In high school, biology was my favorite subject. What fascinated me most were species that transform into a whole new being. Like pollywogs. Or butterflies. They start out as one thing, but end up something else entirely.
Everyone always looks at butterflies and thinks, “How lovely.” But no one ever thinks about what they had to go through to become what they are. When the caterpillar builds its cocoon, it doesn’t know what’s happening. It doesn’t understand that it’s changing.
It thinks it’s dying. That its world is ending.
The metamorphosis is painful. Terrifying and unknown. It’s only afterward that the caterpillar realizes it was all worth it.
Because now it gets to fly.
And that’s what I feel like right now. I’m more than I was before. Stronger.
Did you think I was tough before?
Fooled you. Some of it was just bravado. A façade.
Dealing with Drew Evans is like swimming into one of those rogue waves at the beach. He’s overwhelming. And either you kick hard to keep up, or he rolls over you and leaves you behind with a face full of sand.
So I had to pretend to be a hard-ass.
I don’t need to pretend anymore, because now I’m granite. Impenetrable, all the way through.
Ask anyone who’s survived an earthquake at midnight, or a house fire that wipes out everything that matters. Unexpected devastation changes you.
And I mourn the old me. And my old life. The one that I had planned to share with Drew forever.
You seem confused. Sorry—let’s start again.
See that woman over there? On the swing, in this empty playground?
That’s me—Kate Brooks.
But not really. Not the Kate you remember, anyway. Like I said, I’m different now.
You’re probably wondering why I’m here, back in Greenville, Ohio, all alone.
Technically speaking, I’m not alone.
But we’ll get to that later.
The reason I’m in Greenville is simple. I couldn’t bear to stay in New York. Not for another day. Not after everything.
He’s still in New York. Probably nursing a vicious hangover. Or maybe he’s still drunk. Who knows? Let’s not concern ourselves with him too much. He has an attractive stripper to take care of him.
Yep—I said a stripper. At least I hope she was a stripper. She could’ve been a prostitute.
Did you think Drew and I were going to ride off into the sunset? Live happily ever after? Join the club. Apparently happily ever after only lasts two years.
Don’t check the title. You’re in the right place. This is still the Drew and Kate show. It’s just twisted around. Messed up. Welcome to Oz, Toto. It’s a fucked-up place to be.
What’s that? You think I sound like Drew? That’s what Delores says—that he’s infected me with his profanity. She calls it Drew-speak. I guess after two years, it kind of rubs off.
So I can see that you’re wondering what happened. You were so in love. You were so perfect for each other. Tell me about it.
Or better yet, tell the stripper.
Anyway—believe it or not—the real problem wasn’t another woman. Not at first. Drew wasn’t lying when he said he’d always want me. He did. He still does.
He just doesn’t want us.
Still don’t understand? That’s because I’m not telling it right. I should start at the beginning. See, last week I found out . . .
No, wait. That’s not going to work either. If you’re going to understand, I need to go back further.
Our end began about a month ago. I’ll start there.
Five weeks earlier
“Well, hot damn, looks like we got ourselves a deal!”
The guy in the cowboy hat? Signing that stack of papers, across from me at the conference table? That’s Jackson Howard Sr. The younger version in the black hat, sitting next to him? That’s his son, Jack Jr.
They’re cattle ranchers. Owners of the largest cattle ranch in North America, and they’ve just acquired the most innovative developer of GPS tracking software in the country. Now, you may ask yourself, why would two already wealthy businessmen travel across the country to expand their empire?
Because they want the best. And I’m the best.
Or should I say we are.
Drew takes the final document from him. “Sure do, Jack. I’d start looking into yachts for business travel, if I were you. When the profit reports roll in, your tax adviser’s going to want something big to write off.”
Kate and Drew.
The dream team of Evans, Reinhart and Fisher.
John Evans, Drew’s father, definitely knew what he was doing when he put us together. A fact he proudly loves to remind us of.
To hear him tell it, he knew all along that Drew and I would be an unbeatable team—unless we killed each other. Apparently that was a chance John was willing to take. Of course, he didn’t know we’d end up together like we are now, but . . . he takes credit for that part too. Starting to see where Drew gets it from, aren’t you?
Erin walks in now with our clients’ coats. She makes eye contact with Drew and taps her watch. He nods discreetly.
“I say we go out and celebrate—paint this town red! See if you city folk can keep up with the likes of me,” Jackson Howard says.
Even though he’s pushing seventy, he’s got the energy of a twenty-year-old. And I suspect he’s got more than a few bull-riding stories up his sleeve.
I open my mouth to accept the invite, but Drew cuts me off.
