning and my hand reaches for a warm body that isn’t there. The early bird is out of the nest already, which makes me the sleepyhead again, except for the fact that it’s only seven in the morning. That does not qualify as sleeping late in any shape or form.
I don’t find Lachlan in the kitchen, so I walk toward the gym. I hear “Whatever You Like” blaring through the speakers before I reach the door. When I walk in, he’s running on the treadmill and the back of his T-shirt is soaking wet. He’s been in here a while.
His back is to me, but his eyes meet mine in the mirror. “Good morning, sleepyhead. ”
“Good morning, early bird. Nice song choice. ”
“I think so too, although I like your version better. You just missed Snoop Dogg. ”
“Hate that. Been running long?”
“Long enough. ” He stops the treadmill and reaches for a towel to wipe the sweat from his face. His cheeks are rosy and it makes him look younger, like a child playing in the hot sun.
“I probably need to call Addison to let her know how long I’m staying. ”
“How long do you want to stay?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. How long am I welcome?” Listen to me. I’m like Addison now, not wanting to wear out my welcome.
He wipes his neck and chest—jeez, I’d love to be that towel. “I’m leaving to go out of town Monday morning. Will you stay with me until then?”
I don’t have to think about it, but I hesitate for a moment so he doesn’t see how elated I am to be with him for the next two days. “Sure. That’s doable. ”
He tosses the towel across the treadmill as he gets off and I know what’s he’s about to do. I see the mischief in his grin. He knows I’m about to run and catches me before I can take a second step. I’m no match for a conditioned runner.
He pulls me against his hot, sweaty body. I wanted to be his towel. Now, I am. Any other sweaty man would be gross, but Lachlan’s not. It’s the ultimate turn-on, but I remember we don’t have condoms since he tossed the whole box of potentially defective ones out last night.
I pretend to be grossed out as I push away from him. “Caveman, you are in desperate need of a shower. ”
He rubs his sweaty body all over me. “Now you are too. ”
Has he forgotten about our lack of protection? “Do you think that’s the best idea since you threw out all the condoms last night?”
He’s wearing that naughty little grin I’ve come to love so much. “Don’t need ’em for what we’re going to do. ”
It’s not even noon when we’re driving into town, and we both know exactly the purpose of our expedition. We have condom shopping to do.
“I didn’t pack enough clothes to stay until Monday. Do you mind swinging by the apartment so I can pick up some things?”
“No problem. ” Except I do have a problem with it. I’m sure Ben Donavon will be there.
I park along the curb at the apartment. I’m not sure if I’m invited up, but I’m not at all crazy about her going to his place without me. “Will you come up and officially meet Addison?”
“Sure. ” Abso-fucking-lutely. It’s probably not the best idea to hem me up with that little bastard in the same room, but I don’t want her going up there without me.
I follow Paige into the building. She knocks instead of using a key and Addison opens the door. I’m relieved to see it isn’t her brother. Her friend wrinkles her brow. “Why are you knocking? You live here, silly. ”
“It’s not my apartment. I’m just bunking here. ”
Addison gives me a thorough inspection. “Well, you haven’t been bunking here much, thanks to this guy. ” I’m not sure what to make of her comment, but she extends her hand. “Addison Donavon. ”
“Lachlan Henry. ”
“So, you’re the man who’s been keeping my best friend so busy. ”
Yeah, we’ve been pretty busy all right. “Guilty as charged. ”
“She tells me you’re in the wine business. My family has a vineyard in California. It can be brutal. ”
“I’ll drink to that. ”
“I’m going to grab some things while you bond over the whoas of winemaking. ” Paige disappears into the bedroom and leaves me alone with her friend. I’m prepared to share more about my career, but once she’s certain Paige is out of hearing distance, she suddenly changes the subject and is very serious.
“Please, don’t hurt her. ”
It’s a strained moment and I’m not really sure how to respond. “I’m sorry?”
“I’m asking you to not hurt Laurelyn. She’s been through a lot. The last guy she dated did a real number on her. ”
Her name is Laurelyn?
“She told me about the agreement you have and I’m fine with it. Have a great time together—but don’t make her fall in love with you. She’s been hurt enough. ”
Fall in love? Who said anything about falling in love?
Paige might have told her friend some things about our agreement, but not everything. Addison doesn’t know that Laurelyn chose to keep her name a secret from me because she’s unknowingly busted her on it. Honestly, it stings a little to discover that.
“No worries. Laurelyn and I are on the same page. ” I say her name, savoring how it sounds rolling off my tongue. Paige was all right, but Laurelyn fits her better because it’s different. I’ve never known anyone by that name.
She comes out of the bedroom with a large bag in hand. “All packed and ready to go. ”
Our first stop after we leave the apartment is the drugstore. I get into the car after my shopping spree and pass her the bag of condoms. “How many did you buy?” She opens the bag to peek inside and smiles in my direction. “Did you buy their entire inventory?”
“Hey, I’m not getting stuck without some backup in case we have another blowout. ”
She’s shaking her head at me. “Are you still worried about that?”
Hell yeah, I’m still worried. Why isn’t she? “Yes, and I will be until you start your period. If you don’t get it before I leave, I want you to call me as soon as you do. ”
“Yes, sir. ” I think she’s miffed.
I know I sound irrational. I don’t mean to, but a pregnancy under these circumstances would be disastrous. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to rub you the wrong way. I’d much rather rub you the right way. ”
She smiles and I know I’m forgiven. “I need to talk to you about something. ”
“Okay. ” I pull out of the parking lot but don’t have a clue where I’m going.
I’m nervous about bringing it up, but I do because I realize it’s important to me. “I want to call you Laurelyn. ”
I stare ahead as I drive, but I still catch a glimpse of Laurelyn whirling her head in my direction. “I see Addison ratted me out. I didn’t tell her about
the anonymous part of the agreement. ”
“I’m glad she ratted you out because I want to call you by your real name. Laurelyn suits you better than Paige. ”
“I don’t think you have the right to know my real name if I don’t know yours. ” She’s angry. Or maybe defeated. I’m not really sure.
“There are very legitimate reasons for that. ” She turns her head away from me. “You can’t be angry at me about this. ” I reach for her hand and bring it to my leg. I give it a gentle squeeze. “I was honest with you about everything. ”
She looks back at me. “Except why. You haven’t given me any kind of explanation. I’m sure I could accept not knowing if you’d only give me some kind of reason. ”
“But, I won’t. ” I’m stern when I say it because I have to be disciplined for myself. She makes me want to break down and tell her everything. It’s strange—I’ve never wanted to do that before. She makes me want to do lots of new things.
“It’s not fair, but I guess there’s no point in pretending to be Paige Beckett when you know I’m not, so I guess you’re getting what you want. Again. ”
She’s not happy with me, but I still bring her hand to my lips and kiss it. “Thank you, Laurelyn. ”
“Well, you’re not welcome and you can forget getting my real last name. ”
She’s mad because she feels defeated. I don’t want her to feel that way. It makes me want to blurt out that she can call me Jack, but I don’t. Because I can’t.
Laurelyn. Laurelyn. Laurelyn. It’s a delicate, feminine name and I say it in my head over and over, wrapping my brain around it so it will flow off my tongue when I’m ready to say it again. It’s very easy to forget I ever called her Paige.
“Can I take you to lunch while we’re in town?”