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Black Swan Affair(8)

By:K.L. Kreig

MaryLou then insisted she take over in the front while I remained in the back until we closed at 2:00 p.m. She has a better eye in the kitchen and I’m better with customers, but after that run-in, I was so shaken up there was no way I could muster up any more happy lies.

All I kept thinking for the next several hours was how right Elda was. Sam was jealous. But sadly, Sam was right, too. I married a good, honest man while I’m still in love with another. She just had enough balls to call me out on it. As much as I don’t like her, I have a whole different respect for her now. And at least I know what half the town actually thinks.

After we closed for the day, MaryLou pulled out her emergency stash of Jim Beam, practically forcing two shots of that swill down my throat. Jim, Jack, or Johnny may not solve the world’s problems, but they do a fine fucking job burying the ugly truth for a while.

Two hours and a bottle of wine later, we now sit at my kitchen table, and MaryLou says the harshest, most candid words she’s said to me yet. Her bluntness is both what I adore and loathe about her.

“You’re a married woman now, Mavs. You made the choice to be Kael Shepard’s wife.”

“I know.”

“He’s crazy about you. That man has been by your side your entire life, not Killian. Killian is a dickless, gutless prick.”

“Once again, I know this,” I say, my tone holding a slight bite. Could she make me feel any worse about myself?

She stares at me for a few beats. “If you didn’t think you could fall in love with Kael, you shouldn’t have married him. If you don’t think you have that ability now, you should do the right thing and end this before you do any more damage.”

“Ouch.” Apparently so.

“Truth hurts like a bedsore, doesn’t it?”

I nod my agreement because my throat is too clogged with emotion. My teeth dig into my cheek so hard I’ll probably have a canker sore tomorrow.

She reaches across the table, gripping my hand in hers. It’s hard to see her through the water now glassing over my pupils.

“It’s not such a bad thing to fall in love with your husband, Maverick.”

“How do you do that when you’re in love with someone else?” I whisper, desperately wanting someone—anyone—to give me that answer. If I was handed the key to falling out of love with a man who’s nothing but destruction, I’d use it. In a heartbeat. Then I’d throw that fucker in the Keg River so I wouldn’t be tempted to undo it.

“Simple. You have to let him go first.”

“It’s not that simple, ML. If it was, I would have done it already.” Only a woman who isn’t hopelessly pining away for a man she can’t have would think in such naïve terms.

“It is that simple, Mavricky. Know what I think?”

“No. But that won’t stop you from telling me anyway.”

My snarky comment doesn’t slow her stride in the slightest. “I think up until the second you walked down that aisle you were hoping for a miracle.”

I look away, embarrassed at my transparency.

“But what I think you’re failing to see is that you’ve got one. He’s right in front of your face and if you don’t pull your shit together and realize the gift God has handed you in Kael Shepard, you’ll end up losing him, too.”

I don’t respond. Once again, she’s right. Kael is an amazing man. He wanted me. He married me. He loves me. Him. Whatever Killian’s excuses are for giving up on us, they aren’t enough. He’s lost to me forever. The truth is he’s been lost to me for years now. It’s time I begin the grieving process and start accepting it. But the pain of that thought weighs me down until I feel I can’t take a full breath.

“I’m not sure there’s room for anyone else, MaryLou,” I say honestly.

“That’s because you haven’t tried making room for anyone else. You need to kick him out. He’s taking up space that’s not his to take anymore. Now, come on. Let’s try out that religieuse recipe you’ve been babbling about.”

“Yeah. Okay.”

Two hours of baking and drinking fly by. Well, more drinking than baking. By the time MaryLou left shy of an hour ago, we’d managed to kill almost another entire bottle of wine. Larry came to pick her up while his brother followed behind with my car. One benefit to living in a small town, I guess. Folks think nothing of doing small favors like that for others.

Losing myself in whiskey, wine, and laughter, I’m now sufficiently tipsy and my rough day feels like a distant memory. Of course, it’s not. And come tomorrow, I’ll have yet another regret to add to my growing mound: a bitch of a hangover.