“He’s my best friend. He isn’t going to think anything’s up.”

“I’d still like to have a few weeks of distance before we’re begging him for favors.” I picked up a baby electric screwdriver that was the size of a hot glue gun. “Look how cute this is.”

“I need you to be honest with me. Have you been stuffing tampons down there?”

“Oh my God, can we not have this conversation in the middle of the store?” I ducked into the next aisle just in time to avoid a trio of teenage boys. Looking down at our list, I hesitated, then turned back, running into E in the process. “We need floodlights.”

“So, you have been stuffing tampons.” He blocked my exit.

“Stuffing?” I glared. “No. Gradual deposits spread out with plenty of flushing. And I’m weeks out from that sort of activity so this isn’t my fault at all. This is you and your man bathroom stuff.” I skirted around him and toward the lightbulb aisle.

“Meaning what?”

“You know. Girl poops are smaller than boy poops.”

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. This is a tampon issue.”

“One that waited three weeks to pop up?” I frowned at him and pulled two boxes of floodlights off the shelf.

“Not those. Get the bright white ones.” He pulled two almost identical boxes off the shelf and swapped them with mine.

“So, anyway, back to my listing prospect.” I steered the conversation away from tampons and back to the topic I’d tried to broach ten minutes ago, before E had gotten distracted by a dented dishwasher that was deeply discounted to an almost unbelievable price.

“This is the duplex in Miami Shores or the big house on Fig Road?”

“The big house. Not Fig Road. Olive Line Trail.” I squinted at him, unsure if he’d been making a joke or was honestly unaware of the prestigious street.

“Okay. The four-million-dollar one that the rich guy’s boyfriend referred you.” He headed toward the front of the store and I followed, tugging on his arm to slow him down.

“Yes. I asked Chelsea to see what she knew about the sellers and it turns out the husband of the couple is“—I glanced around to make sure no one was in earshot—“a Magiano.”

“Really? Like, the Magianos?”

“He’s apparently estranged but he’s the oldest son in the family. Like top tier.”

Easton paused, coming to a stop in the middle of the aisle. “How do you know he’s estranged?”

“I—I don’t know. That’s what Chelsea said.”

“But he could be involved?”

“I’m not sure if it really matters one way or the other. I’m not sure if it’s any safer if he is estranged or if he’s chummy with them.”

“He’s not with them, he is them. Why is he selling the house?”

I glanced down the aisle. A man was rounding the corner with a large cart. “I don’t know. Same reason anyone sells a house?”

He shook his head. “I don’t like it. And this is the one where the other realtor is screwing you on the commission, right?”

“Yes. But it’d still be twenty thousand dollars. And a quick sale.”

He sighed, scratching the back of his neck as he stared at the ground. “I don’t know, Elle. I’ll get Nicole’s commission this week. That’ll tide us through for a little bit. I think you should walk from it.”

I couldn’t walk away. I couldn’t stomach the idea of watching our bank account spiral down when this commission could help to pad our accounts. I could make six mortgage payments with that commission. And maybe, possibly, the De Lucas would buy something else. Roll that money into a different property and use me as their buyer’s agent.

E’s mouth tightened and my heart broke at the look in his eyes—a war of indecision and frustration at what he wasn’t earning. He needed this commission as badly as I did and it was killing him that he couldn’t provide it. “I’ll get more from Nicole. This trip to Los Angeles—if the deal she’s looking at is right, she’ll bring over more funds. Don’t do it, Elle. You don’t know what you could be bringing into our lives.”

“With a real estate listing?” I gave my best attempt at a carefree laugh. “Babe, this is nothing. And he isn’t even part of the family.”

“Then why isn’t Tim taking it? I don’t buy that bullshit excuse about De Luca liking women. Tim’s scared or his boyfriend told him not to, and his boyfriend knows this guy better than any of us or Chelsea does. There’s a reason Tim is pawning this off on you, and I’m not putting you in harm’s way just because we’re tight. Fuck the money.”

But it wasn’t just the money. It was a prestigious listing. It was a jump in the office ranks. It was proof to myself that I could handle a big client, a big property, one with multiple offers and the sort of address that got mentioned in the weekly deal announcement emails. I needed this and not just for the paycheck. I needed it for myself. Easton felt he was failing at providing for us financially—but I felt I was failing in my ability to give us a family. In lieu of a pregnancy, I needed this, needed something for me to be proud of.

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