What do you say when the two men you love just threw themselves over the rail of a cruise ship and confessed their undying love?
There are no words. It’s way too much to process.
Water drips from Jake’s dark hair into his puppy dog eyes. I want to say something, give him something. But then I look at Kyle whose expression is beaten and bruised. I’ve hurt my husband enough for one day. Maybe even enough for a lifetime.
“Lady, we don’t have all day for this love triangle drama. C’mon guys,” the officer motions for two other patrolmen to escort my two husbands away.
“Wait! Where are you taking them?” I follow behind as the guys hang their heads.
“To jail,” the officer says plainly. Oh sure, it’s a normal day for him.
“Hold on! Can’t you two just drop the charges?” I call to their backs.
“No! He stole my wife and almost killed me!” Jake tries to turn around but the patrolman manhandles him into submission.
“That’s what you get for not keeping your goddamn hands to yourself!” Kyle yells back at him.
The head officer pulls me aside. “If I were you, I’d wait to see which one of these idiots survives the day in jail.” A sinking feeling weighs on my gut at the thought of the two of them jailed together in a foreign country. He hands me a business card with the precinct information. “You can pick up the winner here.”
Oh, my god. They’re not thinking clearly. None of us have been thinking clearly. And now the only thing that’s clear is that I need to rescue them both.
I ask the cruise ship guard who escorted me out here to take me back. I need to get our things and get off of this boat as soon as humanly possible. As we return up the ramp onto the ship, Emily waits near the entrance, tapping her foot with her arms crossed.
“What the hell happened?” she demands in a harsh tone.
Nothing good. I glance back recalling the whole thing in my mind. “You don’t want to know.”
“Oh, I already know they got into a fight and flew overboard.”
My eyes widen. “You saw it?”
“No, but I was woken up by some rude cruise staff with the news since Jake and I are sharing a room. So what’s happening now? They’ve been arrested?”
“Yeah, they pressed charges against each other. Will you come with me to bail them out?”
Emily’s arms fling in the air. “Are you out of your mind?” These days, it does seem like that. “What makes you think I’d go rescue a guy who nearly died fighting over you? I’ll never understand why they think you’re so great. You know that Kyle and I broke up because of you?”
Yeah, I do.
She takes a menacing step toward me, red-faced. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to be in love with someone who’s in love with someone else? Do you know how bad that hurts?”
Then I see something in her eyes. Something that’s difficult to confront. Whatever happened between her and Kyle caused real pain. Pain that feels as fresh as it did when it happened years ago. No doubt this is the pain that both my husbands share. And something I clearly know nothing about.
“Yeah, I didn’t think so,” she says. “I guess you and Kyle deserve each other.” Then, the angered, heartbroken woman stomps up the hall toward the elevator. And rightly so. Every time her sandal smacks against the concrete floor, I feel something shift. It’s like I can mentally and emotionally pull back, remove myself from the situation, and see the truth. The truth is that pain, when not dealt with, only causes more pain. No matter what I do now, this whole thing is a total shit-show.
And so I go quiet.
Once I’ve packed up all our things in our stateroom, I head to the main desk. The lady behind the counter already knows who I am. “We haven’t had this much excitement on the boat for a while. So is it like a love triangle kinda thing, or polygamy, or what?”
My cheeks turn hot pink. Is she seriously asking me this right now?
“Hey, if two men threw themselves into the ocean over me, it’d make my day!” I think this woman watches too many soap operas.
“Really? My cruise, and potentially my life, is ruined. And now I have to go save their asses from jail. That would make your day?”
She sends me a dismissive wave. “Don’t worry. They’ll probably be in a holding cell with a bunch of other drunk tourists.”
“That’s supposed to make me feel better?”
“No. Two handsome-ass men are in love with you. That should make you feel better.” What kind of customer service is this? She hands me some documentation. “By the way, neither of them are allowed back on this cruise line again.”
I shoot her a caustic glare. “Thanks for your help.”
“It’s my pleasure.” She beams.
I wheel both mine and Kyle’s bags out to the dock and begin heading toward the main square to catch a cab.
“Hey, Natalie!” A screeching woman’s voice calls. “Up here!”
