Done [Running to Love 4] (Siren Publishing Classic) (3 page)

Lacey drifted her fingers across Aiden’s downy head and headed toward the front door, carefully locking up behind her, having acknowledged Alex’s murmured good-bye with only a nod, no longer trusting herself not to totally lose it if she said one more word. She felt so alone, but it would be a temporary state of affairs. She knew that Alex would keep her confidence without even asking the other woman and regretted that she might not see her again. She hadn’t really gotten any advice, but she had pretty much made her mind up in any event. The drive home had her thinking through all the arrangements she had made in the last ten days or so, right under Greg’s unobservant nose, making no attempt to hide her intent. She was ready, and it made no sense to continue the charade, even if her heart felt like a lump of charred coal at the thought of never being with Greg again in any shape or form.

She had made the final overture, probably processing what Alex had quietly said, waited until Greg had crawled into bed after apologizing for once again missing dinner. He had been absent the whole evening if the truth were to be told. Lacey had eschewed a nightgown and slid over to him, spooning against his back, his warmth and the long, hard planes of him rubbing her nipples and thighs. She had just reached to caress him when he stiffened and spoke, “I’m tired, Lacey, and I took one of those damn pills, so give it a rest.”

That was the straw. The end of the civility. For a moment she wanted to push him, see if he would ante up, lose his temper, fight with her like they used to over important things, and then she lost the taste for it. He had trained her to be submissive to him, to surrender, and so she did. Lacey rolled over, putting her back to him and looked into the dark, feeling the wetness between her legs that only Greg could elicit literally dry up, and then laid a hand over her belly. She gave it a little pat and decided. Done. She’d make it official in the morning.

Chapter Three

 

“I’ll grab something on the way to work,” Greg announced as he filled his travel mug from the carafe. “I don’t expect you to make me breakfast every day.”

“The omelet is for me,” Lacey said quietly as she sat at the only place setting and shook out a napkin. She had to eat something in the mornings, according to her doctor. She was losing weight and should be gaining. She didn’t think she would be able to chew the thing, let alone swallow it, for her morning sickness hadn’t yet totally abated, and even the smell of her breakfast made her feel ill, not that Greg had noticed. The man who previously noticed every freaking little thing, right down to a change in the color of her manicure or a minute change in the length of her hair, wasn’t inclined to notice anything and wasn’t home long enough to do so, not even the suitcases standing in the hall.

“Oh. Well, that’s okay then. Don’t worry about dinner either.”

“I won’t, Greg. I was going to leave you a note, but that’s pretty cowardly, so if you can spare a moment, I’ll tell you now.”

Lacey dared to look up from the massacre of her eggs when the silence stretched out for more than a minute. For a moment the old Greg stared back at her, and her heart quickened its pace, and her pussy clutched on itself, and then his eyes shifted. He shrugged and pulled out a chair, sitting to face her. Her soul shriveled at his apparent indifference, but she managed to speak.

“I’m moving out today. You can reach me on my cell if you need my signature on anything.” She reached up and unhooked her heavy chain collar with its little emerald bangle, and let it curl down onto the table like a miniature river of gold. It made a clunking sound, kind of like the one her heart was making, a distant, final sound. Greg leaned back from the table. Lacey waited, hoping against hope that he would suddenly come to his senses and see that their relationship needed retrieving, that he would realize that he needed therapy, and that things would miraculously go back to the way they were before.

“Maybe it’s for the best, Lacey,” he said. “Things haven’t been too good around here.”

Lacey somehow held it together, bottled all the crass and cruel things up that wanted to tumble from her lips. She wouldn’t diminish herself. This had been his plan all along. He wanted her gone, and it had taken just over thirteen weeks, a total of ninety-four days, to push her away. Lucky thirteen. And all she had done was pay mute witness to his anguish that night, tried to take some of his pain onto herself, before he locked her out. He didn’t even have the balls to tell her like the man he used to be would have done. Well, fuck him. All the rebellious, nonsubmissive edges that he had successfully expunged in her, albeit with her pleased consent, seemed to resurrect in that moment, but while she drew strength from the fact, she refused to let it become evident. She just thought it really loudly.

