Read His Love Lesson Online

Authors: Nicki Night

His Love Lesson (3 page)

BOOK: His Love Lesson
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Chapter 4

W
ith just a few days left before her trip, Chey could barely concentrate. There was so much to do, including going to her new school to pay the small remainder of tuition that was left after her partial scholarship, and getting her schedule. She couldn't remember a more exciting time in her life. She hadn't been this eager while planning the wedding that had never happened. Deep down, she knew that accepting Todd's ring had been a mistake. The last draw had been when he'd ordered her to stop wasting time “tinkering with those silly perfumes” that she used to make in her kitchen. Little did he know they were bestsellers at her parents' store and had saved them from having to close the shop's doors. Not only had the perfume sales pulled the shop's finances out of the red, but they'd allowed her to save enough money to move up north and finish her last semester so that she could finally obtain her bachelor's degree. Patrons had come into the shop all the time pining for her latest creations, loving the aromatic essence of her skin-care products and perfumes—and still did. Before leaving Virginia, she'd made a huge batch of the few varieties the customers liked the most so that her parents wouldn't run out of stock while she was in New York.

New York—the city where dreams came true! Chey twirled in her tiny one-bedroom apartment with her hands outstretched. She was looking forward to fulfilling her dream of finally getting her degree as a chemist and launching her career as a perfumer. This city was the perfect place for her profession. She fantasized about working for companies like Estelle London, designing fragrances and creating skin-care products, or even opening up her own cosmetics company.

Chey flopped down on her bed and lay back, thinking of all of the possibilities until her phone rang, interrupting her musings. Sitting up, she reached for the phone and when she recognized Todd's number, she sent it to voice mail and tossed the phone aside. Unfortunately, she couldn't get back to that pleasant state of mind, because Todd's call had taken her off course.

Chey got up to finish packing when she swore she heard someone calling her name. At first she ignored it. In the three months that she'd been in the city, she hadn't befriended many people. She folded a few thermal shirts to wear under her sweaters and placed them in her suitcase when she heard her name again. This time she was sure of it. What puzzled her most was that the voice sounded much like Todd's.

Chey ran to the window, looked down onto the street and balked. Moving back, she hoped he hadn't seen her. Todd called her again. How had he found her?

“I saw you, Chey. Now please, open the door.”

Chey couldn't believe this was happening. Containing a sudden urge to scream, she balled up her fists and traipsed four flights down to the entrance. She wanted to leave him there but figured that ignoring him would cause a scene.

Chey swung the door open. Todd stood there looking foolish to her with a bouquet of flowers that had been purchased from the corner store at the end of her block. It was an obvious afterthought.

Holding the flowers out to her, he asked, “Can I come in already? It's freezing out here.”

Chey rolled her eyes, snatched the flowers from his hand and turned around. Todd followed her up to her apartment. Once inside, Chey turned around and faced him with her arms across her chest.

“How did you find me?”

“It was easy.” Todd scrunched his face, dismissing her question. “Your mother eventually told my mother. She was concerned.” He clapped his hands. “Now let's talk about you coming on home.” He spoke to her, but his eyes took in the small neat space around them. “This is where you're living?” he asked with an expression that resembled disgust.

“Yes, this is where I'm living, and no, I'm not coming home.” Chey took a breath. She was going to have to speak to her mother—again! She'd asked her not to tell Todd that she'd moved to New York. No matter how many times she said it, she couldn't convince Mrs. Rodgers that Todd wasn't the right man for her. She had been concerned only with the fact that he would have been a great provider. Coming from humble means, Chey understood but wasn't willing to let her dreams die under Todd's misogynistic thumb.

Exasperated, Todd grunted. “Okay, what's this really about?” Chey couldn't believe his attitude. “I've given you time. You should be back in Virginia planning our wedding.”

“Todd! There won't be a wedding!”

“What's gotten into you?” He looked genuinely confused.

“Sense! That's what!”

His face changed; his new look bordered anger. “You're saying being with me didn't make sense. I'm a prominent attorney. Need I remind you that I'm being promoted to partner? I come from a wealthy family. Certainly it makes more sense for you to be with me than any other man. Who else could offer the life I'm capable of providing for you?” His expression changed again as if he'd just put the pieces of a puzzle together. “That's it! There's another man.” Todd stepped past her as if he would find him in the apartment. “Where is he?”

