“Hey.” Slade’s voice came out a little gruff. “Sorry I worried you—” He glanced around to see if she had anyone with her and frowned when he found none. “Don’t you have anyone with you?”
“It’s fine,” she said with a smile. “My parents’ place is in the next block.”
After a moment’s hesitation, she asked worriedly, “Are you really alright?” His eyes were noticeably red-rimmed, and he looked a far cry from his usual wickedly charming self. “I’m afraid you don’t look that good.”
Slade only grunted, and since people like the cafe owner (and Ethan) only clamped up for one reason…
“Did you have a fight with your girlfriend, Mr. Wyndham?”
“Kady isn’t—” He stopped speaking and scowled, realizing that the nineteen-year-old had practically tricked him into mentioning Kady’s name. “How do you even know about her?” he questioned irritably.
“Secret net worths of its residents aside,” Anah said lightly, “Hartland is just like any other small town…”
Slade shoved his hands deep into his pockets. “Well, the rumors got it wrong.” Seeing Anah’s visibly dismayed expression, he felt obliged to make sure the blame fell squarely on him, and he heard himself say flatly, “I led her on. It made her want more, and I couldn’t give—” He stopped speaking when the girl started vehemently shaking her head.
“That’s a load of crock,” Anah burst out. “I saw you two once, at the movie theater, and it was so obvious how much in love—”
“You saw what you wanted to see,” Slade said grimly.
“Or it’s the other way around, and you couldn’t see what’s right in front of your nose all along.” Also like Ethan, she couldn’t help thinking, but that was another story entirely.
The whole argument should be pissing him off, but instead it only made Slade feel weary. What was the fucking point talking about this when it was all over?
Anah’s heart wrenched at the look of devastation on the billionaire’s face. “I’m sorry, Mr. Wyndham,” she said in a small voice. “I know none of this is my business, but I just think it’s such a waste—”
“She didn’t love me, Anah,” Slade repeated tonelessly. “And I didn’t love her.”
And he actually believed that, she realized, stunned.
“Anyway…it’s getting late. Let me walk you back.”
“Okay.” She saw that he was surprised at how quickly she took him up on his offer, but that was because her mind was already busy hatching up a plan for Operation: HEA.
As the billionaire fell into step beside her, she asked right away, “What did you fight or break up about?”
Slade groaned. So that was why she had let him walk her back to her parents’ place.
“Just give me a try,” she said cajolingly.
“We barely knew each other,” he said shortly, hoping that would be the end of it.
But as things typically were with the opposite sex, it was not, and follow-up questions were inevitable.
“I fell in love with Ethan at first sight,” she pointed out, “and none of you seem to question my feelings.”
His jaw clenched. Anah’s words made him think of his tomboyish, basketball-obsessed sister, and how Lace had fallen for a man who hadn’t even owned a single pair of sports shoes prior to meeting her.
She had been nineteen then, probably even more sheltered than Anah was, and definitely a lot less experienced in matters of the heart.
When Slade had found out about his sister’s relationship with Silver March (Farica’s future brother-in-law if his business partner had her way), he hadn’t questioned it at all—
The same way he had never questioned how right it had seemed to him, in the rare instances that he saw Anah and the youngest Blackwood together.
Anah held her breath when Slade turned to her, thinking that he would tell her she was right, and that he would go after his beloved Kady, and Operation: HEA would be a success.
But instead, the man proved as stubborn as his gender was infamous for, saying curtly, “Things are different between Kady and me.”
Oh, for the love of St. Dwynwen!
“Why is it different?” she challenged.
“You know the truth about us,” he spelled out coldly. “She does not.”
Oh my God, that was all?
“You’re talking about the fact that all of you are billionaires?” she exclaimed incredulously. “That’s it? You think just because she doesn’t know about how much money you have in your bank account, it’s automatically proof she doesn’t love you?” she scorned. “Shouldn’t you be happy that she says she’s in love with you despite—”
“Quit twisting my words,” Slade snapped. “You know it’s more than that—”
“But it isn’t,” Anah insisted fiercely. “So you’re a billionaire. Is that really the most important thing about you, Mr. Wyndham? Is that what truly defines you?”
His teeth gnashed at the way the girl was shaking her head at him, almost as if she had suddenly become his wise fucking mentor and Slade, her too-old, dumb, and denser mentee.