Home > My Life in Shambles(15)

My Life in Shambles(15)
Author: Karina Halle

I take a quick look around, marveling at the row of neat brick houses, all attached. While Padraig’s door is black, his neighbors are yellow and red with a black iron fence lining them. I can hear the hoots and hollers of a nearby snowball fight, and further down the street, a father is pulling his bundled-up kids along in a sleigh.

“It’s a nice neighborhood,” I say to Padraig as he pushes the button on his key fob and the lights of a metallic grey Porsche Cayenne with a dusting of snow on the hood come on.

“Yea,” he says, opening the passenger door for me. “Lots of families.” He nods at the father and children as they pass. “Lots of my teammates, too. It’s close to the stadium.”

“Do a lot of your teammates have families?” I ask him.

“Most do,” he says. “I guess I’m the odd one out. Even my father used to play professionally when I was young.”

“He did?” I ask as I step inside the car. It looks and smells brand new, all leather and totally luxurious.

He shuts the door and comes around on the passenger side and gets in. “Not for Leinster, he stayed local and played for Munster. Our biggest competition.”

“Was he as famous as you?” I ask.

“No,” he says, and the muscles in his jaw seem to tense. “He wanted to be. He tried. Maybe he could have been but he got injured, tore a ligament, couldn’t play again after that.”

“Oh. That sucks.”

“Yea, it does,” he says. “But that’s life. After that I saw more of him. That was a downfall of him playing so far away. He was gone a lot of the time. Just my mam and me.”

“It wasn’t nice to have him back home?” I ask carefully.

“Nah,” he says with a sad smile. “He hated it. Hated being stuck in Shambles, hated that he had to stay home and couldn’t play. Like he didn’t know who he was anymore.” He seems to think that last part over and then starts the car.

The rest of the ride to the hotel is mostly silent. It’s not uncomfortable at all, it’s just a little sad. It doesn’t seem fair that I finally meet a man that I feel most at home and at ease with that’s opened up a hidden sexual side of me that I didn’t even know existed, and I have to leave him. Never mind the fact that he’s a gorgeous, sexy, rich and famous rugby player with a big dick and a sweet mouth, the kind of guy who I never dreamed I would sleep with.

I wish things were different. I wish I had the guts to keep saying yes. But there’s a difference between saying yes and choosing new adventures for yourself, and being an asshole, and I know if I even considered going off with him, I’d be a major jerk to my sisters.

By the time his Porsche is pulling up to the hotel, I’m in a funk. I don’t want to say goodbye, I don’t want to step out of the car because I know when I do, I’ll likely never see him again. I’m a strong believer in fate, but what I want and what fate wants doesn’t usually align.

“Here we are,” Padraig says to me, putting it in park. “I’d say I had a really good time last night but that sounds too trivial for what it was. I think … I was really lucky ye came over to talk to me. And I’m sorry I didn’t realize how bloody wonderful ye are right off the bat.”

I swallow, my heart doing somersaults and landing hard each time. “I had a good time too. I’m glad you came to your senses.”

He lets out a laugh and smiles so bright that it actually pains me.

This is wrong, my inner voice says. Don’t go. Stay! Tell him yes. Yes, yes, yes to his crazy idea!

But the words don’t come. The fear holds them back.

That same fear I came to Ireland to erase.

Padraig stares at me for a second, his dark, arched brows knitted together as if conflicted. Then he grabs my face hard, his fingers strong and pressing into my cheeks, and lays a deep and searing kiss on me that makes my toes curl in my boots.

Jesus.

His lips are fire and they stir up a million wants and feelings inside me, a straight shot to the heart, but before I can kiss him back with the same intensity, he pulls away. “Take care, darlin’,” he says to me, voice raspy. “Say hello to your sisters for me.”

I’m breathless. I’m broken.

“I will,” I tell him.

Somehow I manage to get out of the car. I push everything that wants to overwhelm me aside, and as I give him a wave and he drives off, I start telling myself the truth.

It was a one-night stand.

He’s a stranger.

He gave you the best sex of your life, what more do you want?

You only knew him for less than twenty-four hours.

Let it be.

Get over it.

I tell myself this over and over as I walk into the hotel, into the cramped and musty elevator, and up to our floor.

I’m still telling myself this when I swipe my keycard and step into the room, not at all surprised to see my sisters sitting on my pullout couch and staring at me with greedy eyes. I’d been texting them when I was in the car so they knew I was coming back.

