The Book in Room 316
For better or for worse.
That was such a load of crap. Surely, those words were written by some polygamous man who wanted all the trappings with a wife and the dalliances with a mistress.
A sea of thoughts swirled through my head as I recalled my wedding vows—vows that I’d faithfully upheld for the past twelve years.
Do you, Savannah Dionne Kirby, take this man . . .
Vows I’d been foolish enough to believe my husband, Clark, had upheld as well.
Do you, Clark Edward Graham, take this woman . . .
Vows that, 4,603 days after I’d made them, didn’t mean a single thing.
“Can I get anything else for you?”
The bartender’s chipper voice forced me out of my wedding-day memories and into my present-day nightmare. I swallowed the lump in my throat, forced a smile, and said, “May I have another, please?”
He kept his smile as his left eyebrow rose in judgment. “You sure about that?”
My right eyebrow rose to let him know I wasn’t in the mood to be judged. “Look, I just need a gin and Coke. I don’t need a shot of lecture.”
He shrugged, then went to make my drink. My eyes stayed on his backside as he walked away.
I couldn’t remember the last time that I’d let my eyes roam over another man. When it came to faithfulness, I could’ve been the spokesperson for the Committed Wives Society.
“It’s not often I see a woman going for hard liquor like that.”
I turned toward the stranger who had sat on the bar stool next to mine and slid into my thoughts as if I had summoned him up. Even though he was sitting, he had to be at least six-four. With a smile that looked like it should be hawking teeth-whitening products, this man’s rugged good looks were made for a magazine cover. He looked like a black George Clooney in his tan blazer and dark denim jeans, which gave off the perfect combination of a business-casual vibe. He was the absolute total package. And all I could think was that he was invading my personal space.
“Mind if I sit?” he asked, setting his half-empty glass on the bar.
I exhaled, let my shoulders slump in exasperation, then turned back to face forward. “You’re already sitting.”
“Mind if I sit here?” he corrected. He pulled some cash out and set it on the bar. “And I would love to buy you that gin and Coke.”
My first reaction was to do what I’d always done when men approached me—which was quite often thanks to my voluptuous figure and smooth caramel skin that screamed twenty-nine instead of my actual thirty-eight, and kept me working as one of the most popular TV reporters in town when most of my female colleagues the same age had moved on to another career. But before I could utter the words “I’m married,” another thought filled my head: Clark didn’t care about being married.
The reason I was sitting in the bar at the Markham Hotel in downtown Houston, drowning my sorrows in my third glass of gin and Coke.
I didn’t even drink gin and Coke.
“How do you know what I’m drinking anyway? Are you watching me?” I asked, shaking off thoughts of my husband.
“I wasn’t watching you, but I definitely noticed you,” he replied, not at all intimidated by the barb behind my words. I rolled my eyes and he shifted uncomfortably, like he was debating whether he should get up and leave or keep trying to talk to me. “This weather is a beast.” He pointed toward the floor-to-ceiling window, at the pounding rain assaulting the pavement outside the hotel. It had started pouring down when I’d arrived at the hotel ten hours ago. I told myself it was the angels mixing their tears with mine.
“I’m from Dallas and was going to try to head home, but the weather is even worse there,” the man continued. “It’s flooding pretty bad, so I figured I’d just leave tomorrow. The only
problem is that means I’m missing my daughter’s recital. So, I’ve just been sitting over there, nursing my own sorrows.”
I wondered why he thought I wanted to know his life story. But I just said, “Who said I’m nursing sorrows?” My voice was filled with attitude with this man who hadn’t been invited to my pity party—however gorgeous he was.
He smiled as he raised his drink to his lips. “I know the eyes of a woman who’s been hurt.”
That made my heart ache and broke down my tough facade. As if I could possibly feel any more pain than what I’d felt ten hours ago when I’d overheard Clark’s conversation with Dawn.
My good friend Dawn, the wife of Clark’s late best friend.
