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Author’s note: Thank you for your patience. I hope this installment makes up for the wait. I appreciate all the positive comments I’ve received so far. Next installment is coming soon! -FFF

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Chapter Five

I down the rest of my coffee as I read the latest text from my sister– an easy feat now that I’ve been sitting here for so long that it’s gone cold.

I’ve been waiting in our favorite Upper West Side coffee shop for more than an hour, but in all my life, I’ve never known Kat to be on time for anything except her job. And apparently that’s why she’s late now. Her latest text just said something frantically incoherent about a “cat emergency.”

Not only did I expect my sister to be late this morning, I also don’t mind. Once she gets here, I’ll be in wedding mode for the next two weeks and my Aunt Sandra has already warned me that she’s putting me to work. Though I suppose being busy with whatever “maid of honor” duties are, is better than sitting in my hotel room alone, stewing in memories that continue to press in on me.

With the exception of the time I spent with Annie last night, this city is just one big reminder of my parents and being back doesn’t feel healing, it just reminds me of how much I miss them. I’m not sure New York will ever feel truly comfortable for me again and it certainly won’t feel like home. Something is just missing. Or, two things to be exact.

It seems different for Kat and Ian. By the time they were born– five years after me– my parents’ company had taken off, the hotel line was expanding, and the twins spent a lot more time with nannies than I ever did. I’d accept that as the reason Ian turned out how he did, but Kat still managed to inherit everything that was good about our parents. They might have been traditional and maybe even a little conservative, but nothing compared to Ian.

Despite my issues with him, of which I have many, I’ll forever be grateful the twins were born. With their birth, I got a best friend in Kat and freedom from my parents’ business with Ian.

My parents never hid their desire for me to be involved in the Dawson Hotel Group. They both came from struggling families but worked their entire lives to build the company into what it’s become and apart from their children, those hotels were their life. While I always respected their work ethic and seamless ability to run a company together, I just never shared their passion for hospitality.

But Gail and Charles Dawson were special and so unlike the parents of other affluent kids I met growing up. I always knew they wanted me to follow in their footsteps, but they never pushed it. When I started to show an aptitude for art, they bought me all the supplies I could ever need. And when they saw me flirting with my first crush at my sixteenth birthday party, they asked me if I kissed her the next day.

When it became clear that Kat shared my lack of interest in the hotel business, Ian became the beacon of the future– even if he and my dad never really saw eye to eye. About anything.

“Can I get you another?”

I look up to see a barista staring down at me. I was so caught up in thoughts about my family that I didn’t even see her approach the table.

“Oh yeah, thanks. Just black, please.”

When I reach out to hand her my cup, we make eye contact, and her light eyes remind me so much of Annie that I have to force myself to look away so I don’t end up staring like some creep. Because while the barista is very pretty, she’s still not Annie.

Annie. It hasn’t even been 24 hours since I met the woman and yet everything seems to remind me of her. I’ve had plenty of one-night stands in my past– more than I’d even like to admit– but for some reason, images of Annie are stuck on repeat in my mind. But not the images I would normally fixate on after a night like that. Yes, the sex was mind-blowingly amazing, but it’s so much more than that. Annie just felt special. Being with her felt special. An experience that I could never replicate, even if I searched my whole life.

But since Annie made it crystal clear that she didn’t want anything more than last night, I once again do my best not to think about the “what ifs” of the entire situation. Even as we fell asleep last night, and she nestled her body so perfectly into mine, I held out a sliver of hope that maybe she’d change her mind and stay. But when I woke to an empty hotel room, reality settled in. One night is all I’d ever get with Annie.

Yet I know she felt the same connection I did. Because while I may have woken up alone this morning, she didn’t leave my bed completely empty.

The barista comes back over and sets a new cup of coffee down on my table. I wait until she’s gone before reaching into my pocket and pulling out the piece of hotel stationary I’ve been carrying around with me all morning.

I’ve already memorized everything on the note, but ever since I saw it lying on Annie’s pillow this morning, kocaeli escort I can’t help but look at it again and again.

I will never forget this night.



I glance at the message Annie left for me, but only for a second. It’s not really her words that keep me going back to the note. It’s not her words that prove to me just what last night meant to her. It’s the small image that she sketched right under that message of me asleep in the hotel bed.

