The Soul Mate Page 26

With quick fingers, I typed, “Get ready. We’re leaving in an hour.”

Then, when I heard the chime letting me know the message had been sent, I called the zoo and asked to be transferred to the head of endangered animals. Then I waited until a clear, chirpy female voice filled the line.

“Mandy with the City Zoo. How can I help you today?”

“Hi, Mandy. This is Mason. I’m calling in reference to Bren Matthew’s schedule.”

There was a slight pause, and then she said, “What about it?”

“Well, I have a few questions. First, is she there today?”

“Not until this afternoon,” she replied slowly. “It’s her late night. Why?”

“Would it be possible to rearrange the schedule so that Bren didn’t come in to work for a few days? It’s important.”

Another pause. “Is this Dr. Bentley?”

“It is.”

Her next long pause made my gut tense, but then she spoke.

“I think I can manage that, Mason,” Mandy said. “I’m guessing it’s for a surprise?”

“It is.”

“Well, have fun and don’t let my girl tell you no. She can be stubborn.”

Relief shot through me at her words, but I was only halfway to the goal line. I still had no idea if my Hail Mary for a touchdown was going to backfire or win Bren over.

“I won’t.” I hung up the phone, then glanced at Trent. “I can reschedule my next couple days of appointments, but other than that, you’re sure you can handle things here?”

He nodded. “I’ll hold down the fort. Just text me your itinerary when you have one so I know when you’ll be back.”

The phone in my pocket chimed and I dug it out to find a response from Bren.

“Can’t. Work tonight.”

I typed back a rapid reply:

“Not anymore. Bring clothes for warm weather.”

I could tell she read my response and when she didn’t reply for five minutes, I launched into action. Might as well take that as a yes.

The next hour was a rush of buying luggage and tickets, along with reserving a last-minute villa, but when I finally arrived at Bren’s door an hour later, it was with a deep sense of satisfaction. This was going to work. I had no doubt about that. I just had to get Bren to see it, too.

I knocked on the door and it flew open without warning. Bren stood facing me, her arms crossing over her slender frame, and I smiled as I took in her pretty purple sundress.

 “Ready to go?” I asked.

“You called my boss?” she asked, her gaze wary.

“Yes, but it was important. And I have a gift for you to make up for it.” I grabbed the tiny pink bag with matching pink tissue paper and held it out for her to take. For a moment, she eyed it with suspicion, then took it and dug past the tissue paper to pull out a navy bikini with a jeweled design near each of the hips.

“A bikini?” she said.

“For our trip. Now tell me you pulled out clothes. I got you a suitcase, too.”

I walked past her into the house, then stalked into her bedroom to find a small pile of clothing on the bed.

“Laundry or luggage?” I asked.

“Uh, luggage. But I’m not sure—”

“We need to get away from everything for a little while. I’ll admit that my idea was dumb, but we need to recalculate and start fresh. I got a private villa in the Cayman Islands for the next few days and everything has been arranged. Our plane is waiting and everything is set. All you need to do is say yes, Bren. Say yes to taking a chance. With me.”

She blinked at me, the bikini dangling from her hand. And then her wide, round eyes were even rounder. “You planned all this? Even though we’re not…”

She didn’t have to say the last word and let it fall unspoken between us. We both knew what it was.

“I planned everything because I meant what I said. You make me happy. Baby or no baby. And if you ask me, it’s the perfect time to grab our bathing suits and get out of this miserable weather.”

The rain tapped against her windows as I spoke, and she glanced to look at the storm outside before nodding and turning shining eyes toward me. “Okay. Yes. Yes, I’ll go away with you.”

Together we packed her things then made our way to the airport.

It was a rush to make it through security and to our gate, but once we were safely on the plane and in the air, Bren turned to me, her cheeks pink.

“So, what do you have planned for when we get there?”

“I think we need to get back to basics. Do things right this time.”

“You mean you’re going to meet me all over again?” she asked.

I shrugged. “Maybe. You want to pretend we’re two strangers who happened to book the same house overnight and we’ve got only one bed to share?”

“I like the idea of only having one bed.” Her eyes danced with excitement and a rush of need shot through me.

Fuck me, this might actually work.

I made a mental note to send Trent a beer-of-the-month-club membership.

“Me, too,” I said, then brushed her cheek with my hand as I leaned in for a slow, soft kiss. “Nice to meet you, Ashley Brennan Matthews.”

“Nice to meet you, Mason…some middle name Bentley,” she said.

I laughed. “Andrew.”

“Mason Andrew. I like it.” She gave me an approving nod.

“There’s something I want to tell you,” she said, voice going softer.

“You can tell me anything, you know that.”

She nodded, and took a deep breath, steeling herself for whatever was on her mind. “I should have told you a long time ago. We lost my dad when I was sixteen...”

I reached out and took her hand, rubbing gentle circles on the back of her knuckles. I hadn’t expected her to choose this moment to finally open up, but I was grateful she was letting me in.

“I’m so sorry. Cancer?”

She nodded. I felt like a fool about all those times I’d told her about my mom—my mom had won her battle while Bren’s dad hadn’t. I imagined how hard that must have been for her to sit and listen to my stories. No wonder she’d chosen to remain silent and stoic.

I held her hand through the entire conversation, listening attentively and even wiping away the stray tear that escaped and tumbled down her cheek at one point. When it was done, she seemed so relieved, like maybe I could shoulder some of the burden that had been weighing her down for so many years. We didn't talk for a long time after that, I just continued holding her hand, and stroking her fingers with mine.

Then she leaned her head on my shoulder and we put on our headphones, both of us settling in to watch the in-flight movie before falling asleep.

When we arrived, it took a solid hour to get to our villa, since it was secluded from the other, more tourist-friendly hotels. It was a little house that sat on the white sandy shore, with an outdoor hot tub, pool, and shower inviting us to enjoy the gorgeous sunset.

Me and Bren, alone.

Like in my apartment, there were wide glass windows that looked out on the rolling ocean, and when I led her into the little loft-style room inside, she sucked in a breath.

“What?” I asked.

She shook her head. “It’s just so beautiful. I couldn’t have imagined anything like this. I mean, one minute I was just getting ready for work and the next I’m here. Tell me, do you plan to make a habit of this?”


Her eyes softened. “Turning my whole world upside down in the best possible way.”

“If you’ll let me,” I said, the last of the ice that had been building in my chest since the night before melting.

“Good.” She nodded. “I want you to.”

As Bren unpacked, I made us some drinks from the items I’d ordered ahead, then pulled the fresh fish from the fridge and started the grill.

“You might not have needed the bikini,” I said. “This place is pretty secluded.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she said as she stepped into the kitchen in her tiny navy swimsuit. She took her drink from my outstretched hand, then said, “Let’s wait on the fish. Let’s just go watch the sunset, okay?”

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