The raised edges on the handle of the fork dug into her middle and index fingers, and she watched the skin fold over and whiten as she tightened her grip even more. But she didn’t let anything show in her face other than a studied calmness, a face she had modeled for her parents for years, and one that came back for her to utilize with surprising ease. When she remained silent, Greg nodded at her and left the kitchen. She heard the front door close quietly and then his vehicle start up, heard the sound of it pulling away, the rumble diminishing into the distance. Only when she was certain that he wouldn’t return did she allow the tears to fall. And the tears were for her baby, not for him, not for her, she assured herself. Greg would have made an amazing dad, at least the Greg of old would have, but there was no use hoping for something that wasn’t meant to be. She cleared the table, scraping her meal into the garbage, blinking against the stinging haze of moisture, and stacked her few dishes in the dishwasher. She added soap and turned it on, then took one last look around before grabbing her keys and going to get her suitcases. Greg either hadn’t seen them or hadn’t deigned to take them out to her car. Well, it probably would have hurt more if he had done so.

She rolled the bags out one by one and humped them into the trunk. The train case that wouldn’t fit, and the box of pictures and mementos went into the back seat. Her next door neighbor came out to pick up the paper and waved a casual hand. Lacey waved back and then looked away, not wanting to initiate a conversation and be forced to explain what the suitcases meant or come up with a lie. Mrs. Hodges went back inside, and Lacey hurried to get into the car and drive away. She didn’t look at the house again, choosing not to prolong what was now feeling like knives in her chest. She wouldn’t get to see the rose bushes bloom this year or see if the Japanese maple had made it through the winter, and there would be no cajoling the twins across the street to quit using their driveway as a skateboard park. There would be no cookouts in the back yard with their mutual friends. She turned left at the corner and drove to her new home, having taken the day off work to move in and begin her new life without rushing. She was so exhausted that she wasn’t certain she could even unpack today.

Chapter Four

 

Lacey absently rubbed her belly, grimacing at the cramping sensation, and shifted on her desk chair in an effort to ease the discomfort. She hadn’t felt well over the past few days, but put it down to stress. Her feet were swollen, and her legs ached and today her head hurt, too. Following the decision to leave Greg, she had found an apartment on the second floor of an old Victorian home. The landlady lived on the main floor and was quite elderly. It made Lacey feel a bit like having a grandmother close by, and Mrs. Withers indeed was very kind. The top floor was rented to a fellow who looked to be in his thirties, and he was away a lot of the time, something to do with computers.

David Astor had helped her haul her bags into the apartment that day when he’d seen her manhandling them up the stairs of the porch. He was a nice-looking guy, just above average height with a lean build, dark hair, and kind brown eyes. The exact opposite of Greg. Lacey felt his interest the moment he took the largest case from her and was glad that he travelled so much. She certainly wasn’t ready for any kind of involvement. Mrs. Withers knew she was pregnant, having divined it in some mysterious manner, and Lacey thought she’d play that card with David if he ramped up his attentions, although he had been nothing but sweet.

It had been a nice distraction, finding some appropriate furnishings for her new home and seeing them put into their proper place over the past couple of months. She had taken her time, drawing things out, so as to fill her nonworking hours and not give herself time to brood. The ceilings in the apartment were high and the windows tall. She kept the latter from looking too austere by adding silk drapes that puddled on the floor beneath them, and grouped the furniture into little gathering places for reading or visiting in the event she ever felt like having company again. The antique kitchen appliances took some getting used to, but Lacey was a good cook and managed to make healthy meals and not lose too many things in the depths of the fridge. She had to use a stool to reach the high upper cabinets and cursed her lack of height more than once until she settled on using the bottom units for easy access storage. It wouldn’t do for her to lose her balance as her pregnancy advanced, and fall. She sincerely hoped the items stashed above the counter would rarely be needed.

