When he lifted me up, I wrapped my legs around his waist. When he carried me into the house, I deepened our kiss. When he laid me down on our bed, I peeled the wet shirt over his head and struggled out of my soaked dress.

When he tenderly made love, I inhaled each touch, each thrust, each kiss. And afterward, I didn’t talk, or ask questions, or bring up anything. I curled into his arms and stayed silent and weathered this swell of the storm.

But inside, I burned with anger over that bitch.

22

Hey Rachel. How’s everything going so far? Don’t be shy—if you have any questions or need any advice, I’m here for you both. If your husband needs to talk through the shitstorm of emotions that this stuff brings, have him call me. 407-214-2001.

I took a screenshot of the message and texted it to E.

Any questions for him?

Exiting from the messages, I locked my phone and placed it on the desk, returning my attention to my laptop. One email from my mom. I scanned it quickly.

Cruise to Jamaica…

Don’t forget your sister’s anniversary next week…

Pet food from China is contaminated…

I clicked on the next email and scrolled through the sales stats for last week, pleased to see the De Luca listing in the top tier of new listings.

“So…tell me everything.” Tim swung into my office in a cloud of Aqua De Gio and pastel colors. He perched on my desk and picked up the listing flyer for Olive Line. “And don’t leave any of the good stuff out.”

“Tell you everything about what?” I deleted a mortgage rates email, then a Pottery Barn promo about linens.

“The De Luca photoshoot! It was Thursday, right? Did you see Brad De Luca there? The photos look gorgeous, by the way. Love this.” He held up the rough draft of my flyer, the page pinched between two recently buffed nails.

I minimized my email and leaned back in my desk chair, considering and quickly discarding the possibility of telling Tim everything. “Brad was there and it went fine. Floyd sent me the reel over the weekend, and I emailed them a link to the photos and the flyer this morning. I’m waiting for their approval before I send it out.”

I had spent the better part of the weekend working on the listing description and flyer, grateful for the distraction from Easton’s quiet brooding. We hadn’t really discussed Nicole—or Brad and Julia—and between the two hot topics, I hadn’t really known what to say. I needed Chelsea’s advice, but had gotten her voicemail all weekend. Apparently, her urgent desire to chat had faded, along with her ability to return a phone call.

“You’re smart to get their approval.” He nodded. “Especially given their, you know, privacy issues.” He glanced out into the hall, then toed my door closed with the tip of one brown and black saddle shoe. “So, Fred says he’s gorgeous. Is it true?”

“Gorgeous?” I shrugged. “I don’t know. That’s not exactly the adjective I’d use.” Manly. Devastatingly intimidating. Pure fucking temptation. “He’s very muscular.” That was a safe term—one no one could argue about, given Brad’s large frame, but also one that wouldn’t raise any red flags.

“Maybe it’s just the danger element Fred liked. He’s into all that stuff. Action movies. Kick-ass guys.” He shrugged. “You know. The exact opposite of all of this.” He pointed to his reed-thin torso which was wrapped in a skintight pink polo shirt.

“Well, he’s married. And straight,” I offered. “So I don’t think you have to worry about Fred.”

“Oh, sweetie.” He laughed. “I don’t ever worry about Fred. Plus, I’ve heard De Luca doesn’t mind adding more to the party, if you know what I mean.”

I frowned in confusion, as if I didn’t know what he meant. Did everyone know about their sex life? Was that the potential future for E and me? Casual innuendos tossed out like party favors whenever either one of us was discussed? I thought of what Julia had said. That if I told Chelsea, that it would, at some point, come out. And that it would follow Easton and me.

“Also… I heard you have seven showings set up. Which I’m really happy about.” He smiled thinly, and I could see, in the rigid way he set down the flyer, how unhappy he really was.

“It’s a hot street, you know that.”

“Oh, I know. Like I said, I’m happy for you. I didn’t have time for this listing anyway, with everything else I have going on. That’s why I gave it to you.”

Right. Funny how quickly his story was changing. A week ago, when I’d found out about the Magiano connection and confronted him over his avocado and blueberry salad, he’d all but begged me to stay on the listing. He’d blamed Fred, said that he’d wanted to tell me about the Magianos but Fred was worried I wouldn’t take it. Now, he was suddenly doing me a favor? I spun back in the chair toward my computer. “I’ve got to get this email drafted before the contracts workshop. Save me a seat in it?”

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