Double Dutch is here! The third book in the Love in the Lowlands series is Mia’s story.
Mia thought moving to Holland would give her marriage a second chance. Her husband Bob obviously doesn’t agree. Nope. Mr. Cheater McCheaterson is up to his old tricks. The jerk takes it even further and runs off to Prague to live with his girlfriend. And now Mia’s stuck in The Hague with no husband and a dubious legal status to stay in the country. Enter Matthijs and an offer to fake a relationship. Only, Matthijs isn’t faking a thing.
Ready to read all about how their love story pans out?
What’s that? You need more before you can make up your mind? I aim to please! Here’s the first chapter to whet your appetite:
Friend – a person who thinks it’s okay to bang your door down when all you want is to be left the hell alone
Bang! Bang! Bang!
“Let us in,” Abby shouts. I swear the woman has the largest set of lungs in The Hague. Instead of a nerdy engineer, she should be a newspaper hawker. Although, those don’t actually exist anymore.
I walk to the door and lean against it while she continues to shout the place down.
“Please,” Avery begs when Abby takes a break. “We don’t want you to be alone.”
I chew on my thumbnail as I consider how to answer. This is all my fault. I shouldn’t have called Abby blubbering like a little girl. It’s not the first time Abby has rushed to my side when my husband and I were having problems. Husband. Yeah, right. Some kind of husband Bob is.
“I want to be alone,” I finally whisper through the door.
“You may want to be alone, Mia. But being alone is the last thing you need right now,” Avery insists.
I unlock the door, but before I can open it, Abby pushes her way through. “Where’s the asshole? I need to show him my right hook.”
She marches off in search of Bob. Good luck finding him here. Even before he left me, he was never here. And now the tears are flowing again. Stupid tears.
Avery hauls me into her arms and rocks me back and forth. “I’m sorry.”
“Where is he?”
I untangle myself from Avery’s grasp to find Abby standing in the hallway with her hands fisted on her hips.
“Gone,” I whisper. The idea of telling my two closest friends who are obnoxiously in love with their partners how I couldn’t make my marriage work makes my stomach churn. I’m such a failure.
“Like gone-gone?” Abby asks and opens the door to the bedroom to inspect for herself. “His clothes aren’t here,” she shouts from inside.
Avery takes my hand and leads me toward the living room. “Ignore her. She’s going to do what she’s going to do.”
“I’m beginning to think I should have let her give birth to Sylvia in the middle of the common area,” I mutter.
It sounds like a movie, but I seriously met Abby five minutes before her water broke and had to rush her to the hospital before she gave birth in the common area of the apartment building since her husband, Jasper, was nowhere to be found.
“Oh, my wonderful nerd!” Abby shouts, and I cringe. Darn it. I should have locked the spare bedroom.
She sticks her head out of the room and motions to Avery. “You have got to see this!”
“Maybe we should concentrate on helping Mia instead of whatever crazy shit you’re currently up to,” Avery suggests.
“No freaking way. This is the absolute best. The best!” Abby raises her fist in victory.
Avery bites her lips before shrugging. “Sorry, Mia. But I can’t resist.” She steps toward the room.
I seize her wrist to try and stop her. “No.” I may be an inch taller and several inches wider than Avery, but she has no problem dragging me into the spare bedroom.
Her mouth drops open as she looks around at the historical model I’ve painstakingly built over the past year.
“This is what you’re excited about? I thought you found a dead body. Preferably Bob’s dead body. I was already sifting through a list of lawyer friends in my head to find a defense attorney for Mia.”
Avery and her boyfriend, Niels, are lawyers. Avery is actually Niels’ boss. While she’s an uptight lawyer, he’s a fun-loving guy who doesn’t take anything too seriously. Watching her fight her attraction to the man has been the best entertainment over the past year.
Abby snorts. “Defense attorney. If I found Bob’s body, we’d be getting our shovels and a bunch of burly men to help us bury him in the dunes.”
I plant my hands on my hips and glare at her. “Bob does not deserve a burial in the dunes. You know it’s where the Nazis shot and killed resistance members. It would be a disservice to those heroes to bury Bob there.”
“I didn’t know resistance members were buried in the dunes but considering this…” Abby indicates my model of Operation Market Garden – aka the allied forces offensive to rid the Netherlands of the Nazi occupation – with a flick of her hand. “You certainly do.”
I blush. “Can we stop talking about my model now?”
Abby smirks. “Of course, we can. Let’s talk about where Bob is.”
Ugh. I walked right into that, didn’t I? “Do you want me to explain the model?” I backpedal.
I don’t wait for them to answer, because I know what their answer will be. And no, I don’t want to talk about my lying, cheating, scum of a husband.
“Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful military operation fought in the Netherlands in September 1944. It was the brainchild of Montgomery—”
“Whoa!” Avery lifts a hand in a stop motion. “I’m going to stop you right there. As much as I’d love to learn more about the history of the Netherlands, I want to hear why Bob’s things are gone.”
“Sucky. I want to nerd out over the discovery of Mia’s nerdiness, but Avery’s right. Where’s Bob?”
I do an about-face and march to the kitchen. If we’re talking about Bob, I need a glass of wine. One glass of wine? More like a gallon of wine.
“You get the wine. I’ll get Mia,” Avery bosses before she places her hands on my shoulders to guide me to my sofa. Abby arrives moments later and shoves a glass of wine in my hand.
“Welp. Tell us what happened. Did Bob finally admit he’s a cheating piece of scum I wouldn’t bother to scrape off my boots and you kicked him to the curb?” Abby asks as she collapses in a chair.
Avery wraps an arm around my shoulders. “A little sensitivity, Abby.”
She rolls her eyes in response. “If you want sensitive, you called the wrong person. And may I remind everyone, Mia called me. Not you.”
