Her mistake cost her everything.
Well, not everything. Her friend Teri had stayed on her side through the divorce with Lance. She was grateful for that, but Lance had taken everything else. The business. The house. The dog. Her elite social life had gone up in a poof of pressed powder along with most of the things in their north Dallas mansion she’d considered hers. He didn’t share that opinion and neither had his lawyer. She’d been cinderella to his prince charming and he’d turned out to be a fucking snake. A cheating lying bastard snake. And she’d paid the price.
For not seeing through his charm from the beginning.
How had he fooled her?
But he had. And now it was time to start fresh.
“Shots for the lady.” The bartender gave her a flirtatious wink.
“Thanks.” She didn’t smile back. The last thing she wanted to do was flirt with a cute guy. She needed space. Time away from being in a relationship.
“Let me know if you need anything else.” His eyebrow waggled suggestively. “I’d be happy to oblige.”
“Thanks, but I’m good.” She kept her voice bright and shiny, not willing to let any of the self-doubt and bitterness creep through. Her situation was her fault. She was good at reading people. She’d always been good at reading people.
Then there was Lance.
“You coming with those drinks, Laurel?” Her friend Teri’s voice carried across the bar, teasing and playful—as always. “Or do I need to come help you carry them.”
“I’m coming.” Rolling her eyes the second the words left her mouth. Teri was already drunk. No way was she letting that slip by.
“If you’re coming, you’re doing it wrong.”
Not as bad as I expected. Her friend wasn’t drunk enough yet to bring out the dirty joking. Laurel made her way through the busy karaoke bar and plunked down the tray of tequila shots on the table.
“Did you hear me?” Teri asked, peeking up from beneath a screen of thick fake lashes. Teri’s eye make-up always looked like she was on her way to a red-carpet event. Hell, hers was too most of the time. Always ready for any encounter. That’d been their motto since meeting in college.
“I did and I’m ignoring the comment.”
Teri’s playful smirk contradicted the sympathy shining from her dark brown eyes. Laurel had come to her friend on more than one occasion about her pathetic sex life with her ex. Her predicament was partly because of her desperation to try and fix a marriage that had crashed and burned within a year of them being married. She’d stayed for three more after that. The match-making business she’d started with him had struck the equivalent of black gold, thanks to his society connections—at least that’s what his lawyer had argued. Between that, the pre-nup, and the leverage Lance was holding over her head, she’d been lucky to get out of that marriage with the clothes from her closet.
“So what’s the plan? You going to buy a house on the other side of town and do what?”
“I got money in the settlement, but I don’t want to stay here Teri. I can’t.”
“You’re gonna leave me? And go where?” Her friend grabbed a shot glass and downed the clear liquid with one gulp.
Laurel shrugged. “Not sure yet. The non-compete says I can’t start another matchmaking service within two hundred miles of Dallas.”
“You want to start another one?”
“I loved doing it. And Lance was right about one thing. I was damn good at it.”
Teri nodded and picked up another shot. “Drink.” She nodded toward the small tray.
Laurel took one and they clinked them together. “To new beginnings.”
“To new beginnings,” she said, her tone much less optimistic than Laurel would’ve preferred. “I’m not pleased that you’re leaving Dallas,” she said after swallowing the shot.
“I can’t not do match-making. It’s been my whole life for the last four years. I love it.” Her voice trembled, even considering starting a new career after realizing how fulfilling helping two people find the kind of love she remembered seeing on her parents faces every day—there was no better rush. Nothing could possibly be more satisfying.
“I know. I know.” Teri grabbed another shot and held it up, waiting.
Laurel took another and they knocked glasses again, drowning their sorrows in the strong liquor.
“The only thing missing from this table—”
“Don’t you even dare,” Laurel said, plunking down the shot glass. The slow burn in her stomach was spreading through her blood stream quickly. “I don’t want to be around any men tonight.”
“The best way to get over a man is to get under—”
“No.” Laurel glared at her friend. I don’t need to get under anyone, least of all another man. I just need a plan. Somewhere to go that no one will know me. Somewhere small enough that I can just start fresh and do what I love.”
