Home > Return to Virgin River (Virgin River #19)(13)

Return to Virgin River (Virgin River #19)(13)
Author: Robyn Carr

“Look at you, armed with incentive!”

“I was paying attention to what you like,” he said.

“Then let’s open it and watch for the stars. Have you eaten?”

“By the time I finished with the dogs I was starving so I stuffed down a sandwich. Have you eaten?”

“A couple of hours ago.”

They took their usual seats on the porch. The sun was just sinking below the horizon.

“I have an arts festival in Oregon this weekend,” Landry said. “I’m going to stay over but the following weekend I’ll be in Grace Valley for their Art Walk. That’s close enough that I’ll be coming home at night, but late. You should consider checking it out. You might like it.”

“I’ll plan on it.”

“I have four shows in a row. September and October are my busiest months; there’s a lot to get ready and pack up. But with the dogs gone, I hope we can still fit in the occasional dinner. And I think it’s time, Kaylee. Time for you to get a little closer to Otis.”

“Oh, I bet Otis doesn’t mind that I haven’t been in his bubble...”

“Tomorrow. I’ll make spaghetti. My father’s recipe, which is open the jar and heat it up. Can you come over at four? You and Otis will meet and I’ll reward your courage with dinner.”

Her first thought was that she probably wouldn’t have much of an appetite if she was sharing space with a dog.

“Be brave. You’ll be so glad you did.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure.”

In the end, she agreed. But she wasn’t doing it because she wanted to conquer her fear of dogs. She was doing it because she loved spending time with Landry.

* * *

Kaylee knew she was wound a little too tight when she knocked on Landry’s door. He opened it and immediately pulled her hand into both of his.

“Sweaty palms,” he said. “I think we’ll begin to end that now. There is Otis.” He pointed to the mat behind him where Otis sat, alert and patient. “I told him you have a nervous condition and to wait on his mat until he’s called.”

“I’m sure he understood every word.”

“Sometimes it seems so. Now I want you to look at him and say his name and that he should come.” She was frozen silent. “It’s okay, Kaylee. I’m right here.”

“Otis, come,” she said very softly. The dog slowly walked toward her.

“You might want to give him a soft pat and tell him he’s good.”

She did so, though her hand shook.

“Try s-i-t,” he suggested, spelling it. Before she could get the words out, Otis sat, making Landry laugh. “Okay, here’s a better way. I’m going to give him a few training commands and then I want you to do it. Otis, come.” The dog sat at his side instantly. “Heel, heel, heel,” he said, and Otis walked at his knee, even as Landry turned. “Good boy,” he said, petting him. “Sit,” he said, and the dog obeyed. “Down,” he said, and the dog was on his belly. “Stay,” he said, then turned and walked away. From the other side of the room, he said, “Otis, place.” Otis went immediately to his mat. “You are good, Otis.” He turned to Kaylee. “Have a go.”

Kaylee took a deep breath and put Otis through his paces, her voice a little bit nervous, but Otis just looked up at her adoringly and did exactly as she asked. She did that several times. She gave him a pat and told him he was a good boy each time, and when she was ready to be done, she told him to go to his place. But first he lay on his back with his paws up, looking for a belly rub.

“No, Otis,” Landry said. “Go to your place.” The dog got up wearily, probably disappointed. “You can give him a belly rub if you feel like it,” Landry said.

Kaylee sheepishly went to the mat, looked down at Otis and said, “Otis, roll over.” The dog rolled over for her. Her eyes and mouth both got big and round. She reached down and gave him a gentle scratch on the belly. Then she told him to stay and went back to the kitchen. “Wine,” she said.

“You did great,” Landry said with a laugh. “Are you comfortable that Otis won’t hurt you?”

“I guess so,” she said. “But I’m not going to make any fast moves.”

Landry smiled at her. He poured a glass of wine for her and she sat up at the breakfast bar.

“Otis is very smart,” Landry said. “Too smart for his own good sometimes. He knows how to open his door, for example. And even though that door opens into the backyard, which is fenced, he can jump the fence. I’ve pulled up to the house to see him waiting on the front porch. If you see him outside, don’t freak out. He might walk over to you but you can tell him to lie down or go home.”

“You’re sure about that?” she asked, sipping her wine.

“I’m very sure,” Landry said. “He’s an excellent dog. I take him on visits to hospitals and nursing homes. Everyone loves Otis. Okay, I’m going to boil some spaghetti. I even made a salad and I have some garlic bread.”

