A knowing look filters into her eyes. She’s very much aware I haven’t kept in touch with Oliver, yet I don’t indicate any censure. Instead, she leans forward in a conspiratorial manner and almost whispers, “Well, he ended up getting involved with this married woman. She was married to this really rich old guy and they would spend weekends on Cape Breton. You know Oliver, it was just a screw to him, nothing more. But then the husband caught them together, and because he really liked having his trophy wife on his arm, he just merely demanded she make a choice. Him and his riches, or the young, poor stud.”
“And what did she do?” I ask, caught up in the juicy details of this forbidden affair.
Relishing the power of her tale, Vale hunches forward a little more. “Well, Oliver of course was just in it for the hot sex. I mean, Nina is smokin’, but she’s also really nice too. But she knew Oliver wasn’t offering her any commitment, or at least he’d made that clear in the past. So she made with the tearful goodbye and went back to her loveless marriage.”
“That’s a sucky ending,” I mutter.
“But it’s not the end,” Vale says slyly, and sits back in the booth. With an impish grin, she says, “According to Avery, Oliver realized he loved her and marched up to their mansion on the bay, stormed inside, and carried Nina out over his shoulder.”
“You’re kidding?” I say, not able to see Oliver doing something like that. It fills me up with respect for him.
“Nope. They got married last year and they’re working on making babies. They’ll be beautiful too.”
We’re interrupted when the waitress comes up and asks if I’ll be eating. I look to Vale. “Mind if I just hang out here with you?”
She shakes her head and takes another bite of her salad. I turn back to the waitress. “I’ll just have a burger and fries. And a Coke.”
“Have that out in a jiff,” she says, and scurries off.
“So Oliver’s still in Sydney?” I ask as I turn back to Vale.
“He is now. They had actually moved to upstate New York where Nina’s from, but then decided he missed Sydney too much. So they moved back about six months ago. He’s managing a building supply warehouse. Nina is a receptionist at a veterinary clinic.”
“Wow,” I say in wonder, a sudden feeling of remorse overtaking me. I’ve missed so much.
“You should give him a call,” Vale says as if reading my mind. “He’d love to hear from you.”
Weirdly, an odd sense of hope and excitement courses through me. In the matter of just a few weeks, and all due to Vale coming to the Cold Fury, I’ve been reconnected to my old life, which, let’s face it, was a fantastic fucking life. I had good friends, even better times, and despite the way our paths veered apart, the possibility of having them come back together makes me feel uniquely joyous.
“You know, I think I will,” I say as the waitress returns with my Coke.
Vale gives a tinkling laugh, the very one I remember from when she was in a mischievous mood. She leans forward again and says, “So, I’ll tell you more about the whole Nina scandal. There was a rumor her rich, old husband had some Mafia ties. Not sure how it got started up, but for the longest time after Oliver carried her out of the house, we were all convinced he was going to swim with the fishes or something. You should have seen Oliver…”
I sit there and listen to Vale. Her voice is light, carefree, and melodic. I let her fill me in on the details of my friends I had lost, and I let myself get swept away in the memories.
While I did indeed get eight pure hours of sleep last night, I’m still exhausted. It clearly wasn’t enough to catch up on all of the late nights and early mornings I’ve been suffering through the past few weeks. Still, I went to sleep with a smile on my face last night after Hawke and I had dinner together. It was nice.
When he first sat down at my table, there was a fleeting moment of awkwardness, and then it was gone as soon as he apologized for what happened at the party. In hindsight, I’m not sure I wanted him to be regretful over what happened in the bathroom, but it was a bit of a balm to know that he seemed truly sorry for making waves with Todd and me. It showed me that despite the anger and secrets and blame, Hawke still has feelings for me.
As I clearly still have feelings for him.
That became evident to me when Todd proposed. While my initial reaction was a general rebellion against the notion of a lifetime with Todd, it was quickly followed with a sad yearning for what I had lost with the man I thought I was supposed to be with the rest of my life.
It was even more evident, and not in a good way, when I woke up this morning in my Chicago hotel room all squirmy with frustration because of a dirty dream I had about Hawke. Call it guilt over showing him my cover-up tattoo job, or the way in which I can all too clearly remember how much I wanted him to touch me in that bathroom, but I dreamt of the night I got his name etched into my inner thigh to be held for all eternity.
We practically tumbled into our apartment. We were drunk, a little stoned, and had just come home from the tattoo shop. Our hands were all over each other, tearing at clothes, deep wet kisses punctuated with groans.
We stumbled into the bedroom, completely naked by the time we fell to the mattress. Well, almost completely naked. I had a sterile pad held in place over Hawke’s name with medical tape. He had a matching pad on his right hip, where he had tattooed VALE in a flowing script of dark green ink.