I blinked back my welling tears—I’d shed enough of those—just as the bartender set my drink in front of me. The liquor was a welcome reprieve, and I quickly took a gulp.
“This is just what I need,” I said, raising the glass in a mock toast. “Matter of fact, this is all I need to wipe away any sorrow.” I winced, both from the liquor and the budding headache. I shook it off, reminded myself that I wasn’t a weakling, then had to close my eyes as I got my bearings.
When I opened my eyes, my new neighbor was just staring at me with a smile that bore no judgment. Instead, I saw understanding in his eyes.
“I’m Wilson,” he said, extending his hand.
“You have a last name for a first name?” I giggled, my guard slightly lowering thanks to the mixture of gin and revenge.
He shrugged. “My mother always had to be different. And you are?”
I hesitated, allowing Clark and Dawn a millisecond to creep back into my thoughts.
I silently cursed my husband and my friend and said, “I’m Savannah. Savannah Graham.”
Dang it, I immediately thought. I should’ve given him my maiden name, since I’d be returning to it soon. Or better yet, a fake name. If he was from Dallas, he wouldn’t have known me from television anyway.
“I’m a good listener,” Wilson said. It was as if he knew that I was fighting off the worst kind of pain.
Usually, there was no way in the world I would’ve shared my private business with a complete stranger. But the last ten hours had been the stuff nightmares were made of. And if this handsome stranger could help me pick up the pieces of my broken heart, then so be it.
I shrugged. “Hey, it’s the usual story behind a woman sitting in a bar alone, drowning her sorrows in liquor. I just found out the man I thought would love me forever is loving on another woman.”
Images of Clark and Dawn once again filled my head. Every time they’d laughed. Every time they’d spoken. I was now trying to dissect every memory.
“Wow, sorry to hear that,” Wilson said.
I took another sip of my drink, then grimaced as the liquor burned my throat as it went down. “It is what it is. Now I just
have to figure out how to move on.”
“Yeah. I’m divorced myself. It wasn’t easy, especially on my kids. Do you have children?” Wilson asked.
That brought another pang to my heart. Maybe that’s why Clark had slept with Dawn. I had been unable to give him the one thing he wanted most. Dawn, on the other hand, had four kids. So, of course, he’d end up in the arms of the most fertile woman on the planet.
“No. No kids,” I said. “We were in the process of trying to adopt, but there have been all kinds of delays. I guess that was God’s way of keeping that from happening.” I released a pained laugh. I had to laugh, so I didn’t cry.
“I really am sorry.” Concern had replaced his gorgeous smile.
I paused and composed myself before this man thought I was a nut job.
Wilson placed his hand on my arm. “I hate to see a beautiful woman like you going through something like this.”
A jolt of electricity shot through me at his touch. It had been thirteen years since another man had electrified me like this. Thirteen years since I’d even desired anyone other than Clark.
Betrayal had a way of quickly changing things. And since I was now doing things I’d never before done, maybe I should go all the way. Maybe I should give Clark a taste of his own medicine. Maybe Wilson could help fill the hole in my heart.
“You know, I don’t want to talk about that anymore,” I abruptly said, brushing down my rose pencil skirt and turning to face him. “My marriage is finished and I just want to have
a good time enjoying my drink, then go back to my room and drink some more.”
Wilson’s eyes instinctively noticed my toned legs, then traveled back up my body, until we were both exchanging hungry glances. He licked his lips, desire filling his eyes. “I have a bottle of Grey Goose in my room. I could grab it and meet you back in your room to, ah, talk, or whatever you’d like to do.”
Any other time, the thought of going to a hotel room with any man other than Clark would’ve mortified me. But this wasn’t any other time.
Clark had betrayed me.
An eye for an eye.
“You know, that sounds like an excellent idea,” I said. The liquid courage had given me juice, and I stood before I came to my senses.
“Room 316,” I whispered. “See you soon.”
I ran my hand along his chest, then sauntered toward the elevator knowing his eyes were following me and taking comfort in the fact that I was about to give my husband the payback he deserved.