“We’d love to, Jack, but unfortunately Kate and I have a previously scheduled appointment. There’s a car waiting for you downstairs to take you to the finest establishments in the city. Enjoy yourselves. And of course the tab’s on us.”
They stand and Jack tips his hat to Drew. “That’s damn fine of you, son.”
“It’s our pleasure.”
As we walk to the door, Jack Jr. turns to me and holds out his card. “It was a real pleasure working with you, Miss Brooks. The next time you’re in my neck of the woods, I’d be honored to show around. I have a feelin’ Texas would agree with you. Maybe you’ll even decide to stay and put down some roots.”
Yep, he’s coming on to me. Maybe you think that’s sleazy. I would have, two years ago. But like Drew told me then, it happens all the time. Businessmen are slick, cocky. They kind of have to be.
It’s one of the reasons this field has the third-highest rate of infidelity—right after truck drivers and police officers. The long hours, the frequent traveling, hooking up almost becomes inevitable. A foregone conclusion.
It’s how Drew and I started, remember?
But Jack Jr.’s not like the other jerks who’ve propositioned me. He seems sincere. Sweet. So I smile and reach out to take his card, just to be polite.
But Drew’s hand is faster than mine. “We’d love to. We don’t get a lot of work down South, but the next time we do, we’ll cash in that rain check.”
He’s trying to be professional, unemotional. But his jaw is clenched. Sure, he’s smiling, but have you ever seen Lord of the Rings? Gollum smiled too.
Just before he bit that guy’s hand off who was holding his “precious.”
Drew is territorial and possessive. That’s just who he is.
Matthew once told me a story: For Drew’s first day of kindergarten, his mother bought him a lunch box. A Yoda one. On the playground, Drew wouldn’t put it down because it was his and he was afraid someone would break it. Or steal it. It took Matthew a week to convince him that nobody would—or that together, they could beat the everlasting hell out of anyone who did.
At times like this, I know just how that lunch box felt.
I smile kindly at Jack Jr. and he tips his hat. And then they’re out the door.
As soon as it’s closed behind them, Drew tears John Jr.’s card in half. “Dickhead.”
I push his shoulder. “Stop it. He was nice.”
Drew’s eyes snap to mine. “You thought Luke and Daisy Duke’s inbred love child was nice? Really?” He takes a step forward.
“As a matter of fact, yes.”
His voice morphs into an over-the-top southern drawl. “Maybe I should buy myself some chaps. And a cowboy hat.” Then he drops the accent. “Oohh—or better yet, we’ll get you one. I can be your wild stallion and you can be the brazen cowgirl who rides me.”
And the funniest thing of all? He’s really not kidding.
I shake my head with a smile. “So what’s this mysterious meeting we have? There’s nothing on my schedule.”
He smiles widely. “We have an appointment at the airport.” He slides two airline tickets out of his suit pocket.
First class—to Cabo San Lucas.
I inhale quickly. “Cabo?”
His eyes sparkle. “Surprise.”
I’ve traveled more in the last two years than I had in my entire life before—the cherry blossoms blooming in Japan, the crystal waters of Portugal. . . . All things Drew had already seen, places he’d already been to.
Places he wanted to share—with me.
I look closer at the tickets and frown. “Drew, this flight leaves in three hours. I’ll never have time to pack.”
He takes two bags out of the closet. “So it’s a good thing that I already have.”
I wrap my arms around his neck and squeeze. “You are the best boyfriend ever.”
He smirks in that way that makes me want to kiss him and slap him at the same time.
“Yeah, I know.”
The hotel is stunning. With views I’ve only seen on a postcard. We’re on the top floor—penthouse. Like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, Drew is a big believer in “only the best.”
It’s late when we get in, but after a nap on the plane, we’re both wired. Energized.
All the airlines are cutting back these days, even in first class. The sandwiches may be complimentary, but that doesn’t mean they’re edible.
While Drew is in the shower, I start to unpack. Why aren’t we showering together? I really don’t need to answer that, do I?
I put the bags on the bed and open them. Most men look at an empty suitcase like it’s some kind of physics equation—they can stare at it for hours, but still have no frigging clue what they’re supposed to do with it.
But not Drew.
He’s Mr. I-Think-of-Everything.
He packed all the incidentals that most men wouldn’t think of. Everything I’ll need to make my vacation comfortable and fun.
Except for underwear. There isn’t a single pair of underwear in this entire suitcase.
And it’s not an oversight.
My boyfriend happens to hold a serious grudge against undergarments. If he had his way, we’d both be walking around like Adam and Eve—minus the fig leaves, of course.
But he did bring the rest of the essentials. Deodorant, shaving cream, a razor, makeup, birth control pills, moisturizer, the rest of my antibiotic for the ear infection I had last week, eye cream—and so on.
