My eyes wander to the one-way window by the prep area, and I let out a gasp, “Oh no!”
Sophie looks at me. “What is it?”
Feeling as if I might be sick, I utter, “He’s here.”
She scoots beside me and looks out the same window that’s our favorite place to people watch. “I can’t believe that man had the nerve to show up here. You told him not to come—didn’t you?”
“Not exactly.” I sigh. “I—I thought he’d change his mind when I ignored his calls and texts.”
“Well, I guess he can’t take a hint. So what are you gonna do?”
“I don’t know.”
“You know if he doesn’t see you soon, he’ll ask someone to come get you. You might as well go ahead and get it over with.”
“But what if Ryan shows up?”
She forces air out of her nose, shooting me a disappointed look. “You didn’t tell him Greg wanted to come see you, did you? Did you think if he showed up, Ryan wouldn’t find out? You’re playing with fire, Bridge.”
Crossing my arms, I pace around the kitchen. “It was hard enough talking on the phone, but in person? I don’t know if I can do it.”
Sophie stops me in the middle of the kitchen. “You don’t have a choice now that he’s here. If you’d called him and told him not to show up, maybe he wouldn’t be here and you wouldn’t be in this predicament.”
“I really don’t need this right now.” Blinking my glassy eyes, I look away.
She reaches for my arms, rubbing them gently. “Oh honey, maybe it’s long overdue. Hopefully he’s here to tell you how bad he feels about the way he ended things and wants to clear the air. Who knows? The man could’ve found his conscience.”
“No, you don’t know this man like I do. He’s not that type.”
“People change, and you’re not going to know unless you go hear him out. Maybe it’ll help give you closure.”
“Hey Bridgette, there’s some guy out front that wants to talk to you,” says Kylee, standing by the kitchen doors. “His name is Greg.”
My eyes wander to the one-way window by the prep area, and I let out a gasp, “Oh no!”
They all burst into derisive laughter that hurt Kell’s heart a little.
All except Rachel. She didn’t laugh. Instead, she tilted her head and studied him.
Aha. An ally.
Until she opened her mouth and said, “I think that a tourist trap in the middle of backwoods Maine, where everything’s red, white, and pink, all heart-shaped gooey schlock, is so environmentally wasteful.”
Oh, great. Here it came again. They’d been arguing about this all year.
“She has a point,” Alissa said, but this time, something deep inside Kell couldn’t take it. Maybe the beer hit him wrong, or the stress of waiting for job offers was getting to him. Perhaps Alissa’s mixed signals got under his skin. Or maybe he just was tired?
No. It was definitely Alissa’s mixed signals.
Instead of arguing, he stood and tossed a twenty on the table, feeling the tight smile on his face.
“I gotta run. More job applications, you know.”
“Come on, Kell. Don’t be like that,” Alissa insisted, grabbing his arm.
He gently extracted himself. “I have to FaceTime with my niece in an hour anyhow.”
“You’re leaving happy hour so you can babble at a baby?” One of Alissa’s eyebrows had risen with so much judgment, it clinched his decision.
“Bye, all.” He kissed the top of Alissa’s head. “Text me.”
And he walked off toward the crosswalk, not quite angry, not quite hurt, not quite… anything.
Except confused.Read More
The thought reverberated around Willow’s head alongside the trance beat. Her trance beat. Eden Jade—better known by her DJ name, Bunny Descent, stood behind the decks on stage, one hand raised. The lights turned her white-blonde hair to pink and her ripped wedding dress was spattered neon by the leaking glow-sticks her fans were waving.
Her perfect face was screwed in concentration as she fiddled with something on the decks. The music transitioned from a hard, pulsing beat to something Willow recognised—‘Self Care’ by Mac Miller. The crowd cheered, more people rushing toward the stage, hands raised. It was three in the morning and the tiny dance floor was thrumming.
Willow had expected the crowd to thin as the night wore on, but the opposite happened. Bunny Descent was the seventh DJ of the night, and the audience was more hyped for her than anyone else. Watching the crowd dance, he felt a surge of pride. From what he’d read in interviews, Eden was scared of not breaking through, worried her sound was too erratic for main stages. But there was no way the woman in front of him wasn’t making it big. She oozed glamour and with each and every song, he grew more amazed she wasn’t famous.
“She is a goddess,” a guy slurred in his ear. “I, like, actually fuckin’ love her.”
Willow turned and saw the guy was talking to his equally fucked up mate, but that didn’t change the fact he was vocalising his own thoughts about Eden.
I’m different, he told himself.
I just am.
That had always been the only reason he needed. People called him overconfident, but that implied he tried to be confident. He didn’t. He was just lucky. He got what he wanted.
As the music surged higher, Willow danced along with the crowd, working his weight from foot to foot. A few girls smiled, looking for someone to kiss—or maybe because they recognised him, but he only had eyes for Eden. On stage she leant forward, touching the hands of the people dancing in front of her. The second she made contact, the crowd screamed fit to burst the roof. Willow knew exactly how they felt.
