Shit! I’m late. I’m late.
Alison Caldwell nearly tripped on her high heels as she vaulted up the steps of her newly purchased home, desperate to get to her second job on time. The evening before, she and her fiancé, Rick, had spent the first night in their new home celebrating, and she’d forgotten to take her clothes for her second job with her when she’d left this morning.
Thank God she was almost done with her crazy schedule, her life finally totally on track because Rick had just graduated from dental school and was set to start his first job at an already thriving practice.
“I can do this for just a little while longer,” she whispered to herself, putting her key into the door of the two-story home, a house she had financed herself because Rick’s credit wasn’t great, and even though she had been helping him through school for the last five years, he still had some significant student loans.
Her heels slipped again as she hit the foyer, the smooth stone tile making her shoes skid. Damn heels! If she didn’t have to wear the stupid things to feel taller next to her billionaire boss from Hell, her feet wouldn’t ache as badly as they did right now.
Ally yanked the offending footwear from her feet in the foyer, and climbed the carpeted stairs quickly, unbuttoning her conservative blouse and the back of her skirt as she went, to save time.
This was the way her life had been for the last few years, since she’d taken an extra job to help get Rick through school. But it would pay off. She knew it would. Her life plan was exactly the way it should be, her and Rick’s small wedding being only a little more than a month away. They rarely saw each other because of her schedule, but she knew the sacrifice would pay off. They’d needed more income, and she had provided it, even though working two jobs was nearly killing her. Very shortly, she’d have her chance to go back to school and finish her MBA. That was the plan, the agreement they’d made when it was apparent that she and Rick couldn’t both go to school at the same time. It had made sense, putting her degree off first. Rick would make more money than she could right out of school, and her job at Harrison Corporation paid well for a woman who hadn’t actually finished her MBA. Unfortunately, keeping her position there came with a price; she actually had to work for Travis Harrison.
Releasing her hair from the confining clip as she went down the hallway to the master bedroom, Ally tried to put Travis out of her mind. They’d argued during the day, and he had fired her…yet again. Not that she took that threat seriously anymore. Travis Harrison fired her on a daily basis, and then proceeded to pile a bunch of work on her to complete the next day. But that part of her day was over, and she needed to get to Sully’s Oasis, her evening job. And she was already late, and Travis was irritating as hell every single day. It wasn’t like that was anything new, or something that was going to change anytime soon.
As Ally approached the bedroom door, she heard voices—one male voice she recognized very well, and a female voice that she didn’t. She a heard a passionate groan from Rick, a sound she’d never heard before, and a responding husky female moan. The door wasn’t completely closed, and she nudged her foot against the wood, swinging the door wide open.
There, in the middle of the brand new king-sized bed that she and Rick had slept on for the first time just the night before, was her fiancé. His head was thrown back in passionate abandon, a look of ecstasy on his face that she’d never seen before. The woman, naked and on her hands and knees in front of him, moaned again, the couple oblivious of her presence. Obviously, Rick hadn’t planned on her coming back to the house before she went to her second job. She usually didn’t, going straight from Harrison to Sully’s.
Ally stared in morbid fascination, watching as the man she’d been involved with and had trusted for the last five years, killed her devotion with every thrust of his hips, every slap of his groin against the woman’s bare ass. And as every bit of her love for him drained away, so came the realization that even after five years, this Rick was a complete stranger.
Who was this man, and what had happened to her solemn, quiet fiancé who made love to her infrequently because he was always too tired? She hadn’t gotten much more than a peck on the cheek from him for the last two years. And even when they’d actually had a sex life, it wasn’t one with this kind of furious frenzy that appeared to transform him into a man she had never known.
She’d always made excuses for the reasons why their relationship wasn’t great. It was just that they were both working so hard, and things would change once they’d gotten through this difficult portion of their lives.
I never knew him.
Ally walked forward in a daze, tearing her eyes from the sight on the bed, crossing the room to pick up the jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers that she wore for her job at Sully’s.
“Ally,” Rick gasped heavily, finally noticing she was in the room.
Ally held up her hand. “Don’t mind me. I just need my clothes to go to work to support you while you’re screwing another woman. Do proceed. I’ve heard coitus interruptus is terribly uncomfortable.” And she should know. How many times had Rick either stopped or left her unfulfilled back when they’d actually had sex? More times than she could count, but she’d always made excuses for his actions before. After seeing the sight she’d just observed, she knew what an idiot she’d been. It wasn’t that he hadn’t wanted sex; he just hadn’t wanted it with her.
Ally didn’t look in Rick’s direction again. She didn’t want to see him or the slender beauty he’d just been screwing. Her clothing in hand, Ally walked out the bedroom door, closing it behind her. Tearing off her conservative daytime attire as fast as she possibly could, she yanked on her bar attire, gathered her dirty clothes and dropped them in the second bathroom hamper on her way to the stairs, her sneakers in her hand.
Ignoring Rick’s voice as he shot out of the bedroom, she quickly pulled on the comfortable canvas shoes in the foyer.
“You can’t just leave like this. I can explain,” Rick yelled desperately from upstairs, hanging over the railing.
Like there was really any reasonable explanation for what she’d just witnessed? Raising her voice just loud enough to be heard, she answered, “Get out. I want you gone by the time I get home from work. If you aren’t, I’ll call the police.”
“We’ve been together for five years. That has to count for something,” Rick appealed.
It did count for a lot, and none of it pleasant. Ally had worked her ass off every day, and had missed her chance to finish college because of those five torturous years spent working to make sure Rick had a career. She’d made a plan, stuck to every single thing she vowed to do so she and Rick could have the perfect life together. She’d always told herself if she could just hold things together while he was in school, she would have her chance. And now, that carefully planned outline had been erased like it had never happened, leaving her nowhere. Just years of empty space.
Ally didn’t respond, nor did she look up at the man to whom she’d given five long years of her life. He didn’t deserve it.
I have to keep moving. I’ll survive.
Exiting the house, she closed the door behind her. She was in her car and on her way to Sully’s before she could see Rick come bursting out the front door in only a hastily donned pair of jeans, cursing because she was already gone.
Ally arrived at Sully’s ten minutes late for work, but she did her job, no one even suspecting that her entire world had just tumbled down around her, her plans for her future gone.
When she arrived back home, exhausted, Rick was gone. She dragged her tired body to one of the extra bedrooms, her body and mind completely drained. Ally knew if she stopped for even a moment to think about what had happened, she’d lose it entirely, and that wasn’t something she could afford to do right now.
Blanking her mind, pushing all thoughts of the past aside, she let her worn-out body succumb to a mind-numbing sleep.