I turn around, scanning the crowd behind me. My gaze moves up the boat past the little circular windows and up to the rows of balconies stacked on top of each other until I spot a woman waving a white T-shirt in the air. Emily?
“Tell Jake I said it’s over!” she shouts and tosses the shirt overboard. It floats in the air, dropping toward the water, quickly followed by another piece of clothing. Then another. And another. I watch as Jake’s entire weekend wardrobe follows his fate and hits the water below.
“Hey!” one of the guards yells from the dock into a megaphone. “Crazy lady! Stop throwing items off the ship!”
“I’m almost done!” she yells back, tossing a pair of black boxer briefs.
I can’t bear to watch this anymore.
Maybe it was a mistake thinking that I’d never have to bail my two husbands out of jail. It’s not like they haven’t had a brawl before.
After posting bail, I wait while the man behind the desk finishes the paperwork. “Look I don’t want them to know I’ve bailed them out before I get a chance to talk to them.”
“Trust me, they’ve been punished enough,” he says and I swallow hard. So much for a cell of drunken tourists.
When I get to the cell, they’re the only two in it. Then I take in the fact that it’s no bigger than an elevator cab. So that’s what the guy at the desk meant.
“You two ready to drop the charges?” I ask, approaching the metal barred cell.
Kyle rushes toward the closed, barred door. “I knew you’d come for me.”
“She’s not here for you. She’s here for me.” Jake follows behind.
“You’re both wrong. I’m not here for either of you.”
“What do you mean?” Kyle knits his brow, white-knuckling his fists around the bars.
“I know you two want me to choose between you, but in this moment, either decision would be wrong.”
“So, what are you saying?” Jake asks.
“I care about you both but I can’t keep doing this and neither can you. I’m going to do what I should’ve done a long time ago. I need time and space to clear my head. So, I’m going home by myself.”
Kyle’s eyes bulge. “You’re just gonna leave us here!”
“That depends.” I fold my arms. “Will you both drop the charges against each other?”
They each shift their eyes reluctantly toward the other and share some version of an agreeable nod.
“Good. I already bailed you both out.” I wheel Kyle’s suitcase closer to the cell. “Here are your things.”
“I suppose that other suitcase isn’t for me?” Jake asks, eyeing my carry-on.
“No. Emily was pretty pissed. I wouldn’t count on getting any of your things back.”
I stayed at Sloan’s last night with Lily. I know Kyle got home safely because I called and asked one of my neighbors. I told her that Kyle wasn’t well and had to come home early. Thankfully, she didn’t ask any other questions. Jake’s a survivor. So I know wherever he is, he’ll be all right.
I know I said I needed time to clear my head. The thing is, I don’t really know how to do that. I only know how to keep my head down and push through. So that’s why I’m at the office right now, distracting myself with work. And what better way to do that than setting up yet another showing with the Delures? Because it’s totally like me to make a bad situation worse.
I grab my tote and just as I’m about to head to the scheduled showing, Jake walks into my office.
“What are you doing here?” I ask.
He shrugs, putting his hands in his pockets. “I saw your car in the parking lot. I need to talk to you.”
I think back to the day when Jake came into my office while my car was being repossessed because of his gambling debts. So is it crazy to think he’s about to drop another bomb on me? “I can’t right now. I have a client appointment.” I begin walking past him but he steps in my way.
“This will just take a second.”
I let out a sigh and will myself to look at his face.
“I’m sorry that I kissed you, no matter how good it felt at first.”
“At first?” I ask.
“Yeah. When you pulled away from me, I could see this look in your eyes and I knew that I’d done the wrong thing. Again. I’m sorry.”
I drop my head. “I shouldn’t have kissed you back.”
“Why did you?”
“Because, Jake, I . . . I still love you. You know I do, otherwise, you wouldn’t have kissed me in the first place.” I pause. “But I can’t be with you anymore. We need to let each other go. For real.”
“It’s hard, Quinn,” he says with sad eyes.
“I know, it’s hard for me too. But I don’t want us to keep hurting each other.”
He nods. “I don’t either. I just want you to be happy. I thought you’d be happier with me.”
“I was happier with you, remember? But things changed,” I say.
“I know. You’re right. You should take time to figure out what you want.”
“Thank you for saying that.”
He nods quietly with his eyes lowered, and I know it’s not the outcome he was hoping for.
