“Well, I established residency about a year ago and moved into my condo here a few months later.”

“A year ago? And you’re just now telling me?”


“I thought I’d sent a text saying I’d moved.”

“Yes, and that’s all it said. I assumed it was across town, not out of town, and certainly not to your heartthrob’s neck of the woods.”

Monique sighed. “I didn’t say anything more at first because I wasn’t sure I’d get the nomination. Once that looked likely, my hands were full with relocating, closing out or reassigning cases and the election. And, by the way, he’s not my heartthrob.”

Emma chuckled. “No worries, Mo. I totally understand. So you’re the Democratic candidate?”

“Yes, it’s official as of this past week. I ran a very secretive campaign until I locked up the ticket.”

“Why?”

“I wanted to secure the nomination before officially coming out, thereby enjoying the element of surprise.”

“Did it work?”

“For months I’ve been able to quietly campaign under the radar. Now that the announcement has been officially released in the town’s newspaper…we’ll see.”

“What about the man who you insist isn’t your heartthrob? Have you seen him?”

“Yes.”

“And?”

“I totally wanted to jump his bones, though I tried to appear unmoved.”

The women cracked up.

“It’s a very small town. I’ll be seeing quite a bit of him from now until the election in November.”

“Wait a minute. What does Rob think about all this? Did he move, too?”

“Well, that’s the other thing. We broke up.”

“No! From what you told me, he seemed like such a nice guy.”

“He is a very nice guy and will make someone a wonderful partner. Just not me.”

“What happened?”

“I loved him, Emma. But I wasn’t in love. Once I made the decision to move to Paradise Cove, I also decided to end a relationship that really wasn’t working.”

A few seconds passed. Monique imagined Emma was digesting this news. “Monique, are you sure that the breakup with Rob wasn’t because of your age-old crush on Niko?”

“Girl, I’ve already admitted he’s hot, but any type of infatuation dissipated a long time ago.”

“Hmm, if you say so.”

“I say so.”

“Your life is nothing if not interesting. Moves, breakups, running for office. Reconnecting with Niko sounds promising,” Emma cooed, with a smile in her voice. “Rob’s a nice guy, but Niko Drake is a really nice guy, and superhandsome to boot. You guys might even start dating.”

“Debating, not dating.”

“Why? Is he married?”

“Not as far as I know.”

“Then who knows what the future holds?”

“Niko is my opponent, Emma. He’s running for mayor, too.”

“Oh, Lord.”

“Earlier we held a debate. Our first in over ten years.” She filled her in on the morning’s impromptu meeting. “I must have been crazy to agree to this madness. May my godfather rest in peace.”

“Let’s not draw any hasty conclusions. This might be just the perfect setting to finally snag the man you’ve been in love with since college.”

“Emma White, stop the foolishness! I am not nor have I ever been in love with Niko Drake.”

“Is that why you’ve only dated a handful of guys since I’ve known you, and why you dragged poor Rob along for the past, what, three or four years?”

It was true. Monique and Rob Baldwin had met at a First Fridays event and bonded over lattes and shared political views. They’d begun dating not so much because Monique was head over heels but, well, because he was a good, decent man and because he was there. She no longer had to worry about who would escort her to office parties or industry events. She had someone with whom to share dinners, movies and occasional trips. He was safe and predictable, which up until Niko Drake had reentered her thoughts had suited her just fine. She’d never admit this truth, of course, not even to herself.

“Rob is a grown man. Had he been unhappy with our status, he could have left at any time.”

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