I look over at Chloe. She stares at the city, a deep longing on her face. I wonder if she’s making a wish. We’re only three hours from the last Matt. If I were a betting man, I’d say she’s about to find her soul mate. And I promised I’d get her to him, didn’t I?
Suddenly, I hate to leave Vegas. I hate to leave it and I hate to see it fade in the distance. What a turnaround from earlier today. But these next few hours are probably the last Chloe and I will have together. Ever.
Here we are, speeding down a highway in the back of a truck. The wind is so loud that conversation’s impossible. But what would I say? What could I say? Choose me?
The dust and the sand in the air stings my eyes and I rub them. Chloe turns to me. I wipe at my eyes and quirk a smile.
Thank you, she mouths.
You’re welcome, I say to the wind.
Then I hold out my hand. She looks down then back up and shakes her head no. The wish that I made, to spend the last of our time together holding her hand, vanishes. I let my hand fall. I lean my head against the truck window and stare at the darkening sky. It’s that time, when the darkness is here, but there still aren’t any stars in sight. The darkest, loneliest time of night. Then I lose a breath as Chloe moves closer, and closer still. Until her thigh presses against my thigh, and her arm presses against my arm, and her shoulder to mine. Everywhere she touches sparks and comes alive. I don’t move. I don’t even want to breathe. Because I don’t want to interrupt the feel of her body on mine. And then, she rests her head against my chest. I draw in a harsh breath. I breathe in the dry sand air that smells like thirst mixed with the perfume of her hair and her skin. My hand shakes as I move my arm and slowly wrap it around her shoulders. Then I pull her in to rest against me. It takes an eternity, but finally, she sinks into me and I hold her.
I hold her like this is both the first time and the last time.
Both heaven and hell.
She watches the city disappear and the stars appear. I watch her. The headlights stroking her skin. The wind brushing through her hair. The expressions drifting across her face as we move farther north.
All this trip, I’ve been thinking that soul mates aren’t real, and that they can’t possibly exist. In fact, I set out to prove it. But what if a soul mate is the one person who, when you’re with them, there’s no place you’d rather be? Because right now, it doesn’t matter that I don’t have a car, or money, or a phone, or that I’m in the back of a truck. None of that matters, because I’m with her. And I can’t see that ever changing. Fifty years down the road, there still will be no place I’d rather be.
I pull her closer and lean my head down on top of hers. This is it. The last of it. The end. With every mile we drive, I’m one step closer to losing her.
If there’s any wetness in my eyes, no one knows it but me and the wind.
And if there were a thousand miles more to go, not just one hundred, the ending would still be the same. I’d be here, ready to let her go, because I understand now. She needs her soul mate. And like she said…that’s not me.
I close my eyes and whisper into her hair, I love you.
That is one big yacht. Real big. The sucker has to be at least a hundred and fifty feet long. It’s a shining white, polished chrome, ginormous ode to penile one-upmanship. Matt Smith Number One is hosting a party for feline Sphynx enthusiasts. On his yacht.
It’d taken a little work to find this yacht. Number One lives in a gated community for the mega rich, movie stars, and East Coast elite. At least this is what the security guard told us when he denied our entrance to the community. Regular Joes…not allowed. Somehow Chloe managed to stupefy him with her smile and before we knew it the butler was answering the door of Matt Smith’s waterfront mansion. The butler was very sorry, but Matt was on his yacht at the harbor. Were we by any chance here for the Sphynx gathering?
Why yes…yes we were.
The butler kindly gave us directions and here we are, staring up at the most massive yacht I’ve ever seen.
“He’s my soul mate, I can feel it,” Chloe says. She stands at the end of the dock and stares at the massive yacht, her eyes all sparkly and excited.
“Doubtful. The only thing I can feel is a hundred-foot-long inferiority complex.”
She turns to me and beams, so I scowl at her.
“I don’t care what you say. I have to get on that boat to meet my Matt Smith.”
I step up next to her and look down at the gray, frothy water. It smells like fish, salt and seaweed, and there’s some slimy green plant floating on the top. Not exactly pleasant, but hey, we won’t be swimming in it. The yacht is moored a ways out, we’re going to need to talk to the dockmaster for a tender boat to drop us off.
Chloe vibrates with anticipation. When we pulled up to the mega mansion, her eyes went wide with shock. But now…I expect she’s going to start doing cartwheels down the dock.
She turns to me. Her cheeks are pink and her eyes are bright. “Remember in Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth Bennet says she first realized she loved Darcy when she saw his huuuge estate?”
“No,” I say. I cross my arms and stare at the huuuge yacht.
“Yeah. That moment.” She grins at me and bats her eyelashes.
“Please, stop. Don’t be the BBC made-for-television version of yourself,” I say.
Her eyes widen and then she starts to laugh. “You watched it. You watched it! Nick O’Shea, Mr. ‘I don’t watch romance movies’, saw Pride and Prejudice. This is amazing.”
I glower as she does a little dance and fake boxes me.
“The more cynical they are, the harder they fall,” she says.
I lift an eyebrow, a skill she always envied. “Not at all. I’m only trying to warn you.”
“Sure. This guy clearly has a major inferiority complex. He’s making up for something.”
She laughs. “Yeah right. You’re just jealous of my soul mate’s big yacht.”