Chapter Twenty

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Months passed, and I spent the days working harder than I ever had, and the nights were filled with sleepless doubt and regret. I upped my swimming to twice a day, hoping to exhaust myself and shut off my overactive mind.

It didn't work.

I thought of Colin constantly, and tried to ignore intense feelings for him that bubbled up from some remote place inside me I didn't know existed. Why had I opened up to him over that weekend? Why had he struck a chord in me? Why had I become so smitten, so fast?

I'd survived being disowned by my parents, a nasty divorce, testifying against my ex-husband in court. Held my head high when my neighbors and socialites had gossiped about me. I'd persevered, thrived even.

So what was this one man affecting me so? Maybe because I suspected that he'd slept with me out of pity. Or convenience. Each day, I carried a heavy feeling of disappointment in my stomach because I'd never see him again. It didn't seem fair, somehow, that we'd gotten along so brilliantly, shone so bright together, only to end abruptly.

But I had to stop wallowing. There was money to be made, and dignity to regain. I was back in my beautiful estate on Palm Beach Island, sketching out next year's swim and beachwear designs. To concentrate, I'd halted all calls.

"Especially if Colin King tries to get through, I don't want to know about it," I told June and my secretary in a firm voice, knowing I was being silly because he wouldn't ever call. "I need to fully focus."

I was beginning to suspect why Colin had stood me up. I was older, divorced and strange. If he were to settle down — and that was a big if, according to what I'd learned about him — he'd want someone younger. Someone who could give him babies. Someone who didn't suffer from anxiety attacks when she flew. All of those were probably reasons why he'd stood me up in London.

Why would he want more? I was a pity fling. Or, in his probable words, a pity fuck. The very idea filled me with shame.

I imagined Colin, on the flight back to Florida, sitting next to a cheery, normal younger woman. They'd chat amiably as the plane took off, Colin would flirt, she'd flirt back as they enjoyed a cocktail. She would slip him her card, he'd call her, and they'd eventually marry.

Or, perhaps he'd never be the marrying type. Maybe he'd been a rake his entire adult life and would never settle down. Even though I thought we'd had a connection, the truth was, I wasn't captivating enough to interest him beyond a weekend. I was too basic. Everything he'd said to me was a lie. I'd been a willing woman who opened her legs for him on an unscheduled stop in Iceland.

That thought depressed me even more.

After several weeks, the hurt of Colin's absence faded to a dull ache. I went back to my routine, with a few exceptions.

I kept my promise to June and had drinks with her on Saturdays. The first several nights out left me so drained that I slept late on Sundays instead of going for my usual, early morning swim in the humid air.

I thought of Colin on those mornings, recalling how we'd laid in bed together, laughing, kissing and talking. I immediately berated myself for thinking about him. We'd spent a total of three nights together.

Seventy-two hours. How could I fall so fast for someone in such a short amount of time? Absurd.

Part of me wanted to call him and demand to know why he'd stood me up. The rational side of me warned that if I did, I would expose myself to more shame and hurt. After giving my ex-husband so many chances, I wasn't about to do the same with Colin.

No, it was best to let our long weekend disappear into a small, locked room in my mind.

But in late-October, something changed in me. Perhaps it was the long, fall shadows, or the way the days were shorter and darker and captured my mood. Maybe I'd succeeded in telling myself that Colin was a thing of the past. To my surprise one Saturday, I actually was looking forward to going out with June to The Breakers.

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