Home > Return to Virgin River (Virgin River #19)(17)

Return to Virgin River (Virgin River #19)(17)
Author: Robyn Carr

“Sounds so grown-up,” she said.

“It is. I follow her career. I used to follow with resentment and then with curiosity and eventually I hoped her wish would come true. It stopped being about me a long time ago. Frankly, I think she’s a good actress. I’ve seen her in a lot of things and it’s not unusual for me to think she should’ve been the lead. The star. But I’m not in a relationship with her anymore. I haven’t been for a very long time. I think you were shocked and startled. I’m sorry about that.”

“Why?” she asked. “Why does how I feel or what I think matter?”

“We’re becoming good friends,” he said. “I look forward to sitting on the porch after a long day. I like it when we have dinner. I’ve had several tenants in this house—a few days, a few months. I’ve never had what I’d call a close friendship with any of them before. It’s a bad start to a nice friendship when you get caught lying.”

“But you weren’t lying.” She took a pull on her beer and made a face. “You just didn’t explain properly. Or thoroughly.”

“You lied about the beer,” he said, grinning. “You don’t drink that beer.”

“It’s awful. I bought it in case you came over. Want the rest of this?”

“You didn’t spit in it, did you?” he asked with a laugh, reaching for it.

She made a face and handed it to him. She went to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of wine. The bottle was open, after all. She went back to the couch and curled up in the corner. “I just don’t want to be a complication. This thing you have to work out is with your wife. I’m just a tenant.”

“It’s not a complication and it’s not about you, except for one thing,” he said. “I want to sit on the porch, have dinner, enjoy life. I don’t have any expectations beyond that right now. But I think we have potential. I think we like each other enough to have potential.”

“No expectations,” she said. “Me, either.” It was a total lie. She’d been having expectations like mad in the form of Caroline and Landon. They were morphing into a nearly perfect couple. The story was growing lush and sexy. She realized she wanted to become lush and sexy with Landry.

“I did have a thought on my drive home. We’re ill suited, me and Laura. Opposites. We thought we had a lot in common, given that we’re both artists of a sort. But I live a quiet life; I like being alone. I don’t like crowds or busy places but Laura craves people. We want different things—she’d like the adoration of millions while I’d rather go unnoticed. I’m not really shy, I don’t think. I just prefer smaller groups or maybe just one person at a time. While she wants restaurants and parties, I’d rather train the dogs or go for a walk. I married a woman like my mother. I believe it’s true. I was a toddler when my mother left Virgin River to go back to the city. She divorced my father. He was too quiet and solitary for her. She died a few years later. A car accident. Virgin River isn’t for everyone.”

“I find it much more to my tastes than I thought I would,” she said. “Your dog went on my walk with me today.”

By his expression, he was shocked. “Was he polite?”

“Very. And I wasn’t afraid. I had a moment, you know... But Otis waited for me to invite him. Of course he followed me, but then he waited.”

“What a good guy,” Landry said. “He has no ulterior motives, he just wants to be a good friend. That’s what I love about dogs. They bond and nothing can break the bond. He’s always good, but I think he likes you.”

“You shouldn’t bother with the locks on the doors,” she said. “Apparently he comes and goes as he pleases.”

“I know,” he said. “It worries me sometimes. I don’t want him to wander too far or get himself in trouble, like if he runs into some challenging wildlife. Or some hunter mistakes him for a deer.”

“A black, brown and white deer? That would be a very stupid hunter.”

“How about dinner tomorrow night? We can share the prep.”

“It’s getting pretty chilly when the sun goes down,” she said. “How do you feel about your house and a fire in the fireplace?”

“I feel good about that.”

* * *

Kaylee went to Jack’s at lunchtime, planning on a sandwich and salad, but she had a double treat when she found Mel there with an adorable little girl. They were sitting at a table rather than the bar and Mel waved her over.

“Kaylee, this is my friend, Mallory. Would you like to join us for lunch?”

“Absolutely! Is this a special occasion?” she asked, sitting down.

“Mallory’s mom had an appointment today and there’s no school for teachers’ planning sessions, so we’re hanging out.”

“My mom’s having her medicine,” Mallory said. “Her chemo medicine.”

