I was still in a daze as I walked into the hotel and asked for a room. The desk clerk smiled at me and asked if I was here for the skiing. When I didn’t reply, the smile faltered and I knew he was chalking me up as some rich kid asshole, but for once I didn’t care. When told that only the most expensive room was left, I took it. Why not? I was doing well – more than well if I was going to be honest – and after what I’d just seen, I deserved a bit of a splurge. Besides, what was the point of having been a self-made millionaire for the past couple years if I didn’t spend any money on the things I wanted.
I still didn’t understand what happened. I’d known Lara Roache since she was seventeen and we’d started dating when she’d turned eighteen. Even though my sister and my best friend had both told me that it wasn’t a good idea, I’d asked Lara to move into my apartment after just eight months. We’d celebrated our two year anniversary last week and I’d already started looking at rings. I figured an engagement at Christmas, then a year or two to plan the wedding. We’d still be fairly young to get married, but not crazy young.
I was already in the elevator when I finally realized that I hadn’t brought any clothes with me. All I had was the laptop I’d had in a shoulder bag when I’d walked out. It was a nice apartment, but what I really wanted was a house. After all, if Lara and I were going to get married, I wanted a place where we could raise a family.
I gave a bitter laugh and was thankful no one was in the elevator to hear. There was always the off chance someone would recognize me and the last thing I needed was some tabloid story about how I was losing my mind or speculating why I was checking into a hotel. I scowled. If it hadn’t been for my partner, Curt, talking me into doing that interview with People for their “Hottest Under 25” article, no one would know who I was and I could’ve stayed in Fort Collins. Since the article’s release a few days ago, however, everywhere I went, people talked to me. Never again. I’d told Curt that he was going to be the public face of Archer Enterprises from here on out and nothing short of death was going to change that.
I stepped off of the elevator and breathed a sigh of relief that the hallway was empty. I was not in the mood to see people right now, even strangers. I was still trying to wrap my head around how my world had just completely spun off its axis in the last couple hours. I really didn’t feel like having to play nice.
The room was top of the line, but I barely registered it. I didn’t really care about the room. I walked through the small sitting area into the bedroom and set my laptop bag next to the bed. I kicked off my shoes and started to strip down. I needed a shower. Maybe that could help erase the last few hours.
I cranked the hot water up as much as I could stand and stepped inside. I closed my eyes as I moved under the spray and tried not to think about what had happened. Of course, the memories came anyway.
I knew I had a stupid grin on my face, but I couldn’t help it. My real estate agent had called just as I was leaving the office and wanted to know if I’d come by and see a house he thought was perfect for me. I’d told Lara I needed to work a couple hours over and now I was glad I had. It was going to be so much better to surprise her. I hadn’t made an official offer, but this was the place. I could feel it in my bones. Six acres along a lake. An absolutely massive house with a beautiful interior. I could see us spending the rest of our lives in that house, raising children with Lara, growing old with her.
I’d made one more stop on the way home to pick up daisies, her favorites, and a bottle of wine to celebrate. When I didn’t see her in the living room, I set the wine on the kitchen counter and the flowers next to it, then headed back towards the bedroom. My stomach tightened in anticipation. Sometimes, when I worked late, she’d head to bed in some sexy lingerie and wait for me to get home.
I opened the door and all of my dreams shattered.
Lara was wearing sexy lingerie. A tight black corset that pushed her generous breasts up, but didn’t cover the perky nipples. No panties but garter belts that attached to sheer black thigh-high stockings. Her dark red hair was fanned out around her head and her features were contorted in pleasure. Between her legs was a shapely blonde that I recognized as Cassandra, a twenty-something lawyer who lived two floors below us. Neither one of them appeared to have noticed me as Cassandra continued to go down on my girlfriend and Lara encouraged her.
“Right there, baby. Yes, please. More. Lick me.”
I couldn’t do anything but stare as Lara came with a cry that I’d thought had been reserved for me. We’d both had lovers before we’d met, but we never talked about them because we’d said that it was only going to be us.
Cassandra’s exclamation broke through my shock.
There was a guilty note in Lara’s voice as she scrambled for her robe, but not half as guilty as I thought she should sound. I didn’t even look at Cassandra as she grabbed her clothes and left the bedroom.
“What the fuck, Lara?” The words didn’t come out as angry as I intended, but at least they didn’t sound hurt. I was still pretty numb at the moment and I was pretty sure I wanted to stay that way.
“Rylan, I’m so sorry.” She climbed off of the bed and walked towards me.
I shook my head and took a step back. “Talk, don’t touch.”
Her jade eyes glittered with tears and I felt a flare of anger. How dare she act upset? Like she was the one who caught me cheating? And it wasn’t even like seeing her out to dinner with another man or kissing him. I’d fucking walked in on her getting eaten out by another woman.
“You know I’d been with men and women before I met you,” she began. “Then you and I were so good together and you’re such a great guy, I thought you were the one.”
I couldn’t believe I was hearing this.
