Laid Bare will be out in just a bit over a month – I thought I’d toss out a scene from early on in the book after Todd has returned to Seattle and he and Erin are getting to know each other again.
LAID BARE by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2009 Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, Penguin Group, USA
She looked around the front room they’d been in. Things were arranged in a feminine way, but not in the way a woman does when she’s a lover. Not in the way of a woman who has marked a space she was a regular part of. No, this spoke of mother or sister. She knew he had both, or he did before anyway.
A knot of tension loosened at that realization and then agitation rolled through her. She shouldn’t care one way or the other. Only that she wasn’t the other woman.
“There you are.” He came back into the room and moved directly to her. She liked that he sought her out, liked the way he kissed the back of her neck.
“Like I’d run away? You promised Thai food and beer. Can’t run out on that. Now is this the room you wanted to paint? If so, dude, you haven’t even moved the furniture. And, not to be nitpicky or anything, but um, shouldn’t you have more than this?”
He dragged her down a hall into another room. This one had drop cloths down, and painter’s tape had been put around the windows and at the ceiling.
“This is the room. I used to have more furniture, but the divorce, you know.” He shrugged. “She’d bought most of it anyway. I let her have it. I need to start over, I suppose.”
“Ah. I understand.” And she did. She’d come back to Seattle with very little that had decorated the home in LA she’d shared with Jeremy and Adele. “Sometimes you just need to make a clean break.”
He bent, prying open a can of paint, pouring it into a pan. The back of his T-shirt rode up, showing a work-hard, sun-kissed swath of skin. A shiver went through her at the sight, like a secret between
When he turned, she’d put a bandana over her hair. She took the roller brush he handed her way. The windows were open and she heard birds chirping, children playing, lawn implements buzzing and whirring. Normal, everyday life went on, comforting her and making her feel inadequate all at once.
“You know about clean breaks?” he asked before taking his own roller brush up and putting it through the paint.
She followed suit, the wet-swish sounds of the brushes distributing paint on the walls a surprisingly warm combination between orange and yellow.
It wasn’t like she’d never told anyone what happened. But the telling was like pulling an organ out, ripping it from her flesh and nearly dying from the pain.
“Yes,” she murmured as she worked.
“You had someone in LA?”
He waited awhile, as they painted. After a time he began to speak. “When I met Sheila, she was everything I wanted in a woman.” He paused. “Everything I thought I wanted. Soft. Feminine. She went to church on Sundays. We had dinner with her family every other weekend. She was—is beautiful in that magazine-spread-forâ€“Family Circle sort of way. Perfect. Blonde, big pale-blue eyes. Her voice is so soft and sweet.”
Erin knew he had a point to make, but whatever it was, the lead up was making her want to run this Sheila bitch over with her car a few times. And kick him in the junk for telling her all this.
“Anyway, I thought once I married her, I’d feel better. I’d be doing what I was supposed to. I’d have this pretty wife, I’d be a cop, have a career, a house in the suburbs, kids in a few years maybe. I should have been happy. But I wasn’t. I came home every night to a perfect house. Dinner on the table. She was good to me, Erin, but I did not hold up my end of the bargain. After a while she sort of gave up. I can’t blame her. She wanted kids and I put her off. I think she was considering leaving me long before the shooting. Anyway, I guess sometimes what we think we want isn’t what we need, and until we admit it, we’re fucking lying to ourselves.”
She sighed. “I haven’t painted a wall in many years. I’m going to be sorry tomorrow.” She paused and looked at him sideways. He raised a brow and she admitted defeat. “Fine. I had a lot of things I’d dreamed of. I was ridiculously happy, I can’t lie to you. But something so singularly horrible happened to me that it broke me. It turned me inside out and I will never be the same. Jeremy had a different way to process what happened. Our romantic relationship didn’t make it through. He’s still my friend, you should know that. He’ll always be a part of my life if for no other reason than that he’s Adrian’s manager. Anyway, sometimes things happen. Things you dream of as your worst nightmare but you simply can’t imagine the horror until you’re living them. And you’re so bent, so broken and changed that you have to walk away or you’d . . . die.”
She blinked the tears back as she painted, letting the rhythm ofthe work soothe her.
“Jesus God. What happened to you, Erin?”
“I lost someone. I can’t . . . I really just can’t talk about it right now. Are your parents happy you’re back home?”
Todd’s hands trembled as he pushed the roller up and down the wall. Her voice, her demeanor—she’d changed and he wanted to comfort her, but he didn’t know how and it was clear she wasn’t ready to reveal more at this stage in their relationship. Whatever it was, it had stolen the joy from her eyes, taken the edge of freespiritedness from her and put lines around her mouth.