“Oh, I do know,” Catherine snapped. “I know exactly what he is.”

“Mother, please—”

“He’s the kind of man who thinks he can cash in by taking my daughter for a ride—”

“Slade’s a good man,” she cried out just as she heard footsteps behind her.

No.

She turned around, and her face paled.

Slade.

And she saw in his eyes that he had heard enough.

The phone slipped out of her fingers, but the man was just too perfect, that he simply caught it with one hand. Ashamed of the things that he had every right to think about her mother, Kady started to apologize, but Slade shook his head and placed a finger on her lips.

Ssh.

She watched in wide-eyed silence as he clicked on the loudspeaker button on the screen.

“—lo? Kady? Are you still there?”

Slade nodded at her, and she cleared her throat. “I’m sorry—”

“You sound funny,” Catherine said suspiciously. “Is that man with you? Is he doing anything—”

“Mom!”

A sound of anger hissed down the line. “He’s there, isn’t he—”

“I have to go,” she cut in desperately. “I still have classes—”

“Oh, alright,” Catherine exclaimed in disgust. “We both know you’re lying, but fine, I’ll let you go.” Her voice hardened. “Just remember what I told you. Bring him with you tomorrow if you don’t want me making a scene at your workplace.”

Kady’s mom hung up before she could say a word edgewise, and Kady was left to look up at Slade, miserable and mortified by her mother’s prejudice. She waited for him to make a crack about how awful her mother was, as he had every right to, and told herself doggedly that she would take it. Catherine Abrams was a snob, and—

“Your mother seems to be an interesting person,” Slade commented.

Her jaw dropped. That was it?

He saw the dumbfounded look on her face and said mockingly, “Ye of little faith.”

“But—” She stopped speaking when he crooked a finger at her, and she slowly walked towards him, her mind still reeling at how calmly he was reacting to her mother’s tirade. And when she was finally standing right in front of him—

Their gazes met.

And then he was hauling her close, his arms tightening around her, and as his lips brushed against her hair, she heard him say softly, “It’s okay, sweetheart.”

It was?

“There is nothing – absolutely nothing – your mother can say that will make me leave you.”

The words were completely unexpected, but the moment she heard them, she realized that it was exactly what she needed to hear, and oh God…

She squeezed her eyes shut, but it just was no use.

And the tears started falling.

Slade felt her body start to shake, and his arms tightened around her just as her tears started soaking his shirt. “This is the reason, isn’t it?” he asked quietly. “Eric told your mother about me, and that was why you were crying that day.”

If only that were true.

Oh, if only…

But she nodded anyway, knowing that the truth would only tear them apart.

Chapter Seventeen

End Of The World

* * *

“He who learns must suffer.” ~ Aeschylus

* * *

Anne Murray’s version of End of The World kept playing in Kady’s mind. It had been the last song she heard from Farica’s playlist before leaving the cafe, and considering the other girl’s almost preternatural ability to predict the future with her choice of music…

She shook the thought away. Idle minds are the Devil’s favorite playground, Kady reminded herself, and if anything, her life was actually shaping up to be the opposite, with her love for Slade opening a whole new world of the most incredible possibilities.

School was great, work was great, and her sex life was, well, beyond great. And with Slade’s constant attention bolstering her confidence to dizzying heights, Kady had learned to handle Eric on her own, and her ex-boyfriend now went out of his way to avoid her. It was just too bad, she thought irritably, his newfound dislike of her hadn’t stopped him from creating trouble with Catherine.

AKA the only hurdle left.

The thought had Kady checking her watch nervously, and she saw that it was already half past six. Granted, Catherine’s hotel was within walking distance, but punctuality also meant everything to her mother. Showing up late would be the biggest mistake ever—

Kady had her phone out in the next second, and her fingers practically flew over the screen as she texted Slade.

Kady: Let’s just meet at the hotel?

Slade: Are you sure? I know I’m cutting it fine, but I’m just a block away.

Kady: I’m sure. Sorry, just paranoid. See you. Drive safe.

Slade: Missing you already, beautiful.

Color stole her cheeks as she pushed the phone back into her pocket. Outrageous flirt. But she couldn’t help smiling, knowing that she wouldn’t have him any other way. She loved how his flamboyancy and her reserve balanced each other out between them—

“It’s you.”

Kady jerked at the sound of a woman’s voice speaking behind her.


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