“Shit,” Savvy whispers. “Well, at least you can fix that, right?”

“Can I? I’m not ashamed of him, but I don’t want to tell my parents. I can’t rip that wound open all over again.” I snag the carton of ice cream off the coffee table and stab the melting contents with a spoon. “They aren’t even speaking to me, so what do I care if they disapprove of me dating Marston? I don’t want to care. It’s dumb.”

She shrugs. “It makes sense to me. They’re your parents. But honey, love shouldn’t be conditional. If Marston makes you happy and your parents love you, they’ll find a way to be happy for you. If they don’t . . . well, I know it’s hard, but maybe that means you’re better off letting them pull away.” She squeezes my shoulder. “We make our own family, right?”

I nod, my eyes filling with tears. “That’s what I keep saying.”

“And you know I’m yours until death, whether you want me or not.” She smiles. “What’s the worst that happens if you tell your parents the truth? They cut you off? Already done. They emotionally blackmail you into doing their bidding? Wait, no, that’s what they’ve done for twenty-seven years, and it’s why we’re in this mess now.”

I release a dry laugh, but it sounds as hollow as I feel. “I wish I could argue.”

“You know they’re going to be disappointed. They’ll probably give you a lecture, tell you some bullshit that makes you feel like a bad mom, and then give you the silent treatment for six months to a year. Right?”

I nod. I hadn’t thought it through, but I’ve disappointed my parents before, and Savvy’s litany of “punishments” sounds on point.

“Fuck them, Brin. There’s still a part of you who holds their opinion of you and your life above your own happiness, and I get that—they are your parents, and we’re, like, programmed to let them fuck us up more than any other. But I think it’s time to stop. You don’t owe them shit, and you’re a fucking fabulous mother, and you have an amazing husband who’d fetch the stars for you.”

“And what do I do about The Orchid?”

“I mean, Alec said Marston planned to sign it over to you. So if this is just about having the control, having it in your name, it’s practically done. What do you think the BEK in BEK, LTD stands for?”

Brinley Elizabeth Knox. I close my eyes. I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.

She studies me for a beat, then sighs. “But that’s not going to work for you, is it? You didn’t want him to buy you a company.”

I shake my head. “I don’t want that to be part of our relationship—something I always feel hanging in the balance.”

“You’ll figure it out,” Savvy says. “You and your pride.”

I frown. “What do you remember about that night? In Vegas?”

She chuckles and throws her hair back. “A lot that I’m not going to share with you.”

I roll my eyes, though I do appreciate her levity. It’s one of the things I love about her. No matter how serious a situation is, she can always find a way to laugh—not to brush off your problems or ignore them, but as a waypoint so we can catch our breath in the middle of the hard times. “I mean with me, bitch. What on earth happened to give me the courage to marry Marston?”

“Other than some good booze?” She shakes her head. “I don’t know. After the second bar, we parted ways. You got that fortune from the machine by the bathroom and practically dragged Marston out of there by his collar. You were a woman on a mission, though I had no idea that mission’s destination was a wedding chapel.”

My heart stumbles into a faster beat and I have to force myself to breathe. “Fortune. What fortune?”

She turns up her palms. “It was one of those machines. You know, you ask it a question and it spits out a card that supposedly answers whatever you asked. I told you it was a waste of money, but you said Brittany had been obsessed with those things when you were kids and insisted on feeding singles into the machine.”

I stand and slide on my shoes.

“Where are you going?”

“To the garage. I need to find my purse from Vegas.”

She gives me a blank look. “Why?”

“I had that little black clutch with me, remember?” When we got home, I never cleaned it out. I just retrieved my ID and credit card and dropped the clutch into the drawer with my spares. Maybe, just maybe, there’s an answer in there.

“Wait a second,” Savvy says, but I’m already on my way to the garage, and before she catches up with me, I’ve found the box I’m looking for.

Tags: Lexi Ryan Orchid Valley Romance
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