I glance at my watch. “I’m sorry but I have to go. It’s that French couple again.”
“You still haven’t fired them?”
I shake my head. “No. You know me. It takes a lot more bullshit before I give up.” I mean it playfully but I also want him to remember that I haven’t forgotten about everything he put me through.
“Well, I hope they don’t let you down again.”
“Thanks.” I head out, leaving him standing in my office for a moment before turning back.
“Hey, Jake,” I say, approaching him.
“Yeah?” He looks up.
I wrap my arms around his neck and pull him in. “I want you to be happy too.”
He squeezes me tight, burring his face in the crook of my neck. “Thanks, Quinn.”
I let him go and don’t look back.
When I pull up to yet another breathtaking million-dollar property, the Delures are walking out of the front door.
How’d they get in?
I park next to the curb with a loud screech and hurry over to my clients. “What happened? Our appointment isn’t until two.” I glance at my watch again, and it’s only two-o-one.
“We got here early to check out the neighborhood. The listing agent was already here so we decided to do the tour without you.”
Of course, you did. I’m getting really sick of hauling my ass around town for these people. “So I guess you’re done for the day.”
“Absolutely not!” Mrs. Delure says. “We loved it. We’d like to go back to your office and make an offer right now.”
I blink incredulously. “Seriously? An offer to buy this house?”
“That is how this works, isn’t it? Come on, Natalie, this is your job, right?” Mr. Delure says.
“Yeah, I know, it’s just . . .” I wave my hand. “Never mind. Let’s go back to my office.”
The couple follows behind me in their glossy white Porsche. Two miles in, I’m positive they’re going to turn off the road at any moment. But to my surprise, the three of us make it back to my office. And can you believe it? They actually make an offer! Signatures and everything. I haven’t been this excited about a contract in years and all I want to do is tell someone. I know exactly who that someone is.
“Hey,” Kyle’s eyes widen in surprise as he answers our front door.
I give a hesitant smile. “Hi. How are you?”
“I’ve been better.” He squares his chest almost like he’s bracing himself for something bad.
“Can I come in?”
“Sure,” he says and moves out of the doorway.
I haven’t been home in two days but it feels like forever. “I wanted to tell you the good news.”
“The Delures submitted a contract on a house. You were right about me hanging in there.”
He smiles. “That’s great. I know what that means for you.”
“Yeah, it is. And it made me realize that the really good stuff is worth holding out for. And I think what you and I have is really good. It’s great, actually. So, I don’t want to give up on us. But I meant what I said. I need time away to process and grieve my losses the right way so I’m not dragging a bunch of unnecessary baggage into our marriage.” I walk over and take his hand. “I want to be all in with you because you deserve that. I think I just need a little time to get there.”
He squeezes my hand in his. “I’m glad to hear you say that. I think some time away would do us both good.”
“Yeah. I love you, Natalie. I want to be all in with you too. So, if we need to take a step back to take two steps forward, then we should do it.”
I exhale, tears prickling at my eyes. “You really are the best husband a girl could ask for. You know that, right?”
He smiles. “Come here.” He pulls me into his arms and I feel his steady heartbeat against my ear. It’s like for the first time in a long time, we’re on the same page.
It’s done. The papers are signed.
I walk out of the attorney’s office and find Kyle standing next to my car with an elaborate bouquet of flowers.
“So?” he asks with a bright smile.
“I did it!”
My heart begins to pound the moment the words leave my mouth. The commission I just earned on this closing is a huge step toward having my own real estate firm.
Kyle hands me the flowers and I inhale the strong scent of deeply red roses. “How do you feel?”
“I feel freaking amazing! Thank you so much for introducing them to me. This wouldn’t have been possible without you.” As a stockbroker, Kyle has access to a lot of wealthy people and the referrals are incredible.
“I’m happy to help,” he says and leans in to kiss me like it’s the end of our third date.
It’s not our third date, but it is the third month we’ve been officially dating. As soon as my divorce was final. It was one of those things that felt like it just happened. Then again, when I look back, it was definitely inevitable. He’d just show up at my door and help me with things around the house, just like when Jake was in Vegas, only this time we would commiserate about Jake’s issues together. It was like the worse Jake got, the closer Kyle and I became.
