Read Last Call for Love Online

Authors: Maggie Marr

Tags: #FIC027020 FICTION / Romance / Contemporary; FIC044000 FICTION / Contemporary Women

Last Call for Love (15 page)

BOOK: Last Call for Love
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“Thanks, Tag.” Charla walked to the front of the store. She didn’t know what to do. How could she go back to Ryan? Did he even want her? She’d asked him not to call her or email her, and he’d complied. She’d picked up the phone a million times, only to put it down and not call. He had a life. She didn’t want to interrupt it without being sure that she was making the right decision.

She placed the shirts on the rack. The bell jingled over the door. She turned. A sick feeling churned through her gut. Just why would
he
be here?

“Bertram?” She crossed her arms over her chest. He looked the same. Tall and a bit awkward, with a soft chin. How had she ever thought she loved this man?

“Charla.” He nodded toward her.

“Why are you here?” She looked past him. Bertram’s mother or father wouldn’t have the audacity to show up where Charla worked … would they? Instead of Bertram’s parents, an attractive woman with sable-colored hair and a gentle smile stood just behind him.

“This is Saffron,” Bertram held out his hand, and the woman walked to his side. “We’ve decided to marry.”

Her eyes swept over the woman. She was good-looking, with brown eyes and a generous smile. Charla wanted to scream at her to run fast and far and never look back because Bertram’s family was twisted and unkind. 

“We need to speak with you. Privately.”

“This is as private as it’s going to get.” Charla moved behind the counter. She needed distance between her and Bertram, and not only that, she wanted to be close to the emergency panic button. When she’d told Bertram about his father’s attack, he’d stopped just short of threatening her life.

“My boss is in the back of the shop,” Charla said. “We’re not alone.” Her chest tightened. She wasn’t afraid. Loads of anger flooded her body and she fought the urge to lunge at Bertram with a dull pencil.

“I’ve tried for several months to reach you.”

“And I’ve tried for several months not to be reached. Was it not obvious that I don’t have anything more to say to you or your family?”

“Quite.” Bertram stopped at the counter and set both his hands on the top of the wood that was decorated with stickers. “Saffron asked me to come see you.” He tilted his head and held his hand out toward his soon-to-be wife. “I owe you an apology. It would seem everything you said about my father was indeed true.”

Charla grasped the edge of the counter and took one step back. Bertram’s words hit her in the chest. She looked at Saffron. “Did he—?”

Saffron nodded. “Tried. Unaware that I have my black belt. He didn’t walk for ten days.”

Charla smiled at Saffron. She couldn’t help it. A weight lifted from her shoulders. She looked at Bertram. “Didn’t you tell her what happened to me?”

Bertram took a deep breath. “I mentioned that you and my father had an altercation. However, I didn’t paint your mental stability in the best light when I spoke to Saffron about what you claimed happened.”


Claimed
?”

Bertram leaned forward. “At the time, Charla, I didn’t want to believe that my father was capable of such a thing. I couldn’t imagine it, but now …” He looked at Saffron and then back to Charla. “He’s committed himself to a psychiatric facility. Saffron wanted him to get help, not go to jail.”

Charla didn’t share Saffron’s sentiment. Gerome deserved to rot in a jail cell for being handsy and inappropriate. He’d gotten his hands all over Charla when she’d disabled the man and stuck her stiletto into his foot.

“Saffron asked me to apologize to you. I’m sorry. You were right. I’m sure my father did exactly what you said and with nefarious intentions at best. You deserve to know that I believe you now, and I’m sorry for not believing you then.”

Charla nodded. A lightness pervaded her body. “Good for you. Thank you for coming to speak to me.” She looked at Bertram. “What about your mother?”

Bertram and Saffron exchanged a weighted look. “It would seem that Mother has chosen to be alone. She refuses to believe the truth. Even though we showed her the video.”

“Video?”

“Oh yes, I had cameras installed in all the limos after your claims. Thought it best in case anyone else made what I thought was a false claim against my father. Didn’t tell him.” He pulled Saffron’s arm tighter to his side. “So when Saffy told me what had happened, it was easy to confirm.”

Same old Bertram. Charla doubted he would have believed his beloved without the video evidence. Wow. But Saffy seemed all too happy to accept Bertram’s need for evidence, and who was Charla to try and convince Saffy that Bertram would never be a strong, stand-up guy?

