The rain outside completely fit Cole’s dismal mood as he prepared dinner, yet once again, for himself and the kids. In spite of Avery’s promise, nothing had really changed. She continued to work late and weekends. It was all he could do not to call his Dad. But he had promised her he wouldn’t.
As he and the twins enjoyed their dinner together, he accepted that they would never add to their family and it made him sad. It was like his life was set, but sadly, it wasn’t satisfying like he had dreamed it would be.
He understood that Avery simply wasn’t maternal, but knew it wasn’t really her fault. The crippling depression she suffered after the twins were born prevented her from bonding with them. Spending time with them was hard for her, and all he had done was try to force it down her throat. She tried to tell him, but he just kept thinking, that as they got older, she would get as much joy out of watching them grow up as he did. As hard as it was, it was time for him to accept accept that she would likely never have a close relationship with the twins.
It wasn’t just the kids though. He and Avery had slowly drifted apart. They weren’t on the same page anymore, probably not even reading from the same book. He needed to figure out a way to rekindle the romance that brought the two of them together in the first place, almost nine years ago now. If they could only get that closeness back, maybe he wouldn’t feel like he was living half a life. He knew, deep down, their marriage wouldn’t last much longer if they didn’t. He just hoped it wasn’t already too late. That’s when he decided to take her on a vacation, just the two of them.
The next morning, he looked up vacation destinations and found the perfect place. They hadn’t gone away together since the twins were born. Hopefully time alone together would help them reconnect. He sighed deeply. He knew, they would come out of it one of two ways – ready to file for divorce, or recommitted to one another. He prayed for the latter.
Cole immediately called his Dad and told him what he was going to do. He was careful not to complain about Avery’s work hours. He just wanted to make sure, one, that they could watch the twins and two, Ben could live without his daughter-in-law for a week. His dad readily agreed.
Cole went straight home, changed clothes and packed for both of them. He knew if he told Avery ahead of time, she would say no.
When he arrived at C&M, he headed for her office. She was on the phone with her back to him, so he waited while she finished her call.
“Okay, that’s sounds wonderful,” she cooed into the phone, “I’ll see you tomorrow night then. Bye.”
Nope, you won’t, thought Cole nervously, at least I hope not.
When Avery turned around and saw Cole standing there, she out a little scream. “Oh my god Cole!” she said and clutched her chest, “you scared me! How long were you standing there? And what are you even doing here?”
Cole finally grinned, thinking how pretty she was, even when she was frustrated with him. “Long enough to know you need to cancel your plans for tomorrow night.”
“Uh… no can do. That was an important investor. I can’t just tell them no. Whatever is going on, you’ll need to do it without me.” Her tone left no room for argument.
“Nope. Already cleared it with the bossman. I have a surprise for you,” said Cole, his eyes twinkling.
Avery wagged her finger at him. “Cole, what are you talking about? It’s not our anniversary or my birthday. What surprise?” she asked, her tone letting him know she was now done with his game.
Cole’s smile only got bigger, which only served to make her madder. “Where is the one place you always wanted to go?” he asked.
“Sunlit Tides, I guess,” she said, shrugging and rolling her eyes.
Cole held up the plane tickets. “Ding-ding-ding!” he said excitedly. “I hold in my hand, two round trip tickets to Sunlit Tides. You, my sweet, hard working wife, and your loving husband, are outta here, effective immediately for seven full days of sun and fun. You can text the investor and tell him to meet with Dad, or postpone your meeting for a week.”
Ben walked in at the end of Cole’s pronouncement and Avery looked at him like he might save her. “Ben? You can’t just clear my schedule without telling me! I have things….”
“Yes, I can – and I did,” said Ben, “You have more than earned it Avery. Sofia and I will take care of the kids. You two go and have fun. Just text me the name and phone number of the investor and I’ll call him…problem solved.”
“Wait,” she said, looking at Cole a little bit panicked, “It’s for two, right, not four?”
Cole couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. “Yes ma’am. Just you and me. No rugs-rats.”
“But – I can’t just go. I have to pack – and shop,” she said, still trying to find reasons not to go.
“Done…” said Cole smugly, “if I forgot something, we can get it there.”
Avery frowned, looking between him and his father. “This is happening, isn’t it?” she said sounding defeated.
Cole laughed. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you sweetheart.”
“We are leaving – right now?” she asked one last time.
“We are. The car is waiting out front,” said Cole.
“But, can I at least change clothes first? I can’t fly eight hours over the ocean in this dress and heels!”
She had finally given in and Cole relaxed. “Go change – scoot,” he said, as Avery quickly ran by them towards the bathroom.
Avery ran into the bathroom to change. She nearly got sick when she thought about what had almost happened. Her mind was racing with how to deal with this turn of events. Cole was obviously trying to fix things between them. Maybe this week could actually be a good thing in the long run.
