Authors: Jess Dee
Tags: #romance, #romantic comedy, #womens fiction, #erotic romance, #friends and lovers, #romance adult fiction, #international setting, #friends and sex, #beach and vacation
Sunday Night Dinner Club
Leaving at Noon
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are
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purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Leaving at Noon
© 2015 Jess Dee
Edited by Jennifer Miller
Cover art by Valerie Tibbs
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means—accept
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Sunday Night Dinner Club, Book 4
Theo and Zoey Hughes have got it all. The
ideal marriage, a gorgeous house, brilliant jobs and a steadfast
group of friends. So why is everything falling apart at the
Zoey loves her husband, but recently she’s
stopped liking him—and if their fights are any indication, Theo’s
feeling the same way. The future that once glowed bright before
them has lost its shine.
There’s no choice. Zoey has to walk away.
She needs to take a break from her marriage before it implodes,
leaving nothing but fragments of their once-perfect life
Letting Zoey close the door behind her is
the hardest thing Theo’s ever had to do. Now he’s faced with a
choice: watch his wife leave him and everything they’ve built
together, or go after her and remind her why they fell in love in
the first place.
Warning: When a
hot-blooded alpha male decides he wants his wife back, you better
believe nothing is going to stop him. And if he has to seduce her
to succeed, well, let’s just say his blood isn’t the only thing
that’s gonna be hot about this story.
With thanks to Jennifer for always being there to
praise the strengths, identify the weaknesses and unfailingly offer
support. You’re the best!
My marriage is in
trouble.” Zoey Hughes didn’t look up as she uttered the words,
their formation scratching her throat and burning her lips. She
couldn’t bear to see the sympathy in the blue eyes staring at her
in the bathroom mirror.
She gripped the edge of the granite-adorned
basin and kept her gaze fixed on the white porcelain, struggling to
hold back the emotion that clawed at her chest.
So it would seem,” her
friend replied softly.
He hates me.”
He adores you. You’re his
Zoey snorted humorlessly. That might have
been the case once, but it definitely wasn’t now. “You know you
shouldn’t be in the women’s toilets?”
Thank God the ladies’ room at Chelsea’s, a
popular Sydney restaurant where she, her husband and their friends
met for dinner every three weeks, had been empty when she’d barged
I’m tight with the
owner,” Levi Barret assured her. “I think she’ll give me a free
pass on this one.” To prove his point, he shifted, and Zoey heard a
Bless him. Levi had just locked the rest of
the world out of her pain.
What’s going on with the
two of you, Bozo?” he asked.
Zoey stared at the basin, wondering what
she’d say. The ladies’ room might have seemed like a good place to
escape in the heat of the moment, but it was hardly an appropriate
setting for a heart-to-heart. But then, was any setting appropriate
to admit that the most important relationship in her life was
You’ve been miserable for
months,” Levi said gently.
She wasn’t the only one. Lifting her head,
she met his gaze reflected in the mirror. “So has Theo.”
He nodded. “Yep.”
Her chest clenched. “He’s spoken to you
about it?” Lucky Levi. Her husband hardly spoke to her anymore.
Not a word,” Levi
Then how do you
Levi raised an eyebrow in answer.
Her shoulders slumped. “It’s that
The two of you look
unhappy. You speak to everyone but each other. Hell, you’ve started
ordering separate drinks. That says more than words ever
Shit. Zoey had tried so hard to pretend
everything was fine, but their friends had picked up on their
We haven’t shared a
bottle of wine in two months,” she said bleakly. “Theo orders beer,
I order a cocktail, and it’s like our tradition never existed.”
Sharing wine was her and Theo’s
. It had been since
their first date, way back in uni days. A symbol of the intimacy
that had formed from the beginning. “He doesn’t seem to
That’s what this is all
Zoey shook her head. “That’s just the tip of
the iceberg.” She pressed her lips together, worried that if she
said any more, the lump in her throat would overwhelm her, and
she’d start to sob.
There was a dam of tears inside her,
struggling to escape.
We’re collapsing, Lev.
Theo’s p-pulling away from me. Our marriage is crumbling.” Her
hands shook violently. “And it’s ripping my heart in two. I… I
don’t know how much more I can take.”
With a soft sigh, Levi closed the distance
between them. He hugged her from behind, wrapping his arms around
her stomach and pulling her back into his chest, pressing a soft
kiss to the top of her head. “I’ve gotcha, Bozo. You’re okay.”
The comfort he offered was too much. Zoey
couldn’t hold back her grief. Tears leaked from her eyes, and the
dam walls buckled.
W-we don’t talk
any…more.” Her chest heaved, sobs echoed off the bathroom walls,
and she battled to speak above a hoarse whisper. “We haven’t had a
conversation in weeks. All we do is…is fight.
