There are two kinds of writers: those who plot everything and those who write by the seat of their pants. I’m the latter and as a result, I end up with many versions of the same chapter. I consider them “takes” during the filming of a movie. Some can run for just a hundred or so words before I see it’s just not going to work up to thousands of words that I end up with a bonus short story if the scene ends up getting cut. This is one of those scenes.
The main scene in this deleted chapter would have come before Dax’s meeting with his father at St. Martin of the Fields (Chapter 28) and before his reunion with Harlow (Chapter 29) but I’m including it here because it finally puts a face to Cole, his friend who facilitated a positive outcome for Harlow’s legal problems.
I wish I could have a beer right now. No, make it two. Hell, just give me fucking whiskey.
“You sure about this, man? It’s the worst idea in the world, if you ask me. But hey, it’s your funeral.”
I glare at Cole. But he’s right. This is the worst idea in the world, but he’s not the one who just spent six agonizing weeks away from the woman he’s fallen in love with, and left guessing how she’s faring in the shit storm she found herself in. His Millie is at home right now, soaking in her custom-made wooden tub that my workers installed in the brownstone she shares with Cole this morning. The only reason I know this is because she just sent Cole a picture of her sitting in it covered in bubbles. Testing it, she claims.
“I’ve come this far, and I’m not about to quit now. If anything, I need to apologize in person for being an asshole to her.”
“That’s because you’ve always been the shoot now, ask questions later kinda guy. Hope you learned your lesson there, man.”
“Thanks to Claudia’s boyfriend, I’ve had to go to anger management, so been there, done that. Wrote the book. But no, this time, it was just me and that punching bag at the gym, and afternoons spent sitting at Mama’s favorite spot behind the house. But it doesn’t change the fact that no matter what happens, I still need to apologize to her in person.” As I speak, cars honk behind us. Funny how far I’ve come, considering that we’re still sitting inside the service car that’s been double-parked in front of the restaurant for all of two minutes. The cab driver behind us is just about ready to pop a gasket, honking his horn again.
“So what are you waiting for, man? Let’s get moving,” Cole says, chuckling before his expression turns serious. “We also don’t want your dad to catch us here. You’re supposed to be at that meeting, remember?”
Right. That meeting, which is Dad’s idea of fixing me up with one of his friends’ daughters. As if this trip isn’t packed enough with meetings, he’s made sure to keep me busy outside of the showroom as well, lining up lunches with his investor friends, all of them coincidentally having a daughter who happens to be dropping by. It’s exactly the same thing he did when Claudia and I split up; only then, I was the one who broke up with her and so I welcomed the distraction. So much for his renewed advice to leave Harlow alone until after her legal problems die down, he’s making sure to keep me busy throughout my weeklong visit, as if he’s afraid I’ll sneak off to find her. And sneak I sure did, claiming I had slept in and was busy with other meetings, although how long that lie will hold will depend on whether Dad’s there to join us or not. I hate lying to Dad but I also see where he’s coming from. Jeff also belongs to the same private club he goes to, and he already wants to kill the man.
“I told him I’d be late.”
“All the more reason to get this over with then. But I still think you should meet Harlow in private, Dax. Honest to God, doing this in public is crazy. You and her together is like inviting the Daily News to camp outside her office door—and yours, too. And if there’s one thing that will tick off your Dad, it’s one more idiot making an appointment to your showroom pretending to be a customer—”
“It’ll still tick him off. Look, if you don’t want to go in there with me, then get out of my way.”
Cole chuckles wryly. “Are you kidding me? There’s no way I’m letting you walk in there alone, Dax. I need to be with you, anyway. You know, as your lawyer…friend, whatever? It’s not like people never run into each other in this town, right? Even with eight million people? I just wish we could actually sit down and eat. I’m starving.”
“If you just get out of the car now, then I’ll make sure you’re fed, you cry baby.”
“Thank God, you can’t blackmail me with that tub anymore.” Cole pushes open the door and gets out. He looks impeccable in his suit, looking every inch the lawyer that he is. I could look like a carpenter in my usual jeans and t-shirt, but that would never go around here, not in front of my clients, and definitely not in front of Dad. Underneath this surprisingly comfortable Tom Ford suit, I’m still me. Dad wanted me to shave off my beard but that’s where I drew the line. Besides, Harlow liked my beard, and I sure hope she still does. Hell, I hope she still likes me.
I step out into the sidewalk and slam the door behind me. Already, Cole is making his way to the front door of the Southwest-themed restaurant and I follow right behind him. To everyone else, we’re just two suits having a casual lunch, but there’s nothing casual about all this.
I’m on a mission to get my girl back.
The moment I see Harlow sitting at one of the tables at the far end of the restaurant, I catch my breath. She’s as beautiful as the first time I saw her at the Pearl. Well, when she was awake and not when she was passed out naked on my bed.
Her long brown hair is swept up in a neat ponytail, exposing the gentle slope of her neck that I love to kiss. She’s deep in conversation with Kathy Pleschette, the woman who helped arrange this whole meeting. It only cost me a promise that I was not going to hurt Harlow in any way—just the apology and the rest would be up to the good doctor. It’s the reason why Kathy picked a public place. She didn’t even want to know the details of how we met. She only knew that Harlow had changed since she returned to New York.
She’s definitely more open with people these days, Kathy had said to me when she agreed to meet me for coffee yesterday. And while I have no idea if you contributed to that change, given that her ex is shitting bricks over you tells me that he’s got something to be insecure about. She’s also happy. Happier than the woman I’ve known for the last six years. I don’t know, but she’s absolutely glowing. Even with everything that’s going on, she’s glowing.
I would have asked Kathy what she meant—glowing, as in she’s actually happy to be back in New York, or glowing, as in something else—but I didn’t. Whatever else I need to know has to come from Harlow herself.
Like she did back at the Pearl, Harlow’s hands are moving in front of her as she describes something to Kathy. It brings back memories of us together, from the first time I met her and she kept trying to poke a hole in my chest with her index finger to the times we just lay in bed talking about anything and everything, her hands constantly moving.
Suddenly Harlow’s hands freeze in mid-air and she stares at me. A split second later, her eyes narrow as if she’s trying to make sure it is me. Her gaze moves lower before returning back up to my face. Then her eyes widen in disbelief, and her hand moves up to cover her mouth.
Panic hits me. Shit, maybe Cole’s right. Maybe this isn’t the venue for Harlow and me to be seen together. And maybe Dad is right, too. I should wait until everything dies down for her—the divorce, the claim against Miller General, the gossip about her shacking up with me for six months. But maybe Harlow doesn’t want to see me ever again. After all, she didn’t even call me to say thank you for the box, although she sent a thank you card addressed to me to Nana’s house. Or maybe I should just stop overthinking all this and hear it from her directly.
Something inside me shifts then. I push aside all Dad’s advice. It could take years for that damn hospital suit to settle, and as far as I’m concerned, Harlow’s as good as divorced. So I listen to my heart. I could be wrong, everything I believe about what Harlow and I had back in Taos obliterated by a simple No from her lips.
But then, I could also be right.