Finally, we had an intervention and Jake agreed to go to rehab. While he was in there, it was like a heaviness had lifted. I felt lighter, freer, despite the mess he’d left for me. Maybe it was because I missed being with a man. Or being with a man who is actually considerate and kind. But I think it was much more than that because there was one night where Kyle and I practically attacked each other at the mouth and made love for hours. Months, or even years, of sexual tension finally released. It was absolutely amazing. And just what I needed.
After that, it was too difficult to keep away from each other, and I could feel myself falling for him every second. It was the first time since my separation that I actually felt hopeful. That my life wasn’t completely ruined.
About three weeks into our relationship, we confessed the “L” word. He said it first and I’m sure he felt it first. But I felt it too. I’ve had to keep it pretty quiet from my friends and family. Even though they’ve blacklisted Jake, they’re not too keen on me dating his friend either. But I just ignore them. It’s my life after all.
“Let’s go celebrate,” Kyle suggests grinning.
He takes me to this fun little tiki bar on the oceanfront. We sip on mai tais, eat shrimp tacos, and lie on a double lounge chair on the sand beneath a palm tree as the sun begins to set. It’s the perfect end to a perfect transaction.
“C’mon let’s go for a walk.” He takes my drink.
“I’ve had a couple of those, so this walk might be more of a stumble,” I say.
He smiles, taking my hand and I feel steady again. We walk right along the shoreline, the warm ocean water sliding up over our feet while our toes sink into the soft sand. The sky matches my mai tai with its mix of orange and yellow hues. We talk about everything and nothing at all while the ocean breeze hits our cheeks.
“Are you happy with me?” he asks.
I look at him, a slightly buzzed grin spreads across my face. “Of course. You make me very happy.”
“Good, because you make me happy too.”
I slide my arm around his waist, burying my face into the side of his chest as we continue our sunset walk. His heart thumps loudly against his chest, and his T-shirt does little to muffle it. I look up at him and notice his expression is somewhat serious.
Then he stops. “I want to tell you something.” He takes my hands in his. “I love you, Natalie. I’ve loved you for a long time. And I think . . . no, I know we belong together.” He kneels down onto the wet sand.
I glance around, half expecting a crowd of people to surround us and shout, “Gotcha!”
But there are no other people. There’s only me, him, and . . . a two-carat round cut diamond ring!
Oh, my god. He’s going to—
“Natalie Quinn, will you make me the happiest man alive and be my wife?”
I try to breathe in but I can’t. It’s like the air is caught in my throat. My heart and mind race at lightning speed. There are no words. Literally, I’ve forgotten English! I glance back and forth between his brilliant blue eyes and the glistening diamond. I do love Kyle. But would I be crazy to marry again? Marry my ex-husband’s best friend? Of course, I would! But love is crazy. It makes you do crazy things. And he’s a good man. I know we’ll have a good life together. And when a man like Kyle gets down on one knee and asks you to marry him, you say . . .“Yes.”
He lights up. “Yes!?”
I nod with happy tears in my eyes. “Yes! I’ll marry you.”
It’s been six weeks since the last time I saw Kyle at our house after the cruise. And I’ve done a lot of soulsearching in that time. I’m just so grateful for Sloan and all the evenings she heard me out over glasses of chardonnay. Because some of the things I talked about were not always easy. It wasn’t just Sloan I leaned on. I got myself a therapist too. That was a hard pill to swallow. But that’s how serious I’ve been about getting my shit together.
Now I know exactly what I want.
I walk out of the attorney’s office and it’s done. The papers are signed.
My man is standing next to my car with an elaborate bouquet of flowers.
“So, did you do it?” he asks with a bright smile.
“I did! The Delures are the proud owners of a thirty-million-dollar property.” My heart begins to pound the moment the words leave my mouth. That’s right, three percent commission of thirty-million. You do the math.
Okay, let me do it for you. It means I can finally start my own firm!
“How do you feel?” My husband, Kyle, hands me the flowers and I inhale the strong scent of pure white roses.
“Amazing! I feel like I finally have a chance at the life I’ve always wanted. And I get to do it with you.”
Kyle leans in and kisses me like he hasn’t seen me in ages. “Come on. Let’s go celebrate.”
And finally, it’s just me and my one and only husband.