I’ve always been a heavy sleeper and I have no idea when she managed to sketch it, but it’s the most romantic gesture I’ve ever received. I haven’t always been the best at deciphering my own feelings, let alone someone else’s, but the drawing feels intimate. As if I’m getting to see a rare side to Annie that nobody else gets to experience.

Annie’s denial that she’s an artist is obviously futile considering the talent I can see on the page– even with a simple drawing from a hotel pen.

Kat has always claimed that art is my “love language.” And right now, as I stare at the drawing of my sleeping form, I have to agree. But as much as the note and sketch mean to me, I also can’t escape the emptiness I feel. There’s a hole in my heart that feels unique to Annie– as if nobody else can fill it.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

I quickly stuff the note back into my pocket when I hear my sister’s voice boom over from across the coffee shop. When I look up, Kat is racing across the room to my table, her unruly brown hair flying around her face as if it’s windy in here. And before I can even say anything, she’s pulling me up from my chair and into a tight hug.

“I’m so happy you’re here!” she shouts, not letting go of me.

I can only laugh as I hug her back. Kat has always reminded me of a tornado. She’s a ball of energy, opinions and noise and her personality is infectious. She’s so different to me– I’m far less excitable and generally pretty relaxed. But somehow our differing personalities have always worked well together and being away from Kat has been the hardest part about living in LA.

“It’s good to see you,” I finally manage to get out when she releases me.

As we sit down, she attempts to put her hair to one side of her head, but it just ends up falling into her face like it always does. That may be the only thing we share– wild hair that refuses to be tamed.

“Things at the clinic have been crazy. It took me forever to get out of there. Remind me why I decided to go out on my own?”

“Because you’re a Dawson. And Dawson’s Deliver,” I reply, repeating the family mantra I heard so many times throughout my childhood.

“We have fifteen minutes before we need to leave or we’ll be late so drink up,” Kat says as she points to my cup.

I roll my eyes at my sister. I’m not the reason we’ll be late to anything– that’s Kat’s specialty– but I keep my mouth shut because Kat doesn’t look like she’s done talking. Typically, Kat is never done talking.

“We’ll go next door for the final dress fitting,” she continues. “Then we need to go to Soho for your fitting. A designer down there is handling the bridesmaids’ dresses. And then Jake will meet us at the venue for the final walk-through.”

I wait a moment to make sure she’s done talking. “I can’t wait to see you in your dress. Are you nervous?”

“A little. But the alterations were minor so it should be fairly the same as the last time I tried it. Aunt Sandra was an angel for the strings she pulled. You won’t believe how gorgeous the design is.” Kat pauses her rambling to steal a sip of my coffee but as soon as she does, she puckers her lips like she tasted something terrible. “That needs milk. And sugar. And heat. Anyway,” she says. “This entire day is going to be about me, as it should be I might add, so let’s talk about you.”

I smile as Kat finally takes a breath and drinks the rest of my coffee, cringing the whole time she does. “I talk to you every day. What do you want to know?”

“What did you do last night without me? I’m sorry I had to work.”

“It’s fine. I checked into the hotel and then went to The Runaway.”

“The Runaway?” she asks with a sudden smirk on her face. “Well, that’s a throwback to old times. And did you meet anyone, missy? Isn’t that what you do there?”

“I meet women every time I go out, Kat. Nothing new. I was just stopping in to say hi to Darcy.” She continues to stare at me in a very annoying, sisterly kind of way. “Get that smirk off your face. And don’t call me missy. It’s weird.” I force myself to maintain eye contact with her as I speak, knowing Kat can sniff out a lie from me in a second.

“You seem a bit shifty,” she responds with an eyebrow raised. “One might even say defensive.”

Kat has a huge smile on her face at this point and I’m not surprised at all. Teasing me about my dating life has always been one of her favorite pastimes, which is partly why I never brought girls home from school when I was younger. Kat always kocaeli escort bayan had a way of embarrassing me and making everything into a bigger deal than it was. But I love the woman. Despite her inability to chill the fuck out.

“Okay, fine. We’ll come back to your love life later. How’s the hotel?” she asks.

“It’s a Dawson hotel room. Ian hasn’t changed that much. Same old.”

“I’m surprised he isn’t charging you for the room.”

“He doesn’t even know I’m staying there. Uncle Neil set it up for me.”