And we should pause here, for a brief public service announcement.
I have a few clients who are in the pharmaceutical field. And those companies have whole departments whose sole job is writing.
Writing what, you ask? You know those little inserts that come with your prescription? The ones that list every possible side effect and what you should do, should any of them occur? May cause drowsiness, don’t operate large machinery, contact doctor immediately, blah blah blah.
Most of us just open the little paper bag, take out our pills, and throw the insert away. Most of us do . . . but we shouldn’t. I’m not going to bore you with a lecture. All I’ll say at the moment is: Read the insert. You’ll be glad you did.
And now—back to Mexico.
Drew walks out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist, and I forget all about the suitcase. You know how some men are boob guys, or ass guys? It works the same for women. I’m a forearm girl, myself. There’s something about a man’s forearms that’s just . . . hot. Masculine—in a manly man kind of way.
Drew has the finest set I’ve ever seen. Tight and toned—not too bulky, not too thin—with just the right amount of hair.
He removes the towel from his hips and rubs it over his shoulders. And I’m pretty sure I start to drool.
Maybe I’m an ass woman after all.
“You know it’s impolite to stare.”
I drag my eyes up to his. He’s smiling. And I take a step toward him—like a cougar closing in on her prey.
“Is it, now?”
Drew licks his lips. “Definitely.” A drop of water slides down the middle of his chest.
Anyone else thirsty?
“Well, I don’t want to be rude.”
Just as I’m about to lean down and lick the droplet off him, my stomach growls. Loudly.
Drew laughs. “Maybe I should feed you first. For what I have planned, you’re going to need some energy.”
I bite my lip in anticipation. “You have something planned?”
“For you? Always.”
He spins me around and slaps me on the rear. “Now get that delectable ass in the shower so we can go. The sooner we eat, the quicker we can come back here and fuck till the sun comes up.”
He really doesn’t mean to be as crude as he sounds.
Yeah—you’re right—he probably does.
An hour later, we’re on our way to dinner. Drew surprised me with a new dress—white eyelet and strapless, with a hem that flares out just above my knee. My hair is down with a slight curl, the way I know he loves it.
As for my boyfriend—I can’t take my eyes off him. Tan slacks and a crisp white shirt, the top few buttons open, the sleeves rolled up halfway.
We arrive at the restaurant.
I’ve always thought the Latino culture was interesting. The music. The people. They’re vibrant. Volatile.
All words that describe where we’re dining tonight. It’s dim—the only illumination comes from the candles on the tables and the twinkling lights on the ceiling. A pulsing rhythm emanates from a small band of musicians in the corner.
Drew requests in Spanish a table for two.
Yes—he speaks Spanish. And French. He’s working on Japanese. Did you think his voice was sexy? Trust me—until you’ve heard him whisper blush-worthy phrases in a foreign language, you don’t know the meaning of the word sexy.
We follow the robust, dark-haired hostess to a table in the corner.
Now, take a moment to look around. See all the female attention Drew gets, just by walking through the room? The appreciative glances, the inviting eyes?
I notice—I always do.
But here’s the thing: Drew doesn’t. Because he’s not looking. At any of them.
For you guys out there who think looking doesn’t hurt? You’re wrong. Because we women don’t think you’re just enjoying the view. We think you’re comparing, finding us lacking. And that stings. Like a paper cut on your eyeball.
I’m fully aware that Drew could have any woman he wants—the model in Beverly Hills, the heiress on Park Avenue. But he picked me. He fought for me. So when we go out, it’s a major boost to my confidence.
Because I’m the only woman he’s looking at.
We sit at the table and scan the menus. “So explain to me again how you made it through college and business school without ever drinking straight tequila?”
I laugh at the question, remembering. “Well, back in high school, we’d have these bonfires—campouts.”
You ever sleep with an empty two-liter soda bottle for a pillow? It’s not fun.
“So one night, Billy and the guys were drinking tequila—and Billy swallowed the worm. And then he started to hallucinate. We were working on amphibian anatomy in bio at the time, and as messed up as he was, Billy was convinced he was a frog—and that Delores was trying to dissect him. He hopped off into the woods by himself, and it took us three hours to find him—with his tongue in the dirt. I’ve been hesitant to try tequila ever since.”
Drew shakes his head. “Confirming, once again, what I’ve known all along. Billy Warren is, and always has been, a complete fucking idiot.”
I’m used to Drew’s digs against Billy. And in this case? He’s not exactly wrong.
So I tell him, “As long as you don’t to make me swallow the worm, I’ll give it a go.”
His eyes light up, like a kid in a bike shop. “You know what this means?”
He wiggles his brows. “I get to teach you how to do body shots.”
