The prenup a love story, p.21
The Prenup: a love story, page 21
Resigned to the fact that I’d rather be alone than with friends tonight, I change into pajamas. As I lie back on my bed and stare up at the ceiling, I notice that my mom has replaced the light that used to look like a tit with a classier one, and I feel oddly disappointed. I used to love that boob light.
I hear a creak on the stairs and jump in surprise. I must have been zoning out for a hell of a lot longer than I realized if my parents are back from their party already.
I roll off the bed and open the door to greet them. “Hey, how was—” My question dies on my lips.
The creak on the stairs was not my parents.
“Hi.” The word comes out breathy and lame, and I try again. “Hi.”
Hmm, nope. The second attempt still sounds breathy and lame.
“Hello.” Colin’s voice, on the other hand, sounds low and confident.
Yep, that’s right, I said Colin.
As in, my husband—ex-husband?—is currently standing in the doorway of my childhood bedroom and he looks … well, he looks so good I could cry.
Though, surprisingly, he’s not in his usual suit.
Instead, he’s wearing jeans—did not know that he owned those—and a gray crew neck sweater that makes his eyes look a little bit silver. There’s a blue file folder in his hand, and my throat constricts because I can think of only one reason Colin would have brought a folder over to my parents’ house.
“Can I come in?”
Faking indifference, I shrug and move to the side to let him in.
He steps into my bedroom, which I’d always imagined as being fairly roomy by Manhattan standards, but it seems to shrink to downright tiny with him in it. Or maybe it’s that the room isn’t big enough for him and my feelings for him.
“How’d you know I was here?” I ask.
He doesn’t answer my question. Instead, he’s staring at me. Hard. All of me.
Finally, he frowns. “Are those my boxers? And my shirt?”
“Um.” I pluck nervously at the tee. “I guess I grabbed them accidentally when I was packing my bags.”
“Uh-huh. And you were planning to keep them?”
“I was thinking maybe we could call them souvenirs,” I say with a little smile. “Something to remember our time together?”
“Oh, so you do want to remember our time together,” he says, stepping closer. “I figured from the way you left without so much as a goodbye, that you were anxious to forget it.”
I flinch and want to close my eyes, but I force myself to meet his gaze. His eyes are accusatory, which I expected, but also a little bit wounded. Which I didn’t expect.
“I’m sorry,” I tell him plainly. “I really am. I know it was a kind of crappy way to go about things—”
“Kind of?” he breaks in. “Kind of? Charlotte, how do you think it felt that on the same day I find out I’m not getting deported, I come home to celebrate with my wife and get greeted by an empty house, and these?”
He holds up the folder in his hand, which I now know for sure contains our divorce papers. Fine. That’s just fine. Colin’s mad, and I get that, but now I’m mad too. Yes, I left without saying goodbye, and that wasn’t well done of me, but I’m not exactly loving the way he seems to think that I should have just been waiting at home for him. For the first time, it hits me that Colin’s been a little selfish in all this—he doesn’t get to have the wife and the fiancée.
I poke a finger to his chest. “You wanted to come home and celebrate with your wife? Don’t say it like that. Don’t say it like the love of your life walked out your front door with your heart in her back pocket. I’m happy you’re not getting deported, truly, but you should have wanted to celebrate with the woman you were going to marry, not the one you were going to divorce. What was the plan, you were going to come have a pre-dinner glass of celebratory Champagne with me before going off to dinner and more bubbly with Rebecca? Did it ever occur to you that it got old, Colin?” That it hurt?
Instead of apologizing or backing down, he only looks angrier. “It got so old that you deliberately broke the prenup? You were so desperate to get away from me that you couldn’t have survived two more weeks?”
“Not you!” I shout. “I wasn’t trying to get away from you, I was trying to get away from you and her!”
His eyes take on a steely gleam as he steps even closer. “Why’s that?”
Realizing what I’ve just admitted, I tear my gaze away from his and try to move around him to escape his nearness, but Colin isn’t having it and moves with me, blocking my escape route.
“Why, so you can run away again?”
“I wasn’t running away.” I still don’t meet his eyes.
“Bullshit.” His voice is quiet but commanding. “Why’d you run?”
I keep my head stubbornly turned and remain silent.
“What happened that day in Gordon Price’s office?” he asks. “I deserve to know that much, at least.”
“What did he tell you?” I ask, keeping my gaze fixed on the wall to my right.
“Not much. My meeting lasted about three minutes, most of which was spent with him glaring at me, and ended with him begrudgingly telling me that he was closing the investigation without formal charges.”
“Well then, see? All good.”
“No, damn it, Charlotte, not all good. Why did you do it? Why did you break the prenup? You actually think I’d want your money?”
