Copyright © 2011 Megan Hart
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Candace finished blending another batch of strawberry smoothies and passed out fresh cups to all the ladies. “Spill the dirt, Arden. You heard most of my sordid stories earlier tonight. It’s your turn.”
Emboldened by a gulp of the frozen drink, Arden swallowed twice before answering. It couldn’t hurt to tell the story, could it? It had been a long time ago, and a lot had happened since then. “Before I met my husband, I had a fling, I guess you could call it. With a guy named Shane Donner. I met him at a friend’s house and we hit it off.”
It felt like every woman in the room hung on her every word.
“So, what happened?” asked Marla.
Arden feigned a casual attitude she definitely didn’t feel. “We went out for a little while and then it ended.”
“What she means to say is they screwed each other silly!” crowed Lida.
“And after that?” Pam tipped back her cup to get the last of her drink. “You broke up?”
Arden could still smell the scent of the cologne he’d favored. Could still feel the bite of the wind on her cheeks as she’d faced him. Damn, she realized as she sipped her drink, she could still taste him.
“It’s kinda hard to break up something that never really got started. He wasn’t interested in having a girlfriend,” she said with a shrug. “And he made that pretty clear. So I stopped seeing him, and then I met Jason.”
“And loverboy decided she was the greatest thing since sliced bread and tried to hook up with her again. Too bad, so sad.” Lida gave a hearty laugh and slapped her thigh. “Men can be so dumb.”
“So why not look him up now?” Gail refilled her cup.
“Things are different now. Lots different.”
“I think you should call him.” Pam nodded firmly. “Sex good enough to put a blush on your face twelve years later is good enough to look up again.”
“You know, the best sex I ever had was with the computer nerd who came to install my modem,” piped up Marla in a dreamy voice. “The things that man could do with his hard drive…”
The room exploded with laughter, and in another five minutes Arden’s situation was forgotten as the women began swapping stories again. Relieved to no longer be the center of attention, Arden listened and laughed with her newfound friends, and when the party began to break up just as dawn was streaking the sky, she made her slightly bleary way down the street to her own little house and headed straight for bed.
She paused, one hand on the newel post, her eyes going without effort toward the small alcove off the kitchen she’d turned into her home office. The computer was in there, the flat screen iMac that had become her dearest friend in the months following Jason’s death. She shopped online, kept in touch online, joined grief support groups, banked and rented movies online. She’d also, more than once, looked up names, addresses and telephone numbers on the Net.
Her bed called her—her vast, empty bed—and though her eyes drooped with weariness, the thought of sliding between sheets unwarmed by a companion did not appeal to her. The girls were with Arden’s parents for the entire weekend, a treat they loved and she tolerated because she knew they loved it. Without the pull of small hands and constant childish chatter she felt more than alone. She felt lonely.
However, Maeve and Aislin wouldn’t be home until Sunday morning, more than twenty-four hours from now, and she had no plans for tomorrow other than finishing up a dress she’d been commissioned to sew. She could sleep in tomorrow. The search would only take a few minutes…
Her feet moved before she knew it, and her fingers found the familiar grooves of the keyboard buttons. It took her two seconds to pull up her favorite search engine, to type in his name and their town, and to get a list of possible matches.
Oh. Connex. Her lip curled, just a little. Arden had a profile on the popular social media site, but she’d never even updated it and hadn’t logged in since…well, probably since shortly after Lida had encourage her to set one up as a way of keeping in touch, long-distance. That had been a long time ago. And yet there it was, the top hit.
She clicked on it and logged in, surprised she even remembered how. That brought up another screen with a list of Shane Donners who had Connex accounts. She squinted, trying to see from the tiny avatar photos if she recognized any of them. She hit the jackpot on her fourth try.
“Bachelor Number Four,” she murmured, looking at the screen.
He had a business page, very tech-savvy of him though she guessed she shouldn’t be surprised. The world revolved around social media these days, and she’d been told often enough she should have a site for her business. Shane N. Donner, owner/operator Donner’s Specialty Construction. The page gave an address, a phone number and of course, the ability to send him an email message through his profile.
First, though, she stalked his photos.
Nothing too personal. Shots of homes he’d built or renovated. Projects like decks and bathrooms. No pictures of him, and she guessed that made sense since he was trying to promote his work, not his face.
Then, there, one small photo of him on a job site. Dirty denim jeans, work gloves, wife-beater T-shirt, muscles and sweat and…guh. Arden swallowed hard, wishing he’d been turned toward the camera instead of half-away, showing only a part of his profile.
The problem with sites like Connex, she thought, was that it made creeping on someone just too damned easy. Her fingers flew over the keys, typing out a message before she could think to stop herself. Something simple, bland, nonaggressive.
Hi. How are you?
“Will you go with me? Yes, No, Maybe, circle one,” she muttered, well-aware of how her words echoed in the empty house. “Just like in eighth grade, geez.”
She hesitated before hitting send, thought of erasing the message entirely, but again the sting of winter wind slipped across her skin and the taste of smoke and bourbon made her swipe her tongue across her lips. It had been really great sex. If it had ended somewhat sourly…well, they’d been young. It was a long time ago. And there was nothing wrong, really, with just a little note? Just to say hi to an old friend?
Except Shane Donner had never, not exactly, been her friend. He’d been both more and less than that, an enigma, a short-term lover who’d nevertheless rocked her world, made her laugh and made her cry. A man she’d never forgotten.
With determination, Arden clicked send. She sat back and stared at the desktop wallpaper, a montage of film clips from The Matrix film trilogy.
“Keanu, if you’re coming for me, you’d better hurry up. I don’t think I can save myself for you much longer.”