“Todd!” Chey dropped her head and groaned. “There's no other man!”

“So why did you run away?”

“Ugh! I don't want to marry you?”

“Why on earth not?” Todd was baffled.

“Because you don't respect me?”

Todd gave a dismissive wave. “Of course I do.”

“No, you don't. I have no interest in being the kind of wife you're looking for.”

“What's that supposed to mean?” Todd remained clearly confused.

“I want to work, make my own living. I have a dream to become a perfumer.” Todd cut his eyes toward the ceiling. “See what I mean? That's my passion and I can't be with a man who wants to control every facet of my life and would never support my dreams.”

“Your dream is silly! I mean, really. Who makes a living creating concoctions in the kitchen sink? My wife doesn't need to work. Your job would be to raise our kids. Wouldn't that be enough?”

Chey couldn't stand there another moment. How could someone young have such a dated outlook on life? “Get out, Todd!”

He stared at her, not believing she had ordered him to leave.

“Playtime is over!” he bellowed. “This is becoming embarrassing. I'm tired of my family's questions about your whereabouts. This stops here.” Todd looked around and walked toward the suitcase that Chey was packing for her trip. “You're going somewhere?”

“Yes!”

“Where?” He closed in on her, demanding an answer with his words and presence.

“That's none of your business.” Chey crossed her arms, refusing to back down.

“You are my business!” He stomped. Chey stepped back and looked at him incredulously. Todd huffed. “See how angry you make me? Let's go. Now!”

“Todd! For the last time. I'm. Not. Leaving. Here!”

Todd looked as though he hadn't understood a word she'd said.

“Let me make this clear. We're through. I'm never going to marry you. I have legitimate desires and dreams. I'm going to finish school and become a professional perfumer whether you think it's a ridiculous idea or not. I don't care how much money your family has, I don't want to be a housewife. I have a life of my own—goals of my own. I will no longer be controlled or manipulated by you or anyone else. Get it!”

Todd glared at her through angry slits for eyes. “You don't mean any of that!”

“I mean every word.”

“Where will you find another man like me? Huh? Someone who is willing to give you everything? You're unappreciative—always have been. The women at home are clamoring for a man like me and you want to throw me away like spoiled meat.”

“Hopefully, I won't ever find another man like you. And now that I'm gone, tell Cynthia she can have you!” Shock registered in every muscle across Todd's face. “Yes, I know all about Cynthia. Now she can upgrade her status from cheating sidekick to a real girlfriend for once in her life.” Chey felt horrible saying those things, dredging up hurtful memories, but convinced herself that they needed to be said. She still had more to say. Todd closed his gaping mouth. He didn't need to respond; his reaction confirmed everything Chey needed to know. “I won't be like your mother. Sitting around bored out of her mind while your father traipses around the country doing as he pleases with whomever he pleases.”

“You...you don't mean that.” Todd's mouth twisted in anger. “Take that back!” he stabbed his finger in her direction.

“I won't!”

Todd whirled around and headed for the door. With his hand on the knob, he turned back to scowl at Chey one last time. “When this silly—” he waved his hand around the room “—plan of yours fails, you'll be back. You'd just better hope it's not too late. Maybe I'll have some pity for you and consider still taking you as my wife.”

“Don't worry about that, Todd. I could never marry a man I didn't love.”

With that, Todd stormed out the door and slammed it hard behind him. Chey could hear him clomping down the steps. She sighed with relief. She didn't have to hide anymore. She was now completely free to live her life as she pleased. No more Todd. No more controlling men, period! Possibly no more well-off men either, since the ones she encountered all seemed to possess the need to control the women in their lives.

She was pressing the restart button, but first she needed to get her mother on the phone to let her know how upset she felt. She couldn't believe Mrs. Rodgers had told Todd where she lived.

Chapter 5

“U
gh!” Hunter wiped his hands down his face in frustration. His grunt rumbled through the villa.

“Let me guess...another delay,” Eric, Hunter's frat brother, said as he rolled his suitcase toward the door.

