I took another sip of wine.
“Hard isn’t a bad thing,” she said quietly. “Marriage, in itself, is hard. Figuring out our lives is hard.”
“Yeah,” I said. “But you seem to have it all figured out.”
She coughed mid-sip, her hand clamping over her mouth as she struggled to contain her wine. I watched in concern as she gasped for air, then coughed, the glass trembling in her free hand.
“I’m sorry,” I said as soon as she stopped hacking, her eyes watering from the effort. “I didn’t mean—”
“No.” She let out a final small cough. “It’s just funny. For anyone to think that I have things figured out. Oh my God, Elle. If you only knew the things that Brad and I have been through.” She cleared her throat and swallowed, wiping at her eyes. “But you know. Things you wouldn’t think, even bad things—they can bring you closer as a couple.” She stared off into the corner of the office and I wondered if she was talking about something with Brad’s family or their sex life.
Probably Brad’s family. In fact, the longer I sat there, the more I was questioning Chelsea’s intel. Had it been legitimate? In my alarm at my misunderstanding her excitement for accusation, I had barely gotten any details before making an excuse and running away. It’d barely been twenty-four hours since that revelation, not enough time for us to properly follow that conversation up.
My phone hummed in my purse and I reached down and hit the side button, silencing it. It immediately hummed again, and I glanced at the screen. Speaking of the devil… Chelsea. Why was she power calling me? I hit the button again, then dropped it into my purse, the now-familiar sense of paranoia sneaking back up on me. She knew about Aaron and us. Or suspected. Maybe her maid had told her what she’d overheard. Or, worse, she was calling to tell me that she and Aaron were hooking up. Was that worse? Probably not. I went to take another sip of wine and realized that my glass was already empty.
“Here.” She held out the bottle. I lifted my glass and watched the rim of it tremble. I tightened my grip but it only became worse. What was wrong with me?
“Let me take that from you.” She carefully tugged it away and set it on the low coffee table before the couch. Lifting the bottle of wine, she glanced at me with concern. I knotted my hands into fists as my phone hummed again in my purse. Fucking Chelsea. I felt the insane urge to drop-kick my new purse into the open hall.
“If you have to get that—”
“I know you have other properties,” she offered. “It’s fine if you—”
“It’s not work. It’s my best friend. I’m not sure why she’s power calling me.”
“Maybe something is wrong.”
“No, I think it’s probably about a guy. A friend of ours. My husband’s best friend. I’m worried she likes him.” Oh my God, I needed to seriously SHUT THE HELL UP.
She gave me a curious look. “He’s a bad guy?”
“Oh, no. He’s a great guy. A really great guy. And I used to want them to get together. They had years to get together in college and it never happened and so I thought it was safe…” My voice trailed off. Not that I’d been thinking of Chelsea at all during that decision process. Why would I have? But should I have?
“What was safe?”
I lifted my gaze to find her watching me, her expression calm and open. What if Chelsea was right and they were swingers? She might be the only woman in Miami who could give me confidential and judgment-free advice. I made a split-second decision that could prove fatal. “My… uh… husband and I. We got drunk one night. Things happened with him. Him and me.”
“The guy best friend and you?”
“Yeah. My husband was there. It wasn’t… cheating.” I took a deep breath and stared into my lap, barely noticing when she held out my glass of wine. I closed my hands around it numbly.
“And you haven’t told her.”
I shook my head.
“Elle.” She tapped my leg and I looked up. “Listen to me. Stop feeling guilty.”
“Stop feeling guilty,” she repeated, her eyes clear and understanding. “You haven’t done anything wrong. You are three consenting adults who had some fun one night.” She lifted one tan shoulder. “Forget it.”
“Three consenting adults who are now keeping that secret from her,” I pointed out. “We’re all close. It’s like this giant thing in the room with us when we hang out.”
“Was it a one-time thing, what happened?”
“With him, yes.” I hesitated, unsure if I should jump off this cliff. “But I liked it. A lot.”
The corner of her mouth lifted. “Yeah, I get it.” Then, as suddenly as her grin came, it left. “But here’s the thing, Elle. You can’t put this secret back in the box once it’s out. Right now, it’s only between the three of you, right?”