“You’re a great guy, Rylan, and that’s what makes this so hard.”
“No,” I snapped. The anger was coming now and I struggled to reign it in. “You don’t get to act like you’re some victim, Lara. Not after what you did.”
“It just happened,” she said, tears spilling over. “I’ve been fighting against my attraction to Cassandra for months and then today, I was dressed up, waiting for you to come home and she knocked on the door–”
“I don’t want to hear the rest,” I cut her off. “And do you really think it makes me feel any better to know that you’ve been attracted to her all this time?”
“I can’t help it,” she said. “It’s how I am. I care about you, Rylan, but if I can’t love you like that, then I can’t love any man. I’d always thought of myself as straight woman who’d experimented, maybe bisexual, but I can’t deny it anymore. I’m a lesbian.” She gave me that sad look that she used when she wanted me to see her way. “There’s nothing I can do about that.”
“You think that’s what this is all about?” I shook my head. “I don’t give a damn about what gender you want to fuck. It’s the fact that you lied about it. You cheated on me, Lara. Just because you wanted Cassandra didn’t mean you had to fuck her right then and there.”
Her pale skin flushed.
“When you first started thinking this, you should’ve told me.” I ran my hand through my hair. “You know what, it doesn’t matter anymore. We’re done.” I looked around. “I can’t be here right now. Take the weekend, get your shit together and get out.”
“Rylan.” She reached out her hand and then dropped it. “I really am sorry.”
I sighed, suddenly exhausted. “Someday I might be ready to hear that, but it’s not tonight.”
“Dammit!” I slapped my palm against the side of the shower. “Damn you, Lara. Why couldn’t you have just told me the truth?”
By the time I got out of the shower, I didn’t exactly feel better, but I wasn’t worse, so I accepted it.
Lara had been my only serious girlfriend. I’d dated girls on and off in high school and college, but I’d always been so busy with work that it never got beyond casual. By the time I was nineteen, I’d even gone away from casual dating to random hook-ups. That had been how I’d met Janice, the CSU grad student who’d introduced me to a whole new way of playing during one extremely intense and exciting weekend. Then, at an S&M party, I’d seen Lara, another student at the college who I’d spoken to once or twice in passing.
My phone rang, pulling me out of my thoughts. I frowned. The only person I could think of who’d be calling me this late would be Lara and I really didn’t want to talk to her again. I felt a wave of relief when I saw the caller ID.
“Hey, Suzette.” I kept my tone light. No need for her to know what was going on.
I couldn’t help but smile. Suzette was six and a half years younger than me, my half-sister through our dad. For the first couple years of her life, I’d still been with my mother who’d gone to great lengths to keep me away from my father and his new family, even having my last name legally changed to her maiden name when she changed hers back. I found out later that she’d threatened to take my dad to court if he didn’t agree to let my last name be changed from Dougall to Archer. When I was twelve, however, my mom went off the deep end and the shit really hit the fan. Long story short, she ended up losing primary custody of me and I went to live with my father, step-mother, and half-sister. I’d known what changing my last name back would do to my mom, so I’d kept it, which hadn’t made my father happy. That was the story of my life, constantly torn between my parents. My one bright spot, however, had always been Suzette. I adored my little sister.
“What are you doing this weekend?” She didn’t bother with any small talk.
“Nothing,” I said.
“Since we have a three-day weekend, me and some friends are heading up to the cabin first thing in the morning. You and Lara should come too. I haven’t seen you in forever.”
“Lara and I broke up,” I said flatly.
“Oh, Rylan, I’m so sorry. I know you really liked her.”
I didn’t bother to correct her and say that I’d loved Lara, that I’d been planning on marrying her before I’d caught her with another woman. I wasn’t going to get into all of the gory details with my little sister.
“You should come,” Suzette said. “Get your mind off of things.”
“You want me to hang out with a bunch of teenagers?” I asked, trying to put a teasing note into my voice and failing.
“Okay, old man, so we’re a few years younger than you, but everyone other than me is legally an adult.”
I smiled again. Suzette had graduated young from high school and had turned seventeen just last week, so I tended to forget that her college friends would be older than her.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Come with us,” she insisted. “Once we’re there, you can go do your own thing. Don’t you think it’ll be good to get out of the city for a while?”
“I’m already out of the city,” I said. “I’m in Denver.”
She let out a low whistle. “That must’ve been one hell of a break-up.”
“You have no idea,” I muttered.
“Then drive up and meet us. You’ll have a car and can leave whenever you want.”
She had a point, and what else was I going to do all weekend? Sit around the hotel and watch pay-per-view? Half of it would be porn and the last thing I wanted to see right now were titles for lesbians going at it. Plus, we always kept extra clothes at the cabin, which meant I wouldn’t need to spend the weekend in either my already-worn clothes or a towel.
“All right,” I agreed. If nothing else, I could count on a bunch of college kids having beer which meant I could sleep and drink my way through the next couple days. That sounded as good as anything else.