And she was suddenly famished. The spaghetti was absolutely delicious, the salad was great, the bread was crunchy and wonderful. And the dog stayed on his mat.

Landry’s phone rang and he ignored it. “Do you want to get that?” she asked.

“Whoever it is can leave a message. I even have dessert.”

They took their coffee and dessert to the sofa and talked. He asked her how the book was coming and she told him it was a little better than it had been in Newport Beach in her mother’s house. She was hopeful of finishing it this fall. She’d always loved the fall and would love it even more in the mountains.

Then she stopped talking as Otis’s head appeared on her lap. He looked up at her with his big sad brown eyes. She looked back at him. The she put her hand on his head and his tail wagged.

“I might’ve forgotten to mention, Otis falls in love easily. But you’re not his first and you probably won’t be his last. I don’t want you to have a broken heart.”

* * *

The call Landry missed while he was having dinner with Kaylee was from Laura. He hadn’t heard from her in a while. They had married eleven years ago. They met in San Francisco in the diner where she worked. It happened to be in the same neighborhood as the warehouse where he rented space to create his art because his small flat was just too small.

Landry had gone to college in San Francisco and loved the city. Three years after college he was still there, working away on his pots, vases, wind chimes, sculptures, whatever struck his artistic nerve. He also worked to keep body and soul together, sometimes working construction, sometimes waiting tables or bartending. Laura was working in the diner to pay for her acting habit—she wanted to be a star. She auditioned for plays, TV commercials, small movie roles, anything that came along. They had art in common and when they met and fell in love it was like a bushfire—burning hot and fast. After a year of seeing each other, they got married in a small, quiet Spanish church in Oakland. They were happy every day. They frequented old movies, galleries, diners that were open late and absolutely any parade or celebration in the city. They were young, carefree, hopeful.

Then Laura was offered a chance to audition for a part in a movie if she’d go to LA. It was a decent part with some potential. She told Landry she’d be gone for a few days for the audition and if she got the part she might be gone for as long as three months. That was the end of his marriage as he remembered it. She got the part and traveled to Portugal for the shoot. She was home in a few months but only for a few days before there was another opportunity. By the time their second anniversary rolled around, she informed him she would have to move. LA would be her base, not San Francisco. But of course she would come to him whenever she wasn’t working.

He tried to be supportive; he knew how much she wanted it, wanted to be a star. He thought about how frustrated and unhappy he’d be without his art, but he missed her. This wasn’t his idea of marriage. He offered to move to LA, though he preferred San Francisco. “That wouldn’t solve our problems, Landry,” she said. “At least half the time I might get the part there but we’d go somewhere else for the shoot. The next movie—a made-for-TV movie—we’re shooting in Vancouver. I’ll be there for at least four months. You can come and visit if you like, but I’ll be working long days. Twelve-hour days. I’m going to rent something with some other actors. Something cheap that I won’t use much. A flop house, if you will. You wouldn’t want to relocate your whole business in the hopes of seeing me less than two days every other month.”

For two years she “visited” him, usually for less than a week a few times a year. They still talked on the phone all the time, but not every day. It was after they’d been married three years and he hardly ever saw her that he decided to move back to Virgin River. He could live with his dad in the house he grew up in. “But it’s so much harder for me to get to,” Laura complained. “I’ll have to fly into San Francisco and rent a car and drive to Humboldt County!”

So he saw even less of her. Even though she constantly said she missed him, somehow he didn’t think she missed him all that much. She had a rental house in LA that she shared with roommates, two men and two women, some of them on location sometimes. It was nicer than a flop house but less conducive to Landry’s possible visits. He did visit once to surprise her and a man with a towel wrapped around his waist answered the door. He was talking on a cell phone when he said, “Can I help you?”

“I’m Laura’s husband,” he said icily.

“Come on in, man!” he said. Then he ended his call and called out for Laura, who looked pretty flustered by the surprise visit. And Landry knew then that things were over. Laura had two lives and the one she had with him didn’t rate as high.

Laura had explained the man in the towel was just one of the roommates. They had a miserable time together because there seemed to be a lot of people around all the time. The house Laura lived in was a gathering place. She liked being surrounded by people while Landry was a loner. He liked being by himself, creating his art. Plus, he never quite bought the roommate story.

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