The first week of June was colder than usual in North Dakota, or maybe that was just how Rafferty felt about it. Something had happened during the Nordskov wedding that once again had Mia keeping her distance from him. In just over a month, she had been to his place twice, and she had been drunk both nights.
Both had been after book club, when she was drunk and mad at Ruth. The second time she had been mad at everyone, even her cousin. He had let her sleep in his bed, and she had been gone the next morning as usual. But they hadn’t made love like she had wanted to. He wouldn’t be her drunken hook-up anymore. He wanted her sober in his bed, in his life.
Not that he wasn’t still mad at her for ignoring him at the wedding, because he still was. After all, she had ignored him for the entirety of the wedding the next weekend also, which was why he left early again. But he hadn’t been able to confront her about it because he hadn’t really spoken to her.
Over the last month, he had plenty of time alone to think about their future. It came down to the fact that she was unable to commit to him in Landstad. She was so afraid of what people would say behind her back that she couldn’t make their relationship official. Afraid everyone would see her as just another of Rafferty’s hook-ups. They couldn’t get past who everyone in this town thought they had been.
A few weeks before, he had come up with a solution that might work. It was radical, but maybe just radical enough that it might work to keep them together. Or, in reality, get them together.
Yes, he loved this town, and when he had been away, he had wanted nothing but to be back. But she wanted out. And he wanted her more than he wanted to be in this town without her. She was his priority now.
Another positive would be that he would not have to be rejected by his sister at every turn. They could move on with their lives in separate towns and not run into each other all the time. In fact, his sister would really never have to see him at all. Mia would have to decide what to do about the café, but she had always insisted she could find a manager for it at the drop of a hat.
Gathering all his courage, he walked into Anderson’s office and sat down. It was close to the end of the day. He had waited until now, so Anderson didn’t have a lot of time to talk him out of it before he had to go home to Ruth. Anderson never stayed late.
Anderson looked up at him quizzically, asking, “Can I help you, Rafferty?”
“Yes, I have to talk to you about something. Something important.”
He really liked working with Anderson. It was completely different from working with his dad. Every day he was happy to come to work, happy to have a boss who didn’t think of him as a complete screwup. He was even happy to hear about Anderson’s personal life, something he himself never talked about. Because Mia wouldn’t want him to.
Anderson put his pen down and turned his attention to him. “What’s so important?”
Rafferty cleared his throat and explained, “I’m going to call your dad today and see if I can get a transfer to Grand Forks. If there’s nothing, I’m going to find an agency to join down there.”
“Why?” Anderson asked in shock. As far as he could see, Rafferty knew this was coming out of left field. But it had to be done. It was the only way to get the woman he wanted..
“Because I want Mia, and Mia wants out of Landstad,” he said simply.
Watching Anderson’s face, he knew the man already knew he wanted Mia. Leaning back in his chair, Anderson crossed his arms.
“What about your house?”
“I’ll sell it. I bought it for her anyway,” he admitted. He couldn’t live there without her as it was. Every corner reminded him of her.
“Ruth said something was up, but I didn’t believe her.” Rafferty had been sure Ruth wouldn’t keep his secrets from her husband. And he hadn’t expected her to. But he just wished Anderson had brought it up months ago; then he would’ve had someone to talk with.
“That’s another thing. I won’t have to deal with Ruth anymore,” Rafferty stated bluntly. It had always bothered him that his sister and best friend couldn’t accept him, couldn’t be on his side. Maybe Anderson wasn’t the kind of friend he needed.
“Have you talked to Mia about this?” Anderson asked.
“No, I want to get everything settled before I talk to her. If she doesn’t go, I’ll be going anyway. I’m ready to give up. I’ve tried my damnedest to win Mia’s heart, and at this point, I’ll have to admit defeat.” His stomach churned. The wheels were in motion now, and he wasn’t even sure any of his plans would turn out the way he wanted them to.
After years of loving her and months of marriage, he could be heading straight into separation and loneliness. Except they were already separate, and he was lonely when she wasn’t around. Moving would just remove the possibility of seeing her at all.
“Maybe you want to talk to Mia first? I would hate for you to lose her because of not talking to her. Like I almost did with Ruth.”
Ignoring his words, because he and Ruth had been in a completely different spot than he was with Mia, he told the man, “Ruth is another reason I feel leaving is for the best. So, you can tell your wife she wins. Landstad is hers.” Rafferty got up and headed out of the office.
Rafferty headed for the house he had wanted to share for the rest of his life with his wife. Now he was just hoping to have that wife—who cared about the house? Without her it wasn’t a home.