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Authors: Carol Rose

Momentary Marriage

BOOK: Momentary Marriage
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Momentary Marriage

By

Carol Rose

 

Copyright Carol Rose 2012

 

Cover image courtesy of
FurmanAnna
& iStock

Cover by Joleene Naylor

All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced in any form, in whole or in part (beyond that copying permitted by U.S. Copyright Law, Section 107, “fair use” in teaching or research. Section 108, certain library copying, or in published media by reviewers in limited excerpt), without written permission from the publisher.

CHAPTER ONE

"I'm in love with Doug," Amy said in a low voice, "and he's in love with you."

“Wait a minute,” Kelsey Layton protested, “You’re seriously in love with
Doug
?”

“Yes,” Amy said. “I’m very seriously, totally and stupidly in love with him. I know he doesn’t see any woman but you and I’ve tried to accept that and go on, but—“

“Seriously? You're in love with Doug?” Kelsey felt incredibly stupid. Her only kid sister was in love—with a guy they'd both know since junior high--and she hadn’t noticed? “Why haven’t you talked to me about this? You’ve never said anything about wanting to hook up with Doug, not really.”

Amy glanced down. “Doug’s been your property for a long time. I-I guess I thought you’d feel like I was poaching.”

“Doug? My property?” she repeated incredulously. “Whatever gave you that idea?”

“He did. You did. Not that you were ever in love with him, but that he’s, well, kind of your ‘accessory guy.’ Your back-up. I told myself to get over it. Then about nine months ago, he asked me to that gallery show,” her sister paused, running a distracted hand through her mane of curly, dark hair. “We had a lot of fun. Went out dancing afterwards. He…kissed me. I thought maybe he was getting over his crush on you. Maybe we could actually have a chance.”

“My God,” Kelsey said faintly, blown away by her own lack of awareness. She and her sister weren’t joined at the hip, of course, but she’d thought they were close. The need to survive their mother's multiple serial marriages and all the adjustments to different cities they'd survived had bound them closely as kids. One of the good things about working for the same Manhattan ad agency was the chance it gave them to work so closely together.

“Doug and I have been doing more things together, off and on, for months. I thought he was starting to care for me till I realized he only sees me when you’re not available.” A starkness entered Amy’s brown eyes.

“No!” Kelsey leaned forward, catching her sister’s hand. “I’m sure that’s not true. Doug and I have always been good friends, that’s all. You’ve got to be mistaken.”

Kelsey's friendship with Doug Morton went back to junior high when he'd gone to school with she and Amy. To everyone's surprise, sweet, goofy Doug had grown into a successful executive with Barrett Incorporated and brought their account to the ad agency where Kelsey was art director.

“Yesterday we had plans for lunch and he canceled at the last minute,” Amy said through tight lips.

Kelsey frowned. “We had a business lunch yesterday with Jared Barrett.”

“And what of consequence did you three talk about?” her sister asked, meaningfully, “I know for a fact that you could have handled everything with Jared. You didn’t need Doug there.”

“You know for a fact? Doug admitted that he was trying to avoid having lunch with you?”

Amy gazed down at her short fingernails. “Well, no. Doug never admits anything that relates to you, but I have my sources.”

“Oh.” Kelsey didn't know what to make of that, but she hated to see her sister so upset. How could she not have known Amy’s feelings about Doug?

Amy straightened in her chair, jutting her chin out belligerently. “Doug sees me as a friend, not a woman. He kissed me just that once, but it didn’t go any further.”

Kelsey stared at her. As close as they were, they’d never developed the habit of discussing their lovers in detail. Truthfully, the thought of Amy getting romantic with Doug, of all people, took some mental adjustment. “I, uh. That’s…too bad. Could it be—I'm not trying to hurt you, but maybe he's just not that into you?”

“Has Doug ever told you he takes me out? Has he ever talked about me at all?” Amy asked, her tone both hurt and angry.

“No,” Kelsey said slowly, “but Doug and I mostly talk about work. You’ve mentioned doing things with him, but I’d just assumed you guys were…friends.”

“We’re
friends,
all right. Doug doesn’t even think of me as a woman,” Amy said again, her tone bitter. “I’m just someone to go out with when he isn't busy with you.”

“No,” Kelsey protested. “I know Doug cares about you.”

“Maybe, but not like a woman.” Amy stared at her for a long moment, her usually open face unreadable. “Doug thinks he has feelings for you.”

Kelsey chuckled. “You know that’s nothing serious. It’s just that I was the first girl he ever had a crush on. He’s gotten used to thinking he has a right to know everything. I cry on his shoulder and talk to him about my dates.”

“Come on,” Amy said, dryly. “It’s more than that. At least, for him. Doug’s been following you around for years, waiting for you to realize he’s the one.”

“Not really,” she said, laughing. “I’m just an old habit.”


You
may think that,” her sister said, “but Doug believes he’s in love with you. He wants to marry you.”

“No,” Kelsey protested again. “Not really.”

Amy’s steady gaze held her own. “Are you saying you didn’t know how he felt? That you haven’t noticed?”

Kelsey’s gaze dropped to the stack of work on her desk. She wanted to deny her sister’s assertion, but hearing it said so bluntly startled her into wondering. Hadn’t she known on some level that Doug…cared for her a tad more romantically than she did for him? But surely things weren’t as bad as Amy thought.

Doug had always just been there. When they were kids, he’d cared when they had to leave school and move away and he’d been excited when they moved back.