“I never thought that,” I say, realizing he won’t relent until he gets his answers. “It wasn’t about the money. But it had to end. You’ve got to see that. We couldn’t keep doing what we were doing—married, but not really. I couldn’t …”
Remembering my mom’s reminder that running from my problems was no way to deal with them, I do the strong thing and lift my gaze to his.
“I filed for divorce because I want you to be happy, Colin. I wanted you to be free to marry someone you love, not be stuck in a technical marriage for one day longer than necessary. But I also did it for me. I couldn’t keep living with you, pretending to be your wife, when I knew you were counting the days to marry someone else. I thought I could survive it, but seeing that engagement ring on Rebecca’s finger, it all became too real, and—”
“I never bought her a ring.”
I blink rapidly through my tears, trying to comprehend this. “What? But I saw it. She came over and showed me.”
He lifts a shoulder. “She bought it for herself. Or borrowed it from a friend. I don't really know, but I didn’t buy her that ring, and I certainly did not put it on her finger. I didn’t even know what had happened until after you’d left for California.”
I stare at him. “Why would she do that?”
He hesitates. “If I had to guess, I’d say she thought it would get you out of the way, and I’d change my mind. She was half right.”
“Half right?” I ask.
“She did get you out of the way. You fled the state. I, however, did not change my mind.”
“About not being able to marry Rebecca.”
I gasp, but before I can comprehend this, Colin tosses the folder on the dresser and steps closer, his voice a low rasp. “Do you know, when you first moved in, I thought those little pajamas you wore would kill me?”
“You want to talk about my pajamas? Now?”
“Yes, actually I do,” he says softly. “I’ve seen women’s underwear with more material than your pajamas, and I thought nothing could be more torturous.”
Slowly he reaches out and roughly grabs a fistful of my T-shirt, pulling me closer. “I was wrong,” he says on a growl. “Seeing my clothes on you, seeing my wife prance around in my clothes, wanting—needing—to know what was under them. Hating that my clothes could touch her skin in a way I couldn’t … that was the real torture.”
The hand not gripping the shirt finds my waist, sliding around to my back.
Under the shirt.
“You’re really not marrying Rebecca?”
His forehead is still pressed to mine, and I feel him shake his head no, feel his breath near my lips.
“I’m a little confused,” I whisper.
“I get that,” he whispers back, as he gently pulls me all the way against him. “Maybe I can help make it clearer for you.”
Colin’s mouth lowers to mine, pausing for a fraction of a second, as though savoring the moment. The first brush of his lips is heaven. The second is ecstasy. The third feels a lot like forever.
And it seems to last forever, and yet not long enough.
“Clear enough for you?” he asks huskily when he pulls back.
“I think I’m starting to understand,” I say on a smile, going to my toes and leaning in for another kiss. He leans back, staying just out of reach, and I open my eyes, ready to protest his withholding of kisses.
My protest dies at the look on his face, one I’ve never seen before, both tender and sure, as though he’s looking at everything he’s ever wanted. Me.
He lifts a hand and brushes back the hair near my face. “I’m in love with you, Charlotte.”
Tears fill my eyes. “You are?”
I glance hopefully at the blue folder. “Does that mean you didn’t sign our divorce papers after all?”
“No, I signed them. And filed them. That there is your official copy.”
“Oh,” I say, my heart deflating. “So we’re officially divorced?”
“We are,” he says, his hands finding either side of my waist.
“Well, I guess that’s practical,” I say, trying to hide my disappointment. “We should probably start at the beginning, date, figure out if we’re suited for the long haul—what are you doing?” I ask, breaking off when I realize he’s digging in his pocket instead of listening to me.
He holds up a familiar navy box. “You forgot this.”
“I told you, it was too extravagant for the circumstances. I couldn’t—what are you doing?”
He’s holding my left hand, the ring poised at the tip of my fourth finger as his gaze searches mine. “Do you love me, Charlotte?”
His accent’s thicker than usual, his expression both adoring and a little unsure.
I nod emphatically, desperate to reassure him. “I thought you knew. I fell in love with you weeks ago. It was highly inconvenient.”
He gives me a cocky, crooked smile, full of relief and joy. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” I whisper, brushing my lips over his.
“Marry me?” he whispers back. “Properly, this time? You sort of have to, I have half your money.”
I laugh against his lips and nod as he slides the ring onto my finger. “Yes.”
Finally, Colin kisses me again. And again, and then one more time, until I realize something and pull my mouth from his on a gasp. “Wait. We can’t get married. What if it turns out we’re completely incompatible in bed?”
His lips find the underside of my jaw as he nudges me backward toward the mattress. “Excellent point. We should probably find out sooner rather than later if we can tolerate each other, no?”