Dave, another of Hunter's frat brothers, scrunched his face, not wanting to add any speculation to the already bad situation. Hunter and Dave, along with Eric and Sam, had just spent the entire week enjoying extreme winter sports on Powder Mountain in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since college, they'd made some kind of adventurous voyage every year, from riding ATVs along the beaches and mountainsides of Costa Rica to Jet Skiing and girl watching off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

“Yep!” Hunter paced the floor in front of the TV perched over the fireplace, flanked by two mounted moose heads. His hands were positioned at his hips as he tried to think of other ways to get back home to New York City.

Sam, the coolest one of the bunch, sat on the sofa and propped his feet up against the rustic coffee table. “Listen, if you can't get out of here today—” he turned his attention from the TV to Hunter “—just chill for another day or so and head home when the weather calms down a little. You're the boss. Who's going to scold you for not going to work on Monday? Your dad?” His shoulders shook when he laughed.

Sam's casual demeanor was starting to get on Hunter's nerves. “I need to get home ASAP. You wouldn't be saying that if your flight was delayed.”

“That's why I moved to sunny Atlanta. We don't have those problems. The weather is hot and the women are, too.”

All four men laughed at Sam's last comment. Eric, who lived in Miami, simply shrugged his shoulders as if to say Sam's point was completely valid.

Dave was the only one who offered any kind of sympathy. “Maybe you should just come to the airport and see if you can possibly get another flight. Maybe they could reroute you.”

“I don't think it will make a difference. This storm is quickly moving from the Midwest to the East Coast. It's pretty bad. We would be flying right into it. If it weren't for the fact that you were heading to LA before going home to Chicago, you'd be dealing with the same delays.”

“Wait! Turn that up?” Sam put his feet down and sat straight up as he pointed to the TV.

Hunter tossed Sam the remote. He didn't want to be the one cranking up the volume on his own misfortune.

“What did he just say?” Sam inclined his ear toward the television.

The four of them abruptly turned their attention to the reporter delivering the breaking news as Sam raised the volume even more. The talking head delivering local news told them that several flights out of Salt Lake City were being canceled.

“Time to go!” Sam jumped to his feet. “I've got some honeys waiting for me back home. I can't be stuck in this place for another day.”

“I haven't seen you move this fast since you thought you saw your ex in that restaurant with another man the last time we were in Atlanta,” Eric said, doubled over in laughter.

“Didn't you just tell me not to worry—just take another day?” Hunter mocked, then tossed him a skeptical look.

“I can't get stuck here. Let's get to this airport now!” Sam was at the door with his bags within seconds.

Each body moved with a heightened sense of urgency. Within minutes, all of their bags were at the door. “What are you going to do, man?” Dave asked. “Are you coming with us to the airport?”

“Let me call the airlines. Up until now, I've just been receiving email and text alerts. I need to speak to someone.”

Eric looked at his watch. “Get on the horn, man. We can all ride together. I'd hate to leave you here stranded.”

“We should all call our airlines to confirm whether or not our flights have been changed or canceled.”

They all called their respective airlines, and moments later Eric, Sam and Dave were able to confirm that although there were slight delays, their flights were still scheduled to depart. Hunter, unfortunately, had been told that his flight was canceled and if he was lucky, he might be able to get it rescheduled for some time the next day.

“Aw, man. That sucks,” Dave said.

“Hey. It's better to be safe,” Eric added.

“You've got another day to chill. Find a way to enjoy yourself,” Sam said.

A moment later Eric's phone rang. Their car service had arrived. The men grabbed their bags and headed out of the villa. The cold greeted them with fierce whipping winds as they made their way toward the waiting car. Hunter squinted and turned his head away from the fast-falling snow. A small old man with weathered hands hopped out of the minivan and popped open the back.

With a head nod and a raspy hello, he greeted them one by one as he tried to take their bags to put them in the car. All three of them smiled politely and laid their own bags inside the cargo area.

“What do you think, I'm an old man? I could have done that for you guys,” their driver teased.

“We should be driving you around, my man,” Eric responded. They all laughed.

When the car was all stocked with their luggage and gear, they turned to Hunter.

“Are you going to be all right by yourself?” Sam asked.

“I'll be fine. I'm going to reception and ask if I can extend my reservation for one more day.”

“Don't mean to eavesdrop on your conversation,” the driver interjected. The guys looked at one another and smiled. “But did I hear you say you were going to stay one more day?”

“Yes, sir.”

