In short, things were going to get tough and she needed her wartime consigliere.

So she picked up the phone and called Laney.

Twenty-four

LANEY OPENED THE front door to the town house she shared with Nate. Payton quickly stepped inside, eager to get out of the rain that had set down upon her as soon as she’d jumped in the cab to come over.

They had decided to skip the coffee shop, their usual meeting place, since Nate was out with some friends and because Payton was already wired and could probably do without the additional buzz of caffeine.

She had been vague on the phone with Laney—saying only that she needed to talk—because she wanted to say this in person. But unable to wait any longer, she had barely stepped foot into her friend’s immaculately designed Martha Stewart Living-esque home before she got right down to it.

“I have something I need to tell you about this weekend,” Payton said, setting her purse on the console table next to the front door, never again making the mistake of tossing it onto the couch as she might have done at her own home, because—as Laney had most helpfully noted the one and only time Payton had done so—this was, indeed, not her home.

“And I know this is going to come as a shock,” she continued, “so I’m just going to come right out and say it.” She stopped. “Wait—I just realized that I never told you that I broke up with Chase.”

“No, you didn’t,” Laney said pointedly as she oversaw Payton’s efforts to dry her shoes on the mat next to the door. “I had to learn about it through Nate.”

“I know, I know, I’m sorry about that—everything’s been happening so fast these days, and I meant to tell you, but then the trip to Florida came up.” Payton tentatively stepped one shoe off the mat. When Laney said nothing, Payton took this as an indication that she had been granted access to the town house proper.

She stepped into the living room. “But if it makes you feel any better, you are the first and only person who I’ve told this to.” She turned and faced Laney.

“I slept with J.D.”

Laney’s mouth dropped open, stunned.

“I know.” Payton smiled. “Holy shit, Laney—I slept with J.D.”

Laney shook off her shock. “Where? When?”

“This weekend. Palm Beach. We flew down to meet Jasper Conroy and the new general counsel of Gibson’s.” Payton looked her friend in the eyes. “Laney—it was incredible.”

Payton pointed down the hallway, in the direction of the kitchen. “Do you mind? I’m gonna grab a glass of water.” Hell, she was already getting flushed, reliving the weekend in her mind. As she headed down the hall, she began the postgame analysis. “I barely even know where to start—”

“Actually, Payton, you might want to—”

“—I mean, we had sex, like, a billion times. And I’m talking everywhere—in the bed, on the floor, on the desk, in the shower—I’m sure the unlucky people in the room next to us heard that one—which reminds me: Do you and Nate have one of those bench thingies in your shower?”

“As a matter of fact, we do, but—”

“Good—because I’ve gotta tell you about this trick I figured out that makes it a helluva lot easier to—”

“I really don’t think you want to get into that at this particular moment—”

Payton waved over her shoulder. “Fine, later then—anyway, I had no idea how ridiculously hot J.D. is—and I don’t only mean his body, which, yummy—the things I did to that man, that’s all I’ll say there—but also the way he looked at me and, ho-ly shit, some of the things he said were so sexy they blew my mind, like this one time when he pinned me against the wall and told me he wanted to—” She stopped as she turned the corner into the kitchen.

Nate and five other guys were standing around the counter.

Having just heard everything.

The six men stood motionless with their mouths agape as Laney came next around the corner.

Payton glared at her. “I thought you said Nate had a softball game.”

Laney gestured to the window, at the rain falling steadily outside. “Canceled.”

Payton’s mouth formed an O. Canceled. Bugger.

Suddenly finding his voice, Nate turned to his wife with a question of his own. “Is this how you talk?” He gestured between the two women.

Laney shrugged. “Yes.”

Nate and his friends whispered nervously amongst each other at this.

Men.

If they only knew.

Payton glanced over at Laney. “Maybe we should go to the coffee shop after all,” she suggested, with a raised eyebrow that spoke volumes in code. Me: Embarrassed. You: Deep shit. Next time. Try harder. To warn.

“In light of what I’ve heard so far, I think I’m going to need something stronger than coffee,” Laney said. She grabbed her keys off the organizer that she and Nate had built into the wall, then walked over and gave her husband a chaste kiss on the cheek. “I might be late. There’s a lasagna in the fridge.”

Nate nodded. “Okay—call me from the cab on your way home.” Then he paused, glanced briefly in Payton’s direction, and lowered his voice as he whispered in his wife’s ear.

“And find out what the trick is with the shower seat.”

GIVEN THE RAIN, they decided not to go far and took a cab the short distance to 404 Wine Bar. The intimate atmosphere of the bar suited Payton’s confessional mood. She and Laney sank into a leather sofa in front of the fireplace. When the waitress arrived, Payton ordered one of the red wine flights, thinking multiple drinks spread out all at once was the right way to go that evening. Laney ordered the same.


Tags: Julie James Romance
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