“I appreciate you coming by. I feel …” What did she feel? It wasn’t better, exactly, because she’d known what she said to Bertram was the truth. Perhaps she felt vindicated. And justified. The doubt and unkind words that Bertram and his family had spewed at her, while not causing her to doubt herself, had left a mark. Unkindness often left a mark on one’s soul. “I feel better,” was all that Charla could say to Bertram and Saffron.

“Well, then,” Bertram said. “We’ll leave you. I just … We needed to clear this up so we could go forward into our marriage, knowing that we’d done the right thing.” Bertram turned his soft chin toward Saffy. “There, darling, are you pleased?”

“I am, Berty. I’m very pleased.” Her gaze returned to Charla. “We wish you the best.” With that, the couple turned and left San Surf. Charla stood behind the counter and watched them walk out the door.

“Who was that?” Tag asked.

“A guy I used to know,” Charla said. “Or thought I did.”

 

*

 

“Mr. Murphy?”

Ryan looked up from his desk. Antigua stood just inside the doorway. “Come in, Antoine. Do you have news?”

Antoine nodded and walked to the chair opposite Ryan’s desk. “I’m afraid it’s not what we’d hoped.”

“Orso is maintaining his innocence.” Ryan sat back in his chair.

“Exactly. It appears they’re going to trial.”

“Not what we wanted. Our guests like privacy, and that includes not seeing the name of their favorite resort in the press.”

“The prosecution’s case is solid. Or as solid as any jury trial can be. But the prosecutor has made one request.”

“Anything. We’ll do anything the authorities ask. I’ve made that clear.”

Antoine nodded. He hesitated.

“They’d like to interview Miss Duvall.”

Ryan swallowed. Just Charla’s name on Antoine’s lips caused a sharp pang in his chest. He thought of her every day. He missed her every night. And yet, he’d done as she asked and not contacted her.

Was that a wise choice? Should he have chased her to California? Called? Begged? Sent roses and any other baubles that might sway her? But they wouldn’t. He couldn’t buy Charla’s love. She’d given her love to him willingly, and he’d asked for her forgiveness, which she’d been unable to give. While he understood her honesty about her own inability to trust, he didn’t have to like her decision. He hated every moment without her.

“Have they contacted Miss Duvall?”

“She’s on her way to Mesquale.”

His stomach pitted. Charla. His Charla was coming back to Mesquale.

“I thought you should be made aware. She arrives late tomorrow.  I know that several staff members have plans with Miss Duvall while she’s in Parpetai. There’s a party planned. The end of Poppy Martin’s six-month contract, Miss Duvall’s former roommate, is tomorrow. She leaves Mesquale soon after.” 

“I see.” Ryan closed his eyes. Charla hadn’t called Ryan to tell him of her return to the island. Her lack of communication was a statement in itself. He pressed his lips together. “Thank you, Antoine. Will you please call Miss Duvall? Let her know that should she need anything, a place to stay, security,
anything,
that all the resort’s resources are at her disposal.”

Was this the cowardly thing to do? Have Antoine call Charla? Shouldn’t he be the one to do so? Hadn’t her absence of any communication proved that she didn’t want to hear from him? Wasn’t he simply doing as she asked?

“I’ll advise you once the interview is complete. The prosecutor believes that the interview will cause Mr. Orso to plead guilty.”

“I’m not privy to the machinations of Orso’s criminal mind, but if it does, job well done. You’ll let our in-house legal know as well? Have a member of business affairs go over and monitor the interview, so that Charla—excuse me, I mean Miss Duvall—doesn’t feel alone or unprotected.”

“Yes, sir.” Antoine stood and turned toward the door. He paused and looked back. “Sir, would you like … would you like to arrange a
chance
meeting, perhaps with you and Miss Duvall?”

Ryan smiled. Ah, now Ryan needed his chief operating officer to work romantic magic in his love life? “Thank you, Antoine, but no. I’m sure that Miss Duvall would see through that charade, and she wouldn’t like us manipulating her.”

“Of course, sir. I’ll keep you informed.” Antoine left.

Ryan’s office felt bigger and emptier than normal. Antoine’s words lingered in the room. Charla. Ryan stood and walked toward the windows of his office. The ocean was blue and the sky was brilliant. Another day in paradise. Except Mesquale no longer felt like paradise to him. His days and nights were filled with thoughts of a woman he couldn’t have.