She took one more deep breath, and with shaking hands, quickly texted Spencer.
She sat on the wooden chair and closed her eyes after deleting the texts. As she rubbed her temples to calm herself, a lone tear managed to escape before she regained control. She needed to think what to tell Spencer, because he wasn’t going to just go away without a fight. And really, she didn’t want him to. Then she had an idea. Maybe, he didn’t have to. She had eight hours on the plane to think it through.
She grabbed her clothes out of the gym bad and as she changed, she thought about her and Spencer’s on again off again relationship. She had met him her junior year of high school. He was a junior in college. The handsome older guy and she was madly in love. They dated for two years. He came from money, lots of it.
When she moved to Newcrest she hoped he would follow her, but he said she was chasing rainbows and he preferred to live in the real world. They continued to see each other – when he was in town. Finally, she told him to take a hike. And then, she married Cole and became a Murdock.
Unbeknownst to her, Spencer’s company had become one of Ben’s primary investors. He provided financing for new home buyers. They eventually bumped into one another 3 years ago, at an investor meeting at C&M headquarters. He began to pursue her again after that, but she and Cole were still doing okay. Not great, but okay. Fran was still there.
When Fran quit two years ago, and Avery was feeling lost and overwhelmed, she finally gave into his charms. She agreed to dinner in the guise of a work meeting to discuss his company’s continued investment in C&M.
At the ‘meeting’, she gave in and she allowed him to kiss her. He made her feel sexy and desirable in ways she hadn’t felt since before she had been pregnant. Now that he was older, he was hot as hell, and could have had anyone. But he came back for her. That alone was intoxicating. He was dangerous and lived on the edge. Being with him was exciting and made her blood run hot. Yes, she was sure she wasn’t ready to give that up.
Avery stood up and took a deep breath. She smoothed her clothes and looked in the mirror. She wondered how she got here. All she ever wanted was to belong, and that was what made her decide she wanted to be part of the Murdock family for real, not just an outsider looking in.
She knew that Ben was mysterious and sexy with a hint of danger, exactly her kind of man. Why wouldn’t his son be the same way? But Cole wasn’t anything at all like his father. He was sweet and romantic, and domestic. Something Avery was not.
Still, she had fallen in love with him when it was new and exciting, but she hadn’t felt that way in a long time. He said he loved her, but he didn’t. He loved who he wanted her to be. She didn’t belong in his life anymore. She didn’t fit his boring vision of what their life should be.
Cole was an excellent father, thank god for the twins, because she knew she was a barely there mother. She and her kids were strangers. She could see the pain in his eyes that caused, so she avoided the kids as much as much as possible, which also meant avoiding Cole. However, when Spencer came along and swept her off her feet again, he filled that void, and the loneliness.
Now, she was spending an entire week with Cole in Sunlit Tides. It would be like it used to be before kids, or even for the few years they had Fran, when things were good between them, and he made her feel special. She knew he would try. She would too, because the alternative, it really wasn’t something she was prepared for. She was a Murdock now and that’s how she intended to stay.
Avery took one last look in the mirror and pasted on a smile. She went to join her husband, and tried not to think about Spencer, or what might be happening differently right now, if Cole had walked in 10 minutes earlier.
Cole had been nervous. Avery was a planner, so this spur of the moment trip could have backfired. But with his dad on his side, it had worked and he was beyond excited. Even though she was quiet for most of the trip, Avery had seemed genuinely touched, which was a start.
When they arrived in the suite, there was champagne, fruit and fresh flowers waiting on them. “Awesome!” said Cole and grabbed the bottle. He opened it poured each of them a glass.
“To us and to this glorious week alone together. I love you Avery,” said Cole, his voice thick with emotion.
“I love you too,” replied Avery automatically, then took a long drink.
She seemed nervous so he took the glass from her and set it down. He put his hands on her face and looked deep into her green eyes. They were swimming with tears. “Please, don’t cry sweetheart. I don’t know how we drifted apart, but let’s use this time together to find our way back. I don’t want to fill our days with excursions and mindless activities, I want to fill them rediscovering each other.”
She swallowed hard before she spoke. “Then, let’s start now,” she whispered, and pulled him to her for a kiss.
Suddenly their passion ignited. The flame Cole feared might have been dying out seemed to roar back to life. He had never wanted her, or needed her, like he did right then and he could tell, Avery was just as passionate.
When he picked her up to carry her into the bedroom, she clung to him like she couldn’t get close enough, and it made him love her even more.
Avery cried into Cole’s chest after they made love, confusing him. “Why are you crying?” he asked.
“I’m sorry. I’m just an emotional mess. I’m happy and sad at the same time.”
“Why sad?” he asked and sat up.
“Honestly?” she asked, turning away from him.
“Honestly,” he said softly, while gently rubbing her back. “That’s what this is. It’s our time. Even if it hurts a little. We can’t fix things if we don’t talk about it.”