“Of course, she called you. She didn’t want to ruin my surprise party.” Avery frowns at me. “Total bullshit by the way.”
On no! I ruined her party. Niels surprised her today with a house he bought for her. A house Avery’s been drooling over since she first relocated to Holland. Her party completely slipped my mind. Some kind of friend I am.
I go to slap myself upside the head. Unfortunately, I forgot I’m holding a glass of wine, and the wine spills everywhere. I look down. I’m a complete disaster. My blouse gapes open as it’s a tad bit too tight. My jeans are practically threadbare after wearing them nearly every day since I can’t fit into any other pairs. And now there’s wine spilled all over me. No wonder my husband left me.
Abby growls. “No. Don’t you dare go there. You are a gorgeous woman. The only person who doesn’t see how lovely you are is you.”
I grunt. “And Bob.”
Avery clears her throat. “I disagree, Mia. I think Bob knows how lovely you are. Why do you think he puts you down all the time?” She holds up a hand when I go to reply. “It’s not because you’re fat, because you are not fat. No, it’s because he knows you’re too damn good for him and doesn’t deserve you.”
“Amen, sister!” Abby shouts before clapping.
“If he knows I’m too good for him, why did he leave me?” I ask my jeans because I’m too much of a chicken to look my friends in the face as I admit how I failed to keep my marriage together.
Abby rolls her eyes. “Duh. Because he’s an asshole. Exhibit number 1 – he was cheating on you.”
I gasp. “You knew?”
“Um, yeah, Mia, I knew. He may not work for my team, but we work in the same department. And men talk. They say women gossip, but men have big ass mouths.”
Abby is a project manager in the engineering department at Petroix Oil, the company Bob also works for as an engineer. Avery works there, too. Not in the engineering department, obviously. She’s the head legal counsel of the entire company.
“Did you know?” I ask Avery.
She shakes her head. “No, but I suspected. There’s no reason to travel as much as he did for ‘work’ after all.”
I slam my wine glass on the table and jump to my feet. “This is great. Just great. Everyone knew he was cheating on me. I’m humiliated.”
“She’s mad. This is good,” Abby says to Avery.
“Angry is better than heartbroken,” Avery responds.
“The worst part is this isn’t the first time. Why the hell do you think we came to Holland in the first place?”
Abby raises her hand. “Because it’s awesome!”
I ignore her to continue my rant. “Bob was messing around with a woman on his team back home in Atlanta. When I found out, I told him to choose – her or me. He chose me, but he worked with her every day. I couldn’t handle it. When an opportunity arose to transfer to The Hague, I demanded he take it. I thought it would be a fresh start for us. Fresh start? Yeah, right. It didn’t take but a month before he was leaving the room to take calls and spending more time traveling than at home.”
“You’re better off without him,” Abby declares.
“No, I’m not,” I scream. “I want my marriage to work. I don’t want to be a divorcee at the age of twenty-nine for gosh sakes.”
“Who the fuck cares if you’re a divorcee at twenty-nine or whatever age? Who gives the first shit what people think about you? Are you happy? Do you love him?” Abby pauses. “Do you truly love him with all your heart?”
When I don’t answer right away, she pushes, “Well, do you?”
Gulp. I don’t want to answer her question, but I force myself to. “Yes, I love him,” I lie.
Avery tilts her head and studies me. “Are you positive? I’m not an expert at love…”
Talk about an understatement. The woman fought her current partner, Niels, to the bitter end. Seriously, the bitter end. She nearly left him for a stupid job.
“…but the way Bob is with you doesn’t spell love to me.”
“You don’t know him the way I do,” is the only thing I can come up with to say.
Abby blows out a long puff of air. “Are you serious right now? I’ve watched him treat you like dog shit for the past year.”
She stands and walks to me. I retreat but she grasps my hands and squeezes before I can get very far.
“One thing I’ve learned in life is when people show you who they are, you listen. Bob has shown you who he is. Is he the person you love, or are you in love with the idea of being in love?”
I glare at her. How dare she judge my relationship with Bob? She doesn’t know the first thing about us. And, if I have it my way, she never will. The secret of why I have to make my marriage work shall never be revealed by me.
Avery claps her hands. “Okay. Arguing about Bob isn’t getting us anywhere. Let’s move on to the important issue here.”
I wrinkle my brow. “Important issue? What’s more important than Bob leaving me?”
She takes a deep breath before plowing forward and making my already shitty day even shittier. “Um, do you have permission to live in Holland if Bob and you aren’t together?”
Abby rolls her eyes. “Oh boy, lawyer Avery is in the house.”
My eyes widen, and my knees go weak. Fire and damnation! Avery’s right. I’m on a spousal visa. If I no longer have the spouse, I no longer have permission to stay in the country. I collapse on the floor.
“What am I going to do? I have a new job at ASH starting in a month.”
Avery wrinkles her nose at me. “What the heck is ASH? You’re not going to work in a coffee shop, are you?”
For heaven’s sake, you take a woman one time to experience marijuana at a coffee shop and you never hear the end of it.
“ASH is the American School of the Hague,” Abby answers like she knows everything. She kind of does. She’s a freaking genius after all.
“Will this school give you a visa to stay?” Avery asks.
I shake my head. “No, it’s a ‘local’ job. The position is specifically for people who already have permission to live and work in Holland.”
Avery pats my shoulder. “Don’t you worry. We’ll figure it out. After all, I do know a whole bunch of lawyers.” She winks.
I know she thinks she can solve all my problems because she’s a lawyer, but she’s wrong. It’s not like she can snap her fingers and suddenly a visa for me to stay and work in Holland will appear. She’s not a magician.
Shit. Bob leaving me is worse than I thought. And I already thought it was pretty horrible.