He’d been scoping her Instagram for ages, but there was nothing like seeing her in real life. With her long blonde hair and big eyes, she looked like Sailor Moon—his first and most powerful crush. He watched as Eden put her hands behind her head and shook, her tits bouncing in her wedding dress. Attraction burred through him like an electric current. He’d never been so into anyone. Even Sailor Moon. What could that be but true love? As he watched her dance, he made himself a promise—come hell or high water, he’d talk to her tonight.
A hard elbow bashed his side.
“Oi,” Derek shouted over the music. “What are we still doing here? Everyone’s out of their minds.”
Willow danced away from his friend. “I dunno. I’m not tired.”
“You’re never fucking tired. Where’s the patient?”
Willow glanced around. Patrick Normal, better known as Psycho, was swaying softly beside the bar, apparently having forgotten he wanted a beer. “Psycho’s… having a time.”
Derek followed his gaze. “Fuck me, he’s maggoted.”
“Yeah, he’ll be up for hours. Better we’re still out with him, hey?”
“This is all your fault. If Mara was in town, I wouldn’t be here.”
“Yeah, yeah. You’ve made it clear you’ll be dogging the boys from now on, Hardo.”
The track Eden was playing bled into a remix of that Rasputin, love machine song. The dancers packed around the stage, jumping so hard the floor shook. Eden swished her white-blonde hair over her shoulder and his cock throbbed. He could see her doing that while she rode him—looking down her nose as he worked to make her come.
His side burst with pain. He rubbed it, glaring at Derek. “What’s your problem?”
“You. You’re making gorilla noises.”
“You could hear that?”
“Of course, I…” A look of barely concealed terror dawned on Derek’s face. A look Willow knew all too well. He backed away in case Derek decided to put him in a headlock. “What have I done now?”
Derek pointed at the stage. “Please tell me we’re not here because you want to fuck that DJ?”
Willow gave him a winning smile. “Do you want a drink?”
“I wanna know if you dragged me all the way to the city to watch you fail to pick up a DJ.”
Is it just me or are you hankering for the next Hollywood scandal too?
This town has become so dull, I can barely drag myself out of bed in the morning.
Enough with the plastic surgery mess-ups. Hard pass on who’s a pain in the bootay to work with—spoiler—everyone is.
Daddy needs some real drama, so somebody out there better give it to me before I shrivel up and die from boredom.
You know how you can have a nightmare so vibrantly bizarre that you’re one hundred percent certain there really is an axe murderer looming over your bed, about to serve you pigs in a blanket before he kills you? That’s how I feel right now, except in reverse. I’m currently trying to convince myself that what I’m witnessing is nothing more than a horrific dream.
Standing in the doorway of my Mediterranean-style living room—lovingly decorated in earth tones, with pops of orange and rust reminiscent of the Tuscan sunset—I’m watching my husband bone the nanny. I realize bone is a word that lacks class, but believe me, there is nothing classy about what’s occurring over the back of my cocoa-colored leather sofa. A couch I must now burn. Possibly while they’re still on it.
I should be devastated and rocked to my core, but sadly, this is not the first or even the second time I’ve caught my husband in a compromising position.
“Oh. My. GOD. Right there!” Justine yells.
Brett responds with, “You’re so tight I can barely hold back!”
I’m about to insert myself into the conversation with something along the lines of, “You give birth to two children who inherited your giant head and see if you bounce back to normal.” Instead, I glance outside to make sure my kids are safe in the backyard. Thankfully, they are.
“Oh, yeah, Brett, you’re so … sooooo …”
“Scummy? Deplorable? Clichéd?” I suggest loudly.
Brett jumps off Justine and scrambles to pull up his pants. Unfortunately for him, there’s no blood left in his brain, which obviously messes with his equilibrium. He staggers around for a few moments before falling, his butt making a slapping sound against the terracotta tiles. I think of all the wonderful sounds I could make hitting him with an assortment of art pieces around the room.
Justine mumbles, “Oh, Mrs. Kennedy, I’m so sorry. I was just … I mean … I was choking … and Mr. Kennedy was giving me the Heimlich maneuver.”
“He needed his pants down for that?”
She opens her mouth, then closes it.
That’s right. Shut it. “Justine, you’re fired,” I say with a superhuman calm I do not feel. “Get out now, and don’t bother to pack your bags. I’ll have your things delivered to the agency.”
“Please don’t tell them,” she begs, pulling up her underwear. Which looks suspiciously like my underwear—Agent Provocateur, Taisia. At nearly $700 a pair, I’m pretty sure they aren’t in my nanny’s budget. And while I can certainly afford them, I would never waste that kind of money on underwear. They were a gift. “They won’t find me another position if they know that—”
“You needed my husband to give you the Heimlich maneuver with his penis?” This girl is about six eggs short of a dozen.
Brett finally gets to his feet. “It isn’t what you think, Harper.”
I’m pretty sure it’s exactly what I think. My movie star husband has a major problem keeping it in his pants. In the past, he’s assured me he was seeking professional help for his lack of impulse control, but I don’t even care anymore.
