It was just pride, just pride, she told herself feverishly, because she had changed the rules of the game he had been playing with her.
Just hurt pride, because now she was rejecting him, when it was supposed to be him eventually losing interest and kicking her out of his life.
Just hurt pride, she desperately screamed at herself as she watched Thornton stare at her with lifeless eyes.
“You love him.”
Pain tore at him, but still she managed to choke out, “Yes.”
“But I love you.”
Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.
“Won’t you choose me?”
She wrapped her arms around herself. “I can’t.”
She watched him swing away rather clumsily.
She watched him walk away.
I saved my pride.
But the knowledge didn’t make the tears stop or make her feel any less hurt or empty.
“You look amazing.” It was a lie, of course. And while Frankie rarely lied as a rule, right this moment she didn’t think she had a choice.
“Really?” Blake worked hard not to sound too desperate and hopeful.
“Really.” Another lie, but Frankie was genuinely worried the slightest insult would send her friend reeling into a mental breakdown.
“I didn’t really do anything special, though.”
“Must be the air then.” And apparently, what everyone said was true. A single lie was all it took, and you’d never stop lying.
But still, Frankie didn’t regret it. At least now, Blake was more herself, chatting nonstop about her day as they walked the last ten-minute leg to Redwood Cafe, where the movie crew was celebrating the last day of shooting.
Although it was an invitation-only party, Elizabeth had added Blake and Freddie’s name to the list. Host perks, the other woman had explained cheerfully when Blake worried about gatecrashing a Hollywood party. They’re having the party at the cafe, which means whatever Arden and I say goes.
Frankie caught sight of the pensive look on her friend’s face. “Are you thinking of…” Blake shot her a glowering look of warning and she hastily corrected herself. “—the celebrities? That we’re, um, going to see at the party?”
Blake made a face. “That’s lame, even for you.”
“I’m not used to lying, okay?” Or if she were honest, it was really a hit-or-miss thing with her.
“And no, I wasn’t thinking what you’re thinking.”
“Swear to God.”
Frankie had no choice to believe her friend with that. “Then what were you thinking about?”
She noticed the way Frankie had tensed and remembered what Curt said.
I think Freddie knows.
Her teeth sank into her lower lip.
Did Frankie know? Was that why she had so been against her friend hooking up with Thornton? But if she knew…then why didn’t Frankie warn her? Or maybe…she couldn’t. Maybe…she had signed away her rights with some non-disclosure agreements. Rich people loved their NDAs so much they would probably go to bed with it if they could.
She looked up, startled and feeling just a little bit guilty. “Yup?” She hated the way she had been distrustful of her friend lately, and even though she instinctively knew Frankie would never do a thing to hurt or betray her…it didn’t seem to make any difference.
Frankie finally decided to be blunt. “You’ve been giving me strange looks lately.”
“I’m sorry,” she heard herself mumble. “But it’s really not just you. Sometimes, I don’t even notice where or who I’m looking at. I just lose myself in my thoughts so easily these days.”
“Because of Thornton.”
She nodded. This, at least, was partially the truth.
“It’s been two weeks, you know,” Frankie said gently. “What really happened?” She genuinely wanted to know, if only so she could better understand how to help her friend.
“It just didn’t work out.”
Frankie had to work extremely hard not to challenge Blake’s words. Just didn’t work? It could be true with any other dreaded C-word. But Blake and Thornton? Never. Things couldn’t just not work out for people like them.
Blake had fallen so hard for her boss that despite witnessing countless times just how crazy mercurial her so-called beloved could be, she still thought of him as perfect.
And then there was Thornton. The man used to have a batting average of three words per week. For several consecutive years. And yet after Blake, he had undergone a 180-degree change and now had a working vocabulary of about fifty words (and counting).
Frankie might not have been in favor of their relationship at the start, but she wasn’t blind either. She had seen the way Blake blossomed under his attention and how much Thornton had loosened up because of her friend. The two of them being together might not have made sense on paper, but they had felt right.So right that Frankie knew things just couldn’t stop working out between them.
It had to be something else.
“There’s someone else, isn’t there? A third party? Right?”
The words, blurted out just as Frankie and Blake entered the cafe, fell in a chasm of awkward silence. Because apparently, they had arrived a lot earlier, and the only ones inside were Elizabeth, Arden, and the Blackwood brothers.