By: Morgan Hannah MacDonald

Originally she’d wanted a dog not only for the company, but because it was a good idea for a woman living alone to have a watchdog. He had proven to be a great companion, but unless he licked someone to death, she had to shelve the watchdog idea. Also, he rarely barked. Which was a plus when your neighbors lived as close as hers.

Sweat permeated Meagan’s body. Her tank top clung to her skin. She stopped, removed her sweatshirt, wiped her face, and tied the sleeves around her waist before continuing on. Her naturally red curls were clipped high on her head. Fallen wisps glued themselves to her face and neck. Ladies don’t sweat, they glisten, Meagan’s grandmother always said. Well, right now she was glistening up a storm. And it felt good.

As she ran along the shoreline, her thoughts were on her birthday. Tomorrow she would turn thirty-five. How did she get to be so old without a husband or family to show for it? Unfortunately, her luck with men sucked. She still felt the burn from her last relationship debacle. She had been seeing Brad Landis for five months, but had known him professionally for over a year.

Being a hairdresser in the Ocean Ranch area of Dana Point, Meagan’s salon catered to a very affluent clientele. Brad had been one of her clients. He was forty-five, the vice president of sales for a Fortune 500 company, and he traveled a lot for dealings with clients. He had given her a card with all his possible phone numbers, or so she’d thought.

He’d confessed his love for Meagan on the first date and that had freaked her out. She’d never trusted a man who fell so hard so fast, but she’d been having too much fun to heed the uncomfortable feeling that needled her. Then, just when Megan thought she might have fallen for him, it happened.

Brad met with the president of the company at their main office in downtown Los Angeles. The meeting should have ended around noon. He promised to call Meagan the minute his meeting had finished so they could make dinner plans. The afternoon soon turned to evening.

There had been no call.

The rain came down in sheets that day. The drive from L.A. to Dana Point was around two hours on a good day. With Friday traffic, slick roads, and dense visibility, the drive was difficult at best.

Frantically, she left several messages at all of Brad’s numbers, but her calls were not returned. She contacted the highway patrol and all the hospitals. She scarcely ate or slept the entire weekend. She wouldn’t allow herself to leave the house. Even with her cell phone, she feared that she might somehow miss him.

By Sunday afternoon, consumed with exhaustion, Meagan figured that Brad was dead. Still she kept up her vigil. After a third straight sleepless night, she gave in and called his cell phone one last time Monday morning. He answered.

“Oh, thank God. Where are you? Are you okay?” Meagan choked back a sob.

“Fine. Playing golf with a client.” His manner was distant, detached. Nothing like the man she had come to know.

“What!” She wiped the tears from her face.

“Look, I’m going to have to call you back. I can’t talk right now.” The line went dead.

Meagan stared at the phone. Brad actually called her back a couple of hours later, but by then she was already over it.

And him.

He said that he had moved back in with his estranged wife, but they slept in separate rooms. His wife was having a hard time accepting the divorce, he said. She was fifteen years his senior and he worried about her health, as well as her mental state. But that didn’t mean that he and Meagan had to stop seeing one another, he rushed to add.

Meagan was silent while she processed this bit of information. He hadn’t acknowledged who she was on the phone in front of his “client.” She’d never seen his apartment; he’d told her that he lived with a roommate who was a slob and that he preferred her place because of the privacy. There’d been a lot of weekends he’d spent “out of town” on business. Brad never answered Meagan’s calls directly; instead he’d called her back after she’d left a voicemail.

The bastard had been married all along!

Calmly she replied, “Thank you for clearing that up.” She hung up before she fell apart.

Furious. Disgusted. Shattered. Meagan had been all of the above. In the end, she realized she was angrier with herself than with him. How could she have been so stupid? Why hadn’t she put the pieces together sooner?

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