He shook his head hard enough for a wisp of gray hair to fall along his brow. “I wouldn't do that if I were you, son. These roads are getting kind of bad. Pretty soon they're gonna close them off. It's dangerous trying to get up and down the mountain when the weather gets really rough.”

“But my flight was canceled. I have no choice.”

The old man took a deep breath. “Well, just try to make the best of it. They'll probably have room since after a while people won't be able to get up the mountain to get to their lodging. Be safe.” Tipping his imaginary hat, he bid Hunter farewell.

Saying their final goodbyes, Hunter tapped the car as they pulled off. Back inside, he called his brothers and parents to update them on the changes in his travel plans. As expected, his mother, Joyce, was worried about him staying overnight in the mountains without a way out.

Hunter headed to the reception area nestled in the center of the villas. He needed to secure accommodations for one more night. When he reached the main cabin, which housed the registration desk, a small café, a full restaurant and a souvenir shop, he realized for the first time that he wasn't the only one on the mountain who had been stranded. The space was filled with frustrated energy. Several people walked circles in the wood floors with cell phones pressed against their ears. Exasperated mothers tried to calm screaming babies, and desk clerks desperately tried to hang on to their dwindling patience as they tried to help riled vacationers.

Hunter spent nearly an hour in line waiting to speak to a clerk, just to find out what he already knew—there was no more room at the inn. However, the clerk agreed to help him as best she could, but he'd have to wait until the arriving guests were placed in rooms. She couldn't guarantee that all of the guests they were expecting would actually make it, but they had to hold their rooms until the evening just in case. Eventually, the road had been shut down, as the old man had predicted, but several guests had indeed made it up the mountain in time. Once the clerks waded through the mayhem, they would have a better idea of whether or not they would have vacancies.

Hunter braved the blistering cold and increasing snowfall as he trudged his way back to the villa to get his bags. He still had his room key. The others had been turned in by his frat brothers. When he got inside, he noticed that housekeeping had already cleaned the room. Instead of rushing back into the cold and waiting around the crowded lobby filled with angry people, he decided to stay in the room. If he was lucky, the person renting his villa might be one of those who hadn't made it up the mountain in time.

After leaving his bags by the door, Hunter flopped on the couch and turned on the TV. The news became graver and after a while all Hunter heard was the droning on of the newscasters as images of maps and heavy snow punctuated their rumblings. Bored, he started flipping through his social media profiles on his phone. When he tired of that, he called and spoke to his brothers again.

For a split second, he thought about calling Tricia and decided against it. He needed to make a clean break when he got back home and didn't want to do anything that could mislead her. He'd managed to avoid most of her calls through the week and when he did pick up, he'd kept his conversations cordial and brief. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt her feelings.

Hunter went back to surfing his profiles until his eyelids grew heavy and he fell asleep.

“Hello!”

A woman's voice broke through his slumber. At first he thought it was part of his dream.

“Excuse me!” The voice was laced with irritation.

Realizing the sound was outside his head, Hunter opened his eyes and beheld the caramel beauty in his blurred vision. With his forefinger, he rubbed his eyes and focused once again. She was still there. He was disoriented for a moment before remembering where he was—in a room that no longer belonged to him.

Hunter jumped up. The woman stepped back.

“I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you.” He looked around for his bags, blinked and finally got his bearings. “This is your room?”

“Uh...yes!” She held up her set of keys and then folded her arms across her torso.

“Then pardon me...” Hunter paused as his eyes traveled across her sweetheart lips and connected with her large brown eyes. His smile was involuntary. She looked skeptical and slightly confused. “I must have fallen asleep. I didn't mean to alarm you. I'll be out of your way in a moment.” He didn't move.

Neither did she.

Their eyes remained connected. Finally, he tore his gaze away from hers and started walking toward his bags by the door. Halfway, he stopped, walked back up to her and held out his hand. “My apologies for being rude. My name is Hunter—Hunter Barrington.” At first she hesitated, but then she held out her hand to accept the greeting. Hunter could have sworn the temperature around them rose a few degrees when her hand touched his. He smiled again. “I guess I'll be going now.”

Damn, she's gorgeous!
Hunter sauntered toward the door, grabbed his bags and walked out into the blanket of snow falling from the Utah evening sky. Only this time, he didn't feel the cold.

BOOK: His Love Lesson
10.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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