“It just feels wrong, keeping it from her.”

Oh my God. “LISTEN TO ME, Aaron.” I slammed on my brakes to avoid a car that pulled out on the left. Blowing the horn again, I swerved around him and increased my speed, trying to find an opening in the right-hand lane. “You don’t need to feel guilty for shit. You’re a grown man and she’s a total slut. I hate to say it, Aaron, but she is.”

“She’s not a slut.” His voice gained an edge of steel, and I couldn’t believe he was defending Becca, who left him for her supervisor, like this.

“Are you kidding me? You’re jaded by love. We all think she’s a slut. Look at what she’s done.”

“I didn’t say I was in love with her. There’s just… something there. Something I haven’t felt before. A connection.”

Like I said, romantically dense. This was what happened when I abandoned him. He’s over there, pining away for Becca like a lost fucking puppy. And I had been worried about him and Chelsea? At least that concern could be squashed. “Aaron,” I said quietly. “Listen to me very carefully. You are the only one feeling a connection. She doesn’t love you, and I don’t think she ever did. I don’t even think she likes you, despite how she might act.”

“What? Did she tell you that?”

“She doesn’t have to tell me. Look at her actions. Look at what she’s done to you.”

“She hasn’t done anything to me.”

Chelsea’s Mercedes shot past me, her convertible top down, her hair whipping in the wind. She darted into the right lane as if it were easy, then whipped into the strip center and slid into a front spot. I flipped on my blinker, forced to come to a complete stop in the middle lane as I begged the cars on the right to let me in. “Fucking Chelsea,” I muttered. “Aaron, I have to go. If Becca calls or texts you, ignore her.”

“Whatever.” He sounded pissed, and I still couldn’t wrap my head around why he was defending Becca’s honor.

Yo bitch, I’m here. Getting a table.

Chelsea’s text pinged through just as an elderly man in a Ford truck waved me over. Giving him a dozen thank-you waves, I inched through the opening he provided and into the parking lot, finding a spot a hundred yards away from Chelsea’s.

I peeled myself off the seat and grabbed my bag, running a quick hand through my hair as I got out of the car. Rolling back my shoulders, I strolled toward the restaurant and forced a smile.

Fucking Becca.

24

I found Chelsea at the back of the restaurant, embroiled in a heated conversation with a Cuban woman. Sinking into the seat across from her, I gave a friendly smile to the stranger, who ignored me.

“Tell your father the ads need to go. I know the man. He wouldn’t support this. Tell him Julian Pozo said so.”

“I’ll tell him,” Chelsea promised, then half-rose out of the booth, accepting the fierce hug that the woman offered.

I pulled the menu off the side display and flipped it over, waiting for the woman to leave before speaking. “Trouble in advertising?”

“Meh. Display ads on entertainment pages. Nothing major.” She pushed a blue cup of sweet tea toward me. “They didn’t have Splenda so this has got Equal in it.”

“Thanks.”

“What’s with the curiosity with Becca?”

“Aaron said she was playing games. I didn’t know what he was talking about.”

She perked up. “Oh, you talked to him? Did he say anything?”

“About what?”

“I don’t know. Anything.”

“Yeah, we talked about Becca.” I swallowed the comments he had made—the obvious protectiveness and affection he still felt toward her. “But I didn’t get details. I figured you’d tell me what was going on.”

“Just bullshit.” She pulled her necklace free of her shirt and drug the diamond pendant on it to the left and right. “She’s calling him in the middle of the night. Saying she made a mistake, then giving him the cold shoulder the next day. Posting pictures of her and the new guy on social media. Trying to make him jealous, then freaking out on him if he says anything. You know.” She shrugged. “Girl bullshit.”

I thought of Aaron’s defensive tone. What had he said they had? That they had a connection? I hesitated, unsure of whether to share that part with Chelsea. I decided not to, anxious to get to Nicole and what had happened on their trip. “So, on Easton’s trip back from Los Angeles—”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, tell me about your dinner with the swingers.” She leaned forward and lowered her voice. “Please tell me they have sex shit all over their house.”

I studied the menu. “Sorry to disappoint you. No sex shit anywhere.”

“Ugh.” She slumped in the booth. “They probably got rid of it before they listed the house. Regina says their main home is in the Bahamas. Maybe they shipped it all there.” She grinned at me and I set down the menu.

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