That hit Kaylee right in the gut. “Oh dear, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Mallory said. “It’s going to make her better.”

“That’s what we’re hoping for, aren’t we?” Mel said. “Mallory, tell Kaylee what your favorite subject is.”

“Reading. Not math very much, but I read all the time.”

“And you will never guess what Kaylee does for her work. She writes books!” Mel said.

“You do?” Mallory said. “Whole books?”

“Whole books.” Kaylee laughed. “Do you read whole books?”

“I love books. They’re not long like the ones my mom reads, but they’re for my age, which is ten. I read my first one when I was six. Before that I read my magazines and books with pictures from the library. We go to the library every Saturday. Unless my mom doesn’t feel good. Do you ever write books with a mystery? Or like a surprise ending?”

“It turns out that’s my specialty.”

“Could I read one of them, do you think?”

“I think you have to be just slightly older. You’re smart enough to read one, but unfortunately I use too many swear words for your age group.”

“I could not look at them or pretend I didn’t see them,” she suggested. “My mom reads books like that, I think. She says I can’t read her books because they’re too adult, and I think that means dirty words.”

“There are plenty of books to read while you’re getting to the right age,” Kaylee said. “Tell me about your favorite books.”

Mallory talked nonstop all through lunch and it turned out to be one of Kaylee’s most fun days. When they were finished with lunch, Mallory thanked Kaylee and promised to read some of her books, “When I’m older. Maybe next year.”

* * *

Landry texted Laura and asked her when she would be free for lunch. He had another fair on the weekend, but any other time he would drive down to San Francisco. The following Monday he left at the crack of dawn for what would be at least a four-hour drive.

Of course she had chosen The Oak Room, one of those fancy restaurants they had loved when they were a couple. They could hardly ever afford it when they were younger, but they did manage to have dinner there with a few guests on their wedding day. She probably chose it for the nostalgia.

And there was an undeniably warm feeling that came over him when he thought about that day. There were just a few people—his father, her mother, two couples who were friends. And it was one of the happiest days of his life. He had no way of knowing that barely a year later everything would change.

He parked and took the trolley to the restaurant and was not surprised that she made it ahead of him. Her eagerness to resolve things was showing. “I had the waitstaff find us a quiet table in the corner where we can talk.”

The rich dark wood and mirrors of the restaurant were not comforting. He had always appreciated the exquisite decor and yet never felt as though he belonged there. He was more comfortable at Jack’s. Landry waited for the wine and intended to wait until they ordered lunch before telling Laura how he felt, but she tripped him up. She raised her glass and said, “Here’s to new beginnings.”

He put down his glass. “It will be a new beginning, Laura, but not the kind you think. I can’t give our marriage a second chance. It just doesn’t feel right. It took me long enough to get beyond the disappointment before. I’ve built a different kind of life now, one I’m comfortable with. I’m really sorry your career didn’t work out the way you wanted, but it’s too late for us.”

“No, you’re not sorry about my career,” she said, putting her own glass down. “You wanted me to fail.”

“That’s not true. I wanted you to be with me, not fail. I was always your biggest fan. I just didn’t want us to have separate lives. You do realize how little time we spent together, don’t you?”

“I was working,” she said. “You were working! There was no other way. The only other way was for me to give up my career and it was just getting off the ground when we got married.”

“I’m sorry, Laura. It just isn’t going to work. The cold truth is, I don’t feel the same way anymore. I can remember having those feelings but...”

“You pretend that girl has nothing to do with this, but she must. You’ve never been like this before.”

“I don’t know if things might have been different if you’d decided to come back to me five years ago, but honestly, I don’t think so. I think our relationship died a long time ago. We just didn’t get around to burying it.”

“It almost sounds as if you never loved me at all,” she said.

“Oh-ho, I had such passion for you it made me light-headed. And there was no question in my mind, you shared that passion. I was thinking about it on the drive down here—we had so many dreams. When we married, they were compatible dreams. It never came down to your career or mine. I was excited about your acting, but that first year we were married, you only took jobs that were nearby. And I can’t even say that you leaving for work ruined everything. Traveling for work isn’t a weird state for most couples. In fact, I think it’s common.” He looked at her for a long moment. “But you didn’t come back.”

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