“You said she wanted the buyer to be married.” I swallow hard. “That’s why this was going to work. We would both get something out of this marriage.”

“I don’t need anything more from this marriage than you.” He shrugs. “I never did.”

“But that wasn’t what you said when I agreed.” My heart is racing and a wave of nausea hits me so hard that I worry I might lose my lunch. “I wouldn’t have agreed if I’d known—”

“If you’d known what?” His voice cracks, and his eyes blaze with emotion that blows me over. “That I love you? I already told you that, but you said I was misinterpreting a friendly love for something else. Or maybe you wouldn’t have agreed if you’d known that I actually wanted to spend my life with you? But then, I’ve been honest about that too. But maybe you mean you wouldn’t have agreed if you’d known he was going to come back into your life. Maybe you need to be honest with yourself and admit that your worries about this marriage have nothing to do with what we have and everything to do with him.”

“That’s not fair.” But guilt and reason collide with my defensiveness, and I know on some level he’s right.

“I’ve spent the last six months planning my wedding to a woman I love, and suddenly, I found out she was already married. You really want to talk about fair right now?”

Cami walks into the kitchen, her gaze ping-ponging between me and Julian. “Mommy, what’s wrong?”

Julian steps away from me and braces his arms against the counter, squeezing his eyes shut and taking deep breaths.

“Nothing, baby. Julian and I were just having a little argument.”

Cami bites her bottom lip. She’s not used to this. The few disagreements Julian and I have had, we’ve had away from her, and he’s never raised his voice at me.

I pull her into a hug and kiss the top of her head. “Sorry if we scared you.”

She shrugs. “People fight sometimes. Daddy and Victoria fight, but Daddy always sends me out of the house with Rosalie if he thinks I can hear.”

I swallow hard, wondering what kind of fights she hears at her father’s house and how many times she’s been sent away with the housekeeper.

“We can do this another time.” Julian rubs the back of his neck. “I’m sorry.”

“Julian . . .”

He meets my eyes from across the kitchen and waits for what I have to say, but I have nothing.

I’m sorry I married someone else and have no memory of it.

I’m sorry you’ve always loved me more than I’ve loved you.

I’m sorry I’m so confused right now.

“Walk me out?” he asks.

I nod. “Cami, I’ll be right back, okay?”

“Sure. Thanks for dinner, Julian.” She waves at him and runs back into the living room, clearly unconcerned about what she overheard.

I follow Julian to the hall and pull the door shut behind me before leaning against it.

“Have you even filed for divorce yet?”

I stare at my feet, too frustrated with him and myself and this whole situation to admit that I haven’t done more than look it up online to see if I could even get a divorce if my husband doesn’t want it. Turns out I can. “I still need to do the paperwork.”

“I guess I should’ve known.” He barks out a dry laugh and squeezes the back of his neck. “Brinley . . . can you at least tell me if I have a chance here?”

Guilt and sorrow and frustration twist like a ball of thorns in my gut. “Everything is happening so fast. Changing so fast. I can’t get my bearings.”

He shakes his head. “Nothing has changed. I’m still the guy who wants to spend his life with you. I’m still the guy you trusted enough to say yes—without being dragged drunk to a chapel.” He blows out a long, slow breath. “I’m the guy who’s here. The one you can count on. The one who isn’t going anywhere.”

“I know.” And those are all the reasons I should protect what we have, all the reasons our plans were perfect. But perfect is starting to feel like a trap.

“I’ll pick you up at six tomorrow for dinner with your parents.” He brushes a kiss across my forehead.

As he walks away, I realize that nowhere in his speech was the argument that he’s the guy who can convince my parents to give me my trust. The trust has never been more than a superficial part of his reasoning. Julian’s case for us has always been rooted in everything else. I’m the one so obsessed with finally feeling secure and independent that I couldn’t see anything but the money. And if I can’t appreciate the rest of what he’s offering, I’m not sure I deserve any of it.

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