“A spoiled little rich girl.”

I bring her fist—the one holding my ring—up to my chest. “My heart.”

She squeezes her eyes shut and draws in a ragged breath. “This is such a mess.” She laughs, but fresh tears well in her eyes, and I know if I don’t give her some space, she might break.

“You need some time to process.”

She nods. “I . . . As much as I might want to, I know we can’t just push this under the rug. We have to deal with it, but I . . .”

“I should’ve called you sooner.” I brush her tears away with my thumbs. If I’d come after her, she wouldn’t have had a chance to get engaged to Julian. To fall in love. “I should’ve come after you the moment I read that note.” I push my luck and brush a kiss across her forehead before dropping my hands and backing away.

I’m one step into the hallway before she speaks again.

“Why didn’t you?”

When I turn, I see she’s followed me to the door. She’s leaning on the jamb, arms crossed, and she looks so damn beautiful that I can’t speak for a moment. “You left me that letter and walked away. I thought if I contacted you, then you’d get the ball rolling on ending it. I wasn’t willing to lose you completely. Even if all I had left was a piece of paper.”

Chapter Three


“Was that Marston?”

At the sound of Savannah’s voice, I tear my eyes off Marston’s retreating form. “Hey, Savvy.”

My friend looks over her shoulder at Marston’s back until he pushes through the door to the lobby and disappears. “What’s he doing here?”

I return to my desk, trying to figure out how to answer that question. She follows me, eyes narrowed as I collapse into my chair.

Do I want to tell her? Yes. Do I want to keep the situation with Marston a secret from everyone—especially friends who might be delighted by my current marital status? Also yes.

“What’s this?” She snags the marriage certificate from my desk, and her eyes go wide as she scans it. “Well, fuck me silly. It wasn’t just an engagement ring.” She grins up at me. “That dirty dog got you drunk and married you. My belated congratulations.”

I lean my head back. “Savvy, this is not a cause for celebration.”

She glances over her shoulder toward the door. “Shouldn’t you two be hashing this out?”

I shake my head. “There’s nothing to talk about.”

“Looks like y’all need a whole lot of talking,” Savvy says, waving the marriage certificate. “Like, a whole lot.”

I snatch it back from her and shove it into a desk drawer. “I didn’t ask you.” She’s trying to hide her smile behind her hand. “Woman, my life just imploded. You are not allowed to take pleasure in this.”

Dropping her hand, she takes a deep breath. “I’m not. I’m sorry. My knee-jerk reaction to any difficult situation is to make light of it. I’m a bitch, and I’m sorry. Tell me what you want to do. We can talk this out, or we can play hooky and go do some serious day drinking. It’s your call.”

I fold my arms. “Can you go back to being a callous bitch? Being annoyed with you was a nice distraction from my problems.”

“And would you say your biggest problem is being engaged to Julian, or being married to Marston?” I scowl, and she throws up her hands. “I’ll behave. We only talk if you want to.”

“There’s nothing to talk about,” I say. “I’m marrying Julian. This thing with Marston is just . . . It’s . . .”

She arches a perfectly shaped blond brow. “Just the perfect way out of a bad decision?”

“Stop that.”

“You know I haven’t been a fan of this marriage-of-convenience plan of yours from the start. I’m not going to rewrite history and pretend I ever liked it. Marriages need love.”

“I love Julian,” I snap, a tad too defensive, since I screwed that one up already last night.

She scoffs. “They need passion.”

“Julian and I have passion.”

“He was your convenient fuck for six years. Your booty call. Your friend who scratched an itch. That’s not passion. Passion is you and Marston in Vegas. It’s the look in your eyes just now when you watched him walk away. It’s hot, and it’s full of vivacity, and you deserve it.”

“I’m a mother and a workaholic. The passion you describe only works on wild weekends in Vegas or for single twenty-somethings without baggage. I don’t have the energy for that.”

She frowns and stares at my hand. “What are you holding so tightly?” She takes my hand, and I open it, revealing the ring Marston just gave back to me. “Oh, Brinley.”


“Girl, that guy is mad over you. He came here to claim his woman but calmly walked away so you could think about it. Even if you don’t have the energy for that, don’t you think it’d be worth it to find some?”

Tags: Lexi Ryan Orchid Valley Romance
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