His gaze drops to my left hand and my naked ring finger. “If that was all you wanted, you wouldn’t have broken up with him. Why were you two even engaged to begin with?”

I bow my head. “It doesn’t matter.”

“You’re right. It doesn’t.” He cups my jaw and lifts my face to his, eyes searching, looking for answers. “There’s a reason you decided to marry me in Vegas. That matters. And we’re going to figure it out.”

I will steel into my veins to resist leaning into his touch. “There isn’t anything to figure out. It was a crazy, impulsive decision, and now we’re going to undo it.”

“Married or divorced, it won’t change the way I feel about you.”

There’s an insistent tug in my chest, a magnetic pull toward him. But if I follow it, I know everything else will fall apart. “You should go.”

Chapter Eighteen


“Are you excited about your vacation with Daddy and Victoria?” I ask when Cami finds me in the kitchen Saturday morning. “Everything’s together? You have your phone and your special pillow with your suitcase?”

“Yes,” she says, rolling her eyes in exasperation. “You already told me.”

I grin. “I’m a little jealous. I wish I got to visit Mickey Mouse this week.”

“And you’ll miss my birthday,” she says, propping her hands on her hips.

My iron will is the only thing keeping my smile in place. It will be the first time we’ve been apart on her birthday, but when Roman asked if he could take her to Disney for her tenth, I knew it’d be selfish to say no. “I don’t want to miss it,” I say. “In fact, maybe you should tell your dad you’re just going to hang out here.”

“Disney or bust!” She waves her arms around in her favorite TikTok dance. “But first, breakfast with Grammy and Grampy.”

Laughing, I tug gently on her ponytail. “Yes. It’s up to you how you want to do your hair, but fair warning—if you wear it up, you’ll get Grandma’s lecture about how much prettier your hair is down and how important it is to make yourself look your best.”

Cami pats her hair then shrugs. “I’ll deal with the lecture. I like it up.”

That’s my girl. “I wish I’d had even a fraction of your backbone when I was your age.”

“I know Grammy and Grampy love me, even if they don’t approve of everything I do.”

I smile, but my heart twists at how sure she is in this. For so much of my life, I wasn’t. When I think of what I need to tell my parents this morning, it’s clear I’m still not. But one person I am sure of is my daughter.

I take her hand. “Sweetie, I need to tell Grandma and Grandpa something today, but I wanted to tell you first.”

“Is it about the wedding?”

My heart squeezes hard. I love this girl so much. Please, God, let me do right by her. “Yeah. Julian and I broke up last night, and there won’t be a wedding.” I smile, wanting her to see I’m not falling apart. “But he still cares about you, and this won’t change that.” I’ll kick him in the nuts if he makes a liar out of me. Before I agreed to marry him, I made him promise he wouldn’t let whatever happened between us affect his relationship with Cami.

Cami pats my hand. “That’s okay, Mommy. You’re fierce, and you can handle anything.”

My smile turns genuine. “So are you.”

“Are you going to marry someone else, then?”

I choke on nothing. “No plans right now,” I say lamely. “Do you have any other questions?”

She looks at the ceiling then shakes her head. “I don’t think so. Are Grammy and Grampy going to be mad?”

When it comes to my parents, I have to walk a thin line for Cami. On the one hand, I pride myself in being honest with my daughter about everything—with the current awkward exception of my marital status. On the other hand, she adores her grandparents, and I don’t ever want to say anything that would jeopardize her relationship with them. “They might be,” I finally say. “But they’ll be okay.”

“It’s not their life anyway,” she says.

Amen, sister.

* * *

I’m a ball of nerves as I drive to the Orchid Valley Country Club. Cami and I are meeting my parents for breakfast at nine, then after we eat, I’ll have mimosas on the patio with Mom and Dad while Cami attends the “dining room etiquette” class the club offers for kids once a month. I grew up going to those things and detested them. I’d never force Cami to endure the rigid and often sexist lessons, but she says they’ll be useful when she runs for POTUS, and I can get behind that.

Mom and Dad are punctual if nothing else, and they expect the same of everyone around them, which is why Cami and I arrive ten minutes early, but we’ve barely been seated when my Mom arrives.

Tags: Lexi Ryan Orchid Valley Romance
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