Words I’ve heard before on the phone.
“That just makes it worse.” My words are flat. “She wasn’t the only one, right? All those pretty girls in the VIP room must have been tempting.”
He brushes at a skull ring on his finger, not meeting my eyes. “I was lonely, baby. It’s the lifestyle, Serena, but it won’t happen again. If I’d known you were coming to Nashville—”
Anger rushes in like a tidal wave, but my words are soft. “You would have arranged to not be getting your dick sucked? I miscarried. I wanted to see you. And boy, did I ever.”
“Baby, I’m sorry,” he implores.
I study his face, the lines of tension, his twisted mouth.
“We can work on it,” he says in a rush. “Come to Memphis with me, move your stuff into my place, and when the tour starts, come with us. I’ll never be out of your sight. Come on, we’ve been through some shit, Serena, but we still love each other. We made a baby.”
“The condom broke. It wasn’t on purpose.”
“You wanted our baby.”
Grief hits me in the face as I grind out my words. “I did, so much. Stop manipulating me with it. It hurts, Vane!”
He grimaces and pulls at his hair. “I made a mistake, and you taught me a good lesson, but you can’t just throw it all away. Baby girl. We belong together.”
A sound of disbelief comes from me. I taught him a lesson? Divorcing him wasn’t a game I played. He cheated on me! He thinks if I babysit him, he won’t do it again? I’m not his mother.
My hands fidget and I temper my tone. “I care about you as a person, Vane, but I have a life here. Grad school, remember? Romy needs me. I can’t just leave her. I don’t want to. I spent too much time with you, away from her, and she got in some trouble.”
“You can write anywhere. Give me a chance. All you need is me. We were happy.”
I sit back and stare at him. Were we? Or was I always jumping when he snapped his fingers, supporting him, putting my family on hold? Romy did drugs. My grades suffered. I barely graduated with a decent GPA. He’s always put himself first, his music, his career. He hasn’t once asked how I am.
As if he senses my train of thought, he says, “I took you for granted, but I’ll rebuild our trust.” His throat bobs. “Where’s the girl who fell in love with me in one night?”
That girl was needy and naïve. She was looking for something to fill the void left by the death of her parents. I’m older now. Smarter. “She’s not me.”
He jerks up from the table and paces around, hands clenched.
I rise with him. “I came out of respect for what we had, and because I knew you needed to hear it from me in person. I’m done,” I say softly. “Move on, Vane. Write your beautiful music and become a superstar.”
“I don’t want to.” His voice is dejected as his shoulders slump. “No one gets me like you. You’re real, baby. I could write an entire album with songs just about you.”
I sigh. “Maybe it’s all about fate, about when you meet someone. The timing wasn’t right for us—”
He holds my eyes. “You loved me once—”
“I deserve better,” I say sharply.
A bird chirps in a tree, a car horn sounds somewhere in the distance, and the world turns as he lets my words sink in. He paces back and forth as the silence settles around us.
Whether he accepts it or not, I have. “Your five minutes are up.” I stand and he rushes over to me, his eyes shiny.
He takes my hands. “You’re really not coming back to me?”
Oh, Vane. Never in a million years. “No.”
We stare at each other for a long time. He lets out a long breath, his hands cupping my face. “Baby girl. Whoever he is—because I know there’s someone—I hope he deserves you.”21Welcome to Theta’s Man of Mystery! is splashed across a plastic banner hanging over the library door. Underneath is scrawled Talk to a Stranger and Fall in Love. Little hearts dance around the words.
I scoff as I halt, digging my heels in. “No way, girls. Better yet, hell no. Don’t care if I go through a pack of batteries in a week—my bullet is better than some kind of what, speed dating thing?”
“What’s a bullet?” Bambi asks, pulling me by the arm, undeterred.
“Vibrator. Tiny and very effective,” Chantal replies to Bambi, latching onto my other side.
“Oh,” Bambi murmurs thoughtfully. “Are they on Amazon?”
“Yes,” Chantal says. “They come in all colors. Mine is purple.”
“Forget the bullet, girls. Am I a prisoner?” I ask dryly.
“Yes,” they chorus.
“Okay, so let’s see if I have this right: you waited for me after yoga, said you had something I had to see, then you woman-handle me into walking into a trap to meet mystery men? No.”