“We dated a couple of times in high school,” Kelsey reminded her, “but nothing more. You know that.”

“Nothing more because you got interested in that jock on the football team,” Amy told her.

Startled, Kelsey met her gaze. “You remember that?”

“No, I didn’t. But Doug has told me every step of his courting you. Several times.” There was no disguising the pain in Amy's face.

“Geez, that’s sensitive of him,” Kelsey commiserated, trying to comfort her sister while her head still reeled from the information that Amy was in love with Doug.

Two years younger than Kelsey, Amy had always been bright and cheerful, sweet and fun. Now that Kelsey thought about it, her sister would be good for Doug, who tended to take life too seriously.

Amy grimaced. "I'm in love with him, Kelsey, and I think, down deep, he loves me, but he’s been infatuated with you for so long he can’t let go."

Kelsey sat back in her chair, exasperated. “I need to have a talk with that man. There’s been nothing romantic between us for more than a decade. He’s crazy not to see how great you are.”

“If you really want to help,” Amy said, getting up. “Stop giving him crumbs.”

“What?”

Amy sighed. “Look, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you keep Doug hanging around at your heels. You call him when you don’t have a date. He helps you with guy-things when you can’t get your super to fix stuff in your apartment. You keep giving him hope.”

Kelsey stared at her in shock. “We’re friends. That’s all.”

“Not to him,” Amy said patiently. “You feel friendly, but he wants to be your knight in shining armor. You’re calling a friend for help, but he wants more, so he takes your relying on him as a sign of something more. I’ve realized lately that he only takes me out when he knows you’re busy. He rushes out and buys you flowers when your latest boyfriend is a jerk. He’s never even bought me flowers. Doug is putting our lives on hold for you.”

“My God,” Kelsey murmured. “You think I actually encourage him to….”

“To follow you around like a puppy? Yes, I do.” Amy put up a hand. “I know you don’t do it intentionally. I just don’t think you see how you’re encouraging him. If you don’t want him, you’ve got to let him go.”

“My God.” Kelsey said again, getting up to take an agitated turn around the tiny office. “This is terrible. You’re my sister. I love you, for God’s sake, and Doug is my friend! I’d never want to hurt either one of you.”

“I know.”

“Sure, I knew he had a little lingering infatuation, a sort of idealized image of me. But I never thought he’d let it get in the way of….” Kelsey tossed the pencil she’d been clutching in the general direction of her desk. “I told Doug years ago that I didn’t love him that way. That I never would.”

“Maybe there’s nothing you can do to convince him,” Amy said, her face suddenly tired. “It’s not like you haven’t dated other men. It’s just that I’ve tried to make him see reality for a year now and I’m getting nothing in return but a broken heart.”

Amy looked away, brushing at her suddenly damp eyes with an angry hand.

“I’m so sorry.”

Amy shook her head. “I can’t blame you totally. I’ve done the same thing with him that he’s doing with you. Following him around all these months, going out with him when he calls at the last minute.”

Kelsey looked at her, unable to think of anything to say. She couldn’t remember ever letting herself get so caught up in a man. It was, in fact, a goal of hers to avoid this sort of misery. Hadn’t Amy learned anything from their mother’s mistakes?

Falling in love could be a light, fun romantic adventure or you could let it eat your heart up. She’d always been determined to stay on the safer side of the emotion, but Amy was a romantic. A woman who persisted in believing in ever-after despite all the evidence of its falsity.

The urge to protect her little sister was strong. They’d always faced their ever-changing world together.

For a moment, Kelsey considered recommending Amy to play it safe.
Forget Doug. Don’t let any man that close to your heart.
She didn’t say it, though. For one thing, she really loved her sister, and there was enough truth in Amy’s observations about her own behavior to sting. It would be too easy an out for her, just to blow the situation off as more validation of her own dating strategy.

“I may be making some big changes,” Amy said, wiping her nose with a tissue. “I have a…friend with business connections in London. He asked me not to say anything to anyone yet, but he’s been talking to some people about getting me a job over there.”

“London?” Kelsey sat down with a thud. “You can’t be serious!”

Taking another sip of her coffee, her sister said nothing.

Kelsey stared at Amy in dismay. The thought of her only sibling living halfway across the world hit her like a blow in the solar plexus. What would she do without Amy close by? No more all day shopping trips together, no more chats over coffee.

“Amy,” she said with difficulty, “moving to London…that’s a huge step to take because of a guy. Even Doug.”

“I know,” her sister admitted, “but I can’t go on like this and I can’t stay here much longer and watch him following you around like a puppy. Before I have any future with Doug, he’s going to have to let go of you and that doesn't seem likely anytime soon.”

“You’d be so far away,” Kelsey protested, her stomach knotting further. They’d always clung together, anchoring each other in the storms of their mother’s tumultuous love life. “I’d never get to see you. You really have to think about it before you make a big move like that.”

“I am,” her sister said wearily, getting up. “But right now, I’ve got to get back to work.”

“We’ll find a way to sort this out,” Kelsey assured her as Amy left. “See you later.”

She sat staring into space for a long time when she was alone. This was terrible. She’d known, of course, that Amy liked Doug when they were kids. Her sister had confessed to it when she was sixteen and Kelsey was heading off to college. But with their hectic lives and trying to make a living in the City, somehow Amy’s feelings about Doug had never come up again.

BOOK: Momentary Marriage
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