Going home to the empty house put Zeke into a foul mood. He hadn’t imagined that Darlene would take the sheets off the bed. He’d found that little tidbit when he’d pulled back the spread to find a bare mattress. He grumbled as he searched the hall closet for a fitted sheet to match the flat sheet he’d found. When that seemed futile, he opted for a bright pink one. He wondered why she hadn’t taken it with her. What did he want with pink sheets? Women, he thought, as he pulled the corner of the offending sheet into place. He remembered a time not that long ago when he would have simply slept on the bedspread.
“Maybe I’m growing up after all. Take that Sophie Malloy.” He pulled out the Louis L’amour book he’d started and read until his eyes drooped. As he switched off the bedside lamp, he missed curling up with a woman’s warm body. Feeling a bit like Scarlett O’Hara in the movie ‘Gone with the Wind,” he decided he’d think about that tomorrow. He was asleep within minutes.
On the other side of town, Sophie watched her favorite movie for the sixth time. She loved the way the two people got together at the end. She was a sucker for a happily ever after ending, even if she would never have one. She switched off the television and washed the dishes before changing into the faded, ever-so-soft, tee-shirt she loved to sleep in. As she climbed into bed, she ran her hands over the thousand count Egyptian sheets she’d ordered from Amazon. She loved ordering things and finding the box on her doorstep after a long day at the office. It was like someone had sent her a present. She fluffed her pillow and sunk into the luxurious pillow-top bed.
As always, she ran through her day. What could she do better tomorrow? What new thing did she learn? Did she regret anything? She stopped there, thinking of losing her temper in the café. Why did she let those Hart boys get to her? They would never change. She’d wasted her breath for nothing. They’d probably gotten a good laugh out of it behind her back. At least Zeke hadn’t mentioned anything at the office later. He had no idea how much it hurt when he teased her, because he, like everyone else, had not an inkling of how hard she was on herself. Perfect wasn’t unattainable in her world. It was the goal. She would strive for that prize until she reached it. Her next step at work was to be VP of marketing. She had to prove that she was the woman for the job. If she’d only been born into the Hart family, she’d already be sitting in that office instead of Zeke. But being a Malloy wouldn’t hold her back. She’d get that office, and the victory would be that much sweeter for having to work so hard to obtain it. It wouldn’t be anything like having it handed to her on a golden platter the way Zeke had. He would never know the satisfaction of being a self-made man.
“OK, Sophie. Get your mind off Zeke Hart. He’s a jerk. He uses women and then throws them away. He takes advantage of his family to get to the top of a field he doesn’t excel in. You will show him one day. You will show them all.” She’d said the same thing to herself so many times, it was like a litany for bedtime. She switched off the light and the room lit with moonbeams streaming in the window. She stared at the ceiling for thirty minutes as she mentally counted sheep. When she still had trouble keeping her eyes shut, she turned the light on, got out her journal, and started writing. She’d fill this one up in a few more nights; then she’d burn it like all the others. She poured her heart out on those pages. When she finished with her thoughts about the day, she started on the list for the next day. She liked having her life planned out. It gave her a sense of order in a chaotic world. In the wee hours of the morning, she finally fell into a fitful sleep. Dreams that she recalled later were as tense as the rest of her life. She rarely woke up feeling refreshed. Than...