Levi held her tighter.
The argument tonight?”
The one that had sent Zoey rushing into this bathroom in a
desperate need to escape the unpleasant vibes. “It was stupid.
There was no reason to get into it.” There never seemed to be a
basis for their arguments anymore. They’d just fallen into a
pattern of fighting for the sake of fighting. “He…he’s my best
friend. My whole world, and lately, I don’t know him. He d-doesn’t
know me. It’s like we d-don’t wa…” Jeez, she struggled to say it.
Hated admitting it out loud. “We d-don’t…want to know each other
That was the heart of her problem. The
source of her pain. Theo, her husband, her life, the man she loved,
no longer wanted to know her—and sometimes, she felt the same way
Zoey dropped her head in her hands. She
couldn’t speak. Her throat had clogged up. Breathing through the
tears was hard enough. Surviving the agony of her failing marriage
was almost impossible.
Who was she, if not Theo’s other half? What
was her life if he no longer wanted her, and she didn’t have him in
The man who knew her better than anyone, who
knew her every secret and dream and hope, now stared at her through
a stranger’s eyes. He spoke in a voice she didn’t recognize.
Gone was the intimacy. The bond that had
connected them for over eight years had snapped. “We sleep on
opposite ends of the bed.” When she could sleep. Lately, she spent
endless hours prowling their house in the dark. “And I never see
him. I leave before he gets up in the morning, and he comes home so
late, I’ve stopped waiting up for him.”
They’d consciously begun to avoid each
I miss him.” So damn
much. She yearned to wrap her arms around his neck and pull him
close so she could feel the length of his body pressed against
hers. Remember not only how it felt to hold him, trust him, rely on
him and love him, but how it felt to be held, trusted, relied
There was a time we could
spend hours on end together, content to be with each other and no
one else. We…we’d talk and laugh and argue about everything and
nothing.” She hankered for their shared laughter and the
comfortable silences, when words weren’t necessary. When just being
together was enough. She even missed their fights—the passionate
ones that ultimately ended in hot, sweaty make-up sex.
Now there’s a-a gaping
hole in the mattress between us.” A huge, bottomless pit that
neither husband nor wife tried to cross. “Even when he’s with me,
it’s like he’s not there. And sometimes when he is there, I wish he
She gulped in shuddery breaths and turned to
stare beseechingly at Levi.
Jeez, what did she expect him to do? Fix
things? Wave a magic wand and make her and Theo all okay again?
His expression was grave. “What went
The question left her floundering. She
didn’t want to answer. Not if it meant acknowledging that all her
insecurities—the very ones Theo had helped her come to terms with
years ago—had come back to bite her on the ass.
I… I did,” Zoey stumbled.
She wasn’t brave enough to blurt out the full truth. “Or my work
did. I put all my time and energy into the clinic, and left nothing
for Theo at the end of the day. It all escalated from
Work had precipitated the hideous downward
spiral of their marriage. But it was only a part of their
Now it doesn’t matter
what’s happening, we’re always angry. And if we’re not fighting,
we’re ignoring each other.” Tears spilled down her cheeks in a
steady stream. “Everything’s falling apart at the seams, and I
don’t know how to stop it. W-we’ve drifted too far apart. Instead
of trying to find each other again, neither of us can be…” She
swallowed. “Neither of us can be bothered. It’s easier to pretend
he’s not there. Simpler to argue than to make an effort to be
The searing passion that once defined them
was gone, leaving only wintry, spiteful interactions.
Unfailingly, their mutual hostility left
Zoey with a cramping belly and a breaking heart—regardless of who
spewed the poison and what was said.
Tonight, it left her sobbing in a friend’s
arms in a public bathroom. Her heart was shredded. The most
dependable factor in her life had fast become the least stable. The
foundations of her marriage were fragmenting.
I don’t know what to do
to fix it, Lev.” She inhaled a shuddery breath. “And worst of
Levi’s expression was pained. “It gets
Zoey nodded. Every bone in her body ached.
“I… I love him. He’s everything to me. But…”
But I don’t know if I
to fix it anymore.”
Theo grabbed the drink in front of him and
drained it in a single sip. He tasted neither the beer nor the lime
wedged in the bottle. The heaped bowl of risotto proved to be just
as bland, which was surprising. The risotto was the best dish on
Regardless, he continued to fork in one
mouthful after the other. It was easier to focus on something he
could manage than something he’d lost control of months ago.
His gut twisted, acid burning him with every
The worst part of the situation? He had no
idea how to get a handle on it, when he wasn’t sure how things had
gotten so fucked-up in the first place.