Much, much later, I rest my cheek on his bare shoulder, pressing an absent kiss there. “Well, then. I think we’re going to be just fine.”
M y brother offers to help with the prenup. We respectfully decline.
M y mom finally got to plan her daughter’s big white wedding, which is just fine by me, since I was plenty busy launching my new company, a boutique consulting firm helping female entrepreneurs make their dreams reality.
Because my mother would have it no other way, the wedding goes off without a single hitch. My father walks me down the aisle. Justin starts crying during his best man toast, like a lot, and it’s so sweetly unmanly that we decide to forgive him.
Kurt (now the official CEO of Coco, by the way) manages to hold off his waterworks until after his man-of-honor toast. I, on the other hand, cry through the whole thing.
Colin and I sneak off to make love during the reception. We miss the cake cutting, but we’ve been making up for lost time. And some things are better than cake.
We honeymoon in Hudson. There is Champagne. Candles. Madonna.
No separate beds. No rash cream.
Also, Colin drives.
We name our first son Danny. He’s nearly two now, and I have yet to not cry when I hear Colin quietly singing “Danny Boy” over the baby monitor.
We name our second son Spencer, as a nod to my maiden name.
Because this time around, we’re Mr. and Mrs. Colin Walsh for real.
We live very, very happily ever after.
Writing a book is hard. Nobody tells you that when you’re nine years old and dreaming of being an author. You imagine that inspiration will never wane and that you’ll choose all the right words the first time around. Writer’s block? Not me. Editing? What’s that?
The reality is, well … different.
In the words of the great Ernest Hemingway:
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Pretty much. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the best career in the world, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, even when I think it might kill me. But putting words on a blank page in coherent form day after day is no easy task.
Except when it is.
Every now and then, the writing gods give you a little gift. In between all the hard books, which is most of them, you get an easy one. You get a story that feels—not so much that you’re creating something from scratch, but that you’re merely conveying something that has already happened.
Some books aren’t about writing a story. They’re about sharing a part of yourself. They’re the books that you can’t tear yourself away from, the ones you cry when you get to The End because you’re not ready to say goodbye. They’re the ones where reviews can’t touch you, sales numbers don’t even cross your mind, because nothing is strong enough to diminish your love for the book.
I’ve had only a couple of those stories in my thirty-something book career. Blurred Lines was one. Walk of Shame was one. Runaway Groom was one.
And The Prenup is one.
Perhaps the one. All of my books are obviously written by Lauren Layne. The Prenup feels like it is Lauren Layne.
I have loved sharing Charlotte and Colin’s love story with you.
Thank you for letting me.
As you probably guessed from the author note, I wrote this book more or less in a vacuum. The outside sources were fairly minimal, and much of my time was spent hunched over my MacBook Pro in bed, completely lost in this story.
Eventually, however, I finished the first draft, and when I lifted my head, I had an entire team of people ready and willing to help me.
A huge thank you to Angela at Saffron Avenue for her amazing lettering skills. I tried not to get my hopes up that I could hire her to write the actual letters of “The Prenup” for me that you see on the cover, but she agreed without hesitation, which made my entire month.
I toyed with the idea of designing my own cover, but I couldn’t quite seem to make my reality. I took the problem to one of my best friends, Laura Ashbrook Compton Treleven, a creative genius and design whiz. She agreed to take a stab at the cover, and when she showed me the comps, I confess … my eyes watered at how perfect they were. In the vein of a true artist, and perhaps more crucially, a true friend, she somehow seemed to know exactly what I wanted. And then made it even better.
To Kay Springsteen, who
To Kristi Yanta, I’m so glad destiny stepped in to allow us to work together on this one after all. As always, you know exactly how the details of my writing from “pretty good” to “exactly right.”
To my copyeditor, Lori Sabin, I know this is our first time working together, but hopefully not our last, because you are an utter joy to work with. And the same goes to my proofreader Christine Estevez, both for your amazing work and for being so darn kind.
To my friends and family, I love you guys, I hope you know that. Anth, as always … well, no words. You let me gush about this one endlessly and never once complained about the days when I gave Colin more attention than I gave you.
A shout out specifically to Jennifer Probst, Jessica Lemmon, and Rachel Van Dyken, my writing squad, and three of the very few people who get me.
To my agent, Nicole Resciniti and to my UK team (especially, Kate!) thank you for believing in this story. Lisa Filipe, I’d be lost without you. Literally, just a little wisp of a writer wandering around with a manuscript clutched in her hands, if not for you.
And to the readers, of course, my darling readers. Thank you for loving love stories as much as I do, and for giving me a chance to share this one with you.
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