Kace rolls his eyes. “I don’t think that’s what we’re dealing with here, Smithy. I think maybe she’s just ready to settle down. In which case . . .” He reaches for his drink and takes a long slug then wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.

I set my jaw. “Spit it out, Kace.”

“Fuck, man. I don’t think I should say.”

“Say what?” Smithy cocks his head to the side as he studies Kace.

“Out with it,” I mutter.

“Is this a pride thing? Like, you need to prove you can have the girl you could only have in secret back in the day?” When I don’t give that bullshit the benefit of a response, he goes on. “Because if that’s all this is, let her be. She could be happy with Julian. He’s a solid dude, and he works with her life here. Do you really want to be the reason that all falls apart?”

I can’t fault Kace for asking. I haven’t been in touch, and for all he knows, I’ve gotten my money from screwing over everyone I can. But it still burns that he thinks I’d ever put my ego ahead of Brinley’s happiness. “It’s not about pride.” I blow out a breath. “If it were about pride, I would’ve left town already.”

“Okay,” Kace says, nodding. “I respect that.”

Smithy props his elbows on the table and leans forward, his gaze intense. “So what is it about?”

“I’m in love with her, you idiot.”

Smithy grins. “Damn good thing she’s not pregnant again, huh?”

Smithy’s words hit me with the force of a Mack truck.

Kace frowns at me over his beer. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

I stare at Smithy. “You said good thing she’s not pregnant again, which implies she’s been pregnant before.”

Smithy’s eyes go wide and he looks at Kace, who just shakes his head.

“Brinley has a kid? Julian’s?” Jesus. That would explain a lot.

Smithy opens his mouth and then snaps it shut, so I turn to Kace.

“Her name’s Cami, and she’s not Julian’s,” he says, but when I open my mouth, he holds up a hand. “Any other questions you have, you need to take to Brinley.” He gives Smithy a hard look and says, “This is Brinley’s to tell.”

Brinley has a kid. A little girl. Brinley has a little girl and is engaged to be married to some guy who’s clearly happy to step into the role of Cami’s father.

“You okay?” Smithy asks.

I blink at him. My heart pumps too hard and too fast, and my chest aches under the weight of all my unanswered questions.

I don’t want to give a single shit about this Julian guy or what he thinks he can give Brinley, but suddenly it feels like Kace’s warning is right. I thought I was coming here to claim my bride, but suddenly it feels a lot more like I’m here to upend her life.

Chapter Six

Brinley

I’m curled up on the couch when the door creaks open, and two sets of heels tap toward the living room. I don’t get up. I figure I only have another half-hour, max, before Cami gets home, which means only thirty minutes left to sulk and feel sorry for myself. I’m going to make the most of it.

“Oh, fuckmydiet it smells so good in here.” I know it’s Savannah, because no one else says “fuck my diet” like it’s one word and a working part of their vocabulary.

I open one eye to see her plopping brown paper bags on the coffee table. Someone’s been to the liquor store.

“You don’t need to diet,” Abbi says, stopping by the couch to toe off her shiny pink ballet flats. “You’re perfect.”

“Um, obviously,” Savvy says, “but ‘perfect’ takes effort for most of us.”

I smile despite myself and sit up.

Savvy pulls bottle after bottle from the paper bags. I’m pretty sure she bought the whole liquor store. “Not all of us can be like you and have a hot little bod, despite never visiting the gym.”

“Aw, I didn’t know you thought I was hot,” Abbi says. “Thanks, Savvy. You’re a sexy kitten too.”

Savvy winks. “Meow.”

I nod to the collection of booze covering my coffee table. “Are you going to open a bar in my living room, or were you just planning to give me alcohol poisoning?” Baileys, Godiva liqueur, peppermint schnapps, vanilla vodka, and Kahlua.

“I need all of this to make the martinis we’re having tonight,” Savvy says. “I tried one for the first time in this little beach town in Michigan.”

“There’s a beach in Michigan?” Abbi asks, already reaching for the shaker.

“Um, yeah. Lake Michigan?” Savvy shakes her head. “At least you’re pretty.”

Abbi flips her off, and Savvy blows her a kiss.

“Anyway, the bartender called it the Kitchen Sink Martini, but I thought it tasted like the kind of thing you need to drink when you’re heartbroken, so I call them Heartbreak Martinis.”

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