He brushed his hand through his hair, revealing the underside of his forearm and the fresh ink that matched Simone’s so perfectly—an ornate vintage key, designed in black and white.


“Nice ink.” I winked.

“Thanks.” His slanted smirk broke into a wide grin. He nodded toward the back of the office. “Come on, let’s meet in your swanky office. We’ve been dying to break it in.”

“Sure.”

The five of us spent the rest of the morning going over the progress that had been made. Geoff, the brainchild behind the wearable technology venture that I had decided to fund months ago, led me through the latest builds. True enough, the team had covered a lot of ground in my absence, but gaps needed to be addressed and improvements had to be made before we could bring the apps to market. Hours passed, and I lost myself in the details.

When we broke for lunch, I tinkered around my office, the space that I hadn’t had a chance to settle into yet. But for the first time since I’d come back, I felt like this was truly what I was meant to do. Despite everything that had happened to throw me off course, I was as ready as ever to dive back into work and try again.

“Happy to be back?”

I swiveled in my chair to find Alli leaning against the doorframe.

“I am,” I admitted.

“We’re happy to have you back. The family too, of course. Catherine and Greg are having a welcome-home dinner for you guys tonight.”

“That’s sweet of them.”

Alli’s lips quirked up as she twisted a strand of her straight brown hair.

“What’s up? You look like you want to tell me something.”

“Well, there will be an extra seat at the table tonight.”

“Oh? Who’s that?”

She dropped down into the chair across from my desk and lowered her voice. “Do you remember that hot bartender from the club, the one who you sent back to Sophia with those awful drinks?”

“Vaguely.” The passing of time along with my slightly inebriated state that night had made the details foggy. I distinctly remembered Sophia’s brief appearance the night of my bachelorette party, however.

“That’s Fiona’s new man.”

I lifted my eyebrows. “Wow. Him?”

“I guess they’ve been seeing each other for a while, but now she wants to introduce him to the family.”

“That’s a big step.” Considering I hadn’t met or known of any of Fiona’s boyfriends, I couldn’t imagine how her new beau might be received. Then again, her family had been nothing but welcoming and kind to me.

“I know. I can’t wait to see how it goes down.”

I leaned back in my chair. “I feel like I’ve missed a lot.”

“That’s bound to happen when you leave the country for weeks and don’t read any of your emails.”

“No kidding. It’ll take me a month to weed through everything. Even if it does, though, it’ll have been worth it.”

My thoughts skipped through any number of the incredible memories that Blake and I had shared on our trip. A part of me wanted to tell Alli about our baby discussion, but I wasn’t completely ready to share all my hopes and fears around that topic yet. Time would tell, and no matter what happened, I knew she’d be there for me when I needed her.

“Maybe you can give me the highlights over lunch.”

“Sure.” Alli fidgeted with the hem of her shirt. “What’s up?”

“Um, well . . .”

“Alli . . .”

“You just got back. I don’t want to bombard you.”

“I came to work prepared to be bombarded. Fire away.”

Her pretty brown eyes dimmed slightly. “It’s about Max.”

I waited for her to continue.

“He had his sentencing . . . for the assault.”

“Oh.” I’d made my statement months ago, and with everything else that had happened between the time he attacked me and now, I’d put the trial out of my mind. I’d said my piece and could only hope for justice now. “So what did they decide?”

“They found him guilty.”

“Wow. I never realized how good it would feel to hear those words.”

Relief washed over me, but the peaceful sentiment quickly mixed with the hundred other emotions that I’d attached to Max and what he’d done to me. Anger and uneasiness that so many people in our worlds knew what a compromising position he’d put me in. The smallest recognition of guilt even, that Max was facing justice because of my cooperation. His life would be changed forever by this. And yet, I reminded myself that I’d done nothing to instigate his attack. He’d drugged me and cornered me alone. If Blake hadn’t intervened, Max could have raped me. Even though he hadn’t, I believe that he would have.

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