“I’m more alarmed at the fact that that is still public perception,” I snapped.
“It’s still public perception because you won’t TALK to anyone. You’re forcing the media to write their own narrative because guess what? Wesley Mitchell can’t talk, but his parents won’t shut up. So, they can either tell your story, or you can.”
She was right and holding out on press coverage in some ridiculous attempt to win Cash’s respect was destroying my reputation. It had been five days since we moved out of the mansion. Nine days since he last spoke to me.
“See.” Michelle stopped before me and held out her phone. “Look at that. Elitist rectum hounds.”
I glanced at her phone, which showed a new article, the lead photo one of a tearful Jocelyn Mitchell, her hand over her heart. I thought of all of the horrible things Cash had told me about her—about how she treated him and Wesley. My thoughts flipped to my reaction upon finally meeting her. Had I gushed? I think I did. Talk about worst girlfriend of the year.
“At least Cash isn’t talking,” she mused, pulling the device back. “Though rumor is that TMZ has an exclusive with him that’s pubbing Tuesday.”
“Have you talked to Angie?” Edwin waded into dangerous territory, and we all held our breath, waiting for the reaction from Michelle. Angie, her ex, was TMZ’s lead editor—a job that had led to their relationship’s demise, and our occasional agony.
“I called her. Bitch ignored my call.” She tossed the phone on the counter beside her purse. “Tell me you guys have something good.”
“We’re making a donut post now,” Edwin remarked—and in any other business, it’d be laughable.
Michelle nodded in approval. “Hurry. Call Dunkin and have them share it.” She looked at me. “Your mom sent over some videos from when you were young. They’re good. Very chummy with the parents and light on the redneckness. Let’s post the first of them in the afternoon slot, then look at the engagement numbers and go from there.”
“We’re getting decimated in the Team Emma versus Cash hashtags,” Edwin remarked, half of a donut wedged in his jaw.
“Because she won’t talk,” Michelle repeated. “Look, if you—”
“I’ll do it,” I interrupted. “Set up a long feature interview with a magazine—whoever you can get the most money with.”
Edwin perked up. “And then donate the money.”
“Yes.” Michelle nodded. “Beautiful. I love it.”
I didn’t. Every single positive press moment would be another burr in Cash’s side. Is this what it had come down to? Choosing my reputation over him? If so, I’d shove that reputation in the garbage disposal and flip the switch to high.
I needed to talk to him. I couldn’t go on like this. I missed him. More than missed. Yearned for him, like one of those loveswept heroines that wilts in the western movies when her cowboy leaves. That’s how I felt inside. Wilted. Empty. Miserable.
I’d had four days with him. Four days as Cash Mitchell’s girlfriend. Four days where I’d gone to bed with a smile on my face. Four days where his arm would casually wrap around my waist and he’d smile at me as if I was perfect. Four days where I’d look up and catch him watching me from across the room. No one had ever done that with me and that would have been devastating enough but this was him. The guy. The one I’d melted over for five damn years. The one who saw and defended ugly Emma and somehow found her beautiful.
And… the one who couldn’t see past what Dana had set up to destroy me. The one who had cut every tie and believed every accusation cast my way.
Yes, I’d kept things from him. Yes, I’d lied. But my heart had been, at least eventually, in the right place.
I had to talk to him. I had to at least try to explain, even if it turned into a shit storm. I had to know what, if any, possibility still existed for us. And I needed to get his blessing to do the interview that Michelle was already frantically scheduling.
I unscrewed the lid on a bottle of herbal tea that paid my mortgage each month and took a sip.
“Freeze,” Edwin commanded, pointing at me. “Dion, can we get a picture of this? IG story, hashtag #goherbal.”
I froze because that’s what trained monkeys do.
“I have to tell you man… that chick is psycho but so good for business.” Frank pushed his sunglasses on top of his head, squashing down the few remaining strands of bleached-white hair. “You won’t believe what I have for you.”
“She’s not psycho.” I turned and moved into the house, letting him close the front door behind him.
“Okay, but please don’t say that in earshot of anyone with access to the internet. We need to ride this pity train as long as possible.”