Avery spoke without looking at him. “I’m not like you Cole, and I never will be. That hurts you, and I can’t change it. And, I’m not sure this week will be enough to figure it out. And then we will just go back to more of the same.”
This was a talk they should have had a long time ago, and he wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip away. “Avery look at me,” said Cole.
When she turned over he brushed her hair back gently, “I was wrong about so many things. I kept thinking, that, in time, as the kids got older, things would change between you and them. But you are doing the best you can. This is you, and if I want you in my life, I have to accept it. Avery, I want you in my life. We want you in our life.”
This time Avery sat up, but he didn’t let her go. He wanted to hear what she had to say. “Cole. You haven’t accepted it yet. You are doing it right now, and you don’t even know it. You are looking at me with pity in your eyes. I don’t want your pity! I’m good at work, not mothering.” she said frustrated.
He released her, frustrated as well, and she got out of bed. She grabbed a nightgown out of the suitcase, so he followed suit and pulled on his boxers. He supposed this was a conversation you didn’t have in the nude. While they were dressing, Cole wondered if she was right. He did feel bad for her, and he wanted to make her okay again. But what did that really mean? He had thought he knew, but now, he had no idea. Maybe she was okay, and it was himself that needed to be fixed.
He laid back on the bed and was relieved when Avery crawled up and sat between his legs. “I’m sorry,” he said after she settled, “I don’t want to fight about it, and I truly don’t want to make you feel bad. I’m trying here, Avery. Help me understand you better.”
Avery sighed deeply, looking down at him, her eyes filled. “I’m sorry. I know you are trying. It’s just that, I can’t deal with it anymore – the looks of pity and confusion you give me when you think I don’t notice, the constant feeling that when I’m home, I’m not doing my part, that I work too many hours. Cole, I work those hours for us. That business is ours. Who the hell do you think’s gonna run it when Ben retires? It’s certainly not your air-headed sister and her fuck buddy Noah. And not you either. Your hands are full with the clinic. It will be me, Cole. ME. I know as much about C&M as Ben.”
Cole was shocked. He opened his mouth but nothing came out. He never knew she had all of this bottled up inside. How had he not known? Probably because she stayed gone as much as possible, because of him. He had driven her away with expectations she couldn’t meet and his thinly veiled attempts to get her to take a more active role in their children’s lives.
Finally he responded to his wife’s revelations. “Avery,” he said softly, “How do we fix this? I want my wife back. All of you. Not just the physical part you let me have when we finally get a few minutes alone.”
She smiled at him through her tears. “I want us back too Cole,” she said weakly.
“I guess, that’s a start then,” he said softly, “At least, we both want the same thing.”
“Lay back down with me and hold me,” said Avery, “I’ve really missed being in your arms.”
She didn’t have to ask twice. “Me too,” said Cole with a soft smile as he pulled her down next to him and held her until they both fell asleep.
Cole woke up a couple of hours later. He smiled when he thought about falling asleep with his wife in his arms and recalled their passion from earlier. It hoped is was a good sign that they could eventually be okay. He turned over to pull her back into his arms, but she wasn’t in bed with him.
Then he heard a voice…hers. He couldn’t understand the words, but he would know her inflection and tone anywhere. He sighed deeply. She just can’t stop working. He knew it had to be work. He looked to see what time it was. It was 10 PM back home. Who does business this late he wondered. Avery, that’s who. He pulled himself out of bed to get her off the phone. This was their time.
He quietly opened the door. Now that he could hear her conversation. She sounded upset. He hoped it wasn’t a work deal gone bad. That would spoil her mood.
“I’m really sorry,” she said to the caller, “Just meet with Ben. When we get back, I will call. I have an idea I want to discuss with you.”
“It was a mistake to think it could work.”
“No. Please, just tell Ben we are working on a plan for retail financing,” she said.
Retail? wondered Cole. Things were going better than he realized.
Avery must have sensed him standing there and turned around. She quickly gave him a warm smile and shrugged, looking embarrassed.
“My husband just walked in,” she said to her caller, “As I said, we are on vacation and have dinner reservations. Talk to Ben, and we’ll talk more when I return. Have a nice evening.” Avery disconnected the call and turned to face Cole. “I’m sorry….how long have you been standing there?” she asked.
“Only a minute. Honey, why are you doing business this late at night? It’s after 10 back home,” asked Cole.
Avery sighed and smiled. She got up and put her arms around Cole. “Sorry. I guess old habits die hard. It was the investor. I wanted to make sure he understood why I was suddenly MIA. No more phone calls. I promise. This is our time.”
“Well, we should probably stay up. Given the time difference, a dinner reservation actually sounds like a good idea. Then we can come back here and make love all night long,” then he chuckled, “Or just crash. And start again tomorrow.”