“Oh, Rie-Rie,” Angie cries out while Sandra yells, “Sit your ass down and tell us everything!”

I sigh and let the door close behind me before leaning against it and sliding all the way to the floor. I can’t even make it over to them.

But they both get up and come over to me, grabbing me by the arms and hauling me to my feet. It’s then that I realize they both stink like booze, and with their ashen tone and red-rimmed eyes, I think they’re far more hung over than I am. There are empty bottles of Club orange soda and purple Powerade scattered about the coffee table.

“You look so sad,” Angie says as they sit me down on the couch. “What happened?”

“She doesn’t look sad, she looks spent,” Sandra chides her from the other side of me. “Come on, give us the dirt. Tell us about his cock. Was it big? It looks big.”

“Sandra, please,” Angie says. “It’s Valerie. She doesn’t kiss and tell.”

I sigh and close my eyes, falling back into the couch. Actually, with my sisters here, this isn’t so bad. It was that section between leaving Padraig and this room that was the worst. So, the elevator. Like all my heartbreak might just stay in there.

But then as Sandra continues to bombard me with questions and as Angie tries to soothe me, I’m pulled back into his world again, and deep regret and sadness washes over me.

“Shit, you really have it bad,” Sandra says after a moment, after I try to describe how he made me feel.

“Yeah,” Angie says softly, holding my hand. “I though a one-night stand would get Cole out of your system. I didn’t think you’d fall for the guy.”

“I didn’t fall for him,” I tell her, reaching forward and grabbing a bottle of Powerade. “I didn’t even know him.”

“Doesn’t mean you can’t be sad that you don’t get to see him again,” Sandra says. “He didn’t want to see you tonight?”

An even bigger sigh rumbles through me now. “He did. Well, it was more than that. He wanted me to come with him to his hometown.”

“What?” Angie screeches. “His hometown? Isn’t it Dublin?”

“He lives here, yeah, but he meant like the place he grew up in. A town called Shambles. Where his father lives.”

“He wanted you to meet his dad!” Sandra practically yells. “Holy shit.”

I nod, knowing what’s coming next. I can’t help but give them a shy smile. “He wanted to bring me home to meet his father and pretend to be his fiancé.”

Complete silence.

I glance at Sandra’s dumbfounded face, then over at Angie’s.

“Huh?” Angie finally asks.

“You heard me.”

“He wanted you to pretend to be his fiancé? Why?” Sandra asks. Then she excitedly slaps my knee. “Oh. Oh! Is this one of those inheritance things, where like you have to be married in order to qualify for an inheritance? Are you going to get rich? This is like a Hallmark movie!”

It sounds far-fetched (I mean, this all does) but it makes me pause. If his father is dying, could that really be the reason? “I don’t think so,” I say slowly. “I mean, that would mean you would actually have to get married right, not just pretend you will?”

“I don’t know,” she says. “This is crazy.”

“It is crazy. He knows it’s crazy too. Obviously I said no.”

“Obviously. So what was his reasoning?” Angie asks curiously. “You don’t just spring that insane plot on someone without a good explanation.”

I almost feel like it’s too personal to tell. “His father is dying. He has prostate cancer. Padraig is going back to be with him.” Both of my sisters’ faces fall in unison. “He said his father always wanted him to settle down and be a family man. I guess he’s a perpetual bachelor. He said he wanted to pretend that he’d finally found love.”

“So that his father could die knowing he’s okay,” Sandra says tearfully. She wipes her eyes. “Oh my god, that’s so sad.”

“That’s precious,” Angie says. “And you said no to that?”

I jerk back in surprise and give her a look. “You think I should have said yes?”

“Well, not initially, but I have to admit, that’s a really sweet reason.”

“You should have said yes. What happened to your resolution?” Sandra adds.

“Oh my god,” I exclaim, getting to my feet and turning around to look down at them. “I can’t believe you two!”

“What about us?” Sandra says defensively. “We’re just trying to help you do the things you said you set out to do.”

“I turned him down because of you guys!”

“Us?” Angie says. “Why?”

“Because! This!” I gesture wildly to the hotel room. “Because this is our Stephens Sisters trip. What kind of asshole would I be if I decided to ditch you guys to go follow my one-night stand to his hometown, let alone the whole pretending part? A major asshole.”

   
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