There was something cathartic in watching the night sky.
Eric leaned back, resting the back of his head against the soft, tan leather headrest and let out an audible sigh.
It had been two weeks. Two weeks since the night she marched into his office in the middle of the night and returned the engagement ring he had given her three years ago.
“I’m leaving you.”
She was done waiting, she said. She was tired of playing second fiddle to his job.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“What I should have done years ago.”
Then she was gone.
Eric didn’t go after her. This wasn’t a goddamn movie. Going after her would only send the wrong message. If there was anything his spiteful father had taught him it was never to yield.
A Northman bows to no one.
Besides, Eric knew she’d be back. How many times had they done this song-and-dance before? How many times had she threatened to run off? He lost count after the first dozen.
She would never leave him simply because she couldn’t. He’d give her a day – hell, he’d even throw in a couple more for good measure – to come to her senses and crawl back to him with her tail between her oh-so creamy legs.
She’ll be back, he kept telling himself.
He thrust his hand in his pocket and felt the cool round metal that he had been carrying around like a lovesick fool for weeks. Remembering the day he gave it to her, he could feel the cold fingers of loneliness slowly gripping his spine.
“I love it.”
He could already tell she didn’t. She had never been a good liar.
“You could exchange it if you want.”
She squealed and frenched him like only a French woman could. “Now I love it even more!”
The morning after he proposed, she dragged him back to Harry Winston and got the ring she wanted.
He took out the platinum band and held it up. The four-carat emerald cut diamond winked at him when it hit the overhead lamp of the jet.
How could she throw away four years just like that? Wasn’t it enough that he asked her to marry him? He wasn’t the type of man who made many promises, but by God, he stood by the ones he made. His word was his bond. She should have known that by now.
“Have you heard?”
Pam asked him yesterday after their daily morning briefing in his office. Pamela ‘Pam’ Ravenscroft was his lesbian best friend and one of the few people who believed him when everyone doubted. She was also his business partner, the Chief Operating Officer of the Northman Cap – the stock insurance firm he had been working on for the past three years.
“Her fifth avenue apartment in the upper east side is already on the market.”
His fists clenched under the massive mahogany desk, away from Pam’s prying gaze. He didn’t offer a response as his heart sank. He wondered how many suitcases she filled up to pack up four years of her life in New York to move back to her hometown.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this.
What are you doing Sylvie?
“You okay chief?”
Taking a deep breath, he plastered on his trademark lopsided smirk and raised his eyes to Pam. “Peachy,” he quipped as he picked up his mobile tablet. “I do have some questions though. Have you taken a look at our book today? There seems to be some discrepancies in the new logs.”
“What kind of discrepancies?”
Eric shot her a disappointed look as he handed her his tablet. “Look at this.” His finger skating on the screen. “I distinctly remember signing up three new clients last week but I still don’t see them listed here.”
“Do you, Pam? Or are you too busy playing house with Miriam?”
“Now that’s not fair Eric.”
His hands slammed against the desk. Two weeks of stewing and it seemed he finally reached his tipping point. How could Pam be so reckless? So stupidly irresponsible. This fucking job had cost him so much. So fucking much.
“No, this is not fair,” he exploded. “We’re going public in two weeks, Pamela. You know how hard I’ve worked to build this company. You know what’s at stake. We’re an insurance firm for fuck’s sake, if we can’t account for all the funds coming in how can we possibly expect the clients to trust us to handle their stocks.”
“Fine!” Pam’s tone matched his. “I’ll get to it. And while I’m doing that, why don’t you do us all a favor and get that big stick out of your ass.”
“What did you say?”
“You heard me. C’mon, Eric, you want transparency, why don’t we start with that big ass elephant that we kept circling around.” Pam’s hands were also flat against the table as her face inched closer to his. “What’re you going to do about her?”
Eric’s lips thinned. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Pam backed away so she could tower over him. “Get. Her. Back.”
Shaking his head he picked up his iPad and stared at the numbers on the screen. “She left on her own, she can return on her own.”
“You’re not even gonna call her?”
“To say what? Beg her to take me back?” He snapped his head. “Sorry, but begging isn’t in my DNA.”
Cruelty, perhaps, he thought derisively.
“You’re my friend, Eric, that’s why I feel like I owe it to you to be brutally honest.”
Between them, there was no other form of honesty.
“I know you’re hurting, even if you don’t admit it.” Pam sat down, her beautiful, and usually composed and expressionless, face crumbling with concern. “But can you really blame her for leaving? You’ve dangled the carrot in front of her for three long years. I’m actually surprised she didn’t leave you sooner.”
“I proposed to her.”
“Yeah, three years ago. I’ve heard of long engagements but goddammit three years is not only ridiculous, its fucking insulting.”
He shot Pam a skewering glare but his associate refused to budge.
“Go after her Eric. She’s probably raiding her father’s cellar by now, drowning in France’s finest.”
He stayed silent. Raised by a family of winemakers, Sylvie Leclerq had surely mastered the art of going on a bender. Perhaps it was time to adapt the same principle.
After a brief stare down with his second-in-command, he dropped his gaze back to his tablet and said, “Fine, book me a flight.”
Pam’s face lit up. She liked winning arguments, especially against him.
“I think I can get you a last-minute ticket to Paris tonight. Do you mind flying coach?”
“No.” He shook his head without looking up.
“No, I’m not going to France.”
Pam arched her brow.
“Where, pray tell, are you going then?”
“You choose. Surprise me. But keep it domestic. I just want to blow off some steam.”
Pam put a hand on her hip, her fingers drumming rhythmically as she observed him. Then, ever so slowly, her lips curved into a smile, baring a perfect set of white teeth.
“Okay,” she hummed. “Y’know what, why don’t I bring out the big guns and charter you a jet. I’ll have Sandy arrange your accommodations. Oh and Eric, pack light.”
“Mr. Northman?” the flight attendant, whose name he didn’t bother to ask, jolted him out of his musings. “Please put your seatbelt back on, we’re about to start our descent to Caddo airport.”
He blinked back his confusion. Was there another airport in New Orleans aside from Louis Armstrong? When he boarded the jet and found out they were flying to Louisiana, he assumed the pilot meant Nola. Although he wasn’t ecstatic to spend his vacation in Big Easy, he decided to go with it anyway. It could be so much worse.
“Where are we?” he asked the attendant.
“Louisiana, sir. Shreveport, Louisiana.”
Fuck. It was so much worse.