Although I don’t believe you need to be drunk to have great sex, having a good buzz certainly doesn’t hurt.
Drew and I are in the elevator heading back to our room, both of us more than tipsy from the tequila. I can taste it on Drew’s tongue—bitter with a touch of citrus. He has me pinned against the wall, my skirt bunched up around my hips, and we’re pushing and grinding against each other.
I’m glad there’s no one else in the elevator—although at this point? I’m really too far gone to give a damn.
We stumble into the room.
Still groping and kissing.
Drew slams the door and spins me around. In one quick movement he pulls the dress down my body, leaving me bare. Except for my heels.
I lean over the desk, resting on my elbows. I hear the hiss of a zipper—and then I feel him. Sliding his cock between my lips—testing the waters—making sure I’m ready.
I’m always ready for him.
“Don’t tease,” I whimper.
Between the tequila and the elevator, I’m really turned on. Needy. He pushes in slowly but to the hilt. And I sigh.
Now, we all know the old phrase that bigger is better. And Drew is big—not that I have a lot to compare him to, but he’s twice the size of Billy.
I’m not making you boys out there uncomfortable, am I? News flash—this is how woman talk. At least when you’re not around to listen.
Anyway, it’s not really size that makes the man. It’s rhythm—the pace—knowing how to hit all those delicious spots with just the right amount of pressure. So the next time you see an infomercial for Cockgrow or Miracle-Dick?
Save your money. Buy the Kama Sutra instead.
Drew grabs my hair, pulling my head back, and moves quicker. Hard and fast. I grip the edge of the desk, holding on for balance.
He kisses my shoulder and whispers in my ear, “You like that, baby?”
I moan. “Yes . . . yes . . . so much.”
He thrusts into me with more force, shaking the desk.
And just like that, I’m coming like an out-of-control locomotive.
I’m floating. Weightless.
And it’s sublime.
Drew slows the movement of his hips as I come down, drawing it out—making it last. He pulls me back against his chest and his fingers skate up across my stomach and up to my breasts, cupping and kneading them with both hands.
I raise my arms around his neck, turning my head, bringing his mouth to mine.
I love his mouth, his lips, his tongue. Kissing is an art form, and Drew Evans is Michelangelo.
He pulls out of me and I turn around to face him. Backing him up to the bed. Drew sits on the edge and I climb on, wrapping my legs around his waist.
This is how I like it best—chest to chest, mouth to mouth, not an inch of space between us. I take him in my hand and slide down onto him. My insides stretch with the fullness and Drew moans. I rise slowly and slam down hard. Testing the strength of the bed springs.
I move faster. Deeper. Our bodies are slick from the Mexican heat.
And then Drew is holding my face in his hands, his thumbs moving back and forth across my skin. Suddenly tender. Worshipful.
Our foreheads press together and in the dim light I can see his eyes looking down, watching where he moves in and out of me.
And I look down too.
It’s erotic. Sensual.
I push his hair back from his forehead.
And my voice is begging, “Tell me you love me.”
He doesn’t say it often. He prefers to show me. But I never get tired of hearing it. Because every time he actually says the words, I’m filled with same wonderment as the first time.
“I love you, Kate.”
His hands still hold my face. Both of us panting—moving faster—getting closer. It feels spiritual.
A holy communion.
Drew’s voice is hushed. Breathless. “Tell me you’ll never leave me.”
His eyes are soft now, liquid silver. Pleading for reassurance.
For all his audacity and overconfidence, I think there’s a part of him that’s still haunted by the week he thought I’d chosen Billy over him. I think that’s why he works so hard to prove how much he wants me.
To show me that I chose wisely.
I smile softly and look right into his eyes.
“Never. I’ll never leave you, Drew.”
The words feel like vows.
His hands grip my hips, raising me up, helping me move.
“God, Kate . . .” His eyes close.
And our mouths open, giving and taking each other’s breaths. He expands inside me, throbbing, as I clamp down hard around him.
And we come together. In perfect unison.
Afterward, Drew’s arms tighten around me. I touch his face and kiss him gently. He falls backward on the bed, taking me with him, keeping me on top. We lie like that for a while until our heart rates come back down and our breathing slows.
And then Drew rolls me under him.
And we do it again.
There are two kinds of people in this world: the ones who look first, and the ones who leap. I’ve always been more of a looker. A planner. Cautious. Then I met Drew Evans. He was so persistent. So sure of himself. He made it easy to leap with him.
Did you think Drew and I were going to ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after? So did I. But life is about choices, and Drew already made his. In fact, he tried to decide for the both of us—but you know that’s not my style. So I came back to Greenville, to spend some time alone . . . sort of.
Because old habits die hard, and sometimes you have to go back to where you began before you can move ahead again.