Kat lets out an exaggerated gasp. “He never gives me free rooms.”

“You live in the city. On the Upper West Side, I might add.”

“How would you know? You haven’t been here.”

“Oh. Burn,” I reply sarcastically.

“Uncle Neil’s probably only doing it so he can butter you up and convince you to stay in New York.”

“He knows my answer won’t change.”

“Maybe. But you never know with Dawson Determination.”

I smile at the throwback to our dad. He loved to use our last name with any other “d” word that made sense in the moment. As a kid I found it beyond embarrassing, especially when he did it around my friends. But now I’d give anything to hear one of those stupid alliterations again.

“It would be a Dawson Debacle to try,” I reply.

“You know you could have just stayed with me instead of being all weird and alone in a hotel room.”

Luckily, I’m not as loose lipped as my sister who can’t keep a secret to save her soul. I’m not about to tell her that I wasn’t alone in that hotel room last night. Not at all.

“The last thing you need before your wedding is your big sister all up in your business,” I say instead.

“I don’t mind as long as you don’t mind me screaming Jake’s name at all odd hours. Vets fuck when they can.”

“Makes sense. Have you guys ever done it in the clinic?”

Kat raises her eyebrows and smirks. “That’s for me, Jake and a room of rescued hamsters to know and you to never find out.”

“You can rescue a hamster?”

“You can rescue almost anything.”

“You’ve always had mom’s compassion,” I say, surprising even myself. It’s rare I let myself even utter the word “mom” anymore.

Kat gives me a thoughtful look before smiling. “I guess I was never cut out for the corporate world.”

“I think mom and dad figured that out the day we found you in the security tent at the zoo.”

“The so-called ‘natural environment’ those meerkats were in was horrifying. I was just expressing my feelings about it. As any normal person would do.”

“You picked a fight with a zookeeper and crawled into that ‘so called natural environment.’ That’s normal?”

“It’s not like it was the tiger exhibit.”

Kat’s specialty is making me laugh and as we reminisce, I do just that. “You were born to be a vet,” I finally say. “Mom and dad knew that. And we all love you for it.”

Kat’s unusually quiet for a moment as she looks at me. “This is the most I’ve heard you talk about them since the accident,” she finally says, causing the smile on my face to drop.

I take a moment to look out the window at the traffic and pedestrians crowding the streets. Kat is right. I rarely let myself even think about my parents anymore let alone talk about them. It just doesn’t come up with my friends in LA and I’d never volunteer to talk about it with them. But sitting here, knowing I’m about to face so many people from my past– people that are a constant reminder of what I lost– it’s hard to do anything but talk about them.

I look up at Kat who seems to be in her own thoughts. She looks so much like our mom. Bright and beautiful and full of life. But right now, she also just looks young. I need to remind myself that Kat lost parents that night too. And I’m her big sister. It’s my job to be here for her like she’s always been there for me.

“They’d be so proud of you,” I say to her quietly. “I wish they could be here to walk you down the aisle.”

“Me too,” she whispers before a soft smile grows on her face again. “But I’ll take Uncle Neil and Aunt Sandra as back-ups. Pretty good ones.”

“Very good ones,” I reply.

Kat swats my arm playfully. “I’ve missed you. And I know you miss me too, Choo Choo.”

“Only because you haven’t used that nickname since we were ten.”

“We like that nickname.”

“No, we don’t,” I say with a laugh. Ultimately, I don’t care what my sister calls me as long as it isn’t Charlotte, my birth name.

Kat looks thoughtful again before she finally speaks. “Dinner is at eight tonight.”

The statement sounded simple enough, but we both know that a Dawson dinner is never simple.

“And I assume our dear brother will be there?” I ask.

“Uncle Neil is making him.”

“Uncle Neil has authority over Ian? Since when?”

“Ian gets how influential Uncle Neil is with the company. He’s not going to rock the boat now that he’s gotten what he wants.”

I’m silent as I try to shake the anger kocaeli escort that flows through my body. Ian has never been a warm or kind person, but he showed exactly who he is after our parents died and I won’t ever forget it. Maybe it’s a twin thing, but Kat has always been more forgiving of Ian’s antics than I have. Though, everything happened so quickly after our parents’ death that I don’t even know how much Kat is aware of the way Ian executed the will. I left town right after and we’ve never discussed it.

