One of the biggest fears I had was that my admission would scare her. But Aubrey didn’t flinch. That’s my girl. Fearless. Her reaction gave me the courage to go on. “I injured him badly. I had to pay for what I’d done. The afternoon after I left you, I began a two-year prison sentence.”
Aubrey stared at me. I gave her a minute to digest everything I’d just said. Then I finished what I’d come to say. “I got out the day before I showed up here in Temecula. I never planned on meeting you before I went in. I tried everything I could to keep my distance on our trip. But I couldn’t.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because you deserved better. I didn’t want you waiting around for two years. You had just dumped one loser and were ready to move on. I couldn’t saddle you with anymore baggage.”
“So instead, you broke my heart?” The question wasn’t asked meanly; she was trying to make sense of it all.
I nodded. And mine, too.
We were both quiet for a long time. She was staring down at her hands folded on her desk. I had one more thing I needed to say, and she needed to hear me. I shifted in my seat and leaned forward, covering her hands with mine. “Can you look at me?”
She hesitated, but did.
“I’m sorry, Princess. For everything. For hurting you. For leaving you behind. For not being there when you woke up. For not being there every day since then.”
Aubrey closed her eyes. There was a look of pain on her face, and I hated that I put it there. I wanted to wrap my arms around her and hold her so badly, but I didn’t. I’d pushed enough and anything more was selfish. My heart was pounding in my chest and when she finally opened her eyes again, she was staring at our joined hands—at the ring I was still wearing on my finger. My wedding band.
Her eyes watered.
The silence was torture. “I’m sorry you and Adele had to go through that,” she finally said, her voice hoarse.
“Me, too. I just want to put it behind me and move on.”
Another bout of silence. “I was finally happy. Richard makes me happy.”
That fucking hurt.
She continued, “I need time to process. I’ve spent the last two years hating you.”
“I understand.” Let me make it up to you, Princess.
“How long are you staying in town for?”
Until you’re mine again.
“I don’t really have a plan yet. But I’m sort of in the middle of a project.”
That caused the corners of her mouth to twitch up a bit. Although she was quickly serious again. “I need some time,” she repeated.
It had been two long years, but I’d finally said my peace. Now I was going to have to wait to see what would bring Aubrey hers.
I’m not sure what I thought I would feel after finally getting to tell Aubrey everything, perhaps a sense of relief. But the reality was, I felt even more anxious than before. Before, we had unfinished business. But now…what if, knowing everything that happened, she forgave me, yet she still had no interest in being with me? We’d either just opened a new door or finally given each other closure.
I sat in my truck for two hours outside of her office, even though I promised I’d give her space. I just needed to see she was okay for myself. My head was pounding, and I shifted my seat back, ready to close my eyes for a few minutes. But a flash of green caught my attention right before my lids shut. Aubrey was standing in front of her building carrying her briefcase. She slipped on sunglasses, looked down and walked across the street. Unlike most days, she wasn’t checking her phone or walking with an energetic bounce. Instead, her posture looked defeated, and her walk was more of a trudge. A minute after she disappeared into the lot where she parked her car, I watched her Audi pull out and turn toward home.
Surprising even myself, I didn’t follow her.
Instead, I decided to refocus my energy. Being prepared for a fight meant getting to know your opponent. It was about time I got to know a little more about Dick.
At nearly seven, my adversary made an appearance. He rushed to his BMW and took off in the other direction of Aubrey’s place. I cut a quick u-turn and followed. The princess fucker took me on a nearly half-hour drive before exiting the highway. I wasn’t familiar with this part of California, but it didn’t take a geography expert to know we were in a less than idyllic neighborhood.
There were the obvious visible signs—buildings with broken and boarded up windows, graffiti, messy yards, timeworn cars that looked abandoned. The few commercial buildings that held stores, had bars covering the doors and windows. A very visible police car was parked at the corner of a four-way intersection.
Where the fuck did Dick live?
I followed a half-block behind, careful not to call attention to my pickup. He weaved in and out of side streets that made me want to lock my doors. Eventually, he slowed and pulled to the curb. I parked on the opposite side of the street, five or so cars back. If I was going to keep up with this shit, I really needed some fucking binoculars. Dick reached into the back of his car, pulled out a bag, and proceeded to start changing his clothes right there in the front seat of the car.
What the fuck was he doing?
The street we parked on was lined with dilapidated muti-family housing. A half-dozen bandana clad guys hung around on a stoop nearby. I was pretty sure I’d just left a couple of them behind at the state penitentiary. Dick got out, looked around skittishly, and headed to one of the rundown buildings. He disappeared down a set of concrete stairs that looked like it led to a basement entrance.
A few minutes later, another man headed to the same door. This guy had a long, matted beard and wore a wool cap and heavy army jacket, even though it was still close to eighty-five degrees. He was also scratching his face incessantly and looking around frantically as he walked.
Dick was in a crack den? The day was getting a lot more interesting.
After spending two years in a prison full of criminals, I was anxious to get the fuck out of there as night fell. The neighborhood that had seemed desolate was suddenly starting to come alive—with people who didn’t go out until they could hide in the shadows of darkness.
But I waited. If Dick could be out here, so could I. More than an hour passed before the Princess Fucker jogged up the stairs and onto the street. With a brown paper bag in his hand, he wasted no time getting in his car. His fancy ride pulled away as soon as his door was shut.
I didn’t follow him.
Curiosity had gotten the best of me and before I knew it, I was locking my truck. I hadn’t planned what I was going to do once I got to the door—buying a vile of crack as evidence to show Aubrey that Dick was a dick, probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do. I would have to settle for understanding what I was up against and worry about what to do with the information later.
The stairwell was narrow, with only a few steps leading to a closed door. When I got to the bottom, I found the door was actually left a crack open. There was also music coming from inside. I edged it open. At first, a little. Then a little bit more. Until the door suddenly swung open, and I nearly fell into the building.
I looked up expecting to find a gun to my head for breaking into a crack house. But what I found couldn’t have been more different. A priest was holding open the door and extended his hand into the room behind him, welcoming me.