He couldn’t let Charla come to Mesquale and not try to persuade her to stay. Respect for Charla’s wishes was one thing, but he wasn’t a fool. Yes, he’d agreed not to call her, not to email, or text, but only because he’d believed he’d hurt her too deeply and didn’t deserve the opportunity to convince her of the truthfulness of all that he’d said. He did love her. He loved her still. He’d never agreed not to see her. Not to go to her if she came to Mesquale.

His body ached for her. Every night in his dreams she shared his bed. To wake and not have her beside him was a torture he’d endured for way too long. Ryan walked to his office door. No, he wouldn’t wait a moment more. He knew exactly who he needed to see and exactly what he needed to do.

 

Chapter 17

 

An explosion of clothes and shoes greeted Charla when she walked into her old dorm room at Mesquale.

“Girl! You’re here!” Poppy threw her arms around Charla’s neck and pulled her into a huge hug. Poppy pulled back and eyed Charla. “And don’t you look fancy. Those are some very serious threads.”

“It was a very serious meeting,” Charla said.

“Yeah, how did that go? You didn’t actually have to see Orso, did you?”

Charla shook her head. “Fine, I guess. They asked me questions about that day and how I’d seen Orso at the airport and the things that he said to me there.” Charla had hated having to tell the prosecutor the words Orso had said about her and Ryan. She took a long breath. “Lasted a couple hours, and now I’m done.”

“And I’m free!” Poppy lifted her arms above her head and danced around the room to her own beat. “Hong Kong, here I come.”

“Tomorrow?”

Poppy nodded, walked to the desk and poured a glass of pinot. “This one is yours. I’m certain you can use it.”

Charla took the glass of wine. She removed the jacket she’d worn over her dress and sat on the empty bed that three months before had been hers. “They never gave you another roommate?”

“I think Mr. Ryan took care of that. Guilt, probably.” Poppy sipped her wine. “Have you seen him yet?”

“Not yet.” She’d arrived early yesterday and stayed in a tiny B&B in Parpetai last night because her meeting with the prosecutor was on the early side today. Since she’d stepped off the shuttle at the resort, she’d been looking over her shoulder. Her stomach tickled, and anxiety bounced around her insides.

Ryan was here. So close. After months of not seeing him, she knew he was very near. Scared. Worried. Excited. Fearful. Anxious. She couldn’t get a grip on which one she was experiencing at any given moment. She couldn’t even drink her wine. Her stomach was too twisted into knots to try.

She glanced around the room.  “What are you doing with all this stuff?”

“Excellent question,” Poppy said. “This pile is for
I don’t know
. The suitcase is for
take
, and that pile”—she pointed to where Charla sat on the spare bed beside a pair of worn flip-flops—“is for
need to get rid of
. How do I have more things now than when I arrived? I don’t shop when I’m here. I don’t buy things. How is it possible?” The amount of things Poppy had strewn about the room would not fit into the two suitcases on her bed.

“People leave behind things when their contracts are up. You’ll do the same.”

“I’m thinking storage locker in Parpetai,” Poppy said. “Trevor agreed to share one with me.”

“His contract is up …”

“Three days,” Poppy folded the sundress and put it into her red suitcase.

“Did he get a ticket to Hong Kong too?”

“Ha, ha.” Poppy tossed an old swimsuit toward Charla. “That thing is tired and has seen better days.” She looked over her shoulder at Charla. “No, Trevor did
not
get a ticket to Hong Kong, nor is he going to. I think he has to go home for a while or something.”

“Where’s home?”

Poppy shrugged.

“Are you kidding me? You’ve been sleeping with him for six months, and you don’t know where he’s from?”

“Charla, I told you, this is a casual affair. We’re hanging out until our contracts are up, and then it’s
sayonara
, baby, see you next time, maybe.”

Poppy’s whole demeanor was forced nonchalance, but the defensiveness in her tone gave away her true feelings.

“Poppy, it’s not true,” Charla said in a soft voice. “You’re in love with Trevor.”

Poppy folded a pair of shorts. She turned toward Charla and cocked an eyebrow. “That’s rich coming from you. Leaving the man you’re in love with because of what other men have done to you.”

“That’s not fair. Ryan lied. To all of us. He—”

“To try and make things better.” Poppy tossed the shorts into the suitcase. She bent over and picked up a red pair of high heels. “Besides, you lied too.”

“Me?”

Poppy walked to the bed and laid the red heels with scrapes along the side onto the pile that was to throw out or give away. “You betrayed Liam’s trust. Didn’t you?”

BOOK: Last Call for Love
5.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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