“We all know the company should have gone to Uncle Neil,” I finally say, not able to hold back the sentiment I’ve felt since I found out Ian took over the hotel group. “Even if I haven’t seen the proof.”

Kat looks slightly surprised and I don’t know if that’s because I’m finally talking about it or if it’s because of what I said.

Kat puts her hand on mine, instantly releasing the tension there. “I guess we’ll never know why mom and dad made certain decisions.”

There’s so much Kat has the right to know that I haven’t said, but I stop myself from going into it further. The past is the past and what Ian did doesn’t really matter to me now. I’m as far away from New York and the Dawson Hotel Group as I can get. And ultimately, I care more about the two people I lost that night than the way Ian executed the will. The next two weeks should be about Kat, and I’ll do my best to behave around Ian because I know that’s what she’ll want and what my parents would have wanted.

I scrunch my nose and look at my sister, trying to lighten the mood a bit. “Can’t you, me and Jake just get pizza tonight?”

“We have to go to dinner. For Aunt Sandra and Uncle Neil. And besides the rehearsal dinner and wedding, this is the only time you’ll even have to see Ian.”

“Do you see him often?”

“Only when Uncle Neil makes him come to family dinners, which is rare.”

“Is he still trying to sleep with all of New York?”

“From what I hear, yes.”


“Says the lesbian catnip machine,” Kat replies, making herself laugh.

“I don’t even know what that means. You spend too much time around animals. Anyway, enough about him. When is the bachelorette party?”

“You’re truly a terrible Maid of Honor. You don’t even know when the bachelorette party is?”

“This is why I’m a co-Maid of Honor with Holly. She organizes the party and I bring my charm and good looks. Everyone has a good time,” I say, spreading my hands out in front of me.

“Whatever. It’s Saturday. And you do need to bring your charm. Because there’s someone I want you to meet.”

I cringe the moment the words come out of her mouth. “Please don’t set me up,” I beg.

“Are you still hung up on Jen?”

For some reason, her question doesn’t spark images of Jen. The only thing I can think about when she asks that is Annie and her light eyes staring into me. But I can’t say any of that to Kat.

“We were engaged. You don’t just get over that,” I say instead.

“She left you when you were at your lowest. Seems like the kind of girl you get over quickly.”

“I don’t want to talk about Jen. And I don’t want to be set-up.”

“You’ll like her. I promise. She’s a new tech at the clinic and she’s gorgeous. Newly single. Not into astrology and the vegan lifestyle.”

I roll my eyes. “Not all lesbians are vegan.”

“But they’re all into astrology?”

“Only when Mercury is in retrograde.”

“Aw, I forgot you could be funny,” Kat says with a laugh. “Are you done? Because we need to go.”

“You literally just drank the rest of my coffee. We can go,” I say and just as I’m about to stand up to take my cup to the trash, the same barista from before is back at the table and smiling down at me.

“Can I clear that for you?” the woman asks.

I nod and allow her to clear the table before looking back to my sister who’s watching me with an arched eyebrow and a smirk on her face.

“What?” I ask.

“I’ve been coming here for over a decade and have never gotten table service.”

“Maybe she’s just into blondes.”

Kat scoffs at that. “You’re hardly even a blonde.”

“Maybe she can sniff out your heterosexuality.”

“I don’t think it has a smell, Charlie.”

“Hamsters do, though.”

“I wasn’t with the hamsters today. It was a cat.”

I smirk. “There’s a pussy joke in there somewhere.”

“And yet we don’t have time to hear it. Let’s go, Casanova.”

Chapter Six

“Sandra said I’d find you hiding in here. Now I know why.”

I look up from the bourbon I’ve been nursing to see my uncle standing in the doorway of his study. I’ve been holed up here since arriving at my aunt and uncle’s Upper West Side townhouse, knowing I’d need a moment alone– and a drink–before facing my brother tonight at dinner.

“Hey, Uncle Neil,” I say, standing up from the study’s expansive mahogany desk. “Of course I’m in here. Holly and I have been breaking into your bar since we were teenagers. Did you expect anything less tonight?”

My uncle laughs from the doorway before shaking his head, causing some of the messy blonde hair that’s so much like mine and my dad’s to fall into his face. “I did not. Though I prefer you two doing it at this age.”

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