The dining and living rooms were south facing, and the light buoyed her spirits on the worst of her days, and she still had plenty of those when she forgot to block thoughts and memories of Greg. She would be triggered by the damnedest things, like a whiff of a man’s aftershave in a restaurant or a song on the car radio, and then she would cry and cry. The pregnancy hormones weren’t helping either, although the morning sickness had passed. She hadn’t done very much in the baby’s room, other than to add some colorful curtains and buy a bassinet. She knew just the crib she wanted to purchase, and the changing table and the stroller, too, but had yet to sell her car and wanted to purchase quality items when she did so. There was still a lot of time left in any event, just about four months, although time did seem to be passing quickly, whenever she could avoid thinking of Greg that was. Because when she couldn’t, she would slip back into the past and remember things and the regret would make her heart feel like it was being squeezed by a giant, cold fist. The erotic memories were the hardest to repress, probably because her body was giving her evidence of just how potent that part of her life had been. She had woken up only this morning and gotten caught between a night and a day dream. It had taken a major effort to get out of bed, because it had seemed so real.

“Baby, your mouth is so amazing. Hold me right there. There. Swallow, Lacey, again!” Greg’s dark, forceful, yet strained tone made her pussy so wet, and the taste of him spurting against the back of her throat just added to her arousal. She had worked hard at sucking out the last of his seed and let him slip out between her lips, reveling in the sated look on his face, in her feminine power. It would be her turn next and the anticipation cranked her desire higher.

The memory, and many others like it, usually came out of nowhere and Lacey momentarily wondered who Greg was fucking now, and felt further regret and accompanying rank jealousy. She wondered if he was back at the Club and teaching, training some other woman or even women how to revel in their sexuality and learn to surrender. She wondered if he had become interested in sex again, sex with someone other than her, because she clearly hadn’t been enough for him or right for him.

Shit, her guts were in knots.
The discomfort was enough that it even took her mind away from her erotic memories and resulting further unhappiness. Wordlessly chastising herself for eating that strange combination of salad and cottage cheese with almonds for lunch, cravings aside, Lacey headed for the staff bathroom, catching the concerned gaze of the receptionist. She tried to smile at Gladys, only to wince in pain, and hurried past her.

Gladys and Mrs. Withers should be glad that witches didn’t get dunked or burned around here, because they had both figured out her condition despite the fact that the baby was just a tiny bump and not noticeable behind clothing. She was not a very big person, yet her child somehow hid deep in the curve of her body, behind loose clothes, even though she was five months pregnant. Lacey was also certain she hadn’t given even a tiny verbal hint about the expected baby, but the two older women had known and were very sweet and supportive. Their kindness helped Lacey get through the rough patches, whether it was tea with her landlady or girlfriend lunches with Gladys. She had eschewed all of her previous friendships with Greg’s colleagues and their wives, because she couldn’t stand their compassion and sympathy. She also didn’t want them to confront him with her pregnancy, and after several polite refusals, they had respected her wishes and left her alone. She still connected with her younger colleagues, but they, too, seemed to give her space, perhaps because her pervasive sadness dragged everyone down despite her best attempts to mitigate it.

She suddenly doubled over before an onslaught of pain and just managed to yank her pants and underwear down and sit on the commode, the door to the stall banging against the lock.

“Lacey?” Gladys’s kind voice intruded on Lacey’s now-agonizing cramps. She tried to answer but couldn’t manage it, other than a tiny gasp. “Lacey, dear?”

Lacey moaned, and the door to the stall was pushed open as if by magic, or by a large, determined, maternal receptionist.

“Oh, dear. I’ll call an ambulance.”

Lacey shook her head. “Just give me a minute,” she croaked.

“But you need to go to the hospital!”

“I know, but I don’t want the rest of the office to find out. Can you help me with that, Gladys?” Lacey knew she was begging, and it was okay. She needed help but she couldn’t face the spectacle if all of her colleagues gathered to offer, let alone the bosses.

Gladys bustled away and quickly returned with a towel. “I keep this for when I water the plants. Can you fold it up and use it or do you need help?”

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