Every time he’s promised it’s the last time, he’s moved one step closer to being permanently expelled from my life. I’ve tried to forgive him for the sake of our children, but now that he’s brought his philandering into our home—my safety zone—it’s the last straw.
“You can go with her, Brett. You no longer live here.”
“You can’t kick me out!” He’s hopping around on one foot while he attempts to tug his jeans up. “I paid for this house.”
My spirit shoots out of my body and hovers somewhere around the ceiling. I’m seriously experiencing a Twilight Zone moment here. “I had a hit television show for six years, Brett. I assure you a good deal of my money has gone into this house as well.”
“What about the kids?” It’s a question that hits so close to the cavity of my heart that I feel an almost electric shock of pain course through me.
“Do you mean the two innocent children currently playing in the yard? The ones who could easily have walked in to watch as you dogged the nanny?” I’m pulling out all the unsavory terms now.
“I knew they weren’t going to come in,” he says, sounding surprisingly offended for someone still sporting a chubby.
“Because kids are so predictable?”
“Because I told them if they got an hour of fresh air, I’d buy them hoverboards.”
In lieu of launching myself at his neck, which, let’s face it, is just begging to be snapped, I let out a long, disgusted sigh.
“Sounds like an absolutely fool-proof—and highly premeditated—plan. Not to mention, stellar parenting there, Brett. Now get the hell out before I bludgeon you to death with my Emmy.”
Books I’m excited about!Read More
I’m about to holler out that all the camping trip attendees need to gather ’round when I notice Jessa looks absolutely fucking miserable.
Yup, I’m looking at her again.
She’s a few people away from me in the circle. Her head’s ducked and her body language screams that she wants to disappear. Which I don’t understand, because when we left the staging area, she was bummed that her friend was bailing, but still seemed basically game. I admired her spirit—a lot of people cancel when their friends bail out. But since then something has obviously killed her moxie.
I want to know what.
And for fuck’s sake, I don’t want to want that.
Even all hunched up, Jessa’s prettiness and presence unsettle me, and I’m hit with a strong memory of that night at the Love for Books literacy fundraiser when I looked up and saw her. She was standing across the room, smiling and talking, eyes bright, lips red, slim body just curvy enough under her long black gown to make my own body come to life.
It was uncomfortable, like the feeling when pins and needles come back into a numb limb.
I didn’t want it, or the tug I felt, the sharp desire to walk across the room and steal her attention away from whoever she was talking to.
I looked away from her and refused to look at her again.
And when she said hi to me at the food table a half hour later, I was a dick to her.
I’m thinking about all that—Jessa smiling, talking, waking me up with her aliveness, and then how she froze when I blew her off at the food table—when I hear a voice say, “Hey, Jessa.”
I raise my head to see the couple that we had to stop for. He’s a white guy dressed in what Portland hipsters think people wear in the woods, and she looks like she just came from the gym, but that’s not what makes my blood freeze.
I know him.
How do I know him? I haven’t put it together yet.
“Hi, Reuben,” Jessa says, her voice small and tight.
Jessa knows him, too.
“I don’t think you two ever officially met,” Reuben says. “This is my girlfriend, Corinna.” He turns to the woman beside him. She’s pretty in that way that a lot of guys go for: blond, blue-eyed, busty, and polished. She’s just a little too plastic for my tastes.
Jessa, standing on Reuben’s other side, is a hell of a lot more beautiful. Not that anyone asked me.
I’m not the most emotionally savvy dude on the planet—after all, I spend a lot of my free time alone with a knife—but even I can tell that something seriously ugly is going on here. The two women haven’t stepped forward, not even a millimeter, to greet each other. Or even looked at each other, really. Jessa looks like she’d like the earth to swallow her. And I get the strong feeling I’m about to find out why.
Reuben turns to Corinna. “Jessa’s my ex-wife.”
That’s why Jessa’s mood flatlined. Because when Reuben and Corinna got on the bus, Jessa realized she was about to have to spend three days with her ex-husband and his new girlfriend. And if Amanda’s intel is sound, Reuben cheated on Jessa…
I don’t think you two ever officially met.
Oh, fuck. Could that guy be any more of a dick?
My hands ball into fists, and it takes everything I have not to bury one of them in his smug, asshole face.
“Nice to meet you.” Jessa’s voice is even smaller and tighter. And I’m not gonna lie, it hurts my chest to hear it. I know divorce isn’t the same as death, not by a long shot, but that woman is hurting, and I’m way too familiar with that feeling.
Reuben rocks back on one foot, his arms crossing. Now I remember him from one of our parties. He wore a jacket with elbow patches and black-rimmed glasses. No joke.
A smug look settles on his face. “Jessa. Are you here by yourself?”
Afterwards, I’d wish I’d just punched him, because it would have been smarter than what I do next. Propelled by a force stronger than good sense and a lot faster-acting, I take a step to the side.
“She’s with me.”
And I drop an arm around Jessa Olsen’s slim, warm shoulders.
Then I look up to discover my sister and brother staring at me like I’ve grown another head—
Which honestly, would have probably surprised all of us—me included—less.