When she opened her mouth, what came out was the last thing I ever expected. “Richard told me some time ago that the firm is dissolving and closing up shop by the end of the year. He was offered a position at a Boston patent law firm as a partner there. I just found this out yesterday. He wants to try to hire me. Either way, he asked me to go with him.”
Adrenaline rushed through me as my body was gearing up for a fight. I swallowed the massive lump in my throat. “When does he leave?”
A teardrop fell down her cheek. “Two weeks.”
I barely slept after the bomb Aubrey dropped last night. I knew I was starting to get to her, although she was still fighting it. Two weeks was not a lot of time to gain back her trust. But what choice did I have at this point?
Thirteen days. I picked up my cell phone and stared at the time. The damn minutes seemed to tick away faster than they ever had. In prison, waiting for a day to pass seemed like an eternity. Yet now, it felt like the hands on the clock were spinning at warp speed.
I buzzed by Starbucks, picked up a coffee and paid for Aubrey’s. I also ordered an apple fritter and gave Melanie instructions to warm it for my girl before she gave it to her. I hoped it would subliminally remind her of our bike excursion for apple pie.
My brain was still frazzled, and I needed to work off the growing feeling of frustration, so I headed to the gym. It was noon by the time I finally made my muscles burn enough to think about something other than thirteen days.
Not knowing what else to do with myself, I headed to Aubrey’s with a dozen more flats of flowers. It was busy work, and in only two weeks time, someone else could be appreciating the garden. But I couldn’t let myself think about that now.
I was coming from the backyard with a wheelbarrow full of mulch when I saw Dick pull up outside of Aubrey’s. He looked right at me, and I had no desire to hide anymore anyway.
Maybe the Princess Fucker wouldn’t recognize me shirtless and sweaty. I continued down the driveway as he approached.
“Mr. Bateman?” He squinted, clearly confused by my appearance.
“That’s me. What can I do you for?”
“What are you doing here?”
I looked down at the wheelbarrow and back up at Dick with a face that said ‘can’t you figure that shit out yourself’?’ “Planting flowers.” I shrugged.
“I can see that. But why are you here planting flowers?”
“I guess that would be because Aubrey likes flowers.” Something you obviously didn’t know or give a shit about seeing as what the place looked like when I first arrived.
Dick folded his arms over his chest. “I thought you were going back to Australia?”
My jaw clenched. I was torn between telling off the asshole for not taking care of Aubrey’s property and punching him in the face for trying to take the woman I loved away. Just then, Aubrey’s car turned the corner. No matter how bad I wanted to ruin things¸ I couldn’t do it to her.
“Ohhh.” I nodded my head as if something just dawned on me. “You must think I’m my brother, Chance.”
“Chance. He’s the better looking brother for sure. But we’re identical twins. I’m Harry.” I extended my hand.
He was skeptical for a moment, but the dumb bloke fell for my line of shit easy enough. My hand was hot, sweaty and dirty. The suit wearing snob looked like he wanted to find somewhere to wipe off his hand after we shook. Not used to man hands, are you, Dick?
“Well that explains it then. Your brother was a client of Aubrey’s. I met him in the office.”
“Yes. I referred him to Aubrey. There’s no one else that the Bateman brothers would allow to touch their tockley. Except Aubrey.”
“Tockley—it’s an Australian term for important paperwork.”
He nodded and looked over at the curb as Aubrey parked.
Dumb fuck. Suck my tockley.
Now that I wasn’t supposed to know who he was, I could screw with the guy a bit. “So what do you think of the place? Coming along really well, don’t you think? Place was a real mess when I got here. I’m surprised Aubrey doesn’t have a man around the house to take care of things properly.”
Dick cleared his throat. “She does. Just not one who has the time or inclination to do this sort of work.”
“That’s a shame. Aubrey could use a man that takes care of all her needs.”
Dick narrowed his eyes at me, as Aubrey rushed from her car. She looked pale and frazzled.
“You didn’t tell me, Mr. Bateman’s brother was your landscaper?” Dick said to Aubrey.
“Brother?” Aubrey looked to me and I grinned.
“I thought Harry here was Chance when I pulled up.” Then the idiot added, “Now I can see the difference, of course. Twins always look different around the eyes.”
“Harry?” Aubrey’s panicked face cracked a tiny smile.
I spoke to Dick. “Aubrey calls me Harrison. She’s a stickler for proper names, isn’t she?”
He ignored my comment. I got the feeling this tool ignored anyone who wasn’t wearing a suit. Instead he spoke to her. “I was just about to tell Harry that his services are no longer going to be needed. Seeing as we’ll be heading to Boston soon enough.”
Aubrey spoke quietly. “That’s not decided yet.”
“I told you. It’s just a formality. I’ve already spoken to the partners. They want you.” Dick put his hand on the small of Aubrey’s back. I was barely able to stop myself from physically removing it.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Bateman.” He didn’t bother to look at me. “We better grab that file, sweetheart. Or we’ll be late for the deposition.”
Aubrey nodded. She looked back over her shoulder twice before disappearing into the house. A few minutes later, they came out together again. Dick nodded at me, and Aubrey looked down as they passed. I had started to dig a hole to put flowers in when they went inside, but I’d forgotten to stop. I now had a waist deep crater. I couldn’t look over at the curb as they got into their cars. My restraint was hanging on by a thread.
One car pulled away. Not hearing the second start, eventually I looked out to the street. Dick was gone, but Aubrey was still sitting in her car. Her head was leaning against the steering wheel. I walked over and got into the passenger seat.
Neither of us said a word for a minute. “What am I supposed to do?” She eventually whispered.
I blew out a heavy stream of air. “Do what’s in your heart, Aubrey. If that’s not being with me—it will suck—I’m not going to lie. But I want you to be happy. That’s how I’m sure I’m in love with you. If the choice is you being happy or me…there is no choice. You come first.”
She shook her head. “I believe you, you know.”
I took her hand from the steering wheel and lifted it to my lips, kissing the top. “You should. Because I mean it. There’s nothing I won’t do for you, Princess.”
She smiled. It was a step in the right direction. She believed me.
“I better go. We have a deposition in fifteen minutes across town, and I’ve been so preoccupied, I didn’t even realize that the file was at home.”