Carrie glared at the phone vibrating beside her. She punched end and slammed it back to the table. Tilting her head against the sofa cushions she tried to ignore it but her eyes kept going to her cell. A text scrolled across her screen, I’m sorry. Yeah, of course he’s sorry, he got caught.
She turned the phone over and closed her eyes. Tears slipped from between her lashes and slid down her cheeks. She reached for her coffee, it was cold. Wearily, she shoved the footstool out of her way and shuffled to the microwave.
Headlights pierced the closed curtains. She cursed. “That lying, cheating…”
Two doors slammed.
She shoved the curtain aside and swore. “Oh no he didn’t bring that hussy here.” Seeing her fiancé in another woman’s embrace was bad enough. Having them both show up at her house was more than anyone woman should have to deal with.
The knock sounded like a shot gun going off. She jumped, sloshing her coffee. She tried to ignore the banging. “Damn it Carrie, I know you’re in there. I saw you looking out the window.” More banging. “Carrie, open the door so we can talk.”
“I’ve been lied to before Luke. I’m not going through that again.” She set her mug on the table and paced in front of the front door.
“I’ve never lied to Carrie. Are you going to hold it against me, what other guys did to you?”
She leaned her fevered brow against the coolness of the door. Her tears streaming down her face. “I learned my lessons well.” Her voice cracked.
“Carrie, you know me. You know I’m not like the other guys. I love you.”
They’d told her they loved her too. She wanted to believe him, but she’d seen him. “Why is she here with you?”
“She came in case you wouldn’t listen to me.”
“Is she going to lie for you?”
“No, Carrie, she’s not,” he sighed. “She thought she could fix this if she came and explained who she is but the truth is, either you trust me or you don’t.”
Carrie held her breath. What did he mean? She swallowed the fear in her throat. Why did she feel guilty when he was the one who was cheating? “What are you saying?”
The seconds ticked by like the timer on a bomb. She waited for Luke to answer.
“I’ve never given you a reason to doubt me.”
Carrie put her hand to the door, her heart aching. She wanted to trust him but she’d been hurt before. Her first fiancé had liked her brother better than her. He was called Charlene now. Her second serious relationship, a lawyer, ended when she caught him disrobing his secretary in his office. She’d felt sorry for him having to work through lunch. She’d prepared a picnic, complete with a bottle of wine and fresh baked bread. But the final straw was finding her husband-to-be wearing panties with her cousin’s initials in rhinestones on the eve of their rehearsal dinner. “Who is she?”
“You should have asked that before running away.”
She wanted to scream. “You looked guilty when you saw me standing there.”
“Because I knew you’d think the worst. Carrie, I’m not those other guys. You know it in your heart, I’d never cheat on you or do anything to hurt you.”
Biting her bottom lip, she unfastened the deadbolt and opened the door. Carrie stared at her fiancé, surprised to see he was crying too.
“Carrie,” his voice cracked.
She looked past him to the woman waiting on the walkway.
“You remember me telling you about my childhood friend, Jackie?”
Carrie looked from Luke to the woman. “Jack?”
The woman answered. “Jacquelin.”
“You’re in the Army?”
She nodded. “Captain Jack McCotter.”
“She’s a woman.”
Luke nodded. “Don’t let that fool you. She used to beat my butt every day when we were kids.”
“I can still beat your butt,” Jackie smiled. “I’m sorry, Carrie. I came in for the wedding. Luke asked me to stand up with him. He said he’d told you I’d be his best man?”
Carrie looked to her fiancé. “But she’s not a man?”
“But she was my best friend before you,” Luke reached for Carrie’s hand. “She’s the reason I’m still here. If not for her, I’d be dead.”
Carrie knew the story but she’d always imagined the Jack that had saved her fiancé from drowning, was a boy. “I’m sorry Jackie.” She reached out her hand to the other woman. “Luke never told me, you were a woman, only you were his best friend.”
Jackie clasped her hand and pulled her into a hug. “I was only his friend but now, you are his best friend and I am okay with that.”
Carrie stared into the dark, serious eyes of her husband’s childhood friend and smiled. “It is wonderful to finally meet you.” Turning to Luke, she said, “You could have told me.”
“You should trust me.”
She sighed. “I do but it’s not always easy to trust myself.”
Luke pulled her into his arms. “Let’s go inside, it’s cold out here.”
Sherri Lupton Hollister
Southern Suspense/Thriller with a touch of romance and attitude