Home > All I'll Ever Need

All I'll Ever Need
Author: Natasha Anders


Chapter One

 

 

She was so quiet.

Lincoln Taylor cast a concerned glance at the back of Jupe’s curly head. His wife was staring out of the passenger window and hadn’t said a word since they had climbed into this rental car at King Shaka International Airport in Durban half an hour ago.

Only thirty minutes into what would be a three-hour long drive and Linc was already feeling the strain.

“That was a bit of mad dash, huh?” he said, pitching his voice to be heard above the incessantly cheerful chatter of the radio deejay.

Her shoulders tightened at the sound and she appeared to flinch slightly.

His wife had flinched… at the sound of his voice.

That damned near eviscerated him. Linc blinked back the hot moisture rising behind his eyes and cleared the burn from his throat. His hands tightened on the steering wheel while he frantically searched for something more to say. Anything to get past this horrendous moment. But nothing would come, and he sank into miserable silence, silently pleading with her to turn and look at him.

Smile at him.

Laugh with him. The way she used to do.

“How so?” Her voice was quiet, strained, but just loud enough to be heard above the radio deejay’s braying cackle.

Gratified—and relieved—by her response, Linc thumbed the volume button on the steering wheel until the radio was barely noticeable background noise.

“I know I rushed us through that terminal like a bat out of hell, but I wanted to get on the road as quickly as possible in case the weather worsened. I’ve driven in snow before and I definitely never want to do it again. Especially not in an ill-equipped car. We could get stranded and miss the wedding entirely.”

His baby sister was marrying his best friend this weekend, and they had chosen a hotel in Drakensberg mountains as their venue. The Drakensberg mountains, in the middle of the worst winter South Africa had seen in over a decade.

Conditions would soon become treacherous for people who rarely saw snow and for damned sure had never driven in slippery, icy conditions.

His words appeared to snag her attention, and she turned in her seat until she was facing him. Her pretty mouth was downturned in concern.

“Do you really think it’ll snow?” she asked.

“That’s what all the forecasts are saying,” he said eagerly, grateful for the excuse to engage with her. His eyes did a rapid inventory of her face. She looked exhausted and she had lost too much weight over the last six months. He had watched her fade right before his eyes, but had been helpless to do anything about it when she had kept herself so distant. He had picked up on those neon keep away flags that had gone up every time he came within a few meters of her, and he had backed off, telling himself he was giving her the time and space she clearly wanted. When, in all honesty, Linc was the one who had needed that space. He was the one unable to deal.

He shook himself, annoyed that he was going back to those dark memories, when Jupe was here now, present in way she hadn’t been for a long, long time.

And Linc had been looking forward to this weekend since he had realized that it meant time with his wife in a beautiful and romantic setting.

It was exactly what they needed after so many weeks of unhappiness.

“I know Chrissy was excited about the possibility of a dusting of snow, but this could quite conceivably ruin her big day.”

He didn’t want to talk about his sister, or the wedding, or the fucking weather, but—after months of prolonged strained silences—it was something, and Linc would damned well take it.

“It’ll be fine, we’ll be there, as will both sets of parents and other immediate family, so if the worst happens, we could still make it work.”

She made a noncommittal noise, her hands nervously twisting in her lap.

Linc searched for a way to continue the conversation.

“Are you warm enough?” he asked, fiddling with the air conditioning dials to turn the heat up some more.

“I’m fine,” she muttered.

“Okay. Good. Let me know if uh—” He couldn’t for the life of him think of a way to complete that sentence and his voice tapered off while he refocused his gaze on the road.

If this car ride already felt interminable, how the hell were they going to get through the weekend?

It used to be so easy to communicate with his beautiful, happy Jupe. They would laugh and talk for hours about everything and nothing.

Linc wanted his best friend back and this weekend would be the first step toward them finding their way back to each other.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

“Chrissy really went overboard with this place,” Linc commented as he tipped the bellhop and shut the door behind the man.

Juniper Taylor silently agreed with his assessment. Her eyes scanned the luxurious, overly romantic hotel suite. It had panoramic views of the mountain and was the epitome of indulgence, romance, and elegance.

She silently screamed at the thought of sharing this room with her estranged husband for the next three nights. They hadn’t slept in the same bed for months and she eyed the huge king-sized four poster monstrosity with trepidation.

But there was no getting out of this. The small boutique hotel was fully booked for Chrissy’s wedding and asking for a separate room would be futile. Besides, the family didn’t know how badly things were going with their marriage and June would rather not let the cat out of the bag this weekend. It would ruin Chrissy’s big day. June loved her sister-in-law and wanted her wedding to be perfect.

She looked around, hoping for a sofa or something that could double as a spare bed. There were two huge, comfy chairs, an ottoman, and various other antiques, but nothing large enough for her or Linc to sleep on.

Linc didn’t seem as uncomfortable as she felt. He dropped the bags and smiled at her. He looked remarkably cheerful and that grated on June’s nerves.

“Dinner’s in an hour. Want to grab a shower beforehand?”

Shelving her concern about the sleeping arrangements for the moment, June dropped her handbag on the bed and nodded. “Yes, I think that’s a good idea.”

“We could share a shower. Save water.”

The suggestion, delivered quietly but accompanied by a cheeky grin, shocked the hell out of her. She blinked at him uncomprehendingly for a few seconds and his grin faded, to be replaced by uncertainty.

“Uhm what?” Her voice sounded hoarse, even to her own ears, and she knew her shock was evident in the way she was gawking at him in confusion.

Linc, who had been in the process of unzipping his suitcase, straightened, and gave her his full focus. His gray eyes were somber and intense.

“Jupe, it’s been six months. I thought we could get back to normal this weekend.”

Back to normal? When June had been thinking of nothing but separation followed by divorce, he wanted to get back to normal? What the hell was normal?

“Linc…” she began, her voice hoarse and strained. “We haven’t been normal for so much longer than just six months. I was thinking it’s over.”

“Over? I don’t understand.” He looked shocked. Blindsided. How could this come as a surprise to him? Surely, he had seen the end looming as clearly as she had?

“I want a divorce,” she said, her voice quiet and cautious. “You must have known we were headed toward this? You moved out of our room.”

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