“Match people up? You know that’s what grannies are for in small towns.”
“Shut up.” Laurel flashed her semi-drunk best friend a grin and took another shot from the tray. Getting sloppy tonight and forgetting that she was leaving everything behind would be nice for a change. It would hurt like hell in the morning, but it would be worth it in the moment. “Drink.”
Teri giggled and licked her lips. She had a look on her face that made Laurel’s insides tighten. It was the I’m-gonna-do-something-crazy-you-won’t-approve-of-but-you’ll-go-along-because-you-love-me look.
Her friend held up a hand to silence her and stood from their booth in the corner of the bar. No one was on stage right now and everyone would hear whatever her friend was about to spout off about.
“Shhhhh,” her friend drawled out. Teri patted her shoulder and turned to face the bar. “My friend is finally free of her lyin’ cheatin’ husband and wants to move to a small town at least two hundred miles away from Dallas. Tell her where she should go.”
Laurel hid her face in her hands, heat burning her neck and cheeks.
“In Texas?” A male voice called out from across the room.
“Of course,” Teri answered.
“The Woodlands is nice,” a female voice called out.
“That’s not a small town. That’s a shopping center surrounded by mansions.” The same male voice piped up again. “You should go to Somewhere.”
“Yes, she needs somewhere to go,” Teri said. “That’s the point of this question. Tell her where.”
“Somewhere,” he said again.
“Okay, you just shut up now, smart mouth.” Teri’s semi-drunkenness was taking hold.
Laurel gave an inner-eye-roll and tugged on her friend’s arm. “Teri, just stop.”
“The name of the town is Somewhere, lady. Look it up.”
Laurel glanced across the room and met the stranger’s gaze. “Really? Who names a town Somewhere?”
He smiled. “It’s a nice town. I grew up there. If you’re looking for a change of pace, I couldn’t recommend anywhere better.”
“Well, thank you Mr. Smart Mouth.” Teri plopped down in her seat opposite Laurel. “Now my friend is going to move to a town that no-one took the time to name properly.”
Laughter erupted from the booth where the man sat with several other guys. They went back to their beer and Teri went for one of the last shots of tequila on the small tray between them.
“You’re not moving to Somewhere.” Teri’s voice was loud enough for the whole bar to hear, but Laurel kept typing in the name on the map app on her cell phone.
As crazy as it sounded. Just because it had a strange name made Laurel all the more interested in it. “Found it.” She held up the map on the screen where the app had plotted out that the town was two hundred and three miles from Dallas. “Which means it’s outside Lance’s stupid non-compete area.”
“No,” Teri said, her voice turning into more of a whine. “You can’t move to a place called Somewhere.”
“Why not?” Laurel smiled, for the first time since signing the divorce papers she felt like she had a plan. It wasn’t much of one, but it was better than sitting in a bar with Teri every Friday night and complaining about what could happen if she stayed in Dallas. And she didn’t want to stay in Dallas. She needed to get as far away from her old neighborhood and news and the disdain that would come if she stayed. She didn’t come from money. Her parents had both worked for a living and she’d paid for her college with sweat and tears and scholarships. Nothing had come easy until she’d met Lance.
And now it’d abandoned her as easily as it’d come. She had money to live on from the divorce settlement, but it wouldn’t keep her in the lifestyle he’d gotten her used to. Nothing would. And that was okay. She didn’t need to live like a princess in a castle. She just needed somewhere to call her own. Somewhere she could have a cat or two and be happy with herself.
Somewhere was just as good as anywhere.
“It sounds dumb.” Teri waited for Laurel to respond, but she didn’t give her friend any rebuttal. “But that’s why you want to go, isn’t it?” Teri sighed and down the last tequila shot, plunking the empty shot glass back down on the tray with a heavy thud.
“Don’t you want to help me look for a house?”
Teri’s eyes widened and her mouth curved into a